I'm a big fan of ultralight hiking. One of the more creative aspects of not taking much on the trail is personal hygiene.

My hygiene kit consists of:

  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Dr. Bronner's soap
  • Bandana (towel-function)
  • Wash / shower water (via water filter)

While I like the ultralight aspect of this, what other solutions are there to the toothbrush / toothpaste combo?

  • 1
    Your finger (as in use your finger instead of a toothbrush)! Not as effective obviously but I've been known to do it on occasion...
    – user2766
    Aug 21, 2015 at 6:59
  • 1
    Sugar free gum, one piece a day? Raw carrot also cleans teeth (in dogs and humans!) obviously this is only handy if you find a carrot... But a pack of gum is pretty lightweight.
    – Aravona
    Aug 21, 2015 at 10:20
  • Celery is natures toothbrush.
    – ShemSeger
    Aug 21, 2015 at 21:48
  • Are you trying to clean out food or just keep minty breath? Simply swishing with water will help remove large particles for short trips if you're willing to forego minty freshness. Aug 22, 2015 at 14:24
  • 3
    a small toothbrush is less than 10g. That would not be my first item on the list of things to optimize
    – njzk2
    Aug 23, 2015 at 20:07

5 Answers 5


I'd cut my brush shorter long before I'd take the time to try drilling it.

But If I was serious about going ultra light, I wouldn't pack a normal/modified toothbrush at all, I'd take a finger brush, either a reusable one:

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Or some disposable ones:

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I used to keep a couple brush-ups in my bag, they work ok, but honestly you could probably achieve the same affect using the collar of your t-shirt (which I will sometimes do...), minus the minty freshness.

  • How hygienic is it sticking your figure (Or dirty tee shirt collar) in your mouth when you are ultra lightweight hiking. Personally I always choose to accept the extra weight of toothpaste (Which as antibacterial) and a full length tooth brush over the risk of an ultralight weight tummy upset.
    – user5330
    Aug 22, 2015 at 7:26
  • @mattnz Probably more hygienic than sticking your toothbrush in your mouth. When's the last time you washed your toothbrush with soap?
    – ShemSeger
    Aug 22, 2015 at 13:51
  • @mattnz your mouth is already an unhygienic place, your shirt isn't any worse. Now, sticking a dirt shirt into a mucus membrane is a different story... Aug 22, 2015 at 14:23
  • You touch your food with those fingers, so putting them in your mouth isn't any more or less hygienic. Aug 24, 2015 at 11:43

Toothbrush design and materials have come a long way. Early forms of the toothbrush have existed for nearly 5000 years. Ancient civilizations used a “chew stick,” a thin twig with a frayed end. The sticks were rubbed against the teeth to remove food. Source: American Dental Association

Baking soda can be used in lieu of toothpaste and would cut down on water weight in the paste. Toothpaste has 5 components: abrasives, Fluoride, humecants, detergents, and flavoring. Baking soda provides the abrasives and detergents, and eliminates the flavoring and does not need the humecants which keep water in the paste (prevent it from crusting up). Source: Colgate Corp

Dental floss (or a toothpick) versus a toothbrush might be a lighter option for mouth hygiene. It removes the major food particles and bacterial clusters between teeth, which in my experience are what causes the most irritation and gum issues.

I think that these are negligible advantages to bringing a small toothbrush and some toothpaste, but if you really are looking for barebones try the stick, floss and baking soda alternatives.

You can also try cutting the handle of the brush to cut down the length and weight. And stick with only the amount of toothpaste you will actually need on the trip, versus a whole tube.


I use a kids toothbrush (smaller size than adult) and cut down the handle a bit. Skip the toothpaste since your teeth are cleaned by the brushing action. If you really want it for your breath (???) some dry little dots of toothpaste to take with them.

  • Yes, this. I use one of those air-line complimentary toothbrushes, it weighs 4 grams. If you cant find one, cut off half the handle of your toothbrush.
    – Johan
    Sep 25, 2016 at 5:41

Buy toothbrush for kids or an electrical toothbrush head, if it has soft protective bits or decorative parts remove them with pliers.

On a piece of saran wrap leave a grid of toothpaste drops, let air dry and pack; when you need to brush teeth chew one of these dried up droplets, mixed with saliva they will turn to their original state.

Mix two two teaspoons of baking soda to a teaspoon of water, brush your teeth with it and rinse well.

Learn to recognize sage plant (Salvia Officinalis), it is great for cooking but you can also bush your teeth with it.

Mediterranean Salvia Officinalis


Toothpaste can weigh more than the brush
There are tooth paste tablets
And tooth powder of just baking soda

A brush that folds into itself
Liberty Mountain

A rather than a bandanna a small microfiber towel
You might gain some weight but can absorb more

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