Backpacking across Europe has been a rite of passage for young Americans for generations, and with good reason. No matter where your interests lie, there are countless amazing sights to see, things to do, exotic food and drink to enjoy, and best of all, a European trip can be affordable even on a tight budget.
The World is Yours!
We live in a golden age of information, with dozens of websites dedicated to helping curious travelers find the best places to visit for the best prices. Whether you fancy the sunny Greek Isles or misty Northern England, the hubbub of Istanbul or Amsterdam or the serenity of Naples or Madrid, online resources can help you settle on your perfect starting place. Once you have that lined up, all of Europe is at your disposal, with transportation between cities, regions, and even countries surprisingly fast and simple for those of us used to living somewhere as large as America. Of course, traveling for days, weeks, or even months at a time is a big commitment that benefits from extensive planning—it’s a lot like preparing for an extended outdoor hiking trip, where the only things you can be sure of are what you’ve packed in your bag.
Planning to Hike Through Europe?
Two important things to decide as you plan your trip are where to stay and what to bring along. In both cases, you are spoiled for choice. Hosteling International offers over 4,000 affiliated hostels spread over nearly a hundred countries, Airbnb is growing more popular and affordable, and there are jaw-dropping campgrounds for those who prefer to get out into nature. Wherever you stay, though, you will want to pack certain essentials that will be beneficial in any scenario, and indispensable if complications arise. At a minimum, bring all-weather clothing, a basic first aid kit, a guidebook with map, food and water, something for navigation, electronic adapters, and a toiletry bag. This list should be pretty comprehensive, since you may have fewer opportunities to shower while traveling than at home, and so need to make the most of them when you can.
Staying Healthy on the Road Begins with Your Skin
Maintaining one’s personal hygiene while on the road isn’t just a question of keeping yourself well kempt and clean, it’s also your primary defense against disease and infection. The more often you can wash your hands and your body with hot water and soap, the better, but even at hostels the water can go out, so be sure to have a back-up hygiene solution. You also need to be careful to protect your skin from cleaning products that might actually do more harm than good—our skin’s natural pH level helps keep us healthy, but can easily be compromised by alcohol-based hand sanitizers and the like. Since you can’t always count on access to a clean and well-stocked washroom or even a store with trusted brands, at a minimum your travel toiletry bag should have the following basics:
- Shampoo and body wash
- Toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss
- Shaving equipment or supplies
- Deodorant and body lotion
- A bandanna or wash cloth
- Moist all-purpose skin cleanser such as Combat One Tactical Bath
- Biodegradable soap
- Lip balm and sunscreen
- Toilet paper and facial tissue
Add this to Your Hygiene Essentials List
Of all these essentials, the Combat One Tactical Bath may just be the most important to pack ahead of time. Shampoo and other basic toiletries can be restocked on the road if need be, but no-rinse outdoor body wipes are hard to find in a foreign grocery store. Each pack comes with eight individual wipes that are completely body-safe, allowing you to fully clean every inch of yourself. Unlike abrasive hand sanitizers and harsh soaps, the proprietary formula was designed by medical professionals for use in the harshest environments. To that end, it optimizes your skin’s pH instead of damaging it, which helps keep you healthy as well as clean and fresh. They quickly air dry, with no rinsing required, allowing you to get as spotless as if you had stepped out of a hot shower even if you’re somewhere without running water. Finally, each pack weighs little more than half a pound, allowing you to bring a few back-ups for yourself or any thankful friends who failed to bring their own.
Most of the products and items listed above are widely available at outdoor outfitters or camping stores, and many are even available at big box stores like Walmart. You can often find better prices and a wider selection by shopping online, however, especially for the Combat One hygiene system supplies.