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What to pack for a month-long backpacking trip to Europe

His and hers Osprey 46 liter backpacks. Photo by Clay Duda.
His and hers Osprey 46-liter backpacks mostly ready for a four-week trip to Europe.

My wife and I are leaving for a month-long backpacking trip across Europe in just two days. We’ve never really done any long-term traveling before, so we read dozens if not hundreds of articles, blogs, and books gearing up for this trip. Aside from figuring out the obvious like where to go and what to see, we spent considerable time researching what necessities we should carry in the 46-liter Osprey backpacks we’ll be toting along for the trip. Here’s what we’re taking:

Leading up to this trip we have already moved 2,700 miles across the United States and also covered about as many miles touring around the Southeast to visit friends and family over the past three weeks. So we’ve already been living out of our backpacks for some weeks, but for the next leg of our travels we’ll have to pare down even more.

One benefit of traveling in pairs is you can break up the load (and also get a 15 percent discount on Eurail passes, but that’s another story). That comes in handy for some things, but inevitably we each have different priorities. I, for example, would rather not take a hair dryer, but my wife won’t leave the States without one in her bag. On the other hand, I’ll be lugging around a DSLR and a laptop while she’ll make due with just her iPhone for the trip.

With that said, here’s a look at ‘his and hers’ backpacking essentials, although some of the items listed under each section may end up being carried in different packs since we’re splitting the load.

What a guy should pack for an international backpacking trip (or at least what I’m packing):

How to pack for a backpacking trip to Europe. Photo by Clay Duda.
The bare essentials, plus or minus a few things.

CLOTHING:
– 1 Sea to Summit 15-liter stuff sack
– 1 North Face zip-up hoodie (I also meant to pack a rain jacket, but I forgot to keep it out of storage)
– 4 t-shirts
– 2 button-up shirts
– 2 pants (jeans, slacks)
– 2 shorts
– 5 pairs of socks
– 5 pairs of undies
– 1 pair of super comfy Adidas sneakers
– 1 pair of flip flops
– 1 Cascade Designs XL PackTowel

ELECTRONICS:
Google Chromebook Acer C720 laptop + charger
Canon 7D DSLR camera + extra battery and charger
– Cannon 20-35mm f/2.8 L lens
– Canon 50mm f/1.8 lens + lens cleaning kit
– iPhone 5s
– 500GB external hard drive
Dynex memory card reader

TOILETRIES:
– Travel-size shampoo + conditioner
– Toothbrush with travel cap
– Travel-size toothpaste
Schick Hydro Silk Trimstyle Razor (don’t judge. It was free.)
– 1 bar of Dove soap
– 1 thing of Axe deodorant (couldn’t find travel size)
– Travel-size hand sanitizer
– Toenail clippers

OTHER STUFF:
– 1 pillow case + travel sheets
– 1 small first aid kit
– 1 inflatable travel pillow
– 1 small Sea to Summit waterproof bag
– HikPro day pack (read my review)
Frieq universal waterproof phone pouch
Black Diamond Spot headlamp (because why not?)
– 1 deck of cards
– 1 paperback book
– 1 waterproof notepad + pen
– 1 CamelBak .75 liter water bottle
– iPhone charger
– 1 Eno DoubleNest hammock

What a woman should pack for an international backpacking trip (or at least what my wife is packing):

What a woman should pack for a backpacking trip to Europe. Photo by Clay Duda.
My lady’s bare essentials, plus or minus a few things.

CLOTHING:
– 1 water-resistant North Face jacket
– 1 zip-up hoodie
– 1 pair of dark denim skinny jeans
– 2 pair of jean shorts
– 1 light-weight dress
– 3 shirts
– 1 pair of pajamas
– 5 pairs of panties
– 1 sports bra
– 1 regular bra
– 5 pairs of socks
– 1 bathing suit
– 1 scarf
– 1 pair of comfy black flats
– 1 pair of comfy sneakers
– 1 pair flip flops
– 1 Cascade Designs XL PackTowel

ELECTRONICS:
– iPhone 6

TOILETRIES:
– 1 BaByliss Pro Nano Titanium Travel Dryer
– 1 round brush
– 1 comb
– 12 bobby pins
– 1 shower cap
– Travel-size shampoo + conditioner
– 1 bar of Dove soap
– Travel-portion of face wash + exfoliate
– Travel-portion face moisturizer with SPF
– Travel-size body lotion
– Travel-size contact solution + contacts
– Eye glasses + hard case
– Tweezers
–  1 full-size stick of deodorant
– Small make-up bag (Nars powder foundation + SPF, eyeliner, mascara, lipstick, small eye shadow)
– Small laundry kit (detergent travel sheets, travel-portion laundry detergent (2 3-0z bottle), Downy wrinkle releaser
– Toothbrush with travel cap
– Travel-size toothpaste
– Venus disposable razor
– Nail clippers + file
– Travel-size hairspray
– Travel-size sunscreen
– 12 q-tips
– Medication

OTHER STUFF:
– 2 European outlet adapters (all our electronics are dual voltage, so no need for a converter)
– 1 pillow case + travel sheets
– 1 small blanket
– 1 inflatable travel pillow
– 1 CamelBak .75 liter water bottle
– iPhone charger
– 1 book
– 1 Old Navy pineapple tote bag

After all packed up, both of our Osprey 46-liter backpacks are about two-thirds full (OK, maybe a little bit more than that) with all of the stuff listed above. That should leave enough room to tote some food and other trinkets once we get where we’re going.  We also opted not to take sleeping bags after reading numerous reviews and for-warnings from much more seasoned travelers online. This freed up A TON of room and made our packs that much lighter and more comfortable.

Folks have said that you essentially pack the same for a two-week trip as you would for a two-month trip. We’re taking enough clothes to survive a week, and then we’ll do laundry at either a friends house, laundromat, or a sink if push comes to pull. Keep that in mind. We also plan to do a little bit (a very little bit) of shopping along the way, so we may end up sending a few things back to the U.S. if we get tired of lugging them around or find we didn’t really need something after all.

If you have any questions about our gear list feel free to ask in the comments below, or e-mail me at clayduda(at)gmail(dot)com. And be sure to bookmark this website, follow me on Facebook, or just remember to check back for updates from our trip.

 

How to pack a backpack for travel abroad. Osprey 46 liter. Photo by Clay Duda.
With room to spare! Our 46-liter Osprey backpacks are about two-thirds full for the start of our trip.
Peaches the pitbull doesn't want us to leave, but she'll be in good hands staying with her Mops. Photo by Clay Duda.
Peaches the pitbull doesn’t want us to leave, but she’ll be in good hands staying with her Mops.

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Clay Duda is a freelance journalist specializing in investigative reporting, feature writing, editorial photography, and digital media.