May 24, 2024

Backpacking Europe: Backpacking Packing List

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Packing is obviously something that all backpackers heading to Europe or anywhere else in the world will have to do with care and diligence.

I ran across a post from a member of our world famous backpacking community simply named “Traveler.” It was a brilliant first post of his and addresses a lot of tips and concerns that backpackers backpacking Europe and beyond will need and may have. 

He writes:

Pack everything of value in your carry-on luggage. Though it may seem to be stating the obvious, if your luggage is lost, even temporarily, you could experience problems that are easily prevented. Insure to fill any prescriptions you need, before you leave and carry an extra pair of contact lenses or glasses, just in case.

Pack as light as possible and be sure that you have room in your luggage for souvenirs. Pack clothes that can be mixed and matched with each other. If going with a partner, pack some of yours in theirs and vice versa, so if a bag goes missing you will have clothes for both of you. Comfortable walking shoes and loose fitting clothes are a must. Wrap your toiletries in little (plastic) sandwich bags; if they accidentally spill you won’t ruin all your clothes. Remember that many airlines are enforcing the “one piece of carry-on luggage” rule, particularly when the flight is full, so pack your bags accordingly.

As the saying goes, “take twice as much money and half as many clothes as you think you’ll need.” Make copies of your traveler’s checks. Securing replacements of these documents when you travel abroad is much easier when you can provide copies of originals. Credit cards are widely accepted and ATM machines have become part of the landscape in many foreign countries. But, you may still find it necessary to carry cash when you venture into small towns and rural areas.

Make sure you have a signed, valid passport and visas, if required. Also, before you go, fill in the emergency information page of your passport!

Make copies of your passport identification page. This will facilitate replacement if your passport is lost or stolen. Leave one copy at home with friends or relatives. Insert one inside each luggage; carry the other with you in a separate place from your passport and with your spare passport photos.

Leave a copy of your itinerary with family or friends at home so that you can be contacted in case of an emergency. Prior to your departure, you should register with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate through the State Department’s travel registration website ( Registration will make your presence and whereabouts known in case it is necessary to contact you in an emergency.

Familiarize yourself with local laws and customs of the countries to which you are traveling. Remember, the U.S. Constitution does not follow you! While in a foreign country, you are subject to its laws. Read the Consular Information Sheets ( and Public Announcements or Travel Warnings, if applicable for the countries you plan to visit. In order to avoid violating local laws, deal only with authorized agents when you exchange money or purchase art or antiques. If you get into trouble, contact the nearest U.S. embassy.

When you cross several time zones, there are ways to minimize the effects of “jet lag”. For example, try to get extra sleep the week before your trip. Take earplugs and an eye mask to shut out distractions so that you can easily sleep on the new schedule. And force yourself to maintain your normal sleep pattern so that your body can adjust more quickly. It is common to become dehydrated on a long flight, so drink plenty of water and avoid drinking alcohol, which dehydrates the body even further.

Keep all of your receipts for purchases of goods or services outside of the U.S. In many other countries, a VAT, or “value added tax” is added to the purchase price of everything from theater tickets to toothpaste. Depending on the country that you are traveling to, these taxes can be as high as 25% or 30%. The good news is that if you have your receipts, VAT is reimbursable when you return to the U.S. Also be aware that U.S. Customs regulations allow travelers a maximum of $400.00 per person duty free allowance upon re-entry to the United States

Avoid being a target of crime; try to blend in and not wear conspicuous (American) clothing and expensive (Bling) jewelry (leave that stuff at home) and do not carry excessive amounts of money or unnecessary credit cards.

Carry your wallet in the front left pocket. Most people are right handed, so pick-pockets will tend to direct their activities to the right pocket. Also in areas that lend themselves to theft, I often will use a “throw away wallet” in the back pocket with nothing of value in it as a decoy. Or, you can wear a money belt and carry a “throw away wallet.”

Note: It’s best to have a wallet with cash for day to day spending to use, separate from your passport and credit cards. This “throw away wallet” is for use, when being robbed. Toss the wallet so that it falls to the floor away from you and slightly out of reach of the criminal and run in the opposite direction of the wallet. The criminal has a choice; waste time chasing you or get what he came for.

Bras with removable inner pads are great to carry/hide your cash. Remove the pads and put your cash in them and put back the inner pads. Roll up your cash and place it in an (unused) feminine applicator tube (you know what I mean). If someone ruffles through your handbag, they will be less likely to want to invade that intimate item to find any cash.

Staying at a hotel in a large city? Always take and carry the hotel business card with you. It’s easier to find your way back with the address and telephone number on the card. Make note of all fire exits, since most fire trucks ladders can’t reach higher than the sixth floor. Keep important documents and non-replaceable items near you when you sleep, to prevent loss time searching for important items, during a fire. Thief’s in the rooms normally occur closer’s to the fire exits and also on the first two floors of a buildings (easier for thieves to getaways). To prevent assaults when you’re in the room sleeping, try using a door jam/wedge.

Do not leave your luggage unattended in public areas. Do not accept packages from strangers. When you sit on a plane or bus, put your luggage on the overhead across from you. This way, you can keep an eye on your belongings. It’s easy for thieves, to go through your luggage above your head, when you can’t see their hands. Always mark your bag with something distinctive, so you can recognize it quickly when you see it on the baggage carousel.

Learn the language of emergency words/escape words. In case of trouble it is helpful to learn a few words of the country you’re in. Such as; where is the toilet? Where is the hospital, can you take me there, can you help me, can you point me in the direction of the American Embassy, etc…

Remember to wash your hands daily. Be aware that everything you touch, i.e.; hand rails, doorknobs, shake hands with, all carry germs (bacteria, viruses, fungi, protozoa, helminthes, etc.). Do not eat undercooked beef, pork, or fish. Wash all fruits before eating. We know bottle water is safe to drink. But why do Americans insist on ice cubes with their drinks? It’s a bad idea, because you don’t know, if the tap water used for the ice cubes is germ-free clean water. When buying “bottle water,” turn it upside down before you pay for it. If it leaks, it may have been refilled and is being resold.

Photo tip: Take a photo of the town’s name, i.e.; on a sign, a poster, shop name, drain covers usually have them as well, for example. When you first arrive somewhere to help you remember exactly where you were, when you first took that batch of photos. And repeat as often as needed, as you travel to new locations.

Travel Medicine Kit – Be prepared when traveling

• First aid supplies should include bandages, gauze, tape, scissors, and tweezers. An elastic bandage can be helpful for strains or sprains.

• A topical antibiotic ointment is also useful to prevent infection of minor wounds & abrasions.

• An anti-inflammatory drug such as aspirin or ibuprofen can help relieve pain. An antihistamine can be used to treat allergic reactions and relive itching from insect bites.

• A topical steroid cream such as hydrocortisone 1% may be helpful for treating skin rashes or relieving sunburn.

• A decongestant is useful for colds or sinus congestion especially during airplane travel where cabin pressurization can cause ear pain if the Eustachian tubes that equalize the air pressure in the ears are swollen shut. Note: Chewing gum also helps with popping ear drum during pressurization of aircraft.

• If you are prone to motion sickness you also should carry along some Dramamine or Ginger tablets.

• Sunscreen with a SPF of at least 15 since most travelers will be visiting areas closer to the equator where the sun’s rays are stronger and it takes less time for skin to burn.

• Insect repellents containing at least 30% DEET (Deep Woods Off, Repel or Ultrathon by 3M) should be used when traveling in areas where mosquitoes are present. Permethrin can be used to spray all your clothing before a trip (spray till clothing is slightly damp, let dry, then pack). It will last even after 6 to 8 washes in your clothes.

• For jet lag, melatonin tablets taken at bedtime may help restore the normal sleep-wake cycle.

• Pepto-Bismol liquid or tablets; as a preventive measure along with Imodium AD to slow down a bad stomach. Bananas are also a natural way to help a bad stomach.

Packing Check List


Shot Records (updated?)

Money belt


Extra Passport Photos

Photocopies of passport/documents

Credit Cards/ATM

Traveler’s checks and Cash

Local currency


Business Cards

Driver License and/or International license

Guidebooks and Map

Phrasebook and Dictionary

Journal and pens

First Aid Kit

Prescription medication

Extra Glasses and/or Contacts w/eye drops

Small Flashlight

Travel Alarm Clock

All purpose pocket knife

Body wash/shampoo and/or soap

Toothpaste, tooth brush and dental floss

Towelettes and kleenex

Electric Razor or Manual Razor w/shaving cream

Feminine hygiene items, cosmetics



Camera film in clear plastic container

I Pod or Walkman and/or book

Spare batteries

Laptop and/or Thumbdrive

Converter or adapter


Sewing Kit

Earplugs and sleep mask

Ziploc Plastic Bags
Various sizes

Pocket Mirror

Insect repellant


Sun Screen


Good walking shoes



Pants, trouser

Women – one dress skirt

Long sleeve shirt

Short sleeve shirt



Heavy Jacket (winter)

Raincoat or weather proof jacket

Shower shoes

Small umbrella

Playing card or Uno cards

Patience and good humor

Note: This is a general checklist, and some items listed need not be required.

Remember; it’s the not the destination, it’s the journey. – Saint Robert

Added to all this, if you are backpacking Europe, make sure you get a cheap Eurail pass and book your hostels ahead.

What are some things that you take on your backpacking Europe trip?

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