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Tortuga Packable Backpack Review

The Tortuga Packable Backpack is a lightweight addition to your travel backpack for daily use and includes a capable harness system for heavier loads.

Our Verdict

7.9 /10
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  • Enough mesh padding to be comfortable for more than an hour
  • Super lightweight, yet has a more daypack-like appearance
  • Material doesn’t hang onto wrinkles after unpacking


  • Top pocket sags when full, slowing access to the main compartment
  • Zippers occasionally catch on thin material
  • It can be tricky to fill bottle pockets when you've stuffed the interior

Technical Details

87 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 126/145 Airlines

74 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (oz)

    11 oz (311.8 g)

  • Dimensions

    18.1 in x 10.2 in x 6.3 in (46 x 25.9 x 16 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    Ripstop Nylon, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Warranty Information

    Tortuga Common Decency Guarantee

Full Review

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In case you hadn’t noticed, we’re big fans of one bag travel, but walking around exploring a new place with a big bag on your back, like the Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 40L, for example, isn’t the most efficient use of your effort. Sure, it works well when we’re waiting for check-in at the hotel, but what about the next day and the day after that? That’s not what we want to be carrying around the MusĂ©e d’Orsay or to trek to the Trevi Fountain, that’s for sure.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Walking
Tortuga Packable Backpack | It’s much lighter than a travel backpack for touring a new city.

That’s where a packable backpack comes in handy. Whether you want to carry snacks, a drink, and an emergency poncho and hoodie around Walt Disney World, or you want to bring back a baguette, Gouda, and some salami from the local market to enjoy at your Airbnb, it’s a good way to carry items throughout your trip. But while some packable bags are simple totes or small open backpacks, others include more creature comforts and organizational features.

We took the Tortuga Packable Backpack for a spin on walks to local markets and the library, as well as daily to work, to see how it stacks up to the dozens of other packable bags we’ve tested over the years, so let’s see how it fared.

External Components

There are a few different materials used in the construction of the Tortuga Packable Backpack. Primarily, we have 70D ripstop nylon, which is pretty soft and doesn’t hold onto wrinkles for very long after it’s been tucked away into its pocket. Since some other packable bags look like they lived at the bottom of a teenager’s laundry hamper for years, no matter how long you use them, we appreciate the relatively wrinkle-free look.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Full
Tortuga Packable Backpack | The ripstop nylon is lightweight and durable.

The ripstop is reinforced with Extreema® to create a tear-resistant bottom panel. It has a fun white-on-black grid pattern, lending a pop of style to the otherwise all-black bag. That’s the only color the bag comes in at the time of this review, so if black isn’t your jam, this may not be to your liking.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Zipper
Tortuga Packable Backpack | YKK zippers are easy to open and close, though they can catch on the thin material.

There is a thin carry handle at the top for short-term use or to hang it on a hook, and Tortuga uses YKK zippers on the bag, with branded pulls that include holes that you can slide a lock through if you’re in a sketchy area. We never use that feature, but it’s a nice inclusion. The Tortuga turtle-shell-like logo is stamped near the top center of the bag, too. Since it’s black on black, it’s very subtle, and the bag has an overall clean appearance.

That makes it good for use as a personal item bag on the plane if you’re carrying on rolling luggage, although there’s no luggage pass-through to slide over the handle. With a 19L capacity, it fits nicely under the seat in front of you and is a great way to bring a book, extra layer, snacks, and a drink on board. You know, if you don’t have the roughly 8-by-6-by-3.5-inch pouch stowed in your travel backpack instead.

Tortuga Packable Backpack In A Bag
Tortuga Packable Backpack | Pack it away in a bigger bag when you’re not using it.

There are Woojin plastic slides on the shoulder straps and a Woojin buckle on the sternum strap. They work well and stay in place. For the most part, we didn’t feel the need to make use of the sternum strap, but when walking for more than an hour with hardcover books in the bag, we clicked it into place and found that it made a difference in the comfort level of the bag with heavier gear. We don’t think you’ll need it as much if you carry lighter or softer items. You can adjust the strap along a daisy chain of loops on the shoulder straps to find the best spot; it hooks into place in one of six locations. There’s a bit of elastic on the sternum strap and a keeper to contain extra strap, as well.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Strap
Tortuga Packable Backpack | The minimal straps are still comfortable.

The shoulder straps are broad to distribute the bag’s weight and lined on both sides with a patterned, breathable mesh. The same mesh runs in two columns down the back panel with a double thickness of the padding and an air channel for breathability running down the center. It’s definitely not the beefy padding you’ll find on a travel daypack, but you wouldn’t be able to stuff it into its own pocket if it was thicker, so we find it a nice amount for a packable bag.

Fit Notes

Tortuga Packable Backpack Side by Side
Left: Kristyne Defever, Height: 5’5” (165 cm), Torso: 17” (43 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

Like many packable daypacks, this bag looks best when packed to the brim, preferably with soft, squishy gear like hoodies, travel towels, or a small cooler. However, it doesn’t look as saggy as some other packable bags we’ve tested, especially if you don’t overload the top pocket. Doing so will drag down the top of the bag slightly if there’s no other gear in the main compartment to support its weight, but that’s more of an issue when you have the main compartment open to fill; that’s when that front pocket flops down and makes it a little difficult to shove larger gear inside.

Even though the straps are thin, we find the minimal padding there and on the back panel enough to make the bag pretty comfortable for quite some time. You can improve the carry comfort by packing soft or padded gear against the back panel so it doesn’t poke into your back, and we like to carry it around throughout a day’s adventures if you do so.

Thin, flexible materials help the bag to fit various users well, and we here at Pack Hacker find it comfortable to wear, whether we’re on the shorter or taller ends of the spectrum.

Inside The Pack

You might not expect many bells and whistles on a packable bag, and the Tortuga Packable Backpack is minimal. However, it has a few extra features that make it nicer to carry every day than simple open bags.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Water Bottle
Tortuga Packable Backpack | Stretchy bottle pockets hold narrow and wide bottles well.

First of all, there are two stretchy mesh water bottle pockets—one on each side. They’re topped with elastic and can hold standard- to wide-width bottles (i.e., our Hydro Flask and our Nalgene!). What’s more, they each have a little tab on top to help you pull them open to squeeze a bottle in, whether it’s wider or you have a lot packed in the bag. That’s something to mention; while the holders can stretch to accommodate wider bottles, you lose some of that space if you have a lot of hard gear in the main compartment, like a pile of those hardcover books we mentioned above.

We know, we know … you carry a Kindle, but some of us are old-school and still like paper. The same holds true if you stuff it with a toiletry kit, tech pouch, and a laptop in a protective case, as well.

Tortuga Packable Backpack in Use
Tortuga Packable Backpack | Put small gear in the top pocket, or use it to pack away the bag.

At the top of the bag is a small pocket that we use for our phone, wallet, and keys. It’s the only small pocket on the backpack, so it’s the perfect spot for gear we need to get at quickly and often. However, as we’ve already mentioned (perhaps ad nauseam), putting that gear in this pocket drags down the top of the bag, especially when you open the main compartment. It’s something that happens with nearly every packable bag that truly packs in on itself, though, so while it’s something to mention, it’s definitely not a deal breaker, and it’s big enough to hold your 3-1-1 liquids bag if you’re planning to carry it on the plane.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Packing
Tortuga Packable Backpack | It’s easy to repack.

Since we’re here, let’s talk about how you pack it in on itself. If you peek inside that pocket, you’ll see that the zipper on it has a matching pull on the inside. That’s because you stuff the empty bag inside this pocket and then use that interior (now exterior) zipper pull to shut it. It creates a nice-sized pouch that you can use as a headrest against the airplane window or, more likely, stuff inside a bigger bag. The Tortuga Packable Backpack is quite flexible, and it’s easy to pack away, so you’re not left struggling to compress it or just giving up and laying it flat on the bottom of your suitcase because it’s not worth the effort.

Tortuga Packable Backpack Stuffed
Tortuga Packable Backpack | There’s lots of open space in the main compartment.

But now, let’s “Reverse! Reverse!” and pull it back out of the pocket to look into the main compartment. It’s a big open space, and that’s about all there is to say about it. There aren’t any pockets or sleeves inside. However, it’s plenty tall to hold a laptop with a protective case, a small cooler with lunch, and a glasses case, which we usually put inside. We carry a 13-inch MacBook, but there’s enough space for a larger device, provided you don’t mind the rigidity it provides the back panel. You’re more likely to be using this on vacation than every day, though, so we’ll tell you that there’s enough space to put an emergency outfit into a packing cube, a hoodie or some other layer for the plane, a few snacks to keep the hangry monster at bay, and your Kindle, tablet, or book for entertainment.

It’s also a great way to carry a few drinks, sunscreen, and packable towels to the pool or beach, and since it zips up, you don’t have to worry about your gear getting coated in sand as you would a travel tote bag, plus it’s more comfortable to wear on your back if you’re tooling around on a bike. That’s why we find it a great option to add to any packing list since you never know when you’ll need another bag.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Intuitive to pack away
  • Mesh-lined padding is soft
  • Interesting contrast pattern on the bottom
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Super easy to repack into a good-size pouch
  • Comfortable to carry throughout the day
  • You’ll have to add pouches and other organization to carry tech
By Kristyne Defever
Created April 17, 2024 • Updated May 7, 2024
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