What Size Backpack for Europe? A Guide to Your Perfect Pack

So, you’ve got a trip to Europe on the horizon, eh? Wondering what size backpack for Europe is best?

I’ve been there. A week before my trip, three backpacks for traveling Europe were laid before me. I’m sitting on a chair in front of them like it’s a group interview.

So, what are your qualifications? And why do you feel you’re a fit for my back on an eight-week European trip?

I’ve been in your shoes before.

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How big of a backpack do I need to travel Europe?

Assuming you’re taking a plane, the best-size backpack for traveling Europe will meet carry-on standards. The maximum carry-on size for European backpacks (in liters) is generally around 40-45L

But 35L is a good size to ensure you slide under the limits.

Carry-on size varies by airline, of course. But if your backpack is within a size of 22 x 14 x 9 inches, you’ll be fine.

It’s important to pack light despite this requirement. It often won’t be the size of the bag they catch. It’s the weight.

This varies by airline, but aim for around 20-25 pounds to stay off the airline’s radar.

What size backpack for Europe? Well, that all starts with knowing airline regulations.

You can get away with a bit more. More often than not, airline agents aren’t paying much attention to your euro backpack when you’re at the check-in desk.

But there are a few things to keep in mind:

  1. If you can check in online, do it. You skip the line, and the chance an employee calls out your bag.
  2. Wear your heavier clothing on the plane. Keeps your bag lighter and keeps you warm on the plane.
  3. Be prepared to pay at any time. Airlines (especially budget) are finicky. Be prepared to pay at any point (even if you’ve gotten away with the same bag on the same airline in the past!)

Is it safe to travel with a backpack in Europe?

You’re not any less safe with a backpack than you are with any other type of luggage.

In fact, I’d say you’re safer because you always have your valuables at hand when you’re traveling. Oftentimes, people check their bags, and that’s when they get damaged or potentially have things stolen from them. That’s also where travel insurance comes in handy 😉

Plus, when you’re traveling throughout Europe, it’s better to have less because you draw less attention. 

Less is more when traveling abroad.

Is 40L enough for backpacking Europe?

Yes, absolutely. I traveled with a 35L backpacking backpack to Europe for eight weeks through four countries. 

Slipping under airline baggage requirements and packing enough is possible if you minimize properly.

So 40L is more than enough for a backpacking Europe backpack size.

Here’s a look at the packing list for my 35L backpacking trip in Europe:

  • Six shirts
  • One pair of pants
  • Four pairs of shorts
  • Six pairs of socks
  • Seven pairs of underwear
  • Two hats
  • Two pairs of shoes (walking/trail running)
  • Computer
  • Camera
  • Microfiber towel
  • Various accessories (converters, portable chargers, etc.)
  • Phone
  • Chromecast

If you pack correctly, it’s easy to travel Europe — short or long term — with a 40L backpack for European travel.

Do I need a backpack to travel to Europe? Consider these things first

Backpacking means less space for your things. 

So, planning what you plan on taking on your trip beforehand is important. And it’ll save you headaches and backaches in the future.

Sit down and sort out your clothes and essentials to give you a visual of what size bag you need. Also, learn how to fold your clothes correctly to save a ton of space.

Packing cubes (like in the image below) help condense everything down tightly and helps keep everything organized. 

I strongly recommend investing in a good set of packing cubes.

Knowing how much you can fit in your backpack beforehand is key to a successful trip.

Also, try on your future backpack before you buy it.

You can see how comfortable it is and what size fits best. It’d be great to take it out on a trip to fully test it, but I think that would be frowned upon.

With these things in mind, let’s look at some of the best travel backpacks for Europe.

What are the best backpacks for traveling Europe?

There are a few different backpacks we should cover here. 

And it depends on you. (I know, I hate this answer, but it really does depend).

Do you want a regular backpack that’s 40-45L? Or, do you want one with a daypack for Europe?

Daypacks are great for leaving most of your things behind while taking the things you need while exploring (cards, ID, cameras, etc.)

But there are some things to consider.

  • Does it have a hip belt?
  • Does it have a top lid?
  • Any type of suspension system?
  • Where are the zipper pockets?
  • Does it have a zip-on daypack, or is it a packable daypack?

These are questions that are specific to you and what you like. Remember, with this on your back, you’ll be walking for a long time. Better make it comfortable.

Ultimately, you need to know if it can be a carry-on bag. 

We’ve ruled out options like the Osprey Aether because it’s too large.

So, we’ll look at the best backpacks for backpacking Europe. And, we’ll look at the best travel backpack with a daypack.

Best backpacks for Europe travel (no day pack/bag)

Sometimes you don’t care about a daypack and just want the basics. Simple, I get it.

So, here are three of the best backpacks without a daypack for travel in Europe.

Osprey Porter 46

Osprey Porter 46

Get used to the name Osprey. You’ll see it again.

But it’s hard to beat this backpack. It maximizes its benefits while sliding just within regulations. They should nickname it Wall Street.

Osprey backpacks are known for their durability and sustainability. They pride themselves on making products out of recycled materials that last longer.

And they meet both goals.

But wait, there’s more.

The zipper pocket opens fully so you can get to your bag’s items without having to take everything out of your bag.

The straps on the inside keep everything locked down and compressed.

And there’s a stowaway harness and belt to help take some weight off your shoulders.

It’s perfect for carry-on luggage. And you can consider a packable day pack option like the Osprey Daylite.

Note, there’s also an Osprey Farpoint 40 (Osprey Fairview 40 for women) if you’re looking to go slightly smaller but still like what Osprey offers.

You can buy the Osprey Porter 46 here.

This doesn’t mean Osprey is the only option, though. Here are some other great backpacks worth considering:

Tortuga Outbreaker

Tortuga Outbreaker

The Tortuga Outbreaker is labeled as the maximum-sized international carry-on for a traveling Europe backpack. It’s a 35L backpack with a clamshell opening for easy access.

It comes with a hip belt to help spread the weight of your pack around, which can be stashed away if needed.

The Tortuga is a plain-looking backpack that doesn’t catch many eyes but gets the job done. Like the hardworking forward on the basketball team. No glitz and glamor. Just sweat and grit.

Okay, maybe that’s a bit extreme. But you get the point. The Tortuga is a no-frills option for backpacking Europe.

You can buy the Tortuga Outbreaker here.

Nomatic Travel Backpack

Nomatic Travel Backpack

The Nomatic is excellent for those wanting to mix business with the best Europe travel backpack. 

More stylish and able to be carried more like a suitcase, the Nomatic Travel Backpack has an appeal to it. And that’s before you get to what it can do.

It has a compressible outer shell. So it’s a packing cube in backpack form. It’s 20L at the start but can expand to 30L.

But it also has specific compartments for clothes, shoes, computers, and other devices/essentials. Organization is a key part of the Nomatic pack and does a fantastic job organizing your items.

A bit on the pricier side. But it’s one of the best bags for Europe travel, but not if you’re trying to save money.

You can buy the Nomatic Travel Backpack here.

Best backpacks for European travel (with a day pack/bag)

This will seem like I’m pitching an Osprey ad, but I’m not.

Their backpacks are just that good.

But there are still other options to choose from. Here are the three best backpacks with a daypack for travel in Europe.

Osprey Farpoint 55 (Osprey Fairview 55)

Osprey Farpoint 55

It’s one of the most-used backpacks on the travel trail, and you see it frequently. And there’s a good reason for it:

  • Comfortable fit
  • Holds a lot of weight
  • Durable
  • The best daypack for travel in Europe
  • Stowaway harness and hip belt

It’s a solid carry-on backpack.

This 55-liter backpack carry-on is perfect for maximizing your size and minimizing your fees.

The Osprey Farpoint is the men’s version, whereas the Fairview is the women’s.

It’s a 45L backpack with a 10L zip-on day bag, two side pockets, and comfortable shoulder straps. So, if you’re on a flight that gets a carry-on and a personal item, you’re set.

The 45L pack can compress small enough to be inside carry-on restrictions to fit in the overhead bins, and the compression straps inside help store things tightly.

Keep the 10L Osprey pack under your seat with all your valuables as hand luggage. Credit cards, IDs, computers, and the rest are safe in a small laptop backpack.

And the 10L Osprey bag is one of the best for walking around Europe or for day trips.

It’s small enough not to feel cumbersome but big enough to hold everything you need. A small zipper pocket for your keys and cards and a large compartment for drinks, snacks, and other essentials. Plus, it’s an excellent size for hiking. Load it up, get your hiking shoes on, and head out to the trails.

It’s the best day bag for European travel, in my opinion.

You can buy the Osprey Farpoint 55 here. And the Osprey Fairview 55 here.

One thing to note is that it’s not the most weather-resistant. So, you should definitely check out the options below 👇.

Salkan Backpacker

Salkan Backpacker

The Salkan Backpacker is an interesting travel pack. 

One look at it, and you’d assume it was a hiking backpack disguised as one of the best travel bags for Europe.

Its main compartment is 45L (with an expandable top hood to extend to 55L if needed). But, it also comes with a day bag, which is 20L.

So, altogether, this backpack can provide 75L of space.

Keep in mind, however, that airline restrictions won’t allow that. So you’ll want to do your best to fit within the 45L for your carry-on, then have your day bag as your personal item (if possible).

I should note that this backpack comes at a heavy price point — $396.

But you do get a lot for that price. Here are a few things:

  • Made using recycled yarn
  • Weatherproof
  • Adjustable
  • Easy packing with a front-open panel
  • Comes with a laundry sling and flight/rain cover

The day bag it comes with is one of the best day bags for travel in Europe. A padded laptop sleeve, a water-resistant internal pocket, and the hidden security pocket would make James Bond proud.

The Salkan Backpacker is an excellent option for one of the best travel backpacks with a daypack.

You can buy the Salkan Backpacker here.

Deuter Transit

Deuter Transit

Admittedly, you’re pushing it with this pack. The form factor of the Deuter Transit is slim, but the capacity borders on being over airline limits.

For example, the main pack is 50L, which is already over the max of 45L said earlier.

The daypack is 12L, a great size for a personal item.

Ultimately, it comes down to how well you can pack the backpack to fit in the overhead compartment and get past airline agents.

But just because it’s close to being off-limits doesn’t mean it’s not a great backpack.

The Transit was explicitly built for world travel. It has dedicated document storage and a zippered bottom compartment for dirty shoes. 

Plus, the handles are adjustable to carry the bag in multiple ways. Carry it like a tote bag if you want!

Last, it’s water- and cut-resistant, so it’s ready to take whatever beating you throw its way. 

A trip to Europe will be nothing.

You can buy the Deuter Transit here.

Conclusion

Choosing a backpack feels like choosing a new car at times. You sit in front of a screen, analyzing minor details like RFID blocking and sternum straps.

But it’s best to simplify things and go with what’s tried and tested.

To recap on what size backpack for Europe:

  • 40-45L is the max airlines will accept for carry-ons
  • Aim for weight around 20-25 pounds
  • Find a backpack with dimensions around 22 x 14 x 9 inches
  • Decide if you want a daypack or not

I hope this post helped and you enjoy your Europe trip. Remember, less is more when you’re backpacking. Only take the essentials, if possible.

If you enjoyed this, check out other posts, like how many days are perfect for you to spend in Rome. Or, maybe you’d like some off-the-radar places like Theth National Park or Ksamil in Albania.


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