Packing List for Backpacking Europe
It’s summer, folks! Meaning the crowds are ready for an adventure across Europe. They’re seeing ancient sites, learning both art and history inside the walls of world class museums, dancing at music festivals, and eating spectacular foods. Lovely, huh?
As we all know, backpacking Europe is a “rite of passage” for many travelers. And why not? In Europe, public transportation is (usually) easy to navigate and furthermore, the hostels are (usually) high quality, making it so simple to meet a huge group of new friends. Who wouldn’t want to adventure across Europe in the summer?
However, even though this type of trip is a tremendous experience and easy to do alone, it’s still important to create a packing list for backpacking Europe. Then you need to stick to it!
Seriously …. stick to your packing list unless you wanna be me, haha. I’ve made so many packing mistakes over the years, folks. It’s actually embarrassing. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve forgotten essential items (like, oh, sun lotion in Portugal) and regretted it later on my trip.
Now, as someone whose traveled Europe many times alone, I’m pretty qualified to give all my packing suggestions! Happy reading.
Note: Keep in mind this post won’t have seasonal clothing items. Instead I want to focus on the important basics that you will need for a smooth and delightful trip.
1. Type of Luggage: Backpack vs. Suitcase
Ahh, the big decision. Do I bring a backpack or a suitcase? Even though it’s called “backpacking,” we’re simply referring to a budget style of travel, not necessarily the type of luggage you need to bring. At the end of the day, choosing the best travel backpack is an art.
Honestly, I think the “backpack vs. suitcase” answer is very personal to your “backpacking” style. There are no right or wrong answers.
Osprey 65 AG backpacks is one of the best pieces of luggage you can use for your upcoming trip to Europe. This lightweight backpack has plenty of space for all your clothing, electronics, and other necessary items. The Osprey backpack is also wonderful for nature trekking in the Swiss Alps or Scottish Highlands. However, I understand the price is a little high, but if you’re hiking on your trip, then it’s worth the investment.
This eBags backpack is a decent budget option for your backpack. I owned this one for about two or three years before switching to my Tumi luggage. As a backpack, it worked fine! Plenty of pockets and space for all my clothes and beauty products. I value honesty on this blog, so I’ll admit the straps are sometimes uncomfortable if you’re walking long distances, but overall this backpack is a great option for the price point.
I adoooooore this lightweight Tumi backpack as a fashionable day pack to take around a city or town. In particular, I love the separate padded pockets perfect for laptops as well as the comfortable straps. A very worthwhile item.
My Tumi International Carry-on is my current piece of luggage. Yes, this hardbacked carry-on is expensive, unsurprisingly, but it’s still very well made and will last you for years to come. Mine is at least three years old, and the quality is still as good as it was when I first used it. Sure, buying this carry-on is an investment, but nonetheless, it’s worth the cost for serious travelers.
Packing cubes are great for keeping you clothes, electronics, and other items organized for the entirety of your trip. You save a LOT of space.
As I’ve said, Tumi makes my favorite travel products. I own this adapter and love it! It has both a wall plug and a USB, making it a very versatile adapter to take with you.
However, despite being a Tumi fangirl, I realize some of their stuff is pricey. You can find good quality adaptors, such as VCOO Travel Adapter, for a cheaper price.
You obviously want to bring a camera in addition to the one on your phone. Unless you’re a master photographer, a simple point-and-shoot camera should be enough for your trip. I personally love Canon products. I used Canon’s PowerShot Digital Camera for many years, and never had a problem! I certainly took some beautiful images that I still fondly look back on.
Yesssss, this book nerd is going to recommend that you bring a Kindle paperwhite on your backpacking trip! Even if you’re not a big reader, a Kindle is a great place to store your guidebooks and effectively save space in your luggage. The battery lasts a long time too so this e-reader is a lifesaver on pesky long haul flights, which you’ll be doing if you’re coming from North America, Asia, or Australia.
3. Medical and Personal Safety
Always, always, always keep your medical and personal safety at the forefront of your mind when you go traveling. As easy as it is to tell yourself “nothing bad will happen,” you should still bring these necessary items with you when you go backpacking around Europe.
Bring a compact first aid kit with you that doesn’t take up too much room, but still has all the essentials. While you may tell yourself you’ll “walk to the pharmacy in an emergency,” we all know accidents happen at the worst possible times, so you’re better having your kit on hand and ready to go. Don’t forget to pack aspirin and Benadryl either. Don’t be paranoid, but do be prepared.
Some hostels don’t have lockers readily available. It’s rare but happens. You’re better off bringing your own TSA approved lock for your peace of mind. And while most backpackers are trustworthy, you don’t want to worry about your valuable items when you’re supposed to be out enjoying your day.
Again, while you shouldn’t feel paranoid, you don’t want to deal with stolen credit cards and cash. It’s not a bad idea to keep your big bills in a money belt hidden safely on your body. Some cities are worse for pickpockets than others so make sure you do your research ahead of time.
4. Hygiene and Self-Care
You don’t want to stink on the road. Sure, you might have to go a day or two without showering (don’t look at me like that). However, hygiene needs to remain a priority when you’re backpacking Europe. I mean, if you want to flirt with that British cutie, you can’t reek like a dumpster left in the hot sun.
These colorful silicone travel bottles are perfect for storing your shampoo, conditioner, and soap. They are also TSA approved so you can bring your liquids onto the plane without any issues! I use these bottles all the time and have never encountered problems at security.
Sometimes you don’t always have time to wash your hair (again, don’t give me that look). If you have thick hair like me, you can hide its dirtiness a littttttttle bit, but it’s always a good idea to pack some dry shampoo. You’ll look fresh in a pinch!
Burt’s Bees make some of my favorite facial products. These gentle towelettes will wipe away the dirt on your face after a long day exploring. Use one in the morning and in the evening to feel fresh. You gotta take care of your skin even when you travel.
If you’re traveling for long periods of time, then you will eventually have to do laundry on the road. Bring your own travel-sized laundry strips to keep your clothes looking pretty. If your hostel doesn’t have a washer, you can opt to wash your clothing in the sink.
Don’t bring a thick beach towel on your backpacking trip to Europe. It’s heavy, takes a ton of space in your bag, and won’t dry for the next five days. Instead invest in an easily packable microfiber towel to use at hostels. It dries quick and rolls into nothing when it’s time to repack your bag. Simple.
5. Necessary Travel Items
It’s always a good idea to have a spare fork and spoon with you. This tip makes you a conscientious traveler in the sense that you won’t be using tons of plastic utensils. In addition, you might not have access to utensils in marks, so it’s practical to bring these items with you.
I really think writing a travel journal is a beautiful idea for anyone’s journey. Buy a travel journal and chronicle your adventures! You will remember and relive all of the best details if you write every single day, even for five minutes.
Lonely Planet makes the best guidebooks, in my opinion. Sure, blogs are an excellent resource (I run one, after all!), but you want to expand into guidebooks too. The Europe on a Shoestring guidebook will prevent you from breaking your budget when you backpack through the continent.
Remember it’s always a good idea to make a copy of your passport and keep it hidden. If (ugh) your passport is lost or stolen, the copied page will make your life a million times easier. Bring a joint passport holder/travel wallet to keep all your important documents close.
Don’t get caught in the rain! Getting soaked through to the bone is no fun. It happened to me at Versailles on a cold November afternoon. And just …. not cool. So make sure to bring a travel umbrella for those unexpected rainy days.
What’s on your packing list for backpacking Europe? What suggestions would you add to this post?
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