I’ve been a big fan of the Tortuga Setout, which has been my main travel bag over the past year. More recently, I had the chance to also try out the Tortuga Outbreaker, which is Tortuga’s most heavy-duty backpack designed for the more serious traveler.

The Outbreaker is a phenomenal backpack, especially when you focus closely on the specs. I don’t know of many carry-on backpacks that have this many features, are made of such premium material, and are this comfortable to carry.

But, as always, there are certain trade-offs in backpack design, and so the Tortuga Outbreaker may not be the ideal backpack for everyone. It’s definitely a high-end backpack for a particular type of traveller, and the added expense over a Setout backpack may not be worth it quite for everyone.

Price $299

Pros

  • Incredible high-quality materials
  • The most pockets and pouched I have probably ever seen
  • Fully adjustable suspension system
  • Carry-on sized

Cons

  • Heavier than many other backpacks

Two different models

The Outbreaker Backpack has two model options – 35 liters and 45L. The 45L is obviously bigger by a few inches than the 35L.

45L 35L
Size 22″ x 14″ x 9” 20.3″ x 12.9″ x 8.2”
Weight 5.1 lbs (2.3 kg) 4.6 lbs (2.1 kg)
What fits? Laptop: 17” Macbook Laptop: 17” Macbook
Tablet: 9.7” Tablet: 9.7”
Fit: 16-20” torsos Fit: 16-19” torsos

In this review, I’ve looked at the 45L version. This is the size I would recommend for any digital nomads, long-term travellers, and anyone else needing the maximum level of carry-on storage space.

The 35L could work for longer trips as well if you are a very minimalistic packer, but generally I’d say the 35L is for weekend trips, business trips, or short holidays only.

Notable features

The Outbreaker has lots of features, many of which are quite standard and that you can easily read about on the official site. Let me simply highlight a few that stand out in particular to me.

It’s front loading

If your backpack is top-loading, finding your stuff and putting them back after your remove can be a hassleThe Outbreaker backpack however, makes it easier for you to access your clothes and travel essentials since you can open it much like a suitcase.

It’s obsessed with organizational features

Listing them all would be tedious, but let’s just say that the Outbreaker has more organizational sleeves, pockets, and mesh compartments than the vast majority of travel backpacks. Compared with other popular packs like the Osprey Farpoint and Tortuga Setout (or similar products), it has at least 2X or 3X more organizational features.

Fully-featured and height adjustable harness

The suspension system is awesome! It’s super comfy, has thick straps, and includes a great hip belt (with pockets). Better yet, you can easily adjust the whole suspension system to your specific height!

This is a feature normally found only on advanced trekking packs, but here it is on a regular travel backpack. Using easy to use velcro strips, you can switch the height to half a dozen different settings.

This probably won’t be so amazing if you have average height, as most packs already have got you covered. But it’s amazing if you are taller or shorter than most people.

I am unusually tall: 1.94m (or about 6 foot 4). This makes most backpacks a bit awkward for me to carry. After adjusting the Outbreaker, it’s a lot nicer for me to carry than most other packs. It rests on my shoulders much better — it doesn’t tug on my shoulders nearly as much as other backpacks, and having it at the right height helps distribute the weight along my entire back and torso.

Highly durable sailcloth material

The bag itself is made out of a unique X-Pac sailcloth, which is highly waterproof and uniquely durable. This is a multi-layered material and literally what sails are made of. Thanks also to weather-sealed zippers, this is a bag you can feel totally comfortable taking out into the rain. I would say you can even take this into a raging thunderstorm without needing any additional rain cover, making this wonderfully suited to serious travellers.

Indeed, it’s rated as waterproof and not water resistant as is more common.

Tortuga Outbreaker vs Setout

The price of the Outbreaker is currently $269 for the 35L, or $299 for the 45L. The Setout meanwhile costs $199 and has a similar design in some respects.

It’s worth considering which backpack is actually best for you, as it could save you a fair chunk of change. You’ll find the key specs in the table below:

Outbreaker Backpack Setout Backpack
Models 35L 45L  45L
Size 20.3″ x 12.9″ x 8.2” 22″ x 14″ x 9” 22” x 14” x 9”
Color Black Black Gray
Material X-Pac waterproof sailcloth 900D heathered polyester
Price $269.00 – 35L $299.00 – 45L $199.00
Carry-on Yes Yes
Weight 4.6 lbs 5.1 lbs 3.3 lbs
Front Loading Yes Yes
Padded Removable Hip Belt Yes Yes
Hideable straps No Yes
Waterproof Yes No. Water Resistant Only
Rain Cover Not Applicable Add on for $35.00

I have owned and used both these backpacks and I have to say that they each have different pros and cons. The Outbreaker is certainly better in many respects, but the Setout could also well be sufficient for your needs — it really depends on what’s most important to you, and both these models have their place. I’ll talk about this more in the pros and cons below.

Keep in mind that any 45L bag, if overstuffed, might still slightly exceed the carry-on limits.

My experiences: pros and cons

Firstly, I like the design. It may be a bit boxy, but it’s also quite unassuming and doesn’t draw too much attention. The backpack is very comfortable to wear.

The organizational features are spectacular. I normally use packing cubes and a travel organizer to keep my stuff organized, but that’s not necessary at all with the Outbreaker. (By the way, that could mean saving about $50 on accessories that you might otherwise have to purchase separately.)

The material used is also amazing. I think you can feel very confident that the Outbreaker isn’t going to rip or let any water in.

So… could there be a catch?

Well, one problem with the amazing number of organizational features and the premium sailcloth material is the weight. All these features make the bag quite a bit heavier, and for me (as a light packer) every bit of weight counts.

The Outbreaker is about 35% heavier than a Setout. It’s also about 40% heavier than an Osprey Farpoint 40, to give another comparison.

If you’re going on a backpacking trip or staying in hostels, and you like to travel super light, this might not be the best pack for you. For this, I prefer the Setout, even though it doesn’t have rainproof zippers and has only about half the number of pockets and sleeves.

The other compromise is in terms of space. Due to the sheer number of features, the Outbreaker can feel slightly more cramped than other bags of a similar size. I loaded the Setout and Outbreaker side-by-side, and my subjective impression was that the Setout could fit a bit more in its main compartment.

Then again, the materials used make the Outbreaker seem practically unbreakable. It also has an amazing suspension system. And if organizational features are more important than weight for you, chances are that you’re going to love this backpack.

I like that the organizational features on the Outbreaker are still quite flexible to use for different things compared to, say, the Nomatic Travel Pack which mostly designs each feature around very specific functions (e.g. a specific compartment only for shoes, one only for holding a book, etc.)

I somewhat prefer lighter backpacks made of slightly less stiff material than the Outbreaker, but I think it’s among the best backpacks with a sturdier build — and with all the features a serious traveller could possibly wish for. If rain resistance, durability and comfort are among your priorities, you can’t go wrong with this the Tortuga Outbreaker.

Where to buy: the Tortuga Outbreaker is sold exclusively through the Tortuga online Store