Toiletries are an essential part of the equipment you should take on any long-distance hike. It’s also a category in which many people easily overpack. This is an issue because toiletries tend to be rather heavy. For most people, it’s just hard to estimate how much toothpaste or shampoo you’ll really need on a 2, 3, or 5-week hike.

That’s why I put together this minimal list of toiletries for a long-distance hike to last you 4-5 weeks (with a few tricks here and there of course).

Which Toiletries to Take on A Long-Distance Hike?

As always, you will need to adjust this to your individual needs and preferences. But many of us tend to fall into a pattern of “I really need this item”, simply because we’ve grown used to it so much in our day-to-day lives. But your life will be very different when you’re on a thru-hike. To not tap into that trap, make sure that for each and every item you add to the below list you ask yourself the question “If I ran out of this item on the trail, would I go out of my way to get it at the absolute next opportunity, no matter the cost, effort, or the time it takes?” If not, you probably don’t need it.

But I also do think a long-distance hike should be fun, not torture. Saving weight is a key aspect for it to not be torture. But if your skin tends to be very dry and you know that if you don’t apply that organic natural vanilla coconut scented cream with a drop of aloe vera infusion at night your every movement will hurt the next day, then please pack that cream! But jokes aside, all our bodies are different and only you know best what you really need. No matter if that’s soothing eye drops, some lip balm, or extra strong sunscreen.

To get you started, here’s my minimal toiletry packing list to take on a long-distance trail:

  • Sun protection items
    • Sunscreen (+ sunscreen lip balm)
    • Sunglasses
    • Hat/cap
  • Essential toiletry items
    • Toiletry pouch
    • Liquid soap (multi-purpose)
    • Toothbrush
    • Toothpaste concentrate
    • Floss & 2-3 interdental brushes
    • Deodorant cream
    • Mosquito spray
    • Tampons/pads & hygiene bags
    • Comb & hair ties
    • Nail clipper (and a small file)
    • Face cream (ideally with mild sun protection)
    • Contact lenses & eye drops (if you wear glasses)
  • Slightly more optional toiletry items
    • Lip balm
    • Paper tissues
    • Ear plugs & eye mask
    • Hair conditioner
    • Body oil
  • “Medical” toiletries
    • Mint oil
    • Hand sanitizer
    • Antiseptic cream

Let’s get into more detail on each category.

Sun protection items

Definitely take some sunscreen and use it every day on your face and arms, even if you‘re not very sensitive to the sun. Especially if it‘s windy, you won‘t notice the sun too much, but you‘ll still get burned. I use regular liquid sunscreen (SPF 50) but refill it into a smaller container. I can highly recommend the GoToob+ containers from Human Gear. They don‘t spill and are easy to fill, use, and clean. Additionally, they are food safe (FDA) so you can also use them to carry around some olive oil or vinegar for your cooking when camping. They come in fun colors and best of all, they have a lifetime warranty. For me, the 74ml (100oz) container worked perfectly for the entire trip.

If you‘re very sensitive to the sun, I‘d also recommend taking a sunscreen lip balm. This is especially important when you‘re high up in the mountains. Alternatively, you can also put some regular sunscreen on your lips, which works fine, too, just doesn’t taste that nice. 😝

You should also take sunglasses. You‘ll be needing them almost every day. This also holds true for some sort of sun protection for your head. There‘s a wide variety of options. I prefer a cap over a sun hat because it protects my face more. As I wear glasses, it also means I don‘t need to switch to sunglasses too quickly, yet my eyes are still somewhat protected from too much direct sunlight. To save some money, I just took a sports cap I have at home on my trip. It worked just fine, however, next time round, I would probably invest in an airier one made from more breathable materials, so my head gets a bit more ventilation.

Essential toiletry items

As I mentioned, what’s “essential” obviously depends a lot on what you personally use. I‘d recommend only taking what‘s really necessary for you to feel healthy and well and reducing as much as possible. There are some nice tips & tricks you can use to combine certain toiletries. Also, I‘d recommend re-filling everything into smaller containers. You‘d be surprised how little you actually need on such a trip.

As a toiletry pouch I‘d recommend using one that‘s clear and somewhat waterproof so that if anything spills, it won‘t mess up your entire backpack right away. I use some random small pouch from Amazon. I wouldn’t say I love it, but it’s the best one I found so far, having tried a bunch already.

In terms of quantities and items here’s a list of everything I packed into that pouch:

  • Liquid soap: After trying a lot of different options here on my various hikes, I found Dr. Bronner’s All-in-One soap. This is some pretty awesome stuff. It has 18 use cases, from washing your body, hair, and face to your clothes and dishes. It‘s made of entirely natural ingredients, thus you can use it in the wild as well. Now looking back, it really worked surprisingly well. However, next time, I’d still take some shampoo for my hair, as my hair just didn‘t feel super nice after, and I sometimes even needed to wash it twice. But for my clothes, body, and dishes it worked really well. I took around 40ml and still had some left.
  • Toothbrush, paste, floss & interdental brushes: I mean, this probably goes without saying. You need these. I’d recommend buying a tiny floss thingy because it saves a lot of space. I also like to use a toothbrush that you can fold because it protects it from getting dirty while in the pouch.
  • Deodorant cream: When hiking I prefer deodorant cream because it is extremely long-lasting. A small 10-gram container will last you the entire trip. Make sure you take a product you’ve used before and you know your skin reacts well to it.
  • Mosquito spray: Also very necessary. Be prepared to get bitten anyway, but it is still super helpful to keep the majority of bugs & nasty stingy thingies off. It’s especially crucial to protect yourself against ticks.
  • Tampons/pads & hygiene bags: As a woman, make sure to plan ahead of your trip and pack enough of these little babies. I can highly recommend taking a few small black, sealable hygiene bags, too. These can be super useful if you need to change tampons in the wild. Period underwear is also an option if you want to reduce waste and don’t mind a little extra weight.
    By the way, in a real emergency situation, where you need to make a fire, tampons pulled apart (which are made of compressed cotton) make pretty decent kindling.
  • Comb & hair ties: Instead of a brush I use a small comb. Not the most convenient, but definitely works well enough and saves a little weight (every bit counts!).
  • Nail clipper (and file): Some pocket knives already have this built-in, so no need to carry extra. But if yours doesn’t, I’d definitely recommend taking a nail clip at the very least. A cracked or ingrown toenail will end your trip faster than you’d imagine. I also take a tiny nail file.
  • Face cream (ideally with mild sun protection): I took some face cream because it‘s part of my daily routine in the mornings. It has slight sun protection (15LSF) so on a very cloudy day, I wouldn‘t need to put sunscreen on my face in the mornings.
  • Contact lenses & eye drops (if you wear glasses): This is a great emergency backup if you normally wear glasses. If they break, you’re in real trouble but 1 or 2 backup day lenses should get you to the next optician.

Slightly more optional toiletry items

  • Lip balm: I always keep a small, 8ml lip balm in the hip pocket of my backpack, so I can access it easily.
  • Paper tissues: That’s always handy. You don’t need to pack a whole bunch of them as most of the time you’ll be able to stock up at your accommodation along the way. I’d also pack some new toilet paper from my room every morning and keep it together with a small plastic trash bag in the other hip pocket of my backpack - where it’s easily available. 🤷‍♀️
  • Ear plugs & eye mask: I‘d definitely recommend taking a few pairs of ear plugs as some of the hotels have pretty thin walls. Especially if you‘re a light sleeper, I‘d also recommend taking an eye mask. Maybe that’s just me, but it drives me crazy if I can‘t turn off the small red lights on a TV screen.
  • Hair conditioner: This is pure luxury and every proper lightweight hiker would probably roll their eyes at me. But, as I said, I think a long-distance hike should also be fun. And with long hair, sometimes it just feels so good when you can properly wash it, put some conditioner on and it’s all nice and soft after. I just take a small container of 5ml and use it every other wash and, oh my good, so worth it!
  • Body oil: I did not take this, but if you have really dry skin body oil can be a great alternative to body cream. It’s much more efficient and you can also use it to massage any sore limbs.

“Medical2 toiletries

Lastly, there are a few more toiletry items I’d recommend, which are a bit more on the “health” side of things.

  • Mint oil: This is fabulous stuff. I read somewhere that it can prevent soreness if you massage your legs with mint oil after a long day’s hike. So I took some Japanese mint oil and, honestly, it was one of the best things at the end of my day. It‘s cooling as well as warming (no idea how that works) and it just feels great to give your sore muscles a little massage after working out. It quickly became my daily routine along with a few yoga exercises to stretch my body in the mornings and evenings.
  • Hand sanitizer: I‘ve read beforehand that this would be useful to take soap flakes. I liked the idea, so I brought them along, but never used them. Instead, I used a tiny 5ml tube of hand sanitizer quite regularly (you can often re-fill it in your accommodation), so I‘d recommend going with that instead.
  • Antiseptic cream: I find this quite handy to have in my toiletry pouch. It’s just 3.5ml but it’s super convenient to have for any sores, dry lips, or small wounds.

Aaaand that’s it! In addition to your toiletries, it’s obviously important to take a well-stocked, high-quality first aid kit on your thru-hike to make sure you’re prepared for any emergencies.

If you haven’t seen it, yet, check out my complete packing list for hiking a long-distance trail in Europe as well as my detailed packing guides on:

Or just get on planning your own trip with my super cool 2-week itinerary for the Alpe Adria trail, including detailed stages & accommodation reviews.