It’s partially out of habit and partially out of necessity that I always pack three—or more, I’ll confess—small toiletries bags when I travel.
When I was younger and lower-maintenance in the toiletries department I would have one small bag. Then as I grew, so did the number of toiletries I began to consider absolutely indispensible. I just kept filling toiletries bags and never stopped. These days there are all these little bottles and creams, tools like my toothbrush, other important things like deodorant before we move onto the makeup, etc. No bag would fit that all.
The Travelon Mini Independence bag, though? Oh, it can and it does. This is the toiletry bag for people who want to bring everything and the kitchen sink, or rather everything around the bathroom sink. The bag retails for $34.99 on Amazon and the company sent us a sample to give a whirl. My version is a nice, cool steel blue but it also comes in black, berry, zebra and leopard, which are available direct from the manufacturer for $55. It’s a lot cheaper on Amazon, even if the e-commerce monolith has a smaller color selection.
Somehow this product has “mini” in the title. When I first pulled out the bag I was intimidated with its size, which is 11.5 inches x 9.5 inches x 5 inches (29 cm x 24 cm x 12.7 cm). Would I, queen of the many toiletries bag, even be able to fill this? This bag isn't going to win too many prizes for looks—its size and structure reminded me of a lunchbox—but it's about function and utility. The full-on Independence Bag clocks in at 14 inches x 10 inches x 5.5 inches (35.6 cm 25.4 cm x 14 cm) and retails for $49.50 on Amazon. If you’re packing for a whole family, sure. The deluxe version, with its shoulder strap, almost looks like it could pass for a laptop bag.
Though I’ll logically divide up toiletries and makeup into separate bags, everything just gets thrown in because they’re all just small, one-pocket bags. So, while my system seems organized, it actually isn’t because finding anything requires digging. What I like about the Mini Independence Bag is that everything has a spot.
See, there are three main storage areas to the inside of the bag. There’s an open-top pocket that comfortably fits stand-up bottles and then two clear, zip plastic pockets. There’s also a ribbon of elastic loops for storing and securing items like makeup brushes, clippers, nail files, tweezers and razors (the stuff I always end up searching the longest for). As an extra, there’s a zipper front pocket.
To open the bag, a front flap unzips along three sides and folds out. This is where the clear zip pockets are. The bag can either sit open like that or be jiggered to hang from a hook, which is an interesting extra option standard toiletry bags definitely don’t offer. I deduced that the clear zip pockets would work best for storing makeup, which comes in all sorts of oddly shaped bottles. I liked how I could see exactly where everything was though it wasn’t as easy to grab at those contents. It sometimes required wedging my hand in a bit at an angle. Don’t get me wrong, though, this wasn’t like playing claw arcade. It just took a little extra effort.
Below is a video that shows off the mondo version of the toiletry bag. Other than it being bigger than the Mini Independence Bag, the style is identical.
I’m usually guilty of splaying out all my products across the bathroom counter wherever I’m staying and this bag keeps me from doing that. (Tiny travel miracles!) It’s good for a number of reasons. Firstly, I’m not taking over the bathroom, which anyone I’m staying with probably appreciates, as well as housekeeping staff. Not all the places I’ve stayed whether it be bathrooms or hostels or friends’ apartments have had sizable bathroom counters if any space. The Travelon Mini Independence Bag, however, can provide all the space I need because it’s self-contained.
Though this looks like the bag for people who are packing some serious toiletries, it leaves the impression that it’s also for people who want as little hassle as possible with their toiletries. Fix it and forget it, grab and go. And with a handle on the outside top of the bag, it’s even easy to pull out from wherever it’s packed.
In fact, I think this bag would work well for long-term travel and hostel living. Grabbing the bag brought me back to the college days toting my shower caddy to the dorm bathrooms. Rather than juggling a stash of small bottles in the crook of your arm, towel in hand, while trying to keep from flashing your international bunkmate strangers, you can just carry it from the handle.
From a construction standpoint, this is a toiletries bag that’s not to be messed with. It zips well and looks and feels like something that could be thrown around. (I didn’t try throwing mine around but I imagine packing it in a checked airport bag will prove enough of a test.) I was comforted by the fact that there was some extra reinforcement between my liquids and everything else they could be jostled into contact with.
The material is really practical when it comes down to it. At first, I wasn’t so into how the clear zip plastic pockets looked but then I realized that’s what a toiletry bag should be made of in order to keep it clean. If any of those liquids spill, a quick wipedown and it’s back to new. Overall, it’s made from polyester which is also just as east to clean. I mean, when I stop to think of all the places I put a toiletry bag: all those airport bathroom countertops, hostel or hotel loo spaces… I’ll stop there.
But there are downsides. This bag is so sturdy that if you don’t fill the space in the bag itself it becomes wasted space. This bag holds its own and asserts its presence. There were no illusions that I would be able to smoosh it down into a suitcase. I also personally like to carry on my toiletries with me when I take long-haul flights to be able to freshen up and realized this definitely would be too big for me to carry-on unless that was really all I wanted to bring. Given that and the fact that my iPad fits into my O.G. bag, I’d be disinclined to bring it as part of my carry-on or personal item. (I guess, though, what else do I really need to make it through?)
So whether it’s for a high-maintenance toiletries traveler going out for a long weekend or a low-key backpacker circling the globe for months, I think the Travelon Mini Independence Bag is a sensible, sturdy soldier to have along for the ride.