Whether you’re taking a gap year, tracking down your roots, or just trying to enjoy life, backpacking your way through Europe is probably one of the best ways to see all that it has to offer. For this type of adventure, though, you want to make sure that you pack wisely. Not only should you pack lightly, but you should pack only the essentials. To help you, here is what you need and what you should definitely leave at home.

The Essentials

  • Smart Charger/Adapter
    Did you know that power outlets can vary from country to country? Because of that, you need to make sure to bring your own smart adapter from TYLT or whatever brand is available to you. Doing so will make sure that you can keep all of your electronic devices functioning during your travels.
  • A Small First Aid Kit
    You can’t go wrong with some light first-aid items on any trip. Band-Aids and moleskin are especially important for blister prevention. Typically, backpacking includes a lot of walking and hiking, which can put your feet at risk in this regard.
  • Clothing
    The goal with clothing is not to over-pack. However, it is wise to pack for any kind of weather, because climate can vary from country to country while backpacking in Europe. Instead of bringing a heavy jacket (unless you’re going to the Alps or somewhere that has a lot of snow), just bring a thick hoodie and a windbreaker that can fit over it. This way, you can add on or take off a layer depending on the climate you’re in. As for other clothing, just pack three pairs of pants, five shirts, and a weeks-worth of undergarments. Plan on doing lots of laundry as you travel around!
  • Small Daypack
    A daypack is essential for when you are staying in one place for multiple days and want to go out and about on day adventures. Leave your main backpack in a safe place, such as a locker or the room you’re staying in. In this smaller bag, put just a few things in it such as a camera, notebook, and water bottle.
  • Flip Flops
    A pair of flip flops let your feet breathe after miles of walking in heavy hiking boots. They also come in handy for protection from questionable showers or if you end up at the beach or a lake.

What to Leave at Home

  • Heavy Guidebooks
    While a guidebook is filled with useful information, bringing the entire book is heavy and takes up space. Instead of bringing the entire book along, make copies of the relevant pages to bring with you. You can even take photos of the pages to store on your camera or smartphone. Instead of a guidebook, though, you could just rely on several of your favorite travel sites that you can easily look up on your phone.
  • Backpacking Food
    There is no shortage of delicious and exotic food throughout Europe. Bringing you own food from home is simply a waste of space, not to mention the missed opportunity of trying the local cuisine. As you go from place to place, it is okay to pick up on a few snacks to tide you over until you can restock. However, just make sure that you stock up a little at a time so that it doesn’t all weigh you down.
  • Sleeping Bags and Pads
    Backpacking conjures images of camping and "roughing it", but in Europe this will rarely happen. Hostels, scattered all over Europe, will provide affordable, clean accommodations for backpackers, and are a great way to save money and connect with other travelers.
  • Water Filter
    Unlike some travel destinations, most of Europe’s tap water should be safe for foreigners to drink. If you’re unsure, bottled water is available virtually everywhere. If you want to carry around your own refillable water bottle and you’re still concerned about safe water, though, then you can make sure that it is the type that filters the water for you.
  • Multiple Books
    Reading is a great way to pass time on long flights or train rides, but lugging heavy books around is impractical. Many hotels will have an exchange library, so you’ll be able to find books in English and leave some of your own in return. You could also rely on your phone for this as well, because there are plenty of sites and apps out there that allow you to read books online.

Wherever your adventure takes you, just remember one key rule: keep it light. Don’t just bring what you think you might need but what you know you absolutely need. Estimate how much you can carry for long distances and make sure that whatever you pack can meet that limit.