Your flight is booked, you’ve secured your first few night’s accommodation, and you’ve had “going away drinks” with friends. You’re nearly ready to embark upon your European adventure, but you still haven’t packed your bag! Figuring out the perfect Backpacking Europe packing list can be a daunting task, but luckily I have been there before and can offer sage words of advice to guide you through this stressful time!
The list below is a variation of what I brought for three months travelling through the Balkans and Eastern Europe, but could just as easily last you two weeks to six or more months. It also can be used in any season.
Backpacking Europe Packing List:
- 4 t-shirts
- Two long-sleeved, two short-sleeved, in summer four short sleeved
- 2 tank tops
- For layering
- 2 pairs of pants
- One pair of jeans, one pair for hiking/walking
- 1-2 leggings
- For women
- 1-2 pair shorts
- For spring and summer, not necessary in other seasons
- 1 warm sweater (preferably wool — it will keep you WAY warmer than cotton!)
- I would recommend a wool (or a least a wool blend) sweater — it will keep you WAY warmer than cotton and stays warm even when wet.
- 1 smart outfit for going out or a nicer restaurant
- For nicer restaurants/going out
- Collared shirt for men, dress/skirt/nice pants for women
- 1 compactable ultra-light down jacket
- Uniqlo carries these — they’re super warm, durable,light-weight, pack down very small and are quite affordable. I really can’t say enough good things about these jackets.
- 1 winter coat
- Conversely, if you’re staying in southern Europe in winter, you would probably be fine with some layers under your ultra-light down jacket.
- 5-10 pairs of underwear
- Depending on how often you want to do laundry!
- 5-10 pair of socks
- Again, this really depends on your typical laundry habits.
- 2 Bras
- One regular, one sport — obviously for women
- 1 pair of pajamas
- Or just a sleeping shirt over underwear!
- 1 swimsuit
- If you’re travelling in summer and planning on swimming a lot, I like to pack two just in case one hasn’t dried.
- 1 pair of rubber flip flops
- For the beach and grubby hostel showers
- 1 pair of sturdy walking sandals
- For spring and summer, I like Birkenstocks. I know they’re a bit geeky, but I never have sore feet even if I’ve been walking all day in them. Also, the arch support is out of this world.
- 1 pair of boots or hiking shoes
- For autumn and winter or if you plan to do a fair amount of hiking.
- 1 pair of walking shoes
- Nice trainers or other comfortable shoes for traipsing city streets
- 1 pair of ballet flats (optional)
- For women wanting a nicer shoe, there are a number of foldable ballet flats on the market that can make your outfit look nicer without taking up a bunch of space
- 1 scarf
- A useful accessory for all seasons!
- 1 pair gloves
- For winter and chilly autumn evenings
- 1 warm hat
- Winter and autumn
- If you’re travelling for a shorter period of time or packing only for carry-on, I would recommend getting refillable shampoo bottles rather than wasting money on travel sized bottles.
- Contact lenses
- Contact lens solution
- For some reason, in a lot of places in Europe you can only purchase this in optical shops. So if you wear contact lenses, sometimes it can be hard to find solution if you forget it.
- Microfibre towel
- These towels pack down small and are super light-weight and quick drying. A lot of hostels, especially in western Europe, don’t provide towels so one of these can be invaluable.
- Camara/extra battery
- Bring an extra battery for your camera. You don’t want to be short of power outlets and not be able to photograph something amazing.
- Because you don’t want the snorer or to impede your sleep in a hostel dorm!
- Eye mask
- For the times when the drunk asshole leaves the lights on at 3 AM.
- TSA compliant lock
- Great for both securing your luggage and for a hostel locker.
- I never thought I would be able to give up paper books, but I’ve found an e-reader is invaluable for a traveller who likes to read!
- If you’re not working online while on the road, I would strongly suggest you leave these electronics behind.
- Plug adaptors
- Various electronics chargers
While it may not seem like much, this backpacking Europe packing list should be enough to sustain you through any long-term trip. I would advise only to include clothing with neutral colours as this allows you to mix and match outfits and avoid wearing the same combination every day — if this is something bothers you.
Obviously, there is always room for flexibility in any backpacking Europe packing list. However, I would always advise packing on the lighter side and trying to avoid letting your pack weigh over 15 kilos. This is altogether just more comfortable. Remember as well, that if you forget anything you are almost always able to purchase it on the road, often at a cheaper price than at home!
Have you put together a backpacking Europe packing list? Anything that you can’t travel without? Let us know in the comments!