Finding the best backpacks for traveling Europe can be a daunting task, right?
A travel backpack might be the biggest investment you make in your Eurotrip apart from your plane tickets.
And it’s something you’ll use literally all the time (they don’t call it “backpacking Europe” for nothing)!
So, as digital nomad travel blogger who has been on the road non-stop since 2016, I’m here to help you sort through the many travel backpack options out there and to help you quickly and efficiently find your best backpack for traveling Europe.
Last Updated: September 2019
FYI: you help keep me on the road when you make a purchase through my affiliate links, which provide me a small commission
Quick Summary of the Best Travel Backpacks
Don’t have time to read this full guide and just want to grab a quality bag asap?
Here’s a quick comparison chart of the travel backpacks for Europe reviewed in this post – honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these 5 bags!
Click the buy now buttons to check out more details and user reviews for each bag:
Ok, ready to dive deep as I help you decide which is best for you?
Well, first maybe I should explain who I am and how I pick backpacks …
Or if you’d rather skip that part (no worries mate – promise I’m not offended), click to jump straight to a comparison of the best bags for Europe!
About Me & How I Choose My Backpacks
So who am I and why should you trust my travel backpack recommendations?
I’m Nate Hake, a full time traveler since 2016.
I quite literally live out of a backpack and a daypack.
Me and my 46L Osprey Porter in Amsterdam
I’ve also traveled in Europe a LOT.
I backpack somewhere in Europe almost every summer, and so far I have visited over 33 countries on the European continent.
And guess what?
I’ve learned that a quality travel backpack can be your best friend while traveling through Europe.
So in this post, I’m going to quickly help you find the best travel backpack for Europe for you! We’ll walk through:
- 4 quick tips for pick the best travel backpack for Europe,
- 5 great travel backpacks for Europe – anywhere else!
- My personal bag + daypack combo that I’ve taken to over 50 countries.
Oh, and if you’re curious, you can also read the full list of what I pack to travel the world here!
4 Tips for Picking the Best Travel Backpack for Europe
Let’s start by covering some of the basic things you should be looking for when shopping for a backpack for traveling in Europe.
Most of these things apply universally to shopping for any sort of travel backpack, but there are a handful of unique considerations when backpacking Europe that might matter:
#1 Sort Out Your Desired Size First
Most importantly, you need to decide how much luggage space you need in your travel backpack.
Personally, I suggest aiming to be as lean possible – you’ll be carrying this thing a lot, so the less weight you have on it, the better.
Reasons why smaller = better include:
- Carry-on sized bags help save money on checked bag fees (especially on European budget airlines like Ryan Air).
- Smaller bags are easier to stuff into the overhead compartments on trains, or into the sometimes small lockers in hostels.
- You don’t want to be that backpacker who has a huge bag hogging up the corner of the crowded dorm room!
And I know what you’re thinking: but what about laundry?
Well, fortunately, that’s easy and cheap to find when traveling Europe.
Most hostels offer a laundry room or laundry service and, when they don’t, it’s usually just a few blocks away. Or you could always carry a Scruba laundry bag with you and just do it in the shower!
So leave the extra outfits at home and just plan to do a wash every now and then!
Don’t pack too much or you’ll end up like this ; )
One thing to note about travel backpack size: Size is typically expressed in liters or “L”. If you’re an American, like me, this might be hard to wrap your mind around so let me give you some context:
The backpack in the photo of me above in Amsterdam above is a 46 liter bag, which I use as my main bag now and which is about the maximum size you can have before you start to have to check your bag.
Keep in mind when looking at that photo that I’m very tall, so it may look bigger on you.
#2 Make Sure Your Travel Backpack is Comfortable
You’re going to be walking around with this bag on your shoulders a fair amount, so finding a bag that comfortably fits your frame is important.
One thing that REALLY helps distribute the weight of a heavy backpack is a hip-strap.
If you’ve not used one before, it can feel a bit funky the first time, but it works wonders by moving a lot of the weight from your shoulders to your hips.
Trust me, your shoulders will thank you at the end of the day for using the waist-strap!
On the other hand, backpacking Europe isn’t the same as trekking through Nepal or Patagonia.
Honestly, you will seldom carry your travel backpack more than a kilometer or so at a time, so it’s not like you need to bother getting an expensive and bulky hiking backpack (which often have way more features in terms of padding).
#3 Don’t Sacrifice Durability for Price
I’ve seen so many backpackers in hostels with tears in their bags, ripped straps, or just generally discolored and gross looking backpacks.
Backpacks take a beating and it’s important to buy a brand that gets good reviews over the long haul.
So even if you are trying to travel cheaply in Europe, you’ll save money by buying a backpack that lasts longer.
#4 Consider What Features You Want: But Don’t Overthink It
Traditional hiking backpacks have a ton of pockets, as well as the main compartment that is usually accessible only from the top. Some people like this because it helps them to organize – they designate a pocket or compartment for toiletries, another for shirts and underwear, another for pants, etc.
Personally, I think a lot of compartments and pockets are constraining, and I find that having fewer, larger pockets is more versatile.
Also, note that some backpacks also come with an option for a built-in waterproof cover.
While a nice feature, I personally don’t think this is necessary if you just need a backpack for traveling in Europe.
Sure, it rains, but you’ll be inside most of the time (again, this isn’t Patagonia) and it’s almost always possible to quickly find cover in Europe.
Whatever you do, don’t overthink small features like pockets. The truth is that you’ll find a way to pack your stuff in most bags, so it’s size, comfort, and durability you should be focusing on when picking your backpack.
The Best Backpacks for Traveling Europe: 5 Great Bags Compared
So with that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the best backpacks for traveling Europe, starting with my personal favorite and the backpack I’ve used for my last four big trips through Europe.
#1 – Tortuga Setout Backpack (Top Overall Choice)
Our writer Hedy reviewed the Tortuga Setout Backpack and, wow, were we blown away by the versatility and durability of this super-practical backpack.
Check out her full video review of this great backpack for Europe here:
In fact, we were so impressed that we’ve moved the Setout to our top pick for the best backpack for travel in Europe.
Well, simply put, the folks at Tortuga seems to have thought everything with the Setout backpack. Heck, they even made a separate fit for men and women!
The Setout packs like a suitcase but has the mobility of a backpack. You don’t pack it from the top, which means you can stay organized even as you bounce from hostel to hostel (those top-down backpacks can become a real mess after awhile!).
Plus, both the 35L and 45L sizes are carry-on compliant for most airlines, which means you’ll avoid checked bag fees to boot!
Yes, it’s a bit more expensive than some other bags, but it’s built to last for years to come. So if you’re planning more than just one trip to Europe, it’s worth the investment.
Note that Tortuga isn’t a huge corporation – they’re a small but well-regarded business built by two travelers, so you can only buy direct from their website.
Pros: Carry-on friendly, men and women’s fit, packs like a suitcase, high quality materials, supporting small businesses
Cons: Price means it’s an investment
#2 – Osprey 46 L Porter Backpack (My Bag!)
Click image to see pricing
I love it because it’s relatively affordable, it’s the perfect size for backpacking around Europe, it has a waistband for easier carrying, and it only has one large compartment that is accessible from the front, not from the top.
It also has some nifty compression straps that help to keep your profile small. Plus, I happen to think it looks pretty stylish (I have the black version) compared to other backpacks that scream “I’m a scruffy backpacker who hasn’t showered in days” to everyone you meet.
One other really cool feature about this bag is that it converts from a backpack into a duffel bag by folding the straps into a compartment in the back.
This is great for protecting your bag if you have to check it while flying, or for leaving it in hostel luggage rooms or other places where the straps tend to get easily caught on things.
Lastly, I love Osprey because they have a lifetime guarantee – they will repair any bag they’ve ever made for any reason!
Pros:Converts to duffel bag, simple design, affordable, durable
Cons:Only a handful of pockets, shoulder straps not as comfortable
#3 Osprey Fairpoint 55 (Best Large Bag for Europe)
Click image to see pricing
Need a little bit more space, but not too much?
Then I suggest upgrading to the Osprey Fairpoint 55. It has almost 10 liters of extra space to fit in those extra shoes, clothes, or whatever else it is that you need, plus a good hip and harness system to allow you to comfortably carry that extra weight.
Also, if you need even more space (though again, I think this is too much for most people), there is a 70 liter version.
This is also definitely one of the most popular backpacks for traveling Europe. So if you want a safe bet that many others seem to like, this is a good choice. I’ve seen this exact backpack many times in hostels all over the European continent! So obviously a lot of other people think it’s one of the best backpacks for traveling Europe. Just be sure to tag yours so it doesn’t get taken by the wrong person!
Pros: Extra space but not enormous, backed by Osprey guarantee, solid construction
Cons:Heavier and larger
#4 Witzman Travel Backpack Canvas Rucksack (Best Budget Travel Backpack)
Click image to see pricing
If budget is important to you, the Witzman backpack might be your best backpack for traveling Europe.
It’s unique but is only about a third of the cost of the other options mentioned here. And it’s a pretty stylish travel backpack for men especially.
Again, my advice is that’s ideal to spend a bit of money on a quality backpack, but if you just don’t have that much dough, the Witzman Travel Backpack is the best reviewed of the budget backpack options.
It’s super rugged and also more stylish than the other options here. In fact, it’s so stylish I now kinda want to try taking some Instagram photos with it on! The main issue with this bag is that it’s really more of a duffel or rucksack that converts to a backpack as opposed to a true backpack. That may be fine for traveling Europe, where you don’t really need to have a bag on your back as much as other places.
Pros:Very affordable, durable, stylish
Cons:Less comfortable as a backpack
#5 – Tortuga Outbreaker (Best Carry-On Backpack for Europe)
The Tortuga Outbreaker might have been our pick as the overall top backpack for traveling Europe if it wasn’t for the hefty price tag of $299.
But if you’re willing to invest in a high-quality bag for the long-term, and you want something that is carry-on friendly, you can’t find a better premium bag than the Tortgua Outbreaker.
This shockingly comfortable bag comes in both 35L and 45L sizes, and fits clothes for up to a week of travel, plus a 17 inch laptop in a special padded compartment.
It has plenty of space on the inside, plus an incredibly smart front pocket organizer with space for things like your passport, wallet, keys, and more. It even has a little zipper pocket on its hip belt that functions like a fanny-pack – great for easy access as you’re walking around European old towns!
Most importantly, though, the bag is built from seriously high-quality materials.
No wonder the Tortuga Outbreaker consistently raving reviews from users.
The bottom line?
The Outbreak is definitely an investment. But, if you’re a serious traveler, this backpack will be your trusty companion for many trips to come:
Pros: Super durable, carry-on friendly, great for staying organized, comfortable padding system
Cons: Price requires an investment
Bonus: the Best Daypack for Traveling in Europe
Most backpackers in Europe carry a daypack in addition to their main backpack.
This makes a lot of sense since a lot of times you’ll need something to carry your camera and other essential items while you are out exploring for the day.
It also gives you extra space to pack things if you are trying to carry on a plane (since daypacks can fit under the seat in front of you, and usually count as a personal item).
There is only one daypack for Europe that I feel comfortable recommending at the moment: The Osprey Daylite Daypack.
At 13 liters, it’s the perfect size for packing your camera and other items (I even fit my drone in there!).
It’s lightweight so it doesn’t hurt my back, and it has a small hip strap that can be useful at times. It’s also very water resistant and has a little pocket in the back where I can slip my laptop or a book.
Best of all, it straps into my main Osprey Porter 46 backpack through their proprietary locking system, meaning it’s possible to attach the two bags together and just carry them as one!
Oh, and again – in case you couldn’t tell that I love Osprey by now – it comes with their incredible lifetime guarantee.
That’s it for this guide on the best travel backpacks for Europe!
Here are some related reads to help you plan your Europe trip:
- 5 Top Travel Neck Pillows Reviewed – Which is the Best?
- What’s the Best Time to Travel to Europe?
- The Best Emerging European Destinations for 2019
- How to Find a Cheap International Flight in 3 Steps
Do you have an opinion on the best travel backpacks for Europe?
I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments!
And if you have any questions or need further help to choose your best backpack for travel in Europe, just let me know! I’m always here to help my readers.
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