For those looking into a new travel backpack, the Tortuga Backpack might be the pack for you, but it’s not the pack for everyone. I’m here to provide you with an honest Tortuga Backpack review to help you decide whether or not this is the right purchase.
I purchased the original Tortuga back in 2015 for my 2 week trip to South Africa/Botswana/Zimbabwe, I knew that my Gregory 75 Baltoro pack that I took on my RTW trip was too large of a bag. As an habitual over-packer I needed something that would fit the greatest amount for carry on, while also challenging myself to pack less.
After a few weeks of deliberation and lots of time perusing the internet reading other backpack reviews I settled on the Tortuga Backpack. I first heard about Tortuga while listening to the Extra Pack of Peanuts podcast. I’m 6’0″, 200 lbs in case you need a reference point. My girlfriend also purchased an original Tortuga Backpack after trying mine out. She is (~5’5″), she said it was fine and seemed to have the same feedback as me in terms of the Pros and Cons listed below.
Fast forward to 2017, and Tortuga has retired the Original and the V2, and now has a new and improved Outbreaker pack, which comes in two sizes, 45L and 35L. And a simpler pack in the Setout.
For my take on the newly released Tortuga Setout Backpack, check out my review here.
Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack – What’s improved?
- Customization of the shoulder straps.
- You can adjust the height of the bag and how it sits on your back with a quick adjustment.
- Larger water bottle holders
- The side pockets are now deeper, so that they can adequately hold a water bottle securely.
- Organizational features in the front pocket for quick access.
- A quick clip for keys
- Pockets for pens.
- 2 zip pockets for extra security
- More padding on the back.
- Separate compartment for Laptop/Ipad that is more secure than the original Tortuga Backpack.
Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack – The Pros:
- Maximum Size for carry on. You should be aware of how much your bag weighs as well, there are a lot of airlines that limit the weight of your bag no matter how small it is. Make sure you check the weight limits for the airlines you’re flying on. Once you’re past the ticketing agent you’re generally fine though. This actually happened to me on Etihad Airlines both ways, and luckily the agent could see I had a tight layover on my way to Johannesburg so she let it slide. On the way back to NYC from JNB the ticketing agent wasn’t so nice and made me lighten the load. Luckily I packed another small duffel, for just this reason.
- Full Zipper – When trying to find something specific in your pack, digging through a top loading pack really sucks. Having the ability to open the pack all the way up and pack/unpack made everything much easier. If you really want to make things simple, use packing cubes. For the $50-75 you’re gonna spend on these, the definitely make backpacking a hell of a lot easier.
- Internal Zippers to keep valuables secure and easy to get access to (Passport, Kindle, Emergency Cash etc.).
- Padded Hip Belt and side compression straps – Most of the smaller packs don’t come with these, so this was a nice feature to have for a carry on pack.
- Internal Padded Sleeve for Laptop.
Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack – Cons
- 2 zipper pockets in front are hard to access when bag is full.
- The built in small zippered compartments take away some space in the main compartment.
- While it’s nice to have these compartments to organize your socks/underwear, they take away some flexibility in maximizing the space in the bag.
- Depth of main compartment was reduced from 6.5″ to 5.5″. My guess is that the depth was moved to the new laptop sleeved on the back of the pack.
- I really liked the feature in the Original where you could hide the shoulder straps by zipping them away (This is important if you’re forced to check your bag and want to make sure the straps don’t get stuck in the conveyor belts)
- They removed the side handle, which I thought came in handy when grabbing the bag.
- Compression Straps/Suspension System – When you’re traveling with a 40-50 lb pack, you really need the added support of advanced compression straps. Having a hip belt and a side compression strap really wasn’t enough, although I’m sure they are better than nothing. When I traveled for 6 months with my Gregory 75 Baltoro it felt much lighter than the Tortuga because the weight was spread evenly, and ultimately pressure was taken off my shoulders and lower back. The pack could use some extra compression straps and suspension to take the pressure of your back/shoulders.
Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack Packing Capacity
- 8 pairs of underwear
- 8 pairs of socks (Note this amount of underwear and socks fit in the
- 3 t-shirts
- 1 long sleeve performance shirt
- 1 short sleeve performance shirt
- 2 tank tops
- 2 pairs of pants
- 1 pair of jeans
- 4 pairs of shorts
- 1 swimsuit
- Flip Flops
- Converse All Stars
- Dopp bag
Note: I tested this is in the original as well, and they both fit, albeit both packs were a tight fit.
Tortuga Backpack Review: Buy or Sell?
Since I don’t have many other packs to compare to I’ll talk from experience, and what others have said about other packs in the market for similar volumes/uses. For $250 I think this is a good price point for a pack that can withstand a 1 – 6 week trip. If you’re traveling light I think this pack is perfect, it’s only once it starts to get heavy that the lack of adequate compression straps could become a burden when carrying the pack for long distances, but that’s also a lot of bags. The biggest selling point for me was that it was the maximum carry-on size. I’ll gladly take the Tortuga backpack on many more short-term trips and think it would be a great add to any travelers arsenal. BUY
As I take more and more trips I’ll make sure to update the post with how I think the bag is faring, but I look forward to having this bag for years to come.
Disclaimer: This is not a sponsored post. This is a 100% genuine review. If you liked my Tortuga Backpack Review and want to help support me, please buy a Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack through my affiliate links.
Edited and archived information for the Original Tortuga post below
Tortuga Backpack Packing List Example
For South Africa I packed 2 pairs of pants, 2 pairs of shorts, 2 button down shirts, Rainbow sandals, converse, 7 pairs of underwear, 7 pairs of socks, 7 t-shirts, 1 bathing suit, Macbook Air w/ case, Kindle, Patagonia Nano Puff jacket, and a North Face Dopp Kit.
Tortuga Backpack Trip Updates:
12/17/15 Update – I took my Tortuga backpack on a second trip, of similar length (10 days) to Chile & Brazil, and I must say it was such an immense convenience to have a bag that allowed me to move around so easily when utilizing planes/trains/automobiles to get around.
1/30/16 update – I took the Tortuga with me on a week long trip to Havana, and once again it was great for the hustle and bustle of various transportation options over the course of 10 days. It’s definitely easier to take this along to warmer weather climates for a week long trip.
Tortuga Original Backpack Photos