Thursday, May 22, 2014

Throwback Thursday: Travel Packs

Today I have an oldie but goodie for you, with an update from the creator of the original pin. How cool is that? It even fits along with our road trip/vacation theme we've ended up with this week. Travel packs for ointments, toothpaste, honey, etc. Here is the original post (and then I'll give the update):

Don't you love going on vacation and reaching in your bag to pull out your hairbrush only to find that you are now the proud owner of an over sized, pre-pasted toothbrush? Not to mention the clothes that are now soaked in shampoo. How about those hikes when you reach in your bag to pull out your awesome sandwich you've made for lunch only to find it slathered in first aid ointment...even when the ointment and sandwich were in two separate ziplock sealed baggies. That's always a happy discovery. Blech. 

Sarah was thinking ahead and decided to prepare for their travel adventure and set out to fix the problem. She found a pin all about preparing one-time-use packs of ointment, toothpaste, or whatever. 

The Original Pin
(I'll get to the source of this photo in a minute; it's part of the Pinstrosity, so keep reading). 

The caption on the pin she found said this, "Use straws to bring small amounts of toothpaste or lotion with you on a trip. Cut and burn the edges to make tiny sealed containers for things you may not need a lot of."

Sarah thought this was genius and got working. She said, "This seemed like a really cool idea for travel! The instructions didn't specify how long to cut the straws, whether or not to hold the straw in the actual flame or not, or if you had to pinch the ends of the straw first. So I thought, "Hey, this seems easy enough, I bet I can figure it out!" I cut the straws about 2 inches long, and started to burn the ends together."

The Pinstrosity

"I held the straw directly above the flame, but instead of the ends sealing together, they started to open! Basically what I ended up with was half melted, still open straws. I didn't even attempt to put any toothpaste inside, but I'm sure it would have been even more pinstrosity-er."

Not so helpful for not making messes. 

But this had to have worked for someone, right? So I set out looking. The pin led to a blog with the same vague instructions that didn't help Sarah out so well. It was a post of various camping ideas this person had found, but they didn't include any sources to where they found the ideas or pulled the photos, so I turned to my good pal, Google Image Search. [A short interjection here...did you know now you don't even have to go to the actual google image search? In Chrome you can just right click on a picture and then select "search Google for this image. I love Google. Okay, interruption over.] The first link it pulled up was perfect. How perfect? It was the original site that the photo originated from...and it even had a watermark (which was missing from the photo pinned on Pinterest):

Finding the original post made all the difference with the instructions. Brian gives an excellent tutorial on how to successfully and correctly make these ointment packs. He suggests using clear straws, using pliers to pinch the ends together while you burn/melt the edges, and then cutting the straws as you fill them. For his excellent instructions, head over to Brian's Backpacking Blog

So one of the morals of the story...if you re-blog someone's idea and/or photo...please give them credit. It helps acknowledge their work, it helps people find the original instructions (rather than the watered down or condensed versions), and it makes our job a lot easier when we're trying to track down how to actually do a certain project. 

And now the update from Brian. Here is the comment he left on our original post:

"Firstly, thank you for taking the time to find my original post and reading the instructions. Also, thanks again for taking the time to mention that no all re-blogs are created equal. I wanted to make you aware of a recent "update" post the I published related to opening these little packages once made. It seemed that a lot of people were struggling with them."

"So, I created what I think is a clever little hack of sorts that makes opening these packs a breeze and may help some of your readers. You can find the post here: Easy Open Hack for DIY Single Use Antibiotic Packs"

"Thanks again for your kind words and sharing of this fun little project. P.S. my kids love putting honey in larger versions of these straws for sweet treats when we're out and about ;) // Brian"
Sweet! We plan on doing a lot of camping this summer (Cameron's doing herpetology research for his Master's Degree), and this would be perfect to help keep the messes down. Ointments. Toothpaste. Honey. Syrup. Doses of Infant Tylenol. These would all be great candidates for "encapsulation". 


  1. I guess I'm lucky that I've never had a liquid or cream explosion in my bag. Isn't this an awful lot of messy work trying to get all the stuff inside the straws? Esp. ointments?

  2. I dont know this just seems like a ton of extra work... why not just buy a small travel size? Also the thought of the chemicals released when the plastic straw is heated makes me a little nauseated...

  3. I agree with the other commenters; it is a pin that I never really understood.

    I did not know you could just right click images in Google Chrome to use the image search!

  4. I feel the same way. Seems like a lot of work. Might work for some but for me, I always just put masking tape over the opening of the bottle or tube. Even with plane flights I've never had an explosion!

  5. I don't really think this is meant for the average trip but more for something like hike in/hike out camping where you have to carry everything you need on your back for who knows how long. For something like that it every bit of weight you can shave off matters b/c if you can put a bit of ointment in a few straws vs carrying the whole tube that's just a bit of weight that you can have for something else that you really need or want.

  6. I wonder if straws would seal nicely on my food vacuum sealer... it might not be hot enough, or I might wind up with plastic all over it my Food Saver... or it might be perfect!

  7. Soooo, in follow-up to the comment I made a few minutes ago, I decided that I had nothing better to do at 11:30 at night right before a holiday weekend and after having a couple of drinks than to try out my super amazing idea before I forgot it. I probably voided the warranty on my Food Saver, though. I have two sizes of straws in my kitchen, which I could label very small and jumbo -- the very small ones are from IKEA a few (or more) years ago and are smaller and probably thinner than most straws, and the jumbo ones are boba straws made for bubble tea that I use for cake supports when making tiered cakes (which I am very bad at but attempt anyway, but that's neither here nor there). Anyway, I decided to fold the end of the smaller straw in parchment paper, in case I had melting plastic everywhere (and NOT wax paper, because melted wax everywhere would be almost as bad). It took two "seal" cycles on my Food Saver (one right after the other) to melt the straw closed, no mess. The parchment paper probably made it take longer, though, so I did it without, and it sealed fabulously with one heat cycle that time. But the small diameter of those straws makes them pretty much useless for things like toothpaste, you'd have to use a toothpick or something to get it in there, so I had to try the bigger straws too. The thick boba straws took several seal cycles to get hot enough and then the machine threw a tantrum and wouldn't do anymore (I didn't even know that button COULD blink like that... I guess it's an "overheat" indicator. Whatev.), but it did seal the straw, and would be large enough to easily squirt toothpaste and other such products into! I bet a few straws could even be done at the same time, too. Getting them sealed closed after being filled might be a bit tougher, but probably doable, and without the randomness of a lighter and pliers, especially for someone as clumsy as I am... Of course, I'll probably never USE this info, since I Do Not camp, but you never know! :)


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