Best Toiletry Bag Contents?
January 17, 2014 8:56 AM   Subscribe

An unexpected late holiday gift has left me the owner of an amazingly capacious leather toiletry bag (this one to be exact) to replace my previous canvas sack. What can I put in it to make it the best men's toiletry bag ever for someone who travels frequently? I'm already putting in travel toothbrushes and simple shaving supplies, but what else should I include? What unexpected thing has been life-saving (or just really welcome) in your toilet bag? What emergency supplies should I have on hand?
posted by The Whelk to Travel & Transportation (44 answers total) 26 users marked this as a favorite
Wet wipes.
posted by cincinnatus c at 9:03 AM on January 17, 2014 [2 favorites]

Can you put liquids in, or do you keep those in a 3-1-1 bag?

If liquids are OK: wet wipes. They are indispensable for me as hands get sticky when traveling and sometimes there isn't a sink handy or if there is, it's one of those comical plane/train sinks where a tiny dribble of water streams out for 1.5 seconds at a time. These ones are expensive but oh so civilized, especially before and/or after a meal. I am too cheap to buy them regularly, so usually just go with a little package of Wet Ones.
posted by payoto at 9:03 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

I like a small, travel sewing kit, I usually hork these from any high-class hotel my employer is putting me up at.

A travel first aid kit. I get them for about $4.00 in the aisle where the mini shampoos are. It has a packet of neosporin and a couple of bandaids.

Saline eye drops.

A small lint roller

Fresh Wave air freshener.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:04 AM on January 17, 2014

You absolutely NEED The Best Nail Clipper On Earth. It's not only life-changing for one's nails, but useful for SO many other things, too - a sharp, precise little blade AND a sharp, precise little gouging-stick, all in one, that will never warp or break or dull. I literally panic when I misplace mine.
posted by julthumbscrew at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Zip lock snack bags are awesome for toiletries. I have one in mine that has q-tips and a few band-aids and ear plugs. You never need q-tips, band aids and ear plugs until you need them.
posted by HeyAllie at 9:05 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Whoa, that's a gorgeous bag!

Based on things I've suddenly needed while traveling, I'd recommend band-aids and Neosporin, tweezers, ibuprofen, super-moisturizing hand cream, and hand sanitizer. And if there are any little luxuries that you enjoy and can take on the road, like bubble bath or individually wrapped bags of your favorite tea, include those.
posted by Metroid Baby at 9:17 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

Earplugs and an eyemask. But especially earplugs.
posted by pont at 9:21 AM on January 17, 2014 [8 favorites]

Cough drops and mints.
posted by BrianJ at 9:22 AM on January 17, 2014

Sunscreen and bug repellant.
posted by fivesavagepalms at 9:22 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you do travel by air, then the solid shampoos and conditioners at LUSH are fantastic to keep in a travel bag. Another handy item for travel are Shout Wipes.
posted by kimdog at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Uncommon but very useful items I like to carry:

*a styptic pencil (for shaving as well as other cuts)
*a tiny flashlight
*a miniature sewing kit
*safety pins
*rubber bands
*blotting paper (facial, not the kind for your desk)
posted by yellowcandy at 9:25 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

dental floss
disposable razor
posted by phunniemee at 9:26 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

In a 35mm film can wrapped with about 10 feet of gaffer tape: multivitamins, vitamin C. In their own blister packs: Ibuprofen, anti-emetics and electrolyte tablets.
Sample-size hair product (American Crew clay)
Dentist freebie floss
2 pairs of earplugs and an eye mask
fingernail clipper
solid sunscreen stick, mine is Banana Boat but there are others
tiny eyedrops (Systane)
wax-based solid fragrance
small zipper bags, rolled

I include solid versions of anything possible and I don't waste time with a 3-1-1 bag because there generally are no liquids in my toiletries. I get the smallest size eyedrops and place several in my luggage so even if TSA throws one bottle away I still have others.
posted by a halcyon day at 9:27 AM on January 17, 2014

I am not typically afflicted with bad allergies, but I have noticed during my semi-extensive travels that the mildew, spores, dust, dander, etc. that you encounter abroad can surprise you with a histamine attack that might ruin your trip. And thus, I always carry:

*OTC allergy medicine.
*Small, plastic neti pot, along with a liberal supply of saline packets.
*Small packet of tissues.

Also useful:

*A tiny sewing kit.
posted by Alonzo T. Calm at 9:33 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

All good stuff so far. I also carry some individually foil-wrapped tea bags (e.g. Ceylon, chamomile, mint, etc.), and a few packets of emergen-c.
posted by carter at 9:37 AM on January 17, 2014

Off the top of my head, here's what the good doctor's got in his dopp kit:

* An assortment of La Fresh wipes
* PackTowl Nano
* Matchbook of styptic pencils
* Pocket lint pad
* Room deodorizer sheets
* A couple of binder clips
* A Minimiergency kit
posted by evoque at 9:41 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

In order to answer this properly, I would need to know your daily grooming routine.

Since the bag is opaque, I assume it's not for flight hand luggage but for packing?

If I could give *one* tip for this kind of thing, it would be to get a vacuum sealer and a label-maker, and use them to seal single portions of your daily grooming products to take along. I say this as an acne sufferer who has to be strict about skin and haircare, YMMV.

You can also harvest the sample envelopes out of magazines; I save them for just this purpose.

Another thing I would recommend is making a packing list, sealing it in a plastic bag, and keeping it inside the bag. That way you're much less likely to forget a thing.
posted by tel3path at 9:57 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Extra earbuds
Titanium spork
Tiny Muji incense kit. Stand. Incense.
posted by shothotbot at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2014

Also: a small role of cellophane tape. Wind it around your hand sticky side out, works far better than a lint roller.
posted by tel3path at 9:58 AM on January 17, 2014

I carry a small tin of muscle balm (Tiger balm or similar) in my toiletry bag. It's helped me out several times.
posted by Too-Ticky at 10:11 AM on January 17, 2014

Lip balm
A spare set of contacts, if you wear them (in addition to solution and a case)
Cuticle scissors
posted by Fig at 10:12 AM on January 17, 2014

some small bills and change for vending machines. a cup (to get water from a drinking fountain and carry it if you want to sip n sit or to rinse and gargle) a lighter
posted by WeekendJen at 10:30 AM on January 17, 2014

If you wear knits that tend to pill - notably "Alton Brown" style shirts or sweaters - you will be happy with a sweater stone. It's a small block of pumice that catches and pulls pills off of your garment. Available at Old Navy for a couple bucks.
posted by Slap*Happy at 10:43 AM on January 17, 2014

In my shaving kit is an old Altoids tin which contains:

- Tums
- Pepto-Bismol
- Immodium
- Zantac

...which should cover any and all gut-related emergencies that might strike in the middle of the night. I also keep a half-dozen packets of Emergen-C in there, as I find that it works wonders on a hangover should I have had the misfortune to overindulge the prior night.
posted by jquinby at 10:47 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

If you stay in hotels a small extension cord is a huge help; the outlets always seem to be behind the bed and nowadays everyone has cellphone chargers and stuff that needs plugging in. My mother recently brought one on a trip on the advice of a friend and it was far handier than you would have thought.
posted by TedW at 10:48 AM on January 17, 2014 [3 favorites]

binder clips
caffeine pills (for times when making your plane and acquiring coffee are mutually exclusive)
a small outlet multiplier can come in handy in hotels for charging your phone without giving up the light on the nightstand
posted by yarrow at 10:49 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Assuming "travels frequently" means flying at least some of the time, you're probably better off using the bag only for TSA-compliant stuff that you can drop in and forget, while keeping all the liquids pre-ziplocked separately so you're always ready to go. This rules out a number of suggestions above, e.g. a lighter, which if you drop into the bag and forget is just an open invitation to a lengthy and annoying TSA search.

Focus on things you either can't get from a hotel front desk or might need in the middle of a day of travel. For example, you can almost always get an emergency toothbrush or Q-Tip when you're staying at a hotel overnight, and that's the only time you're likely to need them, so it's not as important to be carrying your own. (Of course there's no harm carrying extra tiny things if it helps you feel prepared; sometimes your travel kit is as much about psychology as much as practicality, and that's okay.)

Definitely: earplugs, antihistamines, disposable spoon/fork, nail clipper
Maybe: pen and post-its, Pepto-Bismol, emergency sleeping pill
Probably not really worth it: lint roller, sewing kit, extra toothbrush/floss
posted by RogerB at 10:59 AM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

In addition to the regular toiletry items listed above:

3M Mini Lint Roller - far superior to knock-off brands

Various GoTube squeeze bottles and Muji pots to transport my favorite toiletries. A few GoTubs to contain the smaller items (a few safety pins, a single needle with miniature wrap of black thread, sleeping pills, allergy pill, Nyquil pill, maybe a caffeine pill.)

Tide stick or Shout wipes.

Eye drops and extra contacts.

Lacrosse Ball for massaging my back/arms/legs.

Tiny scissors. I love the form factor of those, but the classic folding ones are OK too.

I also love bringing a random face mask or other somewhat ugly beauty product. It's nice not to have to wash the linens yourself and have a supply of fresh face cloths on hand.

This isn't really a toiletry kit supply, but if you get dry in hotel air conditioning, this travel humidifier is awesome. You just fill it up with a normal water bottle. Life changing if you're on the road a lot.

This great little charger - two USB ports and a few regular plugs. The 3-prong plug rotates in 360 degrees, which makes fitting it in weird hotel outlets much easier.

Rolled up ziploc bag.
posted by barnone at 11:03 AM on January 17, 2014

I so disagree with RogerB about the sewing kit not being worth it. I have one in my car's glove compartment and it has saved my bacon several times, including the time I had to sew a jacket button back on while sitting in traffic on my way to a job interview. I also had a bathing suit strap break when I was camping and was hard-pressed to find a sewing kit (this led directly to the one in the glove compartment, IIRC). Yes, you could probably get one at a hotel, but you might not BE at a hotel.
posted by dlugoczaj at 11:08 AM on January 17, 2014

I just went and looked in the bottom of my own travel bag and found another idea: Collar stays. If you ever wear the kind of shirt that has to be washed with the stays out, it's super-easy to forget to pack them, but drop a pair in your travel kit and you never have to remember again.
posted by RogerB at 11:33 AM on January 17, 2014

No love for polysporin?
posted by St. Peepsburg at 11:39 AM on January 17, 2014

Most things I pack have already been mentioned, but I'd emphasize
-blister-pack style antihistamines, anti-diarrheal tablets, etc.
-mini scissors
-Tums or Rolaids in the rolls (replace once opened or expired)
-emory board

I adore these little bags; you can easily fit a bunch of various sized safety pins in one and identify the contents a second since it's clear. (I use them for earrings, etc., too).

I've never understood why people say, "Don't they have stores where you're going?" Yes, I assume so. But when I'm home I don't run to the store for each q-tip or condom, so I would I do that while traveling?
posted by whoiam at 11:46 AM on January 17, 2014

Not just lip balm, but Kiehl's lip balm. Because if it lives in the fancy bag, maybe you never have to lose your indulgent little $9 lip balm (after using it ONCE) again.

Not that I have any such experience.
posted by Space Kitty at 12:28 PM on January 17, 2014

A small Swiss Army knife like this one which has a small blade, scissors, nail file, screwdriver, toothpick and tweezers in a tiny package.
A corkscrew.
posted by islander at 12:40 PM on January 17, 2014

- a few tiny vials of Systane individual eye drops
- great hand cream (I am loving this Lollia one)
- Pangea Organics macha tea mask. I love a mask on vacation.
posted by purpleclover at 12:52 PM on January 17, 2014

I usually tuck a glow stick in my kit. I've been surprised in some very dark places with dead flashlight batteries.
posted by workerant at 1:00 PM on January 17, 2014

I keep a corkscrew in my toiletry bag. I've used it on several trips, for both beer and wine.
posted by gt2 at 8:57 PM on January 17, 2014 [1 favorite]

Oh and Immodium.
posted by gt2 at 8:59 PM on January 17, 2014

Quality Band-aids; the 1" x 4" cloth-esque variety; they can always be trimmed down to a smaller size with nail-clippers; ... on two important occasions (i.e. boss cuts finger bad while playing 'chop the bush with the grill set / ooops, I nicked my finger bad, and 'it's ok; I can fix this w/out turning the machine off" / ouch holy crap blood is flying everywhere crap / side of road nowhere adventure ) being the guy with the band-aids that actually stick, stretch, and etc etc aren't plasticy crap has been a great reminder to have good bandaids is geez; not quite 'hero' level, but the party got back in action; and the road-trip got back on the road. Good stuff.
posted by buzzman at 10:55 PM on January 17, 2014

Tiny vintage cocktail shaker set! For real emergencies.
posted by gingerbeer at 8:41 AM on January 18, 2014

I just checked my bag for odds & ends:
  • Rubber bands
  • clothespins
  • corkscrew
  • collar stays

posted by Daddio at 12:20 PM on January 18, 2014

I've twice recently had to stay unexpectedly at hotels with no baggage or toiletries at all. I was able to get everything I needed from the hotels, to the point that I'm actually tempted to start just traveling that way and skip bringing toiletries at all. So you probably don't want to listen to me about specific things to bring, because right now I'd just say to leave it all at home.

The advice that I think is the most valuable here is to decide upfront whether or not you need the bag to be TSA compliant. That doesn't just mean liquids; it's also is the difference between bringing a real pair of scissors or a Swiss Army knife, or not. And for things like eye drops and medications, get them in single-use or bubble-pack form. Nothing is worse than needing, say, eye drops and discovering that the half empty bottle is expired and has fur growing around the top. Lastly, since you can already get low quality toiletries from the hotel for free, definitely pack really nice stuff if you are taking the trouble to bring toiletries -- make it a pleasure to use and something you look forward to.
posted by Dip Flash at 6:16 AM on January 19, 2014

Of the things not yet mentioned, I have a travel clothesline that doesn't require clothes pins (ooh, this new version has velcro fasteners and suction cups) and I always carry one of those compressed towels, too. It expands when you get it wet. Wring it back out, and it's a great 12x20 towel. It's sturdy enough to last a few days. There are also versions that are even smaller, though the towel is also correspondingly smaller.
posted by yggdrasil at 5:41 PM on January 19, 2014

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