This trip was one of the most difficult we’ve ever had to pack for. We’d be going to 23 countries in Europe, over winter and early spring, with only hand luggage.
We were looking forward to the challenge, but the closer it got to our leave date, the more stressed we became about having to fit everything we needed into such a small bag.
For a normal trip to a hot country, I’d be bringing swimming shorts, flip flops and some sunscreen, but for a cold country, I’d need things like my snow boots and a parka. As we were visiting both climates throughout our trip (end of February to the beginning of May), I had to combine the two.
A lot of our flights were with Ryanair and Wizz Air, who reduced their carry on baggage allowance even further in the past year. Currently, passengers are only allowed to bring a bag with dimensions of 40cm x 20cm x 25cm, unless you upgrade to their premium package. We chose to travel with hand luggage only to save money on our flights, and I had to get tactical about what I could bring. We used the classic method of wearing the heaviest items on the plane, to get our bags through without suspicion.
My Packing List – Clothing
As you’ll see, I’m not big into fashion, which is a huge advantage when attempting to pack for a trip this big.
I brought two pairs of shoes so depending on the terrain and weather, I’d choose my footwear for the day; for snow or rain and I’d wear my hunting boots, and for everything else, my Vans would suffice.
The coldest temperature predicted was -5c, so I left my Eddie Bauer jackets in Canada and opted for a Hollister All Weather Parka, which would do the job and fit lots of extra layers underneath too. If we were in a cold country I’d wear my parka every day (as you’ll see I’m wearing it in most photos), and for warmer countries, I’d simply leave it in the hostel/Airbnb and just wear a shirt with shorts/jeans.
Apart from the Goretex hunting boots and duck down parka jacket, which I wear on every flight, this is what goes in my backpack:
Swimming Shorts (that I wear as normal shorts too)
T-shirts x 6
Boxers x 6
Socks (2 x thermal, 3 x normal)
For starters, most ‘survival gear’ was out, as I wouldn’t have been able to take it as hand luggage. We were mostly in big cities too, so it wouldn’t be needed. I packed the following because I use most of it on a daily basis:
Lush Shampoo, Conditioner and Body Wash bars
Hand Washing Soap Sachets
Small Medical Kit
iPhone Camera Lens Kit
Small Electric Shaver
Cable Bag (headphones, phone cables, headphone splitter, etc)
Key Ways To Save Space:
- Wash your clothes as regularly as possible. Pack enough clothes for 7 days, and wash at the end of the week. We recommend bringing hand washing detergent sachets, which take up almost no space, but means you can wash some items in a sink, if it’s longer than a week before you find a washing machine. Even regular shampoo will do the trick, if you don’t have space for the sachets.
- Roll up your clothes and tie with hairbands, to maximise space, and prevent your clothes from getting creased.
- Airports are always freezing, whatever country you’re in, so you can get away with wearing your heavier, thicker items there. It helps to layer up, so that you can remove your outer layers easily, as soon as you’ve found your seat on the plane.
- Swap your liquid toiletries for bars – we use Lush shampoo, conditioner and body wash. No more exploding shampoo bottles in your backpack, you don’t need to worry about liquid allowance for your carry on, and it’s better for the environment. Triple win!
- As for packing outfits, don’t think about dressing to look good necessarily; think practical. We recommend a lot of neutral colours, so you can interchange outfits easily and prevent overpacking.
If you’re female and reading this, you may need backpack contents closer to what Ally brought, so keep your eyes peeled for her post, which should be out soon.
Overall, not bad for 10 weeks in Europe. Thankfully, my 34L Osprey daypack has many compartments, which made packing easy. I’m definitely using everything I packed, it’s comfortable to wear, but looking forward to having a larger wardrobe when this trip is done.