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Backpacking this European summer?

We share our top tips for travelling light

If you’ve decided to pass up the Australian winter in favour of a backpacking odyssey through Europe in the Northern Hemisphere’s summer, this guide is for you.

Not only does backpacking save you money compared to a more traditional holiday and allow you to get around more easily, but it gives you the opportunity to explore new places with a sense of freedom and a unique perspective that’s hard to replicate.

The flipside is that carrying everything on your back could get mighty uncomfortable if you’re not the minimalist type. Lighten the load with this sage advice.


Backpackers-300x234 Backpacking this European summer?

Backpackers making the most of European summer

Choose your backpack carefully

Your backpack should suit the type of trip you’re taking. Is your itinerary long or short? Will you be hiking or travelling by bus, train or plane? All of these factors will determine the size of backpack you can get away with. But a good rule of thumb to follow is a maximum capacity of 60 litres.

Even if you’re on a tight budget, don’t buy the cheapest backpack you can find. If you compromise on comfort or quality, we guarantee you’ll regret it within the first day of your trip. Make sure it’s rain-proof from top to bottom and has plenty of separate compartments and pockets. Backpacks that come with a smaller rucksack for day trips are a great idea too.

Try it on. Adjust the straps to fit you and take a walk around the store to really make sure it’s the right fit for your body type and that the straps and back support feel comfortable.

Take the right clothes

Be ruthlessly selective when choosing which clothes to pack for your trip. We suggest limiting yourself to around two easy-to-wash pieces of each type of clothing, for example:

  • 3 tops or t-shirts – to enter some churches in Europe your shoulders must be covered; chances are you’ll be stepping foot in a lot of churches on your trip so singlets may not be the most versatile choice
  • 2 pairs of shorts
  • 2 pairs of pants or jeans
  • 1 jumper
  • 1 waterproof jacket
  • 1 swimming outfit
  • At least 5 sets of underwear
  • At least 5 pairs of comfortable socks
  • 2 pairs of comfortable shoes – one very, very comfortable pair and one dressier but still comfortable pair

Of course it goes without saying that if you’re travelling outside of summer or going somewhere cooler like Northern Europe, you’ll need to pack more warm clothes. Always check the average temperature for your destination and the time of year. Even summer in Europe can get surprisingly cold at night or in bad weather.

Take the right gear

Some essentials are:

  • A water bottle
  • A compact umbrella
  • A small first aid kit with painkillers, antiseptic cream, dressings, etc
  • Official documents and papers like your passport and travel tickets, plus photocopies of these
  • Electronic devices like your phone, camera and tablet, plus their chargers and an Australia to Europe adapter
  • A lightweight towel – there’s nothing worse than having to drip-dry in a hostel shower if you’re caught short!
  • Laundry detergent so you can wash your clothes at your hostel without needing to find a laverie, lavanderia or Waschsalon (laundromat)

Don’t rely too much on your smartphone and its apps. What if you get stuck without internet access, your roaming credit runs out or the battery dies and you can’t charge it? Be prepared with:

  • A pen
  • A small torch
  • A good road map

Packing tips

Organising a backpack is both an art and a science. Some people bunch and shove, while others meticulously roll and stack. If your packing style leaves room for improvement, follow these tips and you’ll be packing like a pro in no time:

  • Line the bottom of your backpack with a garbage bag for extra waterproofing
  • Pack clothes and things you won’t need every day at the bottom
  • Put fragile items in the middle for extra padding and protection
  • Put the heaviest items in the middle for the most comfortable weight distribution
  • Squeeze socks and small items of clothing down the sides
  • Pop your toiletries bag, jumper and waterproof jacket at the top so they’re easy to grab
  • Add another garbage bag to the top for even more waterproofing
  • Put your umbrella, torch, water bottle, a plastic bag for rubbish and anything else you’ll use often in the side pockets for easy access
  • To conserve room inside your backpack, roll up your sleeping bag in its case and clip it on the outside

Don’t forget to pack travel insurance

For maximum peace of mind, choose a travel insurance policy that provides the optimum coverage for the countries you’re visiting and the types of activities you have planned.

Online Travel Insurance covers your luggage and personal effects if they are misdirected, lost, stolen or damaged. It also provides cover for medical and hospital expenses, overseas emergency medical assistance, cancellation fees, lost deposits and more.

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