Packing & Planning Guides

How to Pack for a Backpacking Trip Through Europe

When we first started planning for Europe a year ago, the thought of backpacking never crossed my mind. I’m not ashamed to say I love my clothes and toiletries. Eric would tell you I could help stock Sephora if they ever ran out of beauty products!

Alas, sense washed over me and I started having flashbacks to the first time I went to Europe. Just imagine this little 16-year-old with a suitcase the size of her own body trudging through the streets of Rome. It’s a hilarious picture, but one I don’t wish to relive.

Now with 2 weeks before our trip, we are mentally and physically prepared for this light backpacking journey ahead of us. I’m a bit nervous only bringing only a few outfits to hold me over for 3 weeks, but I know once we’re there I will be so thankful to only have what I can carry on my back.

So, what have I learned through my planning? What am I bringing? Here we go!

Everything I fit inside my backpack
How did you decide what clothes to bring? 

Process of elimination. First, I packed my backpack how I normally would for a vacation. I piled neatly laid out all of my outfits on the floor. Then I went all type A and wrote out on a large notepad each day of our trip complete with what city we would be in, what activities we would be doing, and if we would be traveling to another location.

I looked at all of my outfits and picked what I probably would wear for each day/activity. I know it sounds like a lot of work, but this truly helped me to realize what I actually needed versus what I just wanted to bring.

…What about toiletries?

As soon as we get to Paris, I’ll be making a beeline to une pharmacie. I knew it would be impossible to bring enough toiletries in our backpacks to sustain me for 3 weeks.

So this part was much simpler. I packed my toiletries like I was going away for a long weekend. I saved up a bunch of samples and sample containers. Then I put everything I needed from bigger containers in the sample pots and only packed the absolute necessities (for me). My face masks and exfoliation will have to wait until I return *sigh*. Here’s what’s in my toiletry bag:

Sounds like a lot, right? Well, not really. Everything is super small. I can fit all the liquid items (*) in a quart sized ziplock and the rest fit in 2 small makeup pouches. My hair drier fits inside one of my tennis shoes at the bottom of my backpack.

How did you pack for the weather?

This was tough because September is such an iffy month. I checked to see what the average temperatures were like in each city we were going to. The highs range from low 60s to mid-90s and the lows range from 30s-70s.

So how do you pack for that?! Layers, my friend. I have this awesome packable jacket from LL Bean that folds down to nothing, but when expanded is so warm and has a hood! Luckily, most of the places we’re going to will be warm except for the occasional cool evening. Brussels and Switzerland will be the 2 wild cards. However, I’m prepared. Jeans or leggings, tennis shoes, long sleeve shirt, jacket.

My backpack I used for backpacking in Europe
That’s my packable jacket strapped in at the bottom of my main pack

So how much are you really bringing in your backpack?

  • 6 dresses
  • 4 pairs of shoes (flip flops, nice sandals, tennis shoes, Sketcher go-walks)
  • 3 short sleeve shirts (wearing one on the plane)
  • 2 long sleeve shirts
  • 1 sleep outfit
  • 4 pairs of socks ( 3 no-show, 1 wool)
  • 3 bras (1 strapless, 2 regular)
  • 7 pairs of underwear (so easy to wash in the sink)
  • 1 Jean Jacket
  • 1 Pair of black skinny jeans (wearing on plane)
  • 1 Pair of shorts
  • 1 Packable jacket
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 small fleece for chilly but not cold weather (wearing on plane)
  • 2 Scarves
  • 1 bathing suit + 1 cover-up
  • 1 long necklace
  • 1 bracelet

I know you’re doing the math in your head, this is not enough clothing for 24 days. You’re correct, it’s not. We are planning on washing clothes while we are there, don’t worry! We bought these nifty carry-on friendly laundry detergent sheets that we can use in the sink or washing machine. A couple of our Airbnb’s have washing machines so we will utilize those.

Backpacking backpacks lined up packed
My packs and Eric’s packs together. He has a bigger pack since he is taller than me.

What else are you bringing?

Chromebook, Canon Rebel T6i DSLR (plus some accessories), Kindle, 2 collapsible water bottles, travel wallet, plastic bags (you just never know), passports (duh), travel blanket, disinfectant wipes (I’m not a germaphobe, but I will NOT get sick while I’m on vacation), and a small crossbody bag.

Any other tips?

  • Packing cubes are SO helpful. You really have no idea how awesome they are until you pack with them. They help keep you so organized and neat, even while backpacking. If you don’t have any, these are the ones we have from Amazon.
  • Try not to stress about forgetting something. Unless it’s medication you absolutely must get from home, there’s really nothing you can’t buy during your travels. There are some exceptions to this of course, but most destinations will have what you need.
  • Start packing early! Don’t wait until the last minute. This is crucial if you hate packing like I do. Half my battle is time. I always wish I had more time! This also gives me a window to remember things I forgot.

This was not easy by any means. But, we’ve been planning for a LONG time. When trying to pack light for a backpacking trip (or any trip), ask yourself these questions:

  • Is this something I want or need?
  • If I want it, put it to the side and pack everything I need first. If there’s spare room, bring it!
  • Is this something I can easily buy when I reach my destination?

I hope this was helpful! If you have any additional tips for packing light for a backpacking trip, I’d love to hear your favorite tips and tricks in the comments.


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My Europe travel diary is complete! Start reading Day 1 now: Traveling from Atlanta to Brussels

5 thoughts on “How to Pack for a Backpacking Trip Through Europe”

  1. Hey I’m Olivia from @adventurersway on ig! Me and my sister Mel are absolutely obsessed with your blog posts with Eric and we wait on the next blog post day to be posted haha! Keep up the amazing work guys!

    1. Oh my gosh thank you so much!! You’re so sweet. Bear with me, the pictures are taking forever to sort through lol. I really appreciate your comment, I love to write and it makes me so happy that others are enjoying our stories too!! 💕😊

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