One of the trickiest things we’ve found about minimalist travel in Europe is that style matters. Wearing nice clothing is expected while traveling around most areas of Western Europe. So, we’ll also cover how to pack a wardrobe that is stylish and functional without costing you extra in airline baggage fees.
Without further ado, here is the ultimate Europe packing list to help you prepare without feeling weighed down by excessive stuff.
Essential Backpacking Gear
Here are some essential tips, tricks, and gear to keep in your pack on your European adventures:
Finding the Right Backpack
Backpacking backpacks are measured in liters. Finding the right backpack balances enough room without your bag being too bulky or heavy.
When I backpacked the UK and Ireland for two months, I found my 55-liter backpack to be the perfect balance. We spent half of our time camping and the other half in hostels, so if you’re just staying in hotels and hostels, you can probably get away with something smaller
Remember that all backpacks will fit differently— this is why we highly recommend that you go to an outdoor retailer in person to try different styles, brands, and sizes. Most retailers should have someone on staff who can help you fill the backpacks up with weight and identify any spots that chafe or don’t fit properly on your body.
Camping Gear (if applicable)
Camping throughout a lot of Europe is a real treat. I’ve camped on the bank of Lochness, on cliffsides overlooking castles, and on remote beaches riddled with seals.
You can wild camp in many European countries, including Norway, England, Greece, Iceland, and Switzerland— to name a few.
Your camping gear in Europe will likely look like the backpacking gear you use at home. Bring as many multi-use items as possible to keep your pack light and compact.
Some essentials are:
- All in one cook set
- Lightweight sleeping bag
- Self-inflating sleeping pad
- A lightweight backpacking tent
- Portable water filter or purification tablets
- Headlamp or flashlight
- Biodegradable soap
- A trash bag
Always follow leave no trace principles anywhere you go, and if you plan on wild camping, read up on the wild camping rules and regulations for each area you plan on camping beforehand.
While you may not get past airport security with bear spray or pepper spray, there are a few safety items you should bring.
- Camping knife (generally, the blade should be smaller than 7 inches)
- A first-aid kit
- A money belt
- Travel Insurance
Essential Clothing For Backpacking Europe
If you’re traveling Europe with minimal bags, you must reign in the amount of clothing you bring along. This means every single article of clothing should be versatile and durable.
At TEREN, we’ve designed an entire clothing line to be the ultimate capsule wardrobe for the stylish, adventurous, and hardworking guy. This section highlights our favorite pieces to help you feel stylish while packing light for your backpacking trip.
Shirts and Tops
One of the most essential tips for creating the perfect wardrobe for backpacking Europe is to find clothing that has function. At TEREN, we’ve jam-packed as many features into our clothing as possible to create the perfect travel wardrobe for men.
The Daily Driver Tee
Key Features: Odor-resistant, anti-microbial, 4-way stretch, quick dry, moisture-wicking, breathable, durable, & lightweight
Colors Available: Black, charcoal, navy, brick red.
The Daily Driver Tee is designed to be the last t-shirt you ever need to buy. This shirt is unique because it's made from 70 percent bamboo, which is naturally odor-resistant, breathable, and antimicrobial.
You can wear it for multiple days without worrying about smelling bad. This is perfect for travel since laundry isn’t always accessible and wardrobes are limited.
This shirt also comes in long sleeve, which we highly recommend bringing along on your adventures.
The Daily Driver Shirt
Key Features: Stain release, 4-way stretch, anti-microbial, odor resistant, quick-drying, moisture wicking, fire starter collar stays.
Colors Available: Charcoal Carabiners, navy kayaks, cement gray gears, glacier green axes.
If you’ve traveled to Europe, you’ve probably noticed that people generally dress nicer than in the US. You won’t see people wearing sweatpants, flip-flops, or ripped shirts.
So while it can feel tempting to wear just T-shirts and jeans for comfort and ease– bring some nicer clothing, and thank us later.
Luckily, The Daily Driver Shirt makes dressing nice and easy. Both the short-sleeve and long-sleeved options are made from 45 percent bamboo and are highly efficient at resisting odors, stains, and moisture.
This means you can wear it for multiple days without washing it.
Bonus: The collar stays in our Daily Driver shirt are removable and double as a fire starter!
The Traveler Tee
Key Features: Odor-resistant, anti-microbial, 4 way stretch, quick-drying, moisture-wicking, breathable, durable, lightweight, ultra-soft.
Colors Available: Sage, black, gray, navy.
What makes the The Traveler Tee so unique is the fact that it’s made from 100 percent Merino wool. So much of our clothing is crafted from bamboo and Merino wool because of their incredible natural properties.
The Traveler Tee will hands down be the softest, most functional, and reliable t-shirt you’ll ever own—so long as you take proper care of it.
This shirt also comes in a long-sleeve option, which we highly recommend bringing along on your adventures.
Pants and Shorts
Depending on when you’re backpacking Europe and what regions you plan on traveling to, it's important to bring two to three pairs of bottoms you can wear.
The Lightweight Traveler Pants
Key Features: 4-way stretch, anti-microbial, odor resistant, quick, drying, bug repellant, moisture wicking.
Colors Available: Navy, black, charcoal, khaki, brown.
As the name suggests, the Lightweight Traveler Pants are designed to be the perfect travel companion. These chino-style pants boast style but also function.
They’re designed to withstand the heavy demands of travel (including multi-day backpacking trips) without smelling, ripping, or staining.
If you’ve been searching for the perfect alternative to jeans—you’ve found them!
The Daily Driver Pants
Key Features: Durable water resistance, stain release, 4-way stretch, anti-microbial, odor resistance, quick drying, moisture wicking.
Colors Available: Khaki, brown, navy, black, charcoal.
Like the Traveler Pants, the Daily Driver Pants are designed to be your all-in-one go-to pair of pants for any occasion. They’re the perfect pair of hiking pants—without the excess pockets, baggy fit, and unflattering silhouette.
They’re also stylish enough to wear to the office or a nice restaurant. This is why we would never leave for a European backpacking trip without at least one pair of Daily Driver pants.
The Daily Driver Shorts
Key Features: Durable water resistance, stain release, 4-way stretch, anti-microbial, odor resistance, quick drying, moisture wicking.
Colors Available: Khaki, black, charcoal, TEREN Green, brown, navy.
The Daily Driver shorts have all of the same great features as the pants. If you’re traveling to southern Europe or anywhere sunny and hot—a great pair of shorts is essential.
These shorts come in two different inseam options— 7-inch and 9-inch. The choice is yours as to which ones better fit your style, though we have it on good authority that shorter inseams are all the rage these days.
Jackets and Raincoats
It's no secret that many places in Europe see a lot of rain and cold weather. It's important to bring layers and ensure you stay comfortable if the temperature drops.
The Daily Driver Puffy Jacket
Key Features: Durable water resistance, premium insulation, recycled materials, cruelty-free, sustainably sourced, breathable, quick-drying, moisture wicking, 4-way stretch, packable.
Colors Available: Black, smokey blue, light olive.
The Daily Driver Puffy Jacket will, without a doubt, be your best friend on your travels. This highly packable jacket tucks away small and only weighs 15 ounces.
Despite its ultra-lightweight makeup, this jacket can keep you incredibly warm when the temperature drops.
The Cloudland Shell
Key Features: eVent direct venting, waterproof, windproof, breathable, adjustable hood.
Colors Available: Black & navy.
We knew it would rain on my two-month backpacking trip around the UK and Ireland. We brought our rain jackets, dry bags, and positive attitudes. We thought we were indestructible.
That’s until we found ourselves at the top of Torc Mountain in Ireland during a spontaneous torrential downpour and electrical storm about 10 miles from camp.
Our gear was designed for light rain, not severe weather. None of our jackets could handle the severe rain, and we all made it to the mountain's base soaking wet and still about 5 miles from camp.
Though we were grateful for the Paddy Wagon Tour bus for allowing us to hitch a ride back to camp with them, we should have invested in more capable rain gear.
Don’t be like us. The Cloudland Shell would have made that entire experience so much more comfortable. Its an incredible rain jacket, outer shell, and windbreaker.
Once again, the shoes you bring will depend on whether you plan on camping, staying in hostels, or booking stunning hotels.
Bring shower shoes if you plan on staying in hostels or campsites with public showers.
These shoes can be flimsy foam sandals or even Chacos. You just want something to protect your feet from the bacteria on hostel showers.
If you plan on hiking, you should bring along a good pair of hiking shoes or boots.
But lastly, bring a great pair of walking sneakers. European cities are designed to be ultra-walkable, and public transport is sometimes much more accessible than taxis and Uber.
Plan on walking a lot, and bring a pair of shoes that won’t hurt your feet
Socks and Underwear
How many pairs of socks and underwear you bring will depend on how many days you plan on traveling before hitting up a laundry facility.
Bring along a couple of sheets of biodegradable laundry detergent sheets so you can wash your socks and underwear in the sink if you need.
Other Things to Bring
Here are some other essentials you should consider bringing along on your backpacking adventure
Packing cubes are a fantastic way of keeping your backpack organized. There’s nothing worse than needing an item and pulling out 50 different belongings to get to what you need.
My Eagle Creek packing cubes have traveled with me to over 13 different countries and almost two years of full-time travel, and they still look brand new.
There’s nothing worse than showing up at a train station in a non-English-speaking region with a dead cell phone and no accessible power outlets. It's wise to bring along a portable power bank for emergencies.
If you plan on traveling to multiple countries on your European adventure, you’ll likely need different power adapters to charge your electronics.
Instead of purchasing several different kinds, just opt for a universal power adapter.
Bring along a small and packable day bag so you can take it along on a hike excursion without lugging around your backpacking backpack.
Laundry Detergent Sheets
As previously mentioned, sometimes, in remote areas, it can be challenging to find a laundromat. Keep a few biodegradable laundry detergent sheets to wash your socks and underwear in your hotel bathroom sink, a stream, or the shower.
Bring your essential toiletries in TSA-approved toiletry bottles.
You’ll likely need to bring a towel unless you're staying at a hotel that provides them.
Traditional towels take up far too much space to be a practical travel solution. Instead, opt for a travel towel. They’re highly absorbent and even full-sized, so you can fully dry off after showering.
Dirty Clothing Bag
One often overlooked essential is a bag to put your dirty clothing in. Imagine it rains, and your pants get covered in mud.
Keeping your dirty clothing separate from your clean clothing will ensure your clothes stay nicer for longer.
Here are some packing tips to help your trip go smoother:
Rolling your clothing takes up less space in your bag and will keep your clothing much more wrinkle-free than folding.
Organizing Your Bag
If you’re an avid backpacker, you’ve likely spent some time perfecting the art of properly packing your bag.
This means keeping your unneeded things on the bottom and your important documents, layers, money, and other important-to-access stuff on top.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some commonly asked questions about backpacking Europe:
What is the ideal amount of time to backpack Europe?
Traveling Europe thoroughly can take years. This is why you should take as much time as your work schedule and budget allow.
Since flights can be long and expensive, we recommend spending at least a week backpacking Europe, though the more time the better.
What is the ideal backpack size for Europe?
The ideal backpack size will depend on whether you plan to camp. Though 40-50 liters is recommended if you’re staying in hotels and hostels, 55-65 liters are generally recommended for camping.
Can I bring a rolling suitcase instead of a backpack?
Yes, you can bring a rolling suitcase instead of a backpack. Remember that rolling bags make running for trains and navigating cobblestone streets much more difficult.
If you’re concerned about carrying so much weight on your back for extended periods, you can also opt for a wheeled backpack.
There you have it—the ultimate backpacking Europe packing list to help you save space and prepare for anything.
Packing for a European backpacking trip means balancing style, functionality, and practicality. Every item in your pack should serve a distinct purpose.
At TEREN, we understand the intricacies of travel, and we’ve designed our clothing line to be the ultimate travel wardrobe.