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Smart Tips for Packing for a Backpacking Trip

packing tips for backpacking trip
Image via Flickr via Becky Stern

Shirts and blouses, underwear and socks, pants and shorts, sweaters, scarves, shoes, toiletries and personal items, travel documents, electronics, and more all need to fit in a pack that you carry on your back. It sounds like a lot already without itemizing everything you will want to take. How on earth do you pack everything you need so that it fits in your backpack? What are the necessities and what should you leave in storage? Packing smart for a European adventure takes a bit of confidence, a bit of creativity, and the realization that there are just some things you are not going to be able to take with you. Who couldn’t use tips for packing for a backpacking trip?

Whether going on a three-week jaunt or an extended months-long adventure, planning ahead is essential. If your adventure will take you away for an extended period, a great way to offset any unnecessary expenses is to sublet your apartment and rent a self-storage unit to house your belongings. This is a great strategy for saving money that could be used to help fund your trip. But, long trip or a short trip, these packing tips will help you get the most in your backpack.

The Europeans tend dress a bit more fashionable and you may be tempted to pack some dressier clothes, but it is just not realistic when backpacking. Your clothing items should be lightweight, comfortable, breathable, and dry quickly (for those times when you find yourself washing something in the sink to dry overnight). These can drastically reduce the weight you'll be carrying on our shoulders as well as reduce the space used in the pack. Exploring efficient ways of folding clothes, including rolling them up or putting them in compression bags, will also help save space.

Using the skivvy roll method (pictured below) wraps a t-shirt, a pair of socks and a set of underwear into one compressed easy-to-grab ball. Pro travelers such as airline flight attendants recommend rolling clothes to save space and reduce wrinkles. Those techniques are laid out in our Jetsetter's Guide to Suitcase Packing.

the skivvy roll - packign tips for backpacking
The Skivvy Roll

European travel expert Rick Steves recommends you pack the following items for a European backpacking trip:

  • Up to five long-sleeved or short-sleeved shirts or blouses (depending on the time of year);
  • Just two pairs of lightweight pants and one pair of shorts that can double as swim trunks for men;
  • Five sets of underwear and socks;
  • Two pairs of well-worn shoes. One pair of good walking shoes and a second pair of sandals or a pair of flip flops that can be used in showers, if need be;
  • A sweater or lightweight fleece that is dark in color so you can use it to dress up a bit;
  • A lightweight water-resistant windbreaker with a hood;
  • A tie or scarf to help change up a look and dress it up a bit if you go out at night;
  • A swimsuit if you plan on spending time on any of Europe's beaches;
  • T-shirts, tank tops, yoga pants, and other lightweight athletic gear can double as pajamas or lounge around gear.

Keeping yourself to this clothing pack list will leave room for other essential items you will need such as toiletries, travel documents, smartphones and/or tablets, medicine, sewing kit, first-aid kit, and other personal items. Remember there are stores there that you can replenish some of these items along the way. It is not necessary to bring full-sized items that take up space and increase the weight on your shoulders.

Fundamental to packing for a trip like this is finding as many multifunctional items as possible. For example, buying a jacket that can convert into a vest and pants that can convert into shorts can eliminate redundancy. On the road, each ounce adds up.

Thankfully, with the advent of mobile devices, consolidation of a variety of items including reading material, camera, flashlight, phone, travel guides, and travel games onto a single device can reduce weight and space used by 25%. However, make sure you have enough battery power to get you through when you are between charging opportunities. Having an additional solar charger could be a lifesaver. You will absolutely need a plug adapter to keep these devices charged.

electronis for backpacking trip

Sealable plastic bag are not only great for holding carry-on liquids but are great for grouping like items together such as bathroom items or everything you will need to charge your electronics: plug adapter, charging cords, solar charger, etc. The larger-sized sealable plastic bag can separate dirty clothes from clean clothes and compress clothing for added space.

sealable plastic bags_packing for backpacking trip

Everyone will have different needs and a unique set of items to consider. It’s important to develop your own checklist of what you might want to have on your trip. If reading is fundamental to you and the smartphone or tablet won’t cut it, then you will have to consider the space needed to carry an extra 2-3 books. If hitting the town at night is part of our itinerary, it may be important to you to have some more fashionable clothing options.

A backpacking adventure through Europe may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience of thrill, adventure, and living a lifestyle completely different from the day-to-day routine of living in one place. What are some words of wisdom you have to share about packing for a world traveling adventure?

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The Storage Queens

We know a thing or two about moving. Together, we share the best tips in organizing, storage, navigating your city, and more!

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