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Travelling light

Have you noticed the sweet little collections of tiny packages of personal care products, marketed as convenient, pint-sized travel packs? They seem more like a waste of excessive packaging to me, but there is definitely something appealing about having everything you need, ready to use, and not taking up a lot of space, when you head off on a trip. Buying in bulk saves money for sure, but you don’t really want to go on a weekend getaway armed with two litres of spirit vinegar and a box of bicarb. Can we travel light, while also being light on the earth?

My family all enjoy getting out into wilder places, and we take many short trips away from home and the city. With a small car and a family of five, I’ve got a lot of incentive to travel light, and some experience in making that work. Here is how I pack a toiletry bag with just four consumables, that lets me stay spotless when I’m not staying at home.


1. Deodorant

  • I keep this in a very small jar in any case, so that gets packed for the adults.
  • We both use the incredibly effective luxury deodorant [1] recipe. (If you’re really low on space though, a pinch of bicarb on wet skin works fine.)
deodorant in tub

2. A small container of bicarb

  • About a quarter of a cup is plenty for a short trip of a few days.
  • This serves as toothpaste [2], shampoo [3], face [4] and body wash [5] (and deodorant in a pinch).
  • All I’ll need to add is water, so I pack a small plastic cup to dilute it in in situ.
  • It can also come in useful for first aid – as well as calming heartburn and thrush, it makes a soothing antiseptic wash for any wound, or gargle for sore throats.

3. A small spray bottle of either rose petal vinegar [6] or apple cider vinegar, diluted with Rooibos [7]

  • About 100ml is enough for a short trip.
  • This will be my toner [8], hair conditioner [3], and refreshing skin spritz.
  • It can also function as a mouthwash, insect repellent, and burn, bite, rash or sting relief.

4. A small tub containing a blend of coconut and olive oil

  • Again, 100 ml of this mixture is enough for a few days.
  • I normally add some fresh aloe ferox gel to this. I leave the travel supply free of essential oils because we share it. (But if it is just for me, I’ll add a few drops of something, probably lavender or rose geranium.)
  • This is a face, hand and body moisturiser [9], hair conditioner if it seems to need extra conditioning [10], shaving oil [11], bath oil and lip balm.
  • It can also function as a nappy cream [12], though I normally put another container in the baby’s bag with the other changing stuff. It is also soothing and healing for any burn, bite, rash or sting.

I’m really not convinced that any commercial travel pack can do anything close to what these four items can. Give them a try next time you venture out. Sometimes we really can do more with less.