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Why All Carry-On Liquid Bottles Aren’t Created Equal

It makes the most financial sense to buy refillable plastic bottles for traveling but that doesn’t mean God created them the same. (Okay, humans created them.)

It’s interesting because before starting this blog I never gave much thought to product design—in terms of travel products, anywho—or how I’d never look at a piece of gear the same again. I did a lot of it for my old job but never in my wildest dreams did I ever think I would think so intently about TSA-approved bottles. I mean, it’s kinda weird, right?

But here I am, so let’s get to it. And yes, even bottle shape can matter can matter when you’re trying to make the most out of a trip. Especially when you’re trying to squeeze everything under the sun in a clear, quart-sized bag.

Bottle type

I like to think there are four main bottle types. There are normal screw top-ish bottles, spray bottles, tube bottles and pill-like bottles. There are probably way more out there but these are the main bottle types most travelers will have to think about.

In general, normal screw top bottles are the most common but are often the most annoying cause when you get to the end of the bottle, it’s a real battle to get everything out to the last drop. There’s always a bunch of stuff that needs to be scraped off the sides. They are my most unfavorite.

Spray bottles are good. Like when you’ve got to spray something like… bug spray. Or makeup misting products. By far and large, there’s only occasional need for these.

By far, tube bottles are the best. There’s a reason why humangear’s GoToobs are so ridiculously popular—not a fan of the price though—and that’s probably because humangear recognizes the superiority of Tube Form. It’s possible to pour things in easily because it can accommodate a wide mouth. It’s also good for squeezing things out to the last drop! Cool beans. (Note: They could even theoretically hold toothpaste.)

Pill bottles are pretty good for smaller amounts of liquids that don’t need to be poured like moisturizer or topical creams that have to be applied. Unfortunately, it’s not great for shampoos and the like.

Size matters

In this case, bigger isn’t better.

I’ve talked a little bit about how big 3.4-ounce (100 mL) bottles are and, as a result, how inconvenient they are because you can’t cram as many in the damn plastic bag. We’ve also done a couple of tests to see how long travel-sized products last (such as this shampoo and toothpaste one) and, the thing is, a full 3-ounce or 3.4-ounce bottle will really last a long, long time. It’s pretty much suitable for a month or so.

In reality, most short-term trips don’t come close to justifying such a big bottle. I still personally find 3 ounces quite big; and in fact, contact cases get recommended a lot for small amounts of liquids like moisturizer, aloe and random other liquids. (Road Warriorette is pretty much spot on with this advice. The perils of being a girl.)

I’ve reviewed humangear’s GoTubbs before; in fact, these are another great alternative besides contact lenses. The medium-sized ones may be more apropos for daily items like shampoo and conditioner as the small ones are actually appropriate for pills. But props for being liquid spill-proof. As far as shampoo explosions go, that’s a whole different story.



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