Finding the best travel backpack for Europe can be confusing because there are so many options. While most people use standard hiking backpacks to travel, there are also other non-traditional bags. In this guide, we’ve picked our favorite panel-loading bags, top-loading bags, and non-traditional bags. Before you choose a bag, make sure you know the benefits and disadvantages of each style of bag and what to look for in a travel backpack. We’ve created a guide for how to choose a backpack for traveling Europe, and I highly recommend that you check it out before buying a backpack.
Best Panel-Loading/Front-Loading Travel Backpacks for Europe
Osprey Porter Travel Backpack – Starting around $80
Osprey is my favorite backpack brand, so it is no surprise that the Osprey Porter is a great panel-loading backpack for traveling in Europe. This pack is sturdy and offers a lot of room for all your gear. I also love how it is very streamlined and lightweight, which makes it much easier to navigate crowds. The shoulder straps zip away behind a flap, which is very helpful when stowing it on planes/trains/buses. Personally, I think the 65 liter version is a bit too big, but if you don’t mind checking your bag (or if you aren’t going to be flying), it would probably be fine. My only complaint is that its waist belt isn’t padded, so it isn’t great for really long journeys.
- The Porter 46 is carry-on size for most airlines (the Porter 65 is over the legal carry-on size).
- Lightweight but sturdy construction.
- Ballistic nylon.
- Zip-away shoulder harness that is comfortable.
- Tuck-away fabric waist belt.
- StraightJacket compression that secures any size load.
- Low-profile top and side grab handles which are great for lugging your bag around.
- Large panel zip access with lockable zippers.
Osprey Porter 46 – $80-$100
height x width x depth
In: 22 x 14 x 9
Cm: 56 x 35 x 23
Osprey Porter 65 – $100-$110
height x width x depth
In: 26 x 15 x 11
Cm: 65 x 38 x 28
Osprey Farpoint 55 – Around $180
The Osprey Farpoint 55 is another great travel pack, and I think it is a great alternative to the Osprey Porter. This pack has a total of 55 liters of space, but the 55 liters are split up between the main backpack (40 liters) and the detachable day pack (15 liters). The day pack clips onto the main backpack, which can be handy when traveling. I think 40 liters is a pretty good size for a main bag. There is also the Osprey Farpoint 70, which is a bit bigger and runs around $200.
- Main bag offers a panel-loading opening with lockable zippers, interior pocket, and internal compression straps to cinch down contents
- Features removable sleeping pad/rain jacket straps
- Adjustable suspension system can be stored in its own panel for streamlined transport as luggage
- Spacer mesh back panel with LightWire frame helps promote airflow and moisture dispersal.
- Detachable daypack includes multiple internal and external pockets, tuckaway harness, and an internal sleeve for hydration reservoir or a computer.
- External compression straps help secure daypack and let you strap down loads.
height x width x depth (Does not include daypack)
In: 25 x 13 x 12
Cm: 64 x 34 x 30
Osprey Waypoint Series — Around $210-$280
If you’re not concerned about having a bag that can be considered a “carry-on,” then the Osprey Waypoint series might be a good option (the 65L might be small enough for some airlines). I also like the Waypoint’s suspension system as it is probably the best of the bunch. The Waypoint comes in two volume sizes — 65L and 85L. Additionally, the Waypoint is available in a men’s and a women’s version, which is nice. The Waypoint includes a detachable 15L daypack that clips onto the outside of the pack. The Waypoint is the largest travel backpack that we recommend, but it is an excellent choice for people who aren’t concerned with ultralight travel. Click here to view: Women’s 65L and Women’s 85L — Men’s 65L and Men’s 85L.
- Zip-away suspension with AirScape backpanel and LightWire frame
- Gender specific, torso-adjustable harness
- Gender specific hipbelt with ErgoPull closure
- Foam padded sidewalls with StraightJacket compression secure and protect the load
- Large panel zip access with locking sliders
- Four internal zippered pockets for organization
- Internal compression straps keep contents secure
- Zip-and-clip detachable daypack
- Stretch woven side pockets keep water bottles handy on trail
- Padded top and side handles provide comfortable carry
- Top stash pocket
Kelty Redwing 50 – Approximately $120
I’m a fan of the Kelty Redwing because it is a comfortable pack with a lot of room and plenty of external pockets. I’ve always found Kelty’s material to be tough and their suspension straps to be comfortable. The older version of the Kelty Redwing can usually be found for around $80-$100, so it is a nice option if you’re on a budget.
- Anatomically curved shoulder straps and a padded hip belt to help distribute load weight
- Panel loading for simple loading and unloading
- Zippered side pockets for easy access
- Mesh water bottle pockets
- Large front pocket with organization
- Single Light Beam aluminum stay
- Ventilating back panel, shoulder straps, and hip belt that help keep you sweat-free
- Load-lifter/stabilizer straps
- Scherer Cinch that makes adjusting the hip belt easy
- Built with rugged 420-denier polyester and reinforced with 450-denier oxford polyester
- Hydration compatible
Measures 18 x 25 x 14.5 inches (W x H x D)
Non-Traditional Travel Bags
While many people travel with travel backpacks (like those listed above), there are other good options for carrying your gear. Most notably, convertible bags are very desirable for a lot of travelers. Convertible bags are basically soft-sided suitcases with backpack-style shoulder straps. These bags have a large compartment, which makes packing simple, and they can be carried like a suitcase, a shoulder bag, or a backpack. This style of bag won’t be as comfortable as a dedicated travel backpack, but it does provide added flexibility, which can be very helpful in some situations.
Patagonia makes great products and the MLC (Maximum Legal Carry-on) is an extremely popular option for people who want to travel with a convertible-style bag. Additionally, the MCL is the top choice for flashpackers because it is fashionable and makes you look like more of a local when you use it with the shoulder strap.
- Main compartment opens like a book for easy packing, access, and organization with a compression pocket to secure contents
- A secondary zippered sleeve pocket separates dirty clothes or shoes
- Padded back panel holds shoulder straps and protects your back
- Separated padded pocket stores a laptop or works well as a clothing organizer
- External zippered pockets provide easy access to travel docs and vital gear
Best Top-Loading Travel Backpacks for Europe
Despite some of their shortcomings, top-loading backpacks are still a popular choice for traveling in Europe. This style of bag is generally a bit more comfortable and reliable (i.e. no zippers to break) than front-loading bags, but they are more difficult to pack/unpack. I’d generally recommend a front-loading bag when traveling in Europe, but some people prefer the durability of a top loader.
Osprey Atmos 50 – $200
- AirSpeed suspension has a fully adjustable torso length and adjustable hipbelt
- Shoulder harness adjusts over a 3 in. range for a fine-tuned fit
- Updated pad design with spacer-mesh contact surfaces and ventilated foam that provides breathable and supportive cushioning
- Hipbelt uses dual-density foam for improved support and spacer mesh for breathability; exclusive adjustment system lets you customize the fit while wearing the pack
- Hipbelt pads extend up to 3 in. on each side for 6 in. total adjustment range
- LightWire alloy frame creates low-profile air space, optimizing balance and ventilation
- Floating top lid has a large pocket and an under-the-lid mesh pocket
- Front stretch woven pocket, side stretch-mesh pockets, zippered hipbelt pockets, and 2 large front zippered pockets help organize gear for quick, convenient access
- The Osprey Atmos 50 pack is made with a lightweight yet strong 210- and 100-denier fabric set that offers excellent durability and less trail weight than heavier fabrics
Do you have a favorite backpack? Please let me know and I will review it!
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Thanks! — Susan and James