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Posted by on Aug 18, 2011 in Stories | 0 comments

How to Prepare for Backpacking in Europe


It’s between semesters and you’re looking to get away – away from school and away from going back home. You’re thinking of backpacking Europe with a group of new or maybe even old friends.

Elizabeth Cook
University of Maine at Presque Isle

It’s between semesters and you’re looking to get away — away from school and away from going back home. You’re thinking of backpacking Europe with a group of new or maybe even old friends. Let’s face it — nothing will be more memorable than escaping with good friends to a new place for a good time.

OK, what’s first? Logically, finances are probably the first thought, but you’re excited, so let’s talk about packing. Packing light — yes, we’ve all heard the rule of thumb, but who actually uses it? One easy way to do so is to pack neutral-colored clothing or dark-colored clothing. Not only does that give you more mix-and-match options, but with less clothing, it will ease the appearance of stains you pick up along the way. Roll your clothes into tight rolls to save space and add a couple of dryer sheets — it keeps your clothes fresh and they’re also inexpensive. Pack layer-able clothing, not bulky sweaters.

 

Now, let’s break the packing down easy — the infamous checklist! There are various websites to best help you plan for where you’re going to be backpacking. But in general, if you’re going to be staying at hostels, this is the simplest list to use:

1. Toiletries and an organizer for them to save space. A common one for this would come from the popular brand L.L.Bean. They come in three sizes ranging in price from $20 to $40.

2. A towel.

3. A travel sheet — it may sound far-fetched, and I suppose that it’s truly a personal decision, but it is highly recommended.

4. A first-aid kit — I think this one explains itself. It can be picked up in camping departments and places like Kmart and Walmart.

5. Sunglasses — it’s fun in the European sun.

6. Identification.

7. Money — both an ATM card and cash.

8. Camera — capture those moments with your friends!

9. Guide Books — try one with multiple countries and common phrases.

Here’s a link to absolutely clear checklist: http://www.backpackeurope.com/packing/checklist.html

Now that we’ve covered what you want to take with you, let’s talk about how you’re taking it. You’re backpacking, so let’s point out the things you need to know. For starters, you should be 100-percent comfortable with your bag. It needs to allow you to carry about 30 pounds. It should be proportional to your body, and it is important to shop around. We’re in college, and value is not about the price of something. The most expensive pack may not be the best pack. For your own convenience, try to get a pack that you won’t have to check at the airport. The size requirements for that vary, but a good rule of thumb is to make sure the height times width times length doesn’t add up to more then 45 inches. There are also many features for you to consider when choosing your pack — day packs are a popular option. Try to find packs that include panel loading and lockable zippers.

We’ve thought about what to pack and what to take it in, but you’re backpacking and it is incredibly important to now think of your feet. You absolutely have to take care of your feet. Your shoes must be well-broken-in before your journey. Your goal is to have happy feet — to do this, wear comfortable, practical and durable shoes. Shoes that can be worn in many scenarios are also important. Tennis shoes/training shoes are not ideal. Many restaurants/clubs have dress codes that do not allow tennis shoes/trainers or sandals/flip-flops. Also, if you plan on doing any hiking or adventure walking, hiking boots or a sport sandal will work better than tennis shoes/trainers. Rubber traction and a waterproof shoe are important factors to consider. Brands recommended for shoes are Columbia, Dr. Marten’s, Merrell, Naturalizer, Rockport, Sketchers and Timberland.

OK, the time has come — we can’t avoid it forever: the expenses. First, you should start with a passport if you don’t already have one. These usually run about $110. Your backpack is going to run you around $75 to $100, your guides will typically go for $15 to $20, airline tickets cost anywhere from $200 to $900, and transportation while you’re in Europe depends on you. A decent railroad pass for the summer can be about $400 to $900, and a three-month bus pass usually costs $200 to $600. How much your travel accessories cost will depend on what you get, but a typical range is between $100 to $150.

So, your pre-trip expenses should be somewhere between $1,000 and $2,000.

Your in-country expenses will mostly be food and hostels — hostels charge about 15-35 euros per night. Eating will depend hugely on your choices, but can be as little as 10 euros per day and as much as 30 euros. And, of course, you need to plan for shopping/fun expenses.

There are a few more things that you should definitely research like hostels, hotels and which of those will best fit your needs, but this will start you off in a great direction. There are also some sites available where you can order your pack, guides, bus pass and plane tickets, with your hostel stays all mapped out and planned for you. But get a group of buddies together and go explore. Perhaps after such a trip, home will have a new beauty as well!

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