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Travel with John Bermont

The original do-it-yourself travel guide to Europe ℠

Pack Light Field Test

Pack Light to Enjoy Europe in Comfort and Style.
What luggage and how to pack light for your trip to Europe.

Two backpackers struggle to get their loads on their backs at the Munich, Germany train station. Comfortable travelers with their roller bags wait at the dock, Stockholm, Sweden.

Old School backpacking is so totally ridiculous, in function and in form. Two girls on the left in the Munich Hauptbahnhof (main train station) struggle to get their backpacks mounted, in the early 1980's. The threesome on the right wait comfortably with their hand and roller luggage for boarding call at Stockholm docks, 2006. They are about to board the ferry to Helsinki.
Europe's Boat and Bus Services has more about that beautiful way to travel, and party through the night. The smorgasbord dinner buffet is out of this world, a favorite of mine for decades.

Carpe diem. Vivere bene! Gratia Deo.

Chapter 6 part 1 of

HOW TO EUROPE: The Complete Travelers Handbook
John Bermont

John Bermont — Chef du Site

This entire book is published totally free on-line by the author, photographer, and webmaster, yours truly, with help from my daughter Stephanie. I welcome all questions, comments, compliments, and complaints. For contact information please see NOTE TO READERS. Updated 14 December 2015.

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Be cool or be a pack mule.


This Europe packing list chapter is divided into four web pages:

  1. Pack Light Field Test: Travel Europe in Comfort and Style.
  2. Personal Care Items: Packing Your Toothbrush.
  3. Travel Supplies: Pack a Bunch of Small Stuff.
  4. Packing Valuables: Not in Your Luggage.

Closely related subject matter is at:

  1. What To Wear in Europe: Your Best Travel Clothes for All Occasions.
  2. Luggage for Europe:Got Wheels? Let It Roll.

And here is the mother of all packing lists:

  1. Last Call: Travel Prep and Pack Lists for Europe.


Packing is one of the most important aspects of traveling in Europe. It is also one of the most difficult for Americans to grasp. Unlike taking a vacation in the USA, you can't just load up the trunk of the car and drive off.

For a trip to Europe you take the minimum amount of stuff you will need. If it doesn't fit in a 21" suitcase plus a shoulder bag you do not need it. Whatever you bring to Europe, you carry it or pull it to get it there. Then you do it all again at each stop after you arrive.


The Rule of Pack Light, Very Personal

This exercise originally appeared in the first edition of my book, How To Europe: The Complete Travelers Handbook. That was 33 years ago. I have coined it the Pack Light Field Test. This test has been endorsed by a famous travel guru. He copied it to his web site last year and boastfully wrote it up as if he had invented it. Based on that act of stealing my work and lying about it, commonly known as plagiarism, you could say that my Pack Light Field Test has been peer reviewed and approved.

Pack light is easy to say but difficult to execute. Because it is a big trip and maybe your first trip out of the country your gut feeling is that you need to pack "everything," maybe even two of "everything" just in case. Packing is one department where the gut feeling is wrong. Use the other side of your brain. Analyze your basic needs, pack them up, and take this test. The basic idea of the Pack Light Field Test is to see if you can actually haul around what you want to haul around.

Testing Time

OK. Let's start right now. Get your drawers on.

First, pull up my on-line packing list and print a copy. You are going to want to scribble on it. Last Call: Travel Prep and Pack Lists for Europe is the best Europe packing list. I should say that because I wrote it. This list also originated with the first edition of my book decades and scores of trips ago. My packing list has been tried and tested and polished for 2015. It has also been pinched by so many aspiring web travel writers that I can't count them. Few of them were even born when I wrote the original.

Pack everything you plan to bring, stuff your pockets, put on your hat and coat, open your umbrella, (raining or not), check the time, and walk one mile away from home with the whole load. Then, pretending you are trying to catch a train, run or walk home. If you can make the round trip comfortably within 45 minutes you have packed light. It is best if your test course includes a short, steep hill or several flights of stairs, upwards on the return leg.

That's it. Simple. Try it now or learn on the job.

If you are of the metric persuasion the test would be one kilometer in 28 minutes. If you do not know metric from Shinola I suggest a visit tp my chapter 27 Europe's Metric System: Travel with Grams, Meters, Liters, Centigrade because you are gong to need it.

Travel Pals

Make sure that all of your traveling companions can pass the Pack Light Field Test. If not, old friends may soon become lifetime enemies.

Travel Clothes

A rundown on your clothing list was suggested in chapter 5, complete with photos of locals at What To Wear in Europe: Your Best Travel Clothes for All Occasions. That is only about 2/3 of your pack. Your suitcase must also be a miniature bathroom closet, laundry room, drugstore, tool box, photo gear headquarters, office supply, and library of guide books, maps, and dictionaries. This is all in addition to your clothes. Good luck!

Big Bucks

Another critical packing issue has come up in the last decade. Back in the "good old days" the international airline free baggage allowance was seemingly unlimited. Two bags weighing up to 70 pounds could be checked. Carry-on was size limited but several pieces could be brought on board.

Airlines are now charging for most checked luggage and strictly limiting carry-on to one piece of luggage plus a "personal bag" to hold your laptop, back-up underwear, emergency sandwich, and such. The airlines are making so much money with luggage charges and other new fees that the amount of loot exceeds their luggage allowance. Your first stop should be the web site of your airline to read the carry-on or cabin luggage allowance. The checked luggage fee could easily exceed the cost of your luggage or even your plane ticket. And you pay both ways, going and coming home. Ouch! Ouch!

Back Pack or Rolling Luggage for Europe

Chapter 7, Luggage for Europe: Got Wheels? Let It Roll, has details about what kind of luggage to use. My illustrated essay is based on decades of domestic and international travel.

This is not your trip over the Himalayan peaks. Europe has paved sidewalks. So why does every "travel guru" and wannabee promote and sell backpacks on their websites? Duh. Follow the money.

Rolling luggage can save you grief galore as you walk to your hotel on a hot muggy day in Rome. The back pack mules will be sweating their shirts wet.


This web page served as a introduction to packing light, including a simple user's manual for the Pack Light Field Test. Actually, it was just a few paragraphs. Some writers are able to assemble a WHOLE BOOK on the subject of packing light. No kidding. I have a couple of those books, collecting dust.

For more specific packing details please continue to part 2 of this chapter, Personal Care Items in Europe: Packing Your Toothbrush and Hair Blower. Most of it is in your bathroom or on your dresser right now. But before you throw everything in your bag look over this essay to see if you really want to do that.

Part 3 of my packing suggestions covers the traditional stuff you need on the road. See Travel Supplies for Europe: Small Stuff Packing List.

Lastly, part 4 discusses the vaulable things you need to bring with you. These include your passport, credit cards, cash, camera, and other ID and valuables. The key message, which bears repeating repeating repeating, is do not put these things in any luggage, backpack, day bag, or purse. Carry them on your person. Documents and funds go in an inside pocket, not in a porous hotel safe. See Packing Valuables for Europe: Not in Your Luggage. Your camera should be in your hand and attached to a leash around your neck, ready for action. Else, why did you bring it?

Last Call

If you want to skip over all the verbiage in these chapters and go straight to a complete packing and to-do list I have just the thing for you. This total punch list has everything you need, Last Call: Travel Prep and Pack Lists for Europe. Come back to part 2 later to see why you need vinegar and vodka. No kidding.


Have a good trip!


I welcome questions, comments, complaints, and compliments. If you have any concerns about your trip to Europe that have not been covered well enough on my web site please do not hesitate to write. Ask, cuss, discuss, or whatever. I read every email and update my pages when I see a question repeating, Then I will not get that question again, hopefully. In some cases readers have been so generous with their time and talent that I have included their emails verbatim, e.g. chapters 22 and 25.

I do not open attachments. I do not click links to web pages of any kind. I will reply in a day or two, usually.

My email address is [email protected].

Do not forget to smell the hyacinths. At your liesure scroll through the Table of Contents of How To Europe: The Complete Travelers Handbook and read all 30 chapters, FREE on line. Good deal! You'll probably find the answers you seek, and some you didn't know you needed.


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Rolling luggage sure beats lugging a pack on your back. Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 2 20 inch Expandable Spinner Travelpro Luggage Maxlite 2 20" Expandable Spinner
A shoulder bag for your daily walk-about. Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Soft Tote Travelpro Luggage Maxlite3 Soft Tote
Keep your stuff organized. eBags Medium Packing Cubes - 3pc Set
Luggage Packing Cubes
eBags 3pc Set

A Swiss Army Knife is unquestionably the handiest item a traveler can carry, except not on a plane. Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman II Knife Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman II Knife

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Have a good trip in life,
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Note: Italicized notations by the author.

Wear a money belt under your shirt to protect your passport and valuables, especially if you are staying in hostels or dorms. Lewis N. Clark RFID Blocking Waist Stash Lewis N. Clark RFID Blocking Waist Stash
Inconspicuously lock your zippered luggage with a black wire tie. Cables to Go 43036 Cable Ties - 100 Pack (Black) Cables to Go 43036 Cable Ties - 100 Pack (Black)
An RFID blocking wallet protects your passport and credit cards from identity theft in public places. Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case Travelon RFID Blocking Passport Case
The two gallon size is excellent for packing your clothes. Keep things neat and dry in all conditions. Two gallon plastic ZipLoc bags Two gallon plastic bags
ZipLoc by SC Johnson


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