Travel - Europe

Packing List for Backpacking in Europe

packing for europe

I only traveled through Europe for about a month, but I think these tips can help anyone backpacking across Europe for any given time. Because, realistically you want the least amount of clothes to last you a week or more. So even if you’re traveling there for just a week or so you’ll still want a light load on your back! For those of you that will be backpacking longer than a week, that just means you may do quite a bit of washing (but don’t worry, I have a few cheats for that as well).

The perfect idea is to get the most wear out of your outfits, for the least amount of times you need to wash them. This means, you need many versatile items to mix and match for your outfits.

Before traveling to Europe I did a TON of research about what to pack, what not to pack, how to pack, etc. I scanned multiple blogs and sites to make sure I was packing just enough! I tend to be a bittt of an over-packer and I did not want my back to suffer for my packing problems. Now I will be able to give you my advice as well as a lot of the research I did to spare you the countless hours it takes to find the perfect packing list.

To start off with, here is MY packing list that I used for my trip:

Toiletries:

  • Small foldable hairbrush (it broke on my last day abroad so I pictured my regular brush here)
  • Sunscreen
  • Deodorant
  • Small lotion bottle (remember everything has to be under 3.4 ounces if you’re bringing your backpack as a carry-on)
  • Chapstick
  • Very basic make-up products
  • Small bottle of perfume
  • Two packages of contacts, case, and small bottle of solution
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Travel-sized shampoo bottles, conditioner bottle, body wash, and soap
  • Razor
  • One pair of earrings
  • Ear plugs (SO happy I brought these since the friend I went with was a bit of a snorer)
  • Floss sticks
  • Glasses and case
  • Travel-sized toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Small medical kit with bandaids, alcohol swabs, etc.
  • Small bottle of Ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea pills, and allergy pills (these are a good idea to bring for those just-in-case moments)
  • Melatonin pills for sleeping on the long plane rides

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Clothes:

  • 1 pair of skinny jeans
  • 1 pair of jean shorts
  • 1 pair of striped dressier shorts
  • 1 pair of Nike shorts
  • 2 sleeve-less dresses
  • 1 skirt
  • 1 neutral colored cardigan; to wear with everything
  • 1 dressier tank top
  • 1 t-shirt
  • 2 nicer shirts (black and white); pocket-tees from Target
  • 1 pair of stretchy yoga pants
  • 1 fashion belt
  • 1 bathing suit
  • 2 bras
  • 1 pair of thicker socks; didn’t expect to be wearing socks unless my feet got chilly in some of the hostels
  • 3 pair of ‘boy-shorts’ underwear; I like wearing these to bed but didn’t want to take up too much space with a week’s worth of these plus other underwear
  • A week’s worth of underwear plus two extras; I brought all thongs since they’re easier to pack a lot of

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Shoes:

  • Chaco’s Sports Sandals; gave me some grrreat tan lines but perfect for walking around in the warmer countries (You may also want to note that NO Europeans wear these, or any sports sandals for that matter. So if you’re trying to fit in, maybe find another option that’s a bit more European.)
  • Nicer pair of sandals; for going out or to wear with some dresses. I suggest finding a comfy pair though because these were rough to walk around in when I wore them during the day for sightseeing.
  • TOMS; perfect for walking around in the cooler countries. The TOMS I actually brought to Europe I had to toss before coming back home because they were worn out! They were also a thinner pair so I suggest a flannel top fabric more a bit more warmth.
  • I did NOT bring tennis shoes. First of all, I would have only had ONE pair of pants to wear them with and those were my yoga pants (I wouldn’t be caught dead in tennis shoes and skinny jeans). Plus I didn’t have an extremely light pair to bring so they would have taken up a lot of precious space in my backpack. I just used my Chaco’s to walk around in.  Note however, I did end up having to buy a warmer pair of shoes once I got to Amsterdam because I couldn’t stand walking around in the cold any longer. A thicker pair of TOMS might have done the trick but I wouldn’t know.

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The REALLY important stuff:

  • Passport!
  • Credit & Debit cards
  • Driver’s license; in case the passport doesn’t prove enough
  • RAIL PASS. Aka my savior. Hardly had to pay for any train rides with this bad boy
  • Kindle (or physical book, but I didn’t want to take up that much space in my pack)
  • Journal & pen; because hey, you may become famous for your travel writings one day

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The other fairly important stuff:

  • Headlamp; most camping hostels don’t have lights in their tents but also you may want this when you get up to go to the bathroom so you don’t wake up some random roomies you’re staying with
  • Camelbak
  • Sunglasses
  • Headphones
  • Hat
  • Purse; preferably one that you can tighten to be very close to your body (just in case)
  • Extra flashlight
  • Phone chargers (2)
  • UP by Jawbone & charging accessories; AWESOME wristband that allowed me to track my steps and sleep on my journey! During a mountain hike in Innsbruck, I had taken over 29,000 steps!! The recommended amount per day is 10,000 steps.
  • Big lock; used only once for a locker in our hostel in Germany
  • Small locks with keys; to put on my backpack on plane and train rides (from REI)
  • Camera & battery charger
  • Money belt; I NEVER used this and found having my purse tight against my body worked just fine (just be aware of your surroundings). I did, however, store my passport, cards, and id in here on train rides though. I bought a nice, soft, sweat-wicking one for a decent price at REI.
  • Bandana
  • Birth control; or some other contraceptives unless you’d like a European baby 🙂
  • Blow-up neck pillow; A blow-up pillow takes up MUCH less space than a stuffed pillow. I also found it just as comfy and you can adjust the air to make it fluffier or harder. I got mine at REI.
  • Phone case with extra battery pack
  • Water bottle
  • Laundry soap pouches; I highly suggest putting these in small plastic bags so they don’t erupt in your backpack. I also only brought about six of these total since I knew I wouldn’t be doing a ton of laundry.
  • Small Outlet Converter; I got a tiny one for cheap at REI and it worked perfectly.

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And other essential items:

  • A large ‘backpacking’ backpack! This one, I hope, is obvious. I got mine from REI and LOVE it
  • A smaller ‘day-pack’ for trips during the, you guessed it, DAY! My backpack actually came with a zip-off day-pack! I HIGHLY suggest finding a backpack that has this feature. Great for plane & train rides to keep stuff handy for long trips.
  • A towel (preferably thin to dry quickly). I bought an XL travel towel at REI and it’s the most amazing thing I’ve ever seen. It just wicks away all the water on your body without even getting damp; it’s like magic!
  • A rain jacket because unfortunately, it rains everywhere. A light breathable one is best for warmer climates.
  • Another light jacket, in case the nights are a bit chilly.

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Think I forgot anything? Comment suggestions for others or stories below! 🙂

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41 thoughts on “Packing List for Backpacking in Europe

  1. This is so helpful, thanks so much! I’ve never been to Europe, traveling in May for five weeks. Also an extreme over-packer, so this will be challenging. Thankful that I found this! Thanks!

    1. No problem!! I’m glad you found the information useful! Please let me know if you have any other questions about packing or Europe! You’ll have a great time 🙂 Thanks for reading!

  2. This is one of the most helpful packing lists that I have found, thank you! Wondering, how big was the backpack that you brought? I have one that is 35L that I hope to bring as a carry-on, but I don’t know if it is big enough.

    1. You’re welcome!! I’m so glad it has helped you!! Mine was about 50L I believe. I would suggest getting a lot of compression sacks to put your clothes and bulky things in to help save on size! I would also definitely do a trial-run (or pack in this case) just to make sure everything you would want to bring will fit!

  3. 😂😂😂 wish I had thought the contraceptive part through!! I now have a 1 month old British baby boy!!!

  4. Did you take your 50L backpack as carry-on or did you check it? Also, what would you do differently shoe wise? I always wear out my shoes so bad traveling!

    Great detailed article! Thanks!

    1. My backpack fit as a carry-on! I suggest using it as a carry-on just in case your luggage gets lost or misplaced! I always worried about that.

      Shoe-wise I would invest in some heavy-duty pricey shoes, such as Chaco’s or even trail-running shoes like Salomon or Merrell shoes! A bit expensive but definitely worth it and hold up well!

      Hope all of this helps!

  5. Thank you so much, this helped me immensely! I was just wondering how you went about booking all of your hostels? I will be traveling for a month so I want to be organized and pre-booked.

    Thanks again! 🙂

    1. I’m so glad I was able to help you!! So, I booked the first half of my hostels for the trip before leaving. This way I had room in my schedule to stay an extra day somewhere if I wanted. I booked the second half of my hostels while I was in Europe, just using the free wifi in the room. To book the first half of my trip I scanned through a few different hostel websites and read the reviews to figure out where I wanted to stay. These websites were: hostelworld.com; couchsurfing.com; hostels.com; and hostelbookers.com. I also asked some friends who had previously been to Europe of the hostels they stayed in!

      I could give you a list of the hostels I stayed in, if you would like!

      1. Alright, I will for sure look into all of those websites. Thank you!

        Sure, I would love to see the list of the ones you stayed in!

      2. I would love a list of the hostels you stayed in! my friends and I are traveling for a month starting june 22 but we want to start planning it out now

    2. Darby, if you check out my most recent post you will see all my hostel tips and all the hostels I stayed in on my trip to Europe!! Sorry it took so long, hope it helps 🙂

  6. I’ve backpacked through Europe and Asia with my daughters, and my suggestion is to add a Swiss Army knife. In Europe, you’ll want it for cheese, and in Asia, you need it for fruit. Nothing beats fresh golden mangos from an Asian market when food isn’t readily available. Another suggestion is to look for hotels/hostels near public transportation. Then, study and print maps from Google so you can exit a train station, subway, etc. and know where you’re heading. When you exit the station, oftentimes, there are many exits, and it’s easy to get turned around. Sometimes, cheap hostels aren’t in the best part of town, and you’ll need to look confident. Not everyone speaks English, as I learned when we arrived in Prague at dusk. Having maps printed and in a folder is a lifesaver. Be sure you get your Eurorail pass before you leave, and once you get to Europe, go to the train station and reserve your seats. This is also something you can plan and print so you know what train and can follow along as you pass stations. It helps you feel confident you’re heading in the right direction. Just some suggestions!

    1. Thanks for all of those helpful suggestions Bev!! I never thought of bringing a Swiss Army knife! Such a good idea!

      I also forgot to mention staying closer to public transportation; another awesome tip because the streets and maps can be very confusing at first glance! Confidence is definitely key traveling through foreign cities! I even ‘screen-shot’ pictures of the maps on my phone (while connected to wifi) so I could glance at those instead of pulling out a full map.

      Thanks again Bev! I hope all of your travels have been awesome 🙂

  7. It’s best to have good walking/hiking shoes in Europe. Also, better to dress like the “natives” & avoid sticking out like a foreigner sadly making yourself a target for the bad guys. A coat with inner pockets (like a Barbour) is a great for holding money, passports & other important paperwork without being noticeable.

  8. Hi! I’m leaving to backpack Europe for 6 weeks in May and I was just wondering what time of year you travelled- I’m trying to get a good estimate on how cold some northern spots are going to be and how to accommodate that in my packing, and you mentioned Amsterdam being very cold. Also- what shoes did you wear in the rain!! I’m thinking about getting TOMS for the trip, but I heard those are awful in the rain, and I can’t imagine sandals being warm enough when its raining.

    Thanks!

    1. Hi Mar! I traveled through Europe for the full month of June and part of July. I was extremely surprised that Germany and Amsterdam were chilly as these are summer months to me. I would definitely try to check out the weather there before leaving but you may want to bring some warm clothes just in case. Or worst case, buy some while you’re over there! This might be the best option if you are starting in the southern countries, that way your pack is lighter until it gets chillier!

      I wore my Chaco’s sandals in the rain which were fine in the warmer climates, but were chilly in the northern countries! I bought a pair of sneakers while I was there because my TOMS were not warm enough but also, not good in the rain!

      Hope all this helps! Let me know if you have any other questions! Otherwise, enjoy your trip!!

      1. Perfect- thank you so much!

        Also- you packed a camera, yes? What kind of camera do you have/did you feel using a smartphone was enough?

        I’m currently in the depths of researching if a smartphone is enough of a camera while traveling. I’m going with my boyfriend and I want some shots of the two of us, so honestly one of my bigger concerns is handing my iPhone over to people haha- especially as that would be awful to lose while I’m over there! But that’s also keeping me from wanting to spend a ton of money on a camera. Thoughts?

      2. Of course! I had a camera, yes! I had my iPhone but also a Nikon Coolpix digital camera. I used both fairly often but felt like my iPhone pictures were a little better so I really only used the camera for simple pictures to remember each place (instead of artsy photos). Although it was nice to have a back-up in case my phone died. I had no problems with having people take my photo but you never know! Have you considered getting one of those “selfie sticks” so that you can have pictures of you and your boyfriend without having to hand over your phone? Hope this helps!

  9. Hi! I was just wondering a few things. I am leaving in May for a 30 day 8 country tour, and I want to be as informed at possible.
    1. What did you do for your phone? Did you purchase an international plan or rely on wifi?
    2. Do you wish you had packed more casual or more dressy clothes?
    3. I noticed you didn’t bring any styling tools. What did you do instead?

    Thank you so much!

    1. Hi Amelia! How fun! I’m sure you will have a blast!
      So, I brought my regular cell phone and just relayed on wifi. All of the hostels had free wifi as well as a lot of restaurants and coffee shops! Up to what you think you’ll need. I usually just text a few people and Skyped my boyfriend so I didn’t need a full international plan. I felt as though I had the appropriate amount of casual versus dressy clothes. I was able to switch around my dressier clothes to make different outfits. I was doing more outdoorsy type of activities so I knew that I wouldn’t need a lot of dressy clothes. And I actually didn’t style my hair at all! I let it air-dry. It was long enough at the time where it would dry fairly wavy, although a bit frizzy. I bought some styling product along the way but for the most part just let it do whatever! I’m sure other people’s hair is different but I was lucky enough that my hair isn’t too crazy when it air-dries.

      I hope all of this helps!! Have a blast on your trip!

  10. More questions (lol sorry)
    4. Did all of your liquids fit in your 1 quart sized bag for the carry on? Or did you buy some things (like the laundry packets) while there?
    5. How often did you do laundry? In your hostel or in a laundromat?
    6. What kind of adapter/converter did you use?
    7. Which backpack did you buy exactly? Or at minimum what are the size specifications?

    I apologize. I am a bit of a planner 🙂 thank you so much!

    1. Haha no apologies necessary! I’m glad I can provide some information!
      So, I did not buy anything (toiletries at least) while I was there. I bought all travel-sized items and they all fit within my bag. I had no problems getting through security at the airport. I also did laundry about once a week, maybe a little longer. I always did it within the hostels I was staying at because it was much cheaper that way. I even sometimes hung my clothing to dry if it was warm out in order to save some more money. I used a small American to European adapter from REI. It just plugs into the European outlet and I then plugged my cords into the other side. I would recommend finding one of these small ones in a sporting-goods store or online. They have huge ones which I wouldn’t suggest unless you plan on traveling to a lot of other countries. And my backpack was an internal frame structure and I believe was 50L and it fit as a carry-on. Maybe check the airline you will be flying on to make sure your’s will fit, but you should be fine. I would highly recommend going to a sporting-goods store like REI, because they will “fit” you to a backpack. They will let you walk around with weights in your bag too to test out how it feels. It’s so great and helpful!

      Also, check out my other blog post if you haven’t already. I put some packing tips on there as well as the interchangeable outfits I wore while I was there!

      I hope all of that helps! And feel free to ask any other questions you have! I completely understand about being a planner; I was the same way before I left!!

  11. Wow thanks!! This is great! I’m going in May for a month, one question. What is the RAIL pass and how does it work and how much?

    1. You’re welcome! Glad it was so helpful!! So the Rail pass is a pass used to get around by train throughout all of Europe. You can buy different passes depending on where you want to go/how long you’ll be there/how often you’ll travel. Their website: http://www.eurail.com/eurail-passes really explains things better and shows all of the different prices and what would be the best fit for you! Apparently right now they are having a deal for free travel days with the purchase of a Eurail pass! Hope this helps!

    1. I borrowed my boyfriend’s Kindle to take over there but maybe read a total of three times while I was there. I enjoy reading before going to sleep, but was often too tired from the long day of walking or exploring to actually read. In quite a few of the hostels I stayed at, they had books there that you could borrow and read! Most were in a different language which would make things challenging but at least you have that option! Or just finding a book store 🙂 If you don’t think you’ll actually read much, I might save the space in your bag for other things! That way, it also forces you to make more friends and be more social (which was a good thing for me!).

  12. Hi! I am currently planning a backpacking trip across Europe and was wondering how you traveled by train for free?? I am looking at rail passes now and they are not cheap. Thanks!!

    1. Hi Alexa! I wish I was able to travel by train for free! I had to buy my RailPass before my trip, which was about $200 at that time and then I didn’t have to pay for hardly any train rides after that because I showed my RailPass. My longer over-night trip from Munich, Germany to the Netherlands I had to pay a little bit on top of the RailPass because it was a longer journey. But all of my day trips and trips across the countries were free with the RailPass. I’m sure the RailPass prices have gone up over the years by now though 😦

      I would recommend calculating current train prices to get to the places you’re wanting to go, and comparing that to a RailPass. That’s what I did, and it ended up being much cheaper for me to travel with the RailPass than just paying for each train ticket. Hope this helps!!

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