Backpacking through Europe or other long-term travel is an experience you’re going to remember forever no matter what happens, but you want to make sure the majority of your members are good. One of the most important things you can do in preparation for your backpacking trip is to anticipate the frustrations you’ll encounter and have a plan for avoiding them ahead of time. A great way to minimize European travel frustrations when backpacking is to have a great backpack.
Keep in mind when you’re shopping for a backpack you want a travel backpack—as opposed to a hiking backpack. This is, of course, unless you intend to spend the majority of your trip hiking. This is rarely the case and most people intend to travel around Europe by train, bus, and bike, and stay in hotels, as opposed to camping along a trail and so carry-on luggage or a carry-on backpack with plenty of pockets is needed.
What should you consider when shopping for a travel backpack for your trip through Europe?
Other than obvious things like shoulder straps and budget, first, think about the size. You’re likely thinking “the bigger the better” because you’ll want to take a lot of stuff with you on a longer trip and bring a lot of things home. Unfortunately, you need to keep in mind that there is such a thing as “too big” when it comes to European travel backpacks. This is the case for two reasons:
Larger backpacks with compression straps tend to be heavier. Even if they don’t start out that way, the larger the bag the more tempted you are to pack it full of things that aren’t necessities.
You’re going to have travel restrictions and you don’t want to go to the hassle or expense of having to check your bag during every leg of your trip. Not to mention if it’s too big it might not even be allowed on the plane, train, or bus.
Most carryon guidelines restrict bags to no more than 22”X14” X9”. If you want specific guidelines concerning size go with this measurement.
Getting to What You Need
Another important factor when it comes to choosing a travel backpack for Europe is having the ability to get to the items you’ve packed quickly and easily. Most backpacks open from the top, so if you need something from the bottom of your bag you’ll be digging down through all of your belongings—not necessarily a huge problem in your hotel, hostel, or Airbnb, but it can be an issue if you’re on the go and you need to empty your bag. To avoid this hassle, consider a bag that offers a front-loading feature or that offers more than one way to access your belongings.
Finally, you’ll want to consider your options when it comes to organizing the items you’re carrying with you. Most bags come with at least a few compartments that make this easier, but chances are for a trip through Europe you’ll want a rather extensive organization system. Make sure there’s a section for toiletries that is leak-proof and that you have plenty of zippers for hiding things. You might also consider protecting your valuables with a theft-proof backpack, but make sure that any locks you install anywhere on your bag are TSA-friendly. They won’t hesitate to break whatever they need to in order to access all parts of your bag.
Choosing the Best Travel Backpack for Europe Trips
Now that you have a general idea of what you’re looking for, you can check out our list of best backpacks for your European backpacking trip.
Osprey is one of the best-known names in backpacks and for good reason—it’s a quality pack that’s going to last you a very long time. It’s ideal for backpacking through Europe because it’s sturdy and offers ample space without being overly heavy or cumbersome.
The pack comes with zip-away shoulder straps, which makes it easier to store on buses, trains, and planes. It comes in a variety of sizes, but we’ve found the 46 to be the most accommodating and the largest size that’s approved for airline travel. The StraightJacket compression design makes it easier to carry even heavier loads. The bag also features large panel zip access to the interior and the zippers are lockable.
This pack is comfortable and offers plenty of room. The bag also features a number of exterior pockets, which makes it easy to access items quickly. The bag is made from sturdy 420 denier polyester and has anatomically curved shoulder straps. There’s also a padded hip belt that ensures the weight of your pack is evenly distributed and not strictly on your shoulders and back.
The bag has a mesh water bottle pocket and panel loading. We like it because it features a ventilated back panel that keeps you cool and reduces sweating. It’s also hydration-compatible, so you’ll be able to carry a water supply with you while you travel.
This is a budget-friendly bag that doesn’t sacrifice quality for the price. It comes in four colors and is made from 840D & 900D twisted polyester. The bag features a limited lifetime warranty. There are tons of organizational features, as well as a place to store your laptop. There’s a full-expansion zipper that gives you more optional space. We love this bag because it’s a great bargain, but can still stand up to harsh travel conditions.
We love the Osprey 46 because its size is suitable for flying, but we know that some people want a bag with more space. If you aren’t concerned about fitting your bag into an overhead compartment or having to check it when you fly, the Osprey Farpoint 55 is a great option. It gives you all the quality you expect with Osprey with a lot of added space.
There’s the main bag that features a second unzippable daypack you can carry with you while you explore cities and towns. The bag features lockable zippers, an interior pocket, and a removable sleeping pad. This is a quality bag that is comfortable to wear and offers plenty of packing space for travel.