Backpacking is the ultimate experience of freedom and self-sufficiency. There’s nothing quite like heading out into the wild with a pack on your back that contains everything you’ll need to survive for the next few days.
It can be exhilarating to be out in nature on your own with few people around and none of the resources you’re used to having at your fingertips. However, it’s still nice to have some of the amenities and comforts of home with you to make your adventure a little easier.
Along with essentials like food and water, bringing toiletries with you will make a huge difference and increase the chances of a positive backpacking trip. Because space is limited and pack weight is important, it’s good to know which toiletries are absolutely necessary and how to pack them efficiently.
If this is your first backpacking trip, be sure to read this article that we wrote.
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Packing the Basics
Everyone seems to have an opinion on which toiletries should be brought with you while backpacking. But most people agree on a few basic items that everyone should pack.
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste
Just because you’re out in the wild doesn’t mean your oral hygiene should suffer! Bring a single toothbrush that is as lightweight as you can find. It doesn’t have to be anything fancy with special bristles.
If you’re only going to be gone for a few days, your mouth can do without a fancy electronic toothbrush and still remain healthy. The most important thing is to be consistent with your tooth care, even when you’re backpacking.
Consider getting a cap to cover the bristles so the brush stays clean inside your backpack. For toothpaste, don’t bring the entire large tube. For just a few days, even a small travel size tube of toothpaste could be too big.
Instead, squeeze a bit into a tiny container to bring with you in your toiletry bag. An even more lightweight option is to use a toothpaste powder or tablets. Single toothpaste tablets can be bitten off and each one will last for 2-3 brushings to conserve resources and reduce pack weight.
- Dental Floss
Another key component of keeping your teeth and gums healthy is flossing regularly. You may be tempted to skip it for a few days while backpacking, but resist the urge. There’s also no excuse not to pack it because it’s incredibly lightweight.
Dental floss is also very strong and could double as string if necessary. Anything that has multiple uses should definitely have a spot in your pack. Just tear off several feet of it and wind it up, then store it with the rest of your grooming supplies.
- Toilet Paper
Because there aren’t any toilets in the backcountry, you’ll need to bring your own toilet paper. Many people recommend packing several squares per day instead of an entire roll in order to cut down on total pack weight.
Put the paper in its own small bag that is waterproof because wet toilet paper is no use to anyone. Then pack an additional bag to pack out the dirty, used paper and dispose of it when you get to a trash can.
Of course, you could opt to go without toilet paper and just use leaves or other natural objects but why complicate your life?
- Biodegradable Soap
An environmentally-friendly soap that is biodegradable has many purposes. You can use it to wash when bathing or showering on the trail and then implement it to care for your gear. Use it to do laundry to extend the number of days you can wear the clothes you packed, or to clean your cookware and utensils.
Small sample-size bars are lightweight and won’t take up a lot of room. You can also get tiny bottles and use liquid soap instead. Just a few ounces of a concentrated soap should be enough to last your entire trip.
Some people argue whether this is truly a necessity or not. Some people would encourage you to embrace life on the wild side, complete with stronger than usual body odors. Not to mention that no one will be there to smell you if you are backpacking alone.
However, there’s no need to deprive yourself completely just because you have limited space. You can purchase small deodorant sticks, pots of cream deodorants, or even lightweight deodorant wipes. Pack just enough for the number of days you’ll be gone and, if you go the wipes route, make sure they are in a sealed bag so they don’t dry out.
- Sunscreen and Mosquito Repellent
Depending on the season and location of your backpacking journey, these could make or break your trip. If it’s hot and humid in a location where bugs are aplenty, then mosquito spray will be your best friend. Pack a small bottle, opt for wipes, or get a cream that will deter insects from pestering you as you hike.
For sunny days and backpacking trips at elevation where the sun is particularly strong, a high-quality sunscreen will save your skin and make being outdoors more enjoyable. Get a small tube or squirt some from your primary tube into a smaller container. You can also opt for a spray that can have a cooling effect as a bonus.
- Hand Sanitizer
Even if you bring soap along, you might not always have access to water in order to wash thoroughly. That’s where hand sanitizer comes in! Get a tiny bottle and hang it from the outside of your packso it doesn’t take up valuable space inside.
Toiletries and First Aid Fir Women Packing List ( Video )
Nice to Have But Not Essentials
- Fast-Drying Towel
A microfiber towel is a popular toiletry item among backpackers because it is lightweight and dries quickly. It can be used on your body after a shower, to dry dishes after a meal, or folded up to make a pillow.
However, it’s not a must-have and can easily be left at home if you are short on space. If you are backpacking in the warmer months, the sun does a great job of drying most things. But if rain is in the forecast and you anticipate cloudy days, then you might want to reconsider.
- Shampoo and Conditioner
Most backpackers realize that getting dirty is part of their lifestyle while they’re out on the trail. It can be futile to try to keep up the same grooming habits you have back home. So leave the shampoo and conditioner behind and embrace trail hair!
Try washing your hair before you hit the trail so it will be as fresh as possible for the majority of the hike. If you must bring hair care items, look for a two-in-one solution to cut down on the number of things packed. Solid shampoo bars can be broken off and brought along for several uses. Another option is to get a biodegradable soap that can double as shampoo.
- Lip Balm
This item is also dependent on the weather and climate where you are hiking. For hot, dry, and sunny places, a lip balm with SPF is vital. It can also be easily clipped on the straps of your backpack for easy access and to free up inner space. If it’s humid then your lips probably won’t dry out as easily so you can comfortably leave the chapstick at home.
- Hair Brush or Comb
These items can be left at home if you have short hair or a hairstyle that doesn’t need a lot of maintenance. Most people can get away with using their fingers to comb through their hair before pulling it back out of their faces.
If you have long hair, then hair ties or clips will be more important than a brush or comb. Should you decide to bring one, choose a smaller size or a collapsible brush that will take up a small amount of space in your pack.
- Sanitary Products
For female backpackers, sanitary products are necessary if you plan to hike around the time of menstruation. If you know your cycle and won’t be on the trail during that time, then skip them to keep your pack light. When you do need to pack them, look for the lightest, smallest option or consider a reusable product such as a menstrual cup.
- Hanging Toiletry Bag
It’s nice to have a separate bag or pouch to store all your personal care items together. This makes it easy to find everything when you get up in the morning or set up camp in the evening and start your self-care routine.
A hanging toiletry bag is especially helpful because there won’t be countertops or sinks out in the wild. Instead, you can hang your bag from a tree branch or from the gear loft in your tent to give you hands-free access.
Overall, there are just a handful of items that will be necessary for any backpacking trip. To keep weight down, take as little as possible and pack it in a lightweight container. Do a test run in the days leading up to your trip to determine how much of each product you use each day. This will give you a better idea of the amount to pack so you aren’t over or underpacking.
If you’re especially brave, leave some of your grooming products at home and enjoy the freedom of living like your ancestors. Not only will your back thank you, but you may find you like living naturally once it’s all over.
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