The Kit List: Essentials for a Month at Sea

IMG_2846It’s really easy to get carried away with packing, so that before long the only thing missing from your toiletry bag is the bathroom sink. Not so much of a problem if you’re only wheeling a set of matching luggage from the taxi rank to the airport check-in desk, but a different story if you’ve got to pack light.

For most destinations, it’s not a problem to pick up things locally either, letting you cut down to just a few essentials in your backpack. However, I’m going on a voyage on a reconstructed Viking ship from Norway to the UK. Conditions will be very basic on board, and I might have little chance to pick up the things I forget on the way, so I’m giving my choice of products some careful consideration. This is my packing list for health and beauty essentials (and it works for other trips in remote areas too):


  • Toothpaste and toothbrush
  • Cleansing wipes
  • Deodorant
  • Dry shampoo spray
  • Leave-in conditioner and detangling spray
  • Combination shampoo/ shower gel

I prefer to take full-sized versions of products that can double up their purpose, rather than lots of mini travel-sized bottles, if I’m checking-in hold luggage. It saves a bit of money to start with, and you feel less precious about letting someone borrow that nearly-empty tube of shower gel or a squeeze of toothpaste.

On board ship, the water supply for washing is limited, so wipes and dry shampoo are essential to keep feeling fresh. I’ve packed a roll-on deodorant, but I might switch it for a spray, so I can do the old recycling clothes trick of pulling a top out the dirty bag, spraying it and declaring it clean enough to wear again.

Although washing water is restricted, sea water will be in abundance and I love to swim, so the leave-in conditioner spray gives my hair some protection from the salt and sun, as well as keeping it manageable in-between washes.


  • Sunblock (minimum SPF30)
  • Midge repellent (Avon skin-so-soft and Tui balm)
  • Antihistamine cream for bites
  • Berocca multivitamins
  • Ibuprofen 400mg
  • Scopoderm anti-seasickness patches
  • Tampons

I have fair Scottish skin (parts of me are so white, they appear to be blue), so a high factor sunblock is essential. I’ve packed a spray so that I can slap it on quickly, and a stick that will slip into my pocket to reapply regularly to my lips, nose and ears while I work on deck.

Although it won’t be a problem at sea, we’ll be landing at various harbours and anchorages on islands in Norway, Sheltand, Orkney and the Hebrides, where the midge is king. And I’m usually their favourite bait. As well as packing Avon’s skin-so-soft dry oil spray and some Tui balm I picked up in New Zealand to keep away sandflies, I’ve also chosen products with either citrus or fresh herbal scents. Midges love things that smell sweet, fruity and floral, so I’m trying not to give them any encouragement.

And now just a brief word about feminine hygiene (chaps, feel free to skip on to the next section). On any sailing trip, you’ll find issues with waste disposal, so you have to think carefully about which products to use. If you use tampons, then they should have non-plastic applicators, which are usually made from cardboard and can be burnt safely along with toilet paper. Pack them in a waterproof bag, and its a good idea to take an extra bag in case you need to wait a while before you can dispose of of them properly.


  • Moisturiser
  • Norwegian Formula handcream
  • Nail clippers
  • Tweezers
  • Small mirror
  • Maybelline gel eyliner
  • MAC lipstick
  • Small selection of hair elastics and grips

This is the area where you have to really consider whether a product pulls its weight or not. I can’t do without Neutrogena Norwegian formula hand cream, not just for stopping my hands get chapped and cracked pulling on wet ropes. It works as a lipbalm, as aftersun, and as a barrier to protect against windswept cheeks and noses. And a tiny amount can be used on your eyelashes, like clear mascara (although that tip isn’t for anyone with sensitive skin and eyes).


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