There’s a general rule for travelers: The lighter you travel, the harder you live.
Backpacking Europe is the ultimate way to travel lightly. Touring an entire country with nothing but what you can carry on your back? You’re about to live pretty hard.
With its history, culture and unparalleled access, Europe is arguably the best place to backpack on Earth.
We’ve broken down what you need into three checklists.
These packing lists aren’t exhaustive, but they do contain everything you’ll absolutely need for your backpacking trip around Europe. Stay safe, be wise and have the trip of a lifetime.
Backpacking Europe Safety Tips
Always tell someone where you’re going
My favorite strategy is to send an email to my parents or a close friend.
Personally, I’ve created an email that automatically sends 30 hours after my departure. It says, “Message me. If you don’t hear from me in two hours, call the police.”
Thankfully, I’ve never had to use it. I cancel it each night when I return to my lodgings and reset it for the next day.
Travel with a partner
I’m not discouraging solo travel! But if you have the option, traveling with a pal is better for safety purposes.
This can be a friend or someone you just met, as long as you trust them. It’s not just for crime purposes. If you fall on a hike and break you leg, having a buddy to help can make a world of difference.
Separate your cash
I divide my cash into four places: My wallet, backpack, jacket and documents bag. This way, even if I get robbed, I haven’t lost all my money.
This tactic is also handy if you’re in a country where bartering is common. If a proprietor tries to charge me more, I empty a pocket and say, “This is all I have.” It’s a dirty trick, but it shows you know how to play the game.
Get enough sleep
This tip can’t be stressed enough. We spend hours packing and planning and making sure everything is perfect for a big trip… only to party too hard the night before a hike and make the special day much more difficult.
Sleep is the most important part of staying healthy on a backpacking trip. You’re probably already walking miles every day, so your body is tired. You don’t want to exhaust yourself to the point of getting sick!
Learn the language
Holding your own in a conversation makes you look like more than just a naive tourist.
If you’re obviously struggling to communicate, you appear clueless, and people are more likely to take advantage of you. Learn the language to become confident and safe!
Try FluentU free for 15 days to have fun learning languages. FluentU takes a huge collection of language video clips from real-world sources—like music videos, movie trailers, news and inspiring talks—and uses it to generate personalized lessons for each learner. And with real-world videos, you not only learn the language, you also learn about the cultures of the countries you’re visiting.
With one FluentU account, you can access materials for all nine of its languages, from French, to Spanish, to Russian. Impress locals in each new European country you visit!
Pack It Up! Here’s Your Packing List for Backpacking Europe
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1. General Packing List
Europe is the hub of backpacking for many reasons. The powerhouse countries are hit pretty heavily, and with good reason. In 2017, France, Italy, Spain and England alone accounted for over 55% of European travel.
The interconnecting train systems, hostel access and proximity to world wonders are more than enough reason for people to buy the ticket and take the ride.
Here are some common items you’ll need for any backpacking trip through the center of Europe’s travel circuit:
- Phone charger (plus a backup!)
- Photocopies of important documents (laminated is better)
- Ear plugs
- Headphones (plus backups!)
- Small, malleable duffel bag to carry return items
- Charging adapters for EU sockets
- Eye mask
Remember, this list is meant to be basic so you can travel lightly and efficiently. These are common items every European backpacker should have. Fill in the gaps based on which type of trip you’re taking… a casual or adventure backpacking trip.
2. Packing List for a Casual Backpacking Trip
Backpacking doesn’t need to involve pulling leeches from your neck or sleeping on a bed of straw. There are plenty of ways to backpack, and some of them are less intense than others.
For the vast majority of backpackers, the purpose of traveling in such a unique way is that you have the ability to move around quickly and without much hassle. That’s why it’s so important to make sure you only pack what you need.
Use this list in addition to the general list above.
- Microfiber towel for the beach or grass
- Wine key
- Combination lock for lockers in the hostel or city center
- Herbal sleep remedies to combat jet lag
3. Packing List for an Adventure Backpacking Trip
There’s something to be said for a casual trip through Europe’s big cities. But there’s also much to be said about heading off the beaten path. Adventure brings its own rewards.
In my opinion, the best adventures are spontaneous. Especially on a backpacking trip.
Backpack with the mindset that if something goes wrong, it’s okay. If you have an opportunity to go somewhere unexpected, do it. If you want to try speaking a new language, go for it!
In Europe’s smaller cities, villages and wilderness, you won’t encounter communities that cater to tourists. You’ll see the authentic side of the continent.
This can be a shock to many, but for the adventurous, new experiences are what you live for.
When opportunity knocks, you want to be prepared.
Here’s a list of items to supplement the base items from the first list. Take a look at the packing list for a casual trip, too, to see if any of those things seem necessary for your excursion.
You know your trip better than anyone else, so you might not need all these things. Or you might need more or fewer of something depending on the season.
The important thing is to have everything you need to be prepared when adventure calls.
- A true adventurer’s bag, the golden standard being bags by Osprey
- Waterproof wrap or shield for your bag
- 15,000+ mAh power bank with two outputs (phone and Bluetooth headphones)
- Bluetooth headphones
- Sturdy, long-last hiking boots from a quality store like REI
- Thick, 200 insulated hiking socks
- If taking photos with a DSLR, backup SD cards and a lightweight tripod
- Topographical maps of the region
- International driver’s license (if you have it)
This trip is yours! Spend your time drinking coffee and roaming museums in Paris, Florence, Barcelona and Munich.
Or hike through the Swiss Alps, fjords of Norway and Italian Dolomites.
Or try a combination of all of the above!
It doesn’t matter what kind of backpacking trip you take around Europe. The important thing is that you’re prepared.
Mitchell Grant travels the world as his job. Currently in Costa Brava, Mitchell’s preferred workplace is three feet from the ocean with a Clara in one hand, his laptop in the other. Check out his personal website, Income Armada, or follow him on Instagram @mitchell.grant.nani.
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