The Best Travel Backpacks For Europe
Finding the best travel backpack for your European backpacking trip or any trip for that matter is a serious decision. There are hundreds of backpacks out there to carry around the globe.
Travel styles vary and so do backpacks, but where do you start? Is there a one size fits all travel pack? Probably not. However, I’ve compiled a list of what we deem the best travel packs for Europe and beyond. When it comes to backpacks there are three main types and each comes with its pros and cons.
The three general styles backpack are top-loading, panel loading, and convertible backpacks. Let’s take a look at all three to weigh their various advantages and disadvantages. It’s important to pick the right style to have the best travel backpack.
These are generally the most common backpack used by travelers in Europe. However, it may not be the most convenient. It is slim lined and very comfortable for those long treks. The problem, or strength, lies in the fact that these backpacks were not created for those traveling the world, but those on multiday hikes with their packs on all day. This leads to a durable pack that is lightweight, comfortable, and waterproof.
Check out some examples of top loading backpacks here !
- Durable: A decent top-loading pack is designed to withstand the elements.
- Drawstring opening: These packs are designed to last and to be waterproof. So things like zippers aren’t used.
- Comfort: These packs are built for comfort on long hikes and are made for the adventurous. Meaning long walks when moving locations are easier.
- Flexibility: These packs are probably the most versatile since they are purpose built for multi-day hike trips that allow for you to bounce between urban and natural landscapes.
- Waterproof: Another reason to love the design of a top-loading pack is the waterproof capabilities.
- Packing: The top-loading feature can make packing and unpacking a pain. Meaning if something is in the bottom of your pack, you better start digging.
- Checked baggage: These bad boys can be large and often can’t fit in overheads meaning you get hit with additional baggage fees.
- Straps: The straps hang all over the place. They might be helpful for hiking the Rockies, but not so helpful when throwing under a coach bus.
- Awkward: They’re designed for riding on your back, not for waiting on a metro platform. My top-loading pack is wonderful on my back, but due to its shape can not stand upright on its own.
- Sore thumb: With a top loading pack on there is almost no chance of looking like a local. You’re pretty much pegged for being a tourist right off the get-go, which can be a nuisance.
Panel-loading backpacks are purpose built for the traveler on the go and are a great option. Their design is similar to a traditional suitcase. They fully unzip giving easy access to your stuff. They have a sleek design without all the straps that are likely to get hung up, making it easy to throw them in an overhead compartment or under a bus. Many of these packs are often designed to meet checked baggage standards. These packs are quickly becoming the travelers favorite bag. They’re very well adapted for transitioning between urban environments making them one of the best backpacks for Europe.
See examples of front-loading packs here!
- Size, not having to worry about having to check your bag is a big plus. The majority of these packs are designed to be carry-on friendly.
- Easy access, with a compartment that fully opens to give you access to your clothes and whatever else you carry. This is the big one, making packing and unpacking a breeze.
- Side handles, this may seem like such a small thing, but as a frequent traveler, I can attest it is not. A side handle makes hopping on off public transportation, running through the airport, or just carrying your pack around much easier. You do not need to worry about clubbing that woman behind on the subway with your massive pack on.
- Compartmented, these packs have more compartments built in so you can organize your stuff much better.
- Comfort, the design of these packs is both a positive and negative much like the top-loading packs. In order to keep a low profile, the back straps are often thinner and not as comfortable. Ouch.
- Zippers, the biggest weak point on panel loading packs is the use of a zipper as the main way to access your goods, meaning they run the risk of breaking over time. Especially on a particularly rough trip.
- Weight distribution, these packs are similar in shape to a suitcase and not exactly good for long distances on your back. The ergonomics and weight distribution just aren’t there.
These packs are purpose built for travel but are still a relatively small niche. This small market makes your options for these packs fairly limited. These packs are extremely varied since no real design seems to reign supreme different companies have different styles. It really depends on individual comfort when it comes to determining which convertible backpack is for you. I’ve seen a few interesting designs that may work well for a traveler who’s on the go with short weekend trips, but I personally don’t see a ton of practicality extending beyond that. For me, a traditional bag, or duffel bag are far more stylish and just as practical, but to each their own. Every world traveler is different, like us!
So which kind of pack is for you?
Deciding on the pack style really comes down to what kind of traveler you are. It depends on what you’re looking to do and where you’re going. Some need a heavy-duty bag, while others need comfort, and then you have the slower moving travelers. There really is no way to go wrong with what is your world travel backpack. It’s all about personal preference and where you are in life. As a twenty-five-year-old guy, outdoor activities are very appealing to me, not to mention I feel I have a strong back so carrying around a top-loading pack was my choice. So what suits you? I’ve broken down each pack and who they may appeal to, there’s no right or wrong here though (maybe hiking the alps with a convertible pack isn’t a good idea, but anyone doing that knows that already).
- Top-Loading: Adventure enthusiast. Hiking. Likes to walk and hitch-hike. Long haul.
- Panel-loading: Quick moving. Mostly moving from city to city, or town to town. Long haul.
- Convertible: Going with the flow isn’t your style. You need something that addresses your needs and you know what that is.
What packs do we recommend for the best travel backpacks 2016?
I spent weeks trying on different packs at outdoor shops, traveled thousands of miles around the world with a pack on my back, and read about more backpacks than I care to disclose. It all comes down to what kind of pack you want and what kind of traveler you are. An important consideration is also the company we purchase from. We love REI and Osprey because they stand behind their products and when they fail are quick to replace or refund, no questions asked.
Best Top-Loading Packs:
- Osprey Atmos 65 AG Men’s: This is the pack I carry. It’s large size works well for me since we’re permanently living out of our packs. The suspension system in the bag is also top of the line, I haven’t found a pack that fits better on my back. My largest complaint is it’s a rather odd shape, weight, and inability to stand up on its own due to an internal frame. However, it is rugged and carries heavy weight effortlessly. I chose this pack also for a number of long term treks I plan to do on our journey around the world, something I would not feel comfortable with a travel pack. Backpacker Magazine even gave it the 2015 Editors choice for the best multiday backpack. Check Prices Here!
- Osprey Aura AG 65 Pack – Women’s : Osprey knows how to design a pack and with the new antigravity system this pack feels great on your back. It’s the women’s version of the Atmos, and is said to fit like a glove. This is an accomplishment since it is more difficult to fit the female figure than a man. Check Prices Here!
- Gregory Baltoro: This pack may not be as fancy as the Atmos and its antigravity system, but it has some great features to give it a run for its money. Things such as a removable daypack, a weatherproof pocket for electronics, pivoting belt, integrated rain cover, and u-zip pockets that give easy access to the body of the pack make this pack a great choice. Gregory is a great company that stands behind their gear. Check Prices Here!
- Deuter Act Lite 6o Women’s: A great pack option for the more adventurous woman. This pack has a comfortable fit, solid construction, internal frame, and a multilayer hip belt. Check Prices Here!
Best Panel-Loading Packs:
- Osprey Farpoint 70: This has become the golden standard for travel packs. With a big easy access zip, solid suspension for hopping around cities, lightweight, a removable daypack, zip-away suspension, and a side handle to top it off. For the new digital nomad traveler, this pack is a terrific choice. Check Prices Here!
- Osprey Porter Travel Backpack: I wish I could stop recommending Osprey, but they really make some of the best packs out there. This one is perfect for carry on. Its design is lightweight, compact, and the inside protects your luggage while giving full access to every inch of space. The carry-on feature makes it an easy contender for one of best travel packs for Europe. Check Prices Here!
- Cabin Max Metz Backpack: Okay, so I have referenced a lot of expensive packs. The cabin max is more or less the Osprey porter, but at less than half the price. It’s not backed by some great company with an “All Mighty Guarantee,” but it certainly gets the job done and at a fraction of the price. It is highly reviewed on Amazon and its rugged construction suggests it will indeed hold up in the long-run, or at least until you get your money out of it. Check Prices Here!
Best Convertible Backpacks:
- eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender: Is this a convertible bag? I’m throwing it in the realm of front loading. It claims to have a lifetime guarantee, has a great organization system, glowing reviews, and it’s carry on friendly. This is another viable option for those looking for a no-fuss bag and to escape the inconveniences of traditional suitcases or a large hiking bag.
- Osprey Meridian Wheeled Convertible Luggage – 22″– This bag has a hefty price tag on it and is a newcomer on the scene, but it looks very promising. Similar build to the Farpoint, with the added addition of a more compact frame and a pullout handle with wheels. May not be for every traveler, but I’m certain this bag is the perfect fit for someone. (Digital Nomad?)
Want to see more great stuff like our favorite daypacks or cameras?
Feel free to suggest another backpack for us to add to our Best Travel backpacks for Europe. What backpack do you love?
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