Looking for a Tortuga Outbreaker review to help you decide if you should buy this travel backpack?
Well, let me ask you something ...
Are you a very conscientious packer? Would you like to be?
Do you put off packing your bag until 11:00 pm the night before your trip and then realize that you have three loads of laundry to do and then ultimately end up throwing some damp shirts straight out of the dryer into the side pocket of your bag as you’re rushing out the door?
Or do you spend weeks meticulously planning for your trip, ironing, rolling and folding each item with gentle care as you lay out all of your possible outfit combinations?
Either way, the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack may just be the bag for you - but read this Tortuga Outbreaker review to find out.
Tortuga boasts “obsessive organization” with the Outbreaker backpack, and, after testing out this wildly popular travel backpack, I am inclined to agree.
The following article will detail all of the features of the Outbreaker so that you can decide for yourself whether or not this top-of-the-line travel backpack is worth the investment according to your travel needs.
Please note that the backpack I will be reviewing is the larger version at 45L, the max size for a carry-on at most airlines.
The Outbreaker also comes in the slightly smaller 35L size, which will definitely fit all carry-on regulations.
Before we dive in, if you're looking for a travel backpack, be sure to read our full guide to the best travel backpacks for Europe.
You can also checkout our Tortuga Setout review for our take on another popular Tortuga travel backpack.
Disclosures: if you buy through the affiliate links in this post, it may help us keep this blog going with a small commission. Also, note that Tortuga provided a review copy of the Outbreaker travel backpack.
Tortuga Outbreaker Review: A Quick Summary
The Tortuga Outbreaker is definitely a large backpack intended for a long trip.
It’s pretty big even when empty, and it can hold pretty much anything you would need for a week long trip, or possibly more depending on the bulk of the items you intend to carry.
With that much space, Tortuga has designed this backpack so that you can easily see and access everything you’ve packed for optimum organization.
By my count, this backpack has 16 different pockets and compartments, including two on the removable waist straps.
There are two major compartments: the front compartment opens up sideways like a suitcase, and the back compartment opens up longways, both with the capability to unzip completely.
That being said, the Outbreaker is definitely a travel backpack, and lacks versatility: the bag is too large for everyday use or short weekend trips and would only be reasonable in the same situations that you would use a mid-sized suitcase.
Regardless of your travel needs, this travel backpack is going to last you a long time. It’s a very high price point, and the quality reflects this.
It’s definitely going to hold up against wear and tear, and it has great padding and support for your back and shoulders.
Pro tip: You can't go wrong with this bag but you can also check out the Tortuga Setout if you're looking for something a little different.
Pros and Cons of the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack
Ok, ready to dive into our full Tortuga Outbreaker Review?
First, let's check out the pros and cons of this travel backpack:
Is the Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Right for You?
An explorer who is on the move and wants to keep all of their belongings neatly in one place.
If you’re considering a slightly more compact travel backpack, check out our review of the Tortuga Setout.
Detailed Tortuga Outbreaker Review
When looking for any type of travel backpack, you’re going to want to look for a few different features: portability, storage, comfort, and overall quality.
This is how the Tortuga Outbreaker measures up in these categories:
Depending on how you’ll be traveling, the Outbreaker is fairly movement-friendly. While the bag is very large, the organization allows for maximum packing, and there is easy access to anything you might need to pull out on the go.
This means that you’re not going to have to carry multiple bags when traveling, as you won’t have to dig through the backpack to access things like money, passports, or technology if you’ve stored them in one of the outer compartments.
If you’re planning on leaving all of your luggage at a hotel for the majority of the trip, however, you wouldn’t be able to unpack your clothing and toiletries from this bag and then use the backpack as a day bag--it’s way too big and would be impractical for short-term travel.
This means that, unlike some backpacks, this bag will not be able to fit as a personal item under your seat. It is a maximum carry on size and cannot be taken on an airline as a personal item.
If there’s one thing this backpack has, it’s storage.
I have what one may call “packing blindness.”
I either tend to drastically over or under pack with little regard for what the trip will actually require.
Spending a weekend with a friend? Better pack six pairs of shoes.
A week and a half at a beachfront resort? I probably only need like three t-shirts and a pair of ski pants.
With this bag, though, it’s virtually impossible to have “packing blindness.”
Everything has a place, and there’s a place for everything. If you have an empty pocket, you might be forgetting something.
If you plan to bring six pairs of shoes (like myself), you’ll have to bring a separate bag. The Outbreaker is designed to lay flat, and bulkier items like large shoes, hairdryers, or cameras will not fit very well.
The design will also keep you organized during your trip so that you’re able to easily pull out, use, and repack each item without needing to remember how you tetris-style fit everything in when you initially packed.
You can opt to stuff the bag for 1-2 weeks travel (depending on the bulkiness of your electronics, toiletries, shoes, or styling products), or you can simply pack what you need and leave the rest of the space empty for souvenirs.
One huge pocket problem that I had with this backpack was the side pockets.
They’re not very big and they’re not very stretchy, so they can’t fit my favorite reusable water bottle.
The pockets comfortably fit a travel umbrella, but you’ll have to find a slimmer than average water bottle if you want to be able to keep one at easy access.
Like I said at the start of this Tortuga Outbreaker review, the Outbreaker is pretty big and heavy, even if you don’t have it stuffed to the brim.
If you have any sort of neck or back problems, this probably is not the carry-on for you.
I want to stress that this product is a travel backpack, and not a suitcase or duffel bag with the option of back straps. There is a small handle on top of the bag, but you can really only carry it as advertised.
Although Tortuga has taken measures to alleviate your run-of-the-mill backpack discomfort with adjustable straps and thick padding, the bag is intended to last you through a long-term journey.
If you experience regular neck or back discomfort, you’re probably going to want to opt for something with wheels.
There is a slightly smaller option of the Outbreaker at 35L, which is designed to comply with airline carry-on standards no matter how full, but in my opinion, the dimensions and weight of the two aren’t a big enough disparity to make a difference on comfort.
These are the dimensions of the 45L Tortuga Outbreaker:
22” x 14” x 9”
Fits 16-20” Torso
Although this particular travel backpack comes in two different sizes, I was disappointed to learn that it only comes in a black color and there are not different options for men’s/women’s designs, as Tortuga offers for some of their other products.
The Tortuga Outbreaker is built for a fairly broad, rectangular frame, and doesn’t personally fit my body very well. With all of the adjustability this backpack offers, it is by no means going to fall off of me, but it’s not the most comfortable fit and the thick straps scratch the inside of my arms when I’m not wearing long sleeves.
Overall Quality of the Tortuga Outbreaker
All of Tortuga’s backpacks are known for their quality, but this one is the most expensive bag they sell, and the quality definitely reflects the price point.
When doing some research on the Tortuga website, I was incredibly impressed by the very personal “common decency guarantee.”
As a small company, the owners of the Tortuga brand affirm that they “live and die by their reputation.”
Tortuga products are man-made and the company emphasizes that they use the highest quality materials. If your bag arrives with an obvious defect, you can email the company and will receive personalized assistance.
While the warranty does not protect against things like normal wear and tear, accident, or loss; I really cannot see how this backpack could be damaged beyond some light fading in color or fraying of fabrics--and that would be after some pretty extensive use.
People say that “they don’t make things like they used to,” but this backpack is made like they used to. It’s got weatherproof fabric and the highest quality zippers and buckles. Even if you tried to rip or cut this backpack, you’d have a pretty hard time.
If you’re looking for luggage to take on a one-time, low intensity trip, it may be justifiable to save a few bucks on a cheaper, big-brand product.
But if you’re a wandering soul who can’t wait to plan their next trip, I’d say it’s worth it to splurge on a high quality product like this one that was made by a small business that understands the lifestyle and has your personal needs in mind.
Tortuga Outbreaker for Urban Travel
The great thing about the Tortuga Outbreaker is it can store a ton of stuff, so if you’ll be hopping from city to city, it’s a great bag to keep all of your belongings in one place.
If you’re going to be spending a lot of time in an airport, though, it may be easier to bring a carry-on with wheels so you don’t have to hoist a heavy backpack onto your shoulders every time you want to leave your gate.
On the other hand, if you’re packing really heavy and you’ll be taking a large checked bag and a carry-on, this backpack is a great way to avoid rolling two suitcases behind you or deal with the annoying problem of trying to balance a duffel bag on a large suitcase.
Like I mentioned earlier, this backpack isn’t very collapsible, and if you’d like a bag that you can unpack at your hotel and then carry a few small items with you during the day, the Outbreaker won’t bee the bag for your needs-- you might want to pack an other small bag for day trips.
It should be mentioned that, although it has plenty of storage for electronics like laptops, tablets, and smaller devices, the Outbreaker can’t handle larger, bulkier items like cameras. The bag is designed to lay fairly flat, so if you need to bring easily damaged items that take up a lot of space, you’ll need to bring a separate bag.
Tortuga Outbreaker for Outdoor Travel
If you’re looking for a backpack for an extended hiking trip, the Tortuga Outbreaker is a great choice.
One thing I especially love for this purpose is the built in pockets on the waist strap-- they’re the perfect size for snacks.
These pockets do not fit my personal cell phone (which, to be fair, is pretty large), and if I were traveling through an airport, I’d want easy access to my phone within one of these pockets.
But if you’re traveling through the woods with no service, you can chuck your phone safely into one of the padded, waterproof compartments inside the backpack and save the hip pockets for trail mix.
Speaking of waterproof, the material making up the Outbreaker is weatherproof and should be able to stand up to any water, dirt, or foliage you may encounter.
According to my tests (putting a dry paper towel into one of the pockets and running it under water for a minute), as long as you have the zippers closed tightly, everything inside should stay dry.
Also--and disclaimer, this is not a specified use for the backpack on the Tortuga website, so if doing this causes damage to your backpack, it most likely will not be covered by the warranty--the adjustable shoulder straps, when extended completely, hypothetically could hold a small bedroll between the suspension straps and back of the bag.
If a place for a bedroll or sleeping bag is something that you absolutely need for your trip, I would check it out before you buy it to make sure there’s enough room for what you’d need.
Final verdict - Tortuga Outbreaker Review
If you’re a pretty minimalist packer and like to have everything neatly stored in one place, this bag is a great choice and will undoubtedly last a very long time.
If you’re planning a long trip where you’ll be taking planes, trains, and automobiles from city to city, the Outbacker is great for you.
If the Outbreaker is sounding like the bag for you, awesome--it’s a great investment.
Check out the Outbreaker’s specs and reviews straight from Tortuga’s website here.
Oh, and while you're here, be sure to check out these other articles to help you plan your travels: