In search of the best backpack for traveling Europe? There are so many options out there, but choosing doesn’t have to be confusing. Expect to walk in a lot of stairs in Europe, so it is best to consider an easy to carry and comfortable backpack. Surely, there is no one-bag-fits-all pack, so where do you start? We have compiled a list of the best products to choose from. Let’s dive right into it.
At a Glance: Here Are Our Top Picks
- Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack
- Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack
- eBags Mother Lode Weekender
- Gregory Z40 Backpack
- Tortuga Travel Backpack
- OXA Travel Backpack
- Gonex 35L Lightweight Packable Backpack
- Patagonia Headway MLC
- Osprey Porter
- Osprey Atmos 50
Why You Should Carefully Choose a Backpack When Travelling Europe
Imagine the following situation: after a week and a half of backpacking through the Swiss Alps, your train pulls into the station at Berlin, Germany during rush hour. As you try and pull your hugely oversized bag down from the overhead compartment, you hit three or four people in the head including an elderly woman. Your bag is simply too big to get up onto your shoulders so you uncomfortably carry it by one strap as you make your way off the train.
By the time you get to the platform, the shoulder strap has broken on one end making so that you are literally dragging your bag through the busy station. You desperately need to find a map of the city to figure out how to make it to your next hostel. Unfortunately, your map is at the bottom of your bag meaning that, in front of a busy crowd that obviously is not happy with you taking up space in their train terminal, you are digging through your entire bag, pulling out dirty underwear, your sweat-soaked sweater, and half eaten candy bars.
When you finally find your map, you also have to use the last bit of duct tape you have to try and rig up some way to fix your backpack strap that is hanging loosely from one side. By the time you have finished with this whole ordeal, it´s night time already and you have to brave an unknown city at night in an attempt to find some obscure hostel.
When travelling throughout Europe (or any other place for that matter), your backpack is easily the most important piece of gear you can have. It is your lifeline as the entire contents of your survival are riding on your back. Find a quality, durable, and efficient pack, and your trip will most likely be a memorable one. If you are unlucky enough to get stuck with some cheap, uncomfortable, easily ruined pack, however, your trip will probably be more defined by scenes like the one in the Berlin train terminal.
Top Loading versus Front Loading: The Big Choice
While many people might mistakenly believe that all backpacks are essentially made alike, that mindset is like equating a hatchback sedan to a car with a regular trunk. For travelling Europe, you essentially have two different options for backpack styles: the more traditional top loading packs and the less common, but also functional front loading packs.
Top loading backpacks have no zippers for the main compartment meaning that you won´t ever have to deal with a broken zipper that you have tried to “fix” with several safety pins tying up your bag and making it look like it has just gone through surgery. Furthermore, top loading bags are generally lighter weight and more water proof because of the lack of zippers.
The downsides of top loading backpacks is that they are generally more difficult to unpack. If your contact case has drifted down to the bottom of your pack and you need it urgently, you´ll most likely have to go sift through all your things before eventually finding it. Furthermore, these packs come with lots of straps, and we mean lots of straps. While theses do attach to the quality suspension system, they can easily get caught on conveyor belts and other places.
Front loading packs, also known as panel loading backpacks, look more like your traditional school backpack with a zipper that opens down the front. The zippered front makes for easy access to all of your stuff, allowing you to maintain some sense of order while trying to find some obscure item that you know is somewhere in your pack. Furthermore, these packs also generally have other compartments (zippered or simply pouches) attached to the outside of the pack that allow you to stay better organized.
The main drawbacks of front loading packs is that zippers tend to break, no matter how well made they are. When you are trying to pack in that one last pair of socks, the extra pressure to the zipper seams can lead to breaking which means that you´re in for a tough day of travel. Furthermore, some people find that front loading packs are too wide and thus uncomfortable to carry for longer trips.
In the end, the choice between a front loading and top loading pack depends on your own preferences and travel styles. Below we look at the top ten options for the best backpack for Europe travel.
Kelty Redwing 44 Backpack- Best Value
This backpack is certainly one of the best backpacks for backpacking Europe in terms of value for money. At a reasonable price, you’ll get the comfort and features you might be looking for in your ideal bag. It works as top and front loader, whatever you prefer. It is designed for all day comfort with its comfortable back panel that takes the bulk of weight.
The 44-liter capacity will go a long way for it has enough space to carry your clothes, footwear and even your gadget. The straps have an airy material that makes the bag lighter and more comfortable to wear, but it connects to the center with a thinner material for a tight fit. Storage and organization is easy with the multiple compartments that can even store water bottles and hydration.
Osprey Farpoint 40 Travel Backpack - Best Bang for your Buck
This one is easily one of the best backpacks for traveling in Europe for price and features. It has 40-liter capacity, though there are bigger versions. The suspension moves the load from harness to hip belt. The back panel is made of mesh for improved ventilation.
The multiple zippered compartments are designed to organize your items smartly. It has a built-in laptop compartment that fits up to devices up to 15 inches. Additional attachments points are great for other stuff you need. The padded handles on the top and side is nice for easy carrying. It loads in front, so things are easier to access when you need something. Compression straps keep your essentials in place when you’re moving around.
eBags Mother Lode Weekender- Awesome for the Price
With its sleek design and top features, this is the best backpack for international travel, a great option if you’re looking for an average price pack. It is made of fabric and polyester, and comes with lifetime eBags warranty. It offers tons of organizational features, including a laptop compartment.
The backpack opens like a suitcase, making it easy to store and access items. Aside from the main compartment, smaller compartments are found in the front and back. It is lightweight at 3 pounds and has a 54-liter expandable capacity. It is made of sturdy polyester with an expansion zipper adding 10 percent more packing space.
Gregory Z40 Backpack- Best in Class
Another great option for the best backpack to travel Europe is this one from Gregory Mountain. For its price, you can benefit from ultimate comfort with its superior features. It has 40-liter capacity but you can pack so many things in it. Smaller items you often use can be stored in the front compartment while everything else can be stored in the top loading main compartment.
The comfortable suspension called CrossFlo system helps users distribute weight evenly across the body. The shoulder straps and hip belt are both padded and well ventilated for comfort even when worn for longer periods. This bag also boasts sleek design that you would confidently use in Europe or anywhere else in the world.
Tortuga Travel Backpack- Only if you Want the Best
For price and features, this is certainly an excellent option for the best backpack for Europe travel. The panel-loading bag allows easier access to things inside. It has a laptop compartment designed to keep the gadget safe. It also comes complete with locking zippers and side pockets.
This backpack has a well-padded hip belt, which is not found in all similar packs. Also great as carry on, Tortuga allows you to carry all your travel gear without checking. The laptop sleeve can carry up to size 17 computers that can be locked with a zipper.
OXA Travel Backpack - the Amazing Versatile
If you’re looking for a durable and versatile backpack, OXA Travel backpack is perfect for you. This bag comes with multiple straps that lets you carry it however you want to. It could be a shoulder bag or even a handbag. It is also suitable for many occasions - for travel, hiking, for work, or even when going to the gym! Surely this one will be extremely useful on your trip to Europe.
Durability is guaranteed in this pack, as it is made with durable Oxford fabric. Aside from its promising material, OXA Travel backpack has two years warranty.
Our reviewers have described it as “the best bag for travel.” There’s no question to that, for this bag has enough space to let you bring all you need for your trip. Its main compartment is large enough for your travel essentials. Other pockets are available for easy access and organization of your things. You don’t have to worry about your gadgets like your laptops or tablets as this bag also has a padded laptop sleeve to protect your electronic devices.
Gonex 35L Lightweight Packable Backpack
If you need a lightweight bag to use while you explore the city or walk around the town while you’re in Europe, then it’s best to pack along this daypack. This packable backpack is best for daytrips because of its lightweight but high quality material.
When folded, it’s just about the size of a sandwich. It comes with its own compact pouch which you can easily pack in your suitcase.
As this bag is specifically designed for travel and daytrips, the comfort of the user is certain. Its shoulder straps have breathable air mesh design that allows ventilation and releases stress from your shoulders.
Patagonia Headway MLC
The Patagonia MLC is certainly not a traditional travel backpack as it looks more like a cross between an oversized business portfolio and a suitcase without wheels, but it definitely comes with some perks. This unique pack is the absolute maximum carry-on bag size, meaning that this is a great fit for people who are travelling Europe and have many flights. Europe has several low cost airlines (like Ryan Air) who will usually charge you a pretty hefty fee for any checked baggage. While most backpacks won´t qualify for free carryon baggage, the Patagonia MLX can be carried on to most airlines meaning that you´ll save hundreds of dollars on baggage fees while still being able to carry plenty of stuff for your trip.
Furthermore, this bag can either be carried on your shoulder (like a large laptop bag) or with the optional double strap as a backpack. While it´s not the most comfortable pack for carrying long distances, this makes a great option for people who are wanting to carry lots of stuff and leave their bag at a hostel while their explore European cities with nothing but their camera.
The Osprey Porter series backpack is perhaps the best front loading pack on the market for people headed to Europe. These bags are roomy no matter whether you choose the 46 liter version or the 65 liter version. Furthermore, the backpack straps quickly and easily zip up behind a piece of nylon fabric for easy storage during those long flights or train trips.
Furthermore, the Osprey Porter comes with a straight jacket compression system that will secure any size load you are carrying. The side grab handles are also useful when you need to carry your bag short distances and you don´t want to put it up onto your shoulders.
Osprey Atmos 50
Another great bag by Osprey is the Atmos 50, a 50 liter top loading backpack that is extremely lightweight. Furthermore, the “airspeed” back mesh is a great choice for people who want to keep their back ventilated during long days of sightseeing. The hip belt pads can be adjusted up to 3 inches on either side meaning that this bag is a great fit for people no matter what their height.
While many top loading packs are known as being hard to organize, the Osprey Atmos 50 comes with several external compartments that will allow you to organize your stuff in a more efficient manner. This pack comes with a large front stretch woven pocket, two side stretch-mesh pockets, two, zippered hip belt pockets, and 2 large front zippered pockets. With this amount of external storage, you should easily be able to find a space for everything you are carrying along.
How We Chose Our Top Picks
In this review, we have presented you five awesome backpacks to choose from. We’ve come up with our top picks by considering the following factors:
In this review, we’ve made sure all items reviewed offer excellent comfort for the user. If you are the type who would travel a lot and walk with all your travel essentials, comfort is crucial.
The frame and straps should ensure a comfortable fit. It’s better to choose a pack that has padded shoulder straps and hip belts as they provide more comfort. Some backpacks mentioned above feature a great suspension system that helps distribute weight evenly across the body. It also matters to find the right size that you can carry. Your trip should make you feeling refreshed and relaxed, not with an aching back caused by your backpack.
Ease of Access
The backpack’s accessibility is very important. You don’t want to waste a lot of time digging your pack just to get something. All the backpacks reviewed have a smaller front compartment for easy access to your important things, while multiple compartments offer great storage and organization.
Price and Value
All backpacks featured in this review are within your budget and affordable. But there’s no need to worry about their quality and durability, they have the best value for your money.
Finding the best backpacks for traveling abroad isn’t so hard, now that you have a few options to choose from. Just consider the factors listed above and you will surely get the best one for your needs.
Which of the products above you think is the best one for you?
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