Finding the best travel backpack for Europe can be a daunting task. A backpack might be the biggest investment you make in your Eurotrip apart from your plane tickets. Plus, you’ll use your travel backpack literally all the time (they don’t call it “backpacking Europe” for nothing)!
I am a travel blogger who has been backpacking the world non-stop since 2016 (see section below on why you can trust my recommendations if you’re skeptical). Along with my team of travel reviewers, we’ve tested many backpacks over the years.
🎒 As of spring 2021, our overall top recommendation is the 👉Tortuga Setout Backpack👈.
But it’s not the only bag for Europe out there – so let’s see how it stacks up against all the travel backpacks we’ve reviewed:
5 Best Travel Backpacks for Europe Compared
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In a rush? Here’s a comparison chart of the top 5 travel backpacks for Europe reviewed in this post below:
Ok, ready to dive deep as I help you decide which one of these awesome bags is best for you?
So with that in mind, here’s a rundown of some of the best backpacks for traveling Europe, starting with our top ranked bag:
You can definitely tell that the Setout was designed by travelers. Its perfect organization lets you can pack everything you need for Europe into one bag. Plus, the super durable construction and timeless style means this bag is built to last. If we could only choose one bag, this would be it.
- Carry-on compliant
- Men’s and women’s fits
- Thoughtful organization
- Super durable construction
- Extremely comfortable
- Price means its an investment
- Only available direct from Tortuga (but at least they have free shipping and returns!)
The folks at Tortuga seems to have thought everything with the Setout travel backpack. Heck, they even made a separate fit for men and women!
✔️ What We Love: The Tortuga Setout packs like a suitcase with the mobility of a backpack. It’s not a top loading bag, which means easy access even as you bounce from hostel to hostel (those top loading 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!
💲 Thoughts on the Price: 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 with this bag, it’s worth the investment.
🤗 Supporting Small Businesses: You can only buy this bag from directly from Tortuga. Tortuga isn’t a huge corporation – they’re a small but well-regarded business built by two travelers who wanted to bring quality travel backpacks to the world.
I've personally taken this bag to over 50 countries, and it's held up remarkably well! A timeless design and high quality construction are why this is still the most popular bag you see most often in Europe's hostels. If you're on a budget but can't sacrifice quality, choose the Osprey Porter.
- Converts to a duffel
- Lightweight, simple design
Single compartment great for stuffing in more clothes
- Best value/quality combination
- Carry on size
- Backed by lifetime guarantee
- Shoulder straps have minimal padding (they need to be small to stowaway)
- Very few pockets – just one big compartment
The Osprey 46 L Porter is the most up to date version of the travel backpack I’ve used for the past several years.
✔️ What We Love: Travel backpacks have come and gone over the years, but the Osprey Porter 46L maintains its popularity becuase its relatively affordable and the perfect size for backpacking around Europe. The Porter has shoulder straps and waistband for easier carrying, but they can be tucked away to make this appear like a duffel bag.
🎒 Packs Like a Pro: The Osprey Porter has one large front-loading main compartment. This makes it super easy to pack on the go. It also has some nifty compression straps that help to keep your profile small (it can function as a carry-on backpack for most airlines if not overfilled).
🧳 Converts to a Duffel: One awesome feature is that this bag converts from a backpack into a duffel bag by folder the straps into the back. This means you can carry this backpack like a suitcase, though the price you pay for that is that the shoulder straps are a little thin.
✨Don’t Look Like a Dirty Backpacker: 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.
💯 Lifetime Guarantee: I love Osprey because they have a lifetime guarantee – Osprey will repair any bag they’ve ever made for any reason!
You've got plenty of space to add some extras to your pack! Though I prefer to travel light, for travelers who want more space, this is the best travel backpack for Europe. Men's and Women's versions available. Plus, it comes with Osprey's lifetime guarantee.
- 55 L means LOTS of space
- Popular because it gets the job done
- Good price/quality balance
- Backed by Osprey lifetime guarantee
- A little heavy
- Very few pockets – just one big compartment
- Not carry on size
Osprey Farpoint Review
Not a light packer? Then I suggest upgrading to the Osprey Farpoint 55.
🎒 Space to Fit It All: The Osprey Farpoint has almost 10 liters of extra space to fit in those extra shoes, clothes, or whatever else it is that you need on your trip, plus a good hip and harness strap system to allow you to comfortably carry that extra weight.
👉 Need Even More Space? Check out Osprey’s 70 liter version.
🧑🏻🤝🧑🏻 Popular for a Reason: This is 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!
Worried about safety on your Euro backpacking trip? Pacsafe is made for worrywarts like you. This bag comes loaded with anti-theft and security features, plus it's pretty stylish and comfortable to boot.
- Anti-theft slash-proof design for security
- Super comfortable
- 45 and 65L carry on sizes
- Easy access front compartments
- Hideaway straps are a cool feature, but they can be tricky to finagle into the bag
Pacsafe Venturesafe Review
If you want a quality bag loaded with security features, the Pacsafe Venturesafe is a great travel carry on bag for Europe.
🔪 Slash-Proof – Bag slashing is one of the more common crimes targeting backpackers in Europe. Since slashers tend to target corners of bags, Pacsafe reinforced this bag with its eXomesh stainless steel mesh. Good luck cutting through that!
🤐 Lockable Zippers – While backpacking Europe, you’ll spend a lot of time leaving your bag in random places: hostel floors and common rooms, open shelves on trains and ferries, and in large stacks of other bags. These lockable zippers make it much harder for a pickpocket to snatch something while you aren’t looking.
🎒 Organized and Comfortable – The anti-theft features aren’t the only thing this backpack has going for it – it’s also pretty comfortable to carry and loaded with smart organization features.
Just want a single carry-on friendly bag? This is it! Durable construction and timeless style means this investment will last for many trips. Comfortable straps, sensible organization, and more. Tortuga thought of it all!
- Perfect for the carry-on traveler who wants to deal with just one bag
- Durable construction built to last
- All around perfect organization
- Raving reviews from users
- Priciest bag we’ve ever reviewed (otherwise it might be our #1 pick)
Our Video Review
This bag is awesome! Honestly, the Tortuga Outbreaker might have been our pick as the overall best travel backpack for Europe … IF it wasn’t for the hefty price tag of $269. If you have the cash, though, this is the Rolls Royce option for Europe travel backpacks.
📈 Premium Price Point Means It’s an Investment: 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.
✈️ Best Carry-On Backpack: 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 laptop compartment.
✔️Crazy-Good Organization: The Tortuga Outbreaker 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!
Bonus: the Best Daypack for 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.
✈️ Lightweight But Feature-Rich: 13 liters, it’s the perfect size for packing your camera and other items (I even fit my drone in there!). This daypack is lightweight so it doesn’t hurt my back, and it has a small hip strap that can be useful at times. The Daylite is also very water resistant and has a little pocket in the back where I can slip my laptop or a book.
🔒 Osprey Locking System: 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!
✔️ Lifetime Guarantee: In case you couldn’t tell that I love Osprey by now – the Daylite daypack also comes with Osprey’s incredible lifetime guarantee.
How to Research Travel Backpacks
Why Trust Our Recommendations
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.
Above you can see me and my 46L Osprey Porter in Amsterdam. Oh, and I’ve also traveled in Europe a LOT. I’ve been to nearly every country in Europe (I’m coming for you Albania!), and I backpack somewhere in Europe almost every summer. (Side note: if you’re getting wanderlust right now, check out my list of the best places to backpack in Europe and our huge guide to Backpacking Europe).
And guess what I’ve learned in all that travel? I’ve learned that a quality travel backpack can be your best friend while traveling through Europe.
First, I have a few tips for picking the best travel backpack for Europe properly …
4 Tips for Picking a Backpack for Traveling 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 bag a lot on your trip, so the less weight you have on it, the better and more comfortable it will be.
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!
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 travel pack 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 a hip strap suspension system 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 suspension system!
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 are usually top loading and often have way more features for comfort like padded hip belts and complex suspension systems).
#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, other compartments for shirts and underwear, other compartments 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 and makes packing easier and quicker.
Also, note that some backpacks also are designed 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 travel 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.
What to Pack for Europe
One more thing before you travel to Europe:
Don’t forget these items that should be on every backpacker’s packing list …
A great way to fit more items in your travel backpack is to use compression bags to squeeze the air out of your clothes.
European Travel Plug Adapter
If your electronic devices are from the USA/Canada/Australia/UK, you’re going to need an adapter to be able to charge them!
This is a solid one that also works in many different locations around the world.
A Retractable-Cable Lock
Why this specific type of lock?
Because the retractable cable comes in handy when you need to secure your travel backpack (for example in a dorm where the hostel doesn’t have a locker, or the locker won’t fit your bag).
Travel Neck Pillow
Backpacking Europe = a LOT of time spent on trains, planes, and buses (not to mention hostels without adequate facilities).
I wouldn’t dare try it without a travel neck pillow in my backpack.
Because I’m obsessed with perfection, I had our writer Hedy test out 5 of the best travel neck pillows.
The winner of our test?
The TRTL Travel Neck Pillow … by a landslide. It’s comfortable, lightweight, and fits easily in a backpack.
An umbrella is one of those things you don’t think to pack and then later realize you need it … but only when you REALLY need it.
So safe yourself some trouble and just pack one now.
And I’ll help you get the best one quickly, because another one of our writers (Lydia) actually tested out the best umbrellas for travel.
Her top choice?
The Rainmate Compact Travel Umbrella. It’s lightweight yet durable, packs down small, but gets the job done at an affordable price.
Travel Insurance for Europe
Are you covered in case of an accident during your backpacking trip through Europe? If not, you could be in for a real crisis if an emergency happens. That’s why I always add travel insurance to my packing list.
World Nomads is the most popular choice for backpacker insurance in Europe, and I’ve personally used them many times in Europe.
A House Sitting Membership
What’s house sitting?
Well, it’s where you watch someone’s home (and usually their pets) while you stay in it without paying.
It’s cheaper than a hostel (well, unless you happen to get one of those sweet hostel jobs through a service like World Packers). Plus, you don’t have to crash on a couch, and you get MUCH more space to unpack your travel backpack than you would anywhere else.
Read our post on How to Housesit to learn why many think it’s the ultimate hack to backpacking Europe.
Or check out Trusted Housesitters if you want to start browsing available properties now.
FAQs About Buying a Europe Backpack
Is it safe to travel with a backpack in Europe?
Generally traveling with a backpack in Europe is very safe. You can protect yourself by exercising caution, never leaving your bag alone, and investing in a bag lock. You may also consider a anti-theft bag like the Pacsafe Venturesafe.
What is a good backpack for traveling Europe?
Is it better to travel with a backpack or suitcase in Europe?
It depends on your personal preference. If you are staying in hostels, you’ll find that most travelers use backpacks for ease of portability. Though it’s a never-ending debate, the truth is you can travel Europe just fine with either.
How big of a backpack do I need to travel Europe?
The smaller the bag, the better. It’s easy to do laundry in Europe, and you’ll have more mobility if you have less to carry. A bag around 40-50 liters is plenty big.
Is a 40l backpack carry-on?
Usually a 40l backpack qualifies as a carry-on in the US and Europe, though restrictions vary by airline.
That’s it for this guide on the best travel backpacks for Europe!
Let’s get planning your Europe trip:
Do you have an opinion on the best backpack for traveling 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 bag for travel in Europe, just let me know! I’m always here to help my readers.