When You Backpack Europe,
Packing Light Can't
be Stressed Enough!


How light she travels is the measure of a good Backpack Europe traveler. You can't travel cheap, happy, and heavy. Pick cheap and happy.


Backpack Europe
Backpack Europe

One Bag to Backpack Europe

In a carry on size bag, limit yourself to twenty pounds. To fit under most airplane seats, an unstructured bag should be 9" x 22" x 14". If not, it will certainly fit in the overhead bins. That is the limit. This is a radical concept for many: 9" x 22" x 14"? For some, it's a cosmetics kit! But they are happy after doing this and they manage. You will never backpack Europe any other way, after you enjoy that sweet freedom and mobility.

More than you think you will, you will backpack Europe with your luggage. Give yourself a test, before leaving home. Practice being a tourist for one hour, pack up completely, and go into your hometown. You should enjoy window shopping, fully loaded. Make your way home and take things out, if you can't.

Lauterbrunnen and Staubbach Falls, Switzerland
Lauterbrunnen and Staubbach Falls, Switzerland, Backpack Europe

It is less likely to get stolen, broken, or lost, when you carry your own luggage. From checked luggage at the airport, some airline employees have stolen items. Last minute, quick changes in flight plans become easier. On the airplane, taxi, and bus, a small bag sits under your seat or on your lap. You can hit the ground running, when you arrive, and, you don't have to worry about it. It is a good feeling. I am on my way while everyone else stares anxiously at the luggage carousel, when I land at my destination. I'm the first guy the dog sniffs, when I fly home.

By carrying your own bag you will also save money. To check even one suitcase, many airlines charge a fee. If you check more than one bag, these fees can add up.

Pack smart and pack light. Including knives, large quantities of gels or liquids, lighters, scissors, or box cutters, you can't bring anything potentially dangerous in your carry on bag. This list of items can change without notice. Now I carry on my bag as usual, and bring smaller bottles of toiletries. You will have to check your bag if you want to take an entire giant bottle of shampoo or a set of knives to backpack Europe.

On the weight, size, and number of carry on bags, many airlines have frequently changing and additional restrictions. Even on the same airline, restrictions can vary from airport to airport. Read the fine print on your e ticket or check your airline's website for details.

Mark your bag inside and out with your emergency phone number, address, and name, if you check it. The lock may be cut off so the bag can be inspected or you may be asked to remove it due to increased security checks if you have a lock on your bag. Consider a TSA approved lock, to avoid this. Still, I wouldn't pack anything particularly valuable such as a camera or cash in my checked luggage, just in case.

Stuffing overhead bins and causing some late boarding passengers to have to check their bags, you have probably noticed that more and more people are bringing bags on board as baggage fees have increased. Increase the odds that you will get storage space in the passenger cabin, thereby rewarding yourself for packing light, by arriving early for aircraft boarding.

It's about your backpack Europe lifestyle, packing light isn't just about the trip over and back. You are seen as a typical tourist, if you have too much luggage. Changing destinations becomes a major undertaking. Con artists figure you're helpless to stop them. Only to those who need them, porters are a problem. You are in control and mobile, with only one bag. Take this advice seriously!

Backpack Europe, What to Carry?

Bring very little, is the answer if you want to fit a whole trip's worth of luggage into a suitcase or small backpack.

On the living room floor, spread out everything you think you might need. Scrutinize each item one at a time. Justify carrying them around all summer! Will I use them? is not good enough. But, will I use them enough to feel good about carrying them over the mountains? I would buy them in Greece and give them away before I would carry that extra weight over the Alps, regardless of my budget.

The Alps
The Alps, Backpack Europe

Simply buy yourself out of any jams and pack for the best scenario. Rather than take a heavy coat, bring layers. Don't think what will be handy on your backpack Europe trip, think in terms of what you can do without. Leave it out, when in doubt. Thinking they can't get them there, I've seen people pack a whole summer's supply of razors or deodorant. The world's getting smaller all the time. In Slovakia or Sicily, you can buy Gillette razors, Nivea cream, Colgate toothpaste, and Dial soap. Whenever you have difficulty finding a personal item, tourist shops in major international hotels are a sure bet. Ask yourself how more than 500 million Europeans can live without it, if you can't find one of your essentials.

Slovakia
Slovakia, Backpack Europe

Pack exactly the same, whether you are traveling for three weeks or three months. Look forward to running out of toothpaste in Europe and take enough to get started, rather than take a whole backpack Europe trip's supply of toiletries. Go into a European department store, shop around, and pick up something you think might be toothpaste.

Backpack Europe, Rolling Bag or Backpack?

Your choice of luggage is a basic packing question. I consider only three of all the options:

  • With hide away shoulder straps, a carry on size convertible bag

  • A roll aboard bag, carry on size

  • A backpack, internal frame.

Travel with a convertible suitcase (backpack) with hide away shoulder straps, for travelers who want the easy mobility of a backpack but with a more low key appearance. A backpack when you want to be more mobile, and a suitcase when in town, these bags give you the best of both worlds. I keep it exclusively in the backpack mode and travel with this bag. They work fine for getting from the station to your hotel, while these soft bags are not as comfortable for long hauls as an internal frame backpack and basically hang on your back. And, they fit in the airplane's overhead lockers at 9" x 22" x 14". I absolutely love it and I live out of this bag when I backpack Europe.

Roll aboard bags, carry on sized, are popular and well designed. Its compact and tight design makes it roomy while keeping it just small enough to fit in the plane's overhead locker if you don't stuff any expandable compartments; young girls and women prefer this bag. You can effortlessly wheel your gear around without getting sweaty is the advantage of this bag over the backpack. They delude people into thinking they don't need to pack so light, weigh several pounds more and Bags with wheels cost $40-$50 extra. They're wonderful in airports where distances to gates and check in lines stretch longer than ever, but they are cumbersome on dirt paths, cobbled streets, walking to your hotel in villages with stepped lanes, hiking through a series of train cars, and crowded subways, and so on. The hybrid bag, which has both backpack straps and wheels is a spin off option.

Purchased from an outdoor store, some younger travelers backpack Europe with an internal frame backpack. They can be expensive, and are often built taller than carry on size, while these are the most comfortable bags to wear on your back.

The strength of your back has a lot to do with your decision. I'll be rolling my bag through Europe with the rest of the gang one day. I will carry my gear on my back as long as I'm strong enough to do so.

Hostels often don't allow sleeping bags and provide all bedding free or rent sheets for a small fee. For special considerations, check out Europe's Hostels. Look for information on camping equipment and sleeping bags, if you plan to camp.

Ship your main bag through and bring an empty, almost weightless nylon bag to use as a carry on for your return flight, or pack your bag only 2/3 full to leave room for souvenirs and picnic food. A low profile color, padded shoulder straps for backpacks, side and front pouches, and sturdy stitching are virtues. The bags with a zip off day bag, I'm not crazy about. I supplement my convertible backpack with a separate day bag and take both with me.

How to pack? Use mesh bags or packing cubes. One each for miscellaneous stuff such as gadgets, sewing kit, clothesline, earplugs, and a first aid kit; socks and underwear; and toiletries. Zip clothes up in a clothes compressor or airless baggies, roll clothes and store them in packing cubes to reduce wrinkling or to keep them compact.

Backpack Europe, Clothing

The majority of your luggage is clothing. Minimize by washing more often and bringing less. You'll spend ten minutes doing a little wash every few nights. It just means doing it little by little as you backpack Europe; this doesn't mean more washing.

Be careful to choose dark clothes that either don't wrinkle or look good wrinkled and dry quickly. Over a night or two in your hotel room, you should have no trouble drying lightweight clothing. My body dries out a shirt or a damp pair of socks in a jiffy, so don't be agraid to do this, even though I know this sounds crazy. Another reason to start with less, it's fun to buy clothes as you travel.

You can pack just about as light for winter. Wear waterproof, high top, warmer, and heavier shoes. Add underwear and an extra pair of socks since things dry more slowly, hat, mittens or gloves, scarf, long johns, and a warm coat. You can pack with the help of a climate chart. Assume you'll be outside in the cold for hours at a time, and Layer your clothing for warmth.

Many travelers are concerned about appropriate dress. The concert halls go casual, during the backpack Europe tourist season, April to Sept. Wearing a decent pair of slacks and a good looking sweater, I have never felt out of place at plays, operas, or symphonies. Pack with color coordination. The casual tourist rarely encounters these, but some cultural events require more formal attire, particularly outside of the tourist season. Women travelers who don't pack a skirt or dress and prefer to wear pants will do just fine.

Realize that shorts are uncommon in Europe, if you're trying to fit in. For use in lakeside resort or coastal towns, they're considered to be exclusively beachwear. You might be on the receiving end of some stares, while most Europeans won't be offended if you wear shorts. The cutoff temperature for hot enough for shorts is much higher than in the US, and shorts are especially uncommon in big cities and on older women. Adults look goofy in shorts, especially in southern Europe, no matter how hot it is!

Southern Europe, France
Southern Europe, France, Backpack Europe

Also, other skimpy summer attire and shorts can put a crimp in your backpack Europe sightseeing plans. No bare shoulders or shorts: Some churches, mostly in southern Europe, have modest dress requirements for children, women, and men. The dress code is often loosely enforced, except at the strict St. Mark's in Venice and St. Peter's in Rome. Borrow a nearby tablecloth for a kilt or skirt to cover your legs and buy a cheap souvenir T shirt to cover your shoulders, it's usually easy to improvise some modesty. People hand out sheets of tissue paper you can wrap around yourself like a skirt or shawl, at some heavily touristed churches in southern Europe.

St. Mark's in Venice
St. Mark's in Venice, Backpack Europe

It's important to dress in a way that makes you comfortable, so long as you don't wear something that's offensive or outrageous. Your clothes will probably mark you as an American, no matter how carefully you dress. Europeans will know anyway. So what? I am not concerned about my clothes, I fit in and watch my manners.

Go very light, simple, and casual. Those who pack light and those who wish they had are the two kinds of tourists you'll meet in your backpack Europe travels. So Pack Light!

Backpack Europe, Electronics

There are just too many handy and cool gadgets to go without, today. I bring a few select electronic items but I still pack light.

The shape of the plug and the voltage: Europe's electrical system is different from that of the United States' in two different ways.

You'll need to consider the voltage. European appliances are 220 volts, while American appliances run on 110 volts. 120 instead of 110 volts in the US, for example, these numbers can vary slightly. Dual voltage, means they work on both European and American voltage, most newer travel accessories have this ability. You're OK in Europe, if you see a range of voltages printed on its plug or the item, such as 110-220. Marked 110 (US) and 220 (Europe), some older appliances have a voltage switch. As you pack, switch it to 220. A few cheap, old American appliances could be destroyed or damaged if plugged directly into a European wall outlet, and aren't equipped to deal with the voltage difference at all. Which can be more expensive than simply buying a new dual voltage appliance, in these cases, you'll need to buy a separate, bulky converter for about $30. With so many dual voltage gadgets available today, why bother. Confused? When you buy the appliance, ask the salesperson about voltage. The Electrical Connection Wizard at www.magellans.com, travel stores also offer useful advice on adapters and plugs.

You'll have to consider the plug, once you've dealt with the voltage. Continental European outlets (which take two small, round prongs) or British or Irish outlets (which take three rectangular prongs), a small adapter allows American style plugs (two flat prongs) to fit into them. Bring both British and continental adapters. It can easily stay in the outlet and get left behind when you pull out the plug, so secure your adapter to your appliance's plug with duct or electrical tape. Ask, bed and breakfasts or hotels sometimes have a box of abandoned adaptors. Your adapter should be small enough so that the prongs seat properly in the socket; Many sockets in Europe are recessed into the wall. Similar to the rest of continental Europe, but with a hexagonal rather than oval shape, newer outlets in Switzerland use a slightly modified Type J plug. You might find that an older European adapter doesn't fit into a recessed Swiss outlet. Look for an extension cord or special adapter that allows you to use your European adapter, if this happens to you.

Continental Europe Adapters
Continental Europe Adapters, Backpack Europe

Occupied by the lamp, many budget hotel rooms have only one electrical outlet. Able to keep your smartphone and camera battery charged and the lamp on, hardware stores in Europe sell cheap three way plug adapters.

Well connected backpack Europe travelers bring reams of travel and personal information, but not paper. Simply park your addresses and details in a file on your secure email account for easy access anywhere; save them on a USB flash drive; or store these documents on your handheld wireless device or laptop.

When you backpack Europe, you may also want to pick up a Backpacking Europe Price Guide as well.

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