Looking for the best travel backpack for Europe in 2024? Check out our top picks for the best carry-on sized 📏 comfortable and secure travel backpacks 🎒
Heading the call of adventure and want to go backpacking across Europe? An epic journey awaits filled with culture, history, food, and fun. But first, you need to find the best travel backpack for Europe to carry all your essentials in comfort.
Choosing the right backpack is critical – you’ll be lugging this bag across cities, countries, trains, planes, and hostels for weeks or months. This backpack buying guide will walk you through everything to consider when finding the perfect travel backpack for backpacking Europe.
What Size Backpack is Best for Europe Travel?
When backpacking Europe, you want a carry-on sized backpack between 35-45L. This provides enough room for 1-2 weeks of clothes and gear without being oversized. Larger hiking backpacks are unnecessary and will only slow you down.
Carry-on backpacks help you avoid pesky checked baggage fees, especially on Europe’s budget airlines. You’ll have your bag with you at all times, so airlines can’t lose or damage it either.
Be sure to research size restrictions for all airlines you’ll fly. Budget European carriers like Ryanair are typically stricter – some only allow bags up to 40L and 20x25x40 cm. Aim for a backpack around 40L that can compress down small when needed.
Backpack sizing depends greatly on your personal packing habits, trip duration and modes of transport. Overpacking is common for first-time Europe travelers excited to photograph everything in sight! But massive 75L expedition packs become burdensome after the third hop between cities.
40-45L hits the sweet spot for most travelers, fitting 1-2 weeks of essentials while complying with most airlines’ carry-on requirements. Adjustable features like removable daypacks, compression straps and expandable compartments allow customizing capacity for each journey’s unique needs.
If exclusively traveling via train or car, larger 55-65L sizes provide ample room without worrying over checker bag fees. Just ensure the fully loaded pack doesn’t exceed your carrying comfort or rail/rideshare restrictions.
Backpack Features to Make Travel Easier
An organized, comfortable, and secure backpack will make travel through Europe much smoother. Here are key features to look for in a European travel backpack:
Front-Loading Design: Unlike top-loading hiking backpacks, a front-loading backpack lets you pack and access gear like a suitcase. You can grab items from the middle without unpacking everything.
Lockable Zippers: Protect your belongings from pickpockets with lockable zippers to deter thieves, especially in crowded tourist areas.
Padded Shoulder Straps: Thick padded straps prevent painful digging into your shoulders, even when carrying heavier loads.
Hip Belt: Shifts 80% of pack weight to your hips and off your shoulders for incredible comfort, even on long walking days.
Laptop & Tablet Sleeve: Keep your devices protected and easily accessible in a dedicated, padded sleeve.
Compression Straps: Cinch a partially full pack down to a smaller, more compact profile. Useful when you need to squeeze into tight spaces.
Water Bottle Pockets: Have water close at hand in external stretchy pockets.
Rain Cover: Built-in or detachable rain cover to protect your pack from Europe’s unpredictable weather.
The Best Travel Backpacks for Europe in 2024
Osprey Farpoint 40
Osprey’s wildly popular Farpoint 40 is sized perfectly as a carry-on for airlines and trains. It strikes an ideal balance between comfort, durability, and features.
- 40L capacity, carry-on size
- LightWire alloy frame for support
- Lockable sliders on main compartment zipper
- Laptop and tablet sleeve
- Liquid reservoir pocket
- Adjustable and padded shoulder straps
- Removable hipbelt and sternum strap
- StraightJacket compression straps
- Trusted quality and comfort from Osprey
- Front-loading design for easy packing
- Durable and weather resistant fabric
- Mesh backing improves ventilation
- Stowaway shoulder and hip straps
- Only two color options
- Laptop sleeve location not ideal
- Waist belt can feel bulky
Summary: With its comfortable fit, durable materials, and carry-on size, it’s no wonder the Osprey Farpoint 40 is many travelers’ go-to backpack for Europe.
Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack
With its front-loading panel and clamshell opening, the Setout Divide makes packing and accessing gear a breeze. Sized right at 35L and 45L. Top-notch quality backed by Tortuga’s lifetime warranty.
- Front-loading backpack with zippered suitcase-style opening
- Fits up to a 17″ laptop in dedicated sleeve
- Lockable YKK zippers with theft-resistant construction
- Custom-molded hip belt and harness system
- Tuckaway hip belt and shoulder straps
- 2 large main compartments and multiple organizer pockets
- Durable 900D Heathered Polyester fabric
- Extremely comfortable padded straps and hip belt
- Superb organization with many compartments
- Carry-on sized even when fully packed
- High quality and thoughtful design
- Laptop sleeve fits only up to 17″ devices
- No water bottle pocket
Summary: The Setout Divide is thoughtfully designed for the organized packer. Its comfort, quality, and carry-on size make this a top choice.
Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack
Loaded with pockets and organization, the Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack’s materials are durable yet stylish. The chameleon-like design flexes between a backpack and briefcase.
- 45L capacity expands to 52L
- Zippered external carry straps for coats, tripods, etc
- Multiple internal organizational pockets
- Padded laptop sleeve fits up to 15″ device
- Hideaway shoulder and hip straps
- Zippered top and front access
- Durable 100% recycled 400D nylon canvas shell
- Excellent quality and weatherproof construction
- Ability to compress or expand capacity
- One of the most organized backpacks available
- Converts into briefcase style
- Limited color/style options
- Can feel bulky when fully expanded
- Expensive price point
Summary: With its unparalleled organization, flexible design, and premium materials, the Peak Design 45L is a versatile choice for organized travelers.
The ultimate backpack for digital nomads and obsessive organizers, the Nomatic Backpack’s patented expansion system grows from 20L to 30L.
- Expandable 20L to 30L capacity
- Over 20 pockets and compartments for organization
- Laptop and tablet sleeves
- TSA compliant checkpoint-friendly
- Cord management ports
- Removable hip belt and sternum strap
- Zippered water bottle pocket
- Unmatched storage and organization capabilities
- Carry-on size even when expanded
- Many versatile pockets and access points
- High quality durable materials
- Sleek, professional aesthetic
- Expensive price point
- Heavier than other travel packs
- Not as breathable when worn
Summary: With its unmatched organization, stylish look, and expandability, the innovative Nomatic Backpack makes an excellent choice for tech-focused nomads.
Pacsafe Venturesafe Anti-Theft 45L
Built with anti-theft features like locks, slash-proof fabric, and steel mesh, the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L provides peace of mind and stylish travel.
- Lockable anti-theft zippers
- Slashguard stainless steel wire mesh
- RFIDsafe blocking material
- Carrysafe cut-proof adjustable straps
- Laptop and iPad sleeve
- Front compression straps
- Hidden security pocket
- Unparalleled anti-theft and safety features
- Lightweight and comfortable to wear
- Multiple color options to choose from
- High quality durable construction
- Bulky eXomesh adds some weight
- Smaller capacity at 45L
- Lower quality zippers prone to breaking
Summary: For travelers who prioritize safety and security, the Pacsafe Venturesafe 45L is a smart choice complete with anti-theft protections.
Deuter Transit 50
The Deuter Transit 50 is a sleek and professional-looking panel loader perfectly suited for the business traveler.
- 50L capacity
- Front zippered compartment for organization
- Hideaway straps and hip belt
- Integrated rain cover
- Padded laptop sleeve for up to 17″ devices
- Business-casual aesthetic doesn’t stand out
- Lots of organization pockets
- Easy access luggage pass-through
- Heavy at over 4 lbs empty
- Not much ventilation on back panel
Summary: With its understated look and plentiful organization, the Deuter Transit 50 allows business travelers to blend in seamlessly across Europe.
Eagle Creek Wayfinder 30
The Eagle Creek Wayfinder 30 is a front-loading anti-theft backpack optimized for peace of mind while exploring Europe’s crowded cities.
- Lockable, slash-proof main compartment
- Multiple external pockets for organization
- Ventilated back panel for comfort
- Packs down small when not full
- Lots of anti-theft features
- Affordable price point
- External attachments for equipment
- Only 30L capacity
- No hip belt or sternum strap
Summary: Loaded with security features at a budget-friendly price, the Eagle Creek Wayfinder 30 lets urban wanderers focus on the sights instead of their gear.
Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC
Patagonia’s Black Hole Mini MLC stuffs rugged weather protection into a stripped-down, ultralight package ready for Europe’s ever-changing conditions.
- Burly, waterproof recycled ripstop fabric
- U-shaped zipper for easy access
- Compression straps to cinch down
- Simple, no-frills design
- Ultralight focus
- Protects gear from the elements
- Sustainably made with recycled materials
- Easy to overstuff capacity
- No internal organization
- Unstructured when not full
Summary: Ready for sunshowers and downpours alike, the weatherproof Patagonia Black Hole Mini MLC shields gear while keeping things ultralight.
Fjallraven Kanken Laptop 17″
Fjallraven’s iconic Kanken silhouette joins the digital age with a padded sleeve to protect devices up to 17” on the go.
- Padded sleeve fits 17” laptops safely
- Exterior quick access pocket
- Vinylon-F fabric is durable & water resistant
- Reflective logo aids visibility
- Traditional top-loading Kanken design
- Laptop sleeve transforms a classic daypack
- Many colorways available
- Affordable price point
- Limited organizational features
- Only 24L capacity
Summary: The quintessential Scandinavian daypack, Fjallraven’s Kanken Laptop 17” brings tech protection to a tried-and-true backpack silhouette loved by students worldwide.
Kathmandu Litehaul 38L v2
An ultralight design ready to traverse Europe by train, plane or automobile, Kathmandu’s 38L Litehaul v2 maximizes comfort under 2 lbs.
- Under 2 lb carry weight
- Breathable airmesh back panel
- Lockable zippers and cut-proof straps
- Front vertical zip panel access
- Stowaway shoulder & hip belt straps
- Ultralight construction
- Lockable security features
- Hideaway straps for streamlined transport
- Less structure due to lightweight focus
- Won’t handle heavy loads
Summary: Stripped down to the bare backpack essentials, Kathmandu’s Litehaul 38L impresses with an ultralight design ready for transcontinental travel.
The Tortuga Travel Backpack: A Top Contender
Tortuga’s Setout and Outbreaker backpacks are consistently top choices for digital nomads and minimalist travelers. The Setout strikes an ideal balance between features, comfort and a sleek silhouette ready for cobblestone streets. Rear padding and hideaway straps transform the Setout from hiking workhorse to everyday carry for museum wandering or café hopping.
Meanwhile, the weatherproof Outbreaker offers unrivaled durability to shield valuables from the elements while bouncing buses or grubby luggage compartments. Both Tortuga models open suitcase-style for easy packing access similar to the Peak Design. However, Tortuga’s offerings place greater emphasis on comfortable carrying, making them better suited for extended wear while sightseeing.
Choosing Between Backpacks and Suitcases
The choice between a backpack or suitcase often comes down to travel style and personal preference. Suitcases excel at moving linearly from airport to hotel, especially with smooth-rolling wheels and a luggage handle. But wandering imperial alleyways with a rigid roller in tow can quickly grow cumbersome.
Backpacks enable greater mobility and blend easier into urban environments, ideal for ducking down narrow streets to discover hidden tapas bars. However, lumbering giant hiking packs overflowing with gear announce your tourist status from a mile away. Selecting a sleek, subdued backpack silhouette allows more immersive cultural experiences by drawing less attention.
The best backpacks for Europe balance convenient access, comfortable carrying and a lean profile to slip seamlessly between destinations. Many travelers combine both backpacks and small suitcases, using the right tool for each situation. Just ensure your backpack meets airline carry-on size restrictions to prevent gate-checking.
Choosing the Best Features for Europe Travel
The optimal backpack makes city-hopping easy without constantly stopping to rummage for essentials buried inside. Smart organizational features allow effortless access to items you need the most. An expandable water bottle pocket provides on-the-go hydration, while quick-grab pockets stash wallets, phones, snacks and more.
Interior features like a suspended laptop sleeve, padded tablet pocket and lockable zippers safeguard delicate gear. Locking zippers also deter pickpockets, unfortunately common around major European tourist sights. Compression straps slim overstuffed bags to squeeze through cramped spaces.
For longer journeys between cities, hideaway shoulder and hip straps transform backpacks suitable for extended wear. Prioritize padded, ventilated straps and a suspension system transferring weight off shoulders. This prevents painful digging on lengthy train rides or walking tours.
Why Travel Backpacks Beat Suitcases for Europe Exploration
Rolling bags work well for resort vacations or cruises where a single hotel room serves as a basecamp. But trying to make the most of limited European urban exploration time means constantly being on the go. Public transportation connections don’t always drop you at the front door, so mobility is key.
Backpacks keep your hands free for tickets, maps and camera while allowing quick detours down alluring side streets. Sleek, stylish models blend right into urban environments. Just don’t haul a massive travel bag ruining all attempts at discretion!
Seeking Out Reviews to Find the Best Backpack For Travel
With countless contenders on the market, researching reviews helps narrow things down to ideal fits. Blogs from seasoned one bag travelers provide insight after months of hammering gear out in the wild. User reviews closer to your demographic make it easier to envision potential pros and cons during daily use.
Prioritize reviews stress testing gear in applicable scenarios, not just casually carrying a pack between home and the office. Seek out evaluations focused on core features most affecting your intended use case. This helps determine if that cool hidden pocket or proprietary material lives up to marketing hype or proves utterly irrelevant.
Everything from zipper failures to insufficient strap padding gets exposed under the scrutiny of crowdsourced wisdom. Pay particular attention to long-term assessments showing how bags hold up over years of heavy travel. This helps balance flashy features against unglamorous fundamentals like reliability and comfort determining your everyday experience.
Other Key Considerations When Selecting the Best Backpack
With so many variables during extended travel, prioritizing flexibility helps overcome unpredictable hurdles. Seek out bags with removable components allowing modular reconfiguration between trips. Hip belts, pouches and shoulder straps tuck neatly out of sight until truly necessary.
Waterproof materials provide insurance when rainstorms roll through unexpectedly. But overplanning for worst case scenarios risks burdening yourself with unnecessary weight general use. Rigorous stress testing during reviews helps determine if claims match real world experience.
Beware overly niche bags perfect for a singular activity but useless otherwise. Clever features tailored specifically for hiking through Norway won’t help navigating Rome’s metro system. Prioritize versatile designs functional across diverse travel scenarios over specialized equipment for extreme outlier use cases unlikely to occur.
Getting the Most From Your Travel Bag Investment
A quality backpack should last for years of adventures at home and abroad. Some brands stand behind their products with generous warranty programs, free repairs or upgrade discounts showing appreciation for loyal customers.
Before each journey, reconfirm your backpack still meets all necessary size and weight restrictions imposed by flights, trains or other transport. As new airline rules emerge, even trusted carry-on companions get barred from cabins without warning. Preemptively weighing loaded bags helps avoid unpleasant surprises when boarding that budget airline.
Use trips as shakedowns exposing potentialwear items to upgrade before catastrophic failures a continent away from home. Stress test buckles, zippers and seams on low-risk overnighters nearby instead of a once-in-a-lifetime safari.
Regular cleaning between outings prevents grime accumulation and waterproofing degradation from constant grind. Follow manufacturer guidelines for properly washing without degrading fabrics or water resistance.
Use packing cubes and organizer pouches to compartmentalize items for faster access in multiples areas simultaneously. Refine your system with each adventure discovering incremental efficiencies aggregating into an optimized load. Add missing pouches found lacking or remove extraneous components proving unnecessary in practice.
Investing thoughtfully in the ideal backpack improves every travel experience for years to come. Rigorously vetted packs shield hard-won belongings from demanding journeys enabling more immersive cultural encounters. Streamlined accessories paired intelligently with personalized workflows unlock smoother transit connections, easier gears access and more focus enjoying each destination along the way.
Make Backpacking Europe Easier with Packing Tips
Packing light and smart is crucial when backpacking Europe with only a backpack. Follow these tips:
- Bring versatile, lightweight clothing like merino wool t-shirts that can be mixed and matched. Consider a capsule wardrobe.
- Travel-sized toiletries take up less space. Refill along the way.
- Use packing cubes, stuff sacks, or compression bags to compact gear.
- Store digital copies of documents on your phone or cloud service.
- Always bring a universal plug adapter and portable battery pack.
- Carry a microfiber towel that packs down small and dries quickly.
- Wear your bulkiest footwear during travel to save pack space.
- Plan for laundry – you can wash clothes easily at hostels or laundromats.
- Attach a small daypack like the Osprey Daylite to your main pack.
Picking the perfect backpack for travel is vital for a successful backpacking trip through Europe. Remember to choose a carry-on sized backpack around 35-45L with features for organization, security, laptop protection, and comfort. Happy travels!