Tortuga’s has launched the 4th generation version of its Tortuga Travel Backpack, which I recently tested on a trip in Portugal. A few nitpicks aside, Tortuga has done a superb job with this backpack design, which has quickly become my favorite new premium backpack.
- Balanced design with numerous storage options
- Amazingly comfortable straps and suspension system
- Durable and rugged materials; waterproof zippers
- It's not the cheapest backpack around
This is an independent review. The post contains affiliate links.
In a nutshell
Compared to the previous Tortuga Outbreaker product line, this pack has somewhat pared down the number of pouches and zipped compartments. However, this has helped streamline the design and improve usability. By providing lots of features but without becoming overloaded with them, Tortuga has struck the perfect balance with the v4 Travel Backpack.
Comfort-wise, the Tortuga Travel Backpack feels more akin to a hiking pack than a typical urban travel backpack, which is my way of saying it is very comfortable to wear. The height-adjustable harness is very well-padded and comfortable. This makes it easier to wear for extended periods — and better in this regard than competitors like the Peak Design 45L Travel Backpack or the Nomatic Travel Backpack.
This pack is highly suitable for both urban and adventure travel, so if you’re looking for a high-quality “buy it for life” product, I can strongly recommend it regardless of what your travel style is.
Who is it for?
Okay, first off: if you’re on a budget or if you’re looking for a super light option then this is probably not the best choice for you.
At $349 it’s not exactly the cheapest pack around. That said, what you get for the price is an extremely robust pack. Tortuga hasn’t skimped on anything here, using a highly robust SHELL200 fabric and providing a wealth of pockets and organizational features.
Its aesthetic is that of an urban/air travel backpack, but considering the laminated exterior material, the waterproof zippers, the full-featured suspension system, and overall ruggedness, this pack is highly appropriate for outdoor and adventure travel as well.
The exterior is made of a material called SHELL200 — the Tortuga blog has all the geeky details on it. It feels very rugged and a little ‘blobby’ when you touch it. Taking this into heavy weather will be no problem.
For just a bit of casual travel, this pack is probably overkill. But if you’re a frequent or professional traveller, or planning a big trip, then I think it’s definitely worth considering the investment.
Where to buy
Tortuga is a direct-to-consumer brand, so they sell their products exclusively online via their own website.
Is it carry-on?
Yes, the Tortuga Travel Backpack is fully carry-on compliant.
There are two sizes. The 30L edition is more appropriate for shorter trips (or very minimalistic travel), while the 40L is intended for trips of a week or more. I tested the 40L for this review.
It would have been nice if the 40L could expand in some way beyond carry-on size for trips where you’re overlanding or checking in your luggage. This is a neat feature on the Peak Design 45L backpack.
But if you’re happy with a maximum carry-on size then the Tortuga Travel Backpack fits the bill and will feel very spacious inside.
Is it comfortable to carry?
Compared to other premium backpacks, the Tortuga feels closer to a hiking backpack in terms of the overall comfort level.
Thanks to a height-adjustable harness, a thick waist belt, and load lifter straps, I never experienced any back- or shoulder discomfort even when wearing it for long periods of time.
I’d like to compare it again to the Peak Design 45L, as I feel these packs target a similar audience. Compared to the Peak Design, the Tortuga Travel Backpack is much more comfortable to carry. It has much more padding on the shoulder straps and a wider and much more padded waist belt. It’s also more comfortable than the Nomatic Travel Backpack, Osprey Porter 46, and Pacsafe Venturesafe EXP45, to name a few competitors.
The suspension system can be adjusted based on your torso height, which is always an amazing feature to have, especially if you are of non-average height (like me). The straps are stuck with velcro to the back panel and, with a bit of effort, can be removed and slid up or down. This system is very similar to the new Osprey Farpoint 40, though having a much greater adjustment range.
All this makes it suitable to carry for longer than just navigating through an airport terminal. If you need to, say, hike across a Thai island to get to your eco-lodge, this pack will do perfectly.
I do have one nitpick: the waist strap doesn’t quite sit well on my waist. Mind you, I’m 6”5 or 194cm so it may not be an issue for everyone.
Tortuga’s hip belts have always sat a bit awkwardly for me, especially with the previous Setout packs. This is less the case with the Tortuga Travel Backpack, but even when I max out its height adjustment, the hip belt is still around an inch or 3cm higher up than I’d like it to be. Admittedly, this is a minor issue, and a non-existent one if you are of average or low height.
In any case, the hip belt does an excellent job of distributing weight away from your shoulders. If you don’t want to use it, it’s also fully detachable.
The pack has many compartments for organizing your travel gear.
On the outside is a generous sleeve that is ideal for quick access items or accessories like a hat or scarf. Another quick access pouch on top is perfect for keys, sunglasses, and other smaller accessories.
Upfront on the inside is a travel organizer compartment with variously sized pouches and sleeves — your passport and documents can go here. There is also a large enough space to keep an e-reader or tablet.
At the back is another travel organizer compartment, this one having mainly zipped mesh pockets. Personally, I use this for my electronics accessories like cables, spare batteries, my powerbank, and so on. There is both a laptop and tablet sleeve here, both lined with a wonderfully soft (almost velvety) material, and the laptop has a false bottom so that it isn’t hit when you drop your bag to the floor.
The main compartment feels very spacious, featuring just one full-size zipped mesh compartment, which can serve for storing toiletries or perhaps your socks and underwear, depending on how you want to pack. I really like that this compartment is not further subdivided so you can organize this area just the way you want to.
Two water bottle pockets are on the outside, made of stretchy material so they don’t stick out when not in use. They comfortably fit a half-liter bottle.
Tortuga Travel Backpack vs. Outbreaker
If you’re already familiar with the Tortuga brand, then I can say the Tortuga Travel Backpack feels a bit like a successor to the discontinued Tortuga Outbreaker.
I’ve long been a fan of the more lightweight and budget-oriented Tortuga Setout (which I hope they’ll reintroduce) but less so of the Outbreaker, which felt too boxy, cramped, and a little too overstuffed with pockets and pouches.
The V4 Travel Backpack luckily improves on the Outbreaker in many ways. Its exterior is rounded and much more streamlined, which I think really improves the aesthetics as well. The main compartment feels a lot more spacious than the Outbreaker. It still has a lot of pockets but not overwhelmingly so. (With the Outbreaker, I felt there were so many pockets that it actually got a bit less organized, making it easy to forget exactly where you put every item.)
Overall, the Tortuga Travel Backpack feels like a much more balanced design than the Outbreaker. It’s also 300 grams or 0.7 lbs lighter. When compared to the Outbreaker, I think they’ve gotten it ‘just right’ with this design.
Should you buy it?
It may come with a hefty price tag, but the Tortuga Travel Backpack is easily one the best travel backpacks I’ve used.
It feels like a merging of the best aspects of Tortuga’s previous product lines: the Setout (rounded design and portability) and Outbreaker (premium materials and lots of organization).
It has top-notch organizational features and a fantastically comfortable suspension system. It is a bit of a ‘heavy duty’ backpack though, so it’s probably most suitable for the serious traveler that will use it regularly.
Due to the robust materials used, the Tortuga Travel Backpack is a bit heavier than some; at 2.0 kg (4.5 lb) it will cut into your luggage allowance a bit compared to some other super lightweight packs. With many airlines restricting carry-on luggage weight to 7kg or 8kg these days, this aspect has become a little more important.
That said, the Tortuga’s array of organizational features can remove the need for packing cubes or other accessories, potentially saving some weight there. The water-resistant exterior also removes any need to pack a separate rain cover. And the laptop/tablet sleeves have such soft lining inside that you can leave any protective casings off your electronics.
The suspension system is superb, offering a level of comfort that is rare for ‘urban’ style travel packs, and feels more akin to what you get with a hiking pack by Osprey or other outdoorsy travel backpack manufacturers.
Tortuga has definitely outdone itself with this latest edition. If you’re looking for a premium backpack, the Tortuga Travel Backpack is absolutely one of my top picks right now.
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