Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L Review: Best Carry-On Backpack

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The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L is our pick for the best carry-on backpack. It’s the maximum carry-on size to take on planes with plenty of space and great organisation, and it’s comfortable to carry.

In this Tortuga Travel Backpack review, we share the good and bad, as well as compare it with the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack (the older version).


Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L Details

Dimensions (cm): 55 x 35 x 20 cm
Dimensions (inches): 21.7 x 13.8 x 7.9 inches
Volume: 40 litres
Weight: 2kg (4.5 lbs)
Colour: Black
Price: US $350 (free US shipping)
Buy from: Tortuga website

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Tortuga Travel Backpack vs Tortuga Outbreaker

Tortuga travel backpack review
The new smaller, lighter Tortuga Travel Backpack. Photo courtesy of Tortuga.

In January 2023, Tortuga released the new Tortuga Travel Backpack. This is an updated version of the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack with some significant changes.

It comes in 40L and 30L versions, both of which are slightly smaller than the Outbreaker.

This review was originally of the Outbreaker, but as it’s no longer available, we’ve updated it to focus on the new Tortuga Backpack.

Inside the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L
The new Tortuga Travel Backpack has one mesh pocket opposite the main compartment, rather than two. Photo courtesy of Tortuga.

Here’s how the new Tortuga Travel Backpack compares to the Tortuga Outbreaker:

  • Smaller – The new backpack is slightly smaller at 40L vs 45L. This is so that the bag meets the carry on requirements for international airlines as well as domestic US ones.
  • Lighter – It’s 10% lighter at 2kg vs 2.3kg.
  • Rounder corners – The new backpack shape is softer and less boxy.
  • Recycled fabric – The new fabric is still waterproof, but it’s 100% recycled and is lighter weight and even more durable.
  • Improved suspension system – Like the Outbreaker, you can adjust the suspension system for your height. In the new backpack, this is easier to do.
  • Fewer pockets – To reduce weight, the new design is simpler with fewer pockets. There’s still plenty of organisation, though.

Everything else stays the same.

Overall, I think these are all positive changes. Check out the Tortuga Travel Backpack here.

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Tortuga Travel Backpack Review

Tortuga Travel Backpack Pros

Tortuga was created by travellers for travellers. Fred and Jeremy created the original Tortuga backpack after being disappointed with traditional hiking backpacks while travelling around Europe.

They set out to create their perfect backpack and have since grown into a company that truly understands the needs of urban travellers.

Simon travelled full-time with a Tortuga travel bag for six years—they make the best backpacks that are both practical and stylish.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack is one of the few backpacks we’ve found that meets all of our requirements for long term and digital nomad travel.

Carry-on sized

The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L is the maximum carry-on size that most airlines allow.

The rectangular design maximises the amount you can take on a plane and makes it easy to pack, especially if you use packing cubes like us.

It’s very spacious and easily fits all of Simon’s stuff including his extensive electronics collection.

Simon took the old Outbreaker on 14 flights in Europe, Africa, and Asia including budget airlines EasyJet and AirAsia. His previous Tortuga V2 came on countless flights in 14 countries including Ryanair. 


The Tortuga Travel Backpack is made from a durable, waterproof fabric that won’t rip or tear.

Simon used his previous Tortuga bags for years without any sign of wear or tear.

Padded hip belt

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review:
The Outbreaker had lots of padding on the back panel and hip belt. The new Travel Backpack is also comfortable to carry.

A padded hip belt is the most difficult feature to find in a carry-on backpack, but we think it’s the most important.

The hip belt transfers the bag’s weight onto your hips and prevents back and shoulder pain. This is especially important if you travel with a lot of heavy electronics like we do.

The Tortuga Travel Backpack has a very robust hip belt, which combined with the suspension system and padded shoulder straps, makes it very comfortable to carry even when Simon’s backpack weighs 12 kg (26 lbs).

Although the Tortuga Travel Backpack is relatively heavy, it doesn’t feel like a burden on his back.

Perfect Fit

The Tortuga Travel Backpack has a height adjustment system, which allows you to adjust the torso height and find your perfect fit.

This means it fits a wide range of people, even those with smaller torsos.

Front-loading like a suitcase

Unlike traditional hiking backpacks that open from the top and make it hard to access your stuff, the Tortuga Backpack opens along the entire front, like a suitcase. It’s much easier to pack and keep things organised.

Laptop sleeve

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review:: the laptop sleeve
The Outbreaker’s laptop sleeve

The fleece-lined laptop compartment is located at the back of the Tortuga Travel Backpack, close to your body for the best weight distribution.

It fits laptops up to 16 inches and there’s enough padding that you could probably even skip a case.

Simon packs his MacBook Pro in a neoprene case first for extra protection and there’s plenty of space for it.

In front of the laptop sleeve, there’s a tablet sleeve where Simon stores his 12-inch iPad Pro.


There are three sections in the backpack, each accessed by a different zip at the top of the bag. This is a little confusing until you learn which section is which.

Front section

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review:: the front section
The front of the Outbreaker

The front section unzips halfway and is designed for easy access to small items in transit.

The organiser panel has small pockets for items like your passport, pens, cards, sunglasses, etc.

Behind that, there’s a fleece-lined section for an e-reader. There’s also a clip for keys.

Main section

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review: main section
The main compartment of the Outbreaker. The new version now has just one mesh pocket on the left.

The middle main section is the largest and unzips on three sides so it’s really easy to pack.

There’s plenty of space for Simon’s large clothes packing cube, electronics cube, shoes, toiletry case, travel towel, and AeroPress coffee maker.

There is a large mesh compartment on the opposite side (useful for dirty laundry or small items).

Electronics compartment

The electronics compartment is at the back and fits a laptop and tablet in separate sleeves.

Opposite there are pockets for accessories like chargers, adapters, cables, etc. (Simon prefers to use an electronics cube in the large main compartment instead).

External pockets

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review:
Simon with his Outbreaker

There are also a number of pockets on the exterior of the backpack. On the front, there are two zippered pockets.

The two stretch pockets on the sides fit a water bottle or umbrella.

The small pockets on the hip belt are designed to conveniently stash coins and keys when going through airport security.

Simple design

We love that the Tortuga Backpack has a simple, sleek, black design so it doesn’t stand out too much.

Lockable zippers

We like to lock our backpacks with a small combination lock to prevent opportunistic theft. All three compartments of the Tortuga are lockable.

You do need two locks to fully secure the backpack. The two front compartments are close enough together to share a lock (or Simon keeps the front compartment unlocked for easy access) and you’ll need a second lock for the electronics compartment at the back. Or you could choose just to lock your electronics compartment.

30L version available

The 40L Tortuga Backpack is ideal if you want to pack the maximum possible in your carry-on, but it’s too big for some people, so I’m pleased that Tortuga offers a smaller 30L size.

The 30L has all the same features of the 40L but is smaller (20.5 x 12.2 x 7.5 inches), lighter (4 lbs / 1.8kg), and cheaper ($325).

Free Shipping

Tortuga offers free US shipping and if the backpack doesn’t work out for you after a test pack, return it unused within 30 days for a refund (minus a $15 shipping fee) or exchange.

Order the Tortuga Backpack from the Tortuga website.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Cons

The new Tortuga Travel Backpack is now lighter and smaller than the Outbreaker, which were the two main cons in our previous review.


The Tortuga Travel Backpack costs $350, but your luggage is the most important item you travel with, so we think it’s worth the investment and it will last for many years.

No shipping outside the US

The backpack is only available from the Tortuga website and they no longer ship internationally. Your best option is to use a freight forwarder.

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Tortuga Alternatives

Osprey Farpoint 40

Osprey Farpoint 40 review: best carry-on backpack for digital nomads
Erin with the Osprey Farpoint 40

I travelled for many years with the Osprey Farpoint 40.

At 38 litres and 1.3 kg (2.87 lbs) it’s a lot smaller and lighter than the Tortuga bags.

There’s less organisation and the laptop sleeve isn’t as large or well designed as in the Tortuga, and it’s at the front of the bag.

This worked with my light MacBook Air, but for heavier laptops, it’s more comfortable to carry the laptop closest to your body.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 does have a hip belt and is comfortable to carry.

The Osprey Farpoint 40 is worth considering if you want a smaller, simpler, cheaper, and lighter backpack and you aren’t travelling with a lot of heavy electronics. 

Minaal Carry-On

Many digital nomads and long-term travellers end up choosing between Tortuga’s backpacks and Minaal’s.

The Minaal 3.0 is a stylish carry-on backpack, but although it costs the same as the Tortuga, it’s only 35 litres and you have to pay extra for a hip belt (which doesn’t look as comfortable as Tortuga’s). 

The number of carry-on travel backpacks on the market is growing but most miss features that we consider necessary like hip straps, front-loading design, or lockable zippers.

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Tortuga Travel Backpack Summary

Tortuga Outbreaker backpack review:

The Tortuga travel backpack is an extremely well-designed bag that’s ideal for anyone who wants to maximise the amount they can travel with carry-on only.

It looks great and is spacious, durable, comfortable, and has plenty of organisation including excellent protection for your laptop and tablet. 

If you want a waterproof bag with lots of organisation and a robust and adjustable suspension system, then the Tortuga is the best travel backpack for you. 

Click here to buy the Tortuga Travel backpack on the Tortuga website.

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More Carry-On Only Travel Tips

See our carry-on only packing list for exactly what we travel with.

Disclosure: Tortuga sent Simon the Outbreaker backpack for review, but he wouldn’t have travelled with it for a year if he didn’t genuinely think it’s an excellent bag. 


  1. After reading reviews of the Minaal from digital nomads who’ve USED one, I’m a bit surprised by the casual way you dismiss it. The waist belt “looks” flimsy and uncomfortable to you? Really? Every review I’ve seen from someone who’s used the pack says otherwise. On a different note … whatever Simon may think of the Tortuga Setout, it’s a real compromise for anyone traveling in Europe and Asia, as the dimensions exceed carry-on limits for many airlines. Others may see it differently, but in my book that’s a dealbreaker.

    Reply ↓

    • Hi Stephen,
      The Minaal waist belt does look flimsier than the Tortuga’s and Simon is quite cautious about this after having back issues with his previous backpack’s flimsy strap. He would be more willing to try it out, though, if it wasn’t for the fact that the Minaal doesn’t actually come with the waist belt—so it’s $299 plus an extra $39 for the optional waist belt!

      We have travelled on countless budget airlines in Europe and Asia and have never had a problem taking the Tortuga Setout or Outbreaker on them. We find the airlines don’t notice the extra few centimetres at all.

      If the Minaal works for you though, then that’s great. It is a nice looking bag!

      Reply ↓

  2. Hi! HELP!!!! I’m 5’3 and traveling to Europe in a few months. I want to get the 45l – but – is this backpack going to be to big for me?

    Reply ↓

    • The latest Outbreaker backpacks can be adjusted to fit different size torsos so you might be OK. You can read how to check if it will fit here:

      I’m 5’4 and would go for the 35L size. I’d recommend ordering one and returning it if it doesn’t work for you. The Tortuga customer service is really good.

      Reply ↓

  3. Hi, I like your stories and your reviews of Tortuga. I do not travel for very long time. So I think 35L should be enough for me. Since I have neck problems, the suspension system is essential to me. Could you please tell me if there is an internal frame in Tortuga? Thank you.

    Reply ↓

    • It doesn’t have an internal frame but it is very supportive. Simon got back/shoulder pain with his last backpack and has had no problems with the Tortuga.

      Reply ↓

  4. Thanks for the review!
    Do you still find these are easily accepted as carry-ons?
    I just bought the osprey 40 and noticed that it’s a little oversized for some airlines, including Air Asiana, Jet Blue and KLM.

    Reply ↓

    • Yes, the Osprey Farpoint 40 and Outbreaker have been accepted as carry-ons on dozens of flights we’ve taken, even when they are technically a little over the size allowed. We find airlines rarely measure or weigh backpacks.

      Reply ↓

  5. Thanks for the review, Erin and Simon. Love that you’re traveling with an Aeropress. I just used mine this morning.


    Reply ↓

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