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The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is a bag custom-built for travelers by travelers. Tortuga’s team is a made up of digital nomads, living and traveling all over the globe. The best way to design a product is to “scratch your own itch,” and this is clearly how the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack came to be. This bag really caught my eye, due to its intelligent features, like air-flow back padding, water-resistant sailcloth, multiple internal organization pockets, and adjustable straps. I used it as my one bag to carry on our trip around the world, and it worked perfectly!
Packing for a trip around the world is a big deal! It becomes even more critical when the trip involves 18 flight legs. A trip like this would be miserable if I had to lug around a heavy suitcase, so I opted for the much more portable backpack. I specifically carried the 35-liter version of the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack. They also offer a 45L option, but this review covers the smaller version.
If you would like a breakdown of my round-the-world packing list, see this article. In brief, I was able to pack everything I needed for the 30-day trip in this backpack, with room to spare! Not only can it hold a ton of stuff, but it feels great to carry. Read on to find out what I loved, and what tweaks I would suggest in my Tortuga Outbreaker review.
What I Love
The strap system on the Outbreaker backpack is excellent. Padded shoulder straps offer a comfortable experience, even with a full pack. The lower strap clips across my hips to transfer the weight off my shoulders and load it vertically onto my hips. Until you experience the magic of a well-designed waist strap, it is difficult to describe. I’ll just say that the pack never felt as heavy as the scale suggested.
The shoulder straps can also be moved down the back panel for people with shorter torsos. With a quick adjustment of the Velcro attachment, you can find the perfect fit for your body size.
At first glance, I was not a fan of the pockets on the waist strap. I wasn’t sure if I could find a use for them. During the trip, I started putting my cameras into these pockets. I carried the GoPro in one pocket and the Canon G16 in the other. That way, I had quick access to the cameras anytime I needed them.
I cannot stress this point enough! The Tortuga Outbreaker 35L is the perfect size for carry-on travel. We flew 18 individual flight legs on our trip around the world. Not one, single gate agent questioned the size or weight of my backpack. It fit easily into the overhead bins on even the smallest planes. One time, due to our late boarding position, I had to put the Outbreaker under the seat in front of me. It fit just fine, although my legs were a bit cramped. Do yourself a favor and NEVER check a bag again… it’s truly the best way to travel!
The Outbreaker Backpack is made from waterproof sailcloth. Sailcloth is literally the material used to make boat sails, which obviously need to withstand a lot of water. Sealed zippers also add to the water resistance. If you’re stuck in a rainstorm, your precious belongings should stay dry. Although, I would not suggest spraying a fire hose at the backpack. The sailcloth definitely came in handy during the rainy season in Thailand!
Air Flow Padding
I spent a great deal of time carrying this pack through airports and cities during this trip. The Ariaprene mesh padding, on the shoulder straps and along the back panel, allows air to flow through.
Packing Cube Fit
In addition to the Outbreaker backpack, Tortuga also offers a set of packing cubes (sold separately). I found that the two small cubes and one large cube fit perfectly into the main section of the backpack. I packed my pants, shorts, t-shirts, and button down into the large cube. One small cube held my small electronics/chargers, and the other small cube held camera gear. This allowed me to maximize the space within the bag and keep everything organized.
Interior Mesh Compartments
Initially, I wasn’t sure how to utilize the mesh compartments on the lid of the main area. After some trial and error, I found that I could fit my packable daypack and my Rohan rain jacket in one compartment. The other held my toiletry bag and a ziplock with our sunscreen and laundry soap.
Electronics Storage with Soft Fleece
With digital nomads as the primary market for this bag, you would expect the electronic compartments to be serious. The back panel offers pockets to protect a laptop (up to 15-inches) and a tablet/kindle. For easy transit through airport security, the back panel folds out flat. This way, you can leave your laptop an tablet in the bag. The pockets are also lined with super-soft fleece to keep screens safe… a very nice touch!
Quick Access Pocket
The pocket along the top of the front panel folds down for easy access to things you need during travel. I kept my passport, power bank, headphones, and kindle in this handy pocket.
Tortuga also offers a wet-dry bag (sold separately). During days on the water, this little bag kept all of our electronics and money dry. The rolltop design allows you to expand it as needed to carry more gear. We used it on our day tour of Phang Nga Bay, during scuba trips in the Maldives, and for our sunset booze cruise in Santorini. Definitely recommend this little bag!
What I Would Change
Front/Bottom Panel Access
While the top pocket on the front panel offers easy access, the bottom pocket is tough to get into, especially while the pack is full. The panel sewn over the zipper becomes very tight under tension from a full main compartment. I packed items in this pocket that I would only need when the pack was empty. It was a perfect place to store the laundry supplies – elastic clothesline and sink stopper.
Large Electronics Compartment
As I mentioned above, this bag is built with digital nomads in mind. The electronics compartment on the back of the pack can hold a laptop up to 15 inches, and it includes additional mesh pockets for chargers. I usually only carry an 11-inch MacBook Air, which leaves a lot of extra space in the electronics compartment. I couldn’t find a great use for this spare room, which would have been better utilized in the main compartment. If I carried a larger laptop or more electronics, this compartment would be more useful.
At 4.6lbs, this backpack is heavy, relative to many packs on the market. I’ve read a few other reviews, and the weight comes up each time. Honestly, when I picked up the empty pack, I noticed the extra weight. However, once the pack was fully loaded and the hip straps were fastened, the added ounces were completely undetectable. The added features, like the padding, waist straps, and internal organization contribute to the extra poundage. If you’re an “ultralight” traveler, and every ounce matters, this may not be the pack for you. Check out Tortuga’s new Homebase Collection if you’re really weight-conscious.
Side pockets are typically useful for carrying water bottles. Once I filled the pack, however, I had trouble fitting a bottle into the side pockets. I did find a good use for these pockets as a place to carry my gorilla pod and GoPro selfie stick.
The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is a fantastic option for a long or short trip. After 18 flights, 12 hotels, and many miles with the Outbreaker on my back, I can 100% say that it is an awesome backpack! The Ariaprene padding, adjustable hip straps, waterproof sailcloth, packing cube compatibility, and the perfect carry-on sizing make this pack an ideal travel companion. Visit Tortuga Backpacks for more information.