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What toothpaste do you use on the trail?

Wondering what this community has found to be the best toothpaste in the back country? What are your tips for leave no trace in this area?

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.
25 Replies

Well, toothpaste is toothpaste, and if you haven't finished it off, there's no trash. But if you're talking about finishing what you brought and STILL not having any trash left, toothpaste comes in tablet form (I forget the brand name), you just take the number of tablets you'll be brushing. You can also make your own "toothpaste dots."

Every time I visit my dentist I get a small sample tube of name-brand toothpaste. Each tube has enough to last at least a month if used sparingly. 

If that's too much to carry you could use up half the tube or more at home before you leave on a trip and/or save those partial tubes for future trips. I suppose you could transfer an even smaller amount into a small plastic container, but that seems too much work for little extra benefit.



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one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

Actually, you can REFILL those small, travel/sample size tubes of toothpaste (just put the nozzles together and squeeze)... OR... you can also go colonial style (and this is true), and use a twig of spearmint and scrub your teeth with it...OR... you can go survival style and use the charcoal of your campfire as your toothpaste.

@SurvivalGal wrote:

Actually, you can REFILL those small, travel/sample size tubes of toothpaste (just put the nozzles together and squeeze)... 

I know. I've gone high-tech with this by gluing two caps, back-to-back, then drilling a hole through them. I take an empty small tube, squeeze out the air out, then using my device, connect it to a full tube of toothpaste. Squeeze the full tube to transfer paste to the empty tube. It works well and there's no mess as there can be if the two nozzles aren't perfectly aligned.

I notice that I'm not the only one to come up with this idea. See Toothpaste Refill Cap


Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.

@SurvivalGal , REALLY? You can use the charcoal from your campfire? Is that what they make the charcoal toothpastes with? 🙂 

I love the refilling trick! That works well for general travel too. Which is happening way too infrequently for me these days...

At REI, we believe a life outdoors is a life well-lived.

@REI-AliciaSWell, the kind of charcoal that is used for human use/consumption is processed, not scooped from someone's campfire, but essentially, yes.

But this "trick" is not unique OR original! It's been around for DECADES (actually, I believe I first saw it on a travel show!). In fact, the truth is there is VERY little that's original in survival, bushcraft, campcraft, etc. The reality is people tend to use ideas they STOLE from other people/places. Read the first books on a subject, beit survival/bushcraft, and you'll see where someone got their idea. They just take credit for it and promote themselves as ingenious. Even MY work has been used to create derivative work and presented as their own.

And it's not just YouTubers and survival-reality celebrities, I'm sure the "survivalists" in REI giving survival classes, if pressed (and honest) would admit MUCH of what they talk about actually comes from someone else. It's one of the reasons I stay away from their web sites, Facebook pages, YouTube channels, "seminars", etc.



Bit longer than "decades". Supposedly the Greeks and Romans used charcoal for oral hygiene among other uses and it wouldn't be surprising if it was used earlier than that since people have been burning wood since they discovered fire. You can also make a passable laundry "soap" from wood ash apparently.

While these things are interesting from an historical and experimental archeology point of view or perhaps if you have in mind to live in the wilderness long term without modern convenience, supply chain or a "grid" of any kind, they are definitely marginal in modern backpacking context.

The thing to be careful with when using "off-piste" tooth cleaning unctions is that you can permanently damage the protective enamel of your teeth if you use things that are overly abrasive. It does not regenerate.  Charcoal is apparently not recommended for long term use probably for that reason.


ok, don't judge, but is toothpaste really necessary anyway?  Can't you just brush with water?

REI Member Since 1979

found this on, on the interwebs, so it must be true...

Brushing your teeth with a product designed to make your mouth feel fresh is a pleasure. But from a practical standpoint, that tasty paste is unnecessary. You can remove food debris and plaque from your teeth without using toothpaste.

Dental plaque is a sticky, colorless biofilm of bacteria and sugars that is constantly in the process of forming on our teeth. Dental plaque is acidic, and can break down tooth enamel and cause cavities to form. Plaque can also irritate your gums, causing gingivitis (red, swollen, bleeding gums), infections and eventually tooth loss.

Plaque is the primary cause of cavities and gum disease. If you don’t consistently remove plaque from your teeth it can harden into an even sticker substance called tartar, which provides a perfect environment for bacteria colonies to grow under your gums and on your teeth.

One of the best ways to control plaque is brushing your teeth thoroughly at least twice a day. But you don’t need toothpaste to do this, just a soft toothbrush and good brushing techniques will remove plaque. Flossing, limiting sugary food and drinks, and regular checkups and professional cleanings should keep your teeth in top shape.

Regular preventive care, including professional cleanings, definitely reduces the chance of serious dental health issues. Dental insurance often pays 100% of the cost of dental checkups, knowing that the investment in preventive care will enable the insurance company and its customers to avoid costly restorative treatments over time.

REI Member Since 1979