We got a bit obessed with researching toiletry bags. That’s because we’ve blown through lots of crummy ones in our decades of constant travel. Standard bags leak, fall apart, and aren’t much better than a plastic ziplock bag. We’re thus delighted to have found one that we can really get behind.
This article is mainly for those needing to carry a small toiletry kit/dopp bag/washbag for short trips or for those who just travel light. For those who carry a heftier amount of grooming products, see the Eagle Creek section below.
The Best Small Toiletry Bag
Update history of this article
- The Features of the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer
- Other Bags Worth Considering
- Cheaper Bags
- [quote align='right'][/quote]Conclusion: Recommended Toiletry Bags
The Features of the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer
The most important feature we were looking for in a toiletry bag is durability — nobody wants to replace a bag after just a few trips. The consumer organizations that we usually go to didn’t have much to say about toiletry bags, but Consumer Reports and Which? do have a lot to say about the reliability of luggage brands. We also looked at what toiletry bags and luggage brands are recommended by travel bloggers and other website reviewers who perform lots of real-world tests. A few brands were consistently high on these rankings: Osprey, Eagle Creek, REI, Sea to Summit, Victorinox, Dopp, and L.L. Bean.
From there, we narrowed down to our main pick, which was the only to have all of the features on our list of requirements, born from decades of road experience. Those features, and how they work for the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organzier, are described below.
Small and Light — Maybe Too Small for Some!
The more you travel, the lighter you travel. Frequent travelers eliminate all but the most essential from their gear, and are content pick up things as needed on the road. If you’ve reached that level of light-travel zen, this is the size and type of toiletry bag for you. But if you’re the kind of person who always checks a suitcase or who needs a library of cosmetic brands at your side, you’ll want to check the Eagle Creek section below (certain female friends to this site feel that the Osprey UltraLight Zip might be too small for them). This is important to consider before you buy; while the Amazon reviews for the Osprey UltraLight Zip are overwhelmingly positive, those who did knock it down a star or otherwise complain generally did so because they found it too small for their needs.
We think you’ll have a better travel experience by traveling light enough to use this bag, however. Consider:
- It’s hard to use more than 100 mL of any cosmetic product (especially since soap is provided standard at hotels and AirBNBs) on a trip of less than a month or so.
- Contrary to the saying, it’s better to have not enough than too much. You can easily fulfill any additional cosmetic needs that come up on the road; even the most remote corners of the world now have many familiar brands, plus interesting ones you’d never heard of. Should you run out of toothpaste, how cool is it to try out a Russian brand?
The Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer is hard to measure because the material is just a bit stretchy, but closed up and comfortably full it’s 2.8 x 9.1 x 5.5 inches (7 x 23 x 14 cm) and when empty the bag weighs 4.2 ounces (0.12kg).
Transparent Bag for Liquids
We wanted to find a bag that with a transparent section that would allow us to travel through airport security without taking out all of the small liquid bottles and putting them in a separate clear bag each time. This is one of the few small bags that has a transparent zippered bag section, and it gets extra points for being detachable — for a light trip (on a long daytrip for example) you could just detach and take the liquids bag with your toothpaste, sunscreen, etc.
The clear plastic bag measures 8.0 x 5.0 in. (20.4 x 12.8 cm) and doesn’t have much (flexible) depth to it. As pictured, it can fit a few standard flight-approved toiletries (i.e., of less than 3.4 oz / 100 mL).
We’ve used this bag for carrying liquids through airports in the USA, Europe, and South America and only once (in Switzerland) were we asked to use a (provided) standard ziplock bag instead.
We’ve had bottles leak profusely while travelling but never had the creams or shampoos escape this transparent zipped bag. Also, it folds up into the middle of the larger organizer, making it even less likely, should some soapy substance the first bag, that it will get further out into the suitcase and ruin your clean clothes.
The Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer’s Hook
There’s nothing special about the plastic hook at the top of this bag, but the fact that there is a hook is vital. We wouldn’t consider any bag that doesn’t have a hook. Here’s when you’ll use it:
- You’re staying with friends. They have a crowded bathroom, all of the shelf and countertop space is taken. And even if you had space to unpack, it would be better to just leave the items in your bag and use them from there one by one, so that you don’t end up scattering them and inevitably leaving them behind.
- You’re staying in a hostel or hotel. Often, especially in cheaper hostels with shared shower facilities, there’s no space (or no clean, dry space) to even set down a toiletry bag. But there’s always pegs of some sort to hang a bag from.
- You’re camping. You hang the bag from a tree branch while you bathe in a stream or brush your teeth, and you pop out the provided mirror to check your beauty against the other stunning works of mother nature.
This hook will serve you whether the bag is completely unfolded out, or it is folded up and being accessed from the exterior zipper. When you’re done with the hook, it folds into a little sleeve so that it doesn’t snag on other things when not in use.
The Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer’s Mirror
In your less-refined bathrooms or in the finest of camping spots, there is no mirror. These are the moments when the pop-out mirror of the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer comes in handy.
The mirror is thoughtfully velcroed to a small strap, so you can either use it from where it’s hanging or detach it (for example, in order to groom yourself up close or use it as a secondary mirror to see the back of your head.
Other Thoughtful Details
- The top section has a see-through mesh bag that is good for small items such as nailclippers — you can see where they are before you open it. There is a more private zippered section behind it, which contains the aforementioned mirror.
- The middle section is accessible from the front zipper when the bag is opened up, and from the back when the bag is closed. This means that you don’t have to open the bag up completely if you want to quickly retrieve something from the middle section. There are also two mesh pockets in this section.
- The zippers are quite durable.
- There are two straps on the back of the bag that could be used to attach it to the outside of a rucksack, for example.
The Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer is backed by Osprey’s “All Mighty” Gurantee, which offers to repair or replace any broken bit or other fault for free, for life, no matter what it is. Travelers generally report that the company follows through on this promise with their products.
Overview of Pros and Cons of the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer
- Durable bag from a reputable brand
- Pop-out mirror
- Can hang from its hook, whether open or closed
- A transparent liquids section suitable for airports
- Mesh pockets allow you to see and easily locate items
- Middle pocket has quick access zipper so you don’t need to open up the entire bag to get at essential items
- Small for some tastes: 2.8 x 9.1 x 5.5 in (7 x 23 x 14 cm); if you need something bigger see below
- There are somewhat cheaper bags out there that may be serviceable if you don’t travel much
Other Bags Worth Considering
There are a number of other options from brands that deliver fabulously on quality and durability, however, we have not yet found another small toiletry bag on the market that combines all of the key features above (transparent liquids bag + mirror + hook). That, plus the overall execution makes the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer the easy top choice to recommend.
But if you have differing needs, the following are quality bags worth considering. Some of these would make good secondary toiletry bags — that is, you could put bulkier, less essential items in them and put them in checked luggage, while keeping the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer with you in your carry-on.
Osprey — Good Backpacker Toiletry Bags
Osprey as a brand does exceptionally well with travel bloggers and other reviewers. Aside from the UltraLight Zip above, the company has a few great toiletry bags with slightly different features and with larger volumes. But if you’re just looking for something bigger, we recommend that you check out the Eagle Creek section below.
Eagle Creek — Our Main Pick for a Larger Toiletry Bag
Eagle Creek consistently gets high ratings from travel bloggers and customers, and scored high in a Consumer Reports survey on long-term satisfaction. They have a number of great toiletry bags, but don’t yet offer a small bag with all of the features above that we feel are vital (a hook, a mirror, and a detachable transparent section for liquids). They’re nonetheless great bags.
The Eagle Creek Pack-it Original Slim Kit appears to now be discontinued. It was a similar offering to the Osprey UltraLight Roll, but lacking the transparent plastic section for liquids.
Sea to Summit — A Good Choice for Backpackers
Victorinox — Only for Hotel Stays
The Victorinox Slimline Toiletry Kit lacks a hook that would enable it to hang when open; it’s only for (upscale, hotel?) travellers who never find themselves lacking a clean dry place to set their kit down.
The Victorinox Overnight Essentials Kit is slim but does not open flat, hang, or have a mirror.
L.L. Bean — Better for Gym Use
L.L. Bean is generally well regarded for its travel and other products. It offers only one bag that’s small enough to be considered here, the Personal Organizer Toiletry Bag, Small. It has an interesting design with a detachable shower caddy, but lacks a clear detachable bag for liquids. There are small opaque external side pockets, where you’re likely to tuck things away and then forget that you hid them there.
You can save about ten bucks or so with the following bags. If you travel with any regularity, we think your money is well spent on the brands with good guarantees and reputations for durability, as above. But the following are worth mentioning as they have left lots of happy customers.
The Cheapest Toiletry Bag for Infrequent Travellers
We’re serious. Zip-lock bags are the ultimate in light travel, and can be folded up or discarded (recycled!) when no longer needed.
And if you want to be a really cheap bastard, just carry your small liquid bottles loose, and you’ll generally be offered a quart-sized zip-lock bag at airport security.
Conclusion: Recommended Toiletry Bags
- The only small durable bag that has all of the most useful features for travel: the Osprey UltraLight Zip Organizer
- The best larger durable option with the same features: the Eagle Creek Pack-It Wallaby
- If you need a secondary bag for large bottles in your checked luggage: the Osprey Washbag Cassette