What I packed for a 10 week sabbatical in Europe
My company has a very generous sabbatical policy, so I’m taking advantage and spending 10 weeks with my wife traveling across Europe. We will visit 10 countries in 10 weeks (Iceland, Norway, Sweden, Denmark, Austria, Switzerland, Italy, Greece, Croatia, Spain in that order) and our goal is to travel lightly without having to check any baggage. We only want to bring what was necessary and intended to do laundry as often as we can either at our Airbnb or in a hotel sink.
I have never been a real over packer in the sense of too many bags and massive, bulging luggage but lately I have tried to bring one or two less items during previous trips; i.e. those items you unpack when you get home and realize you never even pulled out of your bag.
Every item I packed has multiple purposes/functionality. I went for quality first and name brands that I trusted would last. I had been purchasing items over time for previous travels but the largest purchase I made for this trip was the backpack and the Kindle.
The last few months leading up to this adventure, I spent countless hours reading “pack like a minimalist” blog posts, perusing r/onebag, and running my packing list by friends that have spent long periods abroad.
The following is an exhaustive list of every item I packed and a few items I decided against and why. I intend to follow up at the end of the trip to see how I can improve in the future.
Disclaimer: I researched (over many months) every item mentioned and purchased each on my own. None of these links are affiliates and I was unfortunately not paid for any items in my packing list. If you are a brand listed below, I’d love to work with you in the future!
Tortuga Outbreaker 45L — The toughest decision I faced was what backpack to sling on my back for 10 weeks. I knew I wanted a backpack that would hold all of my belongings for 10 weeks and never had to be checked. I also wanted a bag that was comfortable, high quality, 35–45L, a padded/separate laptop section, didn’t look ridiculous, and opened like a suitcase. It came down to 3 bags:
- Tortuga Outbreaker 45L
- Osprey Farpoint 40
- Minaal Carryon 2.0
I decided against the Farpoint because I will be carrying our laptop and I don’t enjoy the laptop sleeve in the front of the backpack (not against my back). I decided against the Minaal because I wanted a bit more structure and 35L was going to be a bit tight with my size 13 shoes.
The reasons I went with the Tortuga were for it’s aesthetics, water-resistant material, superior organizational pocket/laptop compartment, and the most comfortable backpack strapping system. The Outbreaker’s 2 large pockets in the main compartment act as packing cubes and the 4 small pockets are great for socks and smaller items. The notable downsides are the potential weight (it is the heaviest of the 3 without any items inside) and the dimensions on strict European carriers like RyanAir. I’m willing to check the bag on a flight or two if it comes down to it, because of the pros.
I searched Youtube daily for backpack bag reviews. Some were good, most were mediocre, but there were surprisingly few for the newer Tortuga Outbreaker. In the future I may make one of these video reviews, but a huge shout out to Chase Reeves who has the best bag reviews on Youtube and solidified my choice on the Tortuga Outbreaker.
Osprey Ultralight Stuff Pack — I wanted a second bag for walking around, day trips, groceries, and extra storage if needed. My criteria was a bag of negligible weight that would fold into itself and store as small as possible when not in use. This bag has the added lifetime guarantee and quality customer service from Osprey if there are any issues. I intend to carry my jacket, laptop, and Kindle on flights and use this day pack on a daily basis when my Tortuga is stored at our accommodation.
The number one place to improve your packing efficiency. I don’t mind wearing the same thing every day, but the list below allows me to change it up and prepare for the environmental change from Iceland’s glaciers to Greece’s beaches.
- The North Face Venture 2 Rain Jacket — Lightweight but durable rain shell folds into itself and survived my previous rafting trip down the Grand Canyon. It will be my outer layer to block the wind when it’s cold, or my day jacket when I need something light.
- Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket — This jacket weighs close to nothing and also folds into itself. It will be my everyday jacket in colder temperatures and has the quality expected from Patagonia. It was not cheap, but looks great.
- J Crew Oxford Shirt (1)— High quality long sleeve shirt for nicer dinners or extra layering.
- Columbia Southridge Shirt (1)— Breathable short sleeve soft hemp button up that will be worn in warmer weather.
- Short sleeve shirts (5) — A hodgepodge of Icebreaker Merino Wool and Nike Dri-Fit plus a graphic organic cotton shirt for fun. Probably one too many shirts, but a couple are quite old and I’m willing to dump one a few weeks in if needed.
- ExOfficio Boxer Briefs (6) — Only underwear I own. Slowly built up this stockpile over time while discarding my old Hanes. Can be washed in the sink, dried over night, never stink, and prevent any chafing from all day walking or hiking. I traveled through 2 weeks in Thailand with only 3 pairs, but they are so light and compact, I decided to bring a few more.
- Lululemon ABC Pant— Extremely comfortable and durable stretchy pants that look great with everything, can be dressed up or down, and dry quickly.
- J Crew 770 Jean— I’m from Texas and I don’t know how to wear any other pants. My heaviest clothing item, but will always be worn during travel. Would have loved to replace with a lighter pant from Outlier, but will need to add them to my Christmas list.
- Patagonia Stretch Wavefarer Walk Shorts — My everyday walking shorts that look like khaki shorts. Quick dry and can be used for swimming, running, or yoga.
- Patagonia Baggies Swim Shorts — These shorts are for swimming, lounging, or running. They look more like swimming shorts than walking shorts, but will be perfect for hot climates.
- Merona Khaki Webbing Belt — Just a belt that keeps my pants up.
- SmartWool Ultra Light Socks (5)— Odor resistant high quality merino wool blend socks - all I wear even when I’m not traveling. Worth every penny!
- Darn Tough Long Socks (1) — For when I need longer socks, life time guarantee, merino wool, darn tough.
You may be thinking why three pairs of shoes and not two or one? This is something that I went back and forth on many times. I knew that I needed something open toed for warm weather/water and a closed toed shoe for everything else. If I only had to pick one closed toe, it would be the running shoe, but they look touristy in certain situations and I wanted variance. I have some ideas on how to combine these two shoes, but I’ll leave that to my post-mortem write up.
- Brooks Ghost 9 Running Shoes — Walking, running, hiking. We’re going to cover a lot of ground on foot, and I need an ultra comfortable shoe with a wider toe box.
- Allbirds Wool Runners — My new toy, made from merino wool, light weight, and can be thrown in the washing machine. Can be worn with or without socks and feel like walking on clouds.
- Chaco Z/1 Cloud Sandals — I’m not a flip flop guy, so these puppies will be for the beach, shower, and hiking. A bit heavier than flip flops, still worth bringing for the warmer climates.
I am a certified technophile so I’m proud of the following compact list.
- Apple iPhone 6 — Still going strong. Mostly be using Wi-Fi and Google Voice for calls, but will pick up a local SIM card for those times where Wi-Fi is scarce.
- Amazon Kindle Paperwhite (6th Generation) 2GB, Wi-Fi— I went on eBay and found the previous generation for the trip. I can’t notice any difference and really DPI is the only one. Great to get these under $65 with an included cover.
- Apple Macbook Air 13" + charger — We need a laptop for communicating with family back home, storing photos, organizing our plans, booking accommodations and activities, and for a little bit of non-work work. Lightest Macbook we owned, good battery life.
- Olympus Stylus Tough TG‑4 16.0 MP Compact Digital Camera + charger + SD Cards + extra battery — Although it pained me not to bring my fancy DSLR and lenses, space/weight was of the upmost importance. I went with a camera that I purchased for a Grand Canyon rafting trip and my Vancouver bachelor party last year. Ultra-durable, waterproof, and takes fantastic photos. I’m pairing this with a small tripod, a few extra SD cards, and one extra battery incase I run out before I can get to an outlet (which is highly unlikely). Bonus, this camera works great for underwater photography and HD videos!
- Nike DryFit Baseball Cap —To control bed head and keep sun off my face.
- Ray-Ban Justin Classic Sunglasses — My favorite high quality sunglasses. Brought the case for extra protection.
- Fitbit Charge HR— My everyday watch because I’m a habitual step tracker.
- Lacrosse ball — For massaging those knots out of your back, neck, and feet.
- Joby GP1 GorillaPod Flexible Tripod — I wanted something that would help take steady videos, long exposures, time-lapse, and would allow me to set up a camera whenever I wanted to take a photo of my wife and I. I don’t mind asking strangers to take our photo, but people may not always be around and strangers don’t always know how to compose a photo. Plus selfies don’t look great in photo albums.
- PackTowel — Quick drying for accommodations without towels, pools, beaches.
- Moleskine Notebook — Notes and musings.
- Fisher Space Pen AG7 — My favorite pen also used by astronauts.
- Sharpie — I always carry a Sharpie.
- TSA Lock and Cable —Cable can be used to secure bags in accommodations or on buses/trains.
- Eagle Creek Pack-It Compressor — Medium (2) — Using one to carry my rain jacket, button up shirts, shorts and another for compressing dirty clothes between destinations.
- Shacke Pak Packing Cube — Small (1) — For my rolled up t-shirts.
- Sleeping mask — We will be visiting Iceland and other Nordic countries where the sun doesn’t officially set in the summer months before midnight, so this will come in handy while doubling for buses/planes/trains.
- Travelambo RFID Blocking Genuine Leather Passport Holder Wallet — Keeps my passport and money safer.
- Wahl 9962–717 Travel Cordless / Battery Trimmer — I can grow a full beard before dinner. This trimmer doesn’t need a charging cord, just a single AA battery.
I use a REI Co-op Micro Shower Kit to keep everything organized. This is the same organizer I carry at home in my work bag to keep my electronic accessories and cords together.
- Chomecast — Netflix, Amazon Prime, HBO streaming on hotel or AirBnb televisions. Make sure you bring a mini-USB cord to power it.
- Bestek International outlet adaptor— Fits all the countries in one device and can plug 2 USB and 1 laptop plug at once.
- Panasonic ErgoFit In-Ear Earbud Headphones — I went with this cheap pair over my favorite over-the-ear Bose headphones because of space limitation.
- Fritesla Powercore 10000mAh Power Bank — Provides a little juice in case we forget to get a full night of charge on our camera or phones.
- (2) Apple Lightning cords — Because I always lose one…
- (2) Mini-usb cords — One to charge Kindle, camera, power bank and one to power the Chromecast.
First Aid Kit
Everything is packed into a standard Ziplock sandwich bag.
- Adventure Medical Kits Advanced Clotting Sponge — 25g — Just in case.
- Medications (allergy, antiacid, diarrhea, travel Pepto-Bismol, etc)
- Assorted Band-aids
- Small sewing repair kit
- Safety pins & tweezers
- SOL Duct Tape — Comes in hand for repairing bags, blisters, and charging coords.
I used a quart-sized pouch from the ChicoBag Travel Zip Echo 3 Pack which meets TSA guidelines.
Things I decided not to bring
- Refillable water bottle — I hate buying water bottles at home, but they are cheap, easy to find, and can be re-used if you find a place to fill up.
- More warm clothes — I intend to layer the best I can, but since we’ll be moving from mountains to beaches, I didn’t want to carry nonessential layers. If I find that I need something extra I’ll buy a cheap layer there.
- DSLR camera — Really wanted to bring my nicer camera on this once-in-a-lifetime trip but it came down to weight, bulkiness, fragility, and lack of portability.
- Hiking specific shoes — Too heavy, difficult to run in, 75% of the trip will be walking on city streets, and running shoes are the most comfortable shoes I own.
- Bose QC25 headphones — Take up too much space.
- Travel neck pillow — Annoying to carry. I can use my puffy jacket instead.
- Verizon international plan — Another item I stressed about back and forth. $10/day to have the same level of data/text/calls that you enjoy in the USA. That would be nearly $700 if I use it everyday, which you are charged in full if you even use it once to access an email. I ended up passing on this plan because I’ve traveled two weeks abroad before with just Wi-Fi, which is seemingly more available overseas than at home. I’ll be picking up a European pre-paid SIM card for those few times I need connectivity and Wi-Fi is not available.
How It All Fits
Not pictured is what I wear during transit including the jeans, Nano Puff Jacket, and Brooks running shoes which are my heaviest/bulkiest items.
With everything packed and excluding what I’m wearing, the bag comes out to about 25lbs or around 11kg. This is slightly heavier than most carriers technically allow, but they rarely check bags on your back specially if you avoid the check-in counters. If I do run into a situation where my bag’s weight is an issue, I can move the electronics into my Osprey stuff sack which drops the weight significantly and still complies with most airlines “personal bag” policies.
Not an absolute minimal list but a huge improvement to my previous packing lists. Happy to hear any feedback on the above or any tips/tricks you have for your packing lists.
I look forward to posting an update at the end of our trip!