The Unlikely Backpacker – Packing List for Europe

My family vacations growing up were fairly cushy; the only obstacle that I used to face was sharing a bed with my sister. When I traveled with friend/boyfriends it was usually for a week or so and we would stick to hotels. The idea of backpacking didn’t frighten me, but it was not exactly in my comfort zone. 

Unfortunately, I am not one of those girls whose hair dries nicely in place, I have to put a lot of effort into my hair for it to look “normal” and since I am a little bit of a clean freak, I try to wash my clothes after every wear. Backpacking was going to take some minor adjustment. 

My parents laughed at me when I said I wanted to go backpacking through Europe, I have never been one to pack light. I like to have an evening outfit and a daytime outfit when I go on trips. The best advice I can give a backpacker, choose versatile, multi-purpose clothes. Also, do NOT bring anything white! 

Backpacking was definitely the right choice to handle the cobble stone streets in Europe and conquer the subway and buildings with no elevators or escalators; Lugging around a suitcase would have been a nightmare. If I were to pack my backpack again I would do a few things differently thought.

European Packing List

  1. Clothing – Depending on the length of your stay, try to have at the very least enough clothes for a week. I personally would pack: 5 -7 tops, 2 dresses (one with shoulders covered/knees covered), a pair of running shoes, a pair of dressier shoes, flip flops (for hostel showers), 3 bottoms, one active wear outfit and 1 cover up for when it gets cold.
  2. Camping Towel – the lady at MEC talked me into a fast drying camping towel made out of microfiber. It was not fast drying at all and had the weirdest odor. I think I should of gone with a natural fabric. I also got a large, which when wrapped around my 5’3 body barley covered my butt. Next time I would for sure get the extra large size.
  3. Jeans – Everyone told me not to bring jeans because if you need to hand wash them they take too long to dry. I was so sad I didn’t have a pair and ended up buying some out of desperation. Jeans go with EVERYTHING and you can wear them more than once without them looking dirty. Bring at least one pair of comfortable jeans. Don’t believe what everyone else tells you!
  4. Portable Mirror – four girls in a room with two mirrors is not easy. I always felt guilty and tried my best not to monopolize the mirror. One of the travellers I was with had a cosmetic bag with a mirror on the top that she could prop up to do her hair and makeup. Not only will you be a better roommate but you also have the freedom to spend as much time as you like getting ready.
  5. Bring a blow-dryer – some hostels have blow-dryers and some don’t. The blow-dryers I saw in Europe looked like vacuum cleaners and were the equivalent of a light breeze. Go to the drug store and get a travel blow-dryer, you won’t regret it.
     * As mentioned above my hair is crazy, need not apply if you are blessed with locks that do what you want when they dry
  6. Pack twice – I packed totally random clothing that I thought would be good for more than one wear. To go in churches you must have your shoulders and knees covered, so t-shirts, cardigans, long skirts and pants are a must. I also bought some patterned shorts, big mistake, basics are key. It also looks less like you are wearing the same thing over and over again if it is a solid colour.
  7. Aim to have a half empty pack – its Europe, obviously you are going to want to shop. I had a friend go through my bag and force me to bring less. It may seem like not a lot but you get by. I ended up buying a new bag at the very end of my trip, but it was a nice luxury knowing that I had room to grow.
  8. Dry Shampoo – my hair takes forever to dry so if you are the same as me just save some time and dry shampoo. I spay it at the roots the night before and then style the next morning.
  9. Prepaid MasterCard – Instead of carrying around a bucket load of cash you can get a prepaid MasterCard. So easy to use, the money can be transferred onto one through online banking. It is good for us Canadians so you don’t have to pay all the extra fees when taking out money. If you are moving from Euros to Pounds to Korunas this makes it easier than trying to guess how much of each currency you will need in each spot.
  10. A water bottle – a reusable water bottle will go a long way. My dad recommended I bring one and I refused because I didn’t want it to take up space. Most countries have fountains that you can use to fill up your water bottle, and if you were doing as much walking as I was you will need it! A lot of places in Europe insist that you pay for table waters which is a total rip off and ends up costing 5 – 6 Euros a day. Stay hydrated and save money by having your own water bottle.
  11. Don’t try new products – I let the items near the checkout at Sephora get the best of me. I bought travel size everything, only to be extremely disappointed. I bought an all natural deodorant which did absolutely nothing about my body odour, a face wash that didn’t lather, a toner that dried my face out, a moisturizer that made my face greasy and perfume that made me nauseous; the moral of the story being, travelling is not a time to switch things up. Especially because a trip is all about capture the moments with a million amazing pictures of all your adventures. 

I hope this helps with taking the steps towards packing for a European adventure. After my month long excursion I feel like I am a seasoned pro now, but who knows how I will feel after another trip. Every experience is a learning experience. Check out the highlights from my trip to Europe in this blog post

Vancouver based lifestyle blogger. Visit my blog and discover travel guides, fashion tips and recipes.

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