Tortuga Laptop Backpack Review
The Tortuga Laptop Backpack doubles as a personal item bag to keep your gear close at hand on the plane and for everyday use, though the front can get floppy.
- Sleek-looking and durable design
- Cushy harness system ensures a comfortable carry
- Access top pocket from inside or outside the bag
- Front pocket pulls down bag front when full
- Vertical zipper difficult to close
- Pen slot interferes with hook-and-loop tab holding laptop in place
2.1 lb (1 kg)
19.1 in x 10.8 in x 7.1 in (48.5 x 27.4 x 18 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Ripstop Polyester, Fleece, PFC-free DWR Coating, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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While we love one bag travel, sometimes an argument can be made for adding a daypack to your travel kit for your personal item bag on the plane. Maybe you’re traveling for business and need to get some work done as you travel halfway around the world, or maybe you just want to pack a little more than fits in the airline’s limits of your carry on bag.
This Laptop Backpack is a bag for just those occasions. In designing an upgrade to the Outbreaker Laptop Backpack, Tortuga made changes to the capacity and organizational style, as well as to the overall shape of the bag and the material used. It still slides nicely under the seat in front of you, so you have access to everything you need during your flight, whether that’s a laptop and your notes so you can finish a term paper on your way home from spring break or a tablet and an extra layer to get cozy and watch your favorite show. However, the design places more bag components at the top to make it easier to access while it’s lying on the ground.
How does it work out? Let’s take a look.
The first thing you’ll notice on the Laptop Backpack, aside from the cute turtle-shell brand logo embossed on the front, is the unique material Tortuga uses for this bag. The SHELL200 sailcloth fabric is a lot like X-Pac in that it has multiple layers laminated together. In the case of SHELL200, there’s a 200-denier recycled polyester face, a 45° recycled polyester cross-ply, and a 70-denier recycled ripstop polyester backing. It includes a durable water repellent without fluorocarbons like PFAS/PFOA so Earth friendly packers can rejoice. It’s the same fabric used on the Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L, which held up well throughout our testing.
It has a slight sheen to it, along with a diamond pattern if you look closely, and it’s highly water-resistant, so your gear will be OK if you get caught in a summer storm dashing into the Orlando airport. It’s very lightweight, a point in the right direction, but it gets dragged down easily by extra weight. We’ll chat about that more later when discussing the pockets. For now, it’s sufficient to say the fabric plays into the bag’s overall structure.
Just below the top pocket, on both sides of the bag, are short angled pieces of webbing where you can attach gear outside the pack with a carabiner. Weighing down the front of the bag isn’t the best option when opening it, but if you want to connect a bottle of hand sanitizer or a tiny travel flashlight, there’s a place for that.
Atop the back panel is a webbing carry handle that is fine for holding the bag for short periods and works well for hanging it up on a hook on the backside of a restroom stall door or in your closet when you return home. On the back side of the bag is a luggage pass-through strap. Unlike many bags, however, this one is made with elastic instead of an inflexible strip of webbing or fabric. While that makes it lie flat when you’re not using it and easy to go over the handle of rolling luggage if you are using it, the elastic is already showing signs of overstretching after being used just a couple of times. It’s just a little wrinkly, but it gives us concerns as to the longevity of the strap if you use it regularly.
We don’t have concerns about the durability of the zippers, though. They are water-resistant YKK AquaGuard models, and the zippers for the main compartment and laptop access include a hole on each head where you can slide through a lock. They’re easy to open and don’t slow around corners—yay!
The vertical zipper for the front compartment has difficulty closing completely, but that is an issue with the zipper running into the fabric welt covering it instead of a problem with the zipper itself. Since that zipper is also an AquaGuard model, we think Tortuga could have foregone the fabric flap and ended the track in a zipper garage, as it seems redundant. Still, we’re not bag designers, so they likely have a reason for this choice.
The Woojin Plastic adjustment slides and buckles on the shoulder straps and sternum strap also work well, as expected, and we have no issue with using them.
As for the harness system, it’s more than capable for the 24-liter capacity of the bag. The shoulder straps are well-cushioned and covered in a spandex-like material for breathability. The same material also covers the EVA-molded back panel. If you want to hook a collapsible water bottle or a hat onto the shoulder straps to have it close at hand, there are two elastic loops in the middle of each strap and webbing straps running horizontally across the bottom of each. The straps include built-in strap keepers to contain the excess, so you don’t have to worry about dangling when you tighten things up.
There is a sternum strap on a sliding rail to help lighten the load. You can adjust the right side, and the left side includes elastic to help dial in the fit. While you may not always need it, it’s nice to have, though you can’t remove it if you don’t.
As mentioned above, the harness system is well-padded, although you can feel it dig somewhat into the top of your shoulders when using the sternum strap. It’s not necessarily uncomfortable, depending on what you’re carrying. Yet, it’s more comfortable when the straps aren’t pulled inward with the sternum strap, whether taking books back to the library on your bike or going through a seemingly endless airport terminal. The cushioning functions as intended to blunt the feel of gear inside the bag, and the molded back panel does a pretty good job of reducing a sweaty back. Unless you were to take this on a miles-long midsummer hike, that is—no guarantees then.
It definitely has a casual look to it, so it’s great for travel. It’s not so posh and precious that you need to be concerned about accidental spills from the airplane tray table or walking several blocks to your hotel in the afternoon rain. Even in more professional situations, the all-black colorway won’t stand out, although the fabric has a more rugged vibe than you usually see in the boardroom.
The pack naturally angles closer to your shoulders as you reach the top of the back, giving it a contoured look that we like. It’s not a boxy bag that looks like you strapped a suitcase on your shoulders; it slowly slopes outward as it moves toward the bottom.
Inside The Pack
If you like to store gear in external pockets for easy access, you’re in luck with the Tortuga Laptop Backpack. This laptop bag has several places to put items you want quick access to on the go.
We’ll start at the top, where a double-sided horseshoe-shaped zipper opens a pocket with ample space for small daily toiletries, hand sanitizer, your phone, and your wallet. It also includes a clip on a short leash for your keys. It’s not long enough to open your door when they’re still attached, but it’s handy for knowing where you put your keys after going a few days without using them.
It’s not so large that you can’t find small gear, though you should take care when packing heavier items inside. It’s not an issue until you go into the main compartment; if you unzip that space completely, the weight of your gear can flop the front panel open. The back of the pocket is mesh and includes a zipper, though you can’t open it from inside the pocket. Instead, the zipper pull faces the main compartment, giving you access to that same gear inside the bag. While this makes it a perfect place to put your 3-1-1 bag of liquids to have them easily accessible in the TSA line and again at your destination, the front falls forward if you open the main compartment. At that point, the pocket turns upside down. It’s not a huge issue, just something to know, especially for everyday use. If you accidentally open it while it’s hanging at your desk, your AirPods, mints, lip balm, and more will, of course, come tumbling out.
Getting back to the outside of the bag, you’ll find a vertical zipper on the left, below the top pocket. It opens a larger front panel pocket that spans most of the remaining bag face. This shallower pocket lacks the added depth of mesh expanding into the bag’s interior, so it’s a good place for boarding passes, keeping your passport handy when you need it, and a wallet and phone if you didn’t put them in the top pocket. It’s harder to see inside because of the black liner, but rummaging through with your hands is easy enough, especially when the bag is not stuffed full.
On either side of the backpack are stretchy mesh pockets topped with elastic that easily accommodate standard- and wide-width travel water bottles. Since there are two, you can fill one with water and one with coffee once you get through the security line, or use the second for a travel umbrella—it’s up to you!
One more locking AquaGuard zipper on the right side of the bag allows access to the laptop sleeve inside the main compartment, so you can pull out your computer without completely opening the bag. It’s a convenient feature, but of course, we have to point out that it’s essential to rezip it before slinging the bag on your back or … well, you can imagine what could happen.
There’s space in this microfiber-lined padded sleeve for up to a 16-inch laptop, and we have no trouble sliding in a MacBook Air, though there’s no false bottom to protect the edge of your computer if you drop the bag.
When you open the main compartment, you see the front of this sleeve against the rear of the backpack. It and an adjoining padded sleeve—which does have a false bottom and can hold up to a 12.9-inch tablet—are covered with a narrow fabric flap that attaches with a hook-and-loop fastener to the front of the sleeve. It should keep your devices from falling out of the pockets if you accidentally upend the bag. Unfortunately, attaching this material blocks the top of one of the two pen slots, so if you need to carry two writing implements—or one plus a stylus—you’ll have to hook the fabric to the very top of the loop portion of the hook-and-loop fastener to be able to slide it in.
This admin panel includes a few other places to store gear, though. To the right of the pen slots is a stretchy mesh pocket for a small notebook, Kindle, or glasses case. To the left of the pen holders are four slip pockets where you can stash cards you want to bring along, but that might not make the cut in your minimalist wallet. Perhaps a gift card for a restaurant you don’t know you’ll eat at or a backup credit card. Although the bottom pocket looks like it should be deep enough to slide something longer, it’s not, and the stack is designed for cards. Your mileage may vary on how much use you get out of this particular feature.
The rest of the main compartment has plenty of room for packing cubes, pouches, packable rain jackets, books, binders … you get the idea. There’s a lot of space and enough structure on the sides of the bag to pack it easily. Since the main compartment zippers open down to the tops of the bottle pockets, you can see and access at least half of it without encountering the front panel, so be sure to pack the gear you’ll need on the plane near the top to be able to grab it while it’s still under the seat in front of you.
That’s definitely a nod to the intended design of the bag. While that may be too much for everyday use, the zippers are not so slick that they fall open on their own, so you don’t have to extend them all the way down each side. If you keep a lot of gear in the front pocket daily, just open it partway to grab your laptop when you get to the office, and your gym clothing will stay in place for after work. If you put the organization to good use, the Tortuga Laptop Backpack could easily become your daily driver as well as the go-to bag you reach for on your next trip.
- Great organizational options accessible from multiple places
- Vertical zipper a little sticky; hopefully that works itself out
- Tons of places to stow small gear in the main compartment
- Fabric repels water and dirt easily
- Accommodates a wide range of water bottles in side pockets
- Padded sleeves swallow smaller devices