Packing List: What to Pack for Backpacking Around Europe

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For two consecutive summers, I backpacked around Europe. I stayed in hostels, traveled by train and bus, and yes, carried everything I had with me on my back.

On my first trip, I traveled for 8 weeks across 11 different countries in Eastern, Central, and Northern Europe. On my second trip, I traveled for nearly 3 months in Western and Central Europe.

Below you can see everything I took with me, and learn what I needed and what I could have done without!

What to pack for backpacking around Europe (in summer)

In my backpack

The bag: On my first backpacking trip, I traveled with a 60L full-zip REI backpack. For my second trip, I decided to go a little smaller and used a 44L Kelty Redwing, which is made specifically to fit women. I really loved this backpack, and highly recommend it for backpacking in Europe!

You'll see in the below photos that I'm a big fan of packing cubes; they really help to organize your bag!

Europe Packing List

Clothing

I'm admittedly not a minimalist packer – I generally tend to pack enough clothing to last at least 7-10 days, and then do laundry along the way. Here's what I recommend for a summer in Europe:

  • 3 pairs of shorts
  • 2 skirts
  • 2 dresses
  • 1 pair of leggings
  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 3 t-shirts
  • 5 tank tops
  • 1 light sweater
  • 1 set of sleepwear
  • 1 swim suit
  • 4 pairs of socks
  • 3 bras
  • A week's worth of underwear (I love these ExOfficio ones!)
  • 1 scarf (this Speakeasy scarf served double duty, as it also has a hidden pocket!)

If you'll be visiting the UK or Scandinavia on your trip, I also recommend packing a raincoat! (This Columbia Arcadia one is my favorite.)

Isle of Skye

Shoes

Everything else

  • 1 fast-dry travel towel (a MUST if you're staying in hostels!)
  • Toiletries (including sunscreen, shampoo, sanitary products, etc.)
  • Travel hair dryer (this dual-voltage one is perfect for travel)
  • 8 weeks worth of contacts
  • Medicine/mini first aid kit
  • Small umbrella

Sound like a lot? I actually still had some wiggle room! 

Europe Packing List
My REI backpack

I know you might be curious why I recommend taking jeans, a sweater, leggings, and a scarf. Well, even though much of Europe is hot during the summer months, not all of it is! Places like the UK and Norway and anywhere up in the mountains can get chilly even in the summer months.

The leggings and scarf are also handy for instances where you may be visiting churches, monasteries and mosques where you'll have to cover up knees, shoulders, and perhaps even hair for modesty's sake.

Like a Boy Scout, I like to live by a “be prepared” motto. (Also, I don't really like to have to buy anything abroad!)

In my carry-on

I'm a big fan of efficiency when it comes to my carry-on bag. For these specific trips, I wanted something small since the double-turtle look (i.e. when you wear one backpack on your back, and another on your front) is easier with small bags, and I wanted something that would keep my valuables like my laptop and camera safe on travel days.

I went with a small backpack from Pacsafe, who make great theft-proof bags. The bag I had on these Europe backpacking trips was the Pacsafe Citysafe CS350, which is a great small bag. It has a slash-proof exterior and secure zipper clips. It also holds an astonishing amount for its size, yet is still comfortable to carry.

Other theft-proof backpacks to check out include:

Europe Packing List
My Pacsafe backpack

Here's what was inside this bag:

  • My 11″ Macbook Air (*NOTE* this bag will not fit larger laptops)
  • My Kindle
  • Electronics chargers and outlet adapters for Europe
  • A small planner/journal
  • Extra camera lens
  • Headphones
  • My small make-up bag (which has everything from my toothbrush to earrings in it)
  • My glasses
  • My Camelbak water bottle
  • Some business cards (because you never know who you'll meet!)
  • Change purse with back-up funds/credit cards

Europe Packing List

In my purse

Since I don't always like to use my daypack as my handbag, I almost always carry a purse with me, too. On my Europe backpacking trips, I had a bag similar to the Travelon Bucket Bag, which is a cross-body, anti-theft handbag.

Inside I had:

  • My wallet
  • My iPhone
  • My camera (learn about my camera gear here)
  • My action video camera
  • Extra camera battery/lens cloth
  • Sunglasses
  • Mini brush
  • Chapstick

What was I glad to have?

My Teva sandals – I'm not the kind of person who can wear flip-flops nonstop (I really only packed them to wear in hostel showers), so I was super glad to have my Teva walking sandals with me. They still let my feet breathe in hot locations like Croatia and Greece, but also gave my feet enough support for a full day of walking.

A reusable water bottle – I went through a LOT of water in several destinations, and it was nice to not have to buy wasteful bottled water everywhere. Tap water is generally safe to drink in Europe, and many European cities have fountains for filling up water bottles – so there's really no excuse not to travel with one! I love my Camelbak Chute.

Dresses – I would live exclusively in dresses if I could! And they're perfect for most cities in Europe – especially in the summer because they tend to be breathable! IF, however, you're worried about chafing (I'm not nearly as skinny as I was in these photos, and chub rub is REAL, people), I recommend picking up some moisture-wicking Skimmies by Jockey, which help prevent chafing.

Dubrovnik

What else do you need to backpack Europe?

One thing I didn't pack that I should have was a sunhat – I ended up spending way too much money on one in Greece. Sunglasses and sunscreen are good, but they won't protect your scalp from burning! I like this packable sunhat.

You also should definitely pick a good travel insurance policy! That way everything from lost luggage to a bad accident is covered – because you just never know! I recommend World Nomads for basic (and really affordable) travel insurance perfect for backpackers.

What do you think of my list? Is there anything else you'd take to Europe, or anything listed here you'd leave behind?

 

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What to pack for backpacking in Europe

 

"It's a dangerous business, going out your door. You step onto the road, and, if you don't keep your feet, there's no telling where you might get swept off to." - JRR Tolkien

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89 Comments on “Packing List: What to Pack for Backpacking Around Europe

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  1. Business cards are the BEST! I found them super helpful in group travel that instead of having to write down your details a million times, just hand people a card. Plus, most people are super impressed! Love it.

    Have a great time!

      Yup, I don’t travel anywhere without them now! Any time I tell people I’m a travel blogger, they want to know what my site is. So I just hand over a card! SO much easier.

    A really great collection of essentials! How much does the whole package weight? The MacBook Air must have been the best choice for a long travel like yours, because of its small weight.

      I think my bag weighed under 20 pounds, though I can’t remember the exact number. It’s light enough for me to lug around on my back, though, so I suppose that’s all that matters, right? 😉

      And yes, my Macbook Air has been a GREAT purchase so far!

    wow that is quite a long trip…for sure you will have fun! let me know if you happen to be in bavaria, germany…have a safe trip!

      Yup, long trip but I’m sure it will be a blast. I’m sadly not making it to Germany on this trip, however.

    Ditch the hairdryer 🙂

      Haha. I’m sure a lot of people will suggest that. But it’s only little! And I hate going out with wet hair, especially if it’s chilly. It’s really my only vanity item that I packed.

    It seems like a little too much but if you did not fill up the big bag then it is probably not too heavy. I use a 45L and a separate daypack for most of my trips.

    One great way to save weight now is to load electronic guide books onto you kindle or phone.

      Yeah, I can still comfortably lug the bag around, so I suppose I did alright! 🙂

      And yes, ebooks and e-guidebooks are amazing! I have a few on my Kindle and/or Macbook.

    I have gotten really good at packing very little when I leave. I left with 7kg this time. But my backpack is a sneaky one – and on my return it is weighing in at 10kg. I cannot fathom where this extra 3kg came from as I have not purchased anything. It is a mystery! Packing is a personal thing though – I just realized I’m lazy and never want to carry around more than I can carry up 4 flights of stairs without being tired. So I keep it below 8kg always with my carry-on weighing 3kg. Hopefully you’ll do a review when you’re done to determine what you used, didnt use, wish you’d brought, wish you’d left at home, etc!

      Yes, I think I’ll definitely do a follow-up eventually, and assess what I really didn’t use. So far, though, I’ve been using mostly everything!

    I’d throw in a pair of those cheap fold up black flats you can get at Walgreens. I like being able to dress up an outfit. Otherwise good choices! I’m going to come back to this post when I’m packing for Portugal, Austria and Germany for a month in September.

      I considered flats… but didn’t really want to add another pair of shoes that I might only wear once or twice. We’ll see if I regret that later!

    I’m changing it up a bit as well this Europe trip. <3 Let me know how everything works out. I'm a little freaked out at the thought of trying to fit winter clothes into a 40L backpack.

      Haha, yeah, winter clothes are no fun! Though, I did go to Iceland for a week and managed to fit a winter coat AND boots into my 60L backpack, along with everything else I took. It just takes a bit of creative packing! 😉

    You’re gonna be traveling for 8 weeks, wow! Can’t go travel without my gadgets! Have a safe trip and enjoy!

      Yeah, those gadgets are almost essential these days, aren’t they?

    Like your list – looks like you have all the essentials. I would ditch the umbrella and buy a PDF version of the Lonely Planet Guidebook – looking forward to your comments at the end of your trip on how it all works out !

      My umbrella has actually already come in handy, as I don’t have a waterproof coat with me! I would not have had nearly as much fun exploring Eger in the rain yesterday without my little travel umbrella! 🙂

        Ooops I thought ‘windbreaker’ on your list was a waterproof !!

          It’s slightly water-resistant, but definitely not waterproof!

    Having scarves is a must! They do so many things from keeping you warm to sprucing up your outfits for a night out! Have a good trip!!

      I agree! Scarves are fantastic things to take along. And the best part is that they don’t take up much space at all!

    Good one! Just reminded me about umbrella and business cards 🙂 Thanks!

    I was sure you wouldn’t be able to get all of the first picture in your backpack but you sure did! I don’t think I over pack but compared to you, I guess I do. Although if I was going for 8 weeks I’d pack very differently than for 2 weeks. Have a great trip!

      Haha, I had my doubts about fitting it all in, too! But it works, and my pack isn’t stuffed to the point of bursting, which is good!

    I’m sitting here in a hotel room in tulsa on the first night of a five week trip and reading over your list made me realize I left one very important thing at home – a travel towel! Not a big deal in the hotels for work, but the hostels in Nicaragua won’t be as forgiving!

      Oh no! Perhaps you can pick one up somewhere? Mine has already come in handy!

    Hey Amanda, I’m a totally light traveller, I could get by with a 30 litre backback for 6 months. But…. I do travel with a female companion, so I know all about the “be prepared” motto 😉

    I would leave out:

    * 2 pairs of shorts (1 should be enough, especially as you have the skirts etc)
    * The hairdryer – you don’t need it, I’m sure you look lovely whether you’ve dried your hair or not. 😉
    * Umbrella !!
    * Do you really need the Kindle?
    * As someone else suggested, get a PDF or ebook for the Lonely Planet guide

    Apart from that, good job, seems to have all bases covered without any unreasonable excess!

    PS, great choice on the Olympus – packs a lot of technology and image quality in such a small camera.

      The hairdryer is one of those tiny little fold-up ones, and fits nicely into an unoccupied corner of my backpack. I never travel without it… I HATE going anywhere with wet hair! Call me vain, but I just don’t like to do it! The umbrella has already come in handy twice, and I’m actually already really glad I brought it.

      As for the Kindle… yeah, I like to have it, and it takes up basically no room! 😉 And the only reason I have the pocket-sized language guide with me is because it was a gift from my boyfriend. 🙂

      As for the clothes, I probably did overpack, but we shall see!

    Too much lady! I did a few months in Europe with a 45L with no daypack and I still wish I had gone smaller to 35L.

      Haha I’m too much of an over-packer! I could never do such a small backpack… but it’s awesome for those of you who can!

    Just the sound of having to pack for 11 countries is overwhelming, even if many of them will have similar climates. Like you said, I’m sure some of it will end up just having come along for the ride, but I’m like you and always prefer to be prepared.

      Yep, “overwhelming” is a good word to describe packing for this trip! Lol. I’ve never traveled like this before, so it’s an experiment for me, really!

    Amanda, you are packing pro. I love the packing cubes. I have to buy some to organize better my suitcase (I have a carry-on size suitcase that can be converted to a backpack). I like and approve what you are taking. I always take a pair of jeans and a light sweater (even to Central America!!). Last time I visited Europe (in Juy), it was chilly in London and Paris and I had only summer clothes. Ohh, and we have the same Tevas and flip-flops.

      Haha I don’t know about a pro! 😉

      The packing cubes are a MUST. I never go anywhere without them now!

      And my jacket/sweater have already come in handy on this trip – it’s been getting chilly at night here in Romania!

    your packing in cubes is great! and the business cards for new contacts is a great idea! I would ahve to agree with the hairdryer thing – on the other hand you are already out on your adventure so enjoy!

    I just love the idea of packing cubes. Wish I had done something like that during my last fortnights trip to Japan!!! Enjoy your sojourn Amanda:)

      Packing cubes are amazing!! I will never, ever travel without them again.

        If you like the packing cubes you should try the packing folders. I do not travel without them.

          Packing folders?? I’ve never even heard of them! I’ll have to go look them up now for sure.

            Eagle Creek makes them in different sizes. The small one is the ideal size for a backpack. They compress your cloths and keep them wrinkle free and organized.

    Let me share a quote – ““When preparing to travel, lay out all your clothes and all your money. Then take half the clothes and twice the money.” -Susan Heller.

      Great quote, and so apt here! And that’s basically what I did – started with a big pile of stuff, and spent a week or so “editing.”

    You are well organised, well done… I love your packing cubes, need to get some for ourselves to keep things more tidy in the backpack!
    Did you use everything? If you didn’t, what did you find unnecessary so far?

    Happy travelling! 🙂

      The packing cubes are amazing; I will never travel anywhere without them again!

      And yes, so far I have used everything that I brought with me!

    I’m very impressed! I’m currently in Japan for 2 months, and you don’t want to see the amount of luggage I brought.

    Some things I also couldn’t live without: my cute moo.com business cards, my MacBook and wrinkle-free spray.

    Happy travels!

      Haha, I definitely know how difficult it is to pack light! I still suffer from chronic over-packing sometimes…

    Where did you get the packing cubes from?

      I bought mine at REI, which is an outdoor outfitting store. But they are a brand called Eagle Creek, and you can buy them online (and probably at many other outdoor stores), too.

    I love those packing cubes! I absolutely need to get some! I hate having to disturb everything whenever I need something at the bottom of my pack!!

      Packing cubes are AMAZING. I don’t go anywhere without them – I even use them now in suitcases and smaller weekend backpacks!

    What lens do you use for most your photography? It looks so professional for a point and shoot!

      My camera is actually a micro 4/3 camera. I usually just shoot with the lens that came with the camera, though I also have a decent zoom lens I use occasionally, too.

    I meant to ask you dear – how did the Pacsafe bag hold up for you on your trip?!

      My Pacsafe held up incredibly well on my trip! I am in LOVE with it; I think it’s going to travel everywhere with me from now on. Most days, I was using it in lieu of a purse.

    Wow I wish I could pack like you!! Have a great trip!

    Come visit Arizona soon! :))

    Grettings!

      Aww, it’s not really all that hard! You just have to limit yourself and pack less. 🙂

      And I’d love to come back to Arizona sometime soon!

    Hi! So I’m surprised no-one has asked this question yet… Now that the trip is over and you’ve had plenty of time to reflect, is there anything that you wish you had brought? Anything you didn’t use? I’m very curious.
    Thanks,
    Jen

      Honestly, I used everything! But, if I had to choose any items to have left behind, it would have been the little phrasebook and one of the skirts.

      And as for things I wish I would have brought? Another swim suit! I got really tired of only having 1 to wear. But that’s just me being picky, really. I also could have used a heavier layer for Scotland, where it actually got quite chilly. I had to buy a sweatshirt in Edinburgh so I didn’t freeze!

    I’m going to have to agree with a comment above – you are a packing pro! Andy and I are leaving next month for a 3-4 month traveling adventure. We are starting off with a cruise in the Caribbean that will then take us across the Atlantic to end in London. So I am seriously starting to freak out about what to pack! So I will for sure be returning to your list for the help 🙂 And those cubes seem like a great idea!

      Sounds like an amazing trip, Becki! Good luck with packing – I highly recommend picking up some packing cubes!

    Great list, thank you so much for sharing! I’m leaving for a 2 month trip in 2 weeks so I’ll definitely be referring to this when packing?

    Can I ask if you have any tips for coping with carrying a your travel pack and your backpack when moving between locations? I’m concerned about carrying both at the same time.

      Good luck with your own packing challenge!

      As for moving between locations, if you can fit all of your things into your main backpack and a purse/shoulder bag, it will make life a lot easier for you! If, however, you still need a daypack to complement your backpack, pull what is called the “double turtle” when necessary – wear your main pack on your back, and your daypack on your front! You’ll look silly, but it’s the easiest way to transport everything at once.

    The smaller bags that go within your 60L, what brand are they?
    I had a few similar to that and think that’s a brillant idea!

    Isn’t it amazing what you can fit in a small amount of space? I packed for a month in Europe in 19 inches plus a small day backpack. 🙂

    I was wondering about your business cards…. Do you include all of your personal information on them (like home address, home phone number, cell. number)?

    Thanks.

    Claire

      Hey Claire. No, I only include my name, website address, e-mail address, Twitter handle, and Facebook page. Since the cards are just for my blog, I feel like that’s enough.

    […] This list is for the not-so-light packer. She has a checked bag, a carry-on backpack, and a purse. More than I brought, but if you aren’t planning on packing ultra-light, you can check out her list because it might be more similar to what you are thinking about doing. […]

    This list helped me so much! Thank you for sharing this!

    Hi Amanda,
    I love your blog 🙂 The Europe articles and female solo traveller articles have been especially insightful, inspirational and encouraging. Good on you!
    I am planning on a 3 month + Europe trip with bus about, which will also be my longest trip to date. Wondering if you had any information on Australia stockists of the packing cubes? A link etc? Google isn’t proving very productive…
    P.S. Thanks for the list, it will come in handy as a general guide. 🙂

      So glad to hear you’ve been finding my posts helpful! And I’m sure you’re going to love traveling around Europe with Busabout! It’s a great way to spend a summer.

      As for packing cubes in Australia… hmmm. I remember reading a post written by an Aussie about packing cubes, and she got hers here: http://www.kathmandu.com.au/packs-and-bags/packing-solutions/cells.html#!offset=0&p=1. I think you can order online, or if there’s a Kathmandu store in your city, I would suggest popping in to see if they have any in stock!

    I know this was years ago now, but it’d be great to hear what worked for you and what didn’t. I add comments to my Excel packing list each time I get back and I’ve found it so handy.

      I’m fairly good at packing as much as I’ll need/wear. I did get really tired of the same clothes after 2 months, but an easy fix would be to go shopping and add another dress and top to my bag (which I did the following summer when I traveling in Europe for three months). 🙂 I would have maybe taken one nicer pair of sandals with me if I had been going to Italy or France (or any city where you’d want to dress up for a nice meal). But otherwise this list worked really well!

    I agree that we should bring fast-dry travel towel! I experienced not taking shower for 3 days when I was traveling in Northern Europe – cause I forgot to bring it hahahah… I ended up giving up and finally rented a towel in the hostel where I stayed in! LOL!

    Btw, I just published a post about Itinerary, Budget, and Expenses for 2.5 Months Backpacking Trip in Europe, if you would like to read as well:

    https://mishajohanna.com/2017/02/13/backpacking-europe-in-2-5-months-itinerary-budget-and-expenses-solo-female-traveller-from-indonesia/

    Cheers,
    Misha

    What a great list and super helpful for my upcoming Italy & Slovenia trip 🙂 thanks!

      So happy to be able help! I love reading packing lists myself.

    Planning a 3-month trip to Europe this spring/summer and just came across this packing list. I’m a notorious over-packer (which I’ve been actively working on since living in a van?) so packing for this trip is a huge challenge. Thank you so much for sharing this list it’s fantastic and so helpful!

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