Reader Question: Backpacking-in-Europe Wear

Tuesday, January 18, 2011
I got another reader question from Cat who is going BACKPACKING in EUROPE. I'm hoping she'll take me with her and her husband. I'll just nestle between them in their bed. They'll never notice me I'm so quiet. Anyway, she will be walking tons and will need to pack light to fit everything into a 20x24 bag. Chase and I backpacked in the Philippines last summer, not because we're hip and cool but because rolling suitcases would have been too much of a hassle. I was also hot, sweaty, and gross for a whole month so I'm super jealous of Cat and her nicer European weather.

Cat said she wanted to wear a skirt but didn't know how to wear it and she mentioned bringing two pairs of jeans. I say scrap one pair of the jeans and bring a denim skirt instead! With these pieces, I can already see 5 or 6 outfits. And check out the convertible bag!! When you already have a backpack, a day backpack is annoying to tote around between cities along with your bigger backpack so a convertible one for the day would be perfect.

For traveling I love leggings with longer shirts like tunics and boots. And the best thing about the tunics is, you can also tuck them in and wear them with the denim skirt. Double outfits!
Since I got my $5 maxi dress, I've been in love!! It's so easy and it covers your legs when you didn't shave that day but still breezy. I feel like maxi dresses are so fuss free but still casual and effortless. It would also make a great beach cover-up if you're going to the beach, Cat!
Last but not least...jeans. Cat mentioned bringing four pairs of jeans. I say bring your black skinnies, your boyfriend capris, and a denim skirt. The black skinnies will be perfect for dressing up and the capris will be great for touring during the day. I've selected a few shirts I thought would go great with both and that you can dress up or down! ...with the same shoes and accessories as the outfits above.


  • When in doubt, pack light. You're going to want to buy souvenirs so make sure you have space in your bag before you leave. Get one of those vacuum sealed bags to save space! You don't need a vacuum to get the air out. We would zip them up and leave a little hole at the end and then roll those bags with the clothes in them and then when we think we got all the air out, we'd zip it. We used them and they were a lifesaver. Also keeps your clothes dry if you're in a rainstorm.
  • Pack only comfortable shoes. She mentioned bringing a pair of heels but I say scrap that and bring a pair of cute comfy flats instead. Heels take up a lot of space. I picked Ecco flats and boots because they have a good rep for being comfy. Check out Tsubo shoes and Geox shoes too.
  • Accessories are key! They can transform any outfit so I say stock up on scarves, belts, and jewelry. Maybe not your fancy jewelry so you don't get robbed.
  • Bring in-soles just in case your shoes suck.
  • What tips do you have for packing and dressing for backpacking in Europe for Cat?


  1. oh my gosh. i am going backpacking in europe this summer, and this post just saved my life! overexaggeration, but so helpful! i am going to bookmark this for sure.

    one question (and i may sound really really dumb): did you actually vacuum seal the bags, or just use them for waterproofing? What did you do when you needed to repack them later?

  2. Hey!!

    Ana from... Europe ;) here!

    Last Summer I went on a 1 month trip alone :D (I already had friend everywhere). It was amazing!

    But, between Sofia and Belgrade, something "ugly" happened... My beloved 30ºC went to 13ºC just like that! As it was Summer, I only had 1 pair of jeans, the rest were shorts, skirts, dresses... (For someone from Portugal, 13ºC is winter...)

    My advice for you is: pack for all type of weather! You never know when it will change...

    Have fun! Europe is great!


  3. where in europe is she going? and when? cause it' really is not gonna be that warm no matter where she is headed if she is planning on leaving soon. so two pairs of jeans is actually a really good idea. and the weather here changes a lot. so bck long sleeved shirts and swaters too. and sweats! for sure. the nights are COLD. even in spain/italy/greece. jewelry is not really a good idea cause it will just get lost/broken/steeled. but scarfs are a really good cause they can douple as something to keep you warm. any piece ''complicated'' you will regret. you should just go with basic shirst like hanes v's. and for shoes get something you would use for hiking. chacoes are a really good option. and basicly anything you would wear hiking. like long running leggings ( i don't know what they're called?) and some reeeally good flats.

    these are based on my experiences (i've been interrailing three times now) but i did the full on backpacking thing. meaning we had tents and sleeping bags and sometimes stayed at beaches and train stations (we did hotels too a couple of times). so if she is planning on sleeping in just hostels/hotels then she could pack a little more sophisticated i guess ha. but for reals you just want to be comfy and warm/cool. keep ot simple.
    end of novel.

  4. It totally depends on the time she's going and the countries she's visiting .. if she's going now I would recommend more layers or thicker clothing. If she's going in Summer (depending on the countries) I would recommend more tees and vests rather than sweaters. I live in Europe and it gets so hot and humid that a longer sleeve is unbearable.

    Have fun in Europe Cat! x

  5. Maybe one of those coats that have a detachable lining. Summer temperature in Scandinavia are from +11 nighttime to +30 degrees Celsius daytime. When it's raining and the sun isn't shining, it feels really cold. Trust me, I know ;)

    xxx Charlie
    Feminine Bravery

  6. I am totally loving that backpack/handbag. I know it's not right to be "in lust" with a bag. But I am.

  7. If I was backpacking I'd bring leggings over jeans, their lighter to pack and much more comfortable! I love that convertible bag, would be so perfect for my travels!

  8. Definitely make sure everything you pack matches everything else to make your packing lighter. And really be sure your shoes are comfy! I made that mistake last time I went. Hurt feet are terrible!

  9. These are such great tips. The only thing I would add is to wear and walk around in your backpack for awhile, just around your house, to test out how heavy and uncomfortable it is when all your stuff is in there.

    Also, shoes are the heaviest, so the fewer pairs you can bring (maybe just flats and a pair of tennis shoes)the better.

  10. So..I just got back last week after spending a few weeks in England and France, and hindsight is always 20/20, isn't it? Plan to take less than you are thinking, and then reduce that by half. Seriously, your feet and back will be much happier with you! Also, if you're going to make one investment, make it a good pair of shoes. Not anything that looks too athletic, but cute and good for walking 10+ miles each day. Make certain that you bring clothes that either don't wrinkle or look good wrinkled, and bring travel detergent (the kind that works in the sink) and one of those awesome, stretchy clotheslines. I had no idea how awesome those things were until I used them. Plus, European dryers are the WORST. Seriously.

    Have fun, and enjoy every moment. It'll go by so fast!

  11. I went to Europe a few years ago and really you want to be comfortable. Wear comfy shoes and materials that are light weight. Plus they pack easier. And there are great clothing stores everywhere (especially H&M which has great prices!) You can always get more clothes if you need them. And I would take with you things that you don't mind getting dirty and may not be able to wear again. Traveling is super tough on clothes.

  12. sue london flats (or gap city flats for cheaper version). they fold up and come with a little pouch. sooo comfy!

  13. Great advice. You really only need a few things if you can get to a washer. I would bring a black t-shirt then if it gets dirty, it's less noticeable.
    My Heart Blogged

  14. Comfort is the key. You're gonna walk miles and be standing all the time so you need to feel good in your clothes.

    I also suggest layers, because you never know what the weather is gonna be like. As much as layers seem to fill your suitcase, trust me, it's worth it.

    Oh and no, you can never pack too many underwear.

    But don't forget that you don't need to pack an outfit for every day. European have washing machines, you know. Ridiculously small, but still.

    I've backpacked myself for a whole month!

    For more backpacking tips, read these:

  15. Oh and scarves are a must - plus you'll probably look like a local wearing one. :)

  16. Layers! If she is coming to the UK, we definitely have 4 seasons in one day and being able to add and remove clothes is indispensable. I should know because I am hopeless at this and therefore frequently the wrong temperature.

    The other thing I would recommend is a waterproof coat. It tends to rain a bit.

  17. ohhh! just give her this link: it's me and my friends backpacking in Europe! she'll find there more than clothing advice;)

  18. I'm just wondering why you backpacked in the Philippines?

    I lived there for a little while when I was little so I'm just curious :)

  19. We were backpacking in Europe this fall. Best shoes I took were a comfy pair of boots. They were comfy, stylish, and kept my feet/pants dry. I had the gap city flats and they were horrible on the cobble roads!

  20. Heels are obnoxious on cobblestone streets. A low wedge is a good compromise. And pack a lot of cardigans - they're a lifesaver when it gets chilly at night. Whenever I go to Europe, I try to embrace neutrals - I feel like I blend in a little more and I have more options for mixing and matching.
    And seriously, bring half the jeans you think you'll need. Bring Shout wipes or a Tide pen and just rewear those jeans till you get home. They take up valuable space that could be filled by souvenirs.

  21. Such great advice! I'm actually going to Europe, too!!! We're going in May and our first stop is a cruise to the Greek Isles. Since it's cruise, I can justify myself bringing some fancier items...since cruises are classy like that. But after, we will be backpacking through the Netherlands for a few days, so I need to meet somewhere in the middle when it comes to packing for the trip.