How Long Your Belongings Will Last on Your Gap Year

Posted By Jeremy in Planning


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Toiletries Can Last Long While on RTWLong term travelers are forced to deal with a lot of challenges while on the road: dealing with bureaucracy, finding accommodations, navigating locales without knowledge of the language, and more.  The difficulties begin even prior to traveling in figuring out what to bring on the road as a traveler's entire life can be fit in the contents of a 45-90 liter pack.

Going into the pros and cons of packing any item can be a headache, so it is almost easier to just pack the travel supplies you are comfortable with and go from there, regardless of what other people say.

Still, every item in your pack will have a shelf life, a period of time in which they can be reused over and over. This could be re-wearing of clothes, depleting a bottle of shampoo, or even the inevitability of electronics breaking. During the course of my travels I've been keeping track of my habits of product usage and come up with some good rule of thumb for many items that you might take with you.

Please keep in mind that these calculated usage rates are based on my personal usage and can vary from person to person, preference to preference.  A male with short hair, like myself, will use less shampoo than a female with long hair.  Some people may wear a shirt longer, some people may refuse to re-wear clothes.  Factor in your own personal attributes when reading and decide for yourself accordingly.

Included with each applicable statistic is a daily usage rate (# oz/day) such that you can determine how long your specific toiletry might last.  (E.g. A 500mL bottle used at 2mL/day will last at 500/2 = 250 days).  For those who aren't familiar with conversions, 1 US ounce is about 30 mL.

Clothing – Frequency Before Stink

It is very easy to resign yourself to knowing that you're going to smell while on the road.  Re-wearing clothes, sleeping in some questionably clean dorms, or being surrounded by new friends who have lesser hygiene than you are all valid concerns.  If you want to avoid being one of these people who stink up the dorm room or common area, and all travelers know of at least one person that has done this, then you may want to stick by some of these guidelines.

Socks Get Smelly on a RTWShirts can be re-worn once if the environment produces minimal sweating.  If a lot of sweating goes on, it may be best to only wear the shirt once before washing.  A lucky few can get by with more, but it is not recommended.

Pants can be reworn many times, averaging 3 days before a fair bit of smell sets in.  Like shirts, wearing time decreases if sweating a lot.

Socks should only be worn, at maximum, twice before being washed.  Otherwise you will have the worst smelling feet in the dorm room.

Flip Flops can last the entire trip if you're lucky.   Or, if you are like me you'll have a $*@#% dog steal one right off the beach in Koh Lipe two weeks after buying them.

Underpants…  Let's just not go there and leave that to your own personal style, and keep it to yourself in the comments section of this post!

Toiletries – Bigger is Better?

While I travel, I tend to only take large toiletry bottles because toiletry shopping is my least favorite thing in the entire universe.  Some other bloggers may swear by tiny bottles for the weight savings, which is a valid point that everyone must decide upon. My personal thought is that if I will need it, bigger is better, and I am willing to carry it to avoid frequent toiletry trips.  Regardless of your personal style, usage rates of toiletries is unaffected.  So when heading off on your next trip, check to see how many of those little bottles you might be needing while gone, as a big one might be a lesser hassle in the long run.

Don't Overuse Toiletries When TravelingA large bottle of shampoo (429 mL) lasts about 107 days when used once a day in small to medium amounts, including a nominal amount of days missed from hotels/hostels providing cleanser.  ~4.0 mL/day

A large bottle of contact solution (355 mL) lasts about 80 days when used once a day filling up a standard contact case to maximum height.  This can be stretched longer if less is used, however. ~4.4 mL/day

A pair of two week use contact lenses can exceed 50 days if care is taken, but is not recommended.  At the same time, a freshly opened lens can be lost down the drain on the second day of use.  ~1 pair/two weeks, cautiously

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A large bottle of body soap (473 mL) lasts about 70 days when used once a day in generous amounts, including a nominal amount of days missed from hotels/hostels providing soap. ~6.75 mL/day

A standard roll of toothpaste (6 oz) lasts about 86 days while brushing two times per day.  ~0.07 oz/day

A standard roll of deodorant (3 oz) lasts about 92 days while using one time per day. ~ 0.033 oz/day

A roll of toilet paper can last up to 30 days, depending on usage, size, and severity if hostels provide paper for general use.  If not provided, a roll might not even last 3 days!

Hopefully some of these guidelines will help you when planning your next trip, or at the very least were entertaining along the way.   If you have any interesting clothing or toiletry stories from the road, share them below!  Who has the most interesting smelly traveler story out there?

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10 Comments

  1. You know what makes it last even shorter? Losing the bag of toiletries halfway through your trip 😛

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  2. Two weeks is exactly the amount of time that my boyfriend’s flipflops bought in Madrid lasted before getting stolen by a dog on a beach in Zarautz (near San Sebastian).
    So I say unattended flip flops = 2 weeks.

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  3. Insane reading… huh? I think insane and company owners are the best combination to have myself, and the chemical engineer in me likes biodegradable!

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  4. I like Dr. Bronners Organic soap. You can use it as soap, shampoo, and insanse reading while you have the case of Monta Zuma’s Revenge. The company and founder are insane but the peppermint tingle is awesome, and it is biodegradable.

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  5. I see, that is incredibly interesting! I’ve read reports that suggest everyone tends to over shampoo their hair, but you are spot on in the fact that it would require a few weeks to have your hair get used to the changeover. I might have to try this one out.

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  6. I’ve seen it work for a wide variety of hair types. I have naturally curly hair, and my partner has long silky straight hair. We’ve both been no-poo for years 🙂 First couple of weeks feel a bit icky as your head adjusts to regulating your natural oils tho. And of course, varying climates may have you doing the treatment twice a week or only a couple times a month.

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  7. That does sound like a good trick. I’d have to try it out to see how it works for my hair. Do you think it works for all hair types or is there a certain kind it is better for?

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  8. One trick I’ve found is going no-poo (no-shampoo, that is). Instead of worrying about carrying shampoo and conditioner with me, I carry a bit of baking soda and apple cider vinegar. About once a week, scrub a bit baking soda through my hair and rinse.. and then rinse diluted ACV through it. Saves a lot of weight, a lot of water and my hair has never been healthier!

    It’s now been nearly 4 years since I’ve shampoo’d my hair.

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  9. Haha, you’re right, I do love to count things! Honestly how it all came about was I ran out of all my toiletries right around the same time, so I made a note of the days, then thought it’d make a good post.

    You’re most definitely right on the shampoo part, hopefully everyone that reads this will get the note on the fact that I have short hair 😀

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  10. Wow, you really love to count stuff don’t you?

    Just wanted to add that shampoo/conditioner amounts probably very a lot depending on how long you’re hair is. I know I go through a lot!

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