“Can I come see it right now??” That’s the text I received from a friend when she found out I had brought my packed Tortuga Travel Backpack to work. I had just arrived at my office, from where I would be leaving several hours later for the airport en route to Toronto. I would be using my Tortuga for the first time, and she wanted to know the details: how did it look when it was packed? What did I bring? How heavy is it? Do I love it??
Because, you see… both of us think the Tortuga is pretty, and deserves the attention.
And yes, both of us have a backpack problem. My friend and I compared our lists of what backpacks and luggage pieces we own and realized that we probably need an intervention. The first step is to acknowledge you have a problem. And in this case, the next step is to perpetuate the problem and buy the Tortuga travel backpack anyway… which is what I did!
That’s because the Tortuga is no ordinary pack. In my attempts to find a minimalist travel backpack for both short and longer trips, I came across a few options, but none stood out quite like the Tortuga. Here are some of the features that I was drawn to.
- It’s carry-on-sized. This is probably the main incentive! Surprisingly I’ve never lost checked luggage, but it happens. And waiting for your luggage to show up on the conveyor belt at Toronto’s Pearson airport? You’ll probably wait 30 minutes. And now with airlines charging for your first checked luggage? What the what?? Carry-on is the only way to go if possible.
- It’s not the same as a trekking backpack. Yes, I have one of those too… which I use for backpacking and trekking. My latest adventure to Nepal? A trekking backpack was key. But have you tried using a backpacking pack for travelling to a city? When I moved to London, UK back in 2006, I had a top-loading backpack. I guess I wanted to do that whole “backpack through Europe” thing. For the kind of travel I ended up doing, that approach wasn’t the smartest. I know better now. Functionality is key. I really appreciate the distinction that the Tortuga is a front-loading travel pack ideal for the frequent traveler, not a backpacking pack.
- Comfy shoulder straps and a good hip belt. This is one of the most important things for me. After reaching my 30’s, everything has seemingly gone downhill. I have a right hip issue. I injured my foot pretty badly. My back hurts more than it should. I could go on blah blah blah. And so, if a hip strap will take some of the pressure and weight off my back, I’m all for it. There’s also a chest strap for added support.
- Padded section for a laptop. The padded laptop sleeve is accessible from the top of the bag. As I was going through security today, retrieving my laptop has never been easier!
- Pockets. I have a carry-on rolling/wheel luggage from MEC that I love, but the front pocket always felt small. The Tortuga has a front pocket with some give to easily accommodate my toiletries for convenient access. I could also fit my current book, Explorers of the Infinite, into the pocket. There are also zippered side pockets, which are perfect for a water bottle or other small items. Mesh pockets on the inside are great for electronic accessories. AND the hip strap has pockets large enough for a passport and other items. Is it weird that a pocket excites me? I know there’s a community out there who shares this sentiment.
- General comfort: Online, the bag looked like it would be a comfortable one. In real life, that holds true. Unfortunately for my friend who is 5’2, the pack is a bit too big, so definitely pay attention to the sizing on the website. But I guess that’s why Tortuga now offers the Tortuga Air carry-on backpack… which she just got! Now we both have Tortuga backpacks… matchie matchie.
- Quality. Now that I’ve had a chance to pack it and feel the material, it seems pretty durable and the quality seems good. The zippers and buckles used are some of the “best in the business”. If it rips on this first trip, I may change my tune though…
- It’s pretty. No, travelling is not a fashion show, but I’ve seen some ugly bags out there. The Tortuga isn’t one of those bags.
So yes, I love the backpack, and I cannot wait to try it out on different trips.
Step 1: Pack minimally for a trip back home. Done.
Step 2: Head for a week trip to Mexico with carry-on only. I don’t think this will be a problem. Hot weather equals less clothing, weeeee.
Step 3: Travel the world. I daydream of city getaways and trekking trips to far off lands. I now have backpacks for both occasions :).
But hold up! This review is not all rainbows.
- I want to tell myself that the bag was worth it. I have no qualms against the quality of the bag- as I mentioned, it’s evident a lot of thought went into the functionality of the bag as well as its durability. But I paid a hefty $199 US for it. With the duties and taxes and shipping costs to Alberta, the total price was quite high. A bit much? Part of me thinks so… but the other part of me loves the bag, so I think it was worth it.
- I’m used to travelling with a smaller daypack along with my wheeled carry-on-sized luggage. Once I board a plane, the carry-on goes up top, and then the daypack goes under the seat in front of me. The daypack usually includes my computer, a water bottle, a book, some snacks, and an extra sweater. I don’t see myself travelling ONLY with the Tortuga, which would mean taking out the snacks and computer and book and water before I sit in the seat. So on this trip, I brought an extra canvas daypack, and after passing through security, I transferred the items I would need in flight into the bag. It’s an extra logistical step, but one I think I’ll have to do. Hmm… perhaps the new Tortuga Packable Daypack is an option??
As you can see, the “considerations” aren’t knocks to the bag itself. As a travel backpack for short city-break trips or longer minimalist travel trips, I think the Tortuga Travel Backpack is a great functional and convenient companion, and I look forward to using it on the majority of upcoming adventures. I won’t completely give up my wheeled carry-on luggage though. Sometimes I’d rather just not have anything on my back when I travel. Either way, the idea of carry-on only when travelling is one I subscribe to, even though it’s been difficult due to my need for toiletries like facial toner and moisturizer. With ridiculous checked baggage fees, why wouldn’t you want to do carry-on only?? But I guess if the minimalist style of travel is not your own, then I think it’s more important to have a backpack or luggage piece that works best for you.