Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L Review
The Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L pairs the bigger version’s thickly padded harness system with a more tameable size for those with smaller frames.
- Comprehensive and comfortable harness system
- 30-liter size doubles as a daypack
- Lots of organization options, with simple main compartment to preserve space
- Tricky to quickly access inner mesh compartment
- Harness system near-overkill for 30-liter size
- Less main compartment organization than the Outbreaker
4 lb (1.8 kg)
20.5 in x 12.2 in x 7.5 in (52.1 x 31 x 19.1 cm)
Recycled Polyester, Ripstop Polyester, DWR Coating, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware
Laptop Compartment Size
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The Tortuga Travel Backpack 40L is a worthy successor to the brand’s Outbreaker Travel Backpack 35L. Tweaks to their formula regarding layout, number of compartments, and material are overall positive, if a bit jarring for those coming directly from the Outbreaker. That said, 40 liters is quite intense if you’re looking for something to carry every day or have a smaller frame.
Meet the Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L. Don’t worry if you’ve already read our review of the 40-liter version and think this is a cut-down version; rest assured that that’s not the case. In fact, they’ve kept pretty much the entire design intact, save for the size and capacity. The complete harness system, with thickly padded shoulder straps, vertical adjustment, and a wide hip belt? Yep, that’s here, and so is the outward-opening mesh compartment. Now let’s dive into the details and check out this not-much-tinier version of Tortuga’s Travel Backpack 40L.
The Travel Backpack 30L uses the same SHELL200 fabric as the bigger 40-liter version. That much is a given since this is, more or less, a downsized version of what Tortuga believes is a winning formula. For context, the previous Outbreaker Travel Backpack 35L, which we’ve rated highly, uses X-Pac VX21 fabric. Both the VX21 and SHELL200 are laminated fabrics; that is to say, they include different layers.
The SHELL200 has a 200-denier recycled polyester outer layer, a 45° recycled polyester cross-ply, and a recycled ripstop polyester backing fabric. At a glance, the SHELL200 fabric looks closer to ballistic nylon than X-Pac since it’s missing the signature diamond pattern of the latter. Feel the fabric in your hands, though, and it’s immediately apparent that the heft and thickness are similar to X-Pac VX21. So what’s the benefit? Tortuga says it’s durable, lightweight, and waterproof. Indeed, compared to X-Pac VX21, SHELL200 is noticeably softer and lighter without necessarily feeling flimsier.
The bag looks very sleek and, as head-turning as X-Pac fabric is, SHELL200’s more subtle approach is something we can get behind. We like to keep things low-key during international travel, and plain black fabric plays well with that. The boxy shape may be the most orthodox for a travel backpack, and it’s the one we want for packing efficiency.
The zippers are from YKK and come with equally stealthy black zipper pulls. There’s really nothing that stands out about these zippers. They simply work, and that’s probably the magic of YKK zippers—you won’t have to worry about them jamming or breaking in the middle of a trip. They’re also neither too easy to glide nor too resistant to unzipping. The Travel Backpack 30L may be boxy, but Tortuga rounded the corners just enough for the zippers to glide around them just fine.
There are handles at the top and on the right side of the Travel Backpack 30L. We like that both handles are padded with foam because it makes carrying the bag by hand easier. In fact, the Travel Backpack 30L is relatively comfortable to hold, even for extended periods. Sometimes you can’t be bothered to sling either shoulder strap, and foam-padded handles are a welcome alternative.
The Travel Backpack 30L has two water bottle pockets, one for each side, in case you want to double up on hydration (and honestly, we all probably could). But before committing to that, keep in mind that one of the water bottle pockets is directly below the side handle, so filling that pocket can prevent you from using it.
The bottle pockets have a fairly simple and straightforward design. Their rims are lined with elastic, and fabric gussets at the back allow them to expand as needed. Conversely, the elastic keeps them flush against the bag when not in use. In terms of space, the pockets can accommodate 21-ounce travel water bottles like a YETI or a Hydro Flask.
The harness system is just as beefy as it is with the 40-liter version. The shoulder straps alone have so much padding that they look stiff as they hang. However, they’re much more comfortable than looks suggest, as we’ll explain later in the Fit Notes section. Both straps are attached to a loop-and-hooked panel and can be adjusted vertically for a better torso fit. The loop-and-hook system is very tight, which makes sense since it attaches the shoulder straps to the bag.
Thankfully, you’ll only have to adjust this once and shouldn’t have to fiddle with it again once you’re comfortable. You can remember how high or low you set it with the handy graduation printed on the fabric.
There are also load lifters at the top, a sternum strap in the middle, and a padded hip belt at the bottom. Having both load lifters and vertical adjustment for the shoulder straps can be a bit confusing, and we suggest first adjusting the height before you tinker with the load lifters. Load lifters are easier to tighten or loosen than the shoulder straps’ height adjustment.
The sternum strap mounted on rails allows each half to slide fairly easily. This is our preferred sternum strap mounting style as opposed to being clipped on loops. The micro-adjustments sliding permits really let us dial in the fit. While you don’t have to spend too much time on it, it’s very tempting to do.
The hip belt is very comfortably padded, much like the shoulder straps, although the hip-hugging panels look somewhat comically large, even for the bag’s 30-liter size. It is justified since there are built-in pockets, which we’ll discuss later, and you can remove the hip belt altogether if you want to. The belt mounts via hook-and-loops, which we dig. Other brands use gatekeeper clips and G-hooks on their hip belts, which are much fiddlier to detach.
Last but not least is the back panel. Fortunately, Tortuga didn’t skimp out on padding here, either. The sheer amount of padding is on full display—and most evident on—the back panel. Check out that middle air channel; it’s really deep and allows air to flow very freely. Even though the padding is very thick, it’s not as stiff as it appears, and it’s soft and malleable when wearing it.
Much of the Tortuga Travel Backpack 30L’s weight gets shifted away from the shoulders and onto the hips via the hip belt. It’s very effective at its intended purpose; hence why we don’t mind the large padded panels. With all the straps locked and dialed in, the Travel Backpack 30L rides high on the back, but it’s not overwhelmingly tall. Compared to the 40-liter version, its smaller size makes it more tameable; there’s just more room to get the fit right.
This mainly benefits users with smaller frames. The overall comfort isn’t too far off from the 40-liter version since the harness system is pretty much the same for both bags. Hence, we don’t recommend sacrificing capacity if you’re looking for a huge difference in comfort and fit. On the other hand, if you wanted a more “daypackable” version of the 40-liter Travel Backpack, then this is it.
It’s also worth noting that we like how well Tortuga subtly manages the straps. For example, the load lifters’ slack feeds neatly into loops along the shoulder straps. There are also strap keepers for the shoulder straps and stash areas for the hip belt’s slack. All of these factor into comfort since there are little to no straps to distract you or potentially snag on fixtures and furniture.
Inside The Backpack
Some of you may be tempted to remove the hip belt as soon as you get the Travel Backpack 30L, and that’s perfectly valid. It still carries comfortably and has a less intense look with fewer straps. That said, the hip belt’s built-in pockets make a great case for themselves in terms of convenience.
Both pockets have zippered closures and are big enough to fit an iPhone 13. You can also use it to stash snacks, wet wipes, coins, or a small to mid-sized power bank. Bulk isn’t a big issue for these pockets since they have a lot of room, backed by a lot of padding. In other words, items inside shouldn’t poke too badly against your hip.
The Travel Backpack 30L also has a front pocket for much bigger items, though a fabric welt stealthily hides it. It’s a left-facing wide pocket well-suited for large but flat items like a hat, gloves, or a folded and compressed base layer. Rounded bulky gear will create a bulge at the front, so we don’t recommend stashing them here, but your mileage may vary depending on the item in question.
Smaller accessories like sunglasses, a minimalist wallet, and keys have their place in the top pocket. The zippered opening is a bit small, but there’s more than ample space for those items. A small key leash inside keeps keys separated and easy to fish out in a jiffy.
A large part of the Travel Backpack 30L’s organization is in an admin panel at the front. It zips open horseshoe-style, meaning the front can fold out. This gives you a full view of the interior pockets, but keep in mind that items in the front pocket we discussed earlier can stop it from folding out.
Inside, there’s a fleece-lined tablet slip pocket, four card slots, two pen silos, and a stretchy mesh pocket more than wide enough for a passport. There’s also a cavity below all of these pockets that can fit a packing cube or a tech pouch, so there are a ton of storage options in this admin panel alone.
Next up is the laptop compartment, a major staple and must-have for any travel backpack. Tortuga gets it, and there’s a full complement of dividers and pockets you’d want out of a laptop compartment. There’s not only a padded sleeve for your 16-inch device but also a slip pocket for a travel keyboard or tablet. Both lock in with the same hook and loop fastener for additional security.
Right across is a zippered pouch where you can store accompanying tech accessories. While we advocate using tech pouches, this is a nice alternative for those who want to keep it simple. This is especially true if you’re not carrying a ton of accessories. If you’re only using an Apple Magic Mouse, a compact GaN charger, and maybe a spare set of earbuds, for example, the built-in pouch is more than big enough.
Access to the main compartment is clamshell-style, with the front swinging out to the left like a fridge. Inside, you’ll find a simplified, less compartmentalized layout than Tortuga’s Outbreaker. That is to say, the Outbreaker had extra interior and mesh pockets, whereas Tortuga opted for just one in the Travel Backpack 30L.
Said mesh pocket is more of a compartment, and it’s on the “door.” It acts more like a secondary container for extra pouches, like a toiletry bag and maybe another tech pouch. Ideally, it’s for dirty clothing, but we use a separate packing cube for that. Our only issue with this mesh compartment is the way it opens. It’s hinged along the far side of the door, meaning it swings out, but you can’t get inside by simply prying the main compartment open. In case you’re wondering, yes, it’s the same case with the 40-liter version. That said, it’s more of a quirk or a minor inconvenience at worst.
Now, for the main compartment’s bucket space. It’s a big tub. That’s it. It reflects Tortuga’s intentional move to a more simplified, less compartmentalized design. Chuck in your packing cubes and pouches and watch the squared-off corners get filled in near-perfectly. The only thing to remember is that items in the adjacent laptop compartment can cut into the upper portion.
This affected our packing strategy as we were testing the Travel Backpack 30L, but not to a very concerning extent. We simply had to put larger packing cubes with pants and thick tops along the bottom and smaller cubes or pouches at the top. It’s nothing more than some minor packing strategizing.
In terms of space, Tortuga narrows it down to two to five days’ worth of clothing. That turns out to be conservative, at least from our testing; we could make everything we packed last an entire week. Of course, that depends on how fast you go through your wardrobe and what kind of clothing you’re packing. After all, souvenir t-shirts don’t take up as much space as down jackets.
- Feels very much like a smaller version of the Travel Backpack 40L—which makes sense, because it is
- Internal organization feels roomy even at a smaller size
- Digging the SHELL200 material
- Still in great condition—really enjoy the durability of the SHELL200 fabric
- Great for those with shorter torsos or who travel light
- Comfortable harness system for long-term carry