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Traveling with a DE – Carry-on Only

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I fly several times a year, both domestically and internationally.  I’ve flown through Los Angeles, Boston-Logan, JFK, LaGuardia, Reagan International, Raleigh-Durham, Toronto, Las Vegas, and Tel-Aviv and San Francisco, and that’s just since November. How is it that I DE shave in all these locations, when I prefer to not check a bag?

Traveling through TSA -The problem

TSA rules make it difficult to travel with a DE. Sure, we could all get cartridges, but we know that’s an inferior product, inferior result, and when traveling, we need to look our best.

The rules in question

TSA, and other country’s airline security forbid blades that can be removed from the head of the razor in carry-on. Injector razors, DE razors, single edge razors, shavettes, DEvettes, and straight razors are all not allowed. Safety razors are allowed, without blades, in carry-on, but may be inspected. Some TSA screeners seem to believe that if they see the razor, the blades must be nearby in the bag, and search thoroughly for them. Disposable razors, whether completely disposable, or cartridge razors where the cartridge is disposable, are both allowed in carry-on.
Which is where it gets interesting.

What I’ve done up until now…

On a few trips to LAX and SEA, I’ve checked a bag with blades, or had blades waiting for me at my destination. But on many of these trips, it’s been untenable or undesirable to check a bag. There’s something very liberating about knowing your luggage can’t be misplaced, and that you don’t have to concern yourself with blades.

My three razors that have been in my carryon bag have been the RazoRock Baby Smooth with an MR5 handle, a Dorco PL-602 plastic razor, and my carry-on only warrior, my travel shaving secret, the 4777-02 Medegen Medical Products, Unweighted Razor in Turquoise.
If I need to get through LAX in a hurry, there’s no use in waiting the 45 minutes to an hour for the baggage carousel, on top of having paid $25 to check a bag that could have flown if it hadn’t been for razor blades. It really is that bad.

Also, security staff at the airport are supposed to let a safety razor go through, provided it doesn’t have a blade in it, but on more than one occasion, my bag has been searched because the Maggard MR5 handle has looked unusual or questionable to them. I really don’t need the slow-down or the displeasure of a TSA worker pawing through my bag.

When I went to Tel-Aviv, none of the security blinked at the Maggard handle, which I brought because I wanted to try Israeli-made blades in Israel. It turned out, I had a very difficult time finding a place to buy blades, and was glad I’d packed the Medegen in carry-on, so that I was able to shave without having to purchase a cartridge razor.

The solution, and where I’ve taken it

The Medegen 4777-02 disposable surgical prep razor is my travel razor of choice now. [Ed. Note: these razors are usually only available in lots of 100.  Amazon link* for example.  Readily found on eBay as well.]

It’s an unweighted, square handled, super-grippy handle with an open comb head. I believe the blade to be a Personna Med Prep blade, but have not disassembled one to find out.

I’ve taken it through RDU, LAX, SEA, LAS, YYZ, BOS, TLV, JFK, LGA, DCA, and SFO. That is to say, enough airports both domestic and international to say that it’s not a fluke, but that it really seems OK to travel in carry-on.

Why is this even necessary?

The intersection of DE shavers and travelers is growing.  U.S. residents logged 1.7 billion person‑trips (defined as one person on a trip overnight in paid accommodations) for leisure purposes in 2014 – and there were 452 million person-trips for business travel in the same time period.

TSA reports seeing more DE razors coming through security, without quantifying what more means. The prevalence of new vendors and new razors being made available indicates pracitioners of our form of shaving are growing, which both means it should be easier to buy blades at the destination, but while that catches up, it means more of us need to have a travel plan sorted out for a shaving kit.

It’s difficult to buy blades in many destinations. In many non-US locations, you get turned away, with people saying, “too old,” “try an independent cosmetics supply shop,” or “try an independent pharmacists.” Checking blades, or sending ahead (if you have made travel plans well in advance) are the only reliable methods of shaving with a DE on a trip, until now.

What’s in my travel kit?

My travel shaving kit consists of

  • Medegen open comb 4777-02 disposable surgical prep razor
  • 24mm Fauxmere synthetic knot in an EverReady 100T handle
  • silicone pet water bowl (collapsible, perfect for bowl lathering)
  • a sample of First Canadian Shave Soap Polar Vortex (early formula) pressed into a small travel container

How’s it perform?

My first experience with one felt a little harsh, but having used them a few times now, I’ve got the hang of it, and it delivers a very, very smooth shave without complaint.

It wasn’t hard to find the proper angle, and provided I use as little pressure as possible, it’s a good shave, especially in the context of traveling. It’s light, and easy to maneuver around the face. When I travel, I want to have a good result, and an easy shave, without bringing a metal razor that draws attention from security. While I’d like to have the same experience I get as at home, being on the road requires a few concessions. For me, that means not using the weighted metal handle that I normally use, since that handle has attracted scrutiny on a few occasions.

The Medegen’s blade is a medical prep blade, sealed inside the head. Because the blade is not removable, it is a disposable razor. According to TSA rules, disposable razors can fly carry-on. I have never had to point this out to a TSA worker in the airport, because they’ve never once questioned it. This is how it’s possible to travel with a DE Safety Razor with a blade, and not get questioned.

Summing it up

And as I say, it’s gone through all these different airports, sometimes multiple times, and been smooth sailing through the Pre-Check line, as well as the general passenger line. It’s never once been the cause of a slow down or suspicion.

The Medegen is an open comb head, and while it’s very light (it’s unweighted plastic; this is to be expected,) it’s a very close, smooth, comfortable shave. Do I prefer metal razors to it? Yes. Will it do for a week’s trip? Absolutely, with flying colors.

There are other disposable medical prep, or surgical prep razors that should also be able to fly without issue, but this is mine. What they all have in common is that the blade is sealed in the head, and that they’re available in bulk qty of 100 for about 50-60 USD. That works out to 1.60 to 2 dollars a razor. Is that more expensive than our blade cost for regular DE shaving? Yes. Is it a better alternative than falling back on a cartridge system for travel, or checking bags? Unquestionably.

I understand that many men would rather make no concessions and have the same shave on the road as they get at home. However, the tradeoffs here mean not losing luggage by not having to check it, traveling light, not concerning yourself with blade availability at the destination, and not having to give up DE shaving for cartridges. In this respect, it seems like a small victory for the old-school shaver.

*affiliate link

Victor Marks

Victor Marks

18 thoughts on “Traveling with a DE – Carry-on Only”

  1. But, they are assembled. Now, I re-read your article, and it says the medical prep blade is “sealed inside the head.” I bought a competitor to the Medegen, got ’em, and I could disassemble the razor! Nothing’s sealed. (I’m imagining injection-mold design to “seal” the blade inside. Do I return the competitors model? If you tried, can you disassemble the Medegen model? I’m VERY curious. Please contact me back if they are ALL assembled/disassemble-possible. I don’t want to be stopped in TSA Purgatory/Hell.

    1. The Medegen have no obvious latches that hold them together. They aren’t molded as one piece of plastic around the blade, but there is no clear way to remove it, and when I tried to pull it apart, I was unable to do so.
      I suspect that even with this competitor design, you probably wouldn’t have trouble – I’ve never been challenged on this razor by any agent asking me to take the blade out – they’ve never pulled my bag at all over it. The Medegen is too difficult for me to be able to get the blade out – I can’t do it, and when I attempt to, I’m concerned about cutting myself.
      Using your terms, the Medegen is assembled, but not disassemble-possible – at least not by hand while standing in front of a TSA person.

  2. Bulk quantity of 100 for $50-60
    That works out to $0.50-0.60 per razor.
    That sounds reasonable especially considering the blades I use cost $0.50 (Russian Gillette platinums)

  3. Thanks for the dog bowl tip!! I have been palm lathering on trips. It works OK, I prefer my bowl. I’ve used a plastic cereal bowl. It takes up quite a bit of room in my bag. I bought my collapsible bowl for $3.69 free shipping. (can I say where?)
    I like it, better than hand lathering. I wish it held some heat. Oh well, can’t have everything.
    The prep razor looks interesting. I don’t fly. But if I do, I’ll try it.

  4. Michael Rasmussen

    What? Can’t buy blades at the destination? DE blades aren’t a world wide thing?
    That is one of my reasons for going with them, the universality of the blades.

    1. I had such a hard time buying blades at my destination that it took 4 days to find a source. My source ended up being a customer who overheard me asking in a shop, and separately, a fellow on one of the shaving forums who went out of his way to meet me and bring me blades.
      It was difficult. Now I know the address of one shop in the area that stocks blades, when I go again. In most of my domestic travels, blades are available. In international… it’s a risk. Having the medical prep razor as backup is a good thing.

  5. I always wondered how these shave. Other than having two edges, does this shave significantly better than a Bic Sensitive? I find those “acceptable”, though not all that pleasant. And the Bic Sensitive is dirt cheap. Like Ryan, I wonder how the weighted version of the Medegen works.
    My solution (which I have only had to use once) was to mail the blades to the hotel where I was staying. They were waiting for me at the front desk. Then I could use the razor of my choosing. I’ve traveled with metal razors and never had an issue. But I can see why someone might be curious and check. Of course, by the time I’m at the security gate, I figure they can take all the time they want.
    I have to say, I’m fairly impressed you can travel Internationally with only a carry-on. I’m an over-packer, so I almost always check a bag.
    Thanks for the info, though. Some good recommendations here.

    1. I’ve tried the 2 blade disposable bic, wilkinson, up&up branded etc. – the sorts you get three or more in a bag. I’ve found these to be much more comfortable. I initially didn’t have high expectations, but it’s not bad at all.
      Because I travel frequently, I have my timing figured out – it takes me 25 minutes to the airport, 7 minutes from the car park to the terminal, about 15 through security if there’s a line, usually less. By the time I’m in the security line, I’m not enthusiastic by the proposition of them taking all the time they like.
      I brought three people (two were children) on an international trip with me, all of us with carry-on. One of them was a serial over-packer, but I insisted, and we breezed through security, breezed through boarding, and didn’t have to claim luggage for customs; at every possible opportunity for a delay, we walked through without issue. It was refreshing. On the return trip, we checked two bags, and due to delay through customs (a customs officer thought he was being cute by questioning a child; “you don’t look like your photo. Your photo is in black and white, and you’re clearly in color.” for ten minutes, after an hour-plus wait in line) we missed rechecking our bags, and missed a connecting flight. Had we been carry-on only for the return, we’d have made the connection.
      For information on traveling with carry-on only, check out I’m not a one-bag traveler, I take two – one for laptop, one for everything else.

  6. I shaved with these throughout my surgical residency as they were always available in the hospital. You are correct they give a decent shave in spite of their light weight.

  7. My apologies, you’re correct of course. I have no good excuse, other than to say, I had different price quotes before Amazon came back in stock- but even then, my maths were off.
    These may not be as good as some of the metal razors (blade preferences are personal) but the convenience of not having to check bags or mail blades ahead is a winning proposition for me.

  8. Interesting article, and I’m going to have to look into buying some of these, but the math is wrong in calculating the per-razor cost.
    100 razors for $50 is $0.50 per razor, so it’s 50-60 cents per razor, not $1.60-$2.00.
    A quick Amazon search shows another brand of surgical prep razors (Medline) gets as cheap as just under $24 for 100, but the handles don’t look as nice as the Medegen. But, at 24 cents per complete razor, that’s getting into the territory of being almost as cheap as just buying blades!

    1. Having shaved with both I can say the Medline razor is not as good as the Medegen specifically because the Medline handle is so flimsy.

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