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EPIC Tortuga Outbreaker Review [2020]

Tortuga Outbreaker review

  • The best Tortuga Outbreaker review on the web!
  • Written by Digital Nomads
  • Who this backpack is perfect for
  • If it’s not the pack for you – we’ll show you which pack IS for you
Tortuga-Outbreaker

Tortuga Outbreaker
Video Review

Shot in Hong Kong, check out the video review below.

Tortuga Outbreaker
Overall Score

Our Take – Overall, as a large backpack, the Tortuga Outbreaker is an amazing piece of gear. We give it a score of 4/5. 

This pack is perfect if you are looking for something that is big, practical, durable, and can fit a ton of shit (and you don’t mind sacrificing a few style points).

This backpack is currently #2 on our best backpacks for Digital Nomads. 

4/5
NN Overall Score - 4/5
Style
Comfort
Functionality
Durability
Value

Tortuga Outbreaker Specs

Available in two sizes

tortuga outbreakder 35 and 45

The Tortuga Outbreaker comes in two sizes – a 45 liter and a 35 liter.

Tortuga Outbreaker 35L

  • Capacity: 35 litres
  • Dimensions: 20.3″H x 12.9″W x 8.2″D
  • Fits: 16-19″ torso
  • Weight: 4.6 lbs

Pros of a 35 liter – A 35 liter is going to be too big for a daypack, so I would recommend it for someone who is traveling the world SUPER LIGHT or if you are looking for an amazing backpack for weekend trips. 

Cons of a 35 liter – Too big to be a daypack and too small to be a world-travel pack. 35 liters is a sweet spot for some travelers, but a terrible spot for others. This backpack is really only recommended if when you travel, you travel light. 

Tortuga Outbreaker 45L

  • Capacity: 45 litres
  • Dimensions: 22″H x 14″W x 9″D
  • Fits: 16-20″
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs

Pros of a 45 liter – A 45 liter is a great option for a large travel backpack. As long as you don’t pack a TON of stuff, you can easily travel the world for months (or years!) with a 45 liter pack. Believe me, I’ve done it plenty of times.

Cons of a 45 liter – If you are a super light traveler, a 45 liter might be overkill, and because it is slightly larger, it is NOT going to be carry on compliant for all airlines. Expect to check this backpack on 25% of your flights.

Carry on Compatible?

Both the 35 and 45 liter versions of the Tortuga Outbreaker have been designed with airline specifications for carry-on compliance in mind. What does that mean? 

It means that the Outbreaker 35 can be taken on ANY airline as carry-on without any issues. The 45 litre Outbreaker is carry-on compatible on many airlines, but not all – you will have to check on some.

The Tortuga Outbreaker is PERFECT for you if...

  • You want an awesome large travel pack (especially the 45 liter)

The 45 liter is big, durable big enough to travel the world for years. 

  • You are a Digital Nomad

The Tortuga Outbreaker is perfect for anybody traveling with a laptop and other electronics. It’s simple, smart, and has great interior organization. Great for remote workers who love to travel.

  • You are looking for an urban travel pack

Thankfully the Tortuga Outbreaker looks the part, too. It’s got a chic design of all-black and doesn’t look too outdoorsy, meaning you won’t look out of place exploring a city or doing a spot of cafe-hopping in your favorite new hipster area 😉

  • You're into the idea of one bag travel (carry on only)

Maxing out at 45 litres, the Tortuga Outbreaker really does make the dream of one bag travel possible. Most airlines will take it as carry-on, which is great, but then again there’s enough space in here for clothes, work and more.

  • You don't want to check your bag (most of the time)

It’s carry-on, so you don’t need to check it. This saves valuable time, valuable money, and also saves you from getting stressed if your bag goes missing. Not going to happen if it’s carry-on, right? An invaluable feature of the Outbreaker.

  • You love organization

Wow. The interior of this bag can organize your whole Digital Nomad packing list. Tortuga themselves refer to it as “obsessive organization” and, to be honest, we’re not going to question that description. That’s exactly what it is!

The Tortuga Outbreaker is NOT for you if...

  • You are looking for a daypack

At 35/45 liters, the Tortuga Outbreaker is NOT an a daypack

→ If you want a daypack, check out these masterpieces…

  • You want a bit more style...

The Outbreaker was built for functionality. Not style. It’s boxy shape and durable materials means this pack will pack a ton and last forever… but at the cost of a few style points. 

→ If you prefer a bag that is a bit sexier, take a look at…

  • You want something lighter/less bulky

The benefit of a well-padded strap and harness system PLUS super durable material comes at the cost of a ton of extra weight. At over 5 lbs for the 45 liter – this is easily one of the heaviest backpacks on the market.

→ If you are looking for a lighter (but still large) backpack, we recommend…

  • You want to go hiking

This is an urban backpack. Case closed. 

→ If you are looking for a hiking backpack, check out our favorites below…

  • You don't care about compartmentalization

If you couldn’t care less about having special pockets for pens, loops for your keys, and loads of sleeves for documents and all sorts of other whatever, then there’s no point paying more money for it. 

→ If you are looking for a minimalist, simple backpack check out the…

  • You don't travel with electronics (especially a laptop)

Again, if you don’t travel around with a laptop, tablet, headphones, battery packs, or any other combination of gadgets, the Outbreaker might not be worth it. A whole compartment is set aside for this stuff (half the bag).

→ If aren’t much of a tech-y person, check out the…

  • You are a heavy packer

The 45 is big enough for most travelers… but not the heaviest of travelers. If you need to travel with 30 pairs of clothes, 6 pairs of shoes, a drone and your favorite hammock – then you might need a suitcase (or you might need to rethink your packing strategy!)

→ Suitcases aren’t usually our style, but check out…

Pack Style

The Tortuga Outbreaker is designed for ultimate functionality – and this is apparent by the aesthetics and the way the bag looks. 

Tortuga wants you to fit a TON of stuff in this backpack, and to be able to do so in a very organized fashion. 

To do this best, the designers at Tortuga gave this backpack a rectilinear shape (meaning it looks like a square!)

Square shape = more space

Simply put, a square shape means more packing space. Extra corner space = you can pack more stuff!

But regardless of the functionality of this shape – not everyone is a fan of the ‘box-y’ look. This will come down to personal preference. 

How it Feels

Durable Material

The team at Tortuga have really made sure that the Outbreaker has been made to LAST. There’s no cutting corners here. 

And what’s the best way to make a backpack durable? Use materials that can survive the apocalypse. 

The fabric used for this backpack is the same fabric used to make sailcloth, which means it is tough and weather-resistant.

The sailcloth material is one of the more unique aspects of the Outbreaker. It gives it sort of a crunchy feel, but it is no doubt a quality feel, and will enable the pack to protect your Digital Nomad gear for years to come.

Water Resistant Material

waterproof tortuga outbreaker

That sailcloth is pretty good at keeping out the rain, and the sealed zippers are also water resistant. 

So if get caught in the rain you can be confident that your gear will be protected.

Zippers

lockable zipper

Boasting YKK zippers (the best!) the Tortuga Outbreaker’s zippers are duarable and lockable – meaning that they slot together and allow you to stick a padlock in there for extra security. 

The zippers are also water resistant and overall have a nice feel to them. 

This backpack features two distinct types of zippers.

Zipper style #1…

These style of zippers can be found on the entire inside of the backpack as well as on the large front pocket on the outside of the backpack. These zippers are nice to touch, are sturdy, and have a very satisfying ‘zip’ to them.

Zipper style #2…

In contrast to the first zippers, I don’t like the second zippers. 

Reason being? They can hurt!

While the plastic cylinders are meant to provide extra grip, if you look at the bottom of them they are actually quite sharp and can really dig into your fingers. 

This is easily one of the worst aspects of this pack.

Comfort

Overall the backpack feels extremely comfortable. We give the comfort score a 4/5.

This is because of the impressive harness and shoulder strap system. In fact, the harness system is one of the best we’ve ever seen on a backpack. 

It’s so damn padded that is actually feels like a pillow party on your back and your shoulders. 

We’ll cover this more in depth when we discuss the back of the backpack. 

Front of the Pack

The front of the Tortuga Outbreaker has the rectilinear shape, the logo of Tortuga, and three main pockets to consider. 

Front Pocket #1 and #2

The front of the pack has three main pockets

These two pockets are simple, one on top of the other. Each is a single pocket, but the bottom one is much larger and much deeper.

Both of these pockets are more of quick-grab pockets – the top one especially. 

We would recommend keeping your phone, passport, and boarding pass in the top pocket (or really anything else you want fast access to!).

The bottom pocket makes a great secondary-access pocket. Load it with things you want access to, but might not need to grab as quickly. This is where we store tech stuff (phone charger, batteries) and food (dried mangos all day).

Front Pocket #3

We love this pocket

If you are the type of person who likes to have a place for everything, then you are going to love the front large pocket of the backpack. 

On the front of the bag, there’s a panel that zips on three sides to reveal yet more organization. 

This is where things like your notebook, your sunglasses, your ID, and your keys go, stuff like pens, pencils, tickets – things you need to grab quickly. Ideal for neat freaks (like us) who love knowing where everything is.

This pocket is one of the coolest features of the backpack. 

Middle of the Pack

The middle of the backpack is where we look at the sides, as well as the main compartments – and the Tortuga does not disappoint!

Top handle

The strap on this bad boy rocks

The top of the pack has a padded strap… and that’s it!

This padded strap has an amazing feel to it. It’s very comfortable, and easy to grab. 

Compression straps

The sides of the backpack have compression straps and water bottle holders

Each side of the Tortuga Outbreaker has a compression strap and water bottle holder.

As for the compression straps, I’m not a huge fan of compression straps in general, but if you like compression straps then you’ll be pleased to know that they work and… compress. 

Water Bottle Pockets

Don't try and fit a huge water bottle in these

The water bottle holders lie flat to the side of the Outbreaker itself, meaning they don’t get in the way when nothing’s in them. 

Keep your fluids topped up whilst you’re walking around town. And if you don’t travel with two water bottles (because who really roes?) then we recommend using the second pocket for quick access to an umbrella. 

Also worth noting that while these pockets expand, they don’t expand by much. So don’t try to fit a big ass water bottle (like a Nalgene) in there. 

Clamshell Opening

Now let’s open this bad boy up!

The clamshell style opening means you easily pack and access all your gear

An AWESOME feature of this bag is that it opens up like a suitcase or, you know, like a clam. 

This means you’ll have easy access to your belongings when it comes to packing and unpacking. 

Large Interior Mesh Pockets

The large mesh pocketscan fit a TON of stuff (and they are super durable)

The Outbreaker’s organization credentials just keep coming, don’t they? Yep. These two are located on the lid side of the main compartment and each one is roughly the size of half the bag. 

It just means you can make use of the space as best as possible. We’re not talking bulky stuff, but things like underwear, gloves, a hat, camera, a belt, that kinda thing would be great in these mesh pockets.

Four Interior Zip Pockets

These handy little compartments are also located in the main compartment of the bag.

These are good for things like socks, deodorant, contact lens cases, underwear, a hairbrush, some makeup – really whatever you want to keep in there. 

 What it means is… even more organization! 

Back of the Pack

Comfortable Back

The back system of this pack is one of its most outstanding features of this backpack. 

This is because it is a) very well designed, and b) is very, VERY well padded.

We've never seen a backpack as well-padded the this one

Look at that padding! Super thick and super comfortable. 

But don’t forget to keep this in mind…

Obviously with extra padding comes extra weight, and the 45 Outbreaker liter weighs in at a whopping 5 lbs. 

But don’t overthink it too much. Most backpacks of this size are at least 3 lbs, so if comfort and padding are super important to you, then it’s well worth the 2lb trade off. 

Removable Padded Hip Belt

hip belt tortuga outbreakder

Helping to keep everything even more balanced, distributing your weight from shoulders to hips, is the padded hip belt. It’s comfy and it helps heavy loads feel not-so-heavy.

The best thing about this hip belt is that it’s removable! If you don’t want to look like a “backpacker-y” sort of person, simply take them off and stash them.

Adjustable Suspension

Tortuga-Outbreaker-suspensionback

The suspension system on this backpack has been designed so that the weight of the bag doesn’t sit directly on one point of your shoulders. 

You can adjust the position of the shoulder straps, essentially, moving it up and down to fit your height. This is the sort of customisation that every backpack needs, like, it’s Backpack Comfort 101.

Breathable Back

Ventilated Backing

Two mesh-covered, padded panels on the back of this bag mean that most of it isn’t actually touching your back. 

Ok, some of it is touching your back, but for the most part, it makes for good ventilation, helping to keep the heat away and adding to the overall comfort of the back.

Well Padded Shoulder Straps

You won’t have to worry at all about the Tortuga Outbreaker being uncomfortable. That’s because the shoulder straps on this lovely bag are super padded. 

Shoulder pain, what shoulder pain? 

This amazing backpack might spell the demise of travelling backpacks with horrible shoulder straps. The Outbreaker has it sorted.

Small Sternum Strap

This little strap goes across the chest and, like the hip belt and the suspension system, help to distribute the weight you’re carrying. Makes the load feel more secure, you know? 

Not just that, but if you’ve removed the removable hip belt, the sternum strap (however small) can still provide a surprising amount of support.

Hip Belt Zipper Pockets

More pockets! If you thought you were done with pockets, think again dude. 

These hip belt pockets are easily overlooked, but actually, these are the perfect little compartments for easy-to-reach items that just need to be in easy reach. Simple stuff like lip balm or some spare cash would work well here. 

Want more ideas? Challenge accepted.

A train ticket. A pen. Some coins. A snack or two. What you can fit, and what you feel like you need, in these pockets is entirely up to your imagination.

Laptop Sleeve

The Tortuga Outbreaker has an amazingly well-designed laptop sleeve. 

It’s lined with super soft fleece, the kind you could just curl up in, so your laptop slides in and out easily. It’s also super padded, meaning your laptop is going to be nice and secure.

The 45L fits up to a 17″ laptop. You can even use the laptop sleeve for some documents you feel like keeping extra safe and non-creased.

Tablet Sleeve

tablets sleeves tortuga outbreakder

Sat right in front of the laptop pocket is the tablet sleeve. This is a nice addition, especially if you happen to own both a laptop and a tablet. 

Granted, it’s not as well padded as the laptop sleeve, but there’s still a lot of padding in the compartment in which it’s located anyway, so it should be fine. Fits up to 9.7″ tablet.

If you don’t travel with a tablet, this is a great spot for an external keyboard, or some medium-sized notebooks. 

3 Interior Mesh Pockets

On the opposite side to where the laptop pocket is are a load of different pockets. 

We’re going to say that these are perfect pockets for all of your tech-related stuff. 

Think wires, chargers, adaptors, USB sticks, hard drives, smartphones; all sorts of electrical stuff you’ll need whilst you’re abroad. Great for those who love organizing their stuff into handy pockets.

Overall Pros of the
Tortuga Outbreaker

  • Seriously some of the best organization we've ever seen in a backpack for digital nomads
  • Durable; it's an investment because this thing is made to last (Tortuga bags come with a lifetime guarantee)
  • Still a fair bit of space to fit in non-laptop-related stuff
  • The 35L is completely carry-on compliant with all airlines, which is pretty cool
  • The care and attention paid to keeping your laptop safe and secure is second to none
  • Simple design without any outdoorsy or travel-related aesthetic going on
  • The padding in the shoulder straps is actually immense - we love it
  • Clamshell opening means it's great to pack; kind of like a suitcase you wear on your back

Overall Cons of the
Tortuga Outbreaker

  • For a bag that's all about organization, it's a bit annoying that packing cubes come at an extra cost
  • It may be an investment, but the Tortuga Outbreaker is actually quite expensive
  • So heavy!
  • You can't stow away the shoulder straps for any streamlined luggage mode
  • The hip belt is removable but then what? Where do you put it?
  • It might be a simple design, but it is not exactly... cool; it's a bit like a massive cube on your back
  • The 45L is the better option for long-term travel, but it's not always carry-on compliant
  • The organization will really seem like overkill for people who aren't neat/don't care

Other Tortuga Products

We’re done with the Tortuga Outbreaker for now. It’s a pretty awesome bag. But if after our in-depth review of the Tortuga Outbreaker you’re having second thoughts, don’t worry. We’ve got you covered.

Tortuga may be a new-ish company, but they still have a fair few choices when it comes to different backpacks. So if you’re a digital nomad who’s in the market for a new backpack for your gear, there’s hope for you yet with this most nomadic of backpack companies. 

Let’s see what else is on offer from Tortuga…

#1 - Setout

Setout

The Setout is Tortuga’s main alternative to the Outbreaker. It comes not only in 35 and 45 litre versions, but also male and female versions, too, which is pretty cool. 

It’s another backpack that’s intended to be a carry-on, it opens up like a suitcase, but it’s a little more slimline in aesthetic than the Outbreaker. You can tuck away the shoulder straps, for one thing.

Check out our full Tortuga Setout Review.

Setout Divide Backpack

The Setout Divide is great for short trips. This neat option is an expandable (26-34L) bag that can be used in a variety of different ways. When it’s being worn, it looks pretty much like a backpack. 

When opened up, it packs like a suitcase. It can also be used like a duffel. Plus it has a suitcase sleeve to be used as additional luggage. Versatile!

Setout Laptop Backpack

Designed primarily as a backpack for a laptop, the Setout Laptop Backpack looks basically like a Setout. You could be fooled into thinking it’s the same. 

But it isn’t. 

It’s much more compact – at a modest 25 litres – for a start. It’s made for frequent flyers or train users. The laptop sits in the back for easy access. Pretty business-like.

Setout Packable Daypack

Another backpack in Tortuga’s Setout family and a surprisingly affordable option, too. 

It’s basically a daypack that would work well as a compliment to a Tortuga Outbreaker (possibly). It rolls down into a little tiny pouch and rolls out into a decent-looking daypack complete with a breathable back, support system, waterproofing and water bottle pockets. It’s 19 litres.

Outbreaker Daypack

The little brother of the Outbreaker, this one doesn’t roll down into a handy pouch like the Setout Packable Daypack – but it does pack flat, which is possibly a better idea. Possibly. 

It’s pretty decent. It’s larger than Setout’s daypack option, it opens clamshell, even fits a laptop in its 21-litre capacity. We like it.

FAQs

How to cover the straps on the Tortuga Outbreaker?

The straps on the Tortuga Outbreaker do NOT stowaway, which means they cannot be hidden or covered. 

How to pack the Tortuga Outbreaker?

Since the Tortuga Outbreaker is a 45 liter with a clamshell opening – you can fit a ton of stuff! Use the main compartment for your clothes, and use the back tech compartment for your laptop and other electronics. 

How to use the Tortuga Outbreaker?

If you pack light, the 35 liter is best used for trips that are no longer than a week. Since the 45 liter is so big, you can travel the world for months on end with it.

Where to buy the Tortuga Outbreaker?

Be careful when buying the Tortuga Outbreaker, as there are varying prices online. Check the links on this article for the best price. 

Conclusion to the
Tortuga Outbreaker

There you have it: the top review of the Tortuga Outbreaker. It’s an awesome backpack that’s ultra comfy, uber durable and mega organized. It’s a whole bunch of things: good things, mainly!

However: it’s expensive! This is one thing you might have to save up for and then make an investment. If that’s not your style of buying new gear, maybe it’s not for you. It also won’t be for you if you don’t care about the “obsessive organization” – or if you want something with more personality than just… black.

If however you aren’t in it for the style, you really DO care about organizing your stuff, you love travelling around cities and you want something that’s easy to wear, comfortable and built to last for the foreseeable future, you’ll love this backpack.

The Tortuga Outbreaker is honestly one of the best choices out there right now for anybody with a laptop and a touch of the travel bug.

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Written by Aaron Radcliffe

City dweller. Dumpling crusher. Aaron is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Nomads Nation. Connect with Aaron Radcliffe -