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Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Review

The Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite has modest organization and a simplified design, but it’s hard to deny the payoff in lightness and carry comfort.

Our Verdict

8.6 /10
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  • Really soft and comfortable grab handles
  • The bag is large but not cumbersome to carry, even for those with small frames
  • Laptop compartment has a huge false bottom for shock absorption


  • Hip belt’s lengthy slack is a hassle to manage despite having strap keepers
  • Sometimes tricky to gauge if there’s any room left to pack since the main compartment’s sides sag
  • A modest level of organization, though it’s lacking an admin panel found in other travel backpacks

Technical Details

77 %

Carry-on Compliance

View 112/145 Airlines

80 %

Like the Look

Polled on Instagram

  • Capacity


  • Weight (lb)

    3.5 lb (1.6 kg)

  • Dimensions

    21.7 in x 13.8 in x 7.9 in (55.1 x 35.1 x 20.1 cm)

  • Notable Materials

    CORDURA® Nylon, YKK Zippers, Woojin Hardware

  • Manufacturing Country


  • Warranty Information

    Tortuga Common Decency Guarantee

Full Review

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Both the Tortuga Travel Backpack Pro 30L and 40L have noticeably less compartmentalized main compartments than their previous Outbreaker backpack. This was a major shift in design philosophy, leaning towards simplification and letting users tailor their own organization using packing cubes and pouches. In this review, we’re checking out Tortuga’s Travel Backpack Lite, a bag that takes simplification even further.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Walking
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | It’s like a Diet Coke version.

Though we’re sad to see this backpack omit an admin panel, Tortuga’s reasoning is sound. Not all users want all the bells and whistles; they’re perfectly happy with a functional, easy-to-pack, and comfortable-to-carry travel backpack. For the most part, the Travel Backpack Lite preserves all those core aspects while coming in at a lower price than the regular version.

External Components

The weight shedding begins with the Travel Backpack Lite’s main fabric, where Tortuga went with 630-denier CORDURA® ballistic nylon instead of their more established SHELL200 fabric used on the regular Travel Backpack Pro 40L. As a quick refresher, SHELL200 has multiple layers laminated together, including a 200-denier recycled polyester shell, a polyester cross-ply, and a 70-denier ripstop polyester backing. If that sounds like a familiar cast of characters, you’re probably familiar with the similar style of X-Pac fabric. All of this is to say that SHELL200, like X-Pac, is a relatively thick (read: heavy) but very durable material.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Logo
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | SHELL200 is tough, but we’re not going to complain about CORDURA® fabric.

But if you’re Tortuga aiming to stick “Lite” at the end of your backpack’s name, then 630D ballistic nylon is the way to go. It’s still tough enough to withstand the grueling trip between the airport and your hotel while being lighter than the multi-layered alternatives we just mentioned. The fabric is subtly shinier than SHELL200 and lacks the cross-ply pattern; it’s also a bit crunchier when you squeeze and compress it. You don’t get the structuredness of SHELL200, but the Travel Travel Backpack Lite is a full pound lighter than the regular version, which is pretty substantial.

On the left is a water bottle pocket made of stretchy mesh. The regular version’s water bottle pocket is made of fabric with elastics built in. However, this is an aspect of a backpack that we agree does just as well with less overall material, like mesh, without compromising functionality. If anything, this is better for non-insulated bottles that produce lots of condensation when filled with cold beverages; mesh is just inherently more breathable than thick fabrics.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Water Bottle
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | The mesh is stretchy and has a firm grip on that bottle.

We’re usually content if a travel backpack has any grab handles at all, doubly so if they’re well-padded. We think we’ve found a benchmark to measure future bags against with the Travel Backpack Lite. Right off the bat, during the first few days of testing, it was astonishing how pleasant it was to pick the bag up from the ground. Not only are the handles thickly padded (located at the top and right side), but they are also notably squishy, with a memory foam-like softness. Having tested both this bag and the regular version, we can tell where Tortuga’s doing a balancing act for the sake of lightness, but this is an area where it’s just flat-out good.

The Travel Backpack Lite also features hardware from Woojin and zippers from YKK. That’s more or less expected by this point, based on other Tortuga bags we’ve tested. Were there any weight-saving efforts here as well? Not really that we notice anyway. The zipper pulls and adjusters still feel as solid as the ones on other bags, which also use YKK zippers and Woojin hardware. That aside, we haven’t encountered any issues with the zippers or adjusters.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Zipper
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | It’s a lighter bag, but it’s not light on quality.

And in case you’re wondering, the main compartment zippers are lockable. They have built-in holes that overlap, allowing you to lock them with a TSA-approved lock. It’s not as fancy as the built-in locking features on Pacsafe bags, but it at least gives you the option of securing your gear.

The harness system is another key area where Tortuga sheds weight off the Travel Backpack Lite. Gone is the adjustable panel for the shoulder straps. They’re fixed in place, but you get a lot of figurative levers to pull on to get the fitment right, such as the load lifters, length adjusters, and the sternum strap. That last one is mounted on a rail, which we prefer since it allows for very minute adjustments around the chest.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Harness System
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | The shoulder straps’ padding feels softer than the hip belt’s (not shown) padding.

There’s also a removable padded hip belt. It’s not as big as on the regular Travel Backpack Pro 40L, and it’s lost the built-in pockets. Again, though, the goal here is lightness, and simplification is Tortuga’s way of achieving that. What matters to us is that this hip belt shifts some of the bag’s weight from the shoulders—we’ll see in the next section. Interestingly, we’ve noticed that the hip belt’s padding is stiffer compared to the padding on the back panel and the shoulder straps. The padding on those feels very soft and pliant, not to mention very thick to match the bag’s overall large size (let’s not forget that this is a 40-liter travel backpack).

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Top Handle
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | We really like how soft the handles are.

Lastly, although there’s no shiftable panel for the shoulder straps, you can still tuck them in the space behind the back panel. The hook-and-loop patch is quite strong, so you’ll have to pry it apart with some gusto to get it opened. This is one of those features that truly—in our opinion—separates travel backpacks from other types. Those who frequently travel will know how easily dangling straps snag on random fixtures and literally anything protruding, so having the option to put them away avoids all that hassle.

Fit Notes

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side By Side
Left: Lauren Maternowski, Height: 5’6” (168 cm), Torso: 16.5” (42 cm) | Right: Eric Hergenreder, Height: 6’0″ (183 cm), Torso: 18.5” (47 cm)

Despite the lack of an adjustable panel for the shoulder straps, the Travel Backpack Lite isn’t all that cumbersome, even for someone with a small frame. The load lifters do a good enough job raising the bag and minimizing any saggy feeling, as does the sternum strap. Even better, we can confirm that the hip belt effectively takes some of the weight off the shoulder straps. In hindsight, this also explains why the hip belt’s padding feels stiffer than the padding on the back panel and shoulder straps. If it was that soft, the padding would buckle, and the belt would dig into your hips, which would be uncomfortable.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Strap
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | The bag feels very locked down once you have the straps’ adjustments dialed in.

Overall, the Travel Backpack Lite has a comfortable, very “locked down” carry. Our only issue is the hip belt’s slack just dangles around. To be fair, Tortuga includes strap keepers, but there’s just too much slack to manage, making it a hassle to tuck them into the strap keepers each time.

Inside The Travel Backpack

Another key feature Tortuga omits for weight is an admin panel. Admittedly, this is a feature we always like seeing on travel backpacks since that’s where most pockets for organizing gear go. Whether it’s the Aer Travel Pack 3 or the ALPAKA Elements Travel Backpack, we like having an area for tech accessories and everyday carry items. On the other hand, we easily sidestep this issue since we almost always use a tech pouch and toiletry bag anyway. Plus, it’s not like the Travel Backpack Lite lacks secondary pockets.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Pocket
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | No admin panel, but this pocket is big enough for a tech pouch.

At the front is a left-facing zippered pocket. Its interior goes fully across, but not all the way to the top or the bottom; it’s more like a rectangular space. In other words, it’s an ideal spot to slot a pouch like the Aer Slim Pouch, Bellroy Tech Kit, or the TOM BIHN 3D Organizer Cube. Alternatively, this is where you can store the hip belt if you don’t want to use it. We put gear we grab frequently in the top zippered pocket. It’s also roomy, and there’s a built-in key leash, so you can easily pull them out in a pinch.

Next up is the laptop compartment. Fortunately, it’s still a separate compartment and not just a built-in sleeve within the main compartment. The interior is lined with a soft felt-like material with an absurdly high false bottom. The bottom is suspended about two inches off the base of the bag, which should be more than enough to keep even something beefy like a 16-inch MacBook Pro from slamming into the ground whenever you put the bag down.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Top Pocket
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | Quick grab gear goes here.

However, we see more evidence where Tortuga simplifies things for lightness’s sake. Firstly, there are no additional pockets or partitions within this laptop compartment. There’s no sleeve for a tablet, for example, nor a pocket for cables or adapters. Secondly, examining the laptop compartment made it obvious to us that there’s actually not that much structure to the back panel. To be clear, we feel confident enough to put a bare MacBook Pro in here, but those used to well-structured, heavily padded laptop compartments may want to add a separate laptop sleeve. The silver lining: there’s more than enough room if you wish to do so.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Laptop
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | We like the soft lining and there’s also a huge false bottom underneath.

The main compartment opens up clamshell-style (like a suitcase). Fully opened, you’ll find a bright white liner and a huge bucket space to pack most of your clothing. On the left (the cover side) are two large mesh compartments, which is more than what you get on the regular version. Both have plenty of room since they occupy most of the leftover volume within the cover. However, keep in mind that both the exterior front and top pocket eat into the top mesh pocket. Even so, both mesh pockets have enough room to accommodate accessories like socks, gloves, underwear, and even a toiletry bag.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Empty
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | There are two large mesh pockets, whereas the regular version has one large mesh partition.

The bucket space has no partitions, pockets, or hold-down straps, leaving you to either pack your clothing tightly or use packing cubes—we always do the latter. It’s worth noting that Tortuga has both compression cubes and regular packing cubes of their own, so you can put two and two together and see what they think is the best setup. Regardless of whether you’re packing a stack of shirts or a stack of packing cubes, it’s fairly easy to do so, thanks to the suitcase-style opening.

Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite Side Stuffed
Tortuga Travel Backpack Lite | Packing cubes are easy to place with such a large bucket space.

Our only issue is having to prop up the sides to keep them from sagging while packing gear. This is especially true for the left side since the cover gets heavy once full, causing it to pull that entire side down. In turn, this makes it hard to gauge whether we still have enough room to pack more gear. Is it a deal breaker, though? Not really. It’s a consequence of the lighter fabric Tortuga uses, which leads to less structure, but the payoff in lightness is worth it.

Usage Timeline

Initial Usage

Condition: Excellent

  • Super comfy carry handles
  • Digging the internal organization
  • Seems more comfortable than the 40L Travel Backpack right out the gate
2 Weeks of Use

Condition: Excellent

  • Material is a bit floppy, though it’s easy to get used to (and we have no concerns about durability)
  • Straightforward organization that’s easy to customize with cubes and pouches
  • Great carry comfort
By Lauren Maternowski
Created April 17, 2024 • Updated May 7, 2024
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