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. 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!

    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.

    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

    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!

    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!

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

    […] 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. […]

    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.

    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. 🙂

    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!

    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.

    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!

    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!

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