We’ve been looking forward to reviewing the Tortuga Setout Backpack for a while now, and now the day is finally here. It’s gained quite a bit of popularity for its travel-specific features that are optimized mainly for airline travel.
It’s ultimately inspired by suitcases, with the goal to keep things as compact and user-friendly as possible, eliminating the need to roll around a heavy piece of luggage.
Some of the biggest motivations for choosing this pack over others include that it removes the risk of lost baggage on airlines, eliminates the need to pay for expensive checked luggage fees, and lets you avoid any long baggage check lines before going through security.
It’s marketed as the perfect middle-ground between a cheap or super expensive suitcase. Those super bulky and sometimes overly aesthetic backpacks can look too touristy, whereas the Setout blends in nicely.
Read on to discover if the Tortuga Backpack lives up to the hype of being a top quality backpack for trips. We reveal all its features, their benefits, as well as FAQs answered. Let’s begin.
Tortuga Setout Backpack Review
Our First Thoughts
The Tortuga Setout appears to be a promising option for compact travel, that isn’t overly limiting in how much you can pack. Its size allows you to take it on 3-7 day trips, so it’s a reliable choice for business trips or short holidays. We think you could get away with 2 weeks or even a little more, but only if you can wash your clothes.
While it doesn’t necessarily scream “tourist” in terms of the use of materials and overall design, it is quite bulky on the back. In other words, it doesn’t give you a very slim-profile, and sticks out quite a bit, like the shell of a turtle.
But considering the large amount of space you’re getting, and its obvious break-away from the traditional outdoorsy travel backpack appearance, we don’t see this as much of an issue. Also, since the harness system is quite strong, it doesn’t feel uncomfortable to wear. For packing the essentials on a quick urban-based trip, it looks like a reliable choice.
Important Specs at a Glance
22”H x 14”W x 9”D
Injection Molded Foam
Casual Travel in Urban Areas
Overview of Features
- International carry-on size
- Front loading clamshell opening
- Padded detachable hip belt
- 15” Laptop & 9.7” tablet compartments
- Stowaway shoulder straps
- Weather-resistant 900D polyester
- Loading lifting harness system
- Lockable zippers
- Larger inner mesh pockets
- Inner key clip
What We Love – Our Top 3 Features
GOLD QUALITY – Perfect Size
For taking on the plane, this bag does carry-on travel so perfectly. It’s our first favorite feature because of how carefully they considered the size. Not only is it suitable for taking as a carry-on based on international standards, but it is at the maximum end of the correct dimensions.
This means you can fit in as much as you can, to then travel for a little longer than you would with a regular carry-on sized bag. With the added features like hidden pockets and compression straps, you can add a lot more than you may think at first glance.
SILVER FEATURE – Support
Next is the level of support, which is provided through a special load-lifting harness system. This system is great quality, and something you might not see a lot of urban-friendly bags. Typically, they sacrifice comfort for the look, but this pack has managed to combine comfort and style in one. The hip pads are very cushiony, which feel so nice and snug against the hips. The buckle connecting these pads, as well as the sternum strap, are made of a soft nylon, which doesn’t dig into the skin.
BRONZE HIGHLIGHT– Weight Distribution
While the weight is certainly dispersed well throughout the pack thanks to the construction, the positioning of the laptop and tablet compartments is something we absolutely appreciate. Holding heavy laptops closer to the back means the bag is easier to carry, and it’s a design choice that even some premium brands forget to do.
Main Overview – Breaking Down Every Detail
Capacity & Weight
From the 45L capacity, we can tell that it fits around 5 shirts, a couple of pants, a jacket, and all the undergarments and accessories can be separated away from the main compartment.
Other than clothes, it can fit standard toiletries, a laptop and tablet, and other accessories like your chargers, earphones, notebooks, and documents. At 1.5kg, it’s rather lightweight, and won’t add much heaviness once fully packed.
While it’s not necessarily boxy, this pack is quite bulky. It’s almost like carrying a literal suitcase on your back.
Having said that though, the rounded edges do soften it down quite a bit. It doesn’t appear sharp or overly in-your-face, and this is also thanks to the simple heathered grey coloring.
This system is made up of the back padding, padded injection-molded shoulder straps, sternum belt, and hip pads and strap. It’s a robust system that is comfortable in terms of cushioning, and breathability due to the mesh lining. In fact, it transfers a whole 80% of the weight away from your shoulders.
The adjustable sternum strap has an elastic tie to eliminate dangling from excess strap parts. The waist belt is removable, and quite beefy which makes it rather pleasant to wear.
Laptop & Tablet Storage
As we mentioned in our Top 3 Features section, the laptop and tablet sleeves are located flush to your back for efficient weight dispersal. Another great aspect of this rear positioning is that it’s so effortless to take your laptop out when going through security, since it’s separated from everything else.
A Velcro strap ensures your laptop will remain secure, so it won’t slide out no matter what position the bag is in. You could also put notebooks or other A4 documents inside, as they will remain protected and flat to avoid creasing.
You’ve got an outer lay-flat pocket for your water bottle, umbrella, or a small tripod, and it’s elastic to grip onto whatever is inside to prevent things falling out and damaging.
Other exterior compartments include the hip belt zippered quick-stash pouches. You can rapidly access your phone, passport, coins, snacks, and other small valuables.
A large front flap reveals several stash pouches and a zippered pocket for smaller items, plus a key-clip attachment. You can pop your passport, pens, small notebook, sunglasses, and other essentials needed at easy reach.
The main compartment has an integrated zippered pouch for dirty clothes or smaller valuables. Plus, you’ll find two spacious zippered mesh pockets opposite the main compartment. These are for packing undergarments, accessories, and electronics to keep things organised.
These straps are located on both the left and right sides of this pack. You’ve got 4 in total. We think these are a notable feature because of how important they actually are.
Since this bag can sag a little at full capacity, these straps help to compress the contents and force the pack tighter to hug your back. Also, they don’t get in the way of the main zips. This means you can open and close it in a rush, without needing to unbuckle the straps.
Can it be used as a carry-on for airplanes?
This pack follows the maximum carry-on size, 22”H x 14” W x 9” D, for many international airlines (as long as you stay under the specified weight of course). It is large enough to pack enough for a week, while small enough to fit in and overhead bin or under a plane seat.
Will it hurt my back?
Due to the rather boxy and wide size, it’s easy to think that it may strain the back. However, with the high-quality harness system, it removes about 80% of weight from your back. It’s made up of the soft sternum strap, massive hip belt, padded load-lifting shoulder straps, and a comfy padded back panel. Everything works together to create a more comfortable experience no matter how heavy it is.
Is there a laptop compartment?
At the back of this pack there is a dedicated laptop sleeve, as well as a smaller pouch for tablets. The specified sizes they can fit are a 15” laptop, or a 9.7” tablet. Both are well protected to avoid damage, including a Velcro strap for keeping the laptop snug and secure.
Conclusion on the Tortuga Setout
Our final verdict is that the Tortuga Setout Backpack is one of the best you can get for casual travel in city areas, and it’s pretty much made specifically for streamlining airline travel. Even though it may eliminate a certain audience due to its urban-focused aesthetic, it does this aesthetic so well.
It provides extreme comfort with stylish, yet highly padded hip straps, and it has a super wide opening for storing and organising plenty of belongings. If you’ve been looking for something more attractive than some other travel-dedicated packs on the market, and you’re obsessed with handy organisational features, we think this is a dependable choice.