What to pack for backpacking in Europe

Home to some of the most beautiful countries and striking sights in the world, Europe has long-been an attractive destination for backpackers and tourists from across the globe. Europe is compact and well-connected, and can be navigated with relative ease by car, rail, and air, with plenty of variety along the way. Many backpackers who choose to visit Europe choose to for this reason - even in a shorter visit, the number of countries, cultures, and life-changing experiences that you can enjoy makes for an exciting itinerary. Europe can also be quite affordable for backpackers, with plenty of budget-friendly accommodation, cheap and cheerful food and drink, and free outdoor activities to enjoy.

As avid travellers and lovers of the great outdoors, many of the TOG24 team have backpacked, travelled, and spent time in the beautiful countries of Europe. To help you plan for your backpacking trip of a lifetime, we’ve assembled a handy guide on what to pack for backpacking in Europe, covering year-round essentials plus some variations for hot and cooler months.

THE ESSENTIALS FOR A EUROPEAN BACKPACKING TRIP

No matter what time of the year you plan to backpack through Europe, there are some essential staples you’ll need to travel and stay safe throughout your trip. Below, we’ve broken down these essentials into a handy checklist that you can use before setting off on your European adventure.

  • Passport and travel documents - Ensure your passport is valid and that it will be for the duration of your backpacking trip. This is particularly important if you plan to backpack for a long time. Since Brexit, the rules are stricter when travelling to a European country on a British passport. For most countries, your passport must be less than 10 years old on the day you enter and have at least three months until it needs to be renewed. The rules vary from country to country, so it’s always worth checking before you travel. If you’re travelling between several countries, it’s important to also make sure you have any necessary documentation required for each individual country.
  • A comfortable, reliable rucksack - It goes without saying that your rucksack / backpack is an absolute essential when it comes to backpacking. Everything you own and rely on will be carried in your bag, so it’s incredibly important to invest in a bag that fits you well, is comfortable and durable, and has the right features to best serve your unique itinerary. Always do your research beforehand to make sure you make the right choice of backpack.
  • Water bottle - In the summer months, many areas of Europe can become extremely hot. Ensure you have a durable, temperature-controlled water bottle to stay hydrated at all times.
  • First aid kit - While there are pharmacies and hospitals all over Europe, if you plan on spending any time in the wilderness or in remote areas, it’s essential to have an up-to-date first aid kit in case of emergencies.
  • Means of communication - Many backpackers find the ‘off the grid’ lifestyle appealing, with some even choosing to not carry mobile devices. However, a smartphone or tablet can come in incredibly handy for travel, navigation, translation, and emergencies. If you do decide to bring a device with you, ensure you also have a self-charging power bank.
  • Padlock - Backpacking and hostels often come hand-in-hand - they are great for meeting like-minded travellers and getting advice and suggestions on the local area. However, not all hostels are as secure as others. Carrying a padlock can be useful for keeping your valuables safe, be it in a locker or by simply locking your backpack at the zip.
  • Packing cubes - These handy packing bags are great for compartmentalising and space saving. By organising your toiletries, electronics, and other essentials into easy-access packs, you’ll save time and are less likely to lose anything.
  • Lightweight trainers or walking shoes (Summer) - Backpackers tend to do a lot of walking, and with the added weight of your pack, you’ll need a quality pair of trainers or walking shoes that can withstand a lot of use. Some European countries can become incredibly hot in the summer, so opt for lightweight footwear that offers breathability and odour protection without sacrificing on durability.
  • Sandals or flip-flops (Summer) - Ideal for city strolls and days on the beach, sandals can come in very handy in the warmer months. If you’re carrying your rucksack, a comfortable pair of strappy sandals with a firm grip are best, while flip-flops are great for beaches and wearing around hostels.
  • Walking boots (all seasons) - If you plan on hiking or doing some nature-based walking on your backpacking trip, you’ll want a sturdy pair of walking boots that are breathable and moisture resistant. Hiking with a rucksack can affect balance and coordination, so something with a good grip and adequate ankle support is also a must.
  • Lightweight waterproof layers (Summer) - To keep you dry in the face of sudden rain showers, a set of lightweight waterproofs are a fantastic option. Quick drying and easy to stow away, these are perfect for keeping dry without adding excess weight to your pack
  • 3-in-1 Jacket (Winter) - For colder months, especially if you plan on hiking in mountainous areas or will be spending time out in the cold, a 3-in-1 winter jacket is a great, space-saving option with plenty of versatility for changing temperatures.
  • Lightweight Thermals (Winter) - Designed to keep you super-warm without adding bulk or excess weight, base layers and thermals are fantastic for winter backpacking.
  • Sunglasses (all seasons) - With plenty of sunshine in winter and summer, it’s important to bring a quality pair of sunglasses to keep your eyes protected from harmful UV rays.
No matter where you plan to go on your backpacking trip, we hope this essential guide on what to pack for backpacking in Europe comes in handy. Of course, depending on your itinerary, there’s bound to be a little variation, but we hope this list helps you get started ahead of your next backpacking adventure. Happy travels!

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