How to Pack the Perfect Toiletry Bag

Living as a full-time nomad for over 15 years has taught me to appreciate any and all opportunities to take a shower on the go. Thus, I carry a toiletry bag everywhere I go. This way, I’m always prepared to take advantage of any shower opportunity, regardless of where I am! Whether it’s on a short layover where I can go into a lounge to take a full shower or an improvised shower at a coffee shop with a private bathroom I have my toiletries with me to take advantage of whenever the opportunity arises.

Why Carry a Toiletry Bag Everyday?

In general, even when I am not living out of a vehicle I carry the equivalent of an adventure go-bag. A bag that allows me to say YES! to rivers, lakes, pools, oceans, trail runs and any other fun activity on a daily basis. I don’t want to hold back on an opportunity because I am concerned about staying clean. With the items listed below, I can almost always say yes! Go get dirty and then be able to get cleaned-up anywhere.

Over the years, I have boiled down my toiletry bag to the essentials and after seeing some of the bags our friends and family carry around, I figured you all need this information. Let me be clear, less is more! As more will only ensure that you won’t carry your bag with you. So the first step is to determine what you truly use daily.

How to Know What to Bring?

I have a particular system for packing pretty much anything. In a nutshell, I consider what I need for an activity from head to toe. I discovered this system in 1998 while learning to make sure I packed all my gear for diving. During my first five lessons, they asked us to visualize the activity and to touch our body parts to remember what we needed. So start with our feet, touch our feet and say: dive booties and fins. Then move to the calf and say dive knife and so on until we made it all the way to our head. I use this system for my toiletry kit, but I start with my head and move downwards.

One Bag? No Way.

When packing a toiletry bag, I think about three different bags: one bag that has items I use every day, one bag for items I use less often but still need on a long trip (full size toiletries) and one bag that carries clothing. If I wore makeup, I would have a separate bag for that too. As you can see, it can easily get out of control. So the main trick is to only pack only what you will need (not what you want) and to limit your choices!


Things I use daily


I use an x-small Eagle Creek Pack-It Sac for my everyday essentials. It is small enough to really help me keep things down to a minimum and it is the correct size to be an acceptable TSA approved liquid bag. I use it even though I really try to minimize the amount of liquids we use because we do carry liquids. Using this bag reduces the need for me to get a plastic bag for traveling. Unless I am traveling to Canada! Since last time we traveled there, they were still requesting the toiletries to be on a clear plastic bag.

This Essential Toiletry Kit allows me to shower or freshen up whenever a bathroom is available.

These are my head-to-toe essentials

Bag #2: Full-Size Toiletry Kit

Full Shower Stuff


When traveling, I carry a second toiletry bag with full-size items. Since we travel all the time, using full-size products makes sense for us. To clarify, ‘full size’ means items that last one or two months for two people, not family-size products. For those of us living in the USA, where everything seems to be oversized, you may need to search for smaller items. Our ‘full size’ containers are mainly solid bars, which take up much less space than liquids.

Some of these items are duplicated, but this allows me to take a full shower without having to dig through my small toiletry kit. The full-size toiletry bag stays in our room, while my essentials remain in my handbag or backpack.

I’ve tried bringing both bags into the bathroom when staying overnight, but that seems to be more cumbersome than having an additional comprehensive kit.

These are my head-to-toe Full-Size Toiletry Packing List Includes:

What if Items

  • Applicator Free Tampons or Diva Cup

    Depending on my mood, I switch between them.

  • Nail Clipper

  • Hair Scissors

  • Tool to upkeep Sam's Locks

  • Blackhead Remover Kit

Bag #3: Go-Bag

Other Stuff


This is a small bag I carry with me at all times too! It is a small Eagle Creek compression bag. I keep the things I will need to change into or use during and after taking a shower.

Go-Bag Items

  • Thin handkerchief

    I use it as a washcloth and/or towel.

  • Sea to Summit XS Dry Bag

    I use it to store dirty underwear

  • Two Pairs of Underwear

  • If traveling by flight, train or night bus, I add

    Spare set of clothing (the most packable items I can find)
    1 pair of ToeSox
    1 pair of long leg warmers and a

  • Small Travel Towel

  • Thin Scarf

    I use this to cover my shoulders in Asia, and now I take it everywhere. I can be used to dress up most outfits, protect from the sun, or keep me slightly warm on chilly days.

Wanna know what else is in my purse or backpack?

  • Sunglasses

  • Hat

  • First Aid Kit

  • Mosquito Repellent

  • Cellphone

  • Headphones

  • Battery & Charging Cables

  • Fig Bar

  • Electrolytes

  • Puffy Jacket

Even though it looks like a lot, I use all these items. Before I used to carry a lot more—things that I didn’t really need or liquids that would spill everywhere. Nowadays, I know I have exactly what I need and only that. After each trip, I recheck to make sure no items were left unused, except for the emergency kit! That one, I am super glad, when we don’t need it at all!

All pictures in this blog were captured by Eric Ward.

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