How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

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When you are sifting through the options for the best travel bag for Europe, you will likely find that all will fall within the following categories: backpack, wheeled suitcase and duffel bag.

Each has a stand-out feature that separates them from the others and it can be difficult to decide which best suits your travel style. We can’t sway you any one way, for the simple fact that we have carried all types of bags during our travels in Europe. 

Below we will break down what to consider in each option and where their advantages and disadvantages lie.

Top 5 Travel Bags for Europe

PRODUCTDESCRIPTION 
Best bags for europeDeuter Transit 50 Travel Backpack
-Concealable back system
-Two grab handles
-Padded detachable carry strap
-Compact detachable day-pack
-Compression straps
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Best bags for europeAmerican Tourister Carry-on
-Zipper door panel
-Interior modesty
-Color pop straps
-Single spinner wheels for smooth ride
-Retractable grip top and side carry handle
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Best bags for europeOsprey Farpoint/Fairview
-Zip off daypack
-Stowaway harness & hipbelt
-Durable fabrics
-Large zipper panel
-Lockable sliders
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Best bags for europeEagle Creek Load Warrior 22
-Seamless Exo-Skeleton
-Reinforced corners
-Top compartment for quick grab items
-Over-sized treaded wheels
-Exterior lockable zippers
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Best bags for europePatagonia Black Hole 60 Liter Duffel
-DWR (durable water repellent) finish
-Large opening to main compartment
-Zippered side pocket
-Mesh pockets in lid
-Padded, removable shoulder straps
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Quick Answer: Best Travel Bags for Europe


Backpack vs Suitcase vs Duffel Bag

Budapest, Hungary - Best Travel Bag for Europe

Choosing a Backpack

Travel backpacks are the top choice for travelers that intend to travel to multiple countries over the course of weeks. This is where the hands-free carrying abilities of a backpack allow travelers to feel more mobile and less restricted than their suitcase or duffel counterparts.

If this sounds like you, here are some considerations to take into account before finalizing your choice.  If everything checks out for you, this could be your best travel bag for Europe. 

Rothenburg ob der Tauber, Germany

Size

The two things to think about when deciding which size travel backpack is best suited for you is how long you intend to travel and if you want the ability to carry it onto your flight.

The standard carry on size requirement for most major airlines is 45 linear inches or 22 x 14 x 9in. If you find a bag that fits in these parameters, you will likely be able to avoid the hefty bag check charges as well as the hassles and delays caused from checking your bag.

Most 45L backpacks will easily fall into this carry-on range while still giving you plenty of space as long as you pack light.

However, if you plan on traveling for months you may find yourself leaning towards a larger size backpack, so it can fit all of your necessities and any goodies you decided to pick up along the way.

Travel backpacks can range from 25L to 85L.  Even if you are planning extended travel you probably don’t want to exceed a 60L backpack. Anything larger will be uncomfortable and degrade the mobility benefits a backpack offers.

Eiffel Tower, Paris, France

Materials & Weight

When traveling around Europe you want to make sure you have a reliable bag that can handle the array of stress you will be putting it under. You don’t want to be stuck miles away from your hotel when a backpack strap breaks or a puncture leaves your contents spilling everywhere.

You also don’t want a material so heavy that you must give up necessities to cut weight and save your back. That being said here are some of the best materials to look for in your travel bag.

  • Dyneema Fabric – This is the best material you can find when it comes to travel backpacks. It is extremely durable without forfeiting its lightweight structure. You will mostly find this fabric in ultralight hiking backpacks, but these can easily be integrated as a travel bag. The downside is they are quite expensive.
  • RipStop Nylon – This is the most prevalent fabric used in travel backpacks. It is naturally water-resistant and contains grid-like threads that help prevent punctures and tearing. They can also be easily patched if a tear occurs.  It is not as lightweight as Dyneema but is lighter than any other option.
  • Polyester – While polyester is the most affordable, it is also the material you want to avoid most in a travel bag. It is bulky and does not stand up against wear and tear well. You will see this fabric used often because it is so cheap but don’t be tempted by the price tag.

Backpacks in the mountains

Top Loading v. Panel Loading

There are two styles of travel backpacks to choose from: top-loading and panel loading. Top loading backpacks simply mean all of the contents are loaded from the top.

While this gives some security against items falling out it also leads to a lack of organization and difficulty getting to your content on the fly.

Panel loading backpacks, on the other hand, open flat allowing you to pack it like a normal suitcase giving you maximum organization and access.

Hiking in Luxembourg

Pros and cons of choosing a backpack

PROS:

  • Gives you hands-free travel
  • Allows ease of movement / increased mobility
  • Easy to store in hostel lockers
  • Easier to navigate stairs and cobbled streets

CONS:

  • Not as secure as a suitcase
  • Not good for those with back issues
  • Tend to be expensive

Wheeled luggage at the airport

Choosing a Wheeled Suitcase

Regular wheeled suitcases still run the market for “traditional” travelers.  These are the travelers that aren’t planning to move from through various hostels or hotels and don’t have a need to carry their luggage regularly.  

In this case wheeled suitcases give you a secure and durable alternative to other options. Personally, I think that wheeled suitcases are a great contender for the best travel bag for Europe.

Here are a few things to consider if choosing a wheeled suitcase.

Stockholm, Sweden

Size

Suitcases probably have a large array of sizes ranging from the carry-on 19 inch Cabin size to the 30 inch large. It will be up to your discretion to decide what size is best for you based on what you need.

It is still important to consider the external conditionals that will affect the level of difficulty you will have to transport your wheeled suitcase.

For example, if you know you are staying in an area with cobbled streets or your room in your hotel is on the 5th floor and doesn’t have an elevator you may want to opt for a carry-on size, so you will easily be able to pick it up when needed.

How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Hard-Sided v. Soft-Sided

While soft-sided rolling bags are still the most popular choice, hard-sided bags are becoming more and more popular. Each respectively offers their own positive and negative characteristics.

Hard-sided rolling bags have come to fruition due to their superior ability to protect their contents. If you intend to transport breakable items regularly this may be your best option.

 Its hard shell allows gives it more durability and theft protection. They are also water-resistant, so you won’t end up with soggy clothes when traveling in heavy rains.

The drawback to these over their soft-sided brothers is the weight. Even the ultra-light models will still be a pound or two heavier than the soft-shell options. This can make a huge difference in expense if you are planning to check your bag.   

They are also priced the highest of any travel bag option.

Soft-sided bags, on the other hand, remain lighter in weight, offer you quick access external pockets and usually have multiple handles for carrying.  Some of these bags even feature shoulder straps that can turn your luggage into a temporary backpack when the need arises.

Hamburg, Germany

Pros and cons of choosing a wheeled suitcase

PROS:

  • Generally, offer better organization capabilities
  • Safer when checked at the airport
  • More room for packing
  • No weight on your shoulders

CONS:

  • Difficult to maneuver on streets, trains or in heavy crowds
  • Don’t fit in hostel storage lockers
  • Potential for broken wheels
  • Heavier than backpacks
  • Difficult to carry upstairs

How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Choosing a Duffel Bag

Duffel bags are the perfect lightweight option for travelers that want to have easier access to their gear without the hassle of wheels or weight of toting everything on their back.

Here are some things to think about before settling on a duffel bag.

Copenhagen, Denmark

Size

The great thing about the duffel bag for traveling Europe is their size. Almost all of the best bags adhere to the standard size requirement from major airlines and can fit in the overhead bin or below the seat in from of you.

You can choose from smaller bags, but the average-sized bag holds just as much as a carry-on backpack or suitcase without having to break out the measuring tape.

Barcelona, Spain

Extra Features

A duffel travel bag is extremely versatile when it comes to options for carrying. Almost all duffel bags come with their signature two handle quick grab straps at the center of the bag making maneuvering and quick-moving simple.

Yet, many of the best travel bags offer and an additional end-to-end strap allowing you to throw the bag over your shoulder when the need arises. Others have upped the ante even further by adding wheels.  

These characteristics mean your duffel bag can serve all the same requirements as a wheeled suitcase or backpack with a simple flick of the wrist, yet will still retain their ease of access, external compartments and lightweight nature that set them apart.

Seville, Spain

Materials

The materials you are going to find in a duffel bag are going to be the same as those found in backpacks except Dyneema. A rip-stop nylon duffel bag is a good option for any level of travel.

Just make sure that if you are traveling to areas with heavy rains that you get a bag with a water-resistant coating to keep your clothes from getting wet in transit.

Rialto Bridge, Venice, Italy

Pros and cons of choosing a duffel bag

PROS:

  • Carrying versatility
  • Lighter in weight
  • Ability to pack more items in the same space

CONS:

  • Not as secure as a suitcase
  • Can be difficult to carry over long periods
  • Quicker and easier access to contents

Recommendations for the Best Travel Bag for Europe

How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

American Tourister Moonlight Expandable Hardside Luggage with Spinner Wheels

This hard-side luggage was made for the traveler who brings whimsy and fun on every journey. This 21″ spinner was designed for those who love a dash of fun and with great color choices to match your unique personality.

This hard-side is lightweight and easy to maneuver with spinner wheels and a retractable handle. The suitcase opens book style with compartments on both sides that offer plenty of room. 

SPECS:

  • Split case packing with two large compartments
  • Mesh blouse pocket on the zipper door panel
  • Interior modesty
  • Color pop straps
  • Rugged split case construction
  • Single spinner wheels for a smooth ride
  • Expands 1.5″ for added capacity
  • Retractable grip top and side carry handle
  • Beveled push-button locking handle that easy to grip

Check American Tourister Moonlight Expandable Hardside Luggage price at Amazon


How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Osprey Farpoint|Fairview

Lightweight and streamlined, the Farpoint & Fairview Series is an ideal travel pack for fast-moving globetrotters. Despite their minimalist weights, these full-featured packs offer plenty of organization and travel-focused features.

The zip-off day-pack provides additional storage and is perfect for carrying around town by itself. The stowaway harness and hip-belt disappears for safe keeping when you check your bag, and durable fabrics offer added protection.

SPECS:

  • Zip off daypack
  • Stowaway harness & hipbelt
  • Durable fabrics
  • Large zipper panel
  • Lockable sliders
  • Dual front compression
  • Padded laptop sleeve

Check Osprey Farpoint | Osprey Fairview price at Amazon


How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Patagonia Black Hole 60 Liter Duffel

Our go-to Black Hole Duffel. This workhorse organizes your gear and has enough space for a fun-hog weekend or a well-organized extended trip. Made with a burly, lightweight 100% recycled polyester fabric, 100% recycled polyester lining and 100% recycled nylon webbing.

SPECS:

  • Burly recycled polyester rip-stop
  • Highly weather-resistant TPU-film laminate
  • DWR (durable water repellent) finish
  • Large opening to the main compartment
  • Zippered side pocket
  • Mesh pockets in lid
  • Padded, removable shoulder straps
  • Reinforced haul handles for easy carrying
  • Padded base protects contents
  • Sturdy, reinforced daisy chains for lashing

Check Patagonia Black Hole 60 L Duffel price at Amazon


How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22

The Load Warrior is built strong to tackle any adventure. This is the ultimate carry on bag in an ultra-light package, built for maximum activity and durability. Eagle Creek is a global tribe of travelers committed to preserving and protecting the places we live, work and travel.

The company has been around for more than 40 years and, from city parks to exotic destinations, they take pride in equipping you with versatile gear to take you beyond your fears and outside your comfort zone. 

SPECS:

  • Seamless Exo-Skeleton
  • Reinforced corners
  • Top compartment for quick-grab items
  • Over-sized treaded wheels
  • Exterior lockable zippers
  • Reflective accents
  • Multiple haul handles
  • Exterior compression straps

Check Eagle Creek Load Warrior 22 price on Amazon


How to Choose the Best Travel Bag for Europe

Deuter Transit 50 Travel Backpack

Deuter Transit 50 is a great carrying system for different back lengths which guarantees a good fit by having a multi-stage VariQuick adjustment system. Carry heavy loads in comfort thanks to a stow-able back carrying system with flexible X-Frame and ergonomically shaped hip fins for perfect load transfer.

Made from 600 den Polyester thread and with a thick PU coating, this multi-purpose fabric is robust and lightweight. It is most suitable for backpacks, used in average conditions to keep the weight to a minimum.

SPECS:

  • U-shaped zip opens up completely for full access to the main compartment
  • Concealable back system
  • Separate bottom compartment for shoes, sleeping bag etc.
  • Luggage stabilizing straps
  • Two grab handles
  • Padded detachable carry strap
  • Compact detachable day-pack
  • Compression straps

Check Deuter Transit 50 Travel Backpack price on Amazon


Not finding what you are looking for? Check out our favorite places to go shopping for travel gear.

  • Shop Columbia – The industry leader in outdoor apparel and products; You can find anything from great jackets, gloves, hats, shirts and travel pants.
  • Shop REI – They offer some of the best outdoor gear around. We love REI since they have a year Love it or hate it no questions guarantee.
  • Shop Moosejaw – Has a huge selection of outdoor gear at killer prices.

More on Travel Gear:

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About David Stock

I have always been an outdoorsman so becoming an adventure traveler was just the next natural step. I love nature, I love to get off the beaten path and I like to explore. I enjoy scuba diving and cars. And yes, Lina and I have a naked dog.



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