How to Pack Light for a Summer in Europe

Planning on taking backpacking Eurotrip? Read on for the best packing list you’ll ever need!

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Europe (in summer) is probably the easiest place to develop a lightweight packing list. You don’t have the need for heavy coats, heavy boots, and other items which tend to take up the most space. As I’m a man, this list will obviously have a man-centric tone to it.  If you’re a female, don’t let that discourage you – I’m working with a friend on a more woman centric packing guide.  But, the principles are the same in what you should bring.

Checklist:

BAGS:

☐ Backpack: We’ll post something later regarding back specifics, but for now, don’t worry too much about the details. Since it’s summer, you won’t have to worry about a rain cover or other similar accessories.  Like most items when it comes to travel, your first priority should be comfort, followed by size.  If you don’t feel like reading full pages of backpack reviews, two of my favorite bags I’ve ever used are:

Osprey Farpoint 55 – My favorite travel bag of all time.  Comfortable, can be carried on a plane, roomy, has a day pack..I love it.


Kelty Redwing 44 – This bag is smaller, but also cheaper.  Not quite the same quality as the Osprey, but it served me well for a long time.

Day Bag: Day bags are essential.  In Europe, you’ll spend quite a bit of time walking around and exploring.  You’ll need a small bag that you can carry your day to day items in.  I’ve always been partial to bags that I can easily fold when empty, meaning I’m not stuck carrying two bags onto planes or around the city.  I recommend something like this Adidas gym bag, or one of these other lightweight options: It even includes a small waterproof area for your electronics:

Adidas Alliance Sport Sackpack
Outlander Packable Lightweight Daypack

FOOTWEAR:

This one has always been a contentious issue between myself and other travelers.  Many packing lists recommend bringing full on hiking or walking shoes when you head to Europe, but I’ve always felt that almost any comfortable, closed toe shoe is appropriate.  Unless you plan on bringing multiple shoes (which I highly recommend against) you will feel tacky walking into any nicer bar or restaurant with hiking shoes.  I’ve tried to find a happy medium with shoes or boots that are comfortable, but look nicer dressed up.

Comfortable/Fashionable Shoes

Clarks Men’s Torbay
Nike Roshe Run
ECCO Men’s Oxford

Pair of flip flops (probably shouldn’t walk around in these all day, but they’re great for beaches, hostel showers, and just relaxing).  You might also consider the style that has straps:

Chaco Men’s Fathom Flip Sandal

CLOTHES:

I’ll say it once, I’ll say it 1 million times: people pack WAY TOO MANY articles of clothing.  There are two secrets to packing less: Buying items that serve more than one purpose, and being willing to wear your items for more than one day.  Barring any serious spill, sweat, or dirt, shirts and pants will last more than one day without a wash.  All the items here fit the bill: they are resistant to stains and smell, and many can be wished quickly without a washer.  And since you’re going to Europe, you will have no problem accessing a washer and dryer when needed. Whether you’re going to be gone for 7 days or 7 months, it’s easy to get by when you acknowledge the fact that you will have no problem washing when it gets to be a problem.  2 hours in the morning doing laundry beats carrying another 20 pound bag with you everywhere.

5 T-shirts. Shirts that are excellent for European travel include:

ExOfficio Men’s Give-N-Go V Shirt – These shirts are excellent.  They look good, they are fast drying, and they remove moisture. Highly recommended.

Icebreaker Men’s T – I received one of these shirts for a present about a year ago and still to this day don’t think there is a better travel shirt anywhere.  The only reason I don’t recommend them solely is that they are expensive, and may be out of the typical backpackers budget.

Microfiber Crew T-Shirt – A good looking, simple alternative.

1 button-up:

Long Sleeve Collar Shirt – Great for nights out, our just hanging around the city. If you really don’t think you’ll go anywhere that might require a nicer look, I sometimes replace this with a nicer polo.  Look for shirts that are cotton, or an other material that will feel comfortable in the heat.

Belt

☐2 pairs of shorts.

O’neill Men’s Traveler Hybrid Boardshort – I recommend and LOVE these shorts. They are lightweight, easy to wash, and can double as swimwear if you’re visiting anywhere with a beach.  They also take up nearly no space in a bag when rolled properly.

1 Pair of pants.

Many people will say that khakis are the better choice here because they take up less space than jeans.  I agree, but I also think many people will be more comfortable in jeans.  It really depends on how much space you have and what your personal style is.  If you plan on taking khakis, make them comfortable and fashionable.  I’ve always like these:

5 pairs of underwear.

ExOfficio Men’s GiveNGo Boxer Brief – I cannot speak highly enough of ex officio brand boxers.  Read almost any other website and you’ll see why.  They are light, extremely durable, and can be washed and dried in a sink in less than an hour.  They ran an advertising campaign highlighting a trip with only two pairs of underwear, and I believe it.  They are worth every penny, in my opinion.

One lightweight hoodie or pullover.

Icebreaker Men’s Oasis Long Sleeve Half Zip – It looks great, it feels great, and will last forever.  Only downside is you may have to splurge if you want one.
Alternative Men’s Rocky Zip Hoodie – This, or any other standard zip up hoodie.

Five pairs of lightweight cotton socks.

Carhartt Men’s All Terrain Low Cut Tab Socks – If you’re wondering why I would even mention specific socks, it’s probably because you’ve never tried Merino Wool Socks.  They are incredibly comfy, last forever, and do a great job at repelling odor.
Smartwool Socks

Optional Items:

Watch/alarm clockSunglasses, Hat

FIRST AID/TOILETRIES

The only thing I’ll say about toiletries is this: When you pack, pack only what you’re CERTAIN you’ll need (toothbrush, toothpaste, any medicine you take, etc).  Don’t bother taking large amount of “precautionary” items that take up space.  In any first world country access to any medicine or beauty product will be easy available.  If something comes up, buy it.  But don’t bother carrying it around for the next 6 months.

Toothbrush

Toothpaste

Deodorant

Shavers...maybe.  If you plan to shave everyday, yes.  If you shave once a week or less, it might not be worth it to take up the space

Travel size shampoo, conditioner, etc.  You can even buy ready to go packs at your local pharmacy, or even online

Travel towel

Travel Towel and Sports Towel – MICROFIBER –   I’ve used these almost exclusively for 5 years now, and am constantly amazed at how dry I can get with such a small piece of fabric. Go with the medium – it takes up barely more space in your bag but is a little easier to get fully dry.

Earplugs

Dr. Bonners soap: If you read any travel blog, I almost guarantee that they recommend this product. It’s uses are many, but I’ve found it most useful for washing my clothes and as a body wash.
Dr. Bronner’s Magic Liquid Soap – 8oz – Peppermint / None

ELECTRONICS:

In the modern world, it’s pretty much a necessity to have some sort of electronic device with you.  Hostel bookings, phone calls, messaging…it’s all done online.  BUT, I taking up huge amounts of space dedicated to electronics is not worth it.  Take electronics that are small, light, and portable.  Obviously everyone has different requirements when traveling, but consider purchasing items ahead of time that will save you space and headache.

Unlocked phone: With cell service as ubiquitous as it is, many unlocked cell phones will be able to use a SIM card from Europe if you plan on using the phone for calls or data.  Even if you don’t, consider bringing a phone instead of a laptop for use with WiFi.  Unless you REALLY need to bring a laptop, think about what you can do on a laptop that you can’t do on a phone.  If you don’t want to bring your expensive Iphone or whatever it is, you can always purchase a cheap unlocked phone prior to your trip. It also doubles as a music player for the long train rides.Consider something like a Motorola Moto E – Global GSM – Unlocked

Laptop: If you’re going to bring a laptop, consider investing in a cheap light weight alternative.  Chromebooks and windows alternatives are excellent choices.  You may also look into laptops that can function as tablets, such as a surface pro or hp. ASUS Chromebook 13-Inch HD with Gigabit WiFi, 16GB Storage & 2GB RAM (Black)

HP Pavilion X2 10.1-Inch Detachable 2 in 1 Touchscreen Laptop (64GB) (Includes Office 365 Personal for 1-year)

Microsoft Surface Pro 3

Tablet. A good choice if you’re uncomfortable with just a phone but don’t want a laptop.  I’ve brought my Kindle Fire with me on almost every trip I’ve been on.
Fire HD 6

An e-reader.  For me, this is essential.  Gone are the days of taking up space in your bag with books.  I load up my kindle with 100 books before any big trip, and it takes up less than 2 ounces in my bag. You could use your tablet, or a dedicated E reader.
Kindle, 6″ Glare-Free Touchscreen Display, Wi-Fi

Camera.  For me, another must.  I understand some people may be very serious about their photos, and in turn will need to bring a lot of equipment.  If you are one of these people, I bet you’ll already have a way to transport your gear around and probably won’t need any advice from me.  But, if you just want to take great photos WITHOUT taking up too much space, I would recommend buying a compact system camera such as a Used GX1.  They offer much more flexibility than point and shoots, but take up less space than a full on DSLR.

USB Charger and universal adapter
Travel Smart by Conair All-in-One Adapter with Built in USB Port, White

MISCELLANEOUS

Streamlight Mini Flashlight

Clothesline
Lewis N. Clark Clothes Line With Suction Cups and Clips, Black

☐Luggage lock
TSA Accepted Cable Luggage Lock

Small Notebook and pen

Journal

Debit card – ATMs are universal throughout Europe, and can be relied on for most of cash needs.  Consider an account that has no foreign withdrawal fees.

Credit card – While less accepted than in the United States, credit cards can be useful for any large shopping purchases or hotel reservations

Documents – bring your passport; plane, train, and rental car documents or vouchers; driver’s license.  Take photos or scan each of the documents and mail them to yourself in case your luggage is stolen or lost.

Stuff you WON’T want

Money belt. They are unwieldy, obvious, and uncomfortable.  If you’re worried about security buy a flat wallet and keep it in your front pocket

Sleeping bag – Unless you are actually camping, takes up just too much space and weight.

Physical books. Invest in a kindle or tablet or something. Seriously, it’s worth it.

Something that you wouldn’t be able to live with if it was lost,stolen, or broken

If you looking for what this looks like in the real world, here is my bag before my most recent trip:

Everything for a trip to Europe backpacking

Everything for a trip to Europe backpacking

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