Backpacking Toiletries




Toiletries can take up quite some space and weight in your rucksack. Even "travel sized" products are often bulky and come in differently shaped containers making it difficult to pack them with as little empty space as possible...

One nice solution is to fill everything you need in syringes, put a cap on the tip and cut off the plungers:

  • Now you have uniform, space saving containers...
  • You can fill them with just the right amounts for your trip...
  • You see immediately how much is left...
  • And they allow you to dose and ration precisely...

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Step 1: Filling

Filling the syringes:

  • High-viscosity liquids like toothpaste or shaving gel are best poured in from the back. Just remove the plunger completely...
  • Filling from the back is also the best choice if the original containers opening is too small for the syringe. Just don't forget to put a cap on the tip first like I did just a few minutes ago ;-)

Step 2: Cut the Plunger

Cutting the plunger:

  • pull the plunger back until it almost falls out, then cut it off with a sharp knife...
  • This saves a lot of space and more important: you can't spill the contents accidentially...
  • Keep one of the plungers to squeeze the syringes and throw the rest away...

Saving even more space:

  • You can even cut the syringe itself if it is only partially filled and throw away the last plunger - just use your toothbrush as replacement...

Step 3: Some Final Tips:

  • I prefer transparent, alcohol based products - they have some advantages:
    • Alcohol based sunscreen is very thin - it applies evenly and dries within seconds. But most important: you need much less compared to traditional products.
    • They are easy to dilute with water. A 20ml syringe with 50 SPF alcohol based sunscreen can last several days if you need full protection and weeks if the conditions allow you to dilute it.
  • Always take more sunscreen with you than you expect to need in the worst case. Running out of toothpaste or deodorant? well... shit happens... But running out of sunscreen can be serious trouble...

Shaving gel:

  • Don't use shaving foam - you can't put it out of its container for obvious reasons. Use shaving gel instead...


  • Use liquid deodorant instead of spray. You'll need very little: 5ml is more than enough for a week...

Toothbrush and razor cover:

  • I also use a syringe as toothbrush and razor cover. It protects them from dirt but still allows them to dry during the day...

Measure the amounts you'll need before traveling:

  • Put the original container on a scale and note its weight...
  • Use the product for a few days...
  • Weigh it again and divide the difference by the days you've used it...
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    15 Discussions


    3 years ago

    My pharmacy gives waterproof pill bottles. The tall bottle shown holds 12' of Charmin Ultra!


    3 years ago

    Perfect idea, thanks!

    I would propose a simpler way to measure.
    Put a liquid you need to use into the syringe and write down a date.

    Use it one week or until the syringe is empty.

    Now you know how much of the liquid you need (and how big syringe you need) for your travelling time.


    3 years ago

    Awsome Sauce ! In a syringe. ? can't get better than that !
    Have you tried this with bug dope? Was wondering if the DEET would eat the plastic? Am thinking of some drugs that can't go in plastic syringe and need glass. Does any know ?


    4 years ago on Step 3

    Congratulations, this is a brilliant instructable. I'm only thinking that a bunch of syringes in certain parts of the world could end up bringing you to the attention of the law enforcement officers. This could be troublesome in countries where they only start being reasonable after having exhausted all other options.

    1 reply

    Reply 3 years ago

    I don't think so. The syrings have no plunger and no needles - you can't use them anymore. And no druguser works with such a big 20ml syringe, if he don't want to die. :) ....I'm not a druguser, but at my city are a lot of these places, where they can change for free old drug-using-tools for new tools. These syringes there are very small (1ml or 2ml).


    4 years ago on Introduction

    Really unique and efficient way of packaging toiletries! I would agree that one should always take more than enough sunscreen. Take 2 or 3 syringes full instead of trying to dilute! I'd be worried that mixing with water might give you patchy coverage and a super weird burn.


    4 years ago

    make sure you get at the airport early enough to explain that at the security guys

    3 replies

    Reply 4 years ago on Introduction

    Hi, SimoneZ !

    You are correct; this would probably NOT be a good idea for a commercial flight. However, the OP stated that this idea was for backpacking (and presumably camping), where it's desirable to carry only enough to get by for a comparatively short time.

    For a commercial flight, regular retail packaging for toiletries are usually acceptable, and even if they're not, you can usually buy toiletries at your destination.


    Reply 4 years ago

    Actually they are perfect for air travel. Medical supplies are acceptable as carry on and checked within reason.

    If one has syringes over 3 oz one is defeating the purpose of this-ible and will be questioned/stopped.

    The volume would be the only concern for the security personnel. Diabetic passengers travel with needles all the time.

    Well, strange looking liquids are never a good Idea at the airport. For me it has never been an issue as I'm just backpacking in the alps and travel there by car. If you're traveling by plane just take the syringes with you - of course without needle - and buy the toiletries at your destination. Unfortunately this forces you to throw away most of it - but if you're backpacking this is often the better alternative instead of carrying unnecessary weight and volume for days or weeks.

    Just4Fun Media

    4 years ago

    Really interesting idea! Have you ever had any issues with altitude/pressure changes?

    1 reply

    4 years ago on Introduction

    I can buy a multi-pack of small plastic bottles with squeeze nozzles (one 6-oz, two 4-oz, two 2-oz and two that remind me of contact lens cases, for pills) at the dollar store for about $5. They also have screw tops, of course, so no worries about spilling or leaks. How does that compare with the cost of these syringes?

    1 reply

    I've paid 15.50€ ($17) for 50 syringes including caps and shipping. My local pharmacy sells syringes for 0.20€ / each but unfortunately does not offer caps.

    Don't worry about spilling - as long as you cut the plunger they are safe.