Stuff we’re currently testing—the good, the bad, and the we dunno yet


Not everything that we test we find interesting enough or useful enough to include in our main packing lists, or review.

This article details some of the things we love (but that don’t merit inclusion on a minimalist’s packing list), we hate (and didn’t even want to bother reviewing), or that we’re just not sure about yet, and might review in the future.

Update History of This Article

This article was first published on November 11, 2020.

Travel Health

We’ve tried two “travel” electric toothbrushes and they were both uncomfortable to use, so we went back to wrist-powered brushing. Then, recently, I went back to an old favorite, the Oral B Pro 1000 Electric Toothbrush and it’s so much better. Dental health experts don’t necessarily recommend an electric toothbrush over your regular brush. But personally, my teeth feel much cleaner. For longer-term travel, we picked up a few Oral B Toothbrush Heads, which are compatible with almost all Oral B electric toothbrushes and last for a few months each. This should keep you away from the dentist a bit longer—not a bad thing when you’re on the road during a pandemic.

The Facelake FL400 Pulse Oximeter provides a way to check pulse rates and blood oxygen saturation levels. We’re staying safe and far from fellow humans during the pandemic, but if anything should befall us, it’s a way to check oxygen levels and know if more serious medical checkups are needed.

The elite replaceable cartridge system is the Gillette Fusion5, and the refills are easy to pick up on the go.

The Whiff Botanicals Shampoo & Shave Bar is easier to travel with than liquid shampoo, and excellent for greasy hair. Our tester hates the orange zest variety, which doesn’t last long and smells terrible, she says, and she loves the evergreen mint variety, which she says lasts, helps with dandruff, and feels luxurious. It is extremely concentrated and only a small quantity is needed.

The Whiff Shampoo Bar and Conditioner Bar is also quite concentrated and excellent for moisturizing hair. This is also a nice road option for shaving.

We got into resistance bands during the pandemic as a way to keep fit without gyms and dancing and the other things we used to rely on. But it turns out that resistance bands are also a great way to get all sorts of exercises that can be easily packed down. While we wouldn’t use them for carry-on-only travel, we’re loving the Bodylastics Resistance Bands Set and planning on taking it to anywhere we’re travelling with check-in luggage.

The Kiasona Travel Soap Box is the best plastic soap box we’ve ever tried, by far. It includes a sponge mat that absorbs moisture from the soap and thus helps it last longer. And the silicone band locks it down to prevent leaks. Whoever designed this clearly had a lot of experience travelling with bar soap.

The Neutrogena Hydro Boost Water Gel is a solution for greasy, pimples-prone skin that nevertheless gives a moisturizing sensation. Highly recommended.

The Burt's Bees Ultra Conditioning Lip Balm is an excellent solution for dry climates and a preventative for the dry skin caused by airplanes when travelling.

The Good Clean Love: Almost Naked Personal Lubricant is our absolute favorite of the many we’ve tried, mainly for its luxurious, non-goopy and non-greasy texture. It’s safe with toys and with all condoms, latex or non-latex.

These SKYN Condoms are comfier than most and made of non-latex material.

The Intimina Lily Cup and other menstrual cups are easier to pack since they are reusable, but you need to ensure a clean place to wash and empty them.

For more recommendations about sex and menstruation, particularly for those of you with vulvas, see our sister site vulvajoy.com.

This athletic multivitamin, general multivitamin, creatine, and grass-fed whey protein powder are all supplements I’ve tried on the road when active and concerned about the quality of what was available to eat (especially when eating out too much). I’m no nutrition expert though, and hesitant to make specific recommendations for everyone. It’s always better to get your vitamins and protein through food as much as possible. A better solution is to stay in a hostel or apartment where you can cook.

Canned cod liver offers a huge dose of omega 3 fatty acids and vitamins A and D in a whole food that can be easily packed. I often take a few cans on the road (and/or buy cans of sardines, which are available anywhere) and put them on a quick, improvised salad when I’m staying in places where I can’t cook.

Cacao drinks are a stimulating coffee alternative without sugar. We tend to approach superfood claims with some healthy scepticism, but love the taste of this. And it’s easy to brew in any situation on the road. 

Another whole food supplement that’s easy to pack is moringa powder, which is packed with nutrients. Useful if you’re headed somewhere where vegetables are not served often, and you’re not going to be cooking yourself.

The MuOu 3-Pack Refillable Perfume Spray Bottles are a way to carry small amounts of your favorite perfume or cologne while travelling.

The Smell Lip Balm Containers offer a way to carry small amounts of cosmetics.

The mix of nutrients in the Pure Encapsulations Athletic Nutrients seems particularly good for active folks.

The Pilestone Selection: Mens Designer Fragrance Samples seems like a nice way to have a variety of travel containers and scents to experiment with.

The Fat and The Moon Organic Cream Deodorant is a simple non-irritating deodorant that costs too much but works great.

To save on packaging and not take liquids, you can get Denttabs Teeth Cleaning Tablets instead of toothpaste. We’re experimenting with this but suspect it may be a bit overpriced and not all that more ecological either.

The Scalp Massager Shampoo Brush is a little luxury that gets in between hair for a nice scalp massage.

Luggage Gear

After resisting them for years, I’ve been trying out some packing cubes and organizational packing sacs. We’ll update soon with results.

The Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Sac Set offers three of the flat version of these very packable bags and these seem ideal for small clothing items as well as cables and small electronics.

The Eagle Creek Pack-it Specter Compression Cube Set don’t open completely, which some reviewers have complained about, but I think may actually be ideal as they open far enough to retrieve items in the bottom but still keep their form without everything spilling out.

The Osprey Sojourn Wheeled Luggage has long been one of our top wheeled backpack picks for larger loads. We’re testing it now on a longer, less minimalist trip.

These X-Haibei Empty Tin Case is a round tin for very small soaps.

The LOOMILOO Small Makeup Bag is cheap and cute; we’re checking to see how this material holds up over time.

The Matador FlatPak Toiletry Bottle strikes us as a great way to carry toiletries and then flatten down to save space when they’re used up. It seems very sturdy and problem-free so far in our test.

The FlatPak Soap Bar Case is a super convenient and mess-free way to carry bar soap.

I can’t wait to dive into the ocean with the Nite Ize RunOff Waterproof Bag and see how we both fare. Update coming soon.

Women’s Clothing

The following menstrual-period underwear are made of natural materials, making them comfortable and breathable. They provide an additional sensation of confidence and security on busy days on the road. And they pack down small for us minimalists. And in spite of being quite protective, they don’t feel thick—not at all like the nearly diaper-ish, thick cloth panty liners. This makes these panties feel lighter on the body and aids in free movement.

The Bambody Absorbent Hipster are very comfortable, the bamboo material is softer than cotton and quite flexible. They have a medium absorption level and are adored by our heroic, menstruating tester as a secondary layer of protection when using a menstrual cup. They’re suitable on their own for low-flow days. They’re an excellent layer of protection to have on hand while travelling, and better at preventing odor than pads.

Our tester does not like the EvaWear Period Panties quite as much, but they fulfill the same function pretty well. They seem a bit less absorbent, and are a bit stiff and less comfortable. But they breathe well.

The Pocket Scarf is a way to stash more stuff on your body as you travel, especially if you are wearing more ladylike clothes that lack pockets.

Men’s Clothing

We’re trying out these nondescript simple shorts—so far ideal for comfort and various purposes, but we’re not sure how the material will hold up. Looks cheap. On the other hand, they’re fine for now and walk the line well between good-looking casual and comfort. I’m currently using them as one of the two pairs of shorts I own/travel with.

I’m testing the very comfortable MAIKANONG Mens Tapered Jogging Pants to see how they hold up. They look sharp.

The Icebreaker Merino Men's Anatomica Tank is definitely overpriced but I’m comparing it to some other sleeveless T-shirts to see how it holds up while travelling. Very comfortable and looks sharp, at least.

Travel Accessories and Electronics

Of course, rechargeable batteries are more ecological than regular batteries. It’s too bad to have to carry extra batteries for devices but not all devices have their own internal batteries. What’s nice is that these can be replaced if and when they eventually go through all of their charge cycles—electronics with internal batteries have to simply be disposed of.

If you’re going on a long (months or years) trip, take a small, lightweight recharger like the AmazonBasics USB Battery Charger (for AA / AAA Ni-MH). It plugs into a standard USB-B cable, which you’re surely carrying anyway. This saves you both from having to buy or carry batteries, and from having to find the local place to dispose of them safely.

The AUKEY Wireless Headphones are very lightweight and cheap, and have various ear tips for a comfortable and secure fit no matter your ears. We very much like how they sound for the price, and they can roll up small and fit in any pocket.

After being extremely anti-portable coffee and espresso kits, I broke down in confinement during the pandemic and got a Wacaco Nanopresso so that I could make espresso without going into coffee shops. This is an extra luxury and I have hereby lost all minimalist cred, but probably never had much anyway. It makes a fine shot of espresso!

The problem is that to make a double espresso without pumping a shot, then starting over the whole filling and pumping process from zero, you really need to also buy the Wacaco Nanopresso Barista Kit, which includes a lot of extra silliness just to get the very necessary double-espresso filter and ring attachment. Calculate this necessary accessory into the total purchase price when considering Wacaco.

Overall though I’m happy with the joy this espresso has brought me and may even be taking the Nanopresso on some trips to come.

Cases like this one that combine a wallet with a phone case are an easy way to slim down and carry one less item in your pockets. This one is holding up fine, and my phone has survived several drops.

The KomalC Genuine Leather Business Portfolios is well-made and we’re loving it so far as a single go-to spot for notes and organization on the road.

The Heroclip is clearly a product born of practical travel necessity. We’re testing it out as we go, and expect to get a good amount of use out of it.

While annoyed with the useless RFID marketing claim, we were intrigued that this Peak Gear RFID Passport Wallet is so cheap and wanted to compare it to several more expensive brand-name options.

The Matador Travel Earplugs Kit solves the problem of having clean and useful earplugs at the ready for concerts and other sudden bursts of noise.

The Matador FlatPak Waterproof Toiletry Bag is definitely minimalist, and going soon into our updated toiletry bag coverage.

For Longer Stays and Trip Prep

When I’m in an area with terrible-tasting water, a water filter pitcher can make a huge difference. My favorite for taste is the PUR Pitcher Filter, which reduces contaminants and pollutants. The LED light is supposed to indicate when you replace it, but always indicates that too soon.

For Mexico City, I purchased a Blueair Blue Pure 411 Air Purifier, which lowers particle levels in this noxious but otherwise lovely urban environment. There is a noticeable difference in how you breathe when this is running, and it’s not noisey, especially on low.

An extra luxury item that no minimalist would carry is a silk pillowcase, but certain long-haired travellers tell me it’s not too much extra weight and worth it for preventing hair from becoming knotted in one’s pretty little sleepy time.

A kitchen scale is useful for following recipes more exactly, as well as for considering the weight of various items when your minimalist packing has become an obsession (or you’re writing a damn website about it).

These spice bottles are interlocking and stackable. I think they’re too big for travel though, and wouldn’t recommend them. I haven’t yet found the best travel solution for spices.

We’ve been trying out various packable tupperware containers that are also interlocking and stackable and pack down small, but have found nothing really suitable to even mention here at this point. We’ve tested various items that don’t hold up well.

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