Those of you who have been reading my posts for a while know about my penchant (OK, obsession) for traveling light (if not, you can read about it HERE and HERE). And why not? When you log as many miles as I do traveling for our clients and speaking at conferences, packing as lightly as possible just makes life easier in today’s new normal of increasingly difficult travel.
But thanks to the law of diminishing returns, it’s getting harder and harder for me to find new tricks and tips to lighten my load. After all, when you’re already using cotton balls in Ziploc bags for aftershave and picking running shoes NOT by how they feel but by how light and collapsible they are, how much more can you realistically do?
A few weeks ago my wife and I took our daughter up to college in the Northeast. While the two of them were discussing thread counts at the local Bed Bath & Beyond (where they bought almost everything on the shelves, by the way), I ducked out and wandered through the bookstore, a coffee shop, and then the Eastern Mountain Sports outdoor outfitters store.
My idea of roughing it is a hotel without room service so I’m not a big fan of camping, but I love camping stores. I’m always looking for new and ingenious ways to save space and weight, and camping and climbing stores are great places to discover new ideas — even if I don’t know what half of the stuff they sell is actually for.
While traveling light does save me a lot of time and effort, there are two items that continue to vex me – specifically deodorant and toothpaste. Unlike shaving cream, which is easily replaced by either hotel-supplied conditioner or lotion, there’s not much that’s readily available to sub for those two items. Worse, the manufacturers and retailers know it. That’s why a TSA-allowable three-ounce container of either costs just as much as larger home-use versions. What a rip-off. And while using a partially filled larger dispenser does take care of the cost problem, it creates two new issues: 1) the container doesn’t fit in the TSA-required Ziploc bag (slowing down inspection time), and 2) particularly strict TSA agents will confiscate anything that says it’s larger than three ounces even though the remnants in the container don’t equal the stated limit.
So there I was, killing time wandering through Eastern Mountain Sports, when I discovered my new holy grail – the TOOB™. As the manufacturer says, “The TOOB™ is toothbrush, paste and carrying case all in one…” Of course I was already carrying a micro-sized camping toothbrush but it hadn’t solved my toothpaste dilemma. The TOOB does. Again, from the manufacturer: “The unique refillable tube keeps your favorite toothpaste handy, refilled from your home tube at a lower cost than travel-sized tubes.”
What an elegant solution. I can save money, pack more efficiently, AND even use my preferred brand of toothpaste (I’m partial to Arm & Hammer Advance White Fluoride Anti-Cavity Toothpaste with Baking Soda & Peroxide, by the way, but you can use whatever brand you like). Better yet, I’m reminded that innovation and inspiration can pop up anywhere.
But as much as I love the TOOB’s functional design, I think their brand is awful. TOOB is one of the first names I’ve encountered that is both simple to pronounce yet oxymoronically impossible to spell. If this blog were a podcast and you were listening instead of reading, you’d be hard-pressed to find the product by Googling its name phonetically — I can’t imagine anyone would actually think to look up T-O-O-B.
I once asked my branding class whether it was easier to push an elephant through a keyhole, to pull an elephant through a keyhole, or to get a bigger keyhole. From the back of the room someone suggested I could also get a smaller elephant.
To completely mix my metaphors, their answer was simply another way to skin the proverbial cat. Kind of like the TOOB.