Last Updated on
When you’re travelling around Europe, you need a sturdy bag to carry your life with you. But as I soon discovered after living in both Switzerland and London, the picturesque cobbled streets do not go well with wheeled suitcases. Backpacks are a much better and more practical idea. If you’re looking for the best travel backpack for Europe, you’re in the right place. Check out my guide to the best ones available, right now.
So how should you choose your travel backpack?
When you’re choosing a travel backpack, first of all, you need to consider size. Aim for something in between 30-40L, that tends to be the limit for carry-on luggage (even on those awful airlines). This will save time and you won’t have to hang around at the baggage carousel or risk losing your checked-in bags. At the same time, it needs to be comfortable enough to carry around all day capable of carrying 3-4 days of clothes (check out my packing tips below to help with that!).
Which sort of backpack should you go for?
Don’t even consider getting one of those unwieldy camping backpacks, with more straps than a spacesuit. You need to look for a sleek travel backpack that is zipped open in the same way as a suitcase, making it easy to access everything and to pack. This comes in really handy when moving frequently. Another important feature to look for is a bag that is waterproof – the last thing you want is to end up with soggy clothes or a ruined laptop if you’re caught out in a rainstorm. Although it is possible to get rain covers, buying a backpack which is waterproof is a more reliable solution.
“Water-resistant, Leightweight, Multiple compartments, Contoured/padded back, Padded shoulder straps, Front loading”
On that, you’ll want a backpack with a laptop slot/holder if you’re going to be working while you’re travelling. I can speak from experience when I say that it’s great to know that your laptop is held securely when it’s the key to being able to continue working remotely, wherever you may be. You don’t want to miss out on an important Skype client meeting because your laptop’s been damaged. This space is also useful for keeping any paperwork you’ll need to take with you, plus Ipads, tablets and magazines.
Another thing to consider is the weight of the backpack alone – you’ll want a light bag as you don’t need extra weight before you even load up your kit. And check that the bag has comfy shoulder straps, with padding if you prefer for added comfort. You’ll want to double check that it adjusts correctly to your body shape too – this is particularly important if you’re petite. If the straps won’t adjust tight enough to hold your backpack nice and high on your back, it’ll drag and could cause you unwanted back and neck pain. As you can see, it’s better to try the bag on in store rather than buying online because you just don’t know if the fit will suit you. (But by all means, buy online once you know which backpack you want – especially if you see a good deal!)
Some tips on how to pack your backpack
If you’re going backpacking you’re going to have to adopt a minimalist lifestyle. Here’s one of my top tips – however much you’d been planning on taking, you’ll need to halve that amount! Seriously, it will save you time and stress. You’ll be able to get into quick and easy packing habits, it’s easier to keep track of your belongings as you move from place to place, and you won’t have to go out and buy extra luggage to fit all your souvenirs and trinkets that you’ve collected while you’re away. You want to have space to take home some mementoes of your trip, don’t you? So when you’re preparing to go backpacking, you’ll have to travel light.
Here are my most effective travel packing secrets, which I’m happy to share with you to make sure your packing goes smoothly:
- Take a microfiber travel towel – they are light and they pack up so much smaller than a normal towel, but still work just as well
- If you’re in doubt about something, leave it. You most likely won’t use it, and if you do most things can be picked up abroad anyway
- Leave at least a quarter of your bag empty, for souvenirs, gifts and goodies from your travels
- Consider the climate of your destination, and take clothes you can layer
- Create a capsule wardrobe of items that can all be easily interchanged
- Grab two or three compression packing cubes – they’ll save you space and make it easy to stay organised when you know where everything is.
Now onto my rundown of the best travel backpacks out there for your backpacking trip around Europe:
The 5 Best Backpacks for Travel
Lifeasy Travel Backpack 35L
- Small enough to take on flights as a carry on bag – meets all hand luggage requirements
- The built-in USB charging post is really handy, allowing you to charge your phone/Ipad on the go
- This bag is extremely comfy, with adjustable padded waist and shoulder straps. The shoulder straps also have breathable mesh which helps you stay cool in warmer weather
- Extendable features, allowing it to transform from a small compact bag with 15cm depth to up to 47cm depth when fully extended.
- Durable, great quality material which will last for years and stand up to heavy-duty use
- Enough padding to protect your electronics
- A great price for such a good quality bag
- Useful pockets so that everything has its place and is easy to find
- On the smaller side at 20L, rising to 35L when expanded – you might struggle to fit in all your essentials
- The USB extension cable is lower quality than you’d expect
- Might be better suited for shorter trips than longer backpacking adventures
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack – 40 L
- This bag looks really sleek and stylish
- Your electronics will stay safe and protected, with a specially designed laptop sleeve in a lockable compartment
- There’s a choice of colors – you can go for Classic Black or make your bag stand out by opting for Volcanic Red or Caribbean Blue
- The two internal compression straps keep everything held tightly in place and the bag is strong enough to hold up to 40 pounds of weight
- This backpack’s been constructed to transfer weight onto the hip strap which is great if you’re going to be doing a lot of walking or standing around in airports.
- Both the shoulder and hip straps have padding which brings additional comfort
- Sturdy fabric and zippers will stand up to a lot of use
- For longer backpacking trips of more than a couple of weeks you might find the storage space restrictive and want to size up to the Osprey Farpoint 70.
- The Osprey Farpoint 40 comes with a larger price tag at over 100 dollars, so not a great option if you’re working to a tight budget.
- This bag has fewer pockets and compartments than some of the other backpacks on the list, making it harder to organise and keep track of your stuff
- Large, lockable U-zip duffel-style access to main compartment - 40L total volume
- Meets carry-on size restrictions for most airlines (Size Medium/Large: 21H X 14W X 9D inches)
- Lockable zipper access to padded laptop & tablet sleeve (fits up to most 15" laptops)
- Stowaway backpanel, shoulder straps and hipbelt with zippered rear flap for protection
- Two front mesh waterbottle pocket
Minaal Carry-on 2.0 – 35 L
- The best looking backpack (in this class) on the market. Comes in both grey or black.
- The laptop suspension system ensures that even if you drop your bags upon arriving home after a long flight, your laptop is safe and secure.
- Many internal pockets to arrange all of your essentials, even hidden pockets to keep cash and other valuables safe.
- This backpack converts easily and quickly into a duffel bag.
- Can fit a lot in it. Despite “officially” coming in at 35 L it can hold a lot more in it that you’d imagine.
- It has a rainfly included underneath, to give you full confidence, even in a torrential downpour.
- Comfortable for long periods of time.
- The makeup of the nylon exterior means it attracts dirt fairly easily. A vast improvement over the 1.0 version but you need to wipe it ot keep it clean.
- The water bottle carrier doesn’t really work if you have a bottle that isn’t the exact right size.
- Pack compression straps often get in the way of zipping and unzipping.
- The cost. This backpack comes in at the most expensive of the bunch.
AmazonBasics Carry-On Travel Backpack
- If you like pockets, the AmazonBasics Backpack is a great choice for you.
There are two outer zippered pockets for your passport, travel liquids etc, and then an internal ‘briefcase style’ compartment where you can store your keys, pens, paperwork and small items.
- This backpack has a laptop sleeve which will hold any size of laptop safely in place
- The hip strap and sternum strap offer extra support when carrying, dividing the weight across the body, and if you’re not using them you can tuck them neatly away
- The shoulder straps have a comfortable amount of padding, and there’s padding along the length of the back of the bag, giving you increased comfort when carrying the bag for longer periods
- The AmazonBasics backpack comes in at an affordable price, the most cost efficient of the bunch.
- The main compartment has very little structure to it – when you open the zip, the sides flop down meaning that you can’t use it to store your belongings once you’ve arrived at your destination
- Depending on your build, the shoulder strap connectors might dig into your lower back
- This backpack seems to be designed with taller people in mind – if you’re on the short side you might struggle to tighten the straps to get a comfortable fit
- Carry-on travel backpack with internal, zippered laptop sleeve; ultra-flexible and lightweight; made of durable polyester
- Main compartment with zippered mesh space, optional midway shelf, and internal/external compression straps
- Front pocket and front-top pocket for easy access to documents and travel liquids; main upper packing compartment with organizer, expandable storage space tuck-away ID pocket
- Padded shoulder straps disconnect easily and store away in zippered back pocket; removable sternum strap, waist belt, and shoulder strap; well-placed exterior handles
- Main compartment measures 5.5 by 13 to 14 by 21.5 inches (LxWxH); main upper packing compartment measures 3 to 5 by 13 to 14 by 21.5 inches (LxWxH); full-expansion zipper creates 10% more packing space
Nomatic 40L Travel Bag
- The Nomatic has loads of really useful pockets to keep your paperwork, keys, water bottle and even your shoes organised.
- The handy Laptop and Tablet pockets will keep your electronics safe with the additional advantage of not needing to take your laptop out at security, as by lying flat in the pocket it complies with security measures
- The waterproof durable material will protect your possessions if you’re caught out in a rain shower.
- There are detachable waist straps which offer extra support and can be packed away when not in use
- The Nomatic 40L Travel Bag is one of the more expensive bags on the market, coming in at over $200.
- The zippers have a lower quality than the rest of the bag making it more fiddly and time-consuming to open the bag
- There’s no way outer compression straps to compress the bag if you haven’t filled it completely
- The laptop compartment has a restricted width of 10 inches so can’t fit larger laptops
- UPDATED V2 BAG: With improved outer materials and YKK Zippers, we listened to your feedback and improved the look and durability of this bag. Water Repellent Tarpaulin; Dimensions: 21” x 14”x 9”(53cm x 36cm x 23cm): Weight: 4lbs (2KGS) Capacity: 40L;Designed to fit the maximum size allowed on standard airlines, fits in the overhead compartment as well as the under seat as storage in flight.
- Designated water bottle pocket, valuables pocket, RFID protected pocket, shoe compartment, cord organizer, laptop pocket, tablet pocket, and notebook pocket
- Laptop Pockets fit up to a 15” Macbook Pro and Tablet Pocket fits up to a 8.5” x 11” tablet.
- TSA Compliant: Laptop compartment lays flat so you can leave your laptop in the bag when passing through airport security checkpoints.
- Includes Laundry bag and detachable waist straps; Radio frequency identification (RFID) pocket with a TSA-approved lock. Waterproof zipper on all exterior zippers
For me, the best travel backpack for Europe has to be the Osprey Farpoint 40. Not only does the bag look great, but it’s also really comfy to carry for longer periods due to the ergonomic design and the padding in the shoulder and hip straps.
he Osprey Farpoint 40 can hold more than the AmazonBasics and the Lifeasy backpacks and about the same as the Minaal. This is essential when you’re travelling for longer than a few days. The internal and external compression straps will hold everything in place and balance the internal weight while assuring that you can fit more in your bag and still get it in the overhead compartment for your flight. For this reason, it just pips the Minaal 2.0 and the Nomatic 40L backpack to the post, and with a better price tag too, it’s gentler on your budget but durable enough to stand up to frequent use, so it should last you years.
If money is no object and you must have the best, then check out the Minaal 2.0. When considering overall value for money, the Osprey 40 stands out. Making it the best carry on backpack for Europe!
New Zealand travel photographer based in London, UK. He was taking photos from a very young age in the backcountry of New Zealand before moving abroad. Since doing so he has taken workshops and tried to help get as many people into this art as possible. Featured in NZ Herald, Stuff.co.nz and many photography publications it’s safe to say he loves his photography!