A woman’s complete packing list for traveling through Europe in a backpack.
Alright, I know it is never easy for us ladies to pack light…but it can be done! And trust me, you are going to want to pack light, as it’s MUCH easier to get around. This post is inspired by and dedicated to my sweet mother, who decided to bring a 50 lb rolling suitcase on our 3 week trip to Italy (equipped with 6 pairs of shoes, full shampoo/conditioner bottles, 3(!) hair brushes, and anything else you can think of). Annnnd guess who had to carry that around? Yep, me. So, speaking with the experience of my back never being the same after that trip, packing efficiently is the way to get around.
Keep in mind that while this guide is geared towards European trips, the tips can be used and adjusted for any international travel.
Here’s what you will find in this European backpacking trip guide:
1. How to Pack Efficiently
2. Travel Clothing
3. Toiletries Packing List
4. Travel Accessories
5. The Best Backpack
How to Pack Efficiently
- Bring staple pieces that you can mix & match: This is probably the most important tip in order to save room in your backpack and give you the most clothing options possible. Bring clothing items are the simple colors and that match everything else you bring. This way, one shirt can be worn multiple different ways and so on.
- Bring low maintenance clothing: Try to bring wrinkle-resistant clothing, as your clothes will stay fresher longer. Additionally, aim to bring clothes that don’y have specific handling instructions, like handwash only.
- Roll your clothing and use packing cubes: Rolling your clothes will save space, allowing you to bring more items (I’ve even used rubber bands to keep them rolled up). Packing cubes are great for keeping your clothing organized and saving even more space. You can also look for compression packing cubes (these are going to run a tad more expensive).
- Have a day bag or purse: You can cheat yourself a little more space bringing a day bag or purse. Typically, I have just used a small cross-body purse that I keep my passport, credit cards, snacks, and collapsible water bottle in. However, if you are doing more long day trips or hiking trips, you might need a day bag.
- Accessorize: Accessories can really change up an outfit and can take up little space. Scarfs and belts are great items to bring, just keep in mind to bring neutral colors.
- Pack what clothes you think you’ll need, then remove 25% of it: Odds are you’re going to end up buying clothes and other items in Europe, and if your backpack is chock-full at the start of the trip, you’re going to be in a pickle. Plan for this ahead of time by taking out a portion of what you would bring.
Depending on your preference, you can either spend more to get higher quality clothes for traveling, or you can bring just standard clothing. I recommend bringing a mix of both, as each brings an advantage to them. For example, I would invest a little more in a good-quality insulated rain jacket, but buy an inexpensive scoop-neck top at Forever 21.
Here are some good travel clothing brands:
prAna: Sustainably made, high-quality travel staples.
Athleta: Durable active wear and weather resistant clothing.
Anatomie: Specializes in wrinkle-free travel clothing. Definitely an investment!
Uniqlo: Fashionable, affordable staples.
Full Clothing Packing List
· 2 pairs of jeans: I recommend bring one light wash pair and one pair of black denim. You will be able to get a lot of outfits just by bringing two different jeans.
· 1 pair of leggings: These will keep you comfortable on a long train or flight, and can serve as insulation if you are going to colder climates.
· 1 skirt: A skirt is useful for a night-out and can be very versatile.
· 1 sweater: Some countries can definitely be colder than others, and a sweater is a must. You can wear it alone, or throw it over another shirt for warmth.
· 3-4 shirts: Bring a mix of long-sleeve and short-sleeve shirts. I said it earlier, but Forever 21 has great inexpensive and fashionable options.
· 1-3 light t-shirts and tank tops: Pack these for hotter days or to use as under shirts.
· 1 cardigan: Even in warmer cities, it can get a bit chilly at night and cardigans are easy to bring around with you.
· 1 pair of boots or sneakers: Depending on your style, bring a pair of boots (I love a chelsea boot) or a cute of sneakers (air force ones) for your days where you will be walking a lot.
· 1 pair of sandals: Sandals are great when the weather is nice or if you’re hitting up a beach. Athleta and REI have great options for comfortable walking sandals (waterproof ones can be used in hostel showers).
· 1 pair of tights: A pair of tights can dress up a skirt or dress, and give you an option for a nicer outfit.
· 1 swimsuit: Because you’ll never know when you need one, right?
· 3- 4 comfortable bras: I would recommend bringing at least one quick-drying sports bra in addition to other bras you prefer.
· 6-10 pairs of underwear and socks: Invest in a nice pair of socks! Walking all day will not be the best in terms of hygiene and moisture wicking, anti-odor socks are going to be worth it.
· 1-2 sleeping tshirts and sleeping shorts: Throw in an old tshirt or two and a pair of nike shorts to sleep in.
· 1 jacket: I love a good light-weight denim jacket when traveling, as its cute and easy to carry. You can also check out a soft-leather jacket as that is easy to travel with and fashionable.
· 1 insulated rain jacket: Rain is inevitable when traveling, and an insulated rain jacket will keep you dry AND warm.
Clothing Accessories Packing List
· 1 scarf
· 1 pair of sunglasses
Toiletries Packing List
In terms of toiletries, go small! You can always buy my shampoo when you need it. Here is my packing list for toiletries:
A hanging toiletry bag is a game changer. Space is limited in both your backpack and a hostel, and this compact toiletry bag fits perfectly. There are a bunch of great choices off Amazon, that are a good bang for the buck.
· Travel cosmetic containers: Take your shampoo, conditioner, body lotion, and whatnot in leak-proof travel containers.
· Limited makeup: Try to stick to the basics…tinted moisturizer/CC cream, mascara, eye pencil
· Face and body sunscreen: In addition, grab a chapstick with SPF as well!
· Toothbrush and toothpaste: Because, well yeah.
· Makeup wipes
· Travel hand sanitizer
· Mini baby powder (can work as dry shampoo too)
· Travel towel: Hostels typically charge for towels, so pick up a microfiber, quick drying towel.
· Hair bands and bobbi pins
· Hair brush
Miscellaneous Travel Accessories
· Phone case charger: A phone case charger is a lifesaver! I’ve been in sticky situations abroad where there are no charging ports available and my phone case charger saved my battery life.
· First aid kit: Make yourself a mini first aid kit with alcohol wipes, bandaids, etc. These always come in handy when you’ve got an inevitable blister.
· Laundry pods: You can handwash some clothing items in the sink of a hostel with a laundry pod. Just poke a hole in it and get scrubbin!
· Pill pack: Stock up on ibuprofen/tylenol, allergy pills, benadryl, etc.
· Combination lock: This is a necessity if you are staying in hostels. This way you can lock up your backpack in a locker and not have to worry about it all day.
· Collapsible water bottle: Always a great thing to have, as water in Europe is not cheap and can add up quickly. A collapsible water bottle is a great way to save space, and you can use a carabiner to attach it to your backpack.
· Ziplock bags: These are useful for transporting your liquids and putting dirty clothes in (separate bags, obvi).
· Money and credit/debit cards
· Sleeping mask and ear plugs
· Copies of travel documents
· Travel Insurance: I personally have not gotten travel insurance as of yet, but it might be something you would be interested in.
The Best Backpack
Choosing a backpack can feel like a daunting challenge as there are actually hundreds of options out there. Top loading, side loading, 30 L, 40 L? Too much info!
My personal favorite is the High Sierra Summit 40L Pack. This is a top loading pack with shoe storage and a removable pouch on the top. This is an affordable, high quality option. REI and Osprey are other big favorites for backpacking packs. You can find this on Amazon for around $70, and at Dick’s Sporting Goods for $90.