Welcome to our expert guide to choosing the best backpacks for backpacking Europe. Whether you’re a young lionhearted individual or a 30-something individual (like me) who wants to save your back the trouble of lugging everything on your back, we’ve got you covered!
There are several ways to backpack Europe. If you plan to go off the beaten path and venture into nature for some picturesque hiking sessions, you may want to stick with the traditional-style backpacking backpack. Even then, you may want to consider bringing a separate daypack for those epic hikes.
Then, there are the city travelers like myself who prefer to hop from city to city to get a genuine taste of local culture and experience the nightlife. If you fall into this category, the best option is to go wheeled, rolling, or pack light.
Believe me, I’ve been living out of a suitcase the past five years, and I can’t imagine using a massive backpack instead of the rolling suitcase/backpack combo I use.
It’s not just about your back, it’s about convenience. If you’re jumping from city to city, packing a more functional rolling backpack or weekender pack is a lot easier than packing a cavernous traditional backpacker pack.
Below are several key considerations we took into account when selecting the packs in our top 5:
The Osprey Farpoint is the perfect solution for adventure travelers with its detachable daypack and hideaway suspension system
The bag doesn’t scream, “Look at me, I’m a foreign backpacker!” This is one of the key considerations we made. The design is sleek and clean enough that it won’t draw eyes or stick out like a sore thumb.
Available in several sizes: 40L, 55L, 70L, and 80L
Another advantage is the main bag opens fully like a suitcase, allowing you to pack your belongings more neatly and perhaps even employ vacuum space-saver bags (these are a key ingredient for my travels)
Compression straps, padded top & side handles, adjustable hip belt, sternum strap with easy-slide vertical adjustment rails
Built with premium Osprey ripstop nylon (will stand the test of time)
Several 55L owners reported successfully bringing the main bag on board as a carry-on – even on stricter budget European airlines such as Ryanair – by detaching the daypack and counting it as a personal item backpack
Dimensions: 25″ Height x 13″ Width x 13″ Depth (55L M/L)
Pacsafe manufactures the best travel anti-theft backpacks on the market, and they dressed to impress with the larger versions of the Venturesafe. Since Europe is notorious for its pickpockets, the Venturesafe is an excellent choice for travelers who plan to hop between cities using public transportation.
Large suitcase-style flip open main compartment and full-panel mesh zipper pocket
Anti-Theft Features: internal slash-proof eXomesh stainless steel wire mesh in the outer panels, puncture-resistant ToughZip zippers, interlocking zippers, and the Pacsafe signature Roobar lock that provides several useful security functions including the option to lock the bag to a fixed object
Stowable Suspension System: padded shoulder straps, fully adjustable sternum strap, and hip belt
Easy-access front pocket with internal organization and padded laptop sleeve (fits up to a 15″ laptop)
Includes 3mm stainless steel locking cable w/ pouch for locking the bag to a fixed object
Carry-on ready for most major airlines
Dimensions: 21.7″ Height x 13.8″ Width x 8.7″ Depth
The Inateck backpack is one of our favorite budget anti-theft travel backpacks that offers a whole lot more than anti-theft features. In fact, the functionality of this bag is top-notch, especially at this price point.
Both the 30L and 40L versions are carry-on ready, and Inateck made the shoulder straps hideaway to give the user the option to carry the bag like a briefcase through the airport
Anti-Theft Features: kissing zippers to pass a luggage lock through, hidden pockets throughout the bag including a hidden rear pocket and zip shoulder strap pocket (these are great for storing important travel documents/credit cards/pocket money you need easy access to while in transit)
An adjustable sternum strap for better load distribution
A luggage strap if you choose to hook the bag to a rolling suitcase
Padded laptop & tablet sleeves (fits up to a 17″ laptop and 13″ tablet)
Includes a rain cover
Built with surprisingly durable materials at this price point (confirmed by current owners)
Approved carry-on backpack for Easyjet, Ryanair, Monarch, and more!
What is the best backpack to travel in Europe with?
The #1 factor is what type of activities you plan to do and how you plan to travel. As I mentioned in the introduction, if you plan to jump from city to city like me, it’s a good idea to make convenience your #1 consideration.
The High Sierra rolling backpack and Osprey Sojourn are excellent choices for people who plan to hop around European cities.
Why put extra strain on your back if you don’t have to? Imagine smoothly rolling through the streets of Europe without worrying about back discomfort or any weight on your back for that matter.
The advantage of both of these packs is that they double as backpacks. In my opinion, the Osprey Sojourn is the #1 backpack/rolling suitcase hybrid for backpacking through Europe and the best option available.
If you prefer carrying a load on your back, the Osprey Farpoint and Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP packs are your best options.
Personally, if I took the backpack-only route, I would choose Pacsafe because of the myriad anti-theft features and cleaner appearance.
The bottom line is that all the selections in our Top 5 are the best backpacks for backpacking Europe. First, determine your length of stay and planned activities. Once you figure that part out, choosing the best option from our Top 5 will be quite easy.
Should you carry a backpack in Europe?
There’s no rule saying that you have to carry a backpack in Europe. I wish someone told me that the first time I traveled to Europe back when I was in college.
Nowadays, I wouldn’t dare carry a backpack only for any of my travels unless I was packing light. A backpack with a trolley sleeve and my rolling suitcase is my go-to combination.
The main advantage of using a backpack is that you can check it as a carry-on to avoid checked baggage fees.
Don’t make the mistake of buying a backpack that’s so big you’ll have to check it because that defeats the purpose. Be sure to check the airline baggage allowances of the European airlines you plan to use before you buy your pack.
Is it safe to backpack in Europe?
Western Europe is First World and one of the safest places to travel for novice travelers. Are backpacks safe from pickpockets? This is the more important question since pickpockets are prevalent in Europe due to the sheer number of touristic locations per square mile in major cities.
I once saw a person get robbed by a pickpocket in broad daylight in Amsterdam. The best way to outsmart a pickpocket is to choose the Pacsafe Venturesafe or Inateck backpack. You may also want to invest in a quality hidden money belt to carry your most valuable possessions including your cash, credit cards, passport, and phone.
A bit of street smarts and planning go a long way to avoid the agony of theft overseas.
Now you know how to choose the best backpack for backpacking Europe. It’s up to you whether you want extra security, the convenience of a rolling bag, or the versatility of a backpack/daypack combo.
Whichever route you take, I’m sure you’ll have a great adventure and learn how to make the next trip even better along the way.
That’s the beauty of traveling. There are always ways to improve the next journey. No matter how many guides you read, you’ll never learn what’s best for you without experiencing the journey firsthand.
Everyone has there own unique preferences, and these packs in our Top 5 are the perfect place to start.