For most, doing any backpacking trip anywhere in the world will require a fair amount of travel between multiple cities. Especially if you are doing a lot of this travel by train, hauling around a suitcase is simply not practical (or easy). For these reasons, it is often recommended that you take a single backpack for your Europe trip. But what should you pack? What if you’re visiting for several weeks?
In this guide, I’m going to give you my top packing tips for a backpacking!
I am so excited to have Paul on the blog today sharing his backpacking trip tips with us! If you’re a seasoned backpacker or a newbie, these tips will sure be helpful to you! – Shelly
Make Sure You Have a Good Backpack
Most importantly, you need to have a good backpack! You may be walking around quite a bit with your backpack on depending on your itinerary so you want your pack to be sturdy yet light. If you search online, you will find varying numbers for optimal weight. However, I think the number really depends on you, your level of fitness and how much you think you’ll be walking with it on your back.
My advice is to purchase something with good reviews, pack it up with everything you think you’ll need and then walk around your local town for a couple of hours to see how it feels. If it feels too heavy and you’ve packed the absolute minimum, then you may need to try purchasing another backpack.
Besides the size, another important consideration is where the zipper for the main compartment is located. I did not think about this when I purchased my first backpack which was a big mistake. You want the zipper to be on the side of the backpack rather than the top. Mine was on the top making it very difficult to find things without pulling everything out! Having the zipper one the side also makes it much, much easier to pack things and take advantage of every ounce of space your backpack offers.
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Purchase Packing Cubes
Packing cubes are small, zip-up bags that you can use to organize your clothes within your backpack. These can be very convenient when backpacking as they allow you to pack more things in less space by keeping everything compartmentalized.
Also, a good packing cube will have multiple zippers on it. One zipper is to access the inside of the bag where you’ll pack your things. The other zipper lets you expand and compress the bag. With this zipper, you can expand it to pack more things in the cube and then zip it closed to compress everything so it takes up less space in your backpack.
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Maximise Space in Your Pack
I have two tips to make the most of your space. The first is to roll your clothes rather than folding them. Doing so creates more space throughout your pack while also making it easier to find things. My second tip is to use every available nook and cranny in your backpack. Put your socks in your shoes, and then if there’s still space in your shoes, put some toiletries in there. Use every bit of space in your packing cubes in the same way.
What You Should Actually Pack
Your backpack should be large enough to carry enough clothes for one week of travel. You can stretch this out further, but you should have enough for a week at the very least. If you packed everything and you aren’t reaching that week minimum, you need to unpack everything, consider the size of what’s in there, and try again until you can make it through a week.
So What Do You Actually Need To Bring With You?
The biggest thing to remember here is that you are visiting to experience new cultures, not to make a fashion statement. Starting with shirts, you’ll want to bring a mix of t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts and 1-2 polos or dresses. Since you’re packing for function, you can plan to use each shirt at least twice before it needs to be cleaned.
As far as pants are concerned, they can go longer without be cleaned so you really only need 2-3 pairs. You should bring at least one pair of slacks and one pair of nice jeans (slacks take up a little less space and are more fashionable in much of Europe than jeans). Anything more than that depends on the weather. If you’re traveling in summer, one pair of shorts should suffice.
Then, you need consider shoes. Generally, two pairs of shoes should be enough. One casual pair of sneakers for walking and then one nicer pair of shoes for going out to eat or to see a show in the evening.
Finally, a light jacket with a hood will be helpful, especially if you visit a country like England or Ireland where rain is common. I also like to bring a hoodie for the evenings when it gets cooler, but this can be optional depending on your preferences.
This is where it can get a little tricky to pack. The first thing to consider is if you’re going somewhere where there will be cold weather. To save space, bring one smaller coat and then plan to wear layers rather than bringing one large coat.
If you’re going to be doing any running or hiking, bring as little as possible. Unless you’re going to be doing any intense hiking, you should be able to wear the same pair of sneakers to run, hike and sightsee. You may want to consider buying a new pair, though, so that they have good treads for hiking.
Additionally, you should be able to get by with just one pair of shorts for running and possibly even hiking. If it’s going to be cold when you’re hiking, then one pair of thin hiking pants should be enough. Lastly, one or two athletic shirts will also likely be all that you need. Just remember to hang them up afterwards to air dry since you may be wearing these multiple times before getting cleaned.
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One way to reduce how much you have to bring is to be mindful of your toiletries. Definite items to bring are one deodorant, one toothbrush, one travel-sized floss, one travel-sized contact solution, one hand sanitizer, one travel-sized toothpaste, medications and makeup. If you need more of any of these items during your trip, you can purchase them at a local pharmacy.
After reading that, you may be wondering, “What about soap and shampoo?” That’s a very good question. You should check all of the places you’ll be staying ahead of time to ask them if they provide these items. On our most recent trip to Ireland, we never stayed anywhere that did not provide these things. However, when we visited England and France a few years ago it was hit-or-miss. Some places had certain things, others didn’t.
The point is, if you know which places supply these items, then you can plan to only bring enough for what you will need. It doesn’t save a ton of space but every little bit helps!
Things To Consider Bringing
There are four things I recommend bringing with you besides clothes for your backpacking trip.
First, research the countries you’ll be visiting to find out which type of electrical plugs they use. You’ll find five different types of plugs throughout Europe and America uses a different type from all five of those. Needlessly confusing? You bet! Important to know? Definitely! If you don’t purchase the right adapter, your iPhone is not going to be very helpful on your trip.
Second, a small bag for your dirty clothes can be helpful to keep these separate from your clean items. If your backpack has a separate, smaller compartment from the main one, you can use this, too. Just be aware that using a side compartment might make your pack feel lopsided and uncomfortable when carrying it.
Third, especially if you will be doing any hiking, you should consider a small first aid kit. You don’t need to have a lot in it, but there are some basics to have in case of an emergency until you can seek medical care. The things I would recommend are bandages, gauze, alcohol, disinfectant, aspirin and some ACE wrap.
Fourth, if you wear glasses, bring an extra pair in case something happens to one of them. This last one is a bit of a personal issue for me. A year ago, I was hiking in the mountains, slipped on ice and broke my only pair of glasses. I had to walk around the rest of the trip with tape all over my glasses to keep them together. Unless you like the idea of looking like Steve Urkel on your trip, bring an extra pair!
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My Final Tip
If you are going to on a backpacking trip for more than 1-2 weeks, there is no way you can pack enough in a single backpack. For a longer trip, research where you’ll be after a week or so to see if there’s either laundry services at the place you are staying or else a local laundromat that can do your clothes while you’re sightseeing for the day.
There you have it! Those are all of my tips and recommendations for how to pack for a backpacking trip in Europe. If you have any other suggestions or want to know more about anything, please leave a comment!
sounds like great advice, I’ve never gone on a backpacking trip, but it can apply to most any travel when wanting to pack lightly
Paul (Paul Explores the World) says
Definitely! These strategies have helped me become a more efficient packer whether it’s a backpacking trip or using an actual suitcase. It also helps to save money at the airport if you can avoid using a big checked bag.
Packing cubes = game changer. Great tips
Paul (Paul Explores the World) says
You wouldn’t think that something so simple would be so helpful. Thanks!
JoJo Hall says
Awesome advice and tips for backpacking! Having the right backpack is important and packing cubes are a game changer!! I love packing athleisure clothing and general things that are versatile for almost any occasion.