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Solid toiletries have a clear advantage over liquid toiletries.  They don’t leak.  You don’t carry around the excess water that is in a liquid toiletry.  Solid toiletries are lighter, on a per-use basis, than any liquid toiletry.  People think that switching to a solid toiletry is all they have to do to travel lighter. Unfortunately, this isn’t true.

People don’t realize the true weight of toiletry items.  Many times we think nothing of carrying a 3 oz bottle of liquid instead of decanting it into a 1 oz bottle.  We carry an entire bar of soap instead of cutting it up into a smaller bar.  It’s only a small difference, right?  Wrong! Ultra light travelers know that each ounce (or kilogram) adds to the total weight of a bag. If you want to travel lighter, you have to weigh each item in your bag. This becomes critical when there are strict weight limits for carry on bags.

Minimize solid toiletries to reduce weight

Reducing toiletries is one of the five key principles of light travel. People remember to reduce their liquid toiletries, but forget about the solids.  To demonstrate how ounces affect weight, I have created a weight table for four common solid toiletries:

Toiletry Item Full size Weight Travel size Weight Weight difference
Soap Bar  4.8 oz
(136 g)
1.2 oz
(34 g)
 3.6 oz
(102 g)
Solid Shampoo Bar  3.4 oz
(96 g)
 0.85 oz
(24 g)
 2.55 oz
Solid Conditioner  2.4 oz
(68 g)
 1.2 oz
(34 g)
 1.2 oz
(34 g)
(stick Vs. crystal)
 3.5 oz
(99 g)
 1.7 oz
(48 g)
 1.8 oz
Total Weight  14.1 oz
(399 g)
 4.95 oz
(140 g)
 9.15 oz
(259 g)

If you look at the table above, you’ll see that you can get a weight savings of 1/2 a pound (1/4 kg) from reducing just four toiletry items. Can I repeat that? A half pound savings from just four toiletry items! Can you imagine this scenario repeated through each article in your bag?  Your clothes?  Your electronics?  We are talking about pounds shaved off of your total bag weight.

There’s another benefit to reducing the size of your solid toiletries.  The total bulk goes down.  Smaller toiletries  mean a smaller toiletry kit, which fits in a smaller carry on bag.  Hmm, maybe that under seat carry on bag isn’t as impossible as you thought?

I usually buy full size solid toiletries to save money.  Then I cut up the full size items and bag them at home. This also lets me get my favorite products, as there is limited availability for travel size products.  I keep a stash of my “travel-sized” toiletry items in my travel bin, ready and waiting for the next trip. Here’s the step-by-step process for reducing the size and weight of each solid item:

Soilid shampoo bar

Start with a full sized solid toiletry item.

scoring a shampoo bar

Lightly score around the outside of the bar.

score each side of the bar

Make sure you score around the entire bar.

Score the bar a 2nd time

Score the bar a second time, going deeper.

cut through the bar

Cut through the entire bar, using the score marks as a guide. Go slowly, with a steady pressure.  This will keep the bar from shattering into pieces.

Finish cutting up the bar

Cut the bar into travel size pieces. I usually cut soap and shampoo bars into 4 pieces. I cut lotion bars in half.

place the bar into a plastic snack bag

Place each piece into a snack size plastic bag. I pierce the bag several times using a pair of scissors. The mini air holes let the bar dry out after each use.

travel sized shampoo bars

A set of “travel size” shampoo bars!

The travel-sized bars usually last a minimum of 2-3 weeks per bar.  Many times I get several more weeks of use out of each bar.  That means I only need one mini-bar per trip.

Think about reducing your solids for the next trip.  You’ll like the weight and bulk savings.