Your flights are booked and route organised but the hardest decision is yet to be made. How do you choose the best backpack for Europe? With the ever changing beds, foods and faces, it’s the one thing that won’t change during your backpacking Europe trip, so we need to find you a backpack companion that is comfortable, durable and affordable! Whether it’s 3 months or 3 years, this is how to choose the best backpack for Europe and a review of our ultimate favourite!
SUITCASE VS BACKPACK FOR EUROPE
Firstly, you might wonder do I actually need a backpack for Europe, what’s wrong with a suitcase? We wondered this too before our trip, so in a nutshell these are the reasons why the backpack wins the suitcase or backpack debate.
1. The Cobbled Streets of Europe are not very Suitcase Friendly
It’s no secret the cobbled streets of Europe are beautiful – why would you be backpacking Europe in the first place!? However, it’s surprising how many people don’t consider this during their own backpack or suitcase debate.
Particularly when we were in Venice, we witnessed so many people attempt dragging a suitcase through the narrow (and crowded) streets. Not to mention the endless stepped bridges which made wheeling a suitcase impossible.
2. Public Transport is a Nightmare
When we were backpacking in Stockholm, it was our first experience of rush hour on the tube with our luggage and we were SO thankful we’d chosen a backpack for Europe instead of a suitcase as there was no way we’d conquer escalators and jump on crowded trains dragging a suitcase behind us.
We would’ve missed our train but a backpack allowed us to move much quicker. Same goes for busy airports when youre running late – no one wants a suitcase dragging you down.
3. Backpacks Leave Your Arms Free
Whether you’re trying to find directions to your hostel, take a photo, eat lunch on the move or simply open doors, having your arms free is surprisingly taken for granted. Using a backpack for Europe will allow you to do all of this (maybe not at the same time) but without letting go of your luggage or leaving it unattended = safer and more time effective!
4. You Will Take Less (Unnecessary) Stuff
If there’s one tip we’d give to first time backpackers in Europe it’s that YOU DON’T NEED THAT MUCH STUFF. Apart from our backpacking essentials and a few pairs of pants, you need very little and a suitcase just encourages you to over pack and thus drag around far more stuff than you need to.
TOP LOADING VS FRONT LOADING: WHAT IS THE BEST STYLE BACKPACK FOR EUROPE?
Now we’ve resolved the backpack or suitcase debate, let’s start on step two when choosing the best backpack for Europe. Top loading Vs Front Loading. We had no idea what this meant a year ago but when choosing the best backpack for backpacking Europe this was the best tip we were given.
In a nutshell, top loading is the traditional style backpack. As the name suggests, you pack your belongings from the top. My old backpack was this style and it survived over 20 music festivals but that was when I was taking enough clothes for a weekend so there wasn’t much in the bag. They are typically designed for hiking – built for long distance walking to direct the weight off your back as you won’t be carrying so much belongings.
A front loading bag is the best backpack for Europe as it zips around the edge, meaning it opens like a school bag/holdall so you can see all the contents easier.
When choosing the best backpack for Europe, we recommend a FRONT loading backpack for the following reasons:
1. A Front Loading Backpack Saves Time
When you need to find a certain item of clothing you won’t have to look/mess up/hunt through your entire backpack. Unzipping it allows you to see all your belongings and thus find that item much, much quicker whether it’s at airport security or after a few beers in your hostel.
2. A Front Loading Backpack is Tidier
A top loading backpack makes it difficult to keep things tidy as you have to throw it all in the top and then muddle up all your stuff when trying to pull something out from the bottom, a front loading backpack prevents this.
3. A Front Loading Backpack is Safer
The majority of top loading bags are simply drawstring with a clippable flap over the top, there are no zips. Although this does mean the advantage of having no zips that can break, we feel this is slightly easier for someone to get into your bag as you won’t be able to use a padlock nor be able to tell/hear if someone had been in your bag.
SHOULDER STRAPS VS NO STRAPS: WHAT IS BEST FOR BACKPACKING EUROPE?
A further discovery we found when searching for the best backpack for backpacking Europe was to ensure your straps can zip away. This means when putting your backpack in the hold at the airport your shoulder straps can be zipped away avoiding the possibility of it getting caught in the conveyor belt.
No one wants to start their backpacking Europe trip with straps ripped off as it would be impossible to carry, so having this option is so useful. We have also found with the straps zipped away and carrying it via the top handle has been much easier when loading into taxis etc so having the option to carry it both ways is a definite bonus. See our images below for before & after.
WHAT SIZE IS THE BEST BACKPACK FOR EUROPE?
To be honest, deciding on which size backpack to go for completely depends on your travel style and Season. When we were backpacking Europe it was a 3 month trip and it was during Winter. This meant we had large Winter coats, woollen jumpers, boots etc that took up a lot more space than a few pairs of shorts and flip flops would’ve for Summer.
The other thing to consider when choosing the best backpack for travel in Europe is the size of you. You may want to pack your entire wardrobe, but remember you will be the one carrying it so consider your own health before choosing a 120L backpack that will make you sweat and stomp.
For us, 55L was perfect – this was not only the best backpack for backpacking Europe but was also the size we have used for our 18 month trip through New Zealand, Australia and South East Asia.
Despite being a fashion graduate who still insisted on packing 8 pairs of shoes (packing light is not my forte) 55L was more than enough space!
WHAT IS THE BEST DAY PACK FOR TRAVEL IN EUROPE?
When searching for the best backpack for travel in Europe, we really recommend finding one which has a detachable day pack. Our main 55L backpack had our clothes, toiletries etc that we put in the luggage hold and the 15L detachable day pack is perfect for carry on luggage to keep your camera, passport, laptop etc.
When not in use, they can zip on together, again freeing up your hands but also keeping the day pack safe as it’s less likely to be left behind somewhere.
We recommend a backpack over a canvas shoulder bag because it is more safe and less accessible to pick pockets due to the zips being lockable. It also had two pouches for your reusable water bottle – perfect for responsible travellers.
We cannot recommend the Osprey laptop backpack enough, as so many daypacks don’t have a designated laptop sleeve. If a laptop sleeve is something you consider essential for your trip, you may want to invest in an everyday smart backpack – perfect for digital nomads!
FARPOINT 70 OSPREY BACKPACK REVIEW
Following all the pros and cons we have discussed, we present to you the best backpack for Europe, the Osprey Farpoint 70. If you have read enough, feel free to watch our osprey backpack review video instead as we discuss the reasons why it is the best backpack for Europe.
Firstly, the Osprey Farpoint 70 comes in various sizes which means it is more tailored to your size and shape. Although a male and female version is available as we’re poor backpackers we found a special offer for the males backpacks and bought a small version for me and a large for Daz. The actual contents remains practically the same, meaning we can carry the same amount of stuff, just mine is designed for smaller shoulders, torso etc.
Despite mine being a male’s backpack and Daz being abnormally tall, we find the Osprey Farpoint 70 incredibly comfortable mainly due to the padded, breathable back panel which saves your contents soaking in sweat (disgusting, but true.) The adjustable waist strap and shoulder straps also help distribute weight for added comfort.
As you may have guessed, we feel this is the best backpack for backpacking Europe because it is not only a front loading style but the straps also zip away.
Another advantage is the colour isn’t black, but a charcoal grey which makes them more distinguishable at airports or offloading from busses alongside hundreds of black backpacks which people usually go for.
Bonus Points – Repairs
The final reason this is the best backpack for Europe (and the rest of the world) is because Osprey will repair your backpack thanks to their All Mighty Guarantee. This means should disaster strike and there is a rip, or zip bursts (thanks to unnecessary 8th pair of shoes) then you simply ship it back to osprey and they will repair it FOR FREE!
Regardless of where you are in the world or whether you bought it 10 years ago or yesterday – if you can ship it to them, they can fix it without charge, meaning this backpack will last far longer than your backpacking Europe trip and is 100% worth the investment!
CONVINCED YET? BUY YOUR BACKPACK FOR EUROPE HERE
Now you have our recommendations for choosing the best backpack for Europe, you might want to take a look at our backpacking travel essentials post for everything you’ll need to pack inside it. This post even includes a free downloadable packing list which is interactive on mobile, so you’ll never leave an item behind again.