I have named this the “Essential Backpacking List” for several reasons. First, I am a LIGHT packer. This list includes essentials, a few extras, and thats about it! Please note that what I consider essential may not be essential for you, so adjust accordingly! Secondly, I think that it is a great idea to look at what other people pack to give you an idea of what you will need for a trip, especially if it is your first time packing a backpack. The following list is one that I have used several times, with modifications. The next trip that I will be using this list for is a 6 week trip to Europe, so I have included several modifications for this (these modifications will be noted with a *). So read on, I hope this list is helpful to you, and if you have any comments or think I missed a few things, please comment below!
THE ESSENTIAL BACKPACKING LIST
2-3 pairs long dark pants (light jeans, leggings, trousers, etc.)*
If you are travelling in the summer ensure that these are lightweight pants! In Europe especially dark colors go a long way. Dark colors are more fashionable and they hide stains and such better. It is best to pack items that you can mix and match with several pieces!
2 sundresses (1 short 1 longer)
Sundresses are awesome things to pack for several reasons. First, they hide wrinkles well (depending on the fabric), they are breezy and light, meaning they will be wonderful for hotter days, and they can be dressed up or dressed down. For the guys out there or if you do not like dresses, I would suggest an extra pair of shorts in place of the sundresses!
1 pair of shorts/skirt *
Now because I am travelling to Europe, and in the spring, I will only be bringing one pair of shorts. Often times I opt out of shorts completely, and bring extra dresses/skirts etc. because they are more acceptable in many places. A maxi dress and a shawl/cardigan is great for visiting churches and such because often times you will be denied entry if your knees or shoulders are showing. If you are going in winter, switch this out for an extra pair of pants. If you are going in July – August (I am travelling April – June) bring an extra pair! It is all up to you!
4-5 light shirts +1-2 tank tops
Try to ensure that all items you pack can be worn with at least a couple of other items (ideally all or most of them) to create different outfits. Depending on your length of trip, you might get bored of wearing the same outfits over and over! I have used this list for 2 weeks trips (albeit a little lighter) and longer trips. I do plan on doing laundry along the way so I generally pack lightweight clothes I can layer and they dry quickly. Aim for 1-2 darker solid colors, 1 patterned shirt and 1 colored.
1 long sleeve shirt
I always pack 1 long sleeve shirt because it is great if it is a chilly or windy day and it doesn’t take up as much space as a bulky sweater.
1 cardigan/over shirt
This is optional, but I like to bring one to cover up if needed (churches), it is it chilly (I am always cold!) or to dress up a simple outfit. It is also nice to include just for some variety, and when the sun goes down it can get fairly chilly! For guys this can be a light sweater or long t-shirt.
I also always bring 1 neutral and 1 patterned scarf. These can keep you warm on planes, while sleeping, and they add effortless style to any outfit. They are also great for changing up an outfit!
I am not going to specify the number here because everyone has different preferences, but make sure you have enough to wear until you can do laundry (plus a couple extras). The less you bring, the more often you will have to do laundry.
2 pairs shoes (1 runner/covered, 1 sandal)* + shower shoes
Now, I love my shoes so I have been known to pack more than needed. But lately I have been streamlining this and I haven’t noticed a difference! If you are going to be doing a lot of hiking and such, make sure to bring a good pair of hiking shoes. Other than that I make sure to have 1 lightweight closed toe shoe (think light sneakers, TOMS, etc.) and 1 pair of sandals. For the sandals I tend to go a little more formal than just flip flops, like strappy leather sandals or similar. I also always bring an extra pair of cheap flip flops for beach days and those dreaded hostel showers.
Makeup ( I tend to bring foundation, lip stick, mascara)
Leave in Conditioner
Medicine (Advil, Prescriptions, Vitamin C)
Others (up to you!)
*Travel size is best, make sure you can bring them on planes! I always bring enough for a little while then buy more as I travel.
Mini tissue packs (Can double as toilet paper, I have been to many places where there isn’t any!)
Granola Bars/Trail Mix (Saves money when you need a quick snack!)
Electronics/Chargers/Adapters (check before you go!)
Money Belt (Lots of people don’t like these but I always bring one because I don’t often carry a purse and this way I am hands free and worry free)
Ziploc Bags (Large) I always bring a couple of these, they are great to pack shoes in or to keep important documents in. They are also great for compressing clothes or bring bag souvenirs – like sand and sea shells!)
Gum – I alwyas bring gum for during flights and such – it wakes me up and energizes me after a long flight!
Deck of cards ( I like to buy a cool deck at my first stop then you always have something to do with travel buddies on flights or in hostels (drinking games!).
That is my list for Europe! For other trips that may involve camping, hiking, etc – you will have to modify to bring along extra gear!