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Gear talk: Smile!


Dental care

Dental care is important, we all know that. Happily sucking away on energy boosting sweets and trail mix, it is doubly important. It is almost a cliché that backpackers in search of reduced grams will cut the handle off  their toothbrush. I must confess that I too, was once that soldier, no longer though.

Tooth brushes

I have experimented with a myriad of brushes. From brushes that slip on the fingertip (rubbish), through various folding and two piece brushes, to children’s brushes (adequate). Some of those I have used are shown below.

Selection of toothbrushes


Pink, on left (Superdrug) 23g
Blue and pink folding, bottom 15g each
Opaque white folding, bottom (Muji) 9g
White- two piece, centre 9g
Head of electric toothbrush, centre 4g
Clear- children’s brush, top 7g
Blue children’s brush, top 6g
Red, Full size,on right (Muji) 14g

I have now gone full circle and use the one of the lightest full size brushes that I have found. It does mean a handful of extra grams but I much prefer the larger option. In fact it is so comfortable that I use one of these at home too.

The full size Muji toothbrush. This small head toothbrush weighs 14g and is 180mm long

The full size Muji toothbrush. This small head toothbrush weighs 14g and is 180mm long

Purchased at Muji, a brand founded in Japan in 1980, each acrylic brush measures 180mm and has a small head with medium bristles. They come in a variety of colours and retail at £2.50 each. It is a bonus that the brand also embraces careful supply lines, simplicity, quality combined with good value and minimal packaging.



It is possible to buy small travel toothbrushes in which the handle can be ‘charged’ or filled up with toothpaste. These are right up there on my ‘gimmick’ list. While perfectly adequate for a week or so with care, what do you do when you want to refill? Buy a tube, refill the handle and throw the remainder away, or hang on to part emptied tube, thereby negating any advantage. Doesn’t work for me.

It is just as easy to buy a tube of toothpaste, either full size or mini travel size. Again, with care, a 20ml tube will easily last a week, eking it out will double that.

Travel sized toothpastes. Colgate with 19ml contents weighs 26g, Aquafresh tube contains 20ml of contents and weighs 28g

Travel sized toothpastes. Colgate with 19ml contents weighs 26g, Aquafresh tube contains 20ml of contents and weighs 28g

The small Colgate and Aquafresh tubes pictured here will both last a fortnight with twice daily use. But there is a lot of weight of superfluous plastic in relation to the contents.

75ml mini bottle of Theramed 'Cool Mint' toothpaste

75ml mini bottle of Theramed ‘Cool Mint’ toothpaste

The small, squat bottles containing 75ml of Theramed toothpaste are also a handy size to take with you, the greater quantity over the small travel toothpaste tubes is offset slightly by the less viscous (runnier) product, but, nonetheless, it remains a handy size product. It should be remembered that these are all pastes, therefore I am carting around a liquid. Time to look for drier, so therefore lighter, alternatives.

Eucryl toothpowder

Eucryl toothpowder

There are quite few tooth powders available, especially on-line. It is even possible to simply use a dash of bicarbonate of soda (baking powder). Fairly easily available on the High Street, the 50g tubs of Eucryl toothpowder can be used to pretty good effect, though they are not to everyone’s liking. The mildly abrasive powder has a minty taste and does a good job of cleaning stains and plaque. Some might worry that it is too abrasive to use over an extended period though. The plastic tub it comes in is useless to take out, being both heavy and insecure. I have found that laboriously spooning through a paper funnel into a mini dropper bottle, constantly tapping throughout, means that an enormous amount can be taken. Fitting a narrow nozzle to the dropper bottle means that a sufficient amount can be gently puffed onto a wet toothbrush with ease. This works well but don’t get the nozzle wet or it all gums up as a result.

One product that I came across a year or so ago seems to me to be the solution. I have long heard of people who will squeeze out long strips of toothpaste, dry them out over a period of days and snip them in to short, one use lengths and then bag them up (with a touch of bicarb to prevent them sticking together). All seemed a bit laborious to me and life is too short to be dealing with such nonsense myself.

However Lush have done the work for me. This ethical company have been making fresh, hand made cosmetics for years. While not my first port of call on the High Street, I have been known to pop in on occasion, most usually to buy one or two of their shampoo and shower bars, again, a dry product that eschews the need to take such a thing in heavy, bulky liquid form.

From the Lush product line, I came across Toothy Tabs. These are small solid tabs made from baking soda, kaolin clay and essential oils. Prices vary from £2 to £3 a box.

Toothy Tabs. Each small box contains 40 tabs on average.

Toothy Tabs. Each small box contains 40 tabs on average.

The small cardboard box they come in is useless. It gets damp easily and the tabs become congealed, coalesced and fit for nothing. At home, they need to be decanted into a plastic tub or similar, in the field, a small baggie suffices. There is a variety of flavours featuring ingredients such as fennel, wasabi, black pepper, coffee and ginger, though not all in the same variety…

Forty Toothy Tabs in baggies- 18g

Forty Toothy Tabs in baggie- total weight: 18g

The full box weighs around 25g. 40 x tabs in a small baggie weighs 18g. Brushing twice a day means this is suffice for twenty days. Use is simple; you put a single tab between the front teeth, nibble it to break it down, wet the toothbrush and brush in the normal fashion.

Some of the flavours are a little ‘out there’ and not particularly to my liking. The Ultra Blast and Dirty flavours are fine. Looks like I’ve found a solution.




Dental Floss

Dental floss

Dental floss

It is perhaps worth noting that for those who like to floss, two metres of waxed dental floss in a tiny baggie weighs less than a gram. Dental floss also doubles up as a perfectly adequate sewing thread if needed for repairs. If you can find them, look for the mono-filament teflon variety over the polyamide floss for strength.


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