One way to lighten your load is to dump the liquids and use a solid substitute. It is also one less item that needs to go into the TSA 3-1-1 bag. There are now many great products out there that are as good as (if not better than) the liquid counterpart. Doug Dyment keeps a nice list of products at his onebag.com site.
Here is a list of my favorite solid substitutes.
All in one
There are very few all-in-one products out there, but Dr. Bronner’s solid castile soap can be used for almost everything. The product can work as soap, shampoo (my hair lies flatter), toothpaste (tastes strange), or soap for washing clothing. The wrapper is interesting reading too (All one, All one!) If you want to travel ultra-light and take only one product, this would be it. The bar is organic and fully biodegradable. The Tea-Tree scent has a nice neutral smell and contains anti-microbial properties. You can find this product in many outdoors and whole foods stores. http://www.drbronner.com
I like to use Lush solid shampoo during my travels. The shampoo is shaped like a hockey puck. Get your hair wet, make a few swipes across the top with the soap, and lather up. I can usually get 3-4 weeks of use out of one bar. You can find Lush products on line, or in their stores. http://www.lush.com
Another alternative shampoo is by Chagrin Valley http://www.chagrinvalleysoapandsalve.com/
I use Lush Jungle as my conditioner. I also use it for shaving. Believe it or not, the conditioner softens the hairs on my leg and makes them very slippery. A two-for-one product! My only complaint about this particular product is that it melts in the heat. Make sure you keep it sealed in a zipped baggie.
I use crystal deodorant sticks all the time – even at home. I use the tiny travel size version while on the road. Wet your arm pits, slide the stick over your skin a few times, and let it dry. These sticks last for months at a time. They also work on smelly feet. Remove the plastic packaging and insert the crystal into a small baggie for greater weight savings. I found the travel sized stick at Whole Foods. It is also available on line. http://store.thecrystal.com
Solid lotion bars are available from many suppliers. These bars are solid until you warm them with the heat of your body. They release oils as you slide them over your skin. I prefer the Bee Bar from Honey House. It comes in several delicate fragrances. The Bee Bars contain higher amounts of bees wax so they are less likely to melt in the heat.
An alternative is to use massage bars as a solid substitute for body lotion. I usually cut a regular massage bar in half – it is more than enough for a 2 week trip. My biggest complaint is that they melt in warm weather. Keep them in a zipped baggie. I bought my massage bar at Lush
I like to have facials once a week. I use Aztec Secret clay mask at home and on travel. I put about a tablespoon of clay powder into a small baggie – preferably a pill bag. When I want to have a facial, I add water, seal the baggie, and knead the solution until it is free of lumps. Then I smear it on my face for about 10 minutes. I usually keep 2-3 baggies in my toilet kit at any one time. http://www.aztec-secret.com/clay.html
I discovered this from ultralight packer JERMMs Outside. I think it is brilliant! Squirt dots of toothpaste on some foil, let them dry out, sprinkle with baking powder, and then put them in a baggie. When it is time to clean your teeth just pop a dot into your mouth, chew it up like gum, and brush away! This method doesn’t need any extra water to brush your teeth – great for on-the-go. I like the dots far better than the crunchy toothpaste tabs and the disgusting tooth powder (this is a personal preference issue).
Update: I have now added a post on DIY toothpaste dots.
I recently discovered this wonderful item while visiting my hairdresser. It is a true replacement for styling gel. What is better – a little goes a very, very long way. I have found that a few taps of powder is enough to keep my hair looking great for the entire day. Decant this powder into a tiny shaker bottle for even greater weight/size savings.
I use Olay 4-in-1 Facial Cleansing Cloths to remove my makeup. Each cloth contains a cleanser, toner, mask, and scrub. Just add water to activate them. The cloths are lighter than pre-moistened towelettes and they can’t dry out. I would recommend cutting the cloths into quarters. You’ll still have plenty of foaming suds to clean your face and it reduces bulk and weight. I’ll usually put 2 weeks worth of cloths into a zip lock baggie.
I dissolve 1/2 teaspoon of salt into 1/2 a cup of water for a mouth rinse. I store the salt in a small container for liquids. Zip lock type bags may leak.
Edited on April 21 2016 – added in mouthwash suggestion.