Saturday, November 12, 2011

Cutting the Toothbrush Handles

It's become a cliche' of the ultralight crowd.  Folks who look at every item in their pack with a jaundiced eye.  "Do I need that?"  "Can I improvise the function with something else?"  "Can I make it lighter?"  After getting rid of nice to have and redundant things, and making sure that one's big four items are as light as practicable, many embark on a process exploring items made with lighter materials, trimming excess straps, and unused features off of packs, trimming the edges of their maps, and yes, cutting their toothbrush handles in half.  Whereas each thing taken out of context seems silly, combined it's not unusual to trim a pound of excess off one's back.

Now, no one is going to look at my pack list and dub me an ultralight backpacker.  I am pretty much in the "lightweight" crowd tho.  And, if one wants to get lighter, one has to start somewhere. I needed a toothbrush anyway, and decided to get one of those simple, straight, plastic-handled toothbrush that are pretty light to begin with. I figured I'd cut the handle in half...

I mean, why not?

So, on my next trip to the grocery store, I found myself on front of two bays full of toothbrushes.  Must have been a hundred different models to choose from.  And, every one of them had big, fat, molded, rubber-clad handles.

So I picked what looked like the least fat one.  It was the store brand of an Oral-B "Indicator," and weighed 15g outta the box.  When I got home, I started peeling off the rubber coating. Underneath, the plastic shaft had all kinds of recesses and protuberances designed to hold the coating in place and provide for some cushioning.  I grabbed a hacksaw and cut the bottom third of the handle off.  I used a fine-toothed flat file to take down all the edges and to shape it.  A rat-tail file allowed me to get into the curves.  A little steel wool smoothed the whole thing out and give it a smooth luster.

With that, I felt I was transcending silliness and approching a state of sublime ridiculousness ...

In the end, did I cut it in half?  Well, my lustrous, smoothly sculpted, now skinny toothbrush weighed in at 6g.  So, I cut it by 60%!

Now, if I can just do that with everything else in my pack ...

"Don't bother cutting your toothbrush in half until you've made a real-deal effort to get a really light backpack" – Mike Clelland in "Ultralight Backpacking"

"Oops ..." - The Laughing Dog


  1. Buddhist monks carry only a bowl so that they may beg for rice. One fellow lost his and had to beg from locals with cupped hands.

    Another monk happened upon this scene and cried, "All my life I have carried this miserable bowl around when I could have been free!"

  2. Great post. I will be hacking my handle off as well, just as you said, "I mean, why not?"

  3. I hacked my handle off and all summer long had to deal with the challenge of brushing my teeth with my fingers in mouth.

  4. I've heard that. I only took about a third of length off, but took about another third off it's width.

  5. Great article! Also, to add, if the handle is still wide enough, you may be able to drill some holes in it...maybe an extra gram huh? haha. I an with you though on these practices. Just about a year ago I thought to myself "That won't be me...I can carry a full length toothbrush!" But with time I soon began to eyeball those little things. Now, I am looking at quite a huge difference in pack weight, at least considering the things I have been attacking...tags and cords. I am planning a hike next month and am looking at less than a 11 pound base weight! My summer base weight is looking to be less than 7! Sweet!


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