I can writing this entire list from memory. Every time (and I mean every time) we packed to go to another destination, I would repeat a list of everything I owned to myself as a checklist. Aside from being a great way to ensure I didn't forget anything, I can now write this post very easily!
Obviously, packing depends on the season... and the location. Europe in summer is different than Europe in winter. Scandinavia is located on a different latitude than the Galapagos. Keep this in mind, research the typical weather for the time you will be there... also, just use common sense. Below is a general packing list that can be adjusted depending on location and season (I will give advice on how to do so at the bottom.) Generally, this list is a good reference for the quantity of clothing to bring, no matter the length of time. Three weeks or three months, it doesn't matter. I promise you don't need more.
Without further ado, I present...
EUROPEAN BACKPACKING CLOTHING PACKING LIST:
Important tips before you pack:
1: Pack only neutral colors, grey, black, and white. You need to be able to match everything together/look at it for weeks without getting sick of it.
2: Do not pack all of your favorite things. Pack mostly cheap, old, or disposable clothing. I suggest only bringing your favorite jackets and pants - things you would never leave behind. You should be okay with ditching most of your shirts if you stain them or run out of room.
3: If possible, try to stick with generally the same climate as you travel, aka don't try to do Scandinavia and Indonesia in the same trip... or do (that sounds like fun), but know that you will not be traveling lightly.
4: It is OKAY, and probably BETTER, to have extra space when you're done packing.
1 zipper hoodie - grey: If you are traveling in the fall/early winter and don't want to pack a coat, layering will become your best friend.
1 tank top - grey or black: This is great for sleeping and hiking
1 tshirt - white or grey: I only brought 1 because I substituted a tank top for a second tshirt.
1 sweater - cream, white, or grey: I brought one nice, neutral sweater to dress up my jeans and dress. It was also a great layering piece when the weather got colder.
1 thick long sleeve shirt - neutral color (burgundy, dark green, tan): This shirt was almost a sweater, but was still technically a shirt. The color made it "fun", but it was still neutral enough that I could look at it every day and not hate it.
1 fancy tank top - black or white: This is for going out to clubs when it gets too cold to wear a dress. Wear under a jacket or sweater until you get inside.
1 light weight rain jacket: Many people say to not bring a rain jacket, but rain jackets really don't take up a lot of room, and they can change your day when you're touring a city and it begins to rain. Pro tip: you can wear your backpack inside of your rain jacket if you have valuables in your bag.
1 light jacket: I brought a denim jacket because the jeans I had with me were black. A jean jacket obviously isn't super warm, but combined with my hoodie, sweater, scarf and long sleeve shirt, I could stay warm if necessary. Denim matched all of my clothing. Jane brought a dark green army-esque jacket that worked similarly.
1 black dress: This dress needs to be comfortable. You need to be able to wear it during the day and dress it up at night. Basically, it is the perfect black dress (which is easier said than found). Keep your eyes out for it - for me, it was this Brandy Melville dress.
2 pairs of leggings: I wore leggings most days and slept in them most nights. You could bring only one pair, but having more than one pair is worth it the room.
1 pair of black jeans: I chose black jeans because they can be dressed up more easily than traditional jeans. I also wanted to be able to wear them with my denim jacket.
2 pairs of black tights: No these aren't "pants", but they can help you prolong the season for your black dress. If you are arriving in the summer to Europe, you can wait to buy them until it gets cold - they are sold everywhere.
1 pair of athletic shorts: Great for touring, hiking, sleeping, and hanging.
1 pair of lounge pants (buy there): Great to relax in at night, or run errands in in the morning. Also great to... well, lounge in. Lounge pants are basically socially acceptable sweat pants. These are easy to find while traveling, so wait until you stumble across the perfect pair!
I brought an a-line black skirt that I left behind after a month because I wasn't wearing it.
First and most importantly, all of your shoes need to be comfortable enough to walk in all day. Additionally, shoes take up a lot of room in your suitcase. If you are the type of person who can wear the same sneakers or hiking boots every day, do that. I overpack shoes in the name of ~fashion~.
black booties: Especially in Europe, booties are a great way to dress up any outfit- jeans, leggings, dresses, ect. I got a cheap pair at Primark that I didn't mind wearing until they fell apart. Eventually I threw them away at the end of the trip when I needed more room in my bag.
tevas/chacos: These were my shower shoes (most people bring flip flops), but I could also wear them to walk around/go to the beach in them. As a person who has traveled with both tevas and chacos, I can confidently say that chacos are more comfortable.
comfortable walking sandals that can be dressed up: I only brought these because they didn't take up too much room, and if we went somewhere semi-nice I would need shoes. If you don't foresee this being an issue, you don't need to pack these.
athletic sneakers - nike, asics, mizuno, ect: I didn't bring hiking boots, so I needed these for outdoorsy activities. I brought a pair of the "light-weight" sneakers so they wouldn't take up a lot of room. I don't like wearing athletic sneakers as street-wear so I also brought...
walking sneakers - vans, converse, supergas, ect: I probably could have gotten away without these, but there were days when my booties hurt my feet and it was too cold to wear my sandals.
hiking boots: If you think hiking will be a large part of your trip, hiking boots are a must have. Hiking boots take up a lot of room in your suitcase, but they can easily replace of athletic and walking sneakers.
bathing suit: Swimming is one of those things that always seems to happen spontaneously, and you want to make sure that you are prepared when it does.
quick-dry towel: I'm not going to lie and paint a pretty picture about using a quick-dry towel. One of the things I looked forward to most about returning home was using a normal towel. These towels are nice because they don't take up room, but they barley get the job done. Just know that relaxing in your towel post-shower is not a thing while traveling.
day bag: A bag, smaller than you backpack, to hold your belongings while touring (and going out at night.) What works for everyone is different - just think about what you are realistically going to bring around with you, and how much space you need for that.
scarf: Scarves are everything when traveling! This is how you add color to your grey/black/white outfits. Bring a favorite, or buy one there... and then leave one behind and get another. Blanket, pillow, eyemask, scarves can be anything.
4 pairs of short socks, 2 pairs of tall - black or white: Do I need to explain this?
a bra for every occasion: I made a list of my packing non-negotiables, but the more I think about it, bras are my actual packing non-negotiable. Strapless, bandeau, lace halter bra, standard... I brought it all, and I never regretted it.
a lot of underwear: Similar to above, this is another non-negotiable. You will not be able to do laundry as often as you want, and while wearing the same shirt 3 days in a row is one thing, underwear is another. Some people swear by fast dry underwear.
headband: Your hair is going to look really awful some days and caps are so american and touristy. If it is going to be cold, bring a beanie. Also, something needs to be said: large fashion hats are NOT practical, so just forget about it.
sunglasses: Again, this is self-explanatory. Bring a cheap pair, they will get lost or broken
ADJUSTING LIST FOR WARMER CLIMATES:
- one pair of leggings
- one pair of fashion/denim shorts
- 2 pairs of athletic shorts
- do not bring a light jacket, sweater, or a long sleeve - but do bring a zip up hoodie
- bring an extra tshirt and/or tank top
- do not bring black booties, but do bring fashionable/comfortable walking sandals
- no tights
ADJUSTING FOR COLDER CLIMATES
- black dress should be long sleeve
- make room for jacket by removing shoes - try to only bring 2 pairs (and shower shoes)
- gloves and a beanie
- bring a "light-weight" or "shell" jacket that doesn't take up much room, but keeps you warm by layering.... I love my arcteryx jacket.