Thursday, 19 April 2012

Reducing the size of your toiletries for backpacking /traveling + what to pack!

Lately, I've been searching for ways to reduce the weight and size of my toiletry bag when I travel. Now, since I backpack, I don't have access to shampoo, lotion or soap in hotels so I have to carry everything I need. I also usually leave for a month or two, so I need a good supply to keep me going for a while. Of course, you can buy most products wherever you are to replace products that run out, but I find that travel sized products are more expensive in other countries I've been to and I can't always find the products I like.

That's why I like to concentrate on finding ways to bring everything I need without ending up with half my pack filled with products. I've been refining my strategy for a couple year now and I think I've developped some valuable techniques that could help someone packing either for backpacking, or for any trip longer than a week. I thought I would share some of my tips!

I've been preparing for a potential trip this summer and even though I'm not leaving for at least two months, my toiletry bag is completly ready so I'll show you what's in it and explain more in detail how I managed to make some of the items smaller to fit my needs.

First, this is my toiletry bag :

Why I love this bag :

- The exterior is covered in plastic which is perfect in case it gets wet in the bathroom.
- It has an handle at the top for easy transport.
- It unfolds completly and has a metal hook to suspend it in the bathroom or shower. This is especially important, since it allows easy acces to all your products even when there isn't any counter surface.
- The three pockets are made out of mesh to help the products dry incase you place them wet inside the toiletry bag.
- It's big enough to fit all my products
- It's cute

Where I got it : Zellers

How much : About 17$ CAD

What I'm bringing :

First compartment 

Here is what I keep in the first compartment. This one is pretty flat and not very tall so I keep smaller products that would be loose in the other bigger compartments. You have to be careful not to add products that are too wide or it will make the toiletry bag harder to close.

- Burt's Bees Hand Salve which I use as hand cream. Instead of bringing a much bulkier travel sized hand  lotion, I chose this waxy formula which comes in a tiny tin.
-Chapstick with SPF 15
- Bad Gal Lash Mascara Deluxe Sample from Sephora. I don't intend on wearing mascara everyday so I didn't need it to be waterproof. I definitely won't need any more than this.
- Concealer
- Nail clippers
- Stila brown eyeliner (waterproof)
- Hoola Bronzer (deluxe sample). A little goes a long way with this so I should have more than enough
- Travel sized nail file. It's less than half the size of a regular file and takes barely any space at all.
- Tweezers

Second compartment

Here is what I keep in the second compartment. It had a lot more widht that the first one, but still less than the last one so I use it to store products that are not too tall. As you can tell, quite a lot fits in here. This one can still fit even more products if I wanted so if I pick up something along the way I can squeeze it in here.

Spot treatment from Clean & Clear. I might depot this and place it in a little jar like the one on the lower right corner. I definitely won't need all of this. If I decide to got for it, I'll need to label my little jars so I don't get mixed up.
- Travel sized deodorant
- Small bottle of Chi Silk Infusion
Aussie Leave in conditioner in an  Aussie Hair Spray bottle which I emptied. I wanted a really small spray bottle for it and I found this to be my ideal option.
-Colgate foldable toothbrush
-Venus Spa Breeze Razor with two blades. This is supposed to act as shaving cream which is why I am not bringing any. Saves me quite a bit of space since even travel sized shaving cream is pretty bulky.
-Travel sized St-Ives face scrub.
-Travel sized tooth paste.
-Face moisturizer in a tiny jar I got from the dollar store. My face cream is very thin and I only need a little bit so this should be enough for my entire trip and is much smaller than any other container I could have chosen.
-Hand sanitizer from Bath and Body Works because it's the smallest I could find. You can't always wash your hands when traveling so this is more than necessary.

Third compartment

Finally, this is what I keep in the last compartment. It's the most wide and tall compartment so I fit the biggest items in it. I try to layer large thin items on top of each other to make more fit in as well which is why you can't really see most of the products in here on the picture on the right.

- Travel straightener in zebra heat protection pouch. Perfect in a hurry so you don't burn anything.
- Plastic bottles (currently empty) for my fave shampoo and conditionner. I have super long hair so I can't bring the smaller bottles since they run out much too quickly.
- Aveeno travel sized body wash
- Ardène Neon Pink polish because it looks good on tan skin (mostly for my toes, wearing polish on your nails while backpacking is pretty useless because it will get ruined almost instantly).
- Pre-moistened makeup removing rounds because bringing separate coton pads and makep remover not only takes much more space, but it can also leak in your bag.
- Travel sized hair brush. I might get a pop up brush with a miror though. It will save me even more space and give me the added benefit of a portable miror. I couldn't find one yet though.
- Equate facial cleansing towelettes because they are great and easy to pick up on the go. (face wash is just to much hassle especially if you don't always have access to a sink)
- Cotton buds
- Wet n Wild Eyeshadow trio in Silent Treatment. It's my smallest trio, it's super versatile and compact.
- Nail polish removing pads because just like for makeup remover, bringing around coton pads and polish remover would take more place and increase the potential for damaging your belongings in case of leakage.
- Makeup brushes in small hemp pouch.

Close up of the brushes I am bringing : a powder brush, two blending brushes, two shading brushes. These are all the short handle brushes from Eco Tools. Love them!

This is the biggest brush compared to my hand to show the size of the brushes. They apply product very well and are super soft. Eco Tools brushes are definetely my favorite brushes and they're super affordable!

This is the straightener compared to my hand to show its size. It's barely bigger than my hand! It's ceramic and dual voltage which is perfect for travel. It won't do a perfect job of straightening my super long hair, but it will at least help me tame it a little! I chose to bring a flat iron instead of a blow drier for two reasons : (1) it's much smaller, (2) walls are paper thin in hostels and guesthouses and a drier is really loud.

Sorry for the long post, I hope my tips helped get an idea how to reduce the size of your toiletries as well as know what to bring when you know nothing will be provided where you are going! Let me know in the comments what you think of this post and if you have any other requests :) I would love to hear them!


  1. Lita, I'm moving in July, any tips for me? How did you move your three cats when you didn't have a car? I'm renting a uHaul I'm afraid the cages will fall down O_O

    What's the exact date did you say you'll be in montreal? I sent you my phone number via twitter msgs. I really want to see you before I make the big move to Toronto :)

  2. I posted tips on how to organise a move last year :

    that might help :)
    For the cats, Mathieu's mom drove to Quebec City with us and we moved the cat in her car along with our more fragile possessions. I don't think I would recommend putting them in the back of the truck with all your things. What if something heavy falls on top of the cat's cage? Plus, I think it might be pretty traumatising for them to be alone in a truck for 6 hours. Do you have someone that can drive with you there for the first time?

  3. Awesome tips! I'm leaving in less than a week for the same trip. I saw somewhere on your blog that you were going to purchase Asian beauty products- I'm very interested in doing the same. Do you mind telling me which products you found/which stores/prices? Thanks!

    1. I have a haul of the beauty products I got in asia :

      I went to Boots and Watsons and to 7-11 (they have a few things here and there but nothing major). Most brands like Essential and ZA were pretty cheap (10$ or less), but Canmake is expensive (the blush I got was over 15$ and it's tiny). Also the Majolica Majorca mascara was about 22$.



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