Tortuga Travel Backpack Review

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I’m always on the lookout for new backpacks designed for traveling — especially bags designed for the modern Europe traveler. That’s why when I saw the Tortuga Travel Backpack I got pretty excited because it looked to be designed specifically for urban travel. I got my hands on the Tortuga so I could do my own review of the backpack for you all.

Let me start by saying that a lot of people who backpack around Europe use a hiking-style backpack — which are great but they’re designed for backcountry hiking and not city travel (check out our guide to choosing a backpack). These hiking-style bags not only look pretty silly when placed in the urban setting, but many of their features are simply not suited for city-to-city travel.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack is different because all of its features are geared toward the urban traveler. At first glance you’ll notice that it is pretty sleek (at least compared to other travel backpacks) and it is much more inconspicuous than the typical bright red/blue/orange hiking bag. That’s what actually first caught my eye about this bag. I can see myself wearing this in cities like London or Paris and not feeling totally out of place. But even the best looking backpack needs to be functional. Continue reading to find out my thoughts on the Tortuga Travel Backpack.

TORTUGA BACKPACK FEATURES

Carry-On Sized

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The Tortuga Backpack is carry-on size so you won’t have to pay all those extra checked baggage fees (often $30-$60 per bag) or worry about the airline losing your luggage. Being that this bag is carry-on size, you will have to be conscious of traveling light. This is actually a positive thing because I believe that traveling light is much more freeing and enjoyable. For those of you who might not consider traveling with a single carry-on bag, I want to strongly urge you to consider this option.

As you can see, I still found that I could fit a good amount of stuff in this bag. Check out our packing list for Europe for more info on what to pack.

Dimensions: 44 liters (2,685 cubic inches) and the dimensions are 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55.88 x 35.56 x 22.86 cm).

Front Loading

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The Tortuga backpack has a large main compartment that zips open like a suitcase. This not only maximizes packing space but it also allows you to easily access the contents of your bag without having to pull everything out of it. I prefer this system to the traditional “top loading” bags because it is much more practical for urban travel (you can read our guide on top-loading vs front loading backpacks for more information on the subject).

Padded Shoulder Straps and Hip Belt

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One thing to look for in a travel backpack are the padded shoulder straps and hip belt. Most will offer some padding but some hardly have any. The Tortuga’s straps and hip belt offer plenty of padding, so no worries there. The suspension system on the Tortuga isn’t the most advanced that I’ve seen and it doesn’t have load lifters that add extra comfort, but it does do a pretty good job for its intended use. If you need a bag that you can wear for a few hours at a time then you might want to get something else, but if you’re mainly going to be wearing your bag from the train to the hostel then you’ll be fine.

Stashable Straps

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All the straps on the Tortuga can be zipped away behind a cover. This is great if you ever do find yourself having to check your backpack while flying so you don’t run the risk of getting a strap ripped off from an airport conveyor belt. It is also nice if  you want to carry the bag and not wear it on your back.

Streamlined

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I really like how the bag is streamlined and just contains the things you’ll need for urban traveling. There are no extra straps or anything else to get caught while you’re on the move.

Sturdy Handles

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It may not seem like a big deal now but having two sturdy handles comes in super handy. As you can see from the photos, the bag can be carried from the top or from the side. This is important when carrying your bag through narrow plane, train and bus isles. This is something I wish my previous backpacks would have had.

Laptop Sleeve

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Carrying a laptop is always a bit daunting, so it’s nice to see that his bag includes a place to stash you laptop. This bag can carry up to a 17″ laptop (you can see my 13″ Macbook Air in the photo above).

 External Pocket and Water Bottle Pocket

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There is one external pocket , two water bottle pockets, and a pocket on each hip belt. The main external pocket is big enough to carry some books, a light jacket, and a few other odds-and-ends. It does expand a bit so it gives you the option shove extra stuff in there. The water bottle pockets are actually big enough to carry a bottle of water — this isn’t always a given in other bags. These pockets zip so you can store other stuff in there as well. The pockets on the hip belt are good for storing things like tickets, small pads of paper, hand wipes, band-aids, etc.

Internal Pockets

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On the inside of the flap there are two mesh pockets for storing stuff. On the inside of the case there are two other zippered pockets. These pockets buckle together to from a compression strap which keeps your clothes from moving around as you move.

Lockable Zippers

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The zippers have little loops on them that allow you to lock them closed. It is a nice extra touch that helps keep thieves away from your things.

More Fit Photos

Here are a few photos of me wearing the bag. For reference I’m 5’6″ (168cm).

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FINAL THOUGHTS

I really like this bag and I think it would be great for traveling Europe (or anywhere else). It is sleek, well-made, minimalistic, and designed specifically for urban travel. I also like how it can be converted into a suitcase by stashing away the straps. The only thing I’m not crazy about are the shoulder straps because they lack the load lifter straps, so it’s not designed to be used for long periods of time (which isn’t a big issue for many city-hopping travelers visiting Europe). Therefore, overall, I think this backpack would make a good choice for just about anyone wanting to travel around Europe.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack is available on Amazon for $235 or you can buy it directly from the Tortuga website for $199.

 

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  • jeremymcohen

    Hey James,

    Thanks for the great review! Fred and I really appreciate it. I feel like you got what you were going for with the bag in every way.

    Have a happy holidays,

    Jeremy

  • Becky

    Hiya! Quick question: do you think it could be squished easily to 21″×14″×9″? Several Canadian airlines have 21″ or 21.5″ as the length of their sizing devices, so I’m hoping is be able to get this bag past them if I were to order it (is the main thing holding me back right now; the other is whether or not I’m too short for the bag, since I’m 160cm/just shy of 5’3″).

    Thanks!