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Backpacking Europe is the classic college student trip, and for good reason. Europe is easy to travel, relatively inexpensive if you do it right, and straight up amazing. Whether you’re doing a semester study abroad in Europe and have a few weeks of break or are taking the whole summer to backpack Europe, you’re sure to have an amazing time.

Of course, living out of a backpack probably isn’t something that you’re used to, especially if it’s your first time backpacking. Over the years, I’ve had loads of trial and error with different products both geared towards backpackers and not, and have come up with a pretty good system for when I backpack Europe.

So, without further ado, here are 10 products that will change your life when you backpack Europe—all personally tested and approved by yours truly.

A Good Backpack

A black backpacking packpack
I know, I know, this seems like a no-brainer. A good backpack? For backpacking Europe? Who would have thought!

But trust me, you don’t want to jump into a relationship with a new backpack. Good ones are a pretty big investment and, if you’re anything like me, you’re going to fall into a long-term relationship with your backpack once you fall in love with travel. So make a good backpack your number one priority when putting together your Europe backpacking gear.

How to Choose a Backpack

The criteria of a good backpack are varied and really depend on your personal preferences, but I can say from experience that you want one with lots of pockets for organization, a good support system with waist straps, etc., and a front-opening zipper (so that you don’t have to dig around from the top for everything).

My number one tip though? Don’t get a backpack that will hold more than you can carry. Yes, you can get a huge 60 or 70-liter backpack, but if you’re small and weak (like me) this will probably amount to being way more than you can carry. Plus, 70 liters is really just more space than you need. I travel with a 44L backpack and can fit everything I need for a few weeks in it. If I’m traveling for a longer amount of time, then I just do laundry! Most importantly, it’s never too heavy for me to carry.

I have the 44L Backpack from Kelty and am so in love with it that I bought a matching one for my boyfriend for Christmas last year (#couplegoals). You can find it on Amazon here. If you don’t love my fav backpack then you can browse others here. Just keep those criteria I mentioned in mind!

A Travel Towel

An orange microfiber travel towel

A lot of hostels don’t include towels in their price, and you can rack up a pretty big bill if you’re paying €2 for towel rental at every hostel you go to. Instead, bring along a microfiber travel towel with your Europe backpacking gear. These things pack down super well but are actually huge and sop up more water without getting wet then a regular towel does. How cool is that???

This travel towel is similar to the one that I use, and I think it’s great.

Packing Cubes

3 medium-sized eBags packing cubes

It is SUPER easy for a backpack to get disorganized, and using packing cubes has changed my life. A good set is a bit of an investment, but I definitely suggest going for the slightly more expensive ones. I got a cheap set first and they were totally falling apart by the end of my trip.

I currently use the eBags medium and small packing cubes and they’re perfect for backpacking Europe.

Packable Down Jacket

A woman wearing a packable down jacket -- very important Europe backpacking gear!

If you’re backpacking Europe at any point other than the summer (and even then if you go too far north) you’re going to want to have some warm layers on you. I LOVE my packable down jacket for this because it’s super easy to pack up and throw in my bag when I don’t need it, but warm enough to keep me toasty when I need it. If you’re traveling during the winter you’ll probably want to layer it under another, heavier jacket, but other than that it really does the trick!

Reusable Toiletry Bottles

Reusable toiletry bottles
Plastic waste is dumb, and so is paying for travel-sized toiletries when you already have perfectly good toiletries at home. I can’t recommend buying a set of reusable toiletry bottles (and an accompanying reusable quart-size plastic bag for airline security) more. This way you can use your fav shampoo and conditioner while still traveling carry-on only! Definitely a great addition to your Europe backpacking gear.

Reusable Water Bottle

2 reusable water colors with a pink marbled pattern
Europe is super weird and likes to pretend that you can’t drink the tap water by presenting you with bottles of sparkling water at every restaurant, but you totally can. They might look at you a little weird, but you’ll be totally grateful that you brought along a reusable water bottle on a hot day and you’re at risk of being dehydrated. Your wallet will thank you too.

Combination Lock

Two combination locks
Locks for dorm room lockers are another thing that not all hostels provide in the base price, and I’ve found that carrying around a little lock like these with my Europe backpacking gear has been totally invaluable. When you’re looking for a lock, make sure that it has a thin cable so that you can be certain it’ll fit into every kind of locker!

Memory foam neck pillow

A memory foam neck pillow
If you’re planning on taking any long plane or bus trips (or even just for the overnight flight from the US to Europe), then you’re going to want a good travel neck pillow. Now, I’m not talking about those super lame neck pillows that everyone seems to have which do absolutely nothing. I’m talking about a GOOD travel neck pillow. One that, you know, actually supports your neck and helps you get a good night’s sleep.

I’ve tried a few different neck pillows in my time, and the one I’m using right now is the closest thing to a miracle I’ve ever seen. It’s the Cabeau Evolution Neck Pillow and it’s amazing.

Headphones

bluetooth headphones
If you’re going to be staying in hostel dorm rooms, then you’re going to need a good pair of headphones if you ever want to listen to music or catch up on your favorite tv shows. They’re also good for travel days (I love listening to podcasts and staring out the window).

I have a pair of Bluetooth earbuds that I love (the only trade-off is that they have a pretty short battery life, but that’s what a portable charger is for), but you should go for whatever type of headphones you like the best.

Kindle

An amazone paperwhite kindle
You’re going to need something to entertain you on all those long travel days I mentioned earlier, and I think there’s nothing better than sitting with a good book while you watch Europe speed by out the window. I only just invested in a Kindle Paperwhite a few months ago and I can’t believe I didn’t do it earlier—the thing is absolutely amazing. When I was traveling solo in Portugal (my first test-run for the device) I stuck it in my bag literally every day to read while I was eating in restaurants alone so that people would look at me a little less weird and it was great.

And there you have it: 10 products that will totally change your life when you backpack Europe. Which one do you think will change your life the most???

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