Why I Wet Shave...

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shaving travel

What you should pack in your shaving travel kit and why

If you are a new wet shaver there is going to come a time in your life when you need to do a bit of travelling and you start wondering how you are going to bring your newfound obsession with you.  Today I am going to cover what you need to be concerned about when travelling with your wet shaving gear and some tried and true options to on what to have in your shaving travel kit.  There are four considerations to take into account when assembling a kit.  We need to keep in mind the space available, deal with possible moisture issues, pack our items so they don’t become damaged, and be aware of security restrictions when travelling by air.

Let’s get to it.

BRUSHES

No matter where you are going you need your shaving brush.  Thankfully there are no security issues to worry about when talking about brushes.  However we do need to address size, moisture, and travel storage.

Many brush manufacturers sell smaller brushes specifically for travelling, but if you prefer the feel of a larger brush you will need to account for the amount of room will be taken up in your shave kit.  Some of the smaller shaving brushes marketed for travelling have knots that unscrew from the main body and store in the handle of the brush.

Travel brushes are often packed up and stored for long periods of time without having a chance to fully dry out.  Being stored where there is little to no light or ventilation can hasten the growth of mold, or the possibility of the knot hair rotting away if put away while still wet.  Boar and synthetic brushes tend to dry quicker, making them ideal travel brushes. On top of that synthetic brushes do not retain water, making them less likely to have issues in storage.

As far as storage of brushes, many shavers opt to take a regular brush and make their own travel containers out of various materials. The most common DIY travel container is a prescription bottle with several holes drilled into the container and/or the cap for ventilation.  Other methods of storage include using a piece of PVC with drilled blanks installed on each side, one of the vintage stamped metal tubes with a capped end that came with vintage shaving kits (these are also great for carrying shaving sticks), or a case specifically made for the purpose.

RAZORS

No matter what kind of wet shaver you are (safety, straight, shavette) you can still bring your favorite razor along.  Each type of razor presents its own pros and cons.

SAFETY RAZORS and SHAVETTES

Safety razors do not take up a lot of space.  Some of them even break down into two or three pieces for easier storage.  Moisture is not as much of an issue when travelling with safety razors.  In a worst case scenario you have a rusty blade and replace it.

Safety razors may be packed in the buff (with no padding or case), wrapped in a shave towel, washcloth, or even in a sock.  Many companies also market leather holders for safety razor storage.  Nickel plated, brass, and stainless steel razors will probably be fine any way you pack them but I would be a little more careful with a gold or silver plated razor.  I personally bring a well used safety razor with a bit of wear and tear already on it so I don’t have to worry about dinging up a valuable razor.

Gold plated Fat Handle Three Piece Double Edge Safety Razor

If you are traveling by air, be aware that TSA guidelines will allow you to carry on your safety razor.  However, you cannot have a blade loaded in the razor or in your carry-on baggage.  Your blades can be packed in your checked luggage, you can buy some upon arrival at your destination, or they can be mailed to your destination before you travel (many hotels will accept and hold mail for guests with upcoming reservations, just be sure to call ahead and check first).

If you are not travelling by air, it’s very easy to take a multitude of blades and take up very little space.

STRAIGHT RAZOR

Straight razors themselves do not take up much space.  However, the maintenance requirements (stropping/honing) will end up taking up more space.  At the very least you will need a strop, and some people like to take a touch up stone with them as well.  Due to space constraints, a popular option is to use a travel strop and a barber’s hone.

Straight razors are made of stainless steel alloys or carbon steel.  Both will stain or rust if left in a humid environment.  Make sure and thoroughly dry your straight before stowing it in your travel kit.  The greatest danger will be from the other items in your kit that may leak or spill.  A small oil applicator or an oil impregnated cloth to wipe the blade down before storage can help alleviate those problems.  A nifty product I have seen, but not yet tried, is the Razor Sheath.  There are a few versions around, but all of them are a silicon infused cotton sheath that wicks away moisture and protects.

Some straight razors are sold with a coffin, which comes in handy while traveling. If your razor does not have a coffin or protective case, you can purchase a leather straight razor case from several retailers.  Having a proper case to secure your straight razor is very important. The edge of a straight razor is very delicate and will easily chip or crack if it knocks into another item in your travel bag. Not to mention an open straight razor in your shave kit is a safety hazard.

Coffin case and toothbrush travel case

A cheap method that I have used many times is to pack your razor in a toothbrush holder with some toilet paper stuffed in both ends so it wont shift.  At the very least, wrap a rubber band around the blade to keep it closed.

If you plan on travelling with a hanging strop keep it in your suitcase, since it probably will not fit in your shave kit without damaging it.  A better option would be to use a paddle strop that is smaller and easier to pack in your luggage.  Do NOT roll your hanging strop as it may cause the leather to crease.

Obviously your straight razor must be stowed in your checked luggage during a flight.  If traveling over land instead of the friendly skies then there shouldn’t be any issues.

SOAPS

As far as soaps go it’s a toss up for what is a better choice.  On one hand many creams can be found in fairly small travel friendly tubes and it is very easy to load a brush with cream.  However, creams have the potential for leakage.  Hard soaps don’t have the potential for leakage, but are usually sold in larger portions.

There are a few different paths you can take.  You can use the cream and make sure it is well sealed.  You can cut down hard soap to fit into a smaller container (use a cheese grater and pressing it into a container works very well), or you may prefer to use a softer soap (croap) such as Cella.  These soft soaps can easily be transferred to a new container and molded to fit.  Another option is to use a shave stick.  There are many options with no clear single choice.

When packing soap, don’t use glass or pottery containers.  You can obtain a small plastic or tin container to put soap in.  Glass adds unnecessary bulk and weight and can break, creating slivers you will be finding years down the road.

I have had great luck bringing soaps in my carry on while passing through airport security.  If you take aboard a smaller container filled with one of your favorite soaps be prepared for the possibility of having to explain what it is with no labeling to back up your story.  Different countries have different restrictions.  Different airports in the same countries can allow different items depending on the security measures enacted.  Do your research ahead of time and be prepared.

TRAVEL BAG

Called by many names (Ditty bag, Dopp bag, Dopp kit, Shave kit, Wet pack…) these bags are meant to keep all of your grooming necessities in one spot while not taking up a bunch of room.  The most common ones are made of nylon, leather, or waxed canvas, but you can make a ziplock bag work if you have to (but it is best to avoid cloth bags since you will want a waterproof material in case of spills or leaks).  Many of these kits feature one large central compartment with one or two zippered side compartments or a roll up kit that hangs from a hook and has multiple smaller compartments.  Two great examples of the most common types of travel kits bags:

Open Style:   Hanging Style: 

EVERYTHING ELSE

While shaving is the primary focus of this article, you are going to need a few other things on your travels.  When I travel I always bring the following:

  • Alum bar:  I have a small alum block that comes in a plastic case.  The alum can be used for your face after shaving and also works very well for a deodorant.
  • Grooming kit:  Contains clippers, emery board, small scissors.  Great for keeping up a sharp appearance.
  • Toothbrush  and tooth powder (I actually have a small tin of baking soda)  I prefer the tooth powder because it works well for me and is one less liquid I have to worry about leaking in my bag.
  • Mustache Wax:  There are some great waxes that come in small tins and are perfect for a travel kit.
  • Hair Pomade:  My personal choice for keeping my hair under control.  I am still looking for a smaller tin to take up less space.
  • Stomach and cold meds:  Traveling can be tough on the body and being sick while travelling just sucks.  I carry some DayQuil, NyQuil, Rolaids, and Imodium.  Between these items I can make it through anything.
  • Pain meds:  I have an old Bayer aspirin bottle with some aspirin, some tylenol, and some ibuprofen.
  • Cleaning  wipes:  A little flat pack for making sure things are clean.  I have a Lysol brand for the disreputable objects I may need to handle and a little ziplock bag with some baby wipes in case I need to freshen up in the airport restroom or something similar.
  • Comb/Brush:  I keep a small mustache comb in my kit and a brush for my hair.
  • Shampoo and scalp massager:  Travel size shampoo (usually Neutrogena T-Gel or Head and Shoulders) and a scrubber for my scalp.
  • Misc:  I also have a travel size bottle of mouthwash, hand sanitizer, eye drops, q-tips,  and chap stick.

**NOTE:  It’s a good idea to put all of your liquid items into one (or two) ziplock bags.  That way if they leak, spill, or are broken open the mess is minimized.**

All of my travel goodies:   Travel kit layout All packed up with room to spare:Travel kit packed

Some of you may also want to bring shave oil, aftershave, cologne, or lotion.  My personal preference is to not bring these items along unless I know I will need them.  Having that many liquids in my travel kit makes me a bit nervous.

I hope this helps out a few people.  Any one can figure this out, but having a head start can make a big difference. How do you dispose of your used safety razor blades when travelling?  Does anyone else have anything that they HAVE to bring with them?  Any other hints or tips you have found that work well?

If this was helpful to you please let me know by leaving a comment, liking, or sharing this article.  Have a great day and a smooth shave!


Matt

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8 Comments

  1. Another great post Matt. The survival kit for wet shavers!
    I’m a big fan of travel bags. For some reason, I always feel like a surgeon when caring one.

    • John, I’m glad you liked the article! I have to hold back from buying little bits and bobs to add to mine as it ends up being a jumbled mess. I tend t be attracted to gadgets like a magpie to shiny objects.

  2. Steve

    Let me add something to the mix. While on a two week vacation recently instead of using a ceramic or plastic bowl I found a great substitute. I used a water bowl for dogs. Yup, that’s right. It’s the perfect size when opened and fits the hand perfectly. It also is collapsible so that it takes up less that 1/2 inch of space. It’s rubber so that it fits anywhere and the texture of the rubber is just a little on the rough side which helps the lathering process. Convenient, fun and does a great job.

  3. Great post, Matt! Extremely timely for me as I’m hitting SE Asia for 2 months just 5 weeks from now! I’ve been a bit worried about what I can bring (or more accurately, I’ve been dreading having to potentially use a cartridge again).

    Also, we use the same pomade. That stuff ROCKS!

    • Well I’m officially jealous! Glad you liked the article and good to meet another pomade user. Just started a few weeks back and liking it so far.

  4. As I’m likely to be travelling for a few days soon this guide was very useful and I think I know what I’ll be taking now. I find the little cologne samples I accumulate useful for a variety of scents without taking up a lot of room.

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