What We Like
Padded laptop sleeve
Lots of storage
Packs like a suitcase
What We Don't Like
Shoulder strap sold separately
You’re about to set out on your next adventure, and you want to be as prepared as possible. You’ve got your hotel or hostel booked. You’ve researched weather-appropriate clothes. Now it’s time to pick the perfect bag to take with you. Whether you’re looking for a carry-on or a personal item, you likely want something that’s durable and can hold a lot of clothes. Bonus points if it has a laptop/tablet sleeve. We got ourselves a Tortuga Setout Backpack to see if it lives up to the hype—and its high price tag. Read on to see how this carry-on backpack handles travel, from packing it to stuffing it in a bin to lugging it around all day.
Design: Stylish and organized
The Tortuga Setout Backpack comes with a lot of perks, the first being that it doesn’t look like a backpack. With its minimalistic front and sleek fabric, you’ll have the nicest-looking backpack around. Plus, since it packs like a suitcase instead of from the top, so you’ll have an easier time organizing your clothes and toiletries.
Speaking of organization, this backpack has its fair share of compartments. In the main compartment, you have two mesh pockets for undergarments, electronics, charging cords, or whatever you want. The laptop sleeve compartment also comes with a few extra pockets for notebooks or your favorite novel. In the front pocket, you have places for your passport and pens, a hook for your keys, and more.
At first look, the Tortuga Setout’s straps look clunky. And you’re not wrong—they definitely are. But thankfully, whoever designed this bag is a genius. The backpack straps can be neatly tucked away in a sleeve at the very back of the pack. As for the hip belt (which includes pockets and provides a great place for your phone or a quick snack), it can be removed and stored in the bag. This way, you can carry the Setout like a briefcase. If you want to carry it as a cross-body bag, though, you have to buy a shoulder strap separately.
We love how easy it is to carry around the Tortuga Setout Backpack, even when it’s stuffed full.
Still, the Setout has plenty of other features to make up for the missing shoulder strap. To name a few, it has a water bottle pocket, zippers that you can secure with a padlock, weather-resistant fabric (made from recycled water bottles), and adjustable straps to compress the bag when you’ve overpacked.
It comes in two different sizes—a 35 liter and 45 liter, as well as a men’s and women’s fits. To determine which size you should get, Tortuga provides a handy guide. Both sizes should work as a carry-on, but be sure to check your airline’s specific requirements (particularly on domestic flights) if you get the larger version. The 35-liter size is perfect for a carry-on, but depending on the airline, using it as a personal item will be pushing it.
Laptop Sleeve: One of the best we’ve seen
Traveling with something as precious as a laptop can be scary. What if your bag is dropped or crushed? Yikes! And if you have to shove it in a storage bin on a bus, train, or airplane, you want to make sure it’s protected. The Setout comes with padding on both sides of the laptop sleeve so you don’t have to worry about your laptop getting damaged during travel.
Capacity: Plenty of room
If you’re planning for less than two weeks of travel, this is the perfect option. With all the pockets and a generously sized main compartment, you’ll be able to fit ample clothes and toiletries. In fact, we were impressed with just how much we could pack.
We were impressed with just how much we could pack.
The main compartment opens up so you can pack it like a suitcase. It doesn’t look like it holds much, but when you use the front compartment as well as the main one, you can fit enough clothes for a little under two weeks. This is what we managed to get into the bag, using both compartments of the 35-liter women’s fit: three pairs of jeans, two pairs of leggings, two pairs of fleece-lined tights, one pair of pajama pants, three t-shirts, four long-sleeve shirts, one sweater, one jacket, one flannel shirt, and one hoodie.
Portability: Great suspension system
We love how easy it is to carry the Tortuga Setout Backpack, even when it’s stuffed full. The bag weighs just 3.6 pounds (35 liter, women’s fit), so you control how much weight ends up on your shoulders. We also appreciate the fact that the bag is sold in women’s and men’s fits, so it isn’t too overwhelming on small frames.
When you have it on your back, you’ll be able to buckle up the sternum strap and hip strap to help distribute the weight evenly. The straps are padded to make sure nothing digs into your back, and the mesh material will help your back breathe. Overall, the Setout is easy to carry around, and it’s not so big that you’ll be bumping into people in crowded areas.
The bag is sold in women’s and men’s fits, so it isn’t too overwhelming on small frames.
Price: High, but worth it
The Tortuga Setout has a starting price of $179, which is high, but you won’t regret it. This is a great backpack that’ll last you through many, many adventures across oceans and countries.
Competition: Cheaper options available
Osprey Porter 30 Travel Backpack: Capacity-wise, the Osprey backpack—which we also tested—is almost identical to the Tortuga Setout. Looks-wise, though, they’re completely different. The Osprey Porter 30 looks like a backpack you’d see on a hiking trail, whereas the Tortuga Setout has a sleek look to it that’s perfect for urban settings. Also, the Osprey Porter 30’s laptop sleeve isn’t nearly as enforced as the Setout’s.
Both bags have a similar suspension system, although we think the Setout is more comfortable. We can’t say one backpack is better than the other, because it truly depends on your needs. If you don’t need to take a laptop with you, check out the Porter 30. It’s cheaper than the Setout, with a $120 MSRP. If you never leave home without your laptop, stick with the Tortuga.
eBags Professional Weekender: We also tested this eBags backpack, and while it may look similar to the Tortuga Setout, it’s very different on the inside. Yes, both of them lie flat and open like a suitcase. In fact, the Weekender can go through airport security with the laptop still in its sleeve. But the sleeve itself is flimsy and does nothing to protect your machine.
As far as capacity, the Weekender is, well, a weekender—and an expensive one at that, with a $170 price tag. The Setout, however, can hold a lot more, functioning as a weekender or as a bag for a longer trip. So, from our perspective, why get a bag that can only do one thing, when you can get a more versatile one for just a little bit more?
Interested in checking out more options? Take a peek at our roundup of the best carry-on backpacks.
- Product Name Setout Backpack
- Product Brand Tortuga
- Price $179.00
- Weight 3.6 lbs.
- Product Dimensions 21.5 x 13.5 x 7.5 in.
- Color Black for women’s fit; black, heather grey, or navy for men’s fit
- Volume 35 L
- Material 900D polyester
- Warranty Lifetime for material/craftsmanship defects