Backpacking Europe Packing List & Pre-Trip Checklist

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by Maggie Turansky

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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!

Checklist Before You Start Packing

Before you start thinking about what items to include on your packing list, it’s worth taking time to make sure you’ve got all the crucial components of your trip organised. It’s worth taking care of these items at least 1-2 months before you depart to ensure you have everything organised in time!

Have a Rough Route & Budget

It’s worth picking out a few must-sees for your trip and then determining a rough route around those destinations. There’s no need to over-plan your route as you’ll undoubtedly want some flexibility when you finally arrive in Europe.

However, if you want to visit a popular festival or city that is known for getting a lot of tourists in high season then it’s worth planning that well in advance.

Once you have a rough route in mind, this will help determine what daily budget you need. An average daily budget for backpacking Europe is around €42 – 105/day.

This will cover you for most places in Central and Eastern Europe, however, you can expect to pay more in Western European countries and less in the some of the more affordable countries in the East.

This daily budget will cover you for a dorm in a hostel, cheap meals (with the occasional splurge meal), transportation and one or two activities per day.

In addition to your daily budget, you need to make sure you have enough funds to cover pre-trip expenses such as flights, gear and travel insurance.

Organise Your Transport

Hopefully, by the time you’re thinking of packing, you’ve already got flights booked to Europe. If not, it’s worth taking the time to play around on Skyscanner to find deals on flights to Europe.

You also need to consider, how you will get around Europe when you land. If you plan to make use of the extensive rail network, it can be worth booking some popular trains in advance (particularly in summer!) as you will get cheaper rates and there will be a lot more availability.

Finally, if you’re planning on using the train extensively over a short period of time, a Eurail or Interrail pass can be incredibly good value.

If you’re living outside of Europe, you can browse Eurail passes. Alternatively, if you’re based in Europe, browse Interrail passes.

Train arriving at Vienna Airport
Trains are a great way to get around Europe!

Choose the Right Debit or Credit Card

What is the right debit or credit card you might ask? The ones with no foreign transaction fees!

The last thing you want to be doing on your backpacking Europe trip is giving away part of your daily budget to the banks!

Applying for a debit or credit card without foreign transaction fees will mean you won’t get charged extra each time you withdraw money which can save a lot over the course of a few months backpacking.

It’s worth making sure you do this as soon as possible as it can sometimes take a little while for banks to approve your application.

Consider Travel Insurance

For many backpacking trips, we have used World Nomads. They offer flexible and simple travel insurance policies with coverage for more than 150 activities that you can buy or extend while on the road.

An alternative option is SafetyWing which offers travel medical insurance policies.

Book a Night or Two or Accommodation

After getting off a long flight and being jetlagged, the last thing you want to be doing is walking aimlessly around a new city trying to find somewhere to stay. Book your first few nights in a hostel and have the comfort of knowing that you have somewhere to stay when you get off the plane!

Alternatively, if you prefer a bit of privacy for a couple of nights to recover from jetlag, booking a private room in an Airbnb can be a good option to start your trip to Europe.

Hostel dorm room
It’s best to have your first hostel booked in advance!

Top Things To Consider When Packing for Backpacking Europe

Choosing A Travel Backpack

One of the biggest tips I or anyone else could give when you’re assembling your packing list for backpacking Europe is to make sure you travel light.

There is nothing more uncomfortable than having to lug an outrageously heavy backpack through winding European streets, which is why I would suggest that you aim to keep the weight of your bag under 15 kilos (33 pounds), and ideally under 10 kilos (22 pounds).

It is also more convenient to have lighter luggage when you are moving between cities. Obviously, you need to be conscious of weight when you are flying as anything over 20 kilos (44 pounds) in order to avoid exorbitant extra fees.

However, though it is highly unlikely you will be financially penalised for it, it is so much easier to have lighter luggage when you are on ground transport, as well. If your bag is very heavy, you’re going to have a lot of trouble hoisting it onto luggage racks or carrying it up or down a flight of stairs.

The second thing you need to consider is the actual bag you plan to take. It can be really confusing as there are seemingly endless options.

I would suggest you try to keep the main bag under 50 litres, mainly because it both prevents overpacking and also because a smaller backpack is a lot easier to manoeuvre.

You want to look for luggage — whether you are planning of going for a backpack, wheeled backpack, or even a traditional suitcase — that is durable and can withstand a fair amount of wear and tear.

Constant packing and unpacking and lugging through city streets and on and off transport can do a considerable amount of damage to luggage and you are going to want to buy something that can withstand that for many trips to come.

Personally, I use the Osprey Farpoint 55 (also available on REI here or direct from Osprey here). The main pack itself is 40 litres and it also comes with a 15-litre detachable daypack. It is incredibly well-made and also comes with a lifetime warranty.

It’s come with me on many a trip and I’ve yet to come up with any complaints. Michael uses the Osprey Farpoint 70 over the Farpoint 55 which is slightly bigger but essentially the same backpack. 

If you’re looking for more stylish options for your European backpack, then other options include Peak Design which can be used as carry-on luggage or the Osprey Farpoint Wheels (also available on REI here or direct from Osprey here) which is a great choice if you’re after a wheeled backpack.

Osprey Farpoint 55 & 70L Versions
Osprey Farpoint 55 & 70L Versions

Organising Your Gear

The third thing to consider is how you actually pack your backpack. There are a number of techniques you can use in order to maximise the space in your bag, from rolling your clothes to stuffing your socks and undies in your shoes.

However, I’ve found that the best way to keep organised and to save space in my backpack is to use packing cubes.

Both Michael and I use Eagle Creek compression packing cubes (also available direct from Eagle Creek here) and don’t have enough good things to say about them. They’re super lightweight and really durable and well-made.

Honestly, they’ll just completely change the way you pack and I don’t know what I’d do without them.

Decide Which Electronics You Need

Before you start packing, it’s worth thinking about which electronics you need with you in Europe. Unless you’re working online there’s little point lugging around a large laptop during your backpacking Europe trip and it’s best to pack light.

However, you might still be keen on having something to browse the web, upload photos or chat with friends back home. In this case, a lightweight tablet like the Amazon Fire Tablet might be a good option.

This is a good option if you plan to access WiFi on your trip, just make sure you have a subscription to reliable VPN such as ExpressVPN before you leave!

Another electronic item that I specifically bought for my travels was a Kindle Paperwhite. If you like to read while travelling but want to reduce weight in your bag then this is a must!

Finally, make sure you have a camera so you can document some of the amazing memories you will undoubtedly have.

If you’re not into photography, then the camera you have on your smartphone is likely to be sufficient. If you want to get more professional with your snaps, then I recommend the Sony A6400.

It’s a mirrorless camera, lightweight and a good mid-range camera if you want to learn more about photography. There are also a number of fantastic travel lenses for Sony A6400 cameras available on the market.

sunset in Czech Republic
A sunset in Czech Republic

Backpacking Europe Packing List

The packing list for Backpacking Europe 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, with some variations.


The biggest tip I could give when you’re wondering what clothing to bring is to only pack versatile, neutral-coloured clothing that can be mixed and matched with most things you’ve included in your backpack. 

Basically, don’t bring anything that only goes with one other thing. You’ll regret it and, honestly, you might even end up dumping it along the way.

  • 4 t-shirts
    • Depending on the season you are travelling, I recommend taking a mix of short and long-sleeved t-shirts. Obviously, in summer you should take more short-sleeved and in winter increase the number of long-sleeved!
    • These long-sleeved t-shirts (men’s click here) make a great base layer in the colder months and will keep you nice and toasty!
  • 1 fleece outer layer (men’s click here)
    • These fleece sweaters will keep you WAY warmer than cotton and stays warm even when wet. Great to have if you’re travelling outside of summer or plan on going hiking
  • 1 regular sweater
    • I would also recommend bringing a sweater that can be dressed up, so you can look nice even when it’s chilly outside.
  • 1 compactable ultra-light down jacket (for men’s click here)
    • They’re super warm, durable, lightweight, pack down very small and are quite affordable. I really can’t say enough good things about these jackets.
  • 1 waterproof rain jacket
    • I like this North Face jacket. It’s lightweight, durable, and keeps you dry above anything else. It’s also great for layering on top of a jacket and a sweater to keep you extra warm.
  • 2 pairs of pants/trousers
    • One pair of jeans, I like darker jeans that I can easily dress up or down depending on the circumstance
    • One pair for hiking/walking pants/trousers or another pair of jeans or chinos if you don’t plan to be that active
    • You can browse some great options in our best travel pants in Europe guide.
  • 1-2 leggings/thermals
    • Leggings/thermal pants are great if you’re travelling in winter for an extra layer under your jeans.
    • I also wear leggings when hiking and opt to bring two pairs of jeans rather than a dedicated hiking/exercise pant. Basically, leggings are super versatile and should definitely be on your list.
  • 1-2 pair shorts
    • For late spring, summer, and early autumn. If you’re travelling outside of these seasons, then don’t bother bringing them. It will be too chilly and they’ll just take up unnecessary space.
  • 1 nice outfit
    • For nicer restaurants/going out
    • Collared shirt for men, dress/skirt/nice pants for women (or whatever is a little bit nicer than your typical backpacker wear and makes you feel comfortable)
    • Bluffworks has a great range of nicer clothes that are still practical for travel – you can read more about them here.
  • 5-10 pairs of underwear
  • 5-10 pair of socks
  • 2 tank tops
    • Good as a base layer in the winter or chilly autumn days, or as a top when it’s hot outside
  • 2 Bras
    • One regular, one sport — obviously for women
  • 1 pair of pajamas
    • I’ve also noticed a lot of men (Michael included) tend to wear just a comfortable 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 when I have to pack up to avoid a mildew situation
    • I also tend to bring a swimsuit even if I’m travelling to a colder climate. You never know when you might need it!
Republic Square is a great way to start your Belgrade itinerary
Belgrade, Serbia — a perfect place for a budget backpacker!


When packing for backpacking Europe, one of the most important things to do is ensure you have comfortable shoes to walk in. After all, you will probably be spending a lot of time on your feet!

The most important thing to do is to make sure you plan appropriate footwear for the activities you plan on doing and the season you are travelling in.

I’ve listed the shoes that I always recommend taking below. I have also written a detailed guide for choosing the best shoes if you want some more advice!

  • 1 pair of boots or hiking shoes (for men’s click here)
    • For autumn and winter or if you plan to do a fair amount of hiking.
    • They are also available on REI for women here or for men here
    • If you’re travelling in summer and don’t plan to do any hiking or outdoor activities, then don’t bother to bring these
  • 1 pair of walking shoes (for men’s click here)
    • Nice trainers or other comfortable & breathable shoes for traipsing city streets
  • 1 pair of rubber flip flops
    • For the beach and grubby hostel showers — no one wants athlete’s foot ruining their travels!
  • 1 pair of sturdy walking sandals
    • For spring and summer, I like Birkenstocks (also available on REI here). 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 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.
    • I tend not to bring these, however, some might want a nicer shoe.

Need your gear in a hurry? Sign up to a FREE 30-day trial with Amazon Prime and get fast shipping for your items!

Electronics To Pack

The number and type of electronics you take with you depends on your planned usage and whether you need to do any work on the road.

As we work when travelling we tend to pack additional electronics, however, if travelling purely for the sake of travelling, then you should consider carefully what you actually need and plan on using.

  • Camera/extra battery
    • Michael is the photographer among us and he travels with a Sony A6400. It’s a mirrorless camera that is lightweight and a good entry-level camera for budding photographers.
    • Bring an extra battery and SD card for your camera. You don’t want to be short of power outlets or storage space and not be able to photograph something amazing.
    • He also travels with a Joby GorillaPod Kit which is a fantastic lightweight tripod.
  • Kindle E-Reader
  • Laptop/Tablet
    • If you’re not working online then we recommend bringing a lightweight tablet (such as the Amazon Fire Tablet) or simply leaving the electronics at home! 
    • As I work online, I travel with my Dell XPS 13 and think it’s the best lightweight laptop on the market!
  • Universal plug adaptors
    • I love this adaptor as it works in all countries and contains two USB ports meaning you can charge multiple electronics overnight!
  • Headphones
    • I like in-ear, noise-cancelling headphones because they take up less space.
  • Power bank
    • For charging your electronics when there are no power outlets!
  • Various electronics chargers
  • A deck of cards
    • For playing games with friends, you make on the road!
Beautful streets of Olomouc
Streets of Olomouc in the Czech Republic

Travel Accessories

  • Packing Cubes (also available on Eagle Creek)
    • Like I mentioned earlier, these are invaluable on any trip and will make your life so much easier.
  • Anti-theft travel purse
    • If you prefer to travel with a more stylish purse for walking around cities then I recommend purchasing an anti-theft travel purse from Pacsafe.
    • Check out our detailed guide to the best purse for Europe for more tips on choosing a great travel purse
  • Microfibre travel 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. 
  • International SIM Card
  • Earplugs
    • 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.
  • Travel cable lock
    • Great for locking your bag to a stationary object (i.e. your hostel bunk!)
  • Umbrella
    • So you can keep exploring in the rain!
  • Water Bottle
    • There are plenty of water taps around Europe to fill up your bottle
  • Notepad & Pen
    • For writing a journal or your new friends’ contacts details!
  • Pocket knife 
    • While many people opt for a swiss army knife, I personally like the Leatherman Wave. It’s an all-purpose tool that includes both a serrated and regular knife, a saw (perfect for hacking through baguettes when you’re picnicking!), a bottle opener, pliers, and screwdrivers.
  • Small first aid kit
    • I recommend including some basic medicines such as paracetamol/Tylenol and cold & flu tablets
  • 1 scarf
    • A useful accessory for all seasons!
  • 1 pair gloves
    • For winter and chilly autumn evenings
  • 1 warm hat
    • Winter and autumn
  • Sunglasses


There is no need to overpack on toiletries when travelling to Europe. You can find a pharmacy almost anywhere and chances are if you’ve forgotten something, you’ll be able to find it quite easily.

  • Shampoo
  • Conditioner
    • 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.
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Hairbrush/Comb
  • Women’s Razor/ Men’s Shaver
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Sunscreen
  • 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. 
  • Condoms
    • Because it’s better to be prepared!
London is a great place to visit, but it can be a bit pricey for the typical backpacker budget!

While it may not seem like much, this packing list for Europe should be enough to sustain you through any long-term trip!

Obviously, there is always room for flexibility when packing for your backpacking adventure. 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!

Checklist After Packing

Once you’ve packed your bag for Europe, make sure you have a bit of time left over to take care of these things to make your life easier once you land in Europe!

Call your bank

Remember that new debit card you got a few months ago with no foreign transaction fees? Before using it in a new country, make sure your bank knows about it! Give your bank a call and let them know what countries you’re planning on travelling to so they don’t flag any of your transactions as suspicious and cancel your card while you’re overseas!

Get some local currency

It’s worth trying to get enough local currency to last you a day or two for when your first arrive. While it is usually possible to withdraw money from an ATM in the airport, there is always the chance that the ATM doesn’t work or you have an issue with your bank card. By having a bit of local currency you can be comfortable in knowing that you have enough money to at least get to your accommodation!

Work out your airport transfer

Speaking of getting to your accommodation, take the time to research the best way to get from the airport to wherever you’re staying. Whether it’s public transport, an airport shuttle bus or an Uber – having these details sorted will mean you don’t encounter any unnecessary stress when you first arrive in a new country.

Make copies of important documents

Your passport and bank cards. If something happens and you lose these, you want to easily have their details on hand so you can cancel them. Make some copies, upload them to your e-mail and send them to a family member or friend so you can easily retrieve them.

Backpacker on top of hill
And finally, have fun exploring!

Are you wondering what to pack for Europe? Anything that you can’t travel without? Let us know in the comments!

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Maggie is a co-founder and writer for The World Was Here First. Originally from the US, she has lived in five different countries and has travelled to dozens more, both solo and with her partner, Michael. She particularly loves exploring Spain and spending time in the Caucasus and the Baltics. Read more about Maggie


  1. Hi there,

    I’m planning on a month long backpacking trip and was wondering if you were able to take your osprey backpack as a carry on or if you checked it then brought another bag as a carry on? Just not sure if I should check my big backpack and bring a smaller one as a carry on/purse.

    • Hi Joann, thanks for your comment! It depends on what size of backpack you have. The Osprey Farpoint 40 satisfies most airlines’ requirements for carry-on but none of the other models do, so they will have to be checked, unfortunately.

  2. Hi! This is a great article! I’m trying to plan a backpacking trip for Europe soon. I was wondering if I would need to bring or am allowed to bring like, dry food and small dry snacks to help save money on some days. Thanks!

    • Hi Chole, if you’re really travelling on a shoestring budget and want to make your money stretch as far as it can, then it could be helpful to bring those things with you. However, this isn’t something I’ve ever done (I normally just stick to shopping in local supermarkets and cooking my own meals rather than adding extra weight to my bag).

  3. hi there. super helpful for packing wise. but I’m curious about accommodations. I will be doing my first back pack trip alone for three weeks in about a month. should I book all my hostels before I go or just book as I go along as I’m still unsure exactly my route of where I will be headed! any advice will help thanks x

    • Hey Carly, glad you found the packing list helpful! As for booking accommodation, if you want to be flexible and just go where the road takes you, I don’t think it’s necessary to book everything for your entire trip in advance. I, personally, like to make sure I have at least my first few nights of accommodation booked and then I tend to go from there. Especially if you’re staying in hostel dorms or going to places with ample accommodation choices, there isn’t much of a need to book more than a week out, I would say. Obviously, this depends on where you are visiting and the popularity of the destination — but this is a general rule of thumb. Hope you have a great trip!

  4. hey! this list is super helpful thanks 🙂

    whats your opinion on rainboots? tbh I hate rain and have been to EU several times, but never backpacked, so not used to the volume/wt constrictions.

    • Hi Priya, thanks for your comment and I’m glad you’ve found the list helpful! Personally, I’ve never found rainboots to be necessary, especially if you’re trying to pack. I always tend to bring a pair of waterproof hiking boots and that has never led me astray (I’ve actually never even owned a pair of rainboots!). Hope this helps 🙂

  5. I just tripped on this site. My daughter left today for her first backpack trip in Europe. She did a ton of research and was delighted that you gave so much “no nonsense” advice. Thank you so much for putting your advice out there!!

    • Thanks for the comment, Lysa! I hope your daughter has a wonderful time backpacking in Europe and I am glad that we were able to help her plan for it 🙂 Cheers!


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