What Is the Best Backpack to Travel in Europe With?

  • October 31, 2020
  • / By Keith Terrell
map of europe

Backpacking is a fun way to see Europe especially if you’re on a budget. This style of travel has become popular over the last few decades, but it’s named right after the most important part of the trip: the backpack. So how does one choose the best backpack for traveling in Europe?

The best travel backpack for Europe is one that is lightweight, has ample space for your clothes and essentials, has anti-theft features, and comfortable straps. It should also comply with European travel requirements and help you stay organized.   

map of europe

There are many excellent backpacks out there that make the cut, but how do you choose the one that’s right for your specific travel needs when you go to Europe? In this article, you’ll learn everything about choosing the right one for you. Read on.

For a great deal of travelers, there really is no better way to explore Europe than by backpacking. It’s the most affordable way to see the sights while still making the most out of your trip. Having said that, backpacking all boils down to having the appropriate backpack for the job.

These are the features you should look out for:

Capacity: Choosing the right size backpack for a trip to Europe all depends on the season, how long you’re staying, and your individual travel style. For example, if you’re traveling for 2 months during the winter, you’ll definitely need a larger backpack, though a heavy pack may not be the easiest way to travel Europe.

Here’s what you should keep in mind when deciding on backpack capacity:

  • Backpacks that are under 30L are too small for a trip lasting over 2 days
  • Many travel backpacks fall within the 30L-35L range, but unless you’re a minimalist traveler, this size would still be too small for backpacking trip to Europe
  • Lightweight travelers can make use of packs between 35L-40L, though you would need to be extra picky about what you pack. If you use a pack this size for backpacking Europe, you’ll only have space for the essentials and nothing else.
  • A carry-on backpack should be within the 40L-45L range. It gives most travelers a little more space which is ideal if you see yourself shopping in Europe.
  • If you’re staying in Europe for over 2 weeks and want to have more wardrobe choices, go for a backpack that’s 45L and above. The drawback of these bags though, is that they are more challenging to lug around and can cause serious strain on your shoulders and back.

You may also want to consider a backpack with expandable storage. This feature is extremely convenient for extra capacity if you need it.

Dimensions: The most convenient backpack size for Europe is 22 x 14 x 9 inches; these are the accepted dimensions for most European airlines when it comes to carry-on bags though most airlines are concerned about bag weight instead of its size. A pack of these dimensions will also enable you to easily transport it on trains, buses, to and from hostels. You’ll get to save both time and money when you don’t have to check your luggage in, which is an important consideration between saving space and going all out with a large backpack.

However, if you don’t mind spending extra for luggage and it’s a priority to have a larger bag (bigger wardrobe selection, room for shopping, or a longer stay), then by all means you can choose a bigger size.

Weight: For European carry-on purposes again, your backpack should not be more than 4.5 pounds because the maximum allowable weight is 15 pounds. A lightweight backpack will also reduce the load that you’ll have to carry.

Anti-Theft Features: Theft is common in Europe: it happens on the streets, hostels, buses, and trains. To travel smart means to be prepared, so look for anti-theft features such as TSA-approved padlocks, slash-proof fabric, RFID safe pockets, lockable zippers, and hidden pockets.

Organization: Backpack organization styles fall in one of two categories: front loading and top loading. Front loading backpacks are best for traveling to Europe because they save you time looking for an item of clothing, make it easier to stay tidy, and are safer compared to top loading packs.

Look for backpacks that are designed with smaller compartments both internally and externally since these will also help you stay organized with smaller essentials such as your gadgets, maps, guidebooks, travel documents, cables, and chargers.

Straps: Go for bags that have thick, durable, and padded straps because it will make a big difference in your comfort levels as you carry it. A good backpack for traveling Europe should also come with a hip strap or a padded belt; these straps ensure for even distribution of the load from shoulders to the hips.

Material: If you are visiting parts of Europe that are known for unpredictable weather, such as the United Kingdom, choose a backpack that is made with water-resistant material or hidden rain covers that will protect your valuables and ensure they stay dry.  

Backpacking is a style of travel named after the very bag that makes or breaks the trip. That’s why it’s so important to choose one that meets your individual travel needs while ensuring you are comfortable throughout your trip.

Frequently Asked Questions

Why is a backpack better than a suitcase for traveling to Europe?

There are many reasons why most travelers prefer to use a backpack instead of a suitcase when traveling to Europe:

  • Hands-free traveling: A backpack enables you to use both your hands as you navigate the streets of Europe
  • Easy movement: Getting through tight spaces and crowds is much easier when you have a backpack
  • Storage: Hostels typically offer lockers, and backpacks will fit in them perfectly. Suitcases are too large for storing in hostel lockers
  • Lightweight: Backpacks are lighter than suitcases
  • Transportation: Many hotels and hostels especially in Southern Europe don’t have elevators, and quaint European cities have cobblestone streets. Dragging a suitcase around will be a huge inconvenience, but a backpack makes it all so much simpler.

Overall, Europe as a whole is more accommodating for backpack travel as opposed to suitcases.

What other backpack styles are ideal for traveling to Europe?

Any travel or hiking backpack that meets your feature requirements is ideal for traveling to Europe with. This style of packs is made to be worn for several days, which is why they are usually designed to be more comfortable, and allow you to carry a significant load.

Carry on backpacks are also recommended. They already comply with the maximum allowable size for carry-on bags; just go with a larger size if you’ll be traveling long term and smaller size if you’re a light packer or traveling for a shorter period of time.

Alternatively, wheeled or rolling backpacks are another option. These enable you to switch from backpack to rolling luggage at any time, which comes in handy when you’re traveling from the rough cobblestone streets of Europe (wear as a backpack) to when you arrive at the airport (switch to wheeled luggage). Wheeled backpacks offer travelers a kind of versatility that makes traveling much easier when you don’t want to commit to just one type of backpack for convenience.

Need some inspiration? Check out these bags: