A Makeup Hoarder’s Guide to Backpacking Beauty: Minimal Products for Maximum Variety

Those of you who know me well will know I do not like to scrimp when it comes to beauty products. A skincare queen and a makeup lover, I can happily spend an hour each morning applying all sorts of products to my face; and with such a variety of choice in my collection, I tend switch up my products every few days. A habit which is not practical for travelling.

In a few days time, I leave for a six-countries-in-four-weeks Europe backpacking trip; the key-word being backpacking. I’m typically an overpacker, so wittling down to a light enough backpack that I can manage to carry every day was difficult enough, but deciding on the contents of my makeup bag was by far the most laborious task.

How am I going to cope with any less than 8 lipsticks, two highlighters and fifteen brushes?

Don’t get me wrong – I know this isn’t going to be like a holiday, I want the whole ‘backpacking’ experience and I’m certainly not planning on walking about central European cities with a full face of glam all day every day, but I’d still like to be able to slap something on if I’m heading out for dinner or drinks. So I set about trying to pull together the perfect makeup kit that can cover a ‘no makeup-makeup’ face and a night-out smokey eye (just in case).

After hours of deliberation and refinement, I think I’ve cut it down to as little as it’s going to get, so I’ve decided to share with you my definitive list of minimal products for maximum variety:

full kit.jpg

You can shop all cruelty-free, UK available products in the links at the bottom of this page.


I swear by primers. I never apply any makeup to my face without priming my skin first, usually choosing the most hydrating, smoothing primer I can find. However instead of a typical primer for this trip I’ve opted for an SPF moisturiser, meaning I can use this as a primer and moisturiser for no-makeup-days. SPF is not something to be snorted at if you want to take care of your skin, especially on your face. I’m taking the Josie Maran Argan Oil Facial SPF Moisturiser. As this is a physical SPF it can leave a little white-cast over your face, but I’d rather a white-cast than a peeling burn…



When choosing foundation I usually look for a medium/buildable coverage with a satin-dewy finish. I typically have dry skin and like a healthy skin-like finish for every makeup look. My favourites are the hourglass vanish stick or the bourjois healthy mix. While packing for backpacking though, my priorities were lightweight packaging. Most foundations come in glass or bulky packaging which is unpractical for this sort of travelling. Instead of my usual choices, I settled on two foundations from my collection in soft, squeezy packaging. The Bourjois City Radiance Foundation and the Physicians Formula BB Cream. Both of these are very full-coverage for the type of products they are, and both have SPF in them already. I have the Bourjois one in a shade that matches me now, and the Physicians Formula in a shade darker – which should be necessary by the end of week two (I hope).



Tarte Shape Tape. Full-coverage, long-lasting, non-creasing, non-drying. I can’t say enough good things about this concealer, it’s my holy grail product. And although I like to highlight with concealer, it will probably end up a little too light by the middle of the trip. I may just have to stop by a Sephora in Paris and buy a darker one. What can I say, I have no choice in the matter.



For powder products I can’t go without, I use a setting powder, bronzer, contour and highlight. I usually use a loose setting powder (RCMA No Colour Powder) but that’s big and messy to travel with, so I’m taking the IT Cosmetics Bye-Bye Pores Translucent Pressed Powder. Opting for a translucent powder means it will match your skin-tone throughout the duration of your trip. For bronzer and highlight I’m taking my all-time favourites Physicians Formula Butter Bronzer and The Balm’s Mary Lou-Manizer. Both of these look good on my skin when fair or tanned and are light, finely-milled powders. For contour I’m taking the Sephora Colourful Powder in the shade Tranquil. It’s a very cool-toned powder, but it doesn’t show up as grey as it appears. It applies extremely sheer meaning it creates a very believable shadow effect.



For my brows I’m taking the Nyx Micro Brow Pencil in the shade brunette (a great dupe for the ABH Brow Wiz) and the Anastasia Beverly Hills Clear Brow Gel.



For the eyes I’ve got eyeshadow, eyeliner and mascara. On a normal everyday basis I do wear eyeshadow, usually using one of those ginormous morphe palettes (thank you Jaclyn Hill), but for travelling I’m taking a little compact of nine single shadows which I’ve pulled together from my collection. Mainly sticking to neutral shades from Anastasia Beverley Hills and Nyx, these nine shadows should give enough variety to create any sort of eye-look.

For eyeliner and mascara I’m taking the Collection Lasting Perfection liquid eyeliner, the Tarte Lights Camera Lashes mascara for top lashes and the Nyx skinny mascara for the bottom.



When choosing my lip products I wanted to be able to change it up without having twelve million lip products with me. I settled on a couple of nude options and a red lip. Classic and easy to wear. In total I have two lipliners, three lipsticks and one lipgloss. Still overkill some may say, but not bad for four weeks in my opinion. My nude options consist of a Nyx retractable lipliner in the shade Nude, a Maybelline cream-finish lipstick in the shade Tantalizing Taupe for a lighter nude, Mac matte lipstick in Strip Me Down for a deeper nude and a Nyx Butter Gloss in the shade Fortune Cookie. For the red lip alternative I’ve packed the Nyx lipliner in the shade Summer Tease (how apt), and the Maybelline matte lipstick in Craving Coral.


To finish off, I’ve packed my Nyx Dewy Finish setting spray.

All in all, whether you’re a makeup freak or not, take this kit as a guide if you’re struggling with what to pack for backpacking, a long trip or any overnighter where you aren’s sure what you may need. With these basic products you can create almost any makeup look you could want. Pack it all into a makeup bag with a brush-storage section of your most essential, multi-tasker brushes (that’s a whole other story) and you’re good to go.

DICSLAIMER: Almost all of these products are cruelty-free. The exceptions are the Mac, Maybelline and Collection products, which were all purchased before I switched to cruelty-free only. Once these products run out, or hit pan, I will not be repurchasing them. Because of this I will not link or promote buying form these brands, instead I can make cruelty-free dupe suggestions for these products if anybody is interested.

Josie Maran, Anastasia Beverley Hills, IT Cosmetics, Tarte & Sephora are available at Sephora.

Nyx Cosmetics, & The Balm are available at Superdrug.

Physicians formula is cruelty-free, it is just unavailable for purchase within the UK.



6 thoughts on “A Makeup Hoarder’s Guide to Backpacking Beauty: Minimal Products for Maximum Variety

  1. This is Kat. says:

    Such a good post, I definitely need to sort through my make up and decide what to pack down to take with me on holiday. Also some products here I’ve not seen before so I definitely need to try them out!


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