Skip to Content

Packing: My Top 5 Essentials – 4 Months On the Road

Backpacking through Europe for a month has been wild. We’ve bounced our way through eight different countries in only a month and it’s been such a whirlwind.  Moving from hostels and Airbnbs so frequently has forced me to really perfect my packing strategy.

To avoid packing and unpacking my entire backpack every time I change locations, I’ve adjusted to keeping all the things I use daily in one packing cube. This has also forced me to identify what things are absolutely essential.

These are five of the things that are absolutely essential.


1. ExOfficio Underwear

Do you need $18 “travel underwear“? I asked myself this over and and over before we left on this trip because I just couldn’t fathom spending $40 on two pairs of underwear. The answer to this question, though, is an emphatic YES. Yes, you do need them for long-term travel.

ExOfficio claims their underwear are breathable, non-stretch and anti-microbial. I believe all these things to probably be true, but that’s not why I bought them or why I love them. I bought them because of how small they are, how durable they are, and how quickly they dry. I only need two pairs: one to wear, one to pack. Every morning, I swap them out and wash a pair in the sink (using hot water and a fels naptha bar). Without fail, they will be dry by the following morning (usually within a few hours assuming I’m not in the rain forest). This is just not the case with cotton underwear.

I suggest ordering your Victoria’s Secret size, which for me is a size down.

2. FlipBelt

My FlipBelt is on every packing list I make and probably always will be. Pretty much anywhere you travel to, in the US or abroad, people (travel bloggers, tour guides, the capital “I” Internet) tell you to beware of pickpockets. I understand how pickpockets thrive on tourists who are on vacation, have their guard down, aren’t in familiar territory and are fumbling with all their things (Seriously, travelers have so many things! Phone, sunglasses, cash, maps, passport, that pamphlet some stranger just handed to you on the street, sunblock, etc).

My FlipBelt is my best protection against pickpockets because it keeps everything secured, close to me, and out of sight. I also really hate carrying bags and purses because I always leave them places. My FlipBelt, and all it’s contents, stays secure on my hips at all times. On a regular day, I can carry a water bottle, keys, phone, wallet, and sunglasses, all in my FlipBelt without even looking like an Oompa Loompa.

3. Sleep Sheet

There is nothing like coming home and snuggling up in your own bed, right? Well, I don’t currently have a bed, so I’ve grown to love sleeping in my own sheets. It’s so nice to come home everyday and snuggle up in the same clean, cozy sheets. It makes sleeping in a different bed every few days not feel so bad.

I originally purchased the sleep sheet for cleanliness reasons in hostels or Airbnb beds that seemed questionable. Everywhere we’ve stayed has been impeccably clean, but I still use my sleep sheet every night because it just feels like home.

Had I realized that I would use the sleep sheet as much as I do, I would have invested in a better quality silk sheet. However, I couldn’t bring myself to spend $80 on something I didn’t know if I’d use, so I bought the $11 alternative. It’s fine, it’s just not the best quality. It packs down incredibly small though, which is a huge perk.

4. Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Bar

I don’t know how I didn’t realize that face wash bars existed until recently, but it was an amazingly helpful discovery. For the first leg of this trip, I brought a travel-size container of liquid face wash and it lasted me all of a week. After that, I was using a cheap body soap bar on my face and my skin never liked it. My mom picked me up this Neutrogena bar and it has been amazing. It’s so great to be able to wash my face every day with actual face wash without having to worry about keeping it under 4 ounces of liquid or having to rebuy it in every city. If you can replace a liquid with a non-liquid, always choose the non-liquid!

5. Patagonia Better Sweater

It’s fall in Europe and I live in my Better Sweater. It’s a perfect outer layer that is somehow magically really warm when it’s cold outside, but also breathable and comfortable when I’m inside (I have to point that out because my North Face Apex Jacket is really warm when it’s cold outside but a total sauna when I’m inside). It feels cozy like I’m wearing a hoody, but is fitted so it looks put together. I can wear it with leggings casually or “dress it up” (like I’m ever dressed up) with jeans. It has a zipper pocket on one arm where I permanently keep a Chapstick and my phone. It’s just my favorite clothing item lately. I have the quarter zip, but would actually really love the full-zip in the future.