Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack Review

Disclaimer: The team at Tortuga sent me this backpack to review; however, all opinions are my own.

Summary


A big, burly, backpack that can comfortably carry a ton of kit. It brings the best features from a suitcase and a hiking backpack together. If you’re transitioning from a suitcase to backpack travel or just need the space – the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack (45L) is for you.

ProsCons
Extremely comfortable to carry, tons of bedding not he back and shouldersExtremely heavy
Excellent air vents on the backNot many carry styles, pretty much just a backpack
Easy to packNot suitable for daily carry
Great internal organization in the main compartmentArguably carries too much?
Very good build quality
Included hip belts
Load lifter straps help lighten the load
Adjustable shoulder suspension

Specs

  • Dimensions: 22 x 14 x 9″
  • Volume: 45L
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • Fit: 16-20″ torso
  • Laptop: 17″ Macbook
  • Tablet: 9.7″ tablet
  • Outer Material: VX21 waterproof sailcloth
  • Padding: Ariaprene foam
  • Zippers: Weather-resistant, lockable YKK zippers
  • Buckles: Duraflex buckles
  • Origin: Made in China

About Tortuga

Tortuga was founded by two childhood friends, Jeremy and Fred, in 2009. Frustrated with the current options, they made a bag they wanted to use; it was that simple.

As a company, Tortuga represents everything good in the world. It is a small business that treats its customers and its own team how they should be treated. They also have a fully remote team, letting their employees work worldwide.

As a bag maker, they make some of the best travel backpacks in the market to this day. The materials they use and the attention to detail are second to none.

The Tortuga Outbreak Backpack

The Outbreaker backpack debuted a few years ago as one of the first backpacks dedicated to travel. Not a hiking backpack, not a suitcase, a bag made for city travel. From the Tortuga team:

Suitcases aren’t made for city travel. Good luck dragging a heavy roller bag over cobblestone streets and up a few flights of stairs to your Airbnb.

Hiking backpacks aren’t much better. They’re too big to be carried on and too disorganized to work well as luggage.

Tortuga.com

They couldn’t be more correct. So the Tortuga team created the Outbreaker backpack, and it comes in two sizes, a 35L and a 45L. This backpack is meant to bring the best of both worlds from the backpacking backpack and a full-fledge suitcase.

Materials and Aesthetic

Right off the bat, the Tortuga Outbreaker is pretty distinct looking. It’s very rectangular, not rounded like you see some of the other travel backpacks. In fact, from afar, it kind of looks like a small suitcase just strapped to your back.

The materials they use are fantastic. On the outside, VX21 waterproof sailcloth so you never have to worry about your stuff getting wet. And all the zippers are weather-resistant, lockable YKK zippers. Seriously, no reason to worry about rain or even a rain cover.

The outside sailcloth has a nice look and feels, even a bit technical. And with all black and minimal branding, the bag looks pretty inconspicuous, a bonus for travel. But it is pretty noticeable in the travel community; you can spot these out in the wild pretty easily.

Outside the bag

The front of the backpack is simple, a small Tortuga logo that is actually pretty tasteful.

On the back is probably the most noticeable feature – the suspension system. These chunky shoulder straps and back padding are just monsters – by far the biggest I’ve ever seen on a travel backpack. There are detachable hip straps to help carry the load as well. A really cool aspect of the suspension system is that it’s fully adjustable to fit 16-20″ torsos.

One downside is that these straps do not stowaway, like many other travel backpacks nowadays. This doesn’t matter much since I don’t often hide/remove the straps anyway, but for those who make use of different carry modes might find this a deal-breaker.

There are also some load lifter straps on the top, a welcome addition and one you don’t often see in travel backpacks. But at 45L, you’ll definitely appreciate them.

On both sides of the backpack, there are two water bottle pockets. These pockets are just big enough to fit a large water bottle. The material on these things is pretty thin, but I wouldn’t be worried about them ripping.

Also, on both sides are two compression straps that you can use to compress the backpack or attach some gear to the outside, like a jacket or yoga mat. The straps are simple; they make me happy.

There’s one gigantic, comfortable handle on the top of the bag. However, that’s the only handle on this bag. This is a bit of a bummer since sometimes another handle or two come in handy when in transit.

Pockets

There are four main pockets on the Tortuga Outbreaker backpack.

The first two on the front are relatively straightforward; both are about 5 inches in height and have a touch of depth to them. These are very similar to the front pockets on the Aer Travel Pack. In all honesty, I don’t often find myself using these kinds of pockets. To me, they aren’t convenient enough or easy enough to get into. But you can fit some oddly shaped items like headphones or a computer charger.

Tucked behind these two external pockets is another pocket, designed with a bit more organization and quick access in mind. It has pockets to hold some pens, an iPad/table, some cables, notebooks, and a variety of items you’ll want readily available during your travels.

In practice, these types of organization pockets are always a little hit or miss in my opinion. Some extra organization and assortment of pockets is appreciated, but often I never quite know what I’m supposed to use them for – the small pockets inside are either too big or too small for the stuff I have.

Next up is the main pocket.

The main pocket is, and I can’t stress this enough, cavernous. It looks similar to your typical suitcase-style clamshell, with one main compartment and two smaller mesh pockets on the panel.

The mesh pockets have a touch of depth, which I really appreciate. I used these for socks/underwear and some tech or camera accessories – Steph ended up using it for a curling iron I think? An excellent addition is actually four built-in packing cubes along the sides in the main compartment. You can easily stuff some toiletries or other randomly shaped items that you might want handy.

This compartment is so big that you’ll definitely want some packing cubes to help organize your gear. Conveniently, Tortuga sells some packing cubes designed explicitly for their bag.

Finally, the computer/tech pocket on the back. This compartment opens 3/4 of the way and has a few pockets going on inside.

There is a large padded laptop sleeve on the back panel lined with a microfiber-type material. This pocket is big enough to fit a 17″ MacBook and has a separate pocket for a tablet, Kindle, or some travel documents. The sleeve is also raised from the ground by about 2″, so you won’t worry about your laptop.

Opposite the laptop sleeve is three other pockets. These are mesh pockets, similar to those in the main compartment. Ostensibly these pockets are for some other tech organization, documents, passports, etc. And there is some depth, so you can fit a laptop charger in there too, which is pretty nice.

I found these a little painful to use in practice, especially given the compartment only opens 3/4 of the way. I would have preferred to have more organization – more, smaller pockets – something like how Minaal organized their laptop compartment.

Road Test Performance

I took the Tortuga Outbreaker on a few different road tests, and my girlfriend took it on a few of her own. Also noteworthy, I am testing the large Outbreaker 45L backpack. Though largely the same features, I’d imagine the 35L would probably carry a bit different.

First and foremost, this backpack is one of the most comfortable I’ve ever experienced – by far. And that includes actual, dedicated hiking backpacks. You can load this thing up and still carry it rather comfortably and without the straps digging in, so I wouldn’t really worry about fatigue much at all. Oh and the big back padding lets plenty of air through so it doesn’t get too, uh, sweaty…

And it’s not too hard to load this thing up, the Tortuga Outbreak fits a ton of shit. In fact, it holds so much stuff that Steph ended up stealing this one from me because she suffers from the classic “overpacking syndrome.”

Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack

In each of my tests, I never fully packed this thing out. But since it’s so big, it allowed me to be a little lazy when I was packing, which I found relieving. You know when you have to pack a bag at the end of your trip after all your shit has exploded in the hotel, and you just can’t? Yeah, that probably won’t be an issue with this backpack – just shove all your things in and zip it up.

Still, I craved a touch more organization – or rather different organization. The quick access pockets lacked a little depth to them, so throwing some oddly shaped objects would give the backpack a weird bulge.

I confess that I didn’t attempt to use this as a daily carry option when I got to my destination. In theory, you could ratchet down on the compression straps to make this thing pretty small. But those straps are only at the top of the backpack so they don’t compress the entire bag or really even compress that much.

This type of backpack could be perfect for those trying to transition to an ultralight, one-bag travel experience. It gives you the space and comfort of a suitcase but the flexibility and agility you get in a backpack.

Now since I am using the 45L, some of these qualms could be resolved by the 35L – the smaller version could give a pretty different experience. The packing and organization will be the same, but you’ll get a much more manageable size that might even fit underneath the seat in front of you on the plane as long as you get the straps to cooperate.

Overall

Wearing this thing is like a hug – seriously. The big beefy shoulder straps, back padding, and hip straps make for the most comfortable backpack I’ve ever used. The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack has virtually the same carry system as some dedicated hiking/backpacking bags.

And the amount of shit it carries is preposterous. If you can’t fit your stuff into this bag, you’re bringing wayyyy too much with you.

And it’s easy to pack. Some bags have a way, a system, and constraints on how you fill them. Not with this thing. With the Tortuga Outbreaker, you get an organized black hole that will fit your closet.

If you’re transitioning from a suitcase to one-bag backpack travel, or need a good-looking way to carry a ton shit, the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is for you.

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