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Women’s Packing Essentials for a European Backpacking Trip

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Deciding to backpack in Europe is a great idea for those who are interested in flexibility during their travels, but you might be thinking… How can I pack to fit everything!? Here are the packing essentials for your next trip to Europe!

It’s all very exciting, but packing everything into one bag can also be very overwhelming – especially if it’s your first time. Not to worry, because below I’ve included all of the essentials on what to bring with you in your pack.

Packing Essentials for Your European Backpacking Trip

The most important thing to remember is to pack right and light. That means selecting products and materials that will fit your traveling needs, while also maintaining a manageable pack weight.

Let’s dive in!

Sleeping on the train with my favorite packing essential - REI's 40L pack!

Packing Essential #1: Choosing the Right Backpack

The first packing essential you’ll need as a backpacker for Europe is obvious – your backpack! This is arguably the most important thing to consider before you leave. Finding the right backpack is essential because it will be what determines your comfort and storage throughout your travels.

The first thing to take into consideration is the size of the backpack. Packs are usually measured in liters. For travels longer than a few days, I would recommend getting a backpack between 40L and 45L.

Anything below 40L would be too small for most travelers, and 45L is generally the maximum capacity for a backpack to be considered a personal item on an airplane. Anything within the 40-45L range hits the sweet spot for packing all of your essentials while still traveling light.

Quality Backpacks:

Here are three great backpack options for your trip to Europe that we believe are all good quality and will keep your pack organized and light.

REI Co-op Rucksack 40 Recycled Pack.

My boyfriend and I brought this backpack to Europe, and we couldn’t be happier about our purchase. This backpack was reasonably priced and had all of the components we wanted in a backpack… hip and sternum straps, plenty of inside compartments, a U-shaped zipper, and the ability to convert it into a duffel bag.

Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack.

Osprey is one of the best brands for backpacks, and these are no exception. With many of the same features as the REI’s backpack, the Osprey Fairpoint 40L pack also has a LightWire frame suspension and mesh back panel for ventilation to keep the air flowing!

Dinictis 40L Travel Backpack

If you’re looking for something a little more stylish and don’t care to use your bag outdoors, check out the Dinictis 40L Travel Backpack. This pack comes with optimal storage and is airplane-approved.

We don’t receive a commission off the REI Rucksack, but it’s what we recommend! Buy it here!

Gregory Mountain Products Jade 38 Backpacking Backpack

Also known for their high-quality packs, Gregory’s backpacks come with moisture-wicking mesh, a rain cover for your pack, and a 3D comfortable, body-hugging fit. This pack is perfect for those looking for a backpack that works wonders outdoors.

Things to keep in mind:

  • Each brand measures differently, so make sure to measure yourself before you buy!
  • Many backpacks are gender specific. This post focuses on Women’s packs.

You will also want to keep in mind that there are times when you’ll be leaving your backpack in the hostel/hotel. For the times you won’t have your pack on you, it’s a good idea to bring a day pack that you can use on the go. I brought a mini anti-theft travel purse by Travelon that I carried with me daily that fit easily in my bag. Other good ideas are fanny packs or foldable daypacks.

Check out cheap anti-theft travel purses by Travelon here!

Europe Packing Essential #2: Proper Footwear

Choosing the proper footwear comes in a close second when it comes to packing essentials for Europe! You’ll have to keep in mind that in Europe you’ll most likely be doing a lot of walking, and you’ll be carrying an additional 20-25 pounds on your back. Comfort and support are extremely important.

Now, as fellow travelers, we understand wanting to dress the part in Europe. Unlike in the US, Europeans don’t typically wander around town wearing tennis shoes. So, how do you find that perfect in-between? We’ve got you covered!

Bring an “Everyday” Shoe

Let’s be honest, shoes take up a LOT of space in our bags, so we must focus on the shoes that are the most versatile and useful. You’ll want to make sure to start by thinking about comfortable shoes that you’ll wear most of the time.

If you’re going to be walking around a lot (which is a given in Europe), you’ll most likely want to bring comfortable sneakers.

Plenty of sports shoe brands sell comfortable and supportive everyday shoes that don’t give off the appearance that you’re about to run a marathon. I brought along my Nike Air Max Sneakers for my “everyday shoes,” and my feet were comfortable the whole time!

Shoes I wore for Europe

Check out different styles of the Nike Air Max Sneakers here!

Be Selective with a Second or Third Pair

As I mentioned, packing shoes can take up a lot of valuable storage space in your pack. As a backpacker, you’re going to want to utilize that space most efficiently. Depending on what you’ll be doing or where you’ll be staying, you may need to think about different shoe options!

For nights out, bringing one nice pair of wedges, flats or heels will suit you well. Additionally, if you’re going to be spending a ton of time at the beach, maybe consider some flip-flops – they’re easy to pack and are lightweight! Just remember to only pack things that you know you’ll be using because you’re going to be carrying that extra weight on your back!

I ended up bringing some lightweight sandal wedges that I could store easily! These doubled down as my shoes for the beach in Mykonos and nice dinners in Rome!

Shop some cute lightweight sandal wedges here for all your cute outfits!

Tips for buying shoes for Europe:

  • Try to buy a neutral-colored shoe that will fit all of your outfits. Black, white, or earth-tone colored shoes work best to match your wardrobe. Plus, Europeans adhere to more of a neutral-colored style anyway!
  • Break your shoes in before leaving! I can’t stress this enough – there is absolutely nothing worse than getting blisters on your first day on vacation.

Europe Packing Essential #3: Clothing

With a comfortable backpack and pair of shoes, it’s now time to think about style! It’s very easy to want to overpack clothes for different occasions, but you’ll want to refrain from this! There are a few Europe packing essentials that you’ll want to keep in mind:

  • Pick solid, matching colors.
  • Ditch the bulk & pack layers.
  • Fabric matters.
Cardigan I brought to Europe

Pick solid, matching colors.

You’ll only be packing a few sets of tops and bottoms, so it’s a good idea to make sure that everything you pack matches each other. Ideally, you’d want to be able to pull out any combination of top and bottom at random and have it match.

A lot of the time, people assume that this means the only thing you can pack is neutral colors. That’s actually a huge misconception, although you could only pack black, white, and cream-colored clothing if that’s what you like. The colors that you choose are completely up to you!

For example… To match my pink nikes, I bought dark green, black, white, and cream colors tops and bottoms!

Ditch the bulk and pack layers.

Leave the bulky items at home! This means any heavy sweaters, jackets, or anything else that takes up too much space. The easiest way to stay warm is to pack layers – and they don’t have to be super thick to do the job!

Layering is especially important if you’re traveling somewhere cold, or traveling to places with different climates. Whether you’re traveling in the summer or winter, packing layers is always a good idea!

A good example of proper layering looks like this…

  • Two base layers: Tank tops and/or short-sleeves
  • 1-2 Long Sleeves: These can be worn on their own or over the base layers
  • 1-2 Mid-Layer Shirts: This could be a down vest for men or wool/polyester lightweight cardigans or sweaters for women. I brought a Button Down Cardigan Sweater and it was perfect to throw on top of shirts or wear by itself!
  • One Lightweight Jacket: Typically, a wind and water-resistant/proof jacket can easily be rolled up into your bag to fit nicely. Down jackets are also a great option for a lightweight jacket, however, they can be on the costly side.

How you layer will depend on what season you travel. For women, I suggest bringing two pairs of pants, one dress, and one skirt. For men, two pairs of pants and one pair of shorts will work great.

Shop the cheap but warm Eddie Bauer Women’s Down Jacket here!

Fabric matters.

For traveling, there are good fabrics and there are bad fabrics. Generally, you’ll want to avoid cotton like the plague. ESPECIALLY for socks and undergarments. The reason is that cotton is super absorbent, so whenever you sweat, the fabric will hold that moisture in. They also pick up odors quickly.

Your best bet is to buy moisture-wicking, odor-repelling, quick-dry clothing. Typically these fabrics are wool, polyester, nylon, spandex, or synthetic blends.

Our Favorite(s):

Click on the link below to start shopping for the most breathable travel clothing we took with us on our trip to Europe!

SOCKS – Merrells Everyday Half Cushion Socks
UNDERWEAR – ExOfficio Women’s Standard Give-N-Go
PANTS – Women’s Lightweight Joggers Hiking Pants

Other Europe Packing Essentials:

Now that we’ve covered the basic packing essentials for Europe, let’s discuss some potential things you might consider taking!


Don’t forget to bring a charger adapter for your electronics! Europe has different outlets than other parts of the world, so this is a must! On the same note, don’t forget your chargers!

Unless you absolutely need it, leave your computer at home – You can always use your phone for anything you need to do online.

Click the link to buy a charger adapter here!


  • Airlines only allow 3oz or less for fluids, so you’ll have to buy smaller products or mini travel bottles to store your cosmetics.
  • I’ve also found that bringing a small, plastic toiletry bag comes in handy when going through security. You can find them at Walmart, or on Amazon.
  • A small pack of Kleenex or baby wipes works like a charm for emergency toilet paper!
  • Baby powder is a miracle if you have (or want to prevent) any chaffing from walking.
  • If your hair allows it, bring a comb instead of a brush. It takes up way less space!
  • Leave the medicine at home! If you really need allergy meds, you’ll be able to find them there.

Shop Amazon’s mini travel bottles and toiletry bags!


  • If you have a long flight, it might be tempting to bring a book to read. It will take up some room in your bag, so I suggest bringing a paperback on the smaller side. Most hostels offer a book exchange, so once you’re done with it you can leave it for the next person, or exchange it for a new one!
  • If you’re concerned about safety, Amazon has TSA-approved luggage locks that you can use on your backpack to prevent theft.

Click here for the TSA-approved luggage locks sold on Amazon.

Wrapping Up: Packing Essentials for Europe for Backpackers

So there you have it! A guide to all of the packing essentials for your backpacking trip to Europe! Of course, this list may differ based on your personal needs or the season, but the important part is to pack light and right!

Remember to choose the proper shoes and backpack, and bring clothing that is stylish but will match! Leave the one-time-use items at home, and make sure that everything you bring is useful to you!

Once you know how to pack your backpack with the essentials, you may never want to go back to luggage ever again. I know I don’t!

Have a great trip!

– The Lifestyle Travelers