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- Price $225 on tortugabackpacks.com
- Capacity 27 L
- Weight 32 lbs
- Made in China
As I think back on all the backpacks I have reviewed, the Tortuga always conjures up fond memories. After all, the Tortuga Outbreaker is the first backpack ever reviewed on this site. Almost 300 reviews later of all sorts of products, from cast iron pans to smart skipping ropes, I've come back full circle with this Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack review.
While I review a fair variety of products, there is a reason why you see the reviews section dominated by a few names like Aer and TOM BIHN. These are names that have outshined their competition in this niche of travel backpacks. It is a small group of brands and one that Tortuga rightly belongs in.
As the Tortuga Outbreaker is one of the first few bags from Tortuga and the first bag that sucked me in this world of onebag travel, it was a fuzzy feeling learning of the release of the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack. The Outbreaker Backpack was such a solid backpack that I could never imagine it in any other shape or form.
With such a high bar set, can the Tortuga Outbreaker Laptop Backpack live up to the standard? I'll find out.
The Tortuga style is an acquired taste. Everything about it, from its high-end materials to clean lines, results in a sleek backpack, but for some reason, there is “a look” that the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack has that might put some off. There is something about the unapologetically rectangular outline that you either love or hate.
In all honesty, I am on the fence. I don't hate it, but it's just unique enough that I'm afraid it will draw unwanted attention. Unwanted attention is the last thing I am looking for when traveling (or not, for that matter).
The VX21 X-Pac is one of my favorite materials, but its subtle criss-cross patterns add to the “uniqueness.” That aside, the build quality is apparent. The bag, capacity-aside, looks as solid as the highest-end travel backpack out there.
As with all Tortuga backpacks, the branding is kept to the bare minimum to maintain a stealthy look. The rubber “turtle shell” logo sits squarely in the middle of the bag, is hard to spot at a glance, but catches your attention when you do. The entire bag is in black, down to details like zippers and threading.
The front of the bag is one of impeccable order, with lines and elements that balance each other in perfect harmony. The zipper to the quick-access compartment goes across the top-middle part of the bag. Another zipper goes across the entire width of the bag, giving it a uniform look. That said, the material doesn't have much structure and can “crumple” if weight is not properly distributed across compartments, giving it a little bit of an uneven shape.
On my 6 ft 205 lbs frame, the backpack is a perfect size. However, the shape and padding do make it look bulkier than it really is. Befitting of its “turtle shell” logo, the backpack itself does give a silhouette of a turtle shell.
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The outer of the bag is made of VX21 waterproof sailcloth. While most bags often go with the usual suspects like CORDURA or Ballistic Nylon, this unconventional choice by Tortuga is based on their mission for extreme quality.
The material is chosen to withstand the heaviest of rains. Most bags' fabrics are made up of threads woven together; the rain will still go through those holes no matter how tightly woven they are. However, the VX21 material was originally used as a sailcloth and will stand up to the harshest of weather.
While you will find padding in most backpacks, the padding in the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack is serious business. It uses Ariaprene foam, a high-performance foam engineered to make us sweaty bois stay dry.
The padding separates the backpack from your bag, leaving a channel for air to flow. For the parts that come in contact with your skin, Ariaprene is chosen because it triumphs air mesh when it comes to skin feel. It moves with your body instead of rubbing against it.
I've used plenty of backpacks, but the comfort of Tortuga's Outbreaker series is second to none, thanks to the generous, high-quality padding.
The backpack is made in China. For those who have the mindset that made-in-China means low-quality goods, you are misinformed.
China is a manufacturing powerhouse, and it really comes down to finding the right partner and having good quality control. Not everyone can staff an entire factory-like TOM BIHN does. Hell, even the Outlier Shelter from the Storm, one of the highest quality jackets I have ever worn, was made in China.
I designed a thing.
I found a 100 year old company that would create these heirloom quality canisters for me. They are handmade and will keep your tea leaves, coffee beans or anything that you need dry for years to come.
or read review
For me, the important thing is that if the brand has done their work in quality control, and Tortuga certainly has. At the end of the day, the savings are passed on to the buyer. If made-in-China is cheaper at no cost to quality, it's a win-win.
Last but not least, the industry-standard YKK zippers are used. If you are buying a backpack at this price range, Japanese-made YKK zippers are pretty much expected. Tortuga takes it further and uses the weather-resistant ones. Note that these are not waterproof zippers, as waterproof zippers are a lot harder to operate while offering little practical advantage over water-resistant ones. These ones offer the best balance between ease of use and weather resistance.
Organization & Usage
There are essentially two types of everyday backpacks.
One, like the Able Carry Daybreaker, has minimal organization. You dump everything in, either organizing with cubes or not at all.
The Outbreaker Laptop Backpack doesn't just fall into the latter group; it leads it. The organizational system is thorough, and I struggle to think of a digital nomad that it won't accommodate.
There is not one but two quick-access pockets, both on the front of the pack.
The one on the top is great for EDC accessories that I reach for often, such as my AirPods Pro in NOMAD AirPods Active Leather Rugged Case.
One is at the bottom, and its opening goes across the entire width of the bag. The bottom one has a little more space and is perfect for larger accessories that you need less often. I put a portable fan from Muji here.
The front compartment has loads of organization, as expected from Tortuga. The organization on the Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack and, to me, one of the best reasons to choose Tortuga and I am glad to see the Laptop Backpack follow suit.
This compartment can be deceiving at first since it doesn't take up the entire height of the backpack; the bottom quick-access compartment takes up the bottom space.
The zippers are not clamshell-styled and it opens halfway down, presumably to prevent accessories from falling out.
In front of that is a slot with a luxurious fur lining on one side. The size and lining tell me this slot is designed for tablets or an e-book reader. Strictly speaking, there is no padding for this slot, but the lining is lush enough to provide nominal protection. However, it is not thick enough to withstand any impact should it come from the front of the pack. A tablet would probably be more suited for the slot in the laptop compartment.
On the front of that slot, there are a series of slots. There are three pen slots on the left, and below that, there are four card-sized slots. The top one is deeper than the rest, which has the perfect depth for literal cards.
On the right, there is a slot that lines with the pen slots on the left. Since this is the easiest-to-access slot that isn't too big like the tablet slot, I have smaller accessories like the NOMAD 20W Power Adapter and Satechi 10-Inch USB-C to Lightning Cable in here. According to Tortuga's product photography, this slot is meant for passports. Note that it will not fit a passport with a cover on.
Opposite to these slots, on the “flap-side,” there is a zippered mesh pocket. It is worth noting that this doesn't take up the entire surface of the flap, and there is padding between the edges.
While the organization system enabled multiple configurations, I found some pockets redundant, at least to me.
For example, the card-sized slots (the three that are sized for literal cards) were unnecessary for me, seeing as I have few cards and they are in my wallet. I am not sure if having cards in these pockets makes sense. Of course, you can probably have small accessories in here, but it seems insecure as it's shallow enough for them to fall out of the slot and end up being hard to find.
I know pen slots are a thing, but I think it's time to abolish them now that the world is becoming more digital. Okay, maybe one for those who still need to bullet journal, but three is definitely overkill.
With that said, this is a very versatile configuration. I would find it hard to believe if you have an accessories setup that won't fit here.
The main compartment is relatively straightforward. There are two zippered mesh pockets along the flap side; each pocket is approximately half the size of the flap. Unlike the mesh pocket in the front compartment, the compartments go all the way to the edges.
The walls of the compartment stay upright when you unzip it fully for easy organization. However, if you have something in the water bottle slot, the wall on that side will likely bend to the weight.
Water Bottle Slot
There is an expandable water bottle slot on the left side of the backpack. Unlike some travel backpacks, it uses a zipper to expand its capacity. When open, the extending fabric is stretchable to offer a little more capacity with a squeeze.
There are two things that I put in a water bottle slot. One is a water bottle. Duh. Another is my foldable umbrella when it's wet. My usual Stanley Travel Mug fits perfectly in this slot when closed. When expanded, I can comfortably fit both the water bottle and my foldable umbrella.
This might not be a feature most look for, but certainly one I can appreciate.
Last but not least, the backpack has a dedicated laptop compartment, a necessity for any digital nomad.
This laptop has a clamshell opening which means you can open it like you would a roller suitcase. Clamshell openings are expected on travel backpacks but rarely adopted on a laptop compartment. The reason for this is for fear of your laptop sliding out of the slot when you open it wide and carelessly.
Tortuga mitigated this fear by having a strap over the laptop slot to prevent this. This strap goes over the laptop slot and the tablet slot in front of it.
The laptop slot is well-padded, and I have no problem having my laptop in here without a case. The little strap at the top could use a little improvement. It's too long, and the velcro area is too small. When strapped down, it allows for too much space within the slot that my 13-inch MacBook Pro will likely move around in the slot.
The tablet slot in front of the laptop one is about half the height so that your tablet can stay relatively secure. Compared to the fur-lined slot in the front compartment, this slot would be much more appropriate for your overpriced Apple tablet in terms of device protection.
Across the laptop are three mesh pockets. Two take up the top half, while a wider one takes up the full width at the bottom. There will be great for chargers, wireless mouse or wires.
While I usually have a packing cube for charging accessories like the GORUCK Wire Dopp or TOM BIHN Snake Charmer, the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack renders these unnecessary. Of course, if you are a many-bagger like I am, you might still want to utilize a cube for easy transference of content. Even then, these organizations do not reduce the capacity significantly and give you the versatility to go without one.
As mentioned, I use the slots in the front compartment for charging accessories, simply because these mesh pockets are harder to access. However, if you have more accessories than I do, then you are better off using these.
Like on the Outbreaker Backpack, the harness system on the Outbreaker Laptop bag is magnificent. It has thick and cushy padding that makes carrying it comfortable. Some bags with thick padding like this create the problem of too much heat buildup on your back, but the padding is designed to separate the back panel from your back and allow for air to flow through.
If there is one thing that I know about the Tortuga Outbreaker series, the padding on these bad boys are some of the best around.
Tortuga only carries a few products but they do them well. The Outbreaker Laptop Backpack is a continuation of the legendary Outbreaker series, the series on which Tortuga build their company upon.
Whether as a daily carry or travel backpack, the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack is a great option from a solid company with a wealth of experience designing amazing backpacks.