The Only Beauty Products You Need to Survive a Backpacking Trip
When I was 18, I fell in love with a boy who loved the outdoors. Slowly but surely, over the past six years together, I've grown to love the outdoors too. And my beauty routine has adjusted to accommodate.
It wasn't as if I didn't like nature before. I was never one of those makeup-obsessed, dirt-hating stereotypes. In fact, historically I've been quite a fan of the outdoors. I grew up in a wooded Maryland suburb and spent summers as a kid joyfully creek-bathing and roasting marshmallows. At 12, I went vegetarian to save the animals. I even owned a pocket knife.
But none of this comes even close to the mark of a true REI-wearing, freeze-dried food–eating, compass-wielding outdoorsman. In fact, it's all pure child's play compared to my significant other, who hiked the 2200-mile Appalachian Trail at the age of 19 and climbed the tallest mountain in the continental U.S. in a single Saturday.
Unlike me, he knows how to navigate using nothing but the stars and cook a hot meal using nothing but a matchbook. Let's just say the first time he took me hiking, I wore jeans and liquid eyeliner. I had a lot to learn.
Part of that learning curve involved putting together the perfect beauty supply kit for our overnight adventures. Over the years, we've gone backpacking in the mountains of Ojai and canoed down Oregon's Willamette River. Call my crazy, but I don't want to go completely product-free, even in the wilderness. I still want to look decent in the Instagrams I'll inevitably take of our trip; I still want my skin to be clear and protected.
Over the years, I've learned that there are a few key elements to any great beauty survival kit: it must be lightweight, since you're carrying it on your back; it must produce minimal waste; and ideally, it should consist of mostly natural and cruelty-free products, simply for the sake of being on theme.
If you're a beauty lover who's afraid of camping, consider me your trail guide. Keep scrolling for my advice on how to survive an outdoorsy vacation (and look pretty damn cute while doing it).
Some people think the whole point of going on a backpacking trip means not having to do things like wear makeup and post on Instagram. I'm inclined to agree, but I also genuinely enjoy documenting my adventures. I also prefer that my face look halfway presentable in that documentation, if I can help it.
My backpacking makeup routine takes about two minutes and weighs less than a Clif Bar. I narrow it down to the essentials—three products that will help me look healthy and awake, but not like I'm clearly wearing makeup in the woods.
The first is a lip and cheek tint by luxurious natural brand Tata Harper. All it takes is a swipe of this highly-pigmented, sweet-smelling balm on my lips and cheeks to look alive and naturally flushed, even after a night of sleeping on the forest floor. The product stays on your face even as you sweat, and a little goes a long way, meaning one tub will last you practically a lifetime.
All that's left is lashes and brows. I pack a travel-size tube of this Too Faced favorite and quickly flick on a few coats to look instantly more wide-eyed and awake. Personally, I don't feel like myself without my brows on, so I tote along my trusty tube of Glossier's Boy Brow, as well.
If you can survive without brows but not without concealer, I recommend swapping the brow gel for RMS Beauty's “Un” Cover-Up ($36).
When battling the elements, choosing the proper skincare products is crucial, and I rely on these effective multitaskers. Exuviance makes a physical sunscreen that I love not only for its sky-high SPF, but also because it's tinted, giving me some much-needed natural coverage. It's extremely lightweight, doesn't smell, and it's noncomedogenic (meaning it won't cause breakouts). Plus, it's packed with anti-aging ingredients like green tea extract and vitamin E. Because I don't have super-dry skin, I feel comfortable putting this on without a moisturizer underneath. If you prefer a formula that's a bit more hydrating, try Suntegrity's Tinted Moisturizer with SPF 30 ($45).
Next, I've got to have some makeup wipes to cleanse my face at the end of the day. RMS makes some that come in individual packets, which is super handy. I take off my light layer of makeup with these, splash some filtered water on my face, and feel surprisingly cleansed.
Bringing a face mist along is optional of course, but I love this when I'm hiking in the summer heat. Evian's small face spray is super portable and refreshing.
Next, I use a small tube of CeraVe's Healing Ointment ($4) as a deeply hydrating lip balm and skin salve. I use it to spot-treat any dry, flaky areas of my skin, as well as any scrapes I might pick up from hiking throughout the day.
Wilderness haircare is fairly straightforward, as you can always hide your hair in a messy bun, hat, or headband. My hair is short and pretty straight, so I like to refreshen it up throughout the trip with a travel size bottle of my favorite Drybar Dry Shampoo. (Just a few spritzes of this stuff and you'll smell infinitely better than anyone else on the trail.)
When it comes to your body, there are three things you have to worry about: sun, sweat, and bugs. Luckily these elements are easy to battle with the right products.
Supergoop makes a great spray-on sunscreen, which comes in a nice portable container, has a high SPF, and is easy to reapply as you hike. The on-the-go factor is also a highlight with my favorite natural, coconut-scented deodorant wipes from vegan drugstore brand Pacifica. (They don't leave you smelling quite as fresh as traditional deodorants, but that doesn't matter as much in the woods.) Bug spray is also essential when you're camping—nothing worse than coming back with a collection of itchy, red mosquito bites. I recommend a chemical-free formula, like this one from Burt's Bees, which is better for your skin and the environment.
Now that I've managed to marry my love of beauty with my newfound affinity for the wilderness, I finally feel a rare sense of balance. Yes, it turns out, you can have your lip color and your outdoor adventure too.