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 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.

But, I chose my candidate and went with it!

So, I’m here to help others find the answer to this question. Through my trials and errors, I’ve figured out the perfect size backpack for Europe.

Read on to find out more.

Table of Contents

Note: There are affiliate links included in this post. I am not paid to promote these products, I recommend them based on my experience and research. I do receive a small commission if you choose to purchase a product through one of my links, though. So any help is appreciated!

What size backpack should I take to Europe?

This answer will depend on your transportation.

Assuming you’re taking a plane, you want something that meets carry-on standards. The maximum carry-on size for backpacks in liters is generally around 40-45L. But 35L is a good size, to be sure.

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.

Again, 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 backpack when you’re at the check-in desk.

But, there are a few things to keep in mind. 

If you can check in online, even better. You skip the desk and head straight to security.

So this leads us to our next point.

Is 40L enough for backpacking Europe?

Yes, absolutely. I traveled with a 35L backpack 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

I noticed my bag getting smaller as I packed it better each time. If I could do it again, I’d eliminate my camera as I used my phone to take pictures more often.

But, if you pack correctly, it’s easy to travel Europe — short or long term — with a 40L backpack or smaller.

What size backpack for 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.

Sitting down and sorting out clothes and essentials gives you a visual of what size bag you need. And, folding your clothes correctly can save you 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 if you can.

You can see how comfortable it is, what size fits best, and experience it firsthand before buying it. 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 travel backpacks are best for Europe?

There are a few different backpacks we should cover here. And it depends on what you’re looking for.

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

Best travel backpack for European 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 the products out of recycled materials but also making them 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 had to offer.

You can buy the Osprey Porter 46 here.

This doesn’t mean Osprey’s 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. It’s a 35L backpack with a clamshell opening.

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 backpack travel. 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 it does a fantastic job organizing your items.

A bit on the pricier side. But, it’s a pack that will last many trips if you can afford it.

You can buy the Nomatic Travel Backpack here.

Best travel backpack 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
  • Zip-off day pack
  • 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. 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, you keep the 10L Osprey pack under your seat with all your valuables in it as hand luggage. Credit cards, IDs, computers, and the rest.

And the 10L Osprey bag is one of the best bags for walking around Europe.

It’s small enough to not 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 a great 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.

There are other great options to consider, though.

Salkan Backpacker

Salkan Backpacker

The Salkan Backpacker is an interesting backpack. 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).

It should be noted 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 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 a hidden security pocket that 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 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, which is 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 built specifically for world travel. It has dedicated document storage and a zippered bottom compartment for dirty shoes. 

Plus, the handles are adjustable to carry it 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.


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 trip to Europe. Remember, less is more when you’re backpacking. Only take the essentials, if possible.

If you enjoyed this, check out some other posts like how many days is 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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