The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack, thoroughly reviewed

Big news, in the world of travel gear obsessives: Tortuga has updated their flagship product, and they’ve been such a mainstay in the world of travel backpacks for the last few years that it’s basically like Apple removing the headphone jack. Or…doing anything, really.

Newly renamed the Outbreaker Backpack, the design doubles down on the backpack features first and foremost, eliminating anything that might get in the way. This means it’s not a backpack/suitcase hybrid like some of the other options out there, instead focusing on doing one job well, and that’s to be a comfortable, durable, adjustable, well-organized, highly efficient travel backpack that’ll tag along with you for the next several decades of your life.

I’ve been looking forward to seeing what they come up with for a while, and they recently sent me a test sample, which I’ve been looking forward to discussing here. And considering it’s a completely different product rather than just a minor update, it’s going to be quite a lengthy discussion.

The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack, in review

The Outbreaker is available in two different sizes; 35 liters, and 45 liters. I’ve got the 35 liter version, so that’s what I’ll be reviewing. The little one is a maximum-sized carry-on for most budget European carriers, while the big one is a maximum-sized carry-on for North American airlines. The design is pretty much the same, aside from the dimensions and weight, but I’ll try to point out any differences I’m aware of as they come up.

Here’s what it looks like:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack
Just like the early days of Ford: Available in any color you want, as long as it’s black.

One of the major new features is the fabric, known as sailcloth, which is waterproof,  and extremely durable. The zippers are also highly water-resistant, so although the backpack itself isn’t water-proof, it’s going to hold up to rain a lot better than it would with regular fabric and zippers. It’s usually the zippers that are the weak point anyway, so making them water resistant makes a big difference. You don’t want to get too crazy with it, but if you get caught in the rain for a little while, it won’t be a big deal.


(For the 35 liter version)

  • Height: 20.5″
  • Width: 13″
  • Depth: 9″ (including 1″ of back panel cushioning)
  • Capacity: 35 liters
  • Weight: 4 lbs, 11 oz (with detachable hip belt; 9 oz less without)
  • Price: $224

The biggest thing to notice here is the weight. This might be the heaviest travel backpack I’ve seen (aside from the GoRuck GR2), and you can definitely feel it when you lift it. But what you get for that weight is a heavy-duty suspension system (which makes it not feel heavy), and a whole lot of pockets (which reduces the need for packing cubes). The more you make use of those two features, the more sense it’ll make. So let’s see what you get.

Strap system

The suspension system is quite substantial, with thick, meshy, padded shoulder and hip straps, and a thickly cushioned back panel. It’s probably the most heavily cushioned travel backpack I’ve seen out there. It’s also nice to see a real hip belt, which we’ll get to in a moment.

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack back panel
The back panel, with new and improved straps of every kind.

You can see how the back panel cushions are lofty enough that they provide air channels for some extra breathability, in addition to the fact that they’re openly meshy. They’re also thick enough that I couldn’t feel any pressure points anywhere on the pack, even when fully loaded, which is great.

These are no longer stowaway straps, however, like they were with the previous version. If you have to check the bag, you can’t hide them behind a protective cover. Cinching them down as tightly as they’ll go tends to help a lot, and with the 35 liter version now available (they previously only had the 45 liter size), using it as a carry-on will be a lot easier, even on stricter airlines.

Another major feature of the pack is the height adjustment system, which allows you to adjust the torso height, so the same backpack can fit people of all different sizes:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack ladder lock system
It’s a little tight, but that’s so it’ll stay exactly in place when in use.

This is a feature commonly seen on hiking packs, but this is the first time I’ve seen it anywhere else. You just undo the velcro, slip that tongue through the horizontal bars at the height you want, and redo the velcro. Backpackers with smaller torsos will love this, especially since most of these backpacks tend to be designed for larger people (especially the ones without a hip belt), and tiny people like to travel too.

I did find something odd, though. The load lifter straps are attached to the shoulder straps at a point really close to the pack; this means they don’t really pull the pack forward as much as I think they should.

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack load lifter straps
These straps help balance the load, so it won’t feel like it’s pulling away from your back, but they have to be positioned correctly, or it won’t work as well.

It’s more apparent if you set the shoulder straps to the lowest setting on the height adjustment system, as in the following photo. Notice how the load lifter straps are mostly pulling the top of the pack down, rather than forward:

Tortuga load lifter strap issue
These straps should attach at the apex of the shoulder strap, rather than this far in back.

If you’re planning on using the pack with the shoulder straps positioned up high on the height adjustment system, to fit larger torsos, this will be irrelevant. In fact if a backpack’s shoulder straps emerge from the highest point of the pack, load lifter straps don’t do anything, and shouldn’t be there at all. But if you’re on the smaller side, it would have been helpful if those straps attached a whole two or three inches forward on the shoulder strap, so you could tighten them to pull the top of the pack forward a bit. I hope they test a version with an update like that at some point, because it would be an easy mod.

Moving onto the hip belt, which is quite heavy-duty, especially on the 35 liter size:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack hip belt
Notice how the dangly end of the strap can be fed behind the zippered pocket, where it won’t get in the way.

You can get a better sense of the size here, where you can also see how the hip belt attaches to the pack with a velcro strap (the one pointing to the right, not the one pointing down)

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack hip belt detached
Quick and easy hip belt detachment.

Part of the reason the cushions are so big is so the zippered pockets on each side are big enough to be useful. They’re a pretty popular feature, but they wouldn’t be if they were too small, so that’s why the hip belt is so big.

External pockets

On either side there’s a compression strap, and a mesh pocket:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack side view
The compression strap is also a good way to tie a jacket to the outside of the pack.

Those mesh pockets aren’t super stretchy, so it was a tight fit getting a water bottle in there. It’ll be easier on the 45 liter version, but I would have liked some folded fabric in the corners, and elastic along the top, to make them more expandable. They also got rid of the side carry handle, which I’m a little sad about, but it would have been a little crowded with a handle there too.

Oh, and notice how the compression strap does not go over the damn side pocket, meaning you can still use the side pocket?!!? HINT HINT, OSPREY. HINT. HINT.

(And yes, I know that placing the compression strap significantly higher than the side pocket means it won’t compress the lower part of the pack, but you know what? You could just put extra compression straps along the bottom of the pack, so NEVER PUT THE DAMN COMPRESSION STRAP OVER THE SIDE POCKETS. ARGH!)

Ahem! Moving on. Here’s the front, where you’ve got two zippered pockets for easy access to small items:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack front panel
The top pocket is flat (probably because there’s another pocket on the reverse side right there), but the lower pocket is three-dimensional.

I think the flap over the lower pocket could have been removed. The zippers are all water-resistant anyway, so that flap just makes it harder to get in and out of that pocket. In fact it’s nearly impossible to use that lower pocket when the pack is loaded up all the way, whereas the top one is still effortless. Maybe it was an aesthetic choice, but I think it would have been fine the other way.

Laptop and tech compartment

Here’s the laptop compartment, which you can access from the top, while the pack is upright:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack laptop compartment
It’s nicely padded in there, and suspended, too.

You can also open it all the way up, like this:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack laptop compartment fully open
Fully-opening convenience.

This allows you to go through airport security without removing your laptop, since you’re allowed to carry it in a padded sleeve. There’s also a tablet compartment stacked on top, and on the opposite side are three zippered mesh pockets.

Main compartment

Notice how the door opens up the “short” way, instead of the “long” way:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack main compartment
I know it’s not any smaller this way, but it sure feels like it.

I like this method better, since it seems like it’s taking up less room, even though it’s exactly the same. It also makes it easier to prop it up against a wall, since it’s shorter and won’t start falling over.

Over on the main side, two zippered compartments line the walls:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack main compartment closeup
The sidewall pockets on the 45 liter version are a little different, with four small pockets instead of two large ones, as far as I can tell from the photos.

These are each big enough to fit a shoe, or a pair of sandals, so you wouldn’t need a shoe bag; you could also use one for clean underwear, and the other for dirty underwear, or something like that.

Notice how they got rid of the tie-down straps, though, which means you’ll probably want to pack small, fumbly things like socks and underwear underneath, then pack a folded-up pair of pants on top of them, so they stay in place nicely. You could also use a packing cube, or one of the spacious mesh compartments on the door:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack main door compartments
Built-in packing cubes.

Those aren’t flat slots; they’re pretty three-dimensional, so you can pack a lot into them. They’re great for storing small things like socks and underwear, so they don’t fall out while unpacking, while over in the main compartment you can store larger items, like pants, buttoned shirts, jackets, and so on, thus reducing the need for packing cubes. The mesh is rather opaque, though, so I found myself looking through the zippered opening to find what I was looking for, rather than looking directly through the mesh. I think this was to boost the durability, though, so that’s fine.

Organizer panel

And now we’re at one of my favorite features of any pack that includes something like this:

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack organizer panel
This compartment has a total of 13 slots, plus the key clip, plus the compartment itself.

No amount of organization is too much organization. A key clip, pen slots, card slots, and other small pockets, zippered or otherwise, are going to be wonderful for all the organization junkies that love knowing exactly where everything is.

That pocket doesn’t go full-length, though. It ends right about where the zipper ends, so there’s no extra space beneath what you see in the photo. That means you won’t lose anything down below, however.

Locking zippers

So the zippers you’re looking at in the following photo are the laptop compartment (far in the back, behind the carry handle), the main compartment, and the organizer panel. The only pockets that don’t have locking zippers are the two front panel compartments, and the side mesh pockets.

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack locking zippers
Notice how the zippers are different, so you can tell them apart, even in the dark.

You might be able to lock all three of them with one of those figure 8 locks, with two cable loops instead of one. And if you’re worried about the pen trick (which allows people to get into a pack, even if it’s locked, and zip the zippers right back up as though nothing happened), I think sliding the zippers over to the side and anchoring the lock to the side compression strap is probably the best bet (looping it through the webbing that holds the buckle to the pack, where it can’t be detached; this is hard to describe, but it’s there, and it’s not going anywhere). Locks are never going to be 100% safe, but lockable zippers are a pretty easy feature to add, and anchoring it somewhere on the pack can make it more annoying for lazy thieves who don’t want to put in too much effort.

Hmm, I think that might be about it. Time for the…

Final summary

There’s a lot to like about this pack. The durable construction, height-adjustable suspension system, burly hip belt, and massive number of internal and external pockets are going to win over a lot of fans, and these are easily the main strengths of the new design, along with the legacy features of suitcase-style opening, carry-on dimensions, and laptop access.

All of this comes at the price of extra weight, however, and that’s the biggest issue to consider; but the more you depend on the highly cushioned suspension system and the built-in pockets, the more sense it’ll make. The cushioned straps will make it feel like you’re not really carrying much at all, and the built-in organization means you might skip the packing cubes entirely. And although the difference between a 2 pound pack and a 4 pound pack might seem like a lot, the difference when they’re fully packed (when they’re more like 18 and 20) probably won’t.

I think the combination of features here make even more sense on the 45 liter version, where the extra cushioning will be even more appreciated. In fact on the 35 liter version, it might feel like overkill. Larger, more muscular users who don’t pack much and don’t walk around too long with it might think it’s over-engineered, and might prefer lighter, simpler alternatives. But if you’re on the smaller side, or you expect to walk around all day with a heavy load, and you happen to like the densely-pocketed layout, this should definitely be on your short list. There’s nothing quite like it out there right now.

Things I like:

  • Waterproof fabric
  • Water-resistant (and lockable) zippers
  • Padded, ventilated, height-adjustable shoulder straps
  • Padded, easily removable hip belt
  • Fully-opening main compartment (which opens up the “short” way)
  • Fully-opening laptop compartment (which opens up the “long” way)
  • Lots of built-in pockets, including a great organizer panel
  • Decent amount of exterior pockets
  • Understated appearance

Things I’d change:

  • Attach load lifter straps further down the shoulder strap
  • Make the side mesh pockets more expandable
  • Remove the flap on the lower zippered pocket on the front panel

A few other things to think about:

  • Non-stowable straps
  • No side carry handle
  • No duffel bag carry option
  • Exterior pockets are mostly flat, so bulky things mostly have to go in the main compartment
  • Super-padded suspension system might feel like overkill on the 35 liter model

I drew up a list of favorite travel backpacks several years ago, where Tortuga has occupied a prominent position this whole time, and will continue to do so. Despite how many more options there are nowadays than there were back then, I think this design is going to keep them right up there for quite some time. Though I’d make a couple minor tweaks, it’s impressively comfortable, adjustable, durable, and well-organized. If you can handle the weight, it’ll handle whatever adventure comes your way.

Check it out at Tortuga, and go have some fun.

About SnarkyNomad

Eytan is a pretentious English major whose rant-laden sarcastic tirades occasionally include budget travel tips and other international nonsense. You can follow his every narcissistic word on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.

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55 Comments on “The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack, thoroughly reviewed”

  1. Thank you for the thorough review, Eytan! And also for responding to my occasional emails. I really appreciate the time you take to do that. Time is the most valuable currency we have in life, so thanks a lot, man!

    Now that you’ve reviewed my next purchase, can you recommend a structured, durable daypack that I can cram in the Tortuga? Preferably one that can fit a 15” laptop? I bought Tortuga’s daypack a while ago, but the durability was abysmal in my experience.

    1. Let’s see…I think the Minaal Daily fits that requirement pretty well. It’s actually quite difficult finding a smaller pack that’ll handle a laptop, because most people who buy backpacks want something with plenty of space, so they don’t have to buy a second one.

      1. Good choice! I had forgotten it when I wrote my initial reply, but are you lined up for a review unit of the Zero-G backpack by Keep Pursuing (KP?) It shares the same size dimensions as the Minaal Daily, and could serve as an alternative option. The price point is also similar.

        They began the bag as a Kickstarter campaign that was successfully funded, with bags set to ship in December. I know they are currently sending out review units. I wrote the company an email a few days back to convince them to send a bag to a YouTuber who does thorough bag reviews, and they replied thanking me for the lead, and said they contacted him to work something out. I’d do the same for you, but I don’t know how to access any of your metrics. For the YouTuber, I showed his views and subscriptions over a 12-month period, and linked a few videos. All publicly accessible info. Hard numbers, positive trends, examples… stuff that a company likes to see.

        I’d love to see you review it. I don’t know how you feel about direct links in your comments, so if you Google “KP Zero-G backpack”, the kickstarter should be the first link that comes up.

        1. No problem. I’ve seen it before, as I’m on Kickstarter quite a bit, and it’s an interesting design. Sometimes I avoid reviewing some of the simpler packs that are fairly self-explanatory, saving my time for the complicated designs that people really want to see in detail, which seems to be the case with that one. I’m not a fan of the way the front panel opens up sideways, though. I think a flap that opens downward (like the organizer panel door on the Tortuga) would have worked fine, and would stay out of the way when it’s open, instead of swinging shut sometimes.

    2. I just have to say all Osprey packs I’ve owned do have compression straps that can be rethreaded to inside the pocket.

      That said I usually leave one outside for various things to keep in that pocket nice and secure.

      1. I don’t mind the ones where the straps can feed through the pocket, but I still think it’s better when they avoid it completely. Check out their Kestrel pack, for example. It still has plenty of compression straps, but the side pocket is completely unaffected by them. Seems to work just fine.

    3. I’ve actually been looking for a packable day bag as well. Depending on how much gear+clothes you are bringing, I would look at “one bag” style. I just got the 45L version of the Outbreaker, and after playing around with that, I’ve decided to exchange it for a 35L, and just use this one bag for work/personal travel. That way, I don’t have to worry about a crappy/flimsy day pack, I don’t have to carry around two bags, and just make things simpler.

      Hope that helps!

      P.S. I’ve been enjohing the /r/onebag reddit stuff a lot.

      1. 25-35 liters is a good sweet spot where you can travel indefinitely with it, but also walk around with it like it’s a daypack. It’s not that easy, especially for people who just want a bit more, or who need serious winter clothing from head to toe, but it’s nice if you can manage it.

        1. Bruce makes a great point. I’ll keep my eye out and see what the Tortuga team comes up with for a day pack, but if it is another flimsy iteration like most packs, I’ll pass on it and stick my 35L ninja turtle. Haven’t got it in the mail yet, so it might not be a serious issue, but academically I’m hesitant to use the turtle as a day pack if I don’t need to.

          Five pounds for the bag, and other five-ish for my laptop…well, we’ll see. Using the 35L as a truly viable one bag solution might be in the cards for me as well.

  2. Hey mate, I am searching for a backpack to travel for a couple mouths to south asia, minimalist style, but couldn’t find the right pack yet. I wanted to ask you since you probably could think several off top of your head when you see my criteria. Money is no object.

    1. Laptop compartment is close to the body, not far from it.
    2. Front loading, fully clamshell style opening
    3. Durable
    4. 35-45L
    5. Stylish
    6. Light if possible

    Any backpacks you can think of that can fit these requirements?

    Thanks a lot man

    1. Yeah, my favorites are over on this list. The Tortuga and Minaal are still my top suggestions. Aside from that list, there’s also the Aer Travel Pack and the Slicks pack. I’ve seen a few others here and there, and it was tricky coming up with just a short list of favorites, but those are some pretty solid options.

  3. Hi, thanks for writing, I’m enjoying your blog.

    Have you looked at the Lowepro HighLine BP 400AW?

    It’s supposed to be about 36L and is around $200… Seems to be in the range of the bags on your favorites list…except the straps don’t zip away…but at least it has a minimal hip belt.
    I’m trying to find a place to look at it in person…

    I’m currently leaning towards the REI Vagabond 40 because it seems simple, well priced, and I like the big open compartment. I’d rather use my own packing cubes and configure per trip than deal with too many pre-set organizational pockets. The Minaal 2.0 is lovely but seems over priced…

    Also, I’m not a digital nomad so I go on vacation to get *away* from my laptop… I’ll be blissfully unplugged and traveling without many electronics… so those features aren’t as critical to me.

    Would love to hear your thoughts…thanks.


    1. It’s a bit on the heavy side, but otherwise well-organized. It looks as though more and more people are doing backpacks like this, so it’s getting tricky to keep track of them all, but it’ll certainly work. I’m guessing the weight has something to do with extra padding, as it’s a camera equipment company. Personally, I’d like a more substantial hip belt, but other people are bigger and stronger than me. It’ll certainly do the job.

  4. I just found your site and I have to say I love your thorough review of the Tortuga outbreaker and the comparing the 35L to the 45L. Besides a great video I saw on YouTube, you are the only person who have taken your time to do an in-depth review with close up pictures. I just heard about Tortuga last summer and wasn’t fond of V2 just because it reminded me too much of the CamelBak I carry for work. But I love V3 style and your review is helping me decide to make the 45L purchase in the near future.

    Great Job

    1. Always happy to help. I’m always proud of my “so much information people fall asleep reading it” approach. It’s exactly the kind of review I wanted when I was on a strict budget and couldn’t make any mistakes.

  5. Hi Eytan,

    Thanks as always for a great review and detailed pictures.

    Do you see this as a worthwhile upgrade for someone who has the V2? The fabric, zippers, organization (and ability to remove the hipbelt if desired) all seem like pretty great improvements, I’m just mulling over whether or not it is a substantial enough upgrade to warrant the purchase?

    I have also been considering going down to the 35L from the 45L size, or going for the Aer SF Travel Pack, but just not sure that with my size 14 feet, I can really go that low, as I always need to pack at least one pair of shoes in the bag.

    Thanks for any further insight you can provide!


    1. Hmm…if you can stack everything you need in packing cubes, then measure how big they are, you can figure out how big of a backpack you’ll need (as long as everything doesn’t kind of explode and expand, so you’ll have to compress it somehow). I actually didn’t get my hands on the original Tortuga, so I’m not able to think about tiny details of the original compared to the new one…but I definitely thought the original had a very solid design. I wouldn’t get too worried about the upgrade, unless you see specific features that you think you’d love to use, like the waterproof fabric, or something like that. It’s going to be a personal judgment call, so if you just really love something specific, you might never be satisfied with anything else. eBay is also a good way to get rid of old gear, or just handing it off to a friend who’ll appreciate it.

    2. Alex,
      I personally have purchased all the bags you are mentioning (Aer, Tortuga Outbreaker and even the Minaal 2.0) and like Eytan said, it’s a personal preference as to what you really want. I personally LOVE the Outbreaker so far and it doesn’t even compare to the Tortuga V2 bag. I purchased the 45L but I’m thinking about getting the 35L. I definitely feel like you could definitely downgrade to a smaller bag but still get the best of both worlds (have all the improvements unlike the Tortuga V2 and the Tortuga Air were completely different designed bags). I also think that you could definitely benefit from just the added advantages of this bag, not needing a rain cover, waterproof options, detachable hip strap, larger water bottle option, suspension straps (although bulky, your shoulders will love you!)…but again, it’s totally up to you. If you are in the military, they will give you a 20% discount: you just have to prove you’re in the military (Military ID or LES). Just my two cents.

  6. Hey, thanks for the review! do you think this bag would fit on ryanair as a carry on bag? Thats my biggest worry.. I am going to flying mainly budget airlines throughout Europe for 4-6 months and the extra fees they charge scare the living hell out of me! If it will fit within the Ryanair requirements with ease, I will get this bag asap!

    1. I just checked the listed dimensions for RyanAir, and the little one will definitely fit. The big one MIGHT, but it’s too big by just a centimeter or two in a couple dimensions, but it’s possible to pack it a little more sparsely and shove it into their measurement system. But the 35 liter version will definitely be a safer option if you’re paranoid about the limit.

      1. okay awesome thank you! I feel as thugh the 35 l will deffs suit me better, as long as i can stuff a small pair of converses in it, i’ll be fine! Basically just need a weeks worth of clothing!

  7. I gotta say I found your blog a few days ago and I kinda fell in love(?) with the tone and narrative of your comments and insights in your posts.

    Now i’m planning on getting this V3, but don’t know if the 35 or 45L would best fit me, since i’m 6 1 tall. Was the 35L comfortable to you?


    1. Thanks! Always happy to help, in my own weird way.

      The height adjustments on the Tortuga are going to make them have such an overlap in terms of who can use them that I would only bother worrying about the capacity. I’m 5’10” and I used the small one with the height adjustment lowered a few steps, so even if you need it higher, I doubt it would be a problem. Maybe a 6’6″ guy would need the bigger one, but I wouldn’t get too worried about it at your height.

  8. Thanks for the great review!

    Will you be doing one for the Venturesafe EXP45 as well or do have any thoughts on that?

    Am very inclined to buying it, but there are not a lot of reviews out there, so I don’t know, if it’s any good…

    1. I’d like a bit more exterior access, but obviously they were going for security. For me it’s a little flashy in terms of the appearance, but oh well. If you can lock the zippers and loop the lock around a strap so it can’t move, that’s a lot safer, and it’s harder to do the “pen trick” (which allows you to break into a zipper and close it back up) with no one noticing.

  9. Got my 35L Outbreaker and I’m in the midst of writing a post about how I plan to pack it for 3 months in East Africa. It’s already more than 3000 words and I’m hardly halfway through.
    So, some quick comments on your great post:
    1. I beg to differ that the many pockets reduce the need for packing cubes.
    2. Going through airport security without removing your laptop doesn’t always work. On my last flight, I had to take it out and put it in a separate plastic box. Bad Addis Ababa Bad!
    3. The two zippered compartments that line the internal walls are too small for sandals or even for Crocs. Maybe flip-flops can fit in. Maybe the 45L can contain them. I don’t know.
    4. The hip belt is extremely comfortable but not good enough for my needs and I plan to try and replace it with one of my own design.

    I will go into details on these issues and many others in my post.

    After all I’ve gone through with the backpack order, I can’t wait to start travelling with my 35L Outbreaker!!!

    1. Interesting perspective on some of those other issues, but I hope you like it, and I hope you have a great time traveling with it.

  10. Thanks for the comprehensive review and all the very helpful info on your blog. I especially liked your piece on Lake Izamal vs Atitlan in Guatemala.

    I see that Amazon is offering the discontinued Tortuga V2 for $150 . I’m retired and living in Mexico and expect my foreseeable traveling to be in Mexico and Central America but, of course, one never knows, do one ? I do like to travel light but occasionally find buying various types of gifts and irresistible items, um, irresistible. So, I’m considering buying a travel backpack and a packable duffle for the return trip with said irresistible items . Given all that and the price difference between the V2 and new 35 L Tortuga, which would you choose ?

    Thanks !

    1. The new one is far more durable (and waterproof), but I think the old one is still quite good, so if you don’t need those features, picking it up for a bargain isn’t a bad idea at all.

  11. How come the Tortuga backpacks always seem to be unnecessarily heavy? I appreciate the company using higher quality materials and stronger fabrics. I do. But the Tortuga backpacks are always heavier for their size. Only the smaller GoRuck backpacks have the Tortuga beat when it comes to being unnecessarily heavy. The GoRucks are built with military quality. You can practically drive a tank over one!

    1. I agree, although they just announced a much lighter option on their site. I have the samples of it right now, and I’ll try to get a review up here in the next few months, after I get a feel for it. I do have some philosophical differences this time around though, but the choices are much lighter. Their Tortuga Air was pretty great, and you might be able to find it on eBay or Amazon for a while still.

      1. Any updates on when you might get to post your details on it? And on the Outbreaker compression straps, how effective are they? It looks like they’d just shrink the top in?

        I’m torn with finding a new 35ish bag and a 45ish one I can compress down most of the time or carry part full easily.

        1. Yeah, the compression straps on the Outbreaker will mostly compress the top, but I don’t think that’s so bad. For the sizing, draw it out on a big sheet of paper or get a long string and form it into a rectangle as big as the stated size. That’ll give you a good idea of how big and bulky it can be. 45 liters to me is way too big for a regular daypack, and I’d prefer having a 20 liter for everyday use, just to feel more normal.

          As for the Homebase collection, I like the duffel, but the backpack just doesn’t work for me. The straps are incredibly stiff and unforgiving, and way too close to my neck, and they dig in. Also they’re set in very low, so when I adjust them correctly, the pack is way too high up and I can hit it with my head. Ah well.

          1. Oo, bummer on the Homebase straps. Makes it easier to not wait for it then, heh.

            I’m looking for just general travel, so the day to day isn’t a concern (I inevitably have a camera bag). Mostly I just prefer to backpack carry. Basically I really like the Aeronaut (have an S25), but the outbreaker seems like the better value before they hike the price, heh.

            ~45L thinking was just more “just in case” thinking. It entered my mind as I wondered why there weren’t many options. I probably won’t because it’ll be more than I want to carry in a bag anyway.

  12. I’m looking for a tip on utilizing the fanciness of this. I’ve long been into using a carry-on backpack suitcase (but one that’s not as comfortable as this, which is why I’m upgrading) but when I get on a plane I put my bag in the overhead bin and then throw a small bag (light nylon briefcase or backpack/tote) with my eye mask, inflateable neck pillow, laptop, e-reader, earphones, hand lotion, hand sanitizer, snacks, and water bottle. Ideally I stuff that smaller bag in my carry-on and pull it out when I board but often space fills up and I have two bags much of the time. During flight I keep that smaller bag on the floor for easy access. The Tortuga has compartments for all that stuff but if I neatly organize it I will just have to get everything out before boarding and put it in a more convenient bag. In that case there’s no point having those great compartments bc they make the pre- and post-flight tasks more difficult. It would be nice not to deal w a second bag in flight, but it’s convenient and I need to have a daypack or briefcase (for a conference) anyway on any trip I take. You seem to utilize all those compartments so what do you do in-flight? Do you just access your bag a lot during the flight each time you need something (I switch often between reading, computer, sleeping, needing lotion, etc)? I always sit in an aisle seat but it’s more hassle to get into the bins than to get stuff from a tote on the floor. If I’m missing something here and could change my style to utlize these features let me know, or if my way of travel means I don’t needs these extra (and weighty) bells and whistles then what bag do you think is best for me? I love this pack for its comfort and aesthetics and want to keep it but it seems many of the features are wasted on me.

    1. Usually I just grab a book, a water bottle, and maybe a snack bar. I think if you have these things in the outer pockets and grab them just before you board the plane, it’ll work. When I’m walking around, I still want externally accessible pockets, for things like sunglasses, a rain jacket, sweater, sunscreen, papers and pens, and so on, which is usually more than what I need for the flight. An alternative is to load everything you need for the flight into a small bag like you’ve described, and just take that bag out during the flight. Then when you’re walking around, the main bag still has lots of external compartments for other types of things that are useful when walking around town. If, however, you’re a little more used to taking taxis to get to and from the hotel or hostel, then it might make more sense to make your smaller bag your “main” bag, and the big bag can just be a simple, lightweight backpack, or even a duffel bag, just filled with spare clothing. Whichever bag you’re carrying around most of the time is the one you’d want to have some pretty good organization.

  13. Hello! My husband and I are getting ready to retire and travel SE Asia and all over the world for as long as time will allow. We are in our late 60’s and would like a rolling backpack that we can carry on flights. We plan on rolling it when possible, using the backpack only when needed. Would prefer something under $300 but will do what is needed for comfort, construction and design. Any ideas would be greatly appreciated! Thanks!

    1. I don’t have experience with them, but Osprey and Eagle Creek both have rolling backpacks, and lifetime warranties. They do add quite a bit of weight, so I’m not sure if they’d be preferable to using a regular rolling suitcase that’s a bit smaller, combined with a small daypack for walking around town. They might be so big and heavy that you’ll never want to use them, and if you have a small rolling suitcase instead, it might be less annoying that the only hassle you have to deal with is carrying it up a flight of stairs every once in a while.

    2. Agree with Eytan here that rolling backpacks are often the “worst of both worlds.” Added weight and less storage in relation to volume as you’re packing in both a frame and a shoulder suspension system. You also end up having to squeeze your body between the wheel frame, which can be uncomfortable.

      Various family members of mine have the Sojourn Convertible and the just wheeled (no backpack) Ozone from Osprey. Those with the Sojourn have never used it as a backpack, and are often looking on with envy at the Ozone 46L wheeled bag – it is lighter, has better storage, and generally does the trick.

      The Sojourn won’t work as a backpack for anything other than an airport (where you could roll it anyway), or a jaunt to a hotel from a train or bus stop. Even then, chances are a roller will do the trick, or worse case grab a cab.

      If you definitely don’t want roller only, I recommend a roller with a shoulder strap (duffel / messenger style). These are few and far between, but Patagonia, LLBean, and others may have them. Osprey (and others) also makes a backpack cover / carrier with a shoulder strap that is packable, so you could always stash that then pop your roller into it when you need to get it off the ground.

  14. I’m really glad I ran across your review for this backpack, it answered several questions I had about it! That being said, I still have few more questions. But first a little background that may help you in answering my questions.

    Right now I’m looking for a new backpack for school, to be exact for the Respitatory Care program I am in. I currently use North Faces Recon backpack. It is 31L and is not water resistant, at least in my experience. Which is a necessity seeing as my laptop is required for all of my classes, and I’ve had a few close calls getting caught in the rain and finding water on my laptop. No damage though thankfully! Frankly, 31L isn’t enough room for all of my school supplies. Additionally, with clinicals coming up, I will also need room for a stethoscope, pulse oximeter, and two extra sets of scrubs. And seeing as I am 6’4″ tall and weigh 250lbs, my scrubs take up a lot of room in any bag lol!!

    So anyway, with all of that background info, do you think either the 45 or the 35 version of this bag would fill the needs that I have?
    And secondly, if not, are there any other bags that you could recommend I look into?

    Thank you for your time, and I can definitely say I’ll be reading a lot more of your reviews and other content! -Jacob

    1. It looks like water resistance and size are some of your main concerns, along with carrying a laptop, and this bag will definitely work quite nicely for that. Go ahead and draw the dimensions out to get an idea of what it would look like (or get a long string, and measure out a rectangle of those dimensions). I think the 35 liter version looks like quite a big pack for just a daypack, but it sounds like you need extra room anyway, so it has to be big. If you’re just barely not getting enough room in the 31 liter pack you already have, 35 will probably be fine, though keep in mind “regular” school backpacks like the recon are sometimes easier to stuff to capacity, because they don’t have the fully-opening door that you have to squish down.

  15. Sorry but at 4+ lbs, it fails miserably. Not sure why all these hyper-expensive packs are 3+ lbs but after wasting a lot of money, I came across the Cabin Zero 44L which is like 1.7 lbs and does the job at around 100 bucks

    1. There’s definitely a cost/benefit factor with the more burly straps and serious suspension system. I would say that the bigger the pack, the more sense it makes to make these changes, so the 45 liter Tortuga would benefit from those features if you’re carrying it around all the time, but at 35 liters, I think something with thinner, simpler straps would be fine.

  16. I’m departing on my first solo backpacking trip to South America and I have purchased the Outbreaker 45L. I’m planning on doing some dancing and hiking so carrying an extra pair of dancing shoes. On different days I plan on taking food, and water for about a full day hike. One of the main requirements that I have is to get a pack that looks casual. The first option that I came up with is the Daylite Pack from Tom Bihn but reviewers have said that it lacks padding to be used for full day treks. I was thinking about moving up to the Synapse 19-25L. Does this seem like a logical choice for what I’m looking for?

    1. I adore my Synapse 25, so I’m happy to recommend it. It is possible, however, to find packable backpacks with a bit of mesh padding in the back panel (from Eddie Bauer, for example, among others). This might be a little more workable than taking two “real” backpacks, since the Synapse is compressible, but not officially “packable,” which would mean stuffing itself into its own pocket. It would be fine for carrying maybe 5-8 pounds without much trouble, but above that, I’d try to take a real backpack.

      1. Thanks for the quick reply. Also, just wondering if you have ever done a review of the Cladpidgeon travel backpack

        1. I haven’t seen it before, but it certainly looks like it’ll work. I’m wondering how they can get the price so low, though…but oh well. The layout looks functional, if a little clunky, and I’d be worried about durability at that price.

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