August 14th, 2006

The liquid-free traveller

For those who are addicted to carry-on luggage and who don't want their first order of business on arrival to be rushing out to buy toiletries.

Toothpaste: tooth powder. Lots of health food stores sell a version of thiat they boast has no fluoride in it (Eco-DenT seems to be a commonly stocked variety). If you, like me, don't see this as a benefit, "Country Gent" has a version with fluoride in it. You can also make your own out of baking soda, salt, and a little peroxide. There are plenty of receipes for it (most add a little peppermint oil for flavor). Also Arm and Hammer (the baking soda people) used to make a tooth powder, though they seem to have discontinued it. But in fact, the big part of brushing is the brushing. Dry brush won't kill you for a day or two.

Shampoo: Matthew Parris is right. Your hair can look fine, long-term, with no or very little shampoo applied to it. An awful lot of the hair product madness is putting stuff on to make up for things that the previous stuff has done to it. However, the transition can be difficult. However: soap substitutes (*not* "gentle soap") intended for sensitive skin can and do work very well on hair. In the US, Aveeno bars work great, also Lowila cake, which is still being made but is difficult to find offline. The other day, a Froogle search revealed a couple of online stores that still sell it. Aveeno has no scent; Lowila almost none. If that seems too drastic for you, Burt's Bees and a number of other herbal folks make shampoo bars -- solid, soap-like objects that melt a little bit in hot water.

Conditioner, skin lotions: same applies. Quite a few folks make lotion bars, conditioner bars, and other solid-state things. Or you can make your own - lots of recipes out there. And this is an interesting source of supply even if you're in the wrong country for it (and get annoyed by some of the pseudoscience there) because it has a lot of information about how stuff blends together, and the product lists tell you things like the melting temperature. I'm guessing that a self-made lotion bar with enough beeswax and cocoa or mango butter in it (all of which have higher melting points) would look pretty much like a bar of soap.

Deodorant: I haven't seen any word on whether they're consider solid-stick deodorants liquids or not. In my experienced, the unscented variety of those can be hard to find in the UK, though easy in the US. I'm intrigued by this and this, which sound even more solid than that.

If you like to travel with a small jar of Woolite for hand-washing in an emergency, well: a lot of stuff can be gotten out with soap, baking soda, and/or soda water (which you can't carry but you can get everywhere).

Those are all the liquids I can think of that might be in my luggage other than stuff to drink. I usually carry a thermosy sort of flask I can keep either cold milk or hot tea in. Partly, it's laptop protection. Open-topped, lightweight cups with narrow bottomw make me *very* nervous.

Contact lens solution. Um. Ever thought of going back to glasses? :) But an interesting question: could one put together something temporarily acceptable out of walt water?

Irrelevantly, the BBC reported on the troubles of musicians, some of them carrying centuries-old irreplaceable instruments, being forced to put them in the hold last week, even, sometimes, when they'd *Paid for a seat* for the instrument. (That seems to me wrong. Then the instrument is not carry-on luggage but a *passenger*.) In some cases, allowing the instrument to be checked was/would have been a violation of their contract: one Russian orchestra plays instruments on loan from the national collection, and they are not allowed to be separated from them at any time. I want to say philistines, but then I wonder if you could get a good thriller plot out of someone's having to make the choice between destroying the Mona Lisa and the possibility that it *might* a key element in a plot to destroy Paris. Or some equivalent like that.)