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Backpacking toiletries are probably one of the most important things to remember to include in your backpacking packing list. I mean, you can get essentials wherever you are in the world but quite often they’re more expensive than if you’ve bought them from home, and you don’t want to smell all the time while backpacking. Despite the fact that you probably use these items every day, it’s surprisingly easy to forget what to pack for backpacking toiletries. That’s why I’ve put together this backpacking toiletries checklist to make sure you’re not rummaging around your bag trying to find the toothpaste you’re sure you remembered to pack. This list is useful whether you’re going backpacking, or just taking a vacation. It’s also a good starting point if you’re backpacking (as in hiking) and looking for a hiking toiletries checklist.
Backpacking toiletries list
This toiletries packing list for backpackers, hikers, and vacations keeps things pretty limited and includes the essential toiletries you’ll need for your trip. It’s a backpacking hygiene kit more than everything possible thing you could need.
I’m not someone who wears make up very often, nor do I do anything to my hair other than wash it every few days. If you’re backpacking you should learn to do without loads of makeup and things like hair straighteners but if you really can’t, or are on vacation, then feel free to add those into this essential toiletries for backpacking checklist.
Washbag / hanging toiletry Bag
You’re going to want to store all the items in this backpacking packing list below in a separate bag to everything else. There’s nothing more annoying than finding your shampoo has exploded during a flight and now your clothes are covered in it. Or that toothpaste has been squeezed out everywhere too. Those things aren’t the easiest to clean off and you just don’t have to deal with it when there’s such an easy fix: a washbag.
Washbag, toiletry bag, whatever you want to call it, these things come in hundreds of different shapes, styles and sizes. I have a fairly standard washbag that I’ve been using for years and take it on every trip I go on.
If my trip involves a flight and I’m only taking hand luggage, I’ll put the liquids in a clear plastic bag inside this bag and then just keep it somewhere easily accessible for going through security. This saves you from having to empty everything from your backpacking toiletries bag and put it into a clear bag while people are huffing and puffin behind you in the queue.
Hanging toiletry bags are super useful if you’re planning to stay in lots of hostels or hotels with shared bathrooms. Being able to hang it up in the shower rather than rummaging around and knocking stuff over in the shower makes things a lot easier. There are loads to choose from on Amazon and the best ones are those with separate compartments that are water-resistant too.
Here are a few backpacking toiletry bags I’d recommend. They’re all pretty similar so it’s hard to pick out the best toiletries bag for backpacking.
Quick-drying travel towel
I’ve had a quick drying travel towel since I was about 14 (not the exact same one) and take them whenever I travel or go on an overnight camping trip. They pack up small, dry quickly and it usually takes forever for them to start smelling too. The quick drying is important when you’ll be in and out of hostels with no time to dry a towel after your morning shower.
While most hostels will have a service that allows you to rent a towel that gets expensive pretty quickly which isn’t great if you’re travelling on a budget!
Reuseable make up remover face cloth
Include one of these little makeup remover cloth in your toiletries packing list to save from having to buy cotton pads or whatever you usually use. On the rare occasion, I wear a bit of mascara while backpacking, these are useful to wipe it off at night and they’re eco-friendly too. Plus, you only need water to get them to work so you don’t have to bring a bottle of makeup remover either!
A compact hairbrush
The Tangle Teaser is a great compact hairbrush that’ll take up little space in your backpack but keep your hair under control.
Taking a small bottle of hand sanitizer with you is super handy to have. This backpacking essential will help you avoid traveller’s tummy and is great for when you’ve got to use bathrooms without sinks or soap.
Emergency toilet roll
I always pack a toilet roll when I go backpacking. It’s an emergency one as the hostels and hotels I stay at pretty much always have toilet roll. But, sometimes you’re going to get caught out at a service station bathroom, or at a bus station and having one in your backpack can save the day!
I always have a hair tie around my wrist but sometimes they break and I’m sure you know how easy it is to lose them. Throwing a few extra hair ties in your wash bag (or wrapping them around the handle on your hair brush), is a great idea. They’re useful for securing things other than your hair too!
It’s easy to overlook female hygiene while backpacking but if you’re backpacking for a month or more you’re going to need some sanitary items. You can buy them in most places, depending on how remote you’re going, but it’s useful to have them with you already so you can take whatever you’re used to. I’ve been using a Diva Cup for the past couple of years and love how easy it makes things. It comes with a little bag so it’s easy to pack away in my washbag and I’m never going to run out of items as that’s all you need.
Before I started using a Diva Cup, I’d make sure to always pack a ‘starter pack’ of both tampons and towels. Things have moved on now and you can get reusable options which you might like to try, such as Thinx pants.
I don’t know about you, but bugs love to bite me. Standing near me is a pretty effective bug repellent for you. Travelling with bug spray is something I always do as there’s nothing more miserable than spending days with your skin on fire from mosquito bites, or just having them constantly swarming around you.
Personally I prefer citronella based mosquito repellents. They seem to work better for me and they smell nicer too. You can also get natural bug sprays, or opt for those with Deet if travelling somewhere where Malaria is a risk.
Whether you tan or not you should take sun cream to protect you from harmful UV rays. My favourite recently has been Sun Bum sunscreen as it smells good and it’s all reef friendly too (meaning it won’t damage aquatic life if you wear it while swimming).
Lip balm with SPF
Your lips are likely to get dry while backpacking so taking some good lip balm will spare you the pain. Ideally, get one with SPF protection too. My favourite at the moment is Blistex with SPF, but Sunbum does a great one too.
While I’m not clued up on skincare, the one thing I do do everyday is moisturise. Just pack whatever moisturiser you use every day since that’s what your skin, and you, are used to. It’s better if it’s got some SPF in it too. I like this Avenoo facial moisturiser.
You’ll probably also want to take something for your body too. I usually end up needing a pamper session at some point while backpacking which includes buying some moisturiser as I usually forget it for my body. This Nivea moisturiser is a good all-round cream and doesn’t take up too much room.
I usually take whatever I happen to be using at the time. This is usually Dove antiperspirant as it actually works even when I’m active. However, I’ve been trying to make the switch to something more natural and find that this natural deodorant works pretty well too.
As I mentioned up top, I don’t really wear much makeup day to day anyway so my entire makeup collection actually consists of the following; concealer, mascara, eyebrow gel. I’d consider these make-up essentials (perhaps even without the eyebrow makeup), but if you want to take some more then by all means do.
Toothbrush & toothpaste
Never underestimate the power of freshly brushed teeth to make you feel better. This definitely an essential when it comes to backpacking hygiene (and any hygiene!) If I’m going away on a longer trip I’ll still take my electric toothbrush, but for shorter journeys, I just take a normal toothbrush. These toothbrush protectors are useful to keep the bristles from picking up dirt!
And for toothpaste, just take whatever you usually use! If you’re not only travelling with hand luggage then there’s no need to get a travel size one, you may as well just get the full size.
Some of the fancier hostels around the world now include soap in the shower rooms but there are many that won’t. For that reason, it’s a good idea to take some soap or body wash with you. If you’re checking your luggage then take a full size bottle of whatever you use.
The ultimate in backpacking soap is Dr Bronner’s Castille soap and often considered the best soap for backpacking. It’s a great option as it’s shampoo, body wash, detergent and soap all in one. That means you can use it for your backpacking laundry needs too. Backpacking clothes washing can be done in a hotel sink and hung out to dry using on one of these portable clotheslines if you’re staying in the same place for a couple of nights. You only need one drop at a time so a bottle lasts a long time too.
Or, if you’d prefer to take a bar, you can get one like this that comes with a travel tin so that you’re not going to get soap residue over everything in your wash bag.
Shampoo & conditioner
Again, I just take a full-size bottle of whatever I’m currently using and add it to my backpacking kit. However, getting a backpacking shampoo bar is a good route to go down since it takes up very little room, is lightweight and isn’t subject to any liquid restrictions either. They’re supposed to last quite a long time too. You can also get conditioner bars.
Mini first aid kit
I always make myself a little mini first aid kit for backpacking which includes the items listed below. You can also buy much more comprehensive first aid kits that come in their own separate bags. These are a great idea if your travels are going to involve lots of adventure sports or some sort of expedition.
- Savlon (antiseptic cream)
- Nail scissors
- Rehydration sachets
- Any other medication essential for the trip: Anti-malarials, anti-altitude sickness pills and contraceptive pills if taking.
At some point, you’re probably going to want to shave your legs and pits! Get some high-quality razors before you travel, and pack a few spare blades. While you can find disposable razor blades in most cities, they tend to tear my legs to bits! This razor is tiny so will fit in your backpack easily.
Biodegradable wet wipes for backpacking
Not just for babies, these backpacking wipes are super handy to have around. While you should try and limit your use of these (even biodegradable ones aren’t truly eco-friendly), sometimes you just need a wet wipe to clean up sticky hands or messes. These biodegradable ones are as good an option as any.
You’ll notice this is a pretty minimal backpacking toiletry kit, but it includes the must-haves and things you’ll not going to want to go without while backpacking.