Toiletry packing lists are a real pain in the patootie. Figuring out all your toiletry essentials and then compacting that down to a travel-ready state is nothing short of a gargantuan task!
Not too long ago, I was a young professional preparing for my very first backpacking trip. I scoured the internet in search of advice from nomads and wise travelers. And all the toiletry packing lists I found… well… they just didn’t cover my needs.
You can, of course, pick up some travel toiletries on the road, however, that’s really not the best call. The prices stack up quick and constantly going shopping for something you already have at home is really just a nuisance.
Plus… they might just not have your favorite brand!
So, I got to writing my own list of travel toiletry essentials. While this list is going to vary depending on your gender, hygiene maintenance, preference, and more, I’ve listed the most important travel-size items to add to your toiletries packing list.
At the end of the day, there is no magic one-size-fits-all list for the best toiletries for travel, but traveling with the essentials is key. As a woman, I’ll be including many woman-specific toiletries, but I’m also not ignorant to the needs of men since I live with one. So I’ve got you boys covered too. 😉
So let’s hop to it!. This is the ULTIMATE list of toiletry packing for travel for both genders and keeping Mama Nature in mind.
What are toiletries? (For the purpose of this packing list.)
Let’s call them ‘hygiene products’. Toiletries are anything used to maintain your hygiene: soap, toothpaste, hairbrush, nasal douche… (For the record, nasal douche is NOT on this toiletry packing list, but I just really wanted to say ‘nasal douche’.)
Generally, as a rule of thumb, if they make you cleaner or prettier than it’s a toiletry. The difference here is that this is a toiletry list primarily for backpackers. That means two things:
- They need to be travel-size appropriate i.e. not too heavy, compact, and good for airport security.
- Ideally, they need to be eco-friendly. Now, I know that doesn’t matter to everyone but it’s something we take seriously and we try to impart on the glorious globetrotting masses. Take care of Mother Nature: you only get one mom.
I feel that sums it up best. That’s the general view of what is considered toiletries and what items you’ll find on this packing list. Ready then? Let’s get clean!
Travel-Size Toiletries Packing List – The Essentials
Toiletries can be heavy and take up a ton of space, and it’s important to try to eliminate anything you won’t be using daily from your packing list. Fortunately, there are plenty of affordable, lightweight alternative toiletries designed for travel.
Below, I have listed the essential toiletries everyone should bring on their trip. Don’t forget these when you’re crafting your own personal toiletries packing list!
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The above hanging toiletry bag is a good all-rounder; it’s not too expensive and does the job nicely. However, for those who do mess around with their toiletry packing, there can be only one toiletry bag: the Nomatic Toiletry Bag (2.0).
It’s a toletry bag so serious it got a second edition.
It still hangs from walls, but it also comes in two sizes, is made of incredibly durable and water-resistant material, and the interior pocket setups is supreme (top-notch organization is Nomatic’s homeboy). It even has a dedicated toothbrush pocket to keep your toothbrush separate. I’m so in love with this feature!
If you’re travelling with a Nomatic Travel Bag, the thing slots in like a dream. Really, the only caveat to this toiletry bag is the premium pricing, however, you get what you pay for. And in this case, that’s the best of the BEST! It’s size also make it ideal for packing light and one bag travel.
I suggest carrying your travel toiletries in your carry-on luggage for a couple of reasons. One, you may want to freshen up mid-flight or after you land. Two, exploding shampoo bottles tend to be a regular occurrence in check-in luggage.
For this reason, you’re going to want to invest in a few reusable travel-sized bottles. Buying one-time use travel-sized toiletries is a low-key waste of money and a waste of plastic.
I never travel without Dr. Bronner’s. If I am checking in my luggage I make sure to bring a good-sized bottle because it can be used as non-toxic laundry detergent and dish soap too! Dudes, you can even use it as your shampoo as my boyfriend does.
Dr. Bronner’s is a godsend company doing good in this world. Their products are entirely bio-degradable, and their soaps smell and feel amazing! No more having to travel with multiple types of soaps or buying expensive ones on the road. Just use this all-in-one soap and go minimal.
You can also get their soap bar. I love traveling with bars because you don’t have to deal with liquid restrictions, and they last way longer for backpacking trips! You can still use the soap bar for those days you do your laundry at the hotel room.
Shampoo (+ Conditioner)
If you’re traveling for a few months, then I highly recommend a shampoo and conditioner bar! They last 3+ months and take up way less space. Plus, you don’t have to worry about liquid restrictions. If you go this route, invest in a soap bar container too.
Toothpaste can be slightly annoying to pack as carry-on regulations are strict. You may have to get paste in a 3.5 oz bottle, though many times I’ve been able to carry-on my half-used paste.
Another suggestion is to try out “Unpaste Zero Waste” toothpaste! I haven’t used these tablets yet (because I just discovered them), but they sound like another solution to long-term travel + less plastic waste. A win-win and perfect for toiletries packing!
While not a toiletry essential, a small roll of floss and heck, even a tongue scraper fall onto this list since they barely weigh a thing.
You’ll want to go for the solid kind rather than the spray to avoid those liquid restrictions and spills! Generally, you never have to worry about running out, which your new friends will thank you for.
In a nutshell, microfiber travel towels were created for backpackers and travelers. I typically travel with a large towel for drying off after a shower and a smaller face towel.
Facial Cleanser and Moisturizer
Having a facial cleanser and moisturizer is KEY, especially to refreshen after long layovers and flights. Don’t bother bringing your entire bathroom routine. Leave the toners, serums, and fancy kits behind as they take up way too much weight and space in your bag.
While I’m not a germaphobe or crazy about it at home, hand sanitizer easily makes the list of necessary toiletries. There will be plenty of times you’ll come across soapless bathrooms, or less-than-hygienic bus and train stops. Trust me on this one.
I love Dr. Bronner’s non-toxic spray. (The lavender also smells delightful.)
If you’re going to be spending hours and hours in the sun, then you’re going to need protection. While I’m a fan of high-tech modern inventions, such as the hat, long sleeve shirt, and shade, I always bring sunblock in my toiletry bag.
Bear in mind, places like Hawaii, Key West, Florida, and Palau are banning many sunscreen brands because they harm and bleach coral reef and aquatic life.
Furthermore, there is a lot of research on endocrine disruptors and carcinogens found in sunscreen… YIKES! Generally, a Non-Nano Zinc Oxide is perfectly safe, effective, and doesn’t harm aquatic reefs, which is why I’m recommending Raw Elements.
Ear Plugs and Eye Mask
I always add a few extra pairs of earplugs and my favorite eye mask to my toiletry list for a vacation. You’ll use earplugs and your eye mask in noisy hostels, on flights, bus rides, getting shut-eye in cities, etc. I never leave home without them.
Now, you could spend a fat chunk of $$$ on the WRONG present for someone. Wrong size hiking boots, wrong fit backpack, wrong shape sleeping bag… As any adventurer will tell you, gear is a personal choice.
So give the adventurer in your life the gift of convenience: buy them an REI Co-op gift card! REI is The Broke Backpacker’s retailer of choice for ALL things outdoors, and an REI gift card is the perfect present you can buy from them. And then you won’t have to keep the receipt. 😉Buy on REI!
Medication + First-Aid Kit
You need to check each country’s rules and regulations for traveling with medication. CBD might be federally legal in the US, but you would NOT want to end up in an Indonesian jail cell because of it. Get all the necessary Doctor notes and prescription refills you may need too!
Also, having a small first-aid kit is necessary for travel! You may only need to bring tape (an absolute necessity), moleskin if you’re hiking, a couple of gauze pads, alcohol wipes, a few band-aids, and Neosporin. It’s always better to be safe than sorry!
If you have long hair, then this is probably a necessity for you. Consider grabbing a Tangle Teezer if you’re hair is manageable because they are so tiny. Remember, small and lightweight is the key!
Although not a necessary toiletry for all travelers (you may wax or just let it all hang out), for many, this is still essential toiletry packing for any trip. Grab some high-quality razors that’ll last several weeks while you travel. Or better yet, get a reusable razor like the Weishi for the closest shave you’ll ever get from a hand razor.
While you can find razors pretty much anywhere in the world, picking up disposable razors can be annoying. Another alternative is to bag yourself an Electric Travel Shaver.
Other Nice-to-have Toiletries
Moving along to the next section; this part of the toiletries packing list aren’t strictly necessary items but they are creature comforts. Sometimes, when you’re on the road, all you need is your baby blanket!
Uhh, I mean favorite nail clippers.
This may be considered part of your first-aid kit, but since you put it on your skin, I’m including it in the toiletries list! Depending on where you are visiting, you are going to NEED repellent. Don’t forget to get a travel-size bottle for your carry-on!
Another multi-purpose item! And don’t worry – these are fine to carry in your carry-on.
Some people can’t live without chapstick, so this might be essential for you. If you’re going anywhere with extreme cold or hot weather, then it’s good to have.
Not a necessity, but it’s nice to have several and they don’t take up much space. I’m a fan of the tea tree oil and mint ones.
Same explanation as above: not a necessity, but it is easy to pack a few and they don’t take up much space.
Roll of Toilet Paper
Carrying toilet paper is a necessity if you’re backpacking… less so if you’re only staying in hotels. If you are traveling in places like Pakistan, Southeast Asia, and so on, you will come across bathrooms without TP. Pull out the cardboard roll if you want to save space.
TP is also great to have on hand to clean a quick spill, blow your nose, or for getting a campfire started. Tissue paper is obviously more plush and fancy.
Contacts and Prescription Glasses
If you need ’em, don’t leave them at home! That being said, daily contacts can take up a lot of space if you’re traveling for more than a month! I don’t like using monthly due to hygiene, so if I’m traveling for a long time, I just pick up contacts every couple of months with my prescription on hand.
There are a few supplements I choose to travel with that help me on the road to keep my immune system in check! Vitamin supplements are also awesome toiletries packing for countries where you may be eating a more meagrely spread diet then you’re used to, however, generally in sountries like that, buying supplements can be super cheap.
Women Specific Toiletries Packing List
For the ladies and the men packing for their ladies, this is the list of toiletries you’ll either definitely need (see below) or at least want to consider.
Stock up on your feminine care products before your trip because they can be hard to find in some countries.
Consider a Menstrual Cup. I used to travel with tampons because they are pretty difficult to track down in certain countries. I finally made the switch to the Diva cup a few years ago and never looked back. It’s WAY better for the environment and they take up way less space!
Honestly, my cosmetic bag has shrunk significantly over the years. If you’re on a long backpacking trip, I can guarantee you’ll stop wearing most of your make up.
When you’re traveling in humid countries, lounging on the beach, hiking in the mountains, or taking overnight buses, the last thing on your mind is blending your foundation.
That said, it’s nice to dress up once and a while, so feel free to add your go-to mascara and blush to your list of toiletries. Just remember that it will be difficult to replace your favorite brands on the road. It’s the perfect excuse to give your skin a break and go au natural.
But if you do bring make-up you have even more toiletries to pack. My life changed when I realized I started to use carrier oils (like argan and coconut oil to remove my make-up.) Now, I just carry a couple of bamboo make-up remover pads (less waste, better for the environment), and use whatever oils I have on hand.
Extra Hair Ties
I guess this one goes out to you long-haired men too.
Tips for Packing Less & Better
I tried to keep this list short and sweet. The toiletry essentials should cover most people’s bases, and then from there, you can add a few things depending on your type and length of the trip.
As someone who has packed for more trips than I can count, I am so happy that my toiletry bag has shrunk over the years. Toiletry packing truly takes up so much space and weight, and then you rarely end up using half of them when you’re on the go-go-go.
Here are my top tips for packing less!
- Go through your daily routine and make note of each thing you use. Pack nothing else.
- Always choose multi-purpose items. Dr. Bronner’s is a great example of this.
- Girls, ditch the make-up and straighteners. I promise you won’t use any of these things (unless you are on a business trip or weekend out on the town).
- Invest in a versatile toiletry bag to keep your things organized. If it doesn’t fit in this, it doesn’t come on your trip!
- Use liquid containers for carry-on but also checked bags to save space and weight
- Choose solid over liquid whenever possible. This includes soap and deodorant.
- Plan accordingly!
What NOT to take in your toiletry bag
- Unsealed Liquids
- Bottles larger than 3.5 oz in your carry-on
- Anything you don’t plan to use every day.
FAQ about the Best Travel Toiletries
Still have some questions? No problem! We’ve listed and answered the most commonly asked questions below. Here’s what people usually want to know:
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Final Thoughts on my Travel Toiletries Packing List
I have covered all of the essentials you should include on your toiletries packing list and then some!
My main advice remains this: take a hard look at your daily routine and bring ONLY those items.
Furthermore, bring your favorite essentials with you, for the most part. Many areas may offer convenience and cheaper local prices where you can buy things on arrival. On the other hand, many destinations won’t carry your favorite brands, or pricing can be far higher.
For example, buying that sunscreen you forgot in an airport or a small island store will be more expensive!
Do a little bit of research before you go – which you’re doing right now (yay for you) – and pack your travel-size toiletry essentials in your toiletry bag. Heed my advice and you’re well on your way to traveling efficiently and comfortably!
Oh and one last tip for any toiletries packing list: write that sucker down!
Thanks for reading – that was fun! 😀
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