An Interrailer’s Guide To Packing Sustainably

Imagine journeying through Europe’s intricate railway networks, hopping off in cities brimming with history, breathtaking landscapes, and diverse cultures. Interrailing offers not just a thrilling adventure but also an opportunity to travel with ecological responsibility. 

Your choices count—from the carbon footprint left behind to the waste generated. This goes beyond mere catchphrases like ‘sustainability;’ it’s a critical issue in a world grappling with severe environmental challenges. 

Whether captivated by the rolling hills of the Scottish Highlands or the azure waters of the Croatian coast, every landscape encountered deserves respect and conservation. Consider this guide your ally in sustainable packing, ensuring a fulfilling and eco-friendly Interrail journey. 

Choosing Eco-Friendly Materials 

Packing marks the first critical stage of your adventure. Opt for eco-friendly fabrics like organic cotton, hemp, or bamboo. Designed for durability, these materials often outlast synthetic alternatives and offer long-term value. 

When selecting a travel bag for your Interrail trip, exercise caution. Pick brands that use recycled or upcycled materials. For instance, a backpack made from recycled PET bottles is sturdy and water-resistant and keeps plastic out of landfills. A bit of label reading can guide you towards genuinely sustainable options. 

Toiletries present another avenue for eco-conscious decisions. Choose toothpaste tablets, shampoo bars, and paper-wrapped soap bars. Reusable silicone travel containers can store these items, cutting down on single-use plastic. Opting for these products significantly minimises environmental impact. 

Solar Power For Off-Grid Travelling 

In a world where constant connectivity is the norm, energy consumption becomes integral to travel. However, portable solar panels offer a greener alternative. These compact units can attach to your backpack or set up in your camp, turning sunlight into electricity to power your devices. 

Advances in solar panel technology now allow for substantial energy generation even on cloudy days. Being portable, you don’t need to worry about carrying a cumbersome setup. 

The efficacy of this energy source shines, especially in sun-drenched regions. In countries like Greece, Portugal, and southern Spain, natural resources are abundant for keeping your devices charged. Utilise freely available energy without emitting harmful pollutants. 

Versatile Clothing Choices 

While it may be tempting to pack an outfit for every imaginable occasion, resist the urge. Instead, aim for multi-functional garments that can be styled in various ways. For example, a classic button-up shirt can serve as casual wear during the day and become sophisticated dinner attire with the right accessories. 

Opt for fabrics like merino wool, which not only are sustainable but also offer a range of benefits. They regulate temperature effectively, resist odours, and wick moisture away, making them ideal for the fluctuating climates of Europe. These qualities make merino wool particularly useful for essentials like underwear and socks. 

By selecting versatile pieces, you can mix and match to create different looks without overburdening your luggage. This minimalist approach not only eases your travel but also reduces your environmental impact, requiring fewer items and, thus, less waste. 

Reusable Items And Waste Management 

The drinkware and cutlery chosen can significantly affect the sustainability of your journey. A stainless-steel water bottle lets you refill at clean water sources, avoiding single-use plastic bottles.  

A reusable coffee cup offers a sustainable option for your morning brew. In terms of waste, be aware that your choices have consequences, especially in more remote or ecologically sensitive areas.  

Collapsible containers offer a convenient way to store food without generating waste. Compostable bags can be a useful option for organic waste, but remember that they may require specific conditions to degrade fully. 

Supporting Local And Ethical Businesses 

European markets are treasure troves of locally-produced goods, from French wine and cheese to Italian leatherwork. Purchasing these products directly supports local economies and often has a lower environmental impact, as they haven’t been shipped halfway around the world. 

Go a step further by supporting businesses that adhere to ethical and sustainable practices. These enterprises often use traditional methods that are less harmful to the environment and focus on quality rather than mass production. Choosing ethical and local products encourages the market to continue responsible practices. 

Efficient Transportation Choices: Maximising Your Rail Journey 

Selecting the most efficient routes contributes to a greener Interrail experience. While train travel is more eco-friendly than flying, some services are better than others. Research the different types of trains available and go for high-speed options where possible, as they often feature advanced eco-friendly technologies.  

Minimising layovers also reduces your carbon footprint, as each train change involves added energy. For short city distances, public transport is your friend. European cities often boast excellent public transportation systems that are both economical and green.  

Sometimes, the most memorable train journeys come from slowing down and savouring the moment. If time allows, opt for the scenic route occasionally. Slower regional trains may take longer but often use less energy and offer a relaxed way to appreciate the landscape. 

Digital Resources For Sustainable Travel 

Technology can be an ally on your sustainable Interrailing journey. Numerous apps and websites offer guidance on how to travel more responsibly. For instance, apps that help locate recycling centres or ethical eateries can be invaluable. 

Digital resources are also fantastic for reducing paper waste. Rather than carrying multiple guidebooks, tickets, maps, and itineraries, opt for digital versions you can store on your mobile device. This lightens your load and eliminates the need for single-use paper products, minimising your environmental impact. 

Seasonal Considerations And Local Customs 

Different seasons present unique opportunities and challenges for sustainable travel. Travelling off-peak can be more sustainable as it helps to even out tourist pressure on local environments and communities. This means you’ll also encounter fewer crowds, making for a more enjoyable experience.  

Plus, off-season travel often means cheaper prices for accommodations and attractions. Respecting local customs is also a part of sustainable travel. Always research the destinations you’ll be visiting to understand any customs or regulations, particularly those that pertain to environmental conservation.  

For example, some beaches in Europe are home to nesting sea turtles and have strict rules regarding access and noise levels. Observing these rules enhances your travel experience and ensures you’re contributing positively to local conservation efforts. 


Interrailing across Europe provides a unique opportunity to engage with different cultures while setting an example of environmental stewardship. Following these packing tips ensures a rewarding adventure that is also kind to the planet.  

Each decision you make offers a chance to contribute to a more sustainable world. Happy interrailing!