Best Backpacks for Europe: 12 Picks for Your European Adventure

Whether you’re already an consummate travel pro or a fresh-faced backpacker, Europe might be the place in the world to subdue your wanderlust. In fact, there’s no more classic destination for the independent traveller than the continent that infects unsuspecting visitors with the travel bug more than any other.

From its efficient train system to the multitude of incredible places stacked one upon each other, Europe is, in my own humble opinion, the ultimate travel destination. And perhaps there’s no better way to experience it than to slap on a backpack and simply go.

To get you prepped for your journey, you’re gonna need some travel gear. And there’s no better place to start than with your most trusted ally: your backpack.

Not sure how to sort through what you’ll need for your European backpacking getaway? Here’s a guide to the best backpacks for Europe of 2021 for both men & women…

Best men’s backpacks for Europe of 2021: Our top 6 recommendations

I can’t help but feel intense passion when thinking about prepping to travel to the continent that started it all out for me. On my first few forays into Europe, the usual rookie backpacking mistakes plagued me. From over-planning to over-packing, these boo-boos shaped my travel style for years to come.

One of the biggest mistakes I made in Europe was not choosing the right backpack. Not that there was much of a choice back then. The offerings were fairly simple, more of the cram-it-in-where-you-can style of backpack rather than the sleek, convenient, feature-rich models you’ll find today.

Bacharach, Germany

From my mistakes over the years, I’ve grown to recommend smaller and leaner backpacks for travelling to Europe (or anywhere else for that matter) over the big and bulky ones of my past. The choices below reflect that.

Among my recommendations, I have, however, included one or two that are a tad larger that I would use myself should you crave the extra space. Let’s get started!

In a rush? Here are the best backpacks for Europe for men of 2021 compared…

Product Capacity More Info
Osprey Porter 46
Best Overall
46L
Osprey Farpoint 40 40L
Kelty Redwing 50 50L
Tortuga Outbreak Travel Backpack Tortuga Outbreak Travel Backpack
Most Secure
45L
REI Co-op Flash 45 REI Co-op Flash 45
Most Comfortable
45L
Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60
Best Outdoors
60L

Looking for other men’s backpacks? Check out this guide to the best travel backpacks for men including a quick buyer’s guide!

Osprey Porter 46

Capacity: 46L

Best Uses: Travel, Backpacking

Best Overall

No travel backpack gets me more excited than the Osprey Porter 46. This is the bag that travel dreams are made of. (Or if you don’t want to feed into my over-the-top superlatives, it’s just an amazing choice for your European adventure.)

And my reasoning is simple: The Osprey Porter 46 is probably the leanest travel backpack you’ll find anywhere. It features a convenient front-loading main compartment that allows for better organization than your standard top-loading rucksack. Straightjacket compression takes the brevity to the next level, tightening the Porter 46 to fit in even smaller spaces than you could possibly imagine.

Need some more room? The Osprey Porter 46 is also available in 65-litre!

What’s particularly great about the Osprey Porter 46 is that it’s designed to fit as carry-on with most airlines. And with the rear-panel laptop/tablet sleeve and front-panel organization pockets for your travel essentials, this bag proves that it’s dead serious about making air travel a breeze for you. For an even quicker time at the airport, stow away the shoulder harness and hip belt, and grab on the side handle to carry the Porter 46 like a duffle bag!

If you need a little extra space than the Osprey Porter 46 normally provides, latch the compatible Osprey Daylite onto the bag’s reinforced cord loops.

Osprey Farpoint 40

Capacity: 40L

Best Uses: Travel, backpacking

For your European getaway, you’d be hard-pressed to find a more suitable travel backpack than the Osprey Farpoint 40. This simple yet full-featured bag ditches the annoying top-loading drawstring of many backpacks in favour of an incredibly convenient front-loading main compartment. All of your belongings are at your fingertips with the Farpoint 40 without the hassle of digging (…and digging, and digging!) through your bag to find that last pair of clean socks.

Among these top picks, the Osprey Farpoint 40 sports one of the best suspension systems overall. The built-in LightWire frame is efficient at transferring the backpack’s load to the hip belt. The padded shoulder straps ratchet up the comfort. At the same time, the mesh on the harness, hip belt, and back panel improve ventilation, keeping you dry while you carry your backpack through the streets.

Need some more room? The Osprey Farpoint is also available in 55-litre, 70-litre, and 80-litre!

The compact size of the Osprey Farpoint 40 throws in the added bonus of being small enough to fit in most airlines’ overhead bins as a carry-on. The harness and hip belt zips up and stows away for an even better fit, allowing you to use the top and side handles for quick movement. Even so the 40-litre capacity is plenty large for most 10-day to 2-week backpacking trips to Europe (with a few minimalist packing techniques applied, of course).

Kelty Redwing 50

Capacity: 50L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

Built with both the backpacker and outdoor adventurer in mind, the Kelty Redwing 50 is a versatile travel backpack that’s as comfortable in the city as in the countryside. What’s unique about the Redwing 50 is that it functions as a hybrid top- and front-loading backpack thanks to the U-zipper design, giving you amazingly quick access to all of your travel gear.

Whether you’re a hiker or a city-hopper, the Kelty Redwing 50 checks all the boxes. The LightBeam™ aluminum stay is lightweight and effectively carries the load to the hip belt to stay comfortable with extended wear. Kelty’s Dynamic AirFlow back panel provides both cushioning and ventilation, keeping your body cooler in warmer climates.

Need something leaner? The Kelty Redwing 55 is also available in 32-litre and 44-litre!

For hikers there’s a hydration-compatible sleeve in the rear panel, making the Kelty Redwing 50 the perfect companion for a day hike or even a multi-day outdoor trip. Or if searching out a Starbucks outside of the Old Town is more your type of adventure, the hydration sleeve doubles as a laptop compartment.

On top of all that, there’s plenty of room in the Kelty Redwing 50 to organize your travel essentials whether it’s noise-cancelling headphones, cell phones, books or maps.

Tortuga Travel Backpack

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack

Capacity: 45L

Best Uses: Travel

Most Secure

I could hardly think of a more convenient backpack for travelling in Europe than the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack. Designed specifically to fit on airlines as a carry-on, this bag is one of best all-around choices for saving space while keeping all of your belongings at your fingertips.

Sure, the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack isn’t the coolest looking pack on the market. It’s built, however, for function, not form, and it fulfills that mission as well as any.

Anyone who’s glued to their electronics for work will love the large 17″ laptop sleeve on the Tortuga. What’s particularly great for the higher-tech among us is that all of the compartments on the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack are lockable. When leaving your bag behind at a hotel when you’re a little early check in, this can give you well-needed peace-of-mind.

Even though its look was inspired by carry-on luggage, the Tortuga Travel Backpack sports a full suspension system that comfortably transfers weight from your shoulders to the hip belt. Like many of the other best travel backpacks, the suspension system is adjustable, and will fit travellers with medium frames (about an 16-19″ torso length).

REI Co-op Flash 45

REI Co-op Flash 45

Capacity: 45L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

Most Comfortable

Looking for the most comfortable backpack for European travel? Give the REI Co-op Flash 45 a shot. This bag features one of the best suspension systems among our picks, loading up on proprietary technologies that prove that REI is serious about your comfort.

The key to the extra dash of comfort on the REI Co-op Flash 45 isn’t just the lightweight internal frame, but the 3D contoured hip belt. Unlike lighter hip belts, this well-padded support provides a cozier weight distribution on your pelvis. The mesh backing increases airflow for a breezier ride. There’s even a zippered pocket there for a tad extra small storage.

Need more space? The REI Co-op Flash 45 is also available in 65-litre!

Further upping the suspension system is the REI UpLift™ compression technology. With it, the backpack load is shifted upwards and tighter to your body, increasing the effectiveness of load transfer to your centre of gravity at your hips. Whether you’re plying the trails or finding your hotel in your new favourite city, you’ll do so with better stability and more comfortably.

Although there’s plenty of organizational space, including dual water bottle pouches and gear attachment loops, the REI Co-op Flash 45 is top-loading. For most backpackers, especially if you’re finding yourself moving between destinations often, it’s far harder to stay organized and to access your gear with this setup.

Hikers, however, will be used to this, and shouldn’t skip a beat when considering the REI Co-op Flash 45. Besides the awesome suspension, active travellers trekking in warmer weather will love the cooling capabilities of the REI Packnit™ back panel. Less sweating and less chafing on the trail is always welcome.

The design of the REI Co-op Flash 45 is also hydration-compatible and features gear loops to lash on your most used outdoor tools from trekking poles to ice axes.

Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60

Capacity: 60L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

Best Outdoors

With its truly inventive look and design, the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 is bound to turn some heads while scouring the cities of Europe. The secret sauce of this backpack is its incredible suspension system that supports up to a whopping 40-pound load. (Although I can say with certainty that if your bag is that heavy on a European backpack trip, you’ve overpacked!)

The AirCurrent suspension of the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 gets its power from a lightweight 3D molded alloy frame. Combined with an easy length adjustment and padded shoulder straps and hip belt, this backpack fits comfortably on a wide variety of frames. The foam-padded back panel increases the comfort while including a stretch mesh to wick moisture away and increase ventilation.

The lidless top-loading compartment of the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. 60 is unique among these backpacks. The design not only decreases the weight, but allows for expansion. When the extra space isn’t needed, the spindrift simply rolls up and cinches tightly.

As if the heavy-duty suspension system wasn’t enough, anyone looking to get out in the wild on their European trip will love both the hydration compatibility and the arched compression cords that can be used to lash extra gear on the exterior of the Granite Gear Blaze A.C. The large 60-litre capacity supplies plenty of room for compressible sleeping bags and extra outdoors gear.

Best women’s backpacks for Europe of 2021: Our top 6 recommendations

Although you’d probably be fine with several of the backpacks above (most are unisex), I’ve decided to outline a couple of backpacks made especially for women.

The differences between unisex (or men’s) backpacks and those for women are generally not massive, but enough to be noticeable on certain frames.

Panorama of Old Town Prague from Prague Castle

What you’ll find is that women’s backpacks are generally made slightly smaller. Suspension systems are often designed with shorter torsos in mind, making them more comfortable than unisex packs for women with small to average frames.

Like in the section above, I’ve included both smaller and larger women’s backpacks for your European adventure (although my personal preference is always to go smaller and leaner).

In a rush? Here are the best backpacks for Europe for women of 2021 compared…

Product Capacity More Info
Osprey Kyte 46 46L
Kelty Redwing 40
Best Overall
40L
Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki
Best Outdoors
60L
Osprey Aura AG 65 65L
Kelty Sira 45 45L
Gregory Deva 60
Most Comfortable
60L

Looking for other women’s backpacks? Check out this guide to the best travel backpacks for women including a quick buyer’s guide!

Osprey Kyte 46

Capacity: 46L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking, climbing

Among travel backpack manufacturers, Osprey’s consistently one of the best. So the home-run that they’ve hit with the Osprey Kyte 46 doesn’t come as much of a shock. This is, at its core, a versatile pack, supplying all the features you need for both regular backpacking and experiencing the unbridled wilderness unfettered.

What’s unique is that the suspension system on the Osprey Kyte 46 is designed specifically for women. Outfitted with Osprey’s own LightWire frame, it transfers your backpack’s load admirably to the hip belt at your centre of gravity.

Tightening up the StraightJacket compression straps pulls the load even closer to your body while the Airscape mesh back panel ensures a cool ride. Whether you’re rushing to catch a train or ambling up a steep hiking trail, the Kyte 46 lets you do it with better stability, mobility, and comfort.

Looking for something a little bigger or smaller? The Osprey Kyte 46 is also available in 36-litre and 66-litre!

Although it’s on the smaller side, the Osprey Kyte 46 offers plenty of space through its top-loading main compartment. Top-loading isn’t generally a great setup for travellers, but the zippered side-access makes this feature a little less intolerable.

For outdoorswomen who want to get way out there, the Osprey Kyte 46 sports an added sleeping bag compartment, accessible via a separate zipper, and external strap to latch on a sleeping pad. Add to this the integrated rain cover and the ability to lash on gear via the lower compression straps, and you’ll see there’s perhaps no better backpack for an outdoor European adventure than the Kyte 46.

Kelty Redwing 40

Capacity: 40L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

Best Overall

The women’s version of a best-seller, the Kelty Redwing 40 is easily one of the best backpacks for Europe for its versatility, size, and streamlined look. What you’ll love most about the Redwing 40 is the hybrid design that’s simultaneously a top- and front-loader. With this setup, you can rest assured that all of your gear will stay organized and easily accessible at a moment’s notice.

At first glance, the Kelty Redwing 40 looks like a run-of-the-mill backpack. Looks are deceiving as underneath its simple exterior is a suspension worth boasting about. The system features a LightBeam lightweight aluminum stay that distributes the pack’s load evenly to the hip belt.

Both the shoulder harness and waist belt on the Kelty Redwing 40 are designed with the female figure in mind, giving you far more comfort than you’d find with a unisex pack. Extra comfort and stability is provided by the padded back panel that’s cooled down with a Dynamic AirFlow mesh.

Besides all its prowess with backpackers, the Kelty Redwing 40 is also a favourite among hikers. The hydration sleeve is an awesome bonus while the front stash pocket provides access to your emergency rain gear at a moment’s notice should the weather take a quick turn for the worst.

Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki

Capacity: 60L

Best uses: Travel, hiking

Best Outdoors

It’s hard to believe that any large 60-litre pack could weigh in at a scant two pounds. But the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki accomplishes this seemingly impossible task—and more!—with an innovative design that’s among the best in the biz.

What’s particularly shocking is that the ultralight Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki can shred a load of up to 35 pounds. The secret is in the suspension that’s centred around a removable die-cut HDPE sheet frame.

Both the shoulder harness and hip belt send the comfort of the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki upward with their dual-density padding. The molded back panel features Vapor Current technology that adds a dash of ventilation and air circulation to keep you cooler.

Since the suspension system is so effective at carrying larger loads, the Granite Gear Crown VC 60 Ki is particularly well-suited for undertaking multi-day outdoor adventures where carrying the right gear is paramount.

Add to that hydration compatibility, gear loops, and an extremely durable 100-denier Cordura® fabric with 210-denier reinforcements, and it’s obvious why this is one of the top picks for an rugged European backwoods adventure.

Osprey Aura AG 65

Capacity: 65L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

By far the largest capacity among all these best backpacks for Europe, the Osprey Aura AG 65 couldn’t go unnoticed. The suspension system is one of the most innovative you’ll find anywhere, spreading whatever load you give it to all the right places.

At the centre of the Osprey Aura AG 65 is a LightWire frame that features structural load lifter bars. The suspension is not just effective but comfortable. Besides the padded shoulder harnesses, the fully-adjustable hip belt and back panel showcase Osprey’s own Anti-Gravity™ mesh ventilation system to keep you cool as you roam. Compression straps throughout further balance the load for greater stability, comfort, and mobility.

Although we’re generally not overly keen on top-loading bags, the Osprey Aura AG 65 offers plenty of space and nine external pockets to make up for the inconvenience. The removable lid is equipped with two zippered pockets for your travel essentials. Further storage space is added through a front stash pocket, zipper hip belt pockets, mesh water bottle pockets, and two front-panel zip pockets.

And for hikers, it doesn’t get much better than the Osprey Aura AG 65. For long day outings, there’s a hydration sleeve to keep your thirst at bay in the hot sun. Both a separate sleeping bag compartment and sleeping pad straps feature on the bottom of the backpack for overnight stays in the backwoods. The extra gear loops for tagging on ice picks and trekking poles boost the utility of the Aura AG 65 for outdoorswomen.

Kelty Sira 45

Capacity: 45L

Best Uses: Travel

With its lightweight female-friendly design, the Kelty Sira 45 is the perfect additional to your European travel gear arsenal. Featured is the company’s own FeatherFIT™, a suspension system centred around a light steel & HDPE frame.

The well-padded shoulder straps and hip belt, designed specifically for women’s bodies, do an admirable job transferring the bag’s load to your centre of gravity while staying comfy.

One of the biggest bonuses of the Kelty Sira 45 for backpackers is the convenient front panel access to the main compartment. The impeccable design, also featuring a shark’s-mouth top-loading panel, allows you to quickly find and empty your belongings when you arrive at your next destination.

Besides the main compartment, there’s a myriad of opportunities on the Kelty Sira 45 to store and organize your stuff. The zippered pockets on the padded hip belt provide quick access to small items while the front mesh pockets are perfect for stuffing in your emergency rain gear. To stay hydrated, stash extra water bottles in the side mesh stretch pockets or go all-out with a hydration pack in the external sleeve.

Gregory Deva 60

Capacity: 60L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking, climbing

Most Comfortable

You’ll cherish the extra space you’ll get when you upgrade to a Gregory Deva 60. This award-winning backpack is most at home in the outdoors whether that means a backwoods expedition in the Tatra Mountains or a leisurely hike through the Spreewald.

The most telling feature of the Gregory Deva 60 is its A3 suspension system, designed specifically for the female form. Where this backpack’s suspension truly excels though is in its customizability.

With the adjustable QuickSwap suspension system on the Gregory Deva 60, you can swap out the default options for 3 different harnesses and 5 different hip belts, all pre-curved for a better fit. The myriad of combinations on the Gregory Deva 60 means that it can be custom fit to nearly any female body type comfortably. There’s even a removable EVA lumbar roll with two different positions for better lower back support.

Unlike most technical backpacks, the Gregory Deva 60 swaps out the top-loading design in favour of a front-loading U-zipper that gives complete access to your belongings. Besides the main compartment the Deva 60 features a dual top zippered pockets and and hip belt pocket that’s sealed with a weather-resistant YKK AquaGuard zipper to keep everything from important documents to smartphones safe from the elements.

REI Co-op Flash 60

REI Co-op Flash 60 Women's

Capacity: 60L

Best Uses: Travel, hiking

Although originally designed for the trail, the REI Co-op Flash 60 makes a good case for sticking alongside the best backpacks for your European vacation. With plenty of storage capacity and excellent support, there’s little reason to need anything more than what this versatile pack delivers.

At its heart, the REI Co-op Flash 60 features a female-friendly suspension system. The key is the REI Uplift™ compression, a feature that lifts the load higher and pulls it inwards towards your centre of gravity for better distribution to the 3D contoured hip belt.

The comfort of the REI Co-op Flash 60 moves far beyond your run-of-the-mill cheap backpack. The shoulder harnesses are not just padded but ventilated to help cool you down when walking in warm climes. Added to the back panel is REI’s own Packnit™ technology, a suspended mesh that allows a breeze to roll through and keep you cool.

Although the REI Co-op Flash 60 is top-loading like most top hiking backpacks, classic backpackers will love the convenient J-zipper on the front panel puts your belongings front and centre for easy, unfettered access.

Of course, there are a few great features on the REI Co-op Flash 60 for active travellers, too. Several external gear loops dole out extra space to lash on tools and trekking poles. For backwoods trekking, the 100-denier nylon ripstop construction is strong enough to handle a whipping from branches while the 420-denier nylon bottom will withstand laying down in rocky terrain.

Summary: Top recommended backpacks for Europe of 2021

Still can’t decide which of the best men’s or women’s backpacks are best for your trip to Europe? Here are a few last-minute tips:

  • Want something that’s perfect for city-to-city travel? The carry-on-sized Osprey Porter 46, with its hybrid duffle bag & backpack design, is an awesome choice for both men and women.
  • Need something with little extra capacity? While I can’t help but love leaner backpacks, the Osprey Farpoint 70 is among the best choices for men while the Gregory Deva 60, with its female-friendly and convenient design, is an awesome pick for women needing a tad more space.
  • Working on the road? The convenient carry-on-inspired design of the Tortuga Travel Backpack works equally well for men or women needing the safety of its lockable zippers and the extra built-in room for your tech gadgets.
Ryan O'Rourke

Ryan O'Rourke is a Canadian traveller, food & drink aficionado, and the founder & editor of Treksplorer. Join Ryan as he explores the world two to three weeks at a time from his home base of Canada with Treksplorer's independent and unsponsored mid-range luxury travel guides including itineraries, things to do, where to stay, when to visit, and hiking & walking trails.

DISCLAIMER: Treksplorer is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com and its affiliated international sites.

DISCLAIMER: You'll notice that from time to time I link out to recommended hotels/tours/products/services. If you purchase anything through these links, I'll receive a commission. It won't cost you anything extra, but it will help keep me trekkin' on and delivering more free (and unsponsored!) travel information to you. Thanks :)