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!
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.)
- Lightweight sneakers
- My Teva Verra walking sandals
- 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!
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:
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
- 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
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
- Mini brush
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.
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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