If you’re reading this, you’ve probably heard of Tortuga. And if you’ve heard of Tortuga, you’ve probably heard of the Tortuga Setout. This backpack is the answer to a lot of people’s problems, most of all it’s a literal fortress of organisation that will suit basically everyone from photographers travelling for a weekend to digital nomads.
Combine this, the pockets, the space, the compartments, with a sleek urban design and you’ve got yourself a bag that’s going to help you blend into a city situation. Not only that, but the 35L Setout is definitely a solution to your carry-on needs, whilst the 45L is all about the dream of one bag travel.
But there’s so much more to the Tortuga Setout than a few words. We are about to go IN on an epic review of this backpack. We’ll be getting deep into the features of this bag, what else Tortuga are famous for, and the ultimate question: whether or not the Tortuga Setout is for you. So strap in and let’s do this. It’s review time.
Ultimate Tortuga Setout Review
Quick Answers – The Tortuga Setout backpack IS for you if…
- You’re all about the organisation – That’s right: the Tortuga Setout is perfectly geared up for any techie or digital nomad out there who loves a bit of compartmentalisation. Pockets, pockets, pockets. Pockets for sunglasses, pockets for pens, pockets for keys. Stash all your stuff away and get to it pretty easily, too.
- You’re a fan of one bag travel – Whether you get the 35 or 45L version, there is still enough room for varying lengths of trips. Figure out how to pack the Tortuga Setout just right and you’ll be laughing. Another thing: the 35L is 100% carry-on sized, which means no hassle at the airport.
- City style is your thing – This is no backpacker-y hiking-style bag with toggles all over and a load of garish colours splashed on it. No bulk, just streamlined, smooth and comes in one of three colours: black, ‘heather grey’ or navy. Overall the design is smart, muted and low-key.
- Durability is important to you – Tortuga has put a LOT of effort into making the Setout a durable bag. The bag will last you dozens upon dozens of trips away. The company is actually pretty well known for how durable its backpacks are; there’s no scrimping on high-end materials.
Quick Answers – The Tortuga Setout backpack is NOT for you if…
- You want something even smaller – Maybe, just maybe, you’re a packing demon and you’re already well into your one bag travel. You probably need this (sometimes quite bulky) 35 litre bag. And definitely not the 45L version. Plus if you’re not a large person it might feel a bit… big on you.
- You want to get into the great outdoors – It’s not exactly an all-weather rucksack that’s designed for long treks. This is designed for cafe-hopping, being carried from the airport to accommodation, not tea trekking or heading out into the desert. Plus there’s a reason those ‘active’ bags are brightly coloured: people can see you, which can be VERY important.
- You don’t want a city look – Some people may love the black/grey/navy on offer. If you’re maybe a little less into looking like you’re on some sort of eternal commute (which the Setout does… a bit), then something brighter and more fun will be more suitable for you.
- You’re not bothered about pockets and organisation – If you’re the sort of person who never uses all the little pockets and compartments that come with a travel backpack, then the Tortuga Setout (both versions) may seem like overkill to you. You wouldn’t use all the pockets anyway, so why fork out for the privilege?
Different Tortuga Backpacks
Tortuga entered the backpack game relatively recently, back in 2009. They were inspired to do so when one of the founders’ bags broke on a trip. Not only that, but they just couldn’t organise themselves the way they wanted to with the bags they had. So the mission was simply this: make travel easier.
And with their well organised, well designed, high quality and affordable backpacks, that’s definitely becoming a reality. They say they build their bags to LAST, and being up against well established global brands, Tortuga have a killer guarantee: any broken bag, they’ll replace – within reason, of course.
So what else does this cool company have on their backpack roster at the moment? Let’s take a look…
#1 – Tortuga Outbreaker
The Tortuga Outbreaker takes the organisation and compartmentalisation that makes the Setout so fun and pretty much DOUBLES it. Available in both 35 and 45L, like the Setout, the Outbreaker is a treasure trove of pockets, and in fact, comes with one particular compartment to rule them all: it’s FILLED with pockets and sleeves for all sorts of items. Whilst it’s the same capacity as the Setout, the Outbreaker is a little bigger (it’s like a big, bulky rectangle), and is a lot more expensive – an extra $90 more expensive, to be exact.
#2 – Tortuga Setout Divide
The baby of the bunch, the Tortuga Setout Divide is – according to the company – an “expandable carry on for short trips.” We are quite into this one, especially if you want to pair this with a suitcase. That’s because it also comes with a suitcase sleeve. So you can take it with you on long trips and use it as a daypack. Or, with the ability to expand from 26 to 34L, it’s good for short getaways by itself.
#3 – Tortuga Setout
And now the Tortuga Setout, the backpack we’re currently reviewing. The 35 litre version is the same price as the Setout Divide, making it relatively good value for money compared to the more expensive Outbreaker. It can fit a 17” laptop, has a comfy hip strap, and is between 3.4 and 3.9 lbs (for the 35/45L respectively). Hide the straps away on this sleek number and embrace one bag travel!
Tortuga Setout Features
Tortuga is known for its cool features on its bags, and the Setout is honestly no exception. There’s a whole lot of things going on in this epic urban style backpack that make it a bit of a dream when it comes to everything from packing the thing to carrying it around. But let’s not spend time trying to tell you about it with an intro – cast your eyes below and take a look at our in-depth deep dive into the many, many Tortuga Setout features.
Different Colours Available
Not everyone has to be the same with the Tortuga Setout. It’s available not just in black, but in grey and navy, too. These colour choices are pretty low-key, but fit the smart and stylish bag itself, and feel quite urban. You won’t be standing out too much in a city situation as a lost backpacker.
- Pro – Fit in with street level situations and feel stylish
- Con – Still not the most exciting choices of colours – maroon, anybody?
Constructed from durable, weather-resistant coating, the Tortuga Outbreaker will keep your stuff dry. And when you’re carrying around electrical equipment like laptops and tablets, keeping that sort of thing away from the rain is going to be a TOP priority.
- Pro – Keeps your stuff from getting wet, obviously
- Con – Not 100% waterproof… so don’t count on it
Carry On Size
Whilst the 45L Tortuga Setout might be a bit TOO big for some airlines carry-on regulations, the Tortuga Setout can be happily carried on board pretty much every single plane out there. Save yourself time at the airport, save money on checking in baggage, and be slightly richer and more time wealthy as a result.
- Pro – Saves a whole world of hassle and money
- Con – No liquids, no lighters, etc. anything you can’t take on a plane you’ll have to buy the other end
The laptop sleeve boasted by the Tortuga Setout is pretty neat. You don’t have to unzip the entire bag to get to it: it’s in a separate pocket. You can just unzip it and whip it out, which is definitely handy when you’re going through airport security. The sleeve actually fits a 17” laptop, which should be more than enough for most digital nomads.
- Pro – Because it’s at the back, the weight of the bag gets distributed pretty well
- Con – You could be worried about breaking your laptop if you put your bag down awkwardly
Right in front of the laptop sleeve is the tablet sleeve, which is great if you like to travel with both. You could even travel with your Kindle if you feel like it. This little compartment fits tablets of up to 9.7” making it pretty decent in terms of the sizes and brand of tablet you could be taking with you.
- Pro – The fact it even HAS a tablet pocket is good enough for us!
- Con – The area isn’t padded, so if you don’t have a case for your tablet… maybe get one
The front section of the Tortuga Setout is a total hidey-hole of places to put smaller items. It zips down about a third of the way and allows easy access to all those little things. Passports, travel documents, sunglasses, phone, keys, pens – you name it. It’s got a nice, soft lining which makes sure everything’s protected to a degree, as well.
- Pro – Keeping all your stuff in one place, and not panicking about losing your passport, is great
- Con – You may not care about any of these pockets, meaning it’s a bit of a waste of space
Interior Mesh Pocket
There are a total of TWO mesh compartments inside the main pocket on the Tortuga Outbreaker. These work well as packing cubes in their own right (sort of) and provide a great little space for everything from a pair of shoes to dirty laundry – whatever you decide needs separating from the rest of your stuff.
- Pro – A very simple way to organise your stuff
- Con – You still might need packing cubes to organise the interior of the Setout anyway
So, yes, you can pick up add-on packing cubes that slot right into that MASSIVE main pocket of the Tortuga Setout. This is a pro way to pack and is the ultimate in organisation. You’ll be a supreme organiser and never, ever be confused about what is where in your bag again. Makes the most of that space.
- Pro – The cubes are pretty durable, lightweight and should last a fair few trips
- Con – It’s annoying that you have to buy them separately in the first place
Injection Moulded Shoulder Straps
Yes, that’s right: injection moulded shoulder straps. They’re quite thin and don’t feel that durable, but these actually shape to the contours of your body over time and carry the weight better as a result – that means no digging into your shoulders!
- Pro – It’s a neat system and the straps don’t feel OVERLY designed
- Con – If you’re smaller than the torso size they give (17-19”) the straps may become an issue
You can tuck away the shoulder straps of the Tortuga Setout for some pretty smooth travel. Whether it’s a train, bus or plane, getting the straps caught in chairs or whatever can be super annoying. So being able to stow them away makes it a neat way to travel. Plus you could choose to do this and make the Setout into more of a duffel bag if you felt like it.
- Pro – They’re very quick to tuck away
- Con – It can still get annoying having to tuck them away at all
The handles on the top and the side of the bag means you can carry the Setout around like a duffel, which is cool. We like that. But more than that it makes being able to chuck your bag onto a bus, grab it quickly from a luggage rack on a train, and run off, without having to do a weird balancing act, or hug your bag off from its perch. Simple.
- Pro – It means you can grab your bag from any compartment easily
- Con – But the bag can be heavy, so it’s not the most ideal solution
Padded Removable Hip Belt
The Setout’s padded hip belt means that even with a heavy bag you’ll be able to take the weight off your shoulders. A lot of bags this size don’t come with hip belts but trust us: it can REALLY make a difference. Definitely helps take the load off and makes it more comfortable to carry. And if you don’t need them, you can remove them!
- Pro – If you’re packing a load of proper heavy tech, this is a godsend
- Con – When you’re not using them, you’ll need to find a place inside the bag to stash them
Hip Belt Pocket
And on that handy hip belt, there’s a decent sized pocket. It may not seem a lot, but having an easily reachable compartment like this can definitely make a difference to your day. For real. If you need to grab a train ticket at short notice, pay for some snacks on the go, or even store your keys – it’s a neat little pocket.
- Pro – Easy access without having to root through a load of stuff
- Con – Once the hip belt is removed, so is this added extra
Depending on your height, there’s a waist/chest clip that will help take some of the weight of the bag if you’re not wearing the hip belt. Basically, the more you can strap a bag to your body, the better it is for you!
- Pro – Allows a bit of weight reduction and you feel more secure with it on
- Con – There’s a lot of pressure on these clips because there’s no load lifter straps
Water Bottle Pocket
This may seem like a simple feature, but the way the Tortuga Setout has dealt with it is pretty decent. It’s elasticated mesh so that it lies flat if you’re not using it, and if you ARE using it, it still looks pretty nondescript.
- Pro – You can fit lots of different sizes of water bottle in it
- Con – When the backpack is stuffed to the max it can be tricky to actually FIT a bottle in
We love a bit of clamshell opening: you’ve got a backpack, but it’s working like a suitcase. The Tortuga Setout unzips on three sides and opens fully outwards to reveal the true spaciousness of this cool backpack. Use your packing know-how to properly place your things into the backpack and zip up. Easy.
- Pro – This makes it SO easy to get hold of your things – no more digging through a top-loading rucksack!
- Con – It’s sort of made for packing cubes; your things could still get pretty disorganised in this large space
The Tortuga Setout comes with just the right amount of back padding, along the back and across the top. This ensures that when you wear it it’s pretty comfortable and actually quite breathable, so you shouldn’t get too much of a sweaty back. And we all know that’s a big issue.
- Pro – Makes using it on the daily pretty comfortable
- Con – Less padding than on the Outbreaker, which may be better for heavier loads
Once you’ve got the Tortuga Setout all packed out and zipped up and you’re ready to go, don’t forget the compression straps. These can be pulled tightly and make the bag a lot more streamlined. Basically, the compression straps, help keep everything in place and save on a little bit of bulk.
- Pro – These are pretty durable so you can be pretty rough with them
- Con – Not that thick, so they end up just digging into the bulk of everything
Not only are the zippers on this backpack high-end YKK zippers, but they fit together really snugly – and come with holes – so that you can fit a padlock through them and lock up your stuff. You know, for extra security. You can even lock the zippers on the front compartment, where you might keep your passport.
- Pro – The zippers themselves are super durable and should last you a long time – and without getting stuck
- Con– The zippers might be strong, but you’ll need a lock to match to make this feature worth it
Final Thoughts on the Tortuga Setout
Whether or not you go for the 35 or 45 litre version of the Tortuga Setout, you can pretty much guarantee one thing: it’s always going to be pretty stylish. It’s an urban backpack for people who like to spend time in cities. First and foremost, that’s what this cool bag is all about. Black, grey, navy – these are all colours that blend into a city environment and help you NOT stand out like a sore thumb.
Then you start to add the features of this backpack. You think about all the pockets it’s got, the laptop sleeve, the tablet sleeve, the mesh compartments, and you get to realising that this is a bag designed with digital nomads in mind. That means that elusive thing: one bag travel. The 35L Setout can be used as carry-on with pretty much any airline. The 45L is big enough to travel the world – IF you’re clever with packing, that is.
Those who travel light, those who are more about civilisation than the sticks, those with laptops and electricals in tow, and anybody looking for a sleek bag for short city breaks that’s going to last… Here’s the Tortuga Setout – it’s all yours.