Gear Considerations For Trekking In Europe

We outdoors lovers will never have enough gear talk.  When it comes to what thruhikers pack I have noticed that some focus on style, others on practicality.  Some folks need state of the art ultralight gear, others opt for the tried and true.  Some hikers enjoy a few luxury items like a deck of cards and a novel to read, while others would rather have the bare minimum (it’s always been a favorite question of mine to ask thruhikers- what’s your luxury item(s)?)  Everyone has their own way of doing things and I think we should all respect the saying “Hike Your Own Hike”.


Personally, I have never claimed to be an ultralight hiker.  Maybe it’s due to having been indoctrinated by the Boy Scouts to “Be Prepared” or maybe I just like a few creature comforts and the security of knowing I’ll be good to go in any situation.  It’s definitely partly because I don’t earn a lot of money when I work and ultralight gear is crazy expensive!  In any case, I’ve found out what works for me and I’m happy to share some of that with you.  This trip has a few extra obstacles to deal with so that might be of special interest to some of you as well.


I want to preface all of this by saying that I am not sponsored by anyone, none of this is intended as product placement or endorsement, and I’d rather not go into any real detail about weight or price (I will, however, give you guys a total base weight when I start).  I’m going to be intentionally vague so if you have any questions about specifics, please feel free to get in touch with me directly.


Traveling Overseas

TSA Complications And Flying With Backpacking Gear.

In The States I’ve always traveled to the trailhead by car or bus.  When I went to Europe last time I checked my bag everytime which mostly went alright- except for the stretch from Paris, France to Yerevan, Armenia.  Charles De Gaul airport was insanely busy and I guess my bag didn’t make it onto the same plane that I did; I was told it was still in Paris when I reported to lost and found hundreds of miles away.  I didn’t have my lodging figured out so ended up spending the night in the airport and receiving my pack the next morning.  It was a long night.


This trip has so many stages, two of which have rather short layovers, so I am going to try travelling without checking anything.  That means making a couple of sacrifices and getting clever about the gear with pointy bits.


I put it out to the hive mind a few weeks ago wondering about people’s experiences going through TSA with poles.  My tent, a tarp tent, has one small aluminium pole for the foot end and uses a trekking pole to support the entrance/vestibule area.  I could use sticks but tracking down the right fits can be a complicated endeavor and one I’d just as soon not have to deal with.  The responses I received didn’t exactly provide peace of mind.  Every single person that got back to me essentially said that sometimes TSA is fine with the poles and sometimes they aren’t, it really depends on the TSA agents you deal with.  I called the airport I’ll be flying out of and the agent I spoke with had to ask a supervisor.  He came back after a few minutes of soft jazz with a hard “nope”.


So given the circumstances I’ve been forced to get creative.  I’m super fortunate that I’m meeting up with family before I start.  I asked my uncle if he would be willing to relay a couple key gear items for me in a checked bag and he said ok.  I shipped him my trekking pole (I’m a single pole hiker, always have been.  I like having a free hand for snack grabbing and picture taking, among other things) and tent stakes.  I was in a bit of a rush since I put this piece of the preparation off for too long and he leaves a week before I do, so I didn’t think to add the single tent pole and my duce scoop.  I like to carry a small knife and I can pick one of those up on the other side, I’ll also need to get a new trowel.  What I’m going to do about the tent pole is tape it to the internal frame of my backpack and if I get any grief about it I’ll claim that the frame is broken and the pole is taped in and necessary for support.

And then there’s COVID regulations.  It seems the requirements change daily.  Face masks are necessary, then they aren’t, then they are again.  A rapid test was a must up until a week ago, now it isn’t, but maybe it will be in one of the countries I land in.  Vaccination passports can be digitized, but I’ve been having issues with that…  It’s a bit of a nightmare and I genuinely hope it’s smoother for you.  It’s impossible to know what the future looks like with all this though.  I’m just glad restrictions have eased up a little bit and that I’m caught up with vaccinations and freshly poked with a booster.  I’m still going to use copious hand sanitizer and continue wearing a mask while traveling regardless.


Cooking Supplies

Stove vs Stoveless, A Timeless Debate
I’ve always carried a stove.  I love hot coffee in the morning, and after a day of hiking in the rain there’s nothing like chowing down a hot ramenbomb in dry clothes to reheat your core temperature.  I’ve had a little Kovea pocket rocket that has served me well over the years.  It uses isobutane, which obviously I won’t be able to fly with.  I know from experience that the right fuel canisters are not hard to find in France and Spain but from the research I’ve done tracking them down in The Balkans is no easy feat.  So I’ve chosen to go stoveless and if it becomes clear that I’m really missing warm meals and hot drinks I’ll make or buy an alcohol stove.
As I mentioned above, I’ll be procuring a new knife when I get out there.  I will bring along my trusty spork though.  And I’ll be forced to buy a pint of Talenti for the cold soak container, aw shucks.

Cold Weather Gear

Anything Is Possible, Be Prepared
I’ll very likely be hiking for some time in the shoulder seasons, and I’ve heard legends of the cold minstrel winds blowing off The Atlantic carrying rain and snow, hail and electricity, fog and damp chill.
I will be carrying a puffy, a fleece hat, a windbreaker, a rain poncho and rain pants, and gloves.  I’m still on the fence about my balaclava; I got a sweet new piece of under armor that has a hood and sort of a buff-like face cover, so that might suffice.  There will undoubtedly be residual snowpack in The Pyrenees but I clearly won’t be able to bring my ice ax on the plane so I may have to purchase one out there.  I’m pretty darn comfortable with snow travel but will absolutely be carrying microspikes.  Will they be allowed on the plane?  I have no idea, we will find out soon though!

Final Thoughts

“Embracing The Brutality”
That’s another one of those sayings we hikers are all too familiar with.  International travel adds another dimension to it, without a doubt.  There are customs regulations, Visa requirements, and travel insurance to consider.  I’ll be carrying four! guide books which are as small as they can be but still an extra, yet in my opinion entirely necessary, 2.5 pounds of pack weight.  I doubt I’ll have many opportunities to plug in for charging, especially on The Via Dinarica Trail, so I’m packing a 25,000mAh solar charging battery pack, not at all light either.
I’m just hoping I can keep the base weight in my usual 15-25lb range, I won’t for sure know until I’m on trail.  At least I’ll be able to shed to books as I go, and I might be able to use some family out there for maildrops as the weather gets warmer.
I’ll try to put together a detailed gear list at some point because I’m sure some of the people that find this blog will be interested in that, but I’m not making any promises.  It might also manifest towards the end as a ‘this is what worked best for me’ breakdown.  So stay tuned, and thanks for reading.  I’ll be en route in a week and on trail in about three weeks.

Affiliate Disclosure

This website contains affiliate links, which means The Trek may receive a percentage of any product or service you purchase using the links in the articles or advertisements. The buyer pays the same price as they would otherwise, and your purchase helps to support The Trek's ongoing goal to serve you quality backpacking advice and information. Thanks for your support!

To learn more, please visit the About This Site page.

What Do You Think?