Cheap, Light, & Compact Beauty Tools for Female Backpackers

What do you envision when you hear the term “backpacker?” A humungous backpack, zip-off cargo pants, low maintenance ponytail, and makeup at a minimum? Sure, it’s the backpacker stereotype… but it’s not me!

Also what’s not me? The pageant queen traveler. I don’t care enough about those picture perfect tousles to buy a hair styler outfitted with international plugs, and I don’t lug three suitcases with me on trips to hold movie star makeup, beauty tools, and an outfit change for every ‘gram. No judgment — it’s just not me.

In truth, I’m somewhere in the middle. I bring a modestly sized (40L) backpack. I have enough clothes to mix ‘n match for a period of time until I do laundry. Sure, I’ve got the same outfit on in some of my pictures, and I only bring 2-3 pairs of shoes per trip, but what can ya do? I pack light, I move fast, I don’t check a bag, and it’s totally worth it. Still, I like to look and feel good — so I’ve developed a few tricks to insert a dose of glam to my backpacking travel style, while still only bringing the necessities.

Tip #1: Sample size cosmetics

This is just a huge no-brainer. Why bring full-size and take up three times the space? Instead, I collect miniature, carry-on compliant products for all my basic beauty needs! Ask your favorite retailer or salon about sample sizes of your favorite products, subscribe to one of the many beauty subscription packages for dollars a month, or check out Sephora’s mini makeup shopping page. I recently discovered Target’s beauty box, which, while it isn’t department-store quality, gives you a lot of bang for your buck at $7 for five to six generous sized samples!

Tip #2: Electricity-free curls

The simplest trick in the book for beachy waves? Texturizing spray on wet hair and a french braid. If perhaps you are not so skilled in the braid department, a couple regular braids will do — or, try the headband trick: pull a fabric headband around your head, wrap sections of hair around the headband to create a sort of halo, and do this until your whole head of hair is wrapped around the headband. Leave it on for as long as possible to set the curl!

If you need a little more assistance with your curls, then there’s these flexible foam curling rods: simply wrap sections of hair around the flexible rod, and twist the ends into a knot. For bigger curls, use bigger sections. This will give you bangin’ curls and huuuuge volume, even in those humid nights!

Tip #3: The perfect manicure

Take it from a girl who used to bite her nails, SNS is the best for keeping your manicure looking top-notch on the long haul. I’ve never had a chip and 3 weeks later, my nails still look great (albeit more lengthy)! I don’t think SNS is widely available everywhere in the world, so get this done before you take off — your hands will thank you. As for toenails, a regular pedicure works for me for the most part, unless I plan to be on the beach… then I’ll upgrade to a gel pedicure to guard against the abrasiveness of sand.

To me, travel is about striking a balance. As a solo female traveler, for my own safety, I try not to stand out too much — so I keep bold makeup to a minimum and pass on the flashy accessories. But that doesn’t mean I will abandon my femininity or be untrue to myself, and neither should you, if you don’t want to. (I kept my blonde hair over multiple trips to South America, Central America, and Mexico, and I wouldn’t have had it any other way!)

Leave me a comment below if you like these tips, or if you have any others to share… I’d love to hear them!

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