The right travel backpack for Europe will make your life a lot easier! For many of you, it’s the first backpack you’ll ever purchase and on top of that there is a good chance you’re going to live out of it for a couple weeks, months, or even years.
If you have plans to city-hop between Dublin, Paris, Amsterdam, and Rome you need a bag that can move as fast as you do. However, finding that perfect pack can be tough with a plethora of options available on the market. On our first backpacking trip around Europe, we used traditional hiking packs but found them to be a pain and not suited for the style of travel.
Since then we’ve managed to accumulate a collection of various packs for different travel styles. That means we have one backpack for hiking in Sweden and another pack for city hopping between Prague and Lisbon.
In this post, we break down the differences between panel loading bags, top loading backpacks, and non-traditional bags. That way you can choose the perfect backpack for traveling in Europe. These are all of our personal recommendations after years of European travel.
Table Of Contents
- Best Travel Backpacks For Europe
- Understanding Different Styles Of Travel Backpacks
Travel Backpacks for Europe
We’re going to get right into our top picks for a backpacking trip in Europe. If you’re curious to understand the different models more in-depth head down to the bottom where I talk about the various attributes.
Best Top-Loading Backpacks for Europe
Osprey Atmos 65 AG Men’s:
This is the pack I use to carry. Its large size works well for those who will travel the wide range of climates in Europe. 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 Editors choice for the best multiday backpack several times over.
It’s a great bag that would be a solid choice for any travelers as its a well rounded top-loading pack. The major drawback to this pack is it does not really excel at anything any in 2019. There are far more backpacks purpose-built for city travel and ultralight packs built for those looking to head into the mountains on multi-day treks.
However, it does a solid job at being comfortable and tackling both the mountains and city streets. Toss in your favorite packable down jacket, hammock and travel camera and prepare to conquer the world!
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.
It’s an easy choice for the best backpack for women. We love the comfort of this bag since it is an accomplishment to fit the female figure. It has almost all of the same strengths and drawbacks as the bag above and it’s a worthy consideration for any adventurous woman out there.
This pack may not be as fancy as the Atmos and Aura and their 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.
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. We’ve picked a handful bags that are well suited for women and this is another great option.
Best Panel-Loading Backpacks
You’re probably noticing a theme by now, but we love Osprey backpacks for travel in Europe. The pack is well constructed and leaves plenty of room for all of your clothes. The bag is lightweight and easy to throw off your back when you hop on a bus or train. This may be the best travel backpack for Europe.
The only problem with this bag is it’s not as robust so those who like to walk or cover distance the backpack will get uncomfortable. That being said it’s one of the cheapest Osprey backpacks you can buy which means you have more budget for your backpacking trip in Europe.
Timbuk2 Wander Pack
This is a stylish multi-use backpack. It’s the most expensive panel loading backpack on this list, but with great construction, it is built to last. The sleek exterior is a nice touch and does a good job at fighting stains and moisture. It’s a well-designed bag that does a wonderful job as a functional travel pack.
I’d recommend it for anyone who cares about the looks of their pack and intends to travel around cities. It could even be used on business travel if it doesn’t require a suit and tie. With a padded rear sleeve designed for up to a 15″ laptop, you can travel in confidence as a digital nomad.
It has a number of drawbacks such as a lack of hip-belt, lackluster straps, and outdoor features. It’s wonderful because of its ability to fit in overhead bins and makes a great carry-on backpack. Additional stand-out features include the side straps for compression and the various compartments that help with organization. If you combine this bag with packing cubes to protect your clothes you could have a well laid out backpack perfect for a stylish traveler who doesn’t want to look like a “backpacker.”
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. The only drawback of the pack is the less comfortable suspension and its unisex design. However, it’s portability makes it an awesome choice for the best women’s backpack or men’s.
REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Pack
Osprey had a monopoly on the travel backpack market for far too long. However, many backpack manufacturers have caught on and begun developing backpacks suited for the growing trend of travelers. We have transitioned from hiking packs to purpose-built travel backpacks within a few years. We’re longtime fans of REI and love the products they produce.
This pack is loaded with features the Farpoint lacks. Highlights include a more robust suspension system that allows for an impromptu hike in the mountains or up to the top of the local hill. I love the addition of a laptop sleeve, hydration reservoir, rain cover, and straps for trekking poles.
To top it all off the pack has a lie flat feature with a large zip opening for easy access to all of your belongings. It’s pretty stylish too!
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. This is a great option for a travel backpack in Europe.
Non-Traditional Bags For Europe
Patagonia Black Hole Duffle
Have we mentioned that we love Patagonia before? We’re avid fans of the companies products and it’s likely anyone who’s big into outdoor adventure sports is loves them too. The Patagonia Black Hole bag is one of the largest of the Patagonia brand and perfect for extensive travel.
The bag can pack down small when empty so it’s great to stick in your bag. It was also plenty easy to stuff and organize, thanks to the large U-shaped zipper and two mesh pockets on the top flap.
eBags TLS Mother Lode Weekender
Is this a convertible bag? I’m throwing it into 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 Ozone Convertible
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.
It may not be for every European traveler, but I’m certain this bag is the perfect fit for someone. (Digital Nomad?)
Styles Of Travel Backpacks for Europe
When it comes to backpacks there are three main types and each comes with its pros and cons. The three general styles of the backpack are top-loading, panel loading, and non-traditional 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 for Europe.
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.
Pros of Top-loading backpacks:
- 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.
Cons of top loading backpacks:
- Packing: The top-loading feature can make packing and unpacking a pain. Meaning if something is at 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 cannot 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:
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 traveler’s favorite bag. They’re very well adapted for transitioning between urban environments making them one of the best backpacks for Europe.
Pros of Panel Loading Backpacks:
- Size, not having to worry about having to check your bag is a big plus. The majority of these packs come in a size 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.
Cons of Panel Loading Backpacks:
- 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.
This is a wide range of packs some purpose-built for travel while others like duffel bags are purpose-built for a different task. I love duffel bags for shorter trips and they have established themselves as favorites for adventure sports enthusiasts. 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 bag is right 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. 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.
Which travel backpack style 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. If you need help purchasing the backpack read how we save money for travel.
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 travel needs like a digital nomad.
Plan Your Trip to Europe
We rely on a few trusted websites that help save us money and time when booking hotels, flights, and car rentals. Check out some of our preferred partners below:
- Accommodation: To feel more at home we use Airbnb you can check out some tips and read more about getting an Airbnb coupon code here. Or just take this coupon for your first stay!
- Flights: Compare airlines, dates, and prices all in one place with Skyscanner.
- Train Travel: The best way to travel around Europe in our opinion is by train. You can buy a Eurail Pass check timetables, and purchase individual tickets on Rail Europe.
- Travel Insurance: We never travel without travel insurance with World Nomads. We ALWAYS travel with travel insurance. Natasha is a bit of a worry wart and would rather stay safe than sorry. World Nomads offers incredible flexible and great plans!
- Packing: Make sure you go prepared and have the right stuff packed for your trip to Europe. Check out our Europe packing list for more information.
- The Europe Packing List: Don’t Forget To Pack This Stuff
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