Europe offers opportunities like nowhere else on earth. On the same continent, you can walk the midnight streets of Paris and climb the hills of Switzerland. You can soak up the sun in Greece and trek the historic alleyways of Barcelona. Whether you’ve signed up for a quick getaway or a month-long adventure, backpacking in Europe offers an experience like no other.
Creating a backpacking in Europe packing list isn’t as easy as sipping coffee at the Prague or shocastle, so let Cabeau do the work for you to get you ready for some serious planning as you embark on this amazing journey. We’ve helped you by dividing our packing list into two major categories: the ‘must have items’ and the ‘optional items’ you may or may not want to leave at home.
Let’s begin our ultimate packing list for backpacking in Europe with your must-have items. These are the things you absolutely cannot leave without. Get your notepad ready and cross off as you pack.
Our backpacking through Europe packing list would not be complete without this essential item: a great backpack. Don’t even think about bringing your suitcase on this trip. Hopping from train to train, navigating the underground rail system and walking thousands of steps a day requires some serious mobility that a suitcase cannot offer.
- Size: Backpacks range in size from 50-70 liters, but make sure you shop around to see what size fits your body type best.
- Compartments: Need a spot for your electronics or a small hideaway to keep your passport? Look for a waterproof pack with a variety of easy-to-reach compartments. Inspect your backpack thoroughly to see if it has the space you’re looking for.
- Fabric: Choose rip-resistant fabric. Not only does it stand the test of time, it’s safer and prevents petty theft. Bonus if it’s water resistant, as you might catch yourself in the rain!
- DesignConsider whether you want a top-load backpack, or one that zips down each side for easy access. Try both to see which one suits your travel and packing style best.
After you’ve got your backpack, it doesn’t hurt to buy a small lock for the main zippered pockets of your pack. This will deter theft and set your mind at ease if you doze off on the train. Our backpacking in Europe packing list is the only checklist you will need to set off in true European style.
Clothes are tricky, because they will account for the most weight in your backpack. Your aim is to be stylish in Europe, but not over-the-top. Our best packing advice when it comes to clothing and accessories is to never pack an outfit you will only wear once on your trip. Here is a rundown of what you will need, and how much. Check off as you pack!
- 4 breathable shirts that are lightweight and simple to match with other items.
- 2 sweaters –– one lightweight and one warmer.
- 3-4 t-shirts that match anything. Think neutral colors, but avoid white.
- 2 sets of pants, including at least one pair of jeans. Note: avoid shorts, unless you’re traveling to particularly warm European regions during the summer.
- 4-5 pairs of socks, including a pair of bamboo compression socks.
- 5-7 sets of underwear
- 2 sets of shoes, including one durable pair of walking or hiking shoes and then some flats for more relaxed evenings. Keep in mind, cobblestone streets are common in many European cities, and it’s best to avoid heels.
- 2 jackets, including one fleece and one rain jacket.
Other clothing items you may want to add from our best backpacking in Europe packing list: swimwear, sleepwear, a dress, a skirt, a tie and maybe a versatile scarf or two to add style and flair. Yes, this list seems minimalist, but don’t forget to leave some space to shop while you travel.
A Wet Bag
A great quality wet/dry bag is crucial to add to your backpacking through Europe packing list. It doesn’t take up much space and can be a lifesaver on the go. As an alternative, you might even want to pick up a few smaller wet bags to keep in your backpack. Here is why:
- A wet bag contains dirty clothing and other gear that needs to go to the laundromat.
- It doubles as a beach bag when you don’t have anywhere to put a wet swimsuit after the beach.
- When travelling, the right wet/dry bag can actually help you compact some of your gear and keep your clothing compressed. If you have more than one bag, you can color code to keep your clothing sorted if you are uber-organized.
Documents, Money and More
Backpacking through Europe means making sure you travel with all the documents you need on your packing list. Plan to bring a small daypack attached or packed in your larger backpack to stash the essentials while you’re out walking during the day. Don’t forget these important items on your backpacking in Europe packing list before you board.
- Documents: passport, plane ticket, rail pass, ID card, insurance information, driver’s license etc. Check and double check that you have these.
- Money belt or a neck wallet to keep important items on you at all times.
- Guidebook or map.
- Journal/notepad and pen.
- Membership cards: student card, hotel membership, AAA card etc. The little discounts add up when you are travelling extensively.
When moving from place to place with important documents, make sure to photocopy everything and leave one set of copies at home and the other in a different compartment of your backpack. In case of loss or theft, having another set of copies will help prove your case until you can get replacements at your local embassy.
Europeans take pride in personal appearance, and don’t tend to take shortcuts when it comes to personal grooming. Aim for a clean, polished appearance and make sure you take some of these personal items on our backpacking in Europe packing list to help achieve an image that fits in with local culture.
- Shower items: keep them all in small containers and in a sealed bag for the flight.
- Medicine: Make sure to keep any medicine in their original containers with your prescription labels still on, and carry them on during your flight.
- Laundry Soap: a tiny box will do.
- Portable Clothesline: you’ll thank us later!
- Tampons/pads unless you are aiming to buy-on-the-go.
- Simple jewelry or accessories that work with all outfits.
Stay chic with our best backpacking through Europe packing list and make sure you have these essentials, and don’t leave home without the items that give you confidence, even if they might add a little extra weight.
Now that you have your essential items, you may want to add in some of these optional items to ease the burden of backpacking in Europe. Whether or not you pack the following gear will depend completely on where you are going, your own personal travel style and the length of your journey. Choose wisely!
Hostels can book up quickly in Europe, so if you are backpacking through Europe with the plan of ‘booking as you go’ during the high season, it’s usually not a bad idea to consider camping here or there. Many European cities have a campground in the outskirts, so your backpacking in Europe packing list may include some of these items.
- A lightweight tent weighing 2-3 pounds.
- Thin sleeping bag for summer nights.
- An inflatable travel pillow to help you stay comfortable if you’re sleeping on the ground.
- Reusable cutlery and plates. They are great for camping, but also useful for eating on the go elsewhere.
These basic items will have you prepared to spend a few nights at the campground if need be. Many European adventures involve mountains, biking, or long trails, so if your style of adventuring includes the great outdoors, keep your basic camping items on hand.
Be forewarned: when you are backpacking through Europe, electronics are a hot commodity on your packing list and will target you for theft when visible. That’s why we have them on our list as ‘optional items.’ Here are some things you may still choose to have on hand for communication and your own convenience.
- Laptop or tablet
- Digital camera
- Portable MP3 player
Keep all electronics stowed safely at all times and be aware of your surroundings before taking out your valuables in public. If you must bring electronics with you, be mindful about when you use them.
Other Travel Comfort Items
Backpacking in Europe means your packing list is lightweight, but make sure you are selective and bring a few comfort items with you for the trip. Having an extra travel pillow on hand may be worth the extra weight and packing space if it means you’ll get a good night’s rest on the flight or at your budget hostel. Here are a few items to squeeze into the final crevices of your backpack.
- A great neck pillow to ease the aches and pains of air travel and pad hard mattresses.
- Pack a cozy travel blanket for the evening, just in case you get chilly on the beach or rooftop patio.
- Attach a yoga mat to your backpack, which can serve as an extra sleeping pad or to pull out and exercise when you need a stretch.
Let this list be your ultimate guide for your next European journey. At Cabeau, we have a wide variety of items that can help tailor your backpacking through Europe packing list to your specific trip. From award-winning travel pillows to great comfort accessories for the journey, let us help make sure you are backpacking through Europe in style. Shop Cabeau today to begin checking items off your backpacking in Europe packing list.