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The One Piece of Gear You Never Knew You Needed

This post was originally written for The Trek shortly after my Appalachian Trail thru-hike. Dental care in the backcountry is not something that is on the top of most hikers' lists to worry about before leaving. It often seems pretty self-explanatory. However, there are a variety of options out there for dental care while on the trail.

Zoë Symon       Tech on the Trail       09/24/2019

Zoë Symon

Tech on the Trail

09/24/2019

Originally written for The Trek. See the original post here


Dental care in the backcountry seems relatively self-explanatory, right?

If you said yes, you would be right. However, like any part of your gear list, there’s always room for improvement.

Let me start with a story. When I was preparing for my thru-hike, I spent a lot of time walking through the aisles of Austin’s grocery stores looking for new varieties of bars and snacks to try, new dehydrated foods, trail mixes that I hadn’t sampled yet… you get the picture. One day, I had gone down an internet rabbit hole about brushing your teeth in the backcountry, and I had decided that I wanted to find some biodegradable, eco-friendly toothpaste. I was wandering down the aisle, not really finding anything, until I saw a tiny 2-ounce bottle of EcoDent Tooth Powder.

What?

Tooth powder?

I read the bottle (cleans and polishes teeth? Check. Leaves your entire mouth feeling fresh and tingly? Sounds good. Up to 200 brushings per 2-ounce bottle? Um, yes please. Lower cost and less environmentally polluting packaging waste? Hallelujah!) and decided to give it a try.

Fast forward to nights on the trail. I watched other hikers squirt goopy standard toothpaste out of travel sized tubes, watched them struggle with getting the last remnants out of a tiny tube that had only lasted them a couple weeks, watched them try to find travel-sized toothpaste in a small town with a terrible resupply… and all the while, I was still using that same glorious 2-ounce bottle of tooth powder.

The Bottom Line

  • Tooth powder is lighter (and possibly cheaper) for the amount of use you get. You aren’t paying for the water in the paste.
  • One 2-ounce bottle will last you for 150 to 200 brushings, so chances are good that you won’t have to get more while on a thru-hike.
  • Tooth powder is often more environmentally friendly in its chemical composition and its packaging.

There are a variety of different companies and options out there for tooth powder. Below are a few that I’ve tried or heard recommendations before.

Three people smiling.

Eco-Dent DailyCare Tooth Powder

This is what I carried during my thru-hike. It was purely by chance that I found this, but it served me well. In my recent attempts at zero waste, I try to avoid plastics as much as possible, but this little bottle is recyclable, so just make sure you recycle it properly if this is the route you go.

You can find Eco-Dent in most health food stores or grocery stores.

Website

Lush Toothy Tabs

As I’ve started to go down the zero waste path, I’ve heard Lush recommended more and more. These tablets come in a cardboard box that can be recycled. I’ve heard that you don’t need a full tablet for one brushing, so cutting the tabs in half can make them last twice as long. To use one, crunch it between your teeth. It’ll foam like regular toothpaste and will clean just as well, too. Lush also offers tooth powder if you prefer not to have tablets. The one downside to Lush is that it can be kind of expensive.

You can find Lush products online or in Lush stores.

Website

Rose of Sharon Acres Tooth Chips

I’m super skeptical of this one, but if you’re interested in trying soap for your teeth, more power to you. Rose of Sharon Acres makes flavored tooth soaps that come as little chips of soap in a metal tin.

You can buy tooth chips direct from Rose of Sharon Acres online.

Website

Other Tooth Powder Providers

There are many other tooth powder providers out there. I’ve seen these recommended in other books and blogs, and you can find more online.

Usually, these are available direct from the online seller.

Aquarian Baths

Two Poppies Apothecary

Make Your Own

Tooth powder has simple ingredients for the most part, and can be relatively easy to make yourself. Most contain some or all of: baking soda, salt, natural sweeteners like xylitol, natural flavoring like essential oils, and food-grade clays. You can find a variety of recipes with a simple google search.


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Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

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About the Author

A woman wearing glasses sits in front of a bamboo grove.

Zoë Symon

Zoë grew up in North Carolina and first heard of the Appalachian Trail during her time in college. In 2016, she took a leave of absence from her job and thru-hiked the trail. This adventure fostered her love for the outdoors and for hiking. Currently, she explores the public lands of Oregon. In 2017 she joined the team at Atlas Guides as Creative Director. She spends her days improving experiences for all our users.