This post was inspired by the overwhelmingly positive feedback I received in regards to my tweet.
‘How I traveled Europe for 3 months with only a 25L rucksack’
So I’m here to share my journey.
1. Why I travel light
Growing up me and my family were not the materialistic type, this was largely down to space and money. My mother, barely in her twenties was a single working parent who raised me and my two brothers. We moved house a lot (due to financial hardship and work) and by the time I was 14 we had moved 9 times.
I recall one particular day getting into a taxi with my mum and brothers, our lives stuffed into four black sacks between us.
As a result, me and my brothers really were taught to always appreciate what we had and that materialism didn’t equal happiness. Instead of gadgets and new clothes every few months we would get creative elsewhere, such as baking, using the sewing machine and spending as much time outside as possible (then again being a 90’s kid there weren’t many other options)
My mother was and still is pretty boss when it comes to living fruitfully on a frugal budget, which over the years has definitely rubbed off on me.
Nowadays I seek adventures over possessions. I don’t own a car, I’ve never bought a house and I choose to carry my life in a backpack.
Having less stuff gives me more time and energy to focus more on what really matters, despite being 30 and still figuring things out.
*Disclaimer – This post is not a ‘How I think you should live your life’ everybody shares their own personal journey and values. This is just my story. ☺
Over the years I’ve learned some pretty nifty tips on how to travel light.
2. My 3 month trip across Europe
90 Days, 8 Countries, 1 Rucksack.
My journey began early October 2018. I was working from home which allowed me to take it on the go with me, So I said goodbye to friends, gave the cats a hug and to my mothers relief (after years of telling her how much I just wanted to pack up and go) I grabbed my rucksack and left. My first stop, Florence.
I hadn’t planned anything beyond Italy and decided to play it by ear. I didn’t know where I’d ended up. With only a small rucksack in tow, I was free to go where and when as effortlessly as I wanted.
Here’s a list of destinations I visited over October – December period:
Czech Republic, Prague
Germany, Berlin and Munich
Italy, Florence, Pisa and Trieste
Slovenia, Bled, Bohinj and ljubljana
2. My 25L Rucksack
Given how little I brought with me, finding a suitable rucksack was easy to find. After scoping out a couple of shops and trying on a few options I decided on the Eurohike Nova 25L Daysack.
It certainly isn’t anything advanced in terms of what a long term traveler would consider a ‘proper’ backpack but for me it was just what I needed. Small, sturdy and inconspicuous. (I didn’t want the ‘obvious backpacker’ attention drawn to me.
A few features I particularly liked where the half dozen of zip compartments which meant that I didn’t require any packing cubes, along with the breathable mesh padded back and shoulder support which were an absolute godsend when it came to my Costochondritis and if I didn’t fancy wearing my coat I could easily attach it to the front elastic bungee for external storage.
Inside the front compartment there are some claps which I clipped my keys and padlocks to so they were easily accessible. Of course I would always keep a spare on me too.
3.The perks of travelling light
Here are a list of perks when travelling light:
▪ Airport life becomes easier when it comes to check-in, nowadays many airlines offer online check-in as well as self check-in kiosks. There will be no need to queue to check your bag, you can head straight to security.
▪ Almost every Airline allows one free piece of hand luggage on-board, so if your packing light, you’re good to go. (however do check with the dimensions for your chosen airline)
▪ You will save money, by only packing a small carry-on, you will avoid any unwanted baggage fees.
▪ Airport security and bag searches (if any) will become a smoother and faster process as you will have packed minimal items.
▪ You will learn about restrictions on the amount of liquids you can take in your hand luggage and pack accordingly. (Check with your chosen airline)
▪ Storing your hand luggage will be easy and convenient, you can fit it under the seat in front of you, such as planes, coaches and trains.
▪ Ease of access in busy areas, because your only carrying a small backpack you needn’t worry about bumping into people and things.
▪ You’re in control of your items and can keep track of everything as it’s all in one place.
▪ Your back and feet will thank you.
▪ Walking to your accommodation from the train/coach station will be an easy task, also keeping your backpack close and hands free for using your phone when looking up directions.
▪ You won’t be phased if you reach your accommodation to find out there is no lift, stairs will be no problem.
▪ Everything will fit into one locker so you don’t have to leave your bags out in the dorm/room.
▪ Repacking your bag will be a quick and easy process, particularly if you have a method in place.
▪ Due to fewer clothing options, getting ready will be quick and no fuss as everything will mix and match.
▪ Doing laundry will be a breeze, as you can fit everything into one load, meaning less money and time spent, plus if you have packed dark clothing you don’t need to worry colors bleeding.
The list could go on…
4. Steps on how to pack like a minimalist
▪ Declutter, my biggest tip is to go through your items such as clothes, shoes and books and start by completely eliminating everything you know you don’t want. By cutting down to begin with this will help you feel more confident about your decision making when packing later.
▪ This is self explanatory but buy a smaller backpack and stick to it, now I’m not saying that everybody should rush out to buy a 25L rucksack but even just swapping out your bag for a smaller counterpart is a great step to learning to pack less.
▪ Take into consideration where and what time of year are you travelling. Summer, winter, little bit of both?
Summer items and even just partial winter items will be much more space efficient over a purely winter pack.
I traveled during winter so naturally I had bulkier items to tend with, so I had to get creative with my space.
▪ Identifying the difference between needs and wants. Think about what you will be doing. Will they benefit your trip?
In my case I wanted to pack my glittery flats with it being Christmas but were they practical for my trip? Absolutely not, instead I chose memory foam, sports trainers and my feet felt great throughout.
(I chose comfort over aesthetic, however in summer you can be a little more flexible)
▪ Gather all of your chosen items and pack about half a weeks worth (3 to 4 days) remember it’s perfectly normal to wear items such as jeans and sweatpants for more than one day so don’t feel gross, as for t-shirts I usually pack a few more than I did bottoms.
The general rule is about 2-3 pairs of bottoms and 3-4 t-shirts (including the ones your already wearing when you leave) 1-2 sweaters/jackets and on average about 2-3 pairs of footwear (including flip-flops)
▪ Learn how to layer. Keep your items simple and experiment before you go. Layer short sleeved t-shirts over a long sleeved t-shirts and vice versa, wear a plaid shirt and add a sweater under/over it, tie a cardigan over your shoulders or waist, experiment with different ways to style a scarf.
If travelling in summer, experiment with different ways to style a sarong, add shorts or a tie a plaid shirt around you waist to go with your bikini top, or a cardigan or jacket for cooler evenings.
▪ Be comfortable with repeat outfits. Don’t be phased by wearing the same clothes over and over, with each destination you visit you will always meet new people, chances of meeting the same people again (unless planned) are slim. In most cases, almost all of the backpackers you meet will be in the situation anyways and trust me, they really won’t care.
5. Practical packing and space saving tips for Winter backpacking
▪ Wear your bulkier items when travelling, its a no brainer really.
▪ T-shirts which are simple will go with everything plus they’re easy to clean and compact.
▪ Pack a couple of fitted t-shirts, particularly ones with Lycra as these will stretch out the creases once you start wearing them.
▪ When packing t-shirts opt for darker/neutral colors, trust me white t-shirts will get noticeably grubbier and stained quicker (but if you wish to pack white shirts I wont stop you)
▪ As I mentioned earlier, experiment with layering. Remove for warmer climates, add for colder.
▪ Sweaters, bring two, wear one. Choice of thickness is down to you, a regular knit/turtle neck will do but you can opt for just 1 thick sweater or two thin if you prefer.
▪ Dark bottoms, black jeans, sweatpants something warm and comfortable if your planning on hiking you can swap the jeans out for hiking pants.
▪ Get yourself some warm fleece lined leggings, an absolute staple. They’re thick enough to not look like leggings, wont show you’re underwear and go with everything.
▪ Roll clothes instead of folding, they will save space and create less creasing. It’s magic.
Whilst travelling in winter I took only one coat and wore it throughout the duration of my travels, along with 1 hat and scarf. That’s it.
Alternatively you can swap this out for a hiking jacket or waterproof/fleece lined jacket if you prefer.
▪ Wear your coat or bulkier item whilst in transit.
▪ Find a compact jacket/raincoat, the ones which can be folded down to the size of a tennis ball.
▪ Bare in mind cities will be a little milder than out in open spaces, just a thought.
▪ Wear your bulkier footwear and stuff socks into the second pair in your backpack to utilize the space.
▪ Get yourself some memory foam insoles, they’re perfect for lots of walking.
▪ Check out some lightweight yet durable/waterproof trainers, the easily washable the better.
▪ Pack flip flops, useful for dirty showers and an alternative to trainers if your feet really are butchered up (although I would keep to the accommodation)
▪ Pack some thermal socks, your toes will get cold.
▪ Before you go break in your new footwear, you don’t want blisters.
I have a short post about my go to hair and skincare products for the backpacker on the go here.
▪ Purchase solid versions instead regular liquids when it comes to hygiene products. Useful if you’re concerned with exceeding liquid restrictions on the plane. (eg: Shampoo)
▪ Invest in a shampoo/conditioner bar, they’re super convenient and come in a reusable tin which makes it easy to take on the go, I bought mine from Lush and lasts up to 80 washes, even longer if you have shorter hair.
* Bonus, the Lush shampoo/conditioner bars in particular are also organic and can be used for face and body too as there are no nasty chemicals. (Not Spon)
▪ Pack a regular bar of soap and store it in a compact tin.
▪ Stock up on only travel size (100ml) toothpaste, moisturizer, deodorant, contact solution etc and pop them in a clear plastic bag.
▪ Pack some lip balm, that icy wind wont do them any favors.
▪ Don’t feel pressured to go overboard when packing hygiene products (or for the ladies tampons and pads etc) these can be replenished throughout your travels.
▪ If you want to completely eliminate pads/tampons altogether then look into other options such as a menstrual cup and find one that works for you.
▪ Towels are optional as many hostels/hotels will either offer them regardless (or for a small hire fee) however if you do choose to bring one, go for the microfiber option as they are less bulky and dry much faster than regular towels.
▪ Grab yourself either a tangle teezer or one of those compact brushes with the mirror attached. They’re easy to stuff into the small compartments of your rucksack.
▪ Again this is self explanatory, purchase travel sizes instead and be sure to pack any liquids and powders into a clear plastic bag along with your hygiene products.
▪ Store them safely in a small makeup bag to avoid any accidental leakages.
▪ Remember you can stock up throughout your travels
If you don’t wear makeup, even better. You can skip this step.
Tech and Miscellaneous
What tech/gadget you decide to bring is your personal choice and do be mindful of space when doing so, however don’t forget to include:
▪ Mobile phone charger/USB charger
▪ Universal Adapter
▪ Earphones (much more space saving than headphones)
▪ Spare Camera battery and charger
▪ Earplugs and eye mask (for when your drunken room mate at the hostel stumbles in at 3am and switches the light on)
▪ Mini first aid kit
5. Lastly What I packed
So by now some of you may be wondering what I packed for my 3 month adventure.
Lets break it down:
4 short sleeve t-shirts (wearing the 5th)
1 long sleeve shirt
1 Plaid shirt
1 sweater (wearing a 2nd)
1 pair of fleece lined leggings
1 pair of dark jeans
1 pair of lightweight pants (which also doubled up as pajama bottoms)
1 woolly hat and scarf
4 pairs of underwear (wearing the 5th)
3 pairs of socks (wearing the 4th)
2 pairs of footwear (wearing the 2nd pair)
1 lightweight microfiber towel
1 Cosmetics bag which fit my hygiene/makeup products:
▪ Shampoo/Conditioner bar, deodorant stick, small bar of soap, travel sized toothpaste, toothbrush, tinted moisturizer, mascara, compact powder, eyebrow/eyeliner pencil and makeup brush.
▪ Tangle teezer (not spon) and a handful of hair ties
▪ Netbook and charger (for work, blogging and watching movies)
▪ Mobile Phone and charger
▪ European adapter
▪ Mini organizer which held my passport, copy of health insurance documents, plane ticket, notepad and pen.
▪ Purse and a small sunflower tote (bag) to store all the paperwork/techy items.
and that’s it!
Packing appropriately can be a challenge even for the experienced traveler, however learning to adapt a minimalistic approach will change your travel game forever.
If you don’t believe me, I have a video here (I suck at making videos so bare with me) 😂
So there you have it, how I travelled Europe with only a 25L rucksack.
I really hope you enjoyed this post and found some use tidbits to add and change up your packing routine.
If you have any other tips and would like to share, I’d love to hear them.
My socials are all @girlabouteurope (IG and Pinterest) and Twitter @girl_about_EU
once again thankyou for reading and happy travels.