Pack lightly. Lay out only what you absolutely need, then follow the mantra, “take half the clothes and twice the money." The Travelite FAQ (www.travelite.org) is a good resource for tips on traveling light. The online Universal Packing List (http://upl.codeq.info) will generate a customized list of suggested items based on your trip length, the expected climate, your planned activities, and other factors. If you plan to do a lot of hiking, be sure to come prepared.
Luggage: If you plan to cover most of your itinerary by foot, a sturdy frame backpack is unbeatable. Toting a suitcase or trunk is fine if you plan to live in one or two cities and explore from there, but not a great idea if you plan to move around frequently. In addition to your main piece of luggage, a daypack (a small backpack or courier bag) is useful.
Clothing: Avoid clothing that will offend locals or make you stand out. No matter when you’re traveling, it’s a good idea to bring a warm jacket or wool sweater, a rain jacket (Gore-Tex® is both waterproof and breathable), sturdy shoes or hiking boots, and thick socks. Flip-flops or waterproof sandals are must-haves for grubby hostel showers. Remember that when you’re traveling, no one but your companions will know if you continually re-wear the same three outfits, so you can save precious pack-space by taking less clothing. Still, you may want one outfit for going out, and maybe a nicer pair of shoes. If you plan to visit religious or cultural sites, remember that you will need modest and respectful dress.
Sleepsack: Some hostels require that you either provide your own linens or rent sheets from them. Save cash by making your own sleepsack: fold a full-size sheet in half the long way, and then sew it closed along the long side and one of the short sides.
Converters and Adapters: In Europe and most of Asia, electricity is 230 volts AC, enough to fry any 120V North American appliance. Electrical appliances with 220/240V won’t work with a 120V current, either. Europe-bound Americans and Canadians should buy an adapter (which changes the shape of the plug; US$20) and a converter (which changes the voltage; US$20). US and Canada bound visitors from outside North America will need the same. Don’t make the mistake of using only an adapter (unless appliance instructions explicitly state otherwise). Australians and New Zealanders (who use 230V at home) won’t need a converter in Europe, but will need a set of adapters to use anything electrical.
Toiletries: Toothbrushes, towels, cold-water soap, talcum powder (to keep feet dry), deodorant, razors, tampons, and condoms are often available, but may be difficult to find; bring extras. Remember to pack prescription medicine and a copy of your prescription. Contact lenses are likely to be expensive and difficult to find, so bring enough extra pairs and solution for your entire trip. Also bring your glasses and a copy of your prescription in case you need emergency replacements. If you use heat-disinfection, either switch temporarily to a chemical disinfection system (check first to make sure it’s safe with your brand of lenses), or buy a converter.
First-Aid Kit: For a basic first-aid kit, pack bandages, a pain reliever, antibiotic cream, a thermometer, a Swiss Army knife, tweezers, moleskin, decongestant, motion-sickness remedy, diarrhea or upset-stomach medication (e.g., Pepto Bismol or Imodium), an antihistamine, sunscreen, insect repellent, burn ointment, and a syringe for emergencies (get an explanatory letter from your doctor).
Film: Film and developing in Europe can be expensive, so consider bringing along enough film for your entire trip and developing it at home. Less serious photographers may want to bring a disposable camera or two. If you bring a digital camera, watch it carefully—such devices are prime targets for pickpockets. Despite disclaimers, airport security X-rays can fog film, so buy a lead-lined pouch at a camera store or ask security to hand-inspect it. Always pack film in your carry-on luggage, since higher-intensity X-rays are used on checked luggage.
Other Useful Items: For safety purposes, you should bring a money belt and small padlock. Basic outdoors equipment (i.e., plastic water bottle, compass, waterproof matches, pocketknife, sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat) may also prove useful. Quick repairs of torn garments can be done on the road with a needle and thread; also consider bringing electrical tape for patching tears. If you want to do laundry by hand, bring detergent, a small rubber ball to stop up the sink, and string for a makeshift clothes line. Other things you’re liable to forget are an umbrella; sealable plastic bags (for damp clothes, soap, food, shampoo, and other spillables); an alarm clock; safety pins; rubber bands; a flashlight; earplugs; garbage bags; and a small calculator. A cell phone can be a lifesaver (literally) on the road.
Important Documents: Don’t forget your passport, traveler’s checks, ATM and/or credit cards, adequate ID, and photocopies of all of the aforementioned in case these documents are lost or stolen. Also check that you have any of the following that might apply to you: a hostelling membership card; driver’s license; travel insurance forms.