Last Updated on August 14, 2022 by Jeremy
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Long 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.
Shirts 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.
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
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?
About the Author: Jeremy is a full-time travel writer based in Pittsburgh and primary author of this site. He has been to 70+ countries on five continents and seeks out new food, adventure activities, and off-the-beaten-path experiences wherever he travels.