Backpacking Europe: The Master List of Things to Bring

Jun 7, 2004

The Bottom Line Pack what is necessary and what you know that you will absolutely need.

Every time I go on a trip to Europe, people usually ask me what the heck they need to pack so that they don't have an excess of luggage. I guess that the answer to that question depends as much on how comfortable you are taking what you need with you as on what you really do need. For the most part, the necessities that are listed below are pretty self-explanatory, but I do believe that one of the bits of advice that I can give is that I always budget the space in my backpack and I always fold things into small and flexible bundles so that I don't lose them and so that they are much more easier to find.

As far as bags go, I would recommend anyone of the five JanSport bags that I have reviewed on this website so far. Any one of them would do excellent service both as a carryon and as the storage space for all of the things that you will need to take with you on the trip. If capacity is a problem then I recommend the JanSport Mozambique which will easily fit all of those extra things that you will need for your trip.

Remember that the necessities are usually the things that you will need to pack no matter what kind of weather you find yourself in. Sometimes, it is best if you check up on the weather approximately a week before you begin your travels so that you are aware of what the weather conditions will be like in the particular place that you will be going to.

Be aware too to keep your stuff with you at all times and to never let it out of your sight. Not even for one moment. The main reason that I say this is that in Europe there are tons of people who will pick your pockets. It's best if you have your stuff with you or if you place it in a secure place like a hotel/hostel locker.

Finally, remember that you don't pack way too much. Just take what is absolutely necessary and leave enough room for the souvenirs and other items that you will be bringing back with you.

Here is a list of necessities that you may find helpful.


Cold Climates

1.) 1 Warm Jacket that you will usually wear when you go out. If you're not going to use it much then check if it will fit in your bag.

2.) At least 2 pairs of pants that you know you will use when you pack for your trip. I highly recommend khakis or other pants that are made of similar material that will keep you warm.

3.) 1 pair of comfortable shorts for when it gets warm.

4.) A heavy pair or two of socks that are made of wool or a similar material for very extreme weather conditions.

5.) 2-4 Pair of long socks that are suitable for mild temperatures.

6.) 3-5 Pair of underwear is a smart amount for short trips (around 3 weeks), but if you know that you are going to be gone longer then double that.

7.) 1 Set of long underwear that is divided into separate pieces (top and bottom). The material that packs best is silk, but if it's too pricey then get a similar material.

8.) 2-4 Long Sleeve Shirts and at least one sweater.

9.) 2-4 Undershirts (Layers, Layers, Layers)

Warm Climates

1.) 2-4 Pairs of shorts that are weigh little and are comfortable for walking in. Remember that cotton stinks if it gets wet.

2.) 1 Pair of zip-off pants (you zip off the bottom). These are good for occasional cold weather or a visit to a church.

3.) 3-5 T-shirts that are made of light/weightless fabrics and nice light colors. Not white because it stains easily.

4.) 3-5 Pairs of light socks. Don't worry about the amount that you pack because these are the easiest items to wash by hand.

5.) 3-5 Pairs of underwear that are lightweight and easily washable.

6.) 1 Pair of slip on sandals for beach going and showering.

7.) 1 or 2 long-sleeve shirts that are button-up fronts. The sleeves are can be rolled if it is really warm.

Miscellaneous Stuff that you might want to take with you in either weather situation:

Toiletries- Such things as Tylenol, Mylanta, Pepto Bismal, Shampoo, Soap, Toothbrush, Razor, etc.

Sunglasses- Items that I never leave without because they are extremely for warm weather or being out in the mountains.

Extra Glasses/Contacts- Bring an extra pair in case you lose/break them.

Hostel Sleep Sheet- Useful if you're hostelling, bring it if you have the space, but if not you can rent them at each hostel.

Combination Lock- Extremely useful for lockers at hostels/hotels.

Inflatable Neck Rest- For when you have trouble sleeping in tight places.

Pair of boots- A pair of nice hiking boots works really well if you're out in the mountains somewhere. The strongest and most durable pairs are usually the best although they can be expensive.

Multi-function knife- A Swiss Army knife will work, but there are plenty of others available. Remember that if you are going to be living out of cans or doing something else that requires a knife then get one.

Film - I don't really recommend that you bring it, but I suggest that you do the research on the particular place you are going before you start packing.

Money Belt- There are two kinds. The first is the one you wear around your neck or waist, and it holds cash, passports, etc. The second kind is an actual belt that you can use for packing the same materials.

Film Protector - a Sima film protector will help protect your film from a lot of harmful things including the rays of the sun.

Extra batteries - I usually don't have trouble finding extra batteries, but it's not a bad idea to pack a few extra just in case.

Small flashlight - reading in the dark or just for extra light.

Compass - something small so when you are looking at a map of Paris and wondering where in the world you are, you'll at least know which direction the Eiffel Tower is sticking up in the distance.

Binoculars - a small pocket pair is nice for sight seeing. Remember that the bigger ones are heavier.

Laundry Kit - for washing clothes in your sink. This consists of a clothes line, a few clothes pins or clips and some liquid soap.

Bio suds or Woolite Laundry Detergent

Travel Iron - important for clothes that don't fold out right.

Clothes Steamer - there are people who think these things are great. But I have never used one although I have heard that they are highly recommended for your clothes.

Travel Guide - Let's Go, Frommers, Rick Steves, Berkeley Guides, Rough Guides, and Michelin Guides. Always take one or more of these when you're going somewhere and you need the information.

Travel Alarm Clock - so you won't miss your early morning trains!

Umbrella - compact folding style.

Plastic Poncho - These are available in a lightweight pocket size.

Day Pack - small nylon shoulder bag or a small pack for your day walks. Most of our backpacks have a zip-off daypack. It's a good place to store your smaller items.

Belly Pack - for loose change & small items. It is sometimes preferable to a daypack.

Sewing Kit - to fix tears.

Band-Aids - or a small first aid kit.

Moleskin for blisters.


Headache medicine

Insect Repellent - yes, there are lots of mosquitoes in Europe!


Feminine Hygiene

Foot Powder or spray

Ditty Bags in colors or See-Thru Bags-for organizing loose change, plug adapters, and other miscellaneous odds and ends.

Large Freezer Bags - for wet clothes.

Rubber bands, safety pins, etc.

Prescription Glasses & Sun Glasses - hard plastic eyeglass

Bar of Soap & Soap Holder or Caddy

Shampoo and/or Conditioner

Shower shoes - for communal showers.

Razor - many electric razors come with a 110/220 volt
switch for travel.

Toothbrush with Cover and Toothpaste

Dental Floss


Swim Suit with plastic bag.

Sun Block

Comb or Hair Brush, hair ties

Travel Hair Dryer

Plug Adapters - for each country you will visit.

Power Converter - for 220 volt electricity.

Wash Cloth & Hand Towel - to clean up in your sink if the bathroom is busy. The C70 Travel Towel is great for this purpose.

Toilet Seat Covers - if you're using community rest rooms these are a great comfort!

Kitchen Supplies - can opener (micro size), cork screw for wine, fork, spoon, and cup.

Menu guide - for translating items on the menu.

Instant Coffee, cup, spoon, and submersion heater.

Small Knife - for cutting cheese and bread.

Ear Plugs and Eye Mask - if you have trouble sleeping on planes or trains or in noisy hotels.

Sleep sack for Youth Hostels - you can buy one or rent them from the hostels. If you're staying a while, buy one. For a ten day trip, just rent one.

Medication - see your Doctor for some anti-diarrhea medicine just in case something goes wrong.

Water bottle - to have something to drink while walking the streets and seeing the sites.

Water Purifier or Tablets - for certain areas.

Small Flash Light- mini mag or similar light for use on trips to the bathroom.

Money Belt, Ankle Stash, Belt Stash, or Around the Neck

Stash - for your valuables.

Traveler's checks - American Express replaces your checks if lost or stolen, just have the check numbers available. Also copies of the receipts are important.

Personal Checks - a few personal checks are nice if you have American Express since you can cash them at their offices worldwide.

Drivers License and International Drivers License - the
International license can be obtained at most Automobile Club offices here at home (if you are planning to drive).

Address and Phone List - for postcards or letters.

Note pad and Pen - I usually keep a diary while traveling
where I make all sorts of notes.

Journal - if you like to keep a running diary of your journey.

Photos from home - of your house and family for those long conversations on the train or plane.

Paperback Novel - for when you are waiting in airports or just need some distraction.

Thanks for reading!

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