Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack Review

Jul 18, 2017Gear, Review0 comments

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Review

Tortuga has been one of the major players in travel gear market for the past several years. When the original Tortuga backpack debuted, it took the travel world by storm. It quickly became one of the most popular travel backpacks on the market. But the original Tortuga had some room for improvement, and Tortuga has come through with an intriguing new bag.

The Outbreaker is the latest travel backpack from Tortuga. When Tortuga first released the Outbreaker specs in late 2016, I was curious. Would the Outbreaker make the necessary improvements to outshine the original Tortuga backpack? We had to get our hands on it to see for ourselves.
Tortuga recently sent us a test sample so that we could run the Outbreaker through the paces. Does it live up to the hype? Here’s what we found out.

Weight and Size

The Outbreaker comes in two sizes: 35 L and 45 L. Both packs fit almost everyone, and both are carry-on compliant.
The 35 L Outbreaker measures 20.3 x 12.9 x 8.2 inches (51.6 x 32.8 x 20.8 cm) and weighs 4.6 pounds (2.15 kg). It will fit a laptop up to 15 inches and a tablet up to 13 inches. If you like to pack light or you frequently fly on budget airlines, the 35 L is the pack for you.
The 45 L Outbreaker measures 22 x 14 x 9 inches (55.9 x 35.6 x 22.9 cm) and weighs 5.1 pounds (2.3 kg). It will fit a laptop up to 17 inches and a tablet up to 13 inches. If you are a long-term traveler or someone who likes to pack a bit more, the 45 L is the pack for you.
Tortuga Outbreaker 45L and 35L size comparison

One thing to note the weight of the pack. In a world where every ounce counts, the Outbreaker is heavy! However, the strap system is so well designed, the pack doesn’t feel heavy when you are wearing it.

Length20.3 in / 51.6 cm
Width12.9 in / 32.8 cm
Height8.2 in / 20.8 cm
Weight4.6 lbs / 2.15 kg
Volume35 L
Torso Fit Range16 - 19 in / 41 - 48 cm
Length22 in / 55.9 cm
Width14 in / 35.6 cm
Height9 in / 22.9 cm
Weight5.1 lbs / 2.3 kg
Volume45 L
Torso Fit Range16 - 20 in / 41 - 51 cm
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As I mentioned above, the harness and strap system are very well engineered. This is a big improvement over original Tortuga backpack. The straps, waist belt and back panel have plenty of cushioning. The cushioning foam is breathable and has channels for venting airflow.
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack
The front of the Outbreaker is sleek and simple.
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack
The back of the Outbreaker has tons of padding.

The shoulder straps contain load lifter straps, which help tighten the pack to your back. But it seems that the load lifter straps should join a bit further down the shoulder straps for better effectiveness.

A major feature of the harness system is the ability to adjust to various torso heights. The Outbreaker harness can move up or down along the spine of the pack for a customized fit.

Tortuga Outbreaker Harness Strap System
Loops on the back of the pack allow the harness to move up or down to fit any torso length.
Tortuga Outbreaker Harness Strap System
Adjust the harness by releasing the velcro and rethreading up or down through the loops.

The Outbreaker has an adjustable chest strap which provides extra support for the shoulder straps.

The waist belt of the Outbreaker contains plenty of padding and performs its job well. A tight waist belt transfers the load of the pack to the hips and off the shoulders. The waist belt is detachable via velcro straps.

Tortuga Outbreaker Removable Hip Pad
The waist belt hip pads are removable.

The buckling mechanism on the Outbreaker waist belt is pretty standard fare. To tighten the waist strap, the wearer must pull the tightening straps away from the center of the body. The further you pull the straps, the harder it is to tighten. The Scherer Cinch System is much better, since it works like a pulley to effortlessly tighten the belt. Waist straps can be tucked behind the waist pockets to keep them from dangling.


Out of the box, the Outbreaker comes in an attractive plastic bag for protection. Included in the bag are a few promotional pieces and a couple Tortuga stickers.
Tortuga Outbreaker Packaging
Tortuga Branding Materials

Like the Tortuga backpack before it, the Outbreaker is available only in black.

Tortuga have always prided themselves on subtle branding. The Outbreaker features a small, black Tortuga logo on the back of the pack, and some subtle branding inside the laptop/tech compartment.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack

The Outbreaker features high quality YKK zippers. The exterior zippers are coated for water-resistance. If you get caught out in the rain, the water-resistant zippers will keep your stuff dry for a while.

Each of the Outbreaker’s three main compartments have lockable zippers.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack
Durable YKK lockable zippers are coated to be water resistant.

The top of the Outbreaker contains a padded carry handle. The side handle from the previous Tortuga backpack has been removed.

Even though the Outbreaker isn’t very deep, there are compression straps along the sides if you want to make is thinner. The beauty of the compression straps is that they don’t cross over access points or pockets. The straps are woven in a unique way so that you can tighten the bag without compromising usage. The downside of the design is that the compression straps are at the top part of the pack. This means that the bottom part of the pack where most of your stuff settles is not compressible.

Tortuga Outbreaker Compression Straps
The compression straps weave up the side and don’t hinder access.
Tortuga Outbreaker Compression Straps
Easily access the pockets and zippers without interference from the compression straps.

The Outbreaker no longer has a zip-up back flap for stowing away the straps. There may be a good design reason for this, but it has left users of the previous Tortuga backpack scratching their heads. Tortuga recommends removing the straps and stowing them in the front pockets. In that case, you’d better make sure those front pockets are empty to accommodate the straps.

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One of the reasons the Outbreaker is so heavy is because of the materials with which it is constructed. Tortuga uses a 4-layer sailcloth designed to be durable and water-resistant. The rigidity of the Outbreaker sailcloth assures that the backpack will maintain its shape over time. Basically, your Outbreaker should last for years to come.
We haven’t yet had the chance to test the Outbreaker through every weather condition, but it has weathered several trips so far and performed perfectly. Based on the observable quality of its craftsmanship, we have no doubts about the Outbreaker holding up for years to come.
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Water Resistant
The 4-ply material design and coated zippers ensure that the Outbreaker will keep your stuff dry during a downpour.

Ease of Packing

The Outbreaker follows in the footsteps of the Tortuga with its boxy design. The rectangular shape is functional and efficient when it comes to packing.
The main compartment opens like a book, making it easy to pack. The main compartment isn’t very deep, measuring only 5 inches (12.7 cm). This won’t be a problem if you are only packing clothing or smaller items in the main compartment. The main compartment of 45 L pack is perfect for fitting one large packing cube and two small packing cubes. If you are packing bulky, hard items like a drone or camera gear, however, you might be in for a challenge.
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack
The Outbreaker opens up like a book, which makes packing easy.

One of the things I love about the new Outbreaker is that it has plenty of pockets for organizing. In fact, it has 20 major pockets, and that doesn’t include the 9 smaller pockets in the organizer panel.

The front of the Outbreaker has two deep, flat pockets. These are great for items like books, papers, or small items. The top pocket is fairly flat, but the bottom pocket has a bit more dimension.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack

There are two long, mesh pockets on either side of the Outbreaker. The mesh pockets are primarily designed to hold water bottles. The pockets are plenty deep, ensuring that your water bottle isn’t going to slip out. The mesh is pretty tight, so fitting something wide like a Nalgene bottle may prove to be a difficult.

The organizer compartment at the front of the Outbreaker contains three large pockets. The zippered pocket on the flap has mesh walls for easy viewing of contents. A flat zippered pocket at the top is good for small items. A felt-lined, open pocket is large enough for a tablet or e-reader. Also, there are nine smaller organizer pockets or pens, cards, and other sundry items. A key clip dangles from the top of the organizer compartment.

Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Organizer Pockets
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Organizer Pockets

The inside of the main compartment lid contains two zippered mesh pockets. These are large enough for small, loose items like socks, underwear, or belts. You could even fit a flat pair of shoes or some sandals in them!

The main compartment of the Outbreaker has sidewall pockets inside. The 35 L pack has two long pockets, while the 45 L pack has four smaller pockets. These zippered pockets are handy for storing small items that need to remain separate from the contents of the main compartment. They stick out into the main compartment a bit, so you won’t be able to fill them much when the main compartment is full. The pockets smash flat against the walls of the bag when not in use.

Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Compartment

The laptop/technology compartment is at the back of the Outbreaker. The compartment can be partially unzipped for easy access to the contents inside. It can also be completely unzipped, allowing it to lie flat for easy loading. The lay-flat design also should allow you to send your laptop through airport security without having to remove it.

One side of the laptop/technology compartment has three zippered mesh pockets. The other side contains two felt-lined pockets for a laptop and a tablet or e-reader. A velcro strap keeps your electronics from sliding out.

Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Compartment

The final two pockets have been carried over from the Tortuga backpack. These are the very handy pockets in the waist belt of the Outbreaker. These are great for storing items like keys, a passport, a phone, or a small camera. The waist belt pockets are so useful that I’m surprised when other travel packs don’t include them.

Tortuga Outbreaker Hip Pad Pocket
Handy storage pocket in each hip pad.
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The 35 L Outbreaker retails for $269, while the 45 L Outbreaker retails for $299. With some travel packs retailing for $150 cheaper, this places the Outbreaker in the expensive category. But that’s not to say that the Outbreaker isn’t worth it. The comfort, features, and quality of the Outbreaker make it a good investment.
The Outbreaker is available from the Tortuga website. Shipping is free within the United States. Customers in Canada, Europe, Australia, New Zealand, and parts of Asia will have to pay $30-55 in shipping.


  • Subtle branding: Understated; nothing too flashy.
  • Water-resistant: Waterproof fabric and coated zippers keep moisture on the outside.
  • Tough: Durable sailcloth design should last for years.
  • Wide open: Opens like a book for easy packing.
  • Plenty of space: Outbreaker accommodates several packing cubes, a pair of shoes or two, toiletries, and other essentials.
  • Adjustable strap system: Customizable to any size.
  • Plenty of padding: No fatigue after long periods of wear.
  • Pockets, pockets, pockets: Did we mention the pockets? And an organizer pocket for your small items.
  • Organized: Plenty of places to pack away all your goodies.
  • Lockable zippers: Keeps valuables in and curious hands out.
  • Laptop compartment: Organized with plenty of storage space, and tight against the back, right where it should be.
  • Compression straps: They don’t keep you from accessing your stuff.
  • Multiple sizes: Comes in 35L and 45 L varieties.


  • Waist straps: A bit difficult to tighten compared to other systems.
  • Single color: Not a big deal, especially if you like black.
  • No stowaway straps: A stowaway system would probably just make the bag heavier.
  • Heavy: Several pounds heavier than the competition. Fortunately it doesn’t feel that heavy on your back thanks to the strap system.
  • Expensive: A bit pricey, but you get what you pay for.


I had mixed feelings about the original Tortuga backpack. Our list of cons were as long as the list of pros. Fast forward to the Outbreaker. Tortuga has not only managed to eliminate most of the cons, they’ve also improved many of the features that made the original Tortuga such a success. It’s no wonder that the Outbreaker has been named Wirecutter’s Best Carry-On Backpack.
I was beginning to think that no other travel pack was going to sway me from my trusty Kelty Redwing. But Outbreaker has done it. While the Outbreaker still barely falls short of perfection, it is impressive enough to become my go-to travel backpack.

  • Weight and Size
  • Comfort
  • Features
  • Durability
  • Ease of Packing
  • Price


The Outbreaker improves upon the original Tortuga travel backpack in practically every way. Despite the weight of the pack, the Outbreaker is comfortable to carry for long periods of time. The Outbreaker has enough great features that we’re willing to ignore that the straps are no longer easily packable. The Outbreaker is a bit pricey, but the quality of the pack is worth the cost.

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