Best Backpack for Backpacking Europe: Top Picks for Durability and Comfort

Written by: Chris Richardson

Selecting the best travel backpack for a European adventure is an important step to ensuring your travels are comfortable, secure, and hassle-free.

With the versatility and challenges of European travel, from navigating cobblestone streets to boarding budget airlines with strict carry-on regulations, the right backpack acts as a trusty companion for any backpacker.

It must combine durability, comfort, and functionality to withstand the varying demands of urban explorations and rural treks.

A colorful backpack with multiple compartments, a padded back, and adjustable straps, filled with a map, guidebook, water bottle, and camera, sits against a backdrop of famous European landmarks

The ideal travel backpack for Europe comes in various forms to suit different travellers.

For those who prioritize ease of movement and plan to move from one destination to another frequently, a comfortable backpack with a well-fitting harness system and carry-on compliance should be at the top of your wish list.

Meanwhile, dedicated adventurers who value security may opt for backpacks equipped with anti-theft features.

Whichever the preference, the market offers a backpack to meet the needs of every traveller – from minimalist designs for the light packer to more substantial, feature-rich options for those who prefer storage space for their trip to Europe.

The Osprey Farpoint and Fairview series are a popular choice for many backpackers. They are praised for their intelligently constructed frames, tailored to fit different body types while ensuring comfort and ease of carrying.

Other brands offer backpacks focusing on organization and ease of access, ensuring that travellers can have their essentials readily available.

Ultimately, the best backpack for backpacking in Europe feels like an extension of the backpacker’s body: unobtrusive, reliable, and ideally suited to the rhythm of their journey.

All that goes to say is that you need to get out there, try them on in a shop, and don’t just buy one blindly online. Many shops will add weight to the backpack to help you simulate a loaded pack so you can walk around and feel how it sits on your back. 

Given that you’ll be carrying the backpack around Europe for up to three months, you want to be sure it’s comfortable.

The Most Popular Backpacks for Backpacking Europe

A colorful backpack with multiple compartments, water bottle holder, and padded straps, surrounded by iconic European landmarks and bustling city streets

While this is far from a list of the best backpacks, as there are too many, below are just some of the most popular backpacks for backpackers going to Europe:

  • Osprey Sojourn Porter 46 L: Renowned for its versatility and comfort, this backpack is a top choice for European travel.
  • Salkan Backpacker: Known for its functionality and durability, it is suitable for travel across Europe.
  • Tortuga Travel Backpack: This backpack is praised for being ergonomic, organized, and weather-resistant, with a 30L size that meets most carry-on requirements.
  • Osprey Farpoint/Fairview Travel Pack: A popular choice among travellers for its comfort and design, suitable for both men and women. 
  • Peak Design Travel Backpack: Appreciated for its innovative design and versatility, making it a solid choice for photographers and tech-savvy travellers,
  • Osprey Kestrel 48 for men or Osprey Kyte 46 for women: These top-loading backpacks are preferred for their comfort and practicality for backpacking trips.
  • Tropicfeel Shell Backpack (20-42L): A versatile option that can adjust its size based on the traveller’s needs, known for being aesthetic and durable.

These backpacks are popular for their quality, comfort, and suitability for the varying demands of backpacking through Europe, from urban exploration to outdoor adventures.

Choosing the Right Backpack

A traveler carefully selects a sturdy, spacious backpack, comparing features and sizes for backpacking through Europe

When selecting the perfect backpack for travelling Europe, always focus on functionality, comfort, and compliance with airline regulations. If you can keep to just travelling with carry-on, it’s the best way to avoid long lines at airports and avoid having to stow your bag under the plane. 

Key Features to Look For

The ideal backpack is comfortable and includes a suspension system that evenly distributes weight, a rain cover for weather protection, and an anti-theft design to secure belongings.

A laptop compartment is a bonus for digital nomads, while a lightweight construction aids ease of movement.

Size and Capacity

Your travel pack size should fit within the carry-on limits of budget airlines if you plan to hop from place to place via planes often. 

Capacities around 45-55 litres are generally sufficient, with the Osprey Farpoint 55 offering an optimal balance.

Popular Backpack Brands for European Travel

Osprey, REI, Tortuga, Deuter, and Nomatic are reputable brands that offer durable backpacks like the Nomatic Travel Backpack and the Peak Design Travel Backpack.

Many of these brands stand by their build quality with a lifetime guarantee.

Backpack Styles: Pros and Cons

Unlike the top-loading backpacks, which are more common in traditional models, the front-loader backpack offers easy access.

One-bag travel backpacks are convenient for urban travel, as are wheeled backpacks for versatility.

A separate day bag is also advisable for shorter excursions. Some backpacks come with a main pack and a companion day pack that attaches to the main one. This can be handy for commuting between cities as it allows for easy carrying of all your gear on your back.

Price Range and Value for Money

Backpacks vary from cheap to expensive, ranging from $100 to $300+.

It’s important to balance affordability with features and durability. Often, investing a bit more can yield a backpack that endures multiple trips. But don’t buy with your heart, be practical and stick to your budget.

Materials and Durability

High-quality backpacks are often made from heavy-duty, recycled materials.

The best backpack for long-term use should be made of robust fabric that can withstand the rigours of travel. Materials like high-denier nylon provide excellent durability.

Navigating Europe with a Backpack

A backpack sits on a cobblestone street in Europe, surrounded by iconic landmarks. The sun sets behind a picturesque skyline, casting a warm glow over the scene

When embarking on a backpacking trip across Europe, you need to consider factors such as means of transportation, accommodation options and the fluctuating seasons.

The right backpack can make all the difference. Features like a comfortable hip belt are a must; offloading some weight off your shoulders makes long walks to your hostel from the train station much easier. The Osprey Farpoint series is popular for its balance of comfort and functionality.

Transportation Tips

In Europe, there are a plethora of transportation options. Trains, buses, and planes form an extensive network connecting various destinations across the continent. For instance:

  • Trains: Eurail passes offer flexible train travel throughout multiple countries. The Osprey Farpoint’s streamlined design fits comfortably in overhead compartments or at your feet in a train cabin.
  • Buses: Budget-friendly and extensive, bus networks like FlixBus can take you across borders. A backpack with a zip-away harness and hip belt, such as the Farpoint, prevents straps from getting caught during storage.
  • Planes: Low-cost airlines can be a quick way to hop between regions. Remember to check size restrictions for carry-on luggage to ensure your backpack complies.

Accommodation Hacks

Hostels are a staple for accommodation during a Eurotrip due to their affordability and social atmosphere.

  • Check if lockers are available to secure belongings in storage. This includes often fitting your backpack into the storage locker as well.
  • Look for hostels with laundry facilities; it can simplify packing, lessening the need for a larger backpack.

Travel Through Different Seasons

Europe’s seasons significantly affect a traveller’s experience.

  • Summer: Lightweight and breathable backpacks, like those made by Tropicfeel, cater to hotter Mediterranean climates.
  • Fall: Waterproof covers can be handy in places like Ireland, where rain is frequent.
  • Winter: For snowy conditions in countries like France, opt for a backpack with an attached rain cover for extra protection.

Cultural Considerations

Be respectful of cultural norms. In countries like Italy or Spain, dressing stylishly even while backpacking is appreciated.

Choose a backpack like the Tropicfeel Shell that blends functionality with a sleek design.

When trekking routes like the Camino de Santiago in Spain or Portugal, a backpack with easy access to water and a secure hip belt, such as Farpoint, is recommended.

Advanced Backpacking Techniques

A backpack filled with camping gear, maps, and travel books sits next to a pair of sturdy hiking boots. A passport and train tickets are tucked into the front pocket

When backpacking through Europe, mastering your travels ensures a traveller’s journey is efficient, technologically savvy, and, above all, comfortable. Below are methods to enhance the backpacking experience through strategic packing, the use of technology, and optimizing gear for comfort and usability.

Streamlining Your Travel Experience

Streamlining your travel experience begins with meticulous packing and choosing the right backpack.

A top-loader like the Osprey Atmos is favoured for its accessible compartments, allowing backpackers to organize and reach their essentials efficiently.

For one-bag travellers, carry-on dimensions are crucial; bags like the Tortuga Travel Backpack are designed to maximize volume while fitting in an overhead bin.

The key to a minimalist approach is the art of packing only necessities, which eases mobility and reduces time spent at airports.

Key Considerations for Streamlining:

  • Choose a carry-on-sized travel backpack to avoid checked baggage fees.
  • Aim for a minimalist packing list, including multi-purpose clothing and gear.
  • In reality, you’ll use 50% of what you need, so pack one, then cull half and try again.

Leveraging Technology for Better Travel

Backpackers can significantly enhance their travel experience by leveraging technology.

Travel apps can serve multiple functions, from navigation to language translation.

Additionally, digitalizing documents and utilizing travel tips found in apps contribute to a lighter backpack.

A backpacker should never overlook travel insurance apps, ensuring easy access to emergency policy details.

Essential Travel Apps to Consider:

  • Navigation: Google Maps, Citymapper
  • Organisation: TripIt, Google Drive
  • Travel Insurance: Provider-specific apps, SafetyWing

Optimizing Comfort and Usability

The final piece to advanced backpacking is ensuring comfort and usability.

A backpack with a well-engineered suspension system, like those found in Osprey packs, significantly contributes to comfort over long travel periods.

The fit of a backpack is paramount, so adjustable shoulder straps, a torso-adjustable harness, and ample padding are essential for distributing weight evenly and minimizing strain.

Features for Optimal Comfort:

  • Adjustable shoulder straps and torso length to match the backpacker’s body
  • Load-bearing suspension system to distribute weight evenly

Frequently Asked Questions

A colorful backpack surrounded by European landmarks and travel essentials, with a map and guidebook peeking out from the top

What capacity backpack is ideal for extended backpacking trips across Europe?

For extended trips across Europe, a backpack ranging from 40 to 55 litres typically offers sufficient space for necessary gear and personal items while still being compact enough for ease of movement across various terrain and through bustling city streets.

Which backpack characteristics are the most important for comfortable travel throughout Europe?

Travellers should prioritize a backpack with a comfortable harness system, weight distribution features such as a padded hip belt, and multiple compartments for efficient organization. Ventilation to the back is also important for comfort during extended wear.

How does gender-specific design impact the selection of a backpack for travelling in Europe?

Gender-specific designs cater to differences in torso length, hip belt shape, and shoulder strap width, enhancing comfort and fit for the user. Brands like Osprey offer models like the Farpoint and Fairview series tailored to men’s and women’s body shapes.

What features should I look for in a travel backpack to prevent theft in Europe?

Anti-theft features include lockable zippers, RFID-blocking pockets, and slash-proof materials. Some backpacks, like those from Pacsafe, are explicitly designed with anti-theft technology, providing additional peace of mind when travelling in high-risk areas.

Can you recommend any European backpack brands known for their durability and travel suitability?

Brands like Osprey and Deuter are highly regarded for their durable build and travel-friendly features. These brands continuously receive positive feedback from travellers and often come recommended by experienced backpackers.

I personally travelled Europe with a Deuter Quantum 55L plus 10L Daypack and loved it. 

What are the advantages of using a carry-on backpack for international travel, particularly in Europe?

Using a carry-on backpack avoids check-in fees and reduces airport wait times.

It also ensures that all your belongings stay within reach during transit, providing convenience when moving through airports and quick access to personal items during the journey.