For the young and adventurous, there are few better ways to explore the world than by backpacking. However, embarking on your first backpacking trip can seem totally overwhelming. What are you supposed to pack in that giant backpack, anyway? Luckily, you can benefit from the wisdom of those who have gone before you. Check out the top seven must-have items and tips for backpacking in Europe.
The Big Backpack
Perhaps the most obvious item that you’ll need for backpacking in Europe is, of course, a backpack. Choosing the right backpack for your trip can make or break the entire journey. A good backpack makes it easy to travel quickly, whereas a bad backpack can weigh you down (literally and figuratively).
Backpacks offer several advantages over traditional suitcases, especially in Europe. Backpacks are simply easier to carry long distances. Wheeled suitcases in particular don’t work well in Europe since so many roads are uneven bricks or cobblestone, not to mention crowded.
There are three main types of backpacks: top loading, front loading, and convertible.
Top-loading backpacks have one opening at the top that is closed with a drawstring, which is covered by a protective flap. These backpacks were originally designed for serious mountain climbers, which means that they are both light and supportive. They fit close to your body and are comfortable to carry for hours. They’re more waterproof than other backpack options, and you don’t have to worry about broken zippers. However, that lack of zippers does mean it’s harder to secure; you can’t use a travel lock on a drawstring. Top-loading backpacks are also less convenient for accessing your stuff since everything is loaded into that one big pocket.
Front-loading backpacks are probably the kind you’re most familiar with, like our Slingpack™ Compact Backpack and our Corepack™ Premium Backpack. It’s easy to access all of your stuff, and most styles come with additional pockets to help you keep things organized. Since they have zippers, you can attach a travel lock for added security. However, those zippers also make the bag less waterproof (although you can find waterproof zippers). Zippers are also prone to breakage. Front-loading backpacks have less support than top-loading backpacks, so that’s something to consider if you need to carry it for long periods of time.
Convertible backpacks are essentially suitcases with straps. They can be carried like a backpack, but they also feature a shoulder strap. Like front-loading backpacks, convertible backpacks are easy to pack and unpack. They’re also more stylish than hiking backpacks. However, they’re the least supportive of the three backpack types. There’s a lot to consider when purchasing a travel backpack, but it’s pretty much the most important item you’ll need for backpacking in Europe. Weigh your options carefully before deciding.
The Little Backpack
You don’t want to have to lug all of your worldly belongings with you for the entire time you’re backpacking in Europe. Once you get to a destination, you can ditch your travel backpack at the hostel or hotel and swap for a smaller, lighter daypack — Litepack™ Travel Backpack is a great option. You can pack your daypack with just the essentials you need for sightseeing, like your phone, maps, and camera.
Since you’ll only be carrying essential things, you can worry less about function and more about fashion, though you should still pick a pack that’s comfortable to wear. Consider picking a style that has added pockets to make accessing your commonly-used stuff easy.
Since you never know what kind of weather you’re going to face, pick a backpack that’s waterproof or water resistant. There’s nothing worse than getting caught in the rain and finding out that all of your stuff has been ruined. For extra peace of mind, you should keep things like documents and electronics in waterproof bags, just in case.
A Water Bottle to Stay Green and Save Green
Backpacking involves a lot of walking, which means that you need to take care to stay hydrated. Sure you could just buy bottled water, but one of the best tips for backpacking in Europe is to bring a reusable water bottle. Not only will it save you money, it’ll also prevent all that plastic waste from disposable water bottles.
For the space-conscious traveler, you can get flexible water bottles that take up almost no space in your bag when empty. If you hate lukewarm water, go for an aluminum water bottle that will keep your drinking water nice and cold all day. If you already have a reusable water bottle you’re attached to, that works too! The style doesn’t matter nearly as much as the function.
When you’re backpacking in Europe, you generally won’t need to worry about the water quality. If you are anyway, choose a water bottle with a built-in filter. You can fill up anywhere with the added peace of mind, but you will have to bring an extra filter or two, depending on the length of your trip.
A small but crucial detail to remember when traveling overseas is that electric plugs look different in other countries. If you want to be able to use your American electronics while you’re backpacking in Europe, you’ll need to pick up a plug adapter. Plug adapters tend to be relatively cheap, so it’s not a bad idea to take a few.
Make sure the adapter is made to adapt European plugs to American plugs; you don’t want to find out that you bought the wrong adapter when you’re phone’s dead. If you plan on traveling outside of Europe at some point, you can buy a multi-function adapters, such as our 4-in-1 Universal Travel Adapter, that has settings for other regions like Asia and the United Kingdom.
It may seem a little ridiculous to focus on socks, but any experienced backpacker knows that good socks are the difference between feeling comfortable and developing rashes and blisters.
You should pack four or five pairs of high-quality socks on your adventure. Really good socks can get a little pricey, but they’re worth the investment. When you’re backpacking in Europe, you’re going to be on your feet constantly. Quality socks will help mitigate foot pain and will help prevent any painful blisters that can really ruin your plans. Look for socks that are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and odor-eliminating. Choose wool over cotton, even in the summer. You can find lightweight wool socks that will help keep your feet cool, dry, and happy.
Don’t forget to pack a pair of Bamboo Compression Socks™ for the flight there and back!
Quick-Drying Travel Towel
Most people who backpack opt to stay in hostels, which are cheaper accommodations than a traditional hotel. However, since they are cheaper, they lack some of the amenities that make stay in a hotel feel luxurious. One of those amenities is towels, so if you’re planning to shower (which hopefully you are) you’ll want to bring your own.
Regular bathroom towels take up a lot of space and dry slowly. If you put a wet towel back in your bag, you risk making all of your stuff smell damp and moldy. Luckily, there are better options for travelers in the form of quick-drying travel towels.
Quick-drying towels are made from moisture-wicking microfiber that dries much faster than a regular towel. They’re also antibacterial, so you don’t have to worry about any weird smells developing. While microfiber towels won’t feel as soft and luxurious as a regular bath towel, they are a much better alternative for backpackers. Swapping a travel towel for your regular towel will save you so much space that you won’t even mind.
An important thing to note about travel towels is that they are often small in size. Check the dimensions of the product carefully before you buy. Look for options with an XL size to find a towel better accommodated for your whole body.
Shoes Made for Walking
Last but certainly not least, every backpacker needs a high-quality pair of walking shoes. When you’re backpacking in Europe, you’ll spend a lot of time on your feet as you explore each of your destinations. Without a good pair of shoes, you’re setting yourself up for a lot of foot pain.
Before you pick out your shoes, think about the type of activities you’ll be doing on your trip. If you plan on taking some rigorous hikes, then a good pair of hiking boots is the way to go. However, if you’re planning on doing mostly sightseeing on foot, you don’t need a super rugged pair of boots. Lightweight hiking shoes tend to be best for travelers, since they have the support and durability of boots without the bulkiness.
If you’re prone to foot pain, consider investing in a good pair of insoles for your shoes. There are a variety of drugstore options out there, or you can ask your doctor for suggestions. Insoles can make a world of a difference in terms of comfort, so don’t overlook them.
When you start to make your packing list, be sure that these seven items make the top of the list. Being prepared is the key to any successful backpacking trip, so take your time and do your research. Who knows, maybe after you’re done backpacking in Europe, you’ll be ready to backpack across the world. Wherever you go, know that Cabeau is ready to go with you.