You’ve just been inspired to start backpacking across Europe, but you have no idea what should be on your backpacking Europe packing list or which destinations should be on your Europe travel itinerary. Trust me when I say that I found myself in the exact same situation when I started backpacking across Europe. A little over three years ago, I began backpacking alone in Europe but had no idea what to pack. Fast forward a few years and I’ve picked up quite a few tips for backpacking Europe.
It’s not always so cut and dry what should be on your backpacking Europe packing list as it is in America. For starters, more often than not, you’ll have less luggage space and more days to pack for. European airlines usually require you to bring smaller bags or force you to pay a hefty luggage check-in fee. And who wants to do that?
In addition, there are dozens of things that could go on a backpacking Europe packing list that you would never even think of when traveling within the States. For example, did you know that Europeans have a different outlet than we do in America? It’s the small things such as this that will keep you up at night worrying if you have everything you could possibly have crammed into your suitcase or backpack.
This guide to the best backpacking Europe packing list is meant to help alleviate some of those worries. I used to have the same worries, but through experience, my backpacking through Europe packing list has gotten dramatically more efficient than the first time I left for Europe three years ago. I’ve also gained a better understanding of how to plan a trip to Europe on a budget and other tips for backpacking Europe.
Back then, I checked in two bags. Now, I can hardly fill up half of a backpack. I realize that my travel style is very minimalistic according to most travelers’ standards, but I firmly believe that the lighter you pack, the more enjoyable your experience will be. Once you understand what type of traveler you are, you’ll be able to become even more efficient than the contents of this list.
Determine your travel style
The first thing you must do is be honest with yourself to create your backpacking Europe packing list. Can you survive a few weeks without your whole wardrobe with you? Can you manage a way to wear the same shoes every day of your two weeks backpacking across Europe? Is bringing your tablet (that you might watch one movie on) really worth the hassle? It’s important that you focus on your dire needs and don’t bring too many extra things that will just be extra baggage. Your aim shouldn’t be to stay under the weight of the airline luggage allowance but to focus on what you will use.
The next thing you want to decide is between a backpacking Europe backpack and a suitcase. Obviously, it’s not considered “backpacking” through Europe if you bring a suitcase. However, I believe the term “backpacking” has taken on a meaning symbolizing a traveler who train-hops and crosses country borders more-so than what type of luggage you travel with.
With that being said, I cannot recommend traveling with a backpacking Europe backpack over a suitcase enough. Not only do you stand out less as a tourist and make yourself less of a target to petty theft, you will also make backpacking Europe alone infinitely less stressful if you’re not lugging around a bag on two wheels for two weeks.
A Europe travel Itinerary for you!
I did my best to put together a list of destinations that are convenient to travel to, cost-efficient, and also give you a good cultural experience. It’s important that you’re not spending half of your time in Europe on buses, trains, or planes. Additionally, you don’t want to make a Europe travel itinerary full of places you’re constantly stressed about your budget, so it’s nice to travel to a few countries where the cost of travel is less than that of the United States. Most importantly, you’re backpacking across Europe for a reason – to see what life is like on the other side of the world; your most dire focus should be your cultural experience. The countries and cities I have included in this Europe travel itinerary are places I’ve been to and gained a knowledgeable sense of what life is like in each one.
When are you going?
Find a good Europe travel blog – or a few – focusing on different aspects of each destination. Narrow your itinerary and determine when you will be backpacking and look for travel information for that time of the year. A packing list for Europe summer dramatically differs from a winter-time backpacking Europe packing list – obviously.
Where are you going?
Your packing will also differ if you’re going mountain-hiking rather than a beach destination; you know this stuff. But it’s important to determine where you’re going before you begin the process of building your backpacking through Europe packing list.
What to bring?
The amount of accessories on a backpacking Europe packing list differs for everyone. I remember my first trip to Europe, I brought my external webcam from my laptop just in case my internal one broke while I was traveling (I was a bit over-prepared). Since then, I’ve narrowed down the accessories on my backpacking Europe packing list to the essentials. And, still, my essentials may be different than your essentials. As a travel blogger, I have to take my occupation on the road with me, so you may opt to leave some of these at home:
- Laptop – I would strongly consider if it is necessary for you to bring your laptop while you are backpacking across Europe. Try to put yourself in a situation you could see yourself using it more than just once to answer some emails.
- Cell Phone – This is one essential on everyone’s list. Don’t forget it. Check out my ultimate guide for Americans traveling to Europe to know what kind of service your cell phone provider will give you while abroad.
- Cell Phone Charger – This one is equally important as the phone itself, and, still, many forget it. Of course, you can buy one in Europe if you forget yours, but it won’t be the standard flat, two-prong outlet that Americans use so that means it will be useless after your trip is done.
- Camera – Perhaps you’d prefer just taking photos with your smartphone. This is more up to preference. Remember, the more you bring, the more you have to haul around.
- Outlet adaptor – You can order one online before you go. As I mentioned, Europe doesn’t use the same outlet that we have. Fortunately, most countries in the E.U. use the same adaptor so you’ll most likely only have to buy one adaptor. You can opt to buy a multi-country adaptor so you can use it for future intercontinental travel as well.
- Wrist Watch – I’m not talking about a smartwatch or another gizmo that you have to keep charged. There will be a time when an old-fashioned wrist watch will save your life. You can thank me later!
- Sunglasses – Although, I think Europe has sunglasses, too, if you happen to forget your pair back in the States.
- External Charger – An extra power bank is critical. You can find the cheapest ones on Amazon. When you are running out of battery life in the middle of your GPS search for the train station, you will, again, thank me later.
- Waterproof phone case
- Mini Tripod
What to look for in a backpacking Europe backpack
I’m not writing this to sell you on certain products or gear – that is not my intent. So, with that being said, without giving you brand names or product links, here are some things I look for when I’m backpack shopping:
Most backpacking Europe backpack specifications are measured in Liters. This is a measurement that most Americans are not too familiar with and I’ve got to be honest, I’m still not sure how to gauge the size of a backpacking Europe backpack in relation to liters. However, here’s what I know from trial and error. . .
40L – This is the size of backpacking Europe backpack I use regularly. It is perfect for the minimal traveler, however, I have not ran into many others on any other Europe travel blog who are using one this size for intercontinental travel. However, if you consider yourself a lightweight traveler, it’s often helpful to opt for a smaller backpack to keep you focused on what you truly need.
45-60L – This is the most common backpacking Europe backpack size among all travelers. It’s large enough to fit what you need with some extra space to bring home some European treats if you plan accordingly. Based on that logic, I think it’s probably a safe bet to opt for this size.
70L+ – This size is far too large unless you will be camping or traveling during the winter. If you fill a backpack this size, you will be aching for a rest every half of a mile you walk; and you will do a lot of walking.
In addition to size, I also look for a draw-string main pocket with a buckle top cover for added security. Inside the main pocket, you want space; a lot, a lot of space. On the outside of the bag, look for accessible pockets, straps, and sturdy zippers. Nothing’s worse than when a zipper breaks on your brand new backpacking Europe backpack.
Make sure your backpack has comfortable shoulder, waist, and chest support. If you get an opportunity to try it out before leaving, test to make sure it’s top-weighted. One of my old backpacking Europe backpacks gave me lower back pain for months because it wasn’t. Here’s an alternative opinion on backpacks from REI.
Clothes for your backpacking Europe packing list
I debated whether or not to go into detail about quantities of clothes to bring or not. However, I certainly don’t ever recall a time that I’ve ever listened to another Europe travel blog opinion about the amount of underwear I should bring. The truth of the matter is the amount of clothes you pack depends heavily on the type of traveler you are and your Europe travel itinerary.
Reminder: There are washing machines and Laundromats in Europe just like there are in America. A one hour break to get your clothes washed and dried won’t eat up too much of your Europe travel itinerary.
Instead, I thought it would be more beneficial to list the type of clothes you should for when creating your backpacking Europe packing list. Let’s start with the essentials:
Shoes – Comfort is key. Do not come to Europe unprepared to walk a lot. If you’re going somewhere near the beach then a pair of sandals might not be a bad idea either. There’s a myth that thieves seek out the white shoe-wearers as Americans and target them for pick-pocketing. This has never remotely been true.
I’ve never concerned myself with investing in fancy hiking shoes to add to my Europe backpacking packing list for Europe summer. I’ve even went on month-long mountain-hiking trips in Europe with only my tennis shoes. I don’t see it is necessary to bring the bulky hiking shoes. However, if they are most comfortable for you, then do it.
Pants – Where are you traveling? The first time I went abroad, I was told to bring a pair of slacks because European clubs are so sophisticated that they require you to wear slacks. This, also, is not true. A pair of good jeans could be a good idea in most countries as to not stand out like a tourist, but – honestly – in the height of summer, it’s not required. If you’re going to the beach, don’t forget swim shorts!
Shirt – If you’re making a Europe backpacking packing list for Europe summer, then you’re going to want to stick mostly to solid colored t-shirts. With generic colored pants and a few generic, solid colored t-shirts, you will maximize on your wardrobe expendability. In the end, that’s what you want to do; bring as little amount of clothes as possible and wear them as much as you can.
Socks – Socks don’t take up very much space, obviously. You can squeeze a pair virtually anywhere to fill the empty space in your backpacking Europe backpack. Just be smart – if you know you’re going to spend a week at some luxurious beach resort and you’ll only put on tennis shoes once the entire week, there’s no reason to bring eight pairs of socks.
Offseason backpacking Europe packing list
Backpacking around Europe in the offseason is a completely different ball game when it comes to preparing a backpacking Europe packing list. It takes more research on your destination, more strategy in packing, and overall a smarter approach to what you bring with you. As mentioned earlier, a bigger backpack could be useful (although, I’ve been backpacking Europe alone with my 40L backpacking Europe backpack since I first started international travel even during the winter time).
Once you’ve done research, you will have a better understanding of your Europe travel itinerary and what kind of weather conditions to expect. My biggest tips for backpacking Europe in the winter are layers, layers, and more layers! That’s the only way I manage to travel light in the cold season. Wear your clothes instead of carrying them!
Now that you have your Europe backpacking packing list. . .
Congratulations! Clearly, you’re inspired to travel to a different part of the world and experience the fairytale that is Europe. There are people, cultures, and foods like you have never experienced waiting for you there. After you have finalized your Europe backpacking packing list and have researched how to travel Europe on a budget and see how much backpacking through Europe cost, start to plan your Europe travel itinerary and read about some of the unimaginable places you will have the opportunity to see. Marvelous things await you!