If you are backpacking across Europe, it’s important to pack only the essentials. Even if you are a clotheshorse or fashion guru, it’s just not possible to lug around a ton of heavy bags while traveling on foot. As long as you keep the mundane stuff like clothes and shoes down to a minimum, you can make room for a few extras in your backpack that will make your vacation more enjoyable.
Here are our top picks for what to include in your backpack if you have room:
Lonely Planet Guide. These travel guides are the Bible for economy travelers. They can be chunky, but we just don’t have the heart to tear pages out of these books. They are well-written, interesting, and fun to read. You won’t want to miss a single page.
Global Positioning Device. This is such a cool electronic gadget when you’re doing a lot of walking from town to town. It’s also handy to have when you don’t want to lug around a bunch of different maps. You’ll find yourself relying on it more and more as you navigate around the globe.
Travel towels. If you’ll be staying in hostels while you backpack across various countries, you’ll appreciate having at least one travel towel. Although you can rent the towels available at hostels, they aren’t always appealing. Travel towels are also great if you are caught in an unexpected downpour or need to wash up in a public restroom. They dry quickly and fit into a tiny corner of your backpack.
Photos of friends and family. We know you won’t forget what your family looks like and we aren’t getting sentimental. Having a few snapshots with you is a great icebreaker when you’re traveling. Backpacking is the perfect opportunity to meet locals and strike up conversations. You’ll be amazed by how people warm up to you when you pull out a few pictures of your family and friends from “back home.”
Inflatable neck pillow. Trust us on this one, you’ll find yourself sleeping somewhere uncomfortable at least once while backpacking. It may be a metro station, a beach, or the back seat of a bus. When you’re curled-up tight and shoved into a corner, you’ll be thanking the stars you thought to bring an inflatable pillow so you sleep without getting a permanent crick in your neck.
Compass. It’s not just for camping. When you are lost in downtown London, trying to decipher a map and not sure which way you are facing, you can get your bearings by picking landmark and using your compass. Is Big Ben to the North or South of where you’re standing? That’s a good start for figuring out where you are.
Power bars and granola. The reason you’re walking across Europe with a backpack slung over your shoulder is to save money while you take in the sights. One of the biggest expenditures you’ll have is food, so stock your bag with power bars and granola. If you substitute one of these high-energy goodies for a meal each day, your savings could add up and you may be able to extend your trip.
Rain poncho. A lightweight vinyl or plastic rain poncho can fold into a tiny square and is amazingly versatile. Apart from the obvious protection from rain, you can also use your rain poncho as a tarp for picnic lunches, to wrap up wet items when you pack, and as a place to lay out clothing to dry overnight.
When you start packing, lay out everything that is essential first, and then add the items from this list that you’d like to take. See what fits and go from there. Pare things down until you get your bag to a manageable weight and you’re ready to go. Remember – the less you take, the more you’ll enjoy the trip.