A First Look at New Tortuga: Lightweight Gear To Kick Off Spring Travel
A First Look at New Tortuga: Lightweight Gear To Kick Off Spring Travel

As a tortoise carries its home on its back, Tortuga got its start in carry on travel more than a decade ago when founders Fred and Jeremy wanted to carry backpacks for a trip to Europe and found the options lacking. One fought with a broken strap, and the other struggled to access his gear in a backpack designed for the trail, not travel.

Travel backpacks weren’t even a thing at that point, said Tortuga Co-Founder Fred Perrotta, but since then, the company’s goal has been to help travelers breeze through security and baggage claim so they can feel light and free as they begin their journey.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite
New Tortuga Lite Collection | The lightweight materials cut ounces to save pounds.

“Since then, we’ve been iterating on and improving that category while branching out into other sizes, form factors, and accessories,” said Perrotta. “Our mission is to make travel easier.”

More than a dozen years and countless backpack iterations later, the company launched its newest Travel Backpack Pro in 2023, which we love for its spacious design and supportive harness system. This year, the improvements continue with additions that include lighter products and user-friendly travel accessories. We caught up with Perrotta to learn more about who Tortuga designed the products for and why they always listen to customer feedback.

Lite-en Up!

The Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite, Tortuga Packable Backpack, and Tortuga Compression Cube launch this month, simplifying packing for carry on travelers.

Perrotta says they’ve streamlined some features to get to what most casual travelers need in a bag with the Travel Backpack Lite.

“The Lite has tuckable shoulder straps rather than the Pro’s more complex height-adjustable suspension system. We also reduced ‘nice to have’ additional organization, like the tablet sleeve and admin pocket, for people who prefer a lighter, simpler bag over more organization,” he said. “The Lite still has a padded, weight-bearing hip belt for comfort and is made of CORDURA® nylon for durability.”

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite
New Tortuga Lite Collection | The Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite has the features everybody wants.

The 40L bag is still quite comfortable, with load lifters to raise the bag and a sternum strap to help support the load. The hip belt works well to take some weight off the shoulder straps, although its padding is stiffer than that on the shoulder straps and back panel. And hey, if it doesn’t work for you, you can just take it off. We’re also digging the daypack-like features on the bag, like the front and top pocket for pouches and smaller gear, an easy-to-pack suitcase-style main compartment, and a comfortable carry experience.

While the Travel Backpack Pro is a premium, technical bag for packers seeking more organization, water resistance, and comfort, Perrotta said the Lite is for the everyday traveler. Tortuga expects it to be more popular, just as more travelers picked Tortuga’s streamlined Setout over the Outbreaker in the brand’s third iteration of travel bags.

Why Add a Compression Cube and Packable Backpack

However, with a streamlined travel backpack, some travelers may want to add organization. Tortuga already offers a 3-piece Packing Cube Set, but customers are asking for more.

“The compression cube was our customers’ most commonly requested product in surveys,” Perrotta said. “The set of three cubes we sell is for organizing your stuff. The new Compression Cube is for fitting more stuff. Plus, you can pack all four cubes in your bag for versatility.”

Tortuga Compression Cube
New Tortuga Lite Collection | You’ll save space in your backpack by using the Tortuga Compression Cube for bulky gear.

If you’re packing hoodies, sweaters, and pants, you’ll be happy to know that the Tortuga Compression Cube will reduce the bulk of the gear inside by about 33%. Plus, it includes a different-colored zipper pull (white instead of black) on the compression zipper than on the one to close the cube. Why? It makes it easier for travelers to know which to pull when they want to close or compress the pouch. As anyone who’s ever accidentally pulled the expansion zipper on a suitcase knows, it’s easy to get confused when there are so many options around a cube or bag, and this is a small step to making life easier, especially when you’re rushing to pack before dashing out the door to catch a flight.

And while the new Travel Backpack Lite is, well, light, most travelers still don’t want to carry around a 40L backpack as they’re exploring a new place. Hence, the addition of the personal item size Tortuga Packable Backpack to the line.

Tortuga Packable Backpack
New Tortuga Lite Collection | The Tortuga Packable Backpack is great for using throughout a trip.

“A good packable backpack carries everything you need for the day: a light jacket, a snack, sunglasses, etc. When you’re in transit, you can either pack it into its pouch and then in your luggage for one bag travel or carry it as your personal item if you need more space,” Perrotta said.

He sees this as a great option for travelers who leave most of their tech behind. If you’re bringing a computer, the Tortuga Laptop Backpack is a better option, but if you didn’t bring one or are only working from your hotel or Airbnb, the Packable Backpack is a great lightweight day bag for sightseeing.

Although it compresses to a pretty small pouch, it includes thin yet comfortably padded straps, a back panel with breathable mesh, and a sternum strap for when you pack more inside. We like that the pouch it packs into is attached; it’s actually the top pocket of the backpack, which is nicer than trying to keep track of a standalone pouch when you want to pack it away.

Our History With Tortuga

If you’ve been on our site, you know we have just a few reviews of Tortuga bags and travel accessories. From our first review of the Homebase Backpack, which we really liked but wish had lasted longer, through the Setout, Outbreaker, and Prelude lines of travel backpacks and accessories, we’ve put more than two dozen pieces of the company’s gear through rigorous testing and mostly find it to be solid gear we like to travel with.

Tortuga Setout 45L
New Tortuga Lite Collection | We’ve been loving bags like the Tortuga Setout 45L for years.

Tortuga is a brand born from necessity.

“In prepping for a backpacking trip to Europe in 2010, we couldn’t find the perfect travel backpack, so we made it,” he said. “At the time, we could only find hiking bags.”

The problem with that style of bag is that they’re too large to carry on a plane and too disorganized to find the gear you want when you want it. With tall, cylindrical hiking bags, you have to dump out your gear to grab what you need and then repack it. That’s why Tortuga combines the comfort and durability of hiking backpacks with the carry on size and organization of suitcases.

Up to now, the 14 different travel backpacks Tortuga has designed over more than a dozen years culminated in the 40L and 30L Travel Backpack Pro. We liked their improvements, from the lightweight, durable, and water-resistant Shell200 material created just for the brand to the capable harness system, roomy pockets, and plenty of space for packing cubes. Frankly, making the Travel Backpack Pro a Pack Hacker Pick was a pretty easy decision.

Travel Backpack Pro 30L
New Tortuga Lite Collection | The Travel Backpack Pro, released in 2023, hit all the right notes for technical travelers.

Perrotta said they had to liquidate the Tortuga inventory when everyone stopped traveling during the COVID-19 pandemic. While that was difficult, they used the time to redesign the product line and launch V4, headlined by the Travel Backpack Pro.

While that bag is an iteration of the Outbreaker, this year’s Lite bag is an update to the Setout, which incorporates a simple, sleek aesthetic with great internal organization and comfortable carry for men and women.

Even as Tortuga launched V4, Perrotta said other changes were coming down the pike they hadn’t been able to incorporate, so we weren’t surprised by the spring 2024 launch.

What’s Next For Tortuga?

Along with being a bag designer extraordinaire, Perrotta is a member of Pack Hacker Pro, where he interacts with other members of the travel community. While you wouldn’t think a company bigwig would have the time to chat, Perrotta said he appreciates the community’s perspectives.

“I did an AMA (Ask Me Anything) there last year, which was fun and informative,” he said. “The forum is a great place to talk to past and potential customers, get feedback from the community, and give our perspective on what we build and why.”

It was during that Q&A that Pros (and us here at Pack Hacker!) learned why Tortuga has been making smaller travel backpacks and moving toward modularity.

Tortuga Compression Cube
New Tortuga Lite Collection | This gear makes packing for a trip easier.

He said they like to make things work together, like the Packable Backpack and Compression Cube, for example, to add value to an existing product. And customer surveys have shown more interest in compliance with international carry on standards, which are smaller than American requirements. So when you’re making a bag smaller to meet that demand, it only seems natural that some features will become more optional instead of built-in.

So, we’ve got travel backpacks dialed down to the most useful features for most travelers, daypacks they can carry to work or on a trip, and accessories to complement both. What’s next? We can’t wait to find out!

April 17, 2024

Pack Hacker