How To Pack Your Backpack For Europe: Tips For Organization and Wrinkle Free Clothing

how to pack for backpacking Europe

Knowing how to pack your backpack correctly while traveling in Europe is a very important skill that many travelers overlook. After a hostel or two you start to see that living out of a backpack can be frustrating at times—especially when it comes to packing/unpacking. Fortunately, there are methods to make it as painless as possible and that’s why a well-thought-out packing strategy will save you a lot of time, frustration, and it will help prevent wrinkled clothing. This guide will give you advice on how to correctly pack your backpack so that you can find everything you need as easily as possible.

Looking for advice on what to pack? Then check out our ultimate packing list for backpacking in Europe.

Not sure what kind of backpack you should bring? Check out the savvy guide for finding the perfect backpack for traveling in Europe.

Method One: Get Organized With Packing Cubes & Packing Folders

packing for backpacking in europeLiving out of a backpack isn’t easy and having to pull everything out of your backpack to reach something at the bottom of your pack is one of those things that every traveler hates. That’s why organization is essential. I’ve found that packing cubes are a great way to keep all your stuff as organized as possible. Packing cubes and packing folders will also help prevent, or at-least minimize, clothing wrinkles.

A packing cube is basically a lightweight mesh cube/box that you pack your clothes in. There are different size cubes and you generally pack clothing groups in separate cubes. For example, pack all your socks and underwear in one cube, t-shirts in another, sweaters/pants in another. This makes it easy to know exactly where to find whatever it is you’re looking for.

There are also packing folders. The principle is the same as packing cubes but these are better suited for pants/sweaters/button-up shirts.

I’ve found the best place to buy packing cubes and packing folders is from

How To Use Packing Cubes

Here is a quick and corny video that will give you an idea about how packing cubes work. I don’t necessarily endorse Eagle Creek, buy they are the most popular brand.

To get the most out of packing cubes you need to learn how to roll your clothes. This is really simple and if done correctly, it should cut down on wrinkling. For shirts, place them face down, fold arms back so it looks like a long rectangle, fold lengthwise, and roll up. This same technique can be done on skirts, underwear, and other garments.

Split everything into categories:

  • Socks & Underwear
  • T-Shirts, Light-Weight Tops & Skirts
  • Pants, Button-up Shirts & Heavy-weight Sweaters: I prefer to pack these with packing folders (see below) but it is a personal preference.

Pack each category into its own cube so you can find exactly what you need without having to search.

How To Use Packing Folders

Here is a slightly corny video that explains how to use packing folders:

Packing folders are great for packing pants, button-up shirts, sweaters and other similar items.

Packing folders might seem like a hassle, but they’re one of the best ways to minimize wrinkles, especially with nicer clothes. I’ve found the best place to buy packing cubes and packing folders is from

Method Two: Organize Your Toiletries

It is important to keep your toiletries organized and you also want something that is easy to take to the showers—remember that some showers are located a good distance away from your room so you need something portable.

The first thing you should get is a toiletry bag that can be hung up. Most hostel bathrooms are small and have no shelf space so being able to hang up your bag is incredibly convenient. I use the Ogio Doppler bag because it is sturdy, compact but still has a lot of room. This will save you a lot of hassle. Trust me.

You should be packing light, so you shouldn’t have a ton of toiletries. I suggest getting a few travel-sized bottles for your liquids/gels because they take up much less space. Plus, carrying a full bottle of shampoo/body-wash/etc is going to add a lot of unnecessary weight to your bag.

If you don’t want to spend much money you can simply use a large zip-lock bag.

Method Three: Plastic Bags and Compression Bags

Plastic Bags

Plastic bags come in handy very often. They’re great for dirty or damp clothes. If you bring two pairs of shoes I suggest putting the other pair in a plastic bag so your clothes won’t get dirty from the shoes. I always bring various sizes of plastic bags (quart size, gallon size and a few ‘shopping’ bags).

Compression Bags

Compression bags are nice but I rarely used mine. Also, it does take some time to squeeze all the air out, so they’re not super convenient. I don’t know if I would recommend this system but a lot of people use them.

Method Four: Packing Other Items

Clothing and toiletries will make up the bulk of the stuff you bring on your travels, but you still need a place for all the extra travel accessories and electronics. A lot of this stuff can be packed in your backpacks pockets but I recommend another small container for your electronics. A small Tupperware container (or any other small ridged plastic container) works really well to protect electronics.

Other Tips For Successful Packing:

If you have an extra pair of shoes, stuff socks or other small things in them so you don’t waste that extra space.

Put all liquids in bags in case there is a spill.

If you plan on flying remember the rules about liquids. Make sure your liquids are easily accessible at security so you don’t have to empty your entire backpack to get to them.

Looking for advice on what to pack? Then check out our ultimate packing list for backpacking in Europe.

Not sure what kind of backpack you should bring? Check out the savvy guide for finding the perfect backpack for traveling in Europe.

Support The Savvy Backpacker

I’ve invested a lot of long hours creating this site. If you’ve found it helpful, the best way to say thanks is by clicking on my links.I get a depressingly small commission when you purchase anything on Amazon after you’ve clicked my link—this helps me keep the site running… and maybe buy a few beers. And it doesn’t cost you anything extra. Also, if you’re a student don’t forget to sign up for a FREE year of Amazon Prime.

Thanks for all your support!

  • Kemal Kaya

    Thanks for tips, vety helpful for backpacking.

  • Guest

    How much do packing cubes weigh? Would you

  • Sam Morgan

    How much do packing cubes weigh? Would you say the usefulness of them outweighs the extra space and weight they take up in your bag?

    • savvybackpacker

      The packing cubes don’t weigh much and don’t really take up any space. I did a hands on post on some packing cube here:

    • chriszzz

      I think packing cubes are not worth their weight if you are an ultra light traveler. Those 3-4ozs per cube very quickly adds up to some serious weight. I use mesh/polyester drawstring bags and mesh zip pouches to organize my clothes and stuff. They weight around 0.7oz (20grams), come in bright, easily identifiable colors, and are easy to pack and unpack. Of course I’m speaking as an ultralight traveler.

      • Sam Morgan

        Where do you buy mesh bags like that? That sounds perfect.

        • chriszzz

          I got mine from Daiso, which is a huge Japanese chain selling stuff for under $2. They have branches in many countries. If there isn’t one where you live, you can probably find mesh bags at dollar stores or similar places.

  • Kay Casa

    What size packing cubes did you use to put in your backpack?

  • Sue

    Thank you!

  • Vincent Lu

    Dinna, my wife, and I, both aged over 60, are planning our backpacking trips to France in this October or next Spring time.
    You are amazing and providing very functional info for backpackers, we cannot thank you enough.We are reading every articles attentively and carefully and might want to ask you some questions when we come across some doubts.
    We are from a tiny island country, Taiwan, Dinna is now a retired English teacher from a junior high school, and I have been a lifelong translator and interpreter since three decades back.
    Thank you in advance.