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I like to thoroughly test things and as I might have mentioned before, I have a way of breaking my carry-on backpacks as I often travel carry-on only. When Tortuga offered to send me the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack and daypack to test out, I was ready for something more organized after my last carry-on bag. This is a review of the Setout Exploration Bundle, including the Setout Backpack and the Setout Packable Daypack.
- About the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
- Dimensions of the Tortuga Setout Travel Pack
- My experience using the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
- Pros of the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
- Cons of the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
- Overall review of the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
- Review of the Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack
- Dimensions of the Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack
- My experience using the Tortuga Setout Packable Daypack
- General impressions of the Tortuga Setout travel backpack & Tortuga Setout daypack
Note: Tortuga Setout sent me these two bags to try out.
About the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
The Tortuga Setout is a carry-on size travel backpack with a number of pockets for your electronics (including your laptop), front loading interior, a chest strap, and a hip belt. It perfectly fits all you need for at least a week although I’d argue that it’s a good bag for a longer trip of 2-4 weeks as you can easily fit your electronics as long as you’re willing to pack lighter.
The bag isn’t as cheap as some other lightweight carry-on backpacks, but if you’re looking for a high quality carry-on that you can easily bring with you on budget airlines in Europe, look no further. I’ve been generally pleased with the front loading feature, its firm shape, as well as its comfortable back padding.
Dimensions of the Tortuga Setout Travel Pack
- Dimensions (cm): 56 x 36 x 23 cm
- Dimensions (inches): 22 x 14 x 9 inches
- Volume: 45L
- Weight: 3.3 lbs
- Colour: Grey / Black
- Cost: $199 USD with free shipping in the United States.
- Fits a 15″ laptop, tabler, and charger.
My experience using the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
At least for me, the bag has the perfect dimensions. I’m average height for an American woman with a slightly shorter torso, so the backpack actually fit perfectly on me with minimal adjustments with the hip strap fitting well over my hips.
However, when my husband wears it (who is nearly 6′), the hip strap buckles around his stomach. He finds it comfortable otherwise, but the fact that the backpack isn’t adjustable was a con in his book.
After receiving the Tortuga Setout travel backpack, I had a trip to the United States for a wedding prior to visiting my family. I ended up having to pack for two weeks in one bag, including a few formal occasions. I ended up packing light and I was left with quite a bit of room to bring back many goodies from America. I flew with TAP Portugal carry-on only on the way back to Europe. As the dimensions for TAP are a bit stricter than other airlines, I was a bit concerned, but I had no problems onboard.
Next, I went on a girls trip with two friends to Brussels prior to going on a weekend getaway in Belgium to buy Westvleteren 12 and eat seafood in Zeeland, the Netherlands. I shared the bag with my husband–and we still had quite a bit of space. I’ve been pleased with the Tortuga Setout as someone who travels a lot using a carry-on as it’s a comfortable travel backpack for short travel durations that can fit a lot.
Pros of the Tortuga Setout travel backpack
Carry-on size for strict budget flights
This is the most important thing for me as someone who travels almost exclusively carry-on only. I’ve been really pleasantly surprised by how much I can fit into this bag, even so that I’ve been a bit concerned about the weight when flying carry-on only. Some very strict budget airlines may nix this bag, so check the requirements before you fly.
I’ve never had a carry-on bag with a hip belt before. I find that the hip belt is great for balancing out the weight to reduce strain on my shoulders (an issue for me). Similarly, I love that I can tuck my passport, phone, a credit/debit card, and my train pass into the pocket around my hip for easy access. This way, I can tuck away my purse in the Setout Backpack. (Some budget airlines are fairly strict about your purse fitting inside the bag.)
This was my pet peeve about my previous carry-on backpack as I used to hate that the bag would flop over if I didn’t have enough inside, which also meant that everything would fall to the bottom, creating a weight distribution issue . Although I still need to use packing cubes with the Setout, I found that my items were far less likely to move around compared to other carry-on bags that I’ve had.
I love that the shape of the Setout Backpack is stable, which put my mind at ease that the wine bottle that I brought back from Brussels could remain standing up inside of the bag as I had some concerns that it would move around too much–and break.
Padded shoulders and back
Even the best backpack for carry-on travel will fail the basic backpack test if the straps aren’t comfortable and don’t distribute the weight evenly. I’ve had a lot of back and shoulder issues in the last year, so having a bag that properly redistributes my bag’s weight has been a priority for me. I really love the molded foam back as it’s been the best back support that I’ve experienced on a backpack in a long time.
This is particularly key for me. I haven’t hiked yet with this backpack, however I regularly put on the chest strap as it ensures that the backpack minimally moves when I walk with it.
This carry-on friendly bag weighs only three pounds and despite lacking a metal frame, it does a great job of redistributing the weight when the bag is packed to maximum capacity. Despite its sturdy shape, it also compresses fairly easily, which is great for storage.
This feature of the Setout is helpful for packing. The zipper goes all the way around, so you can position the zippers in a way that makes it difficult for someone to open it easily without you noticing. Similarly, it’s easy to pack it neatly like you would with a normal suitcase on the ground.
I live in the Netherlands, so having a waterproof bag is important. Despite some rain during my travels, my electronics and clothes have remained dry.
As a travel blogger, I travel with a lot of stuff. I don’t always travel with my laptop, but I often don’t know when I’m going to need to work. As a result, being able to securely store my laptop in a private pocket and an easy-to-access pocket for electronic equipment (such as extra SD cards and chargers) is a big plus for me. In the past, my electronic extras were generally thrown into the larger bag, which just made my bag a mess of wires and clothes.
Clips & Water Bottle Holder
I generally bring my Nalgene bottle when I travel to avoid extra plastic waste. I was pleased to discover the extra clips along the sides, which made it easy to hook my Nalgene bottle onto the backpack. The Setout has space for a smaller water bottle on the side, which is handy for storing a Diet Coke for the road.
Cons of the Tortuga Setout travel backpack
A bit bulky
This carry-on backpack is fairly large, so if you’re going on very short trip (1-2 days), it can feel a bit excessive to pack as there’s a lot of space inside. It’s not a bad thing, but I’ve been a bit apprehensive about bringing it on shorter trips. However, it does mean that you’ll have more room for souvenirs. 😉
No height adjustments
This is the biggest issue for my husband. For me, the backpack fits well and the hip belt fits perfectly over my hips. That said, he’s tall and it fits him weird. I’d go for the Outbreaker, an adjustable backpack from Tortuga, if you’re tall.
Not for larger laptops
I have a smaller, lighter laptop, however my husband has a large gaming computer. We’ve tested it and his computer fits inside the main pocket although this is not perfectly ideal for those who travel with more electronics. However, for those traveling with few electronics or going on short trips, you won’t have an issue. You may want to look into the Outbreaker Backpack, which can easily hold a larger laptop.
Warranty doesn’t cover wear and tear long-term
I don’t expect things to last forever and the reality is that most of us lose the receipt after a few months (or maybe this is just me…). Tortuga makes what seems like a solid product that I hope that I’ll be using for years to come and I appreciate that they’re honest about the fact that things break from wear-and-tear. That said, I’d love if the warranty was stronger.
Hip belt is a bit weird with dresses
When I’ve worn my Setout backpack, I find that it’s far more comfortable when I wear it with the hip belt clipped. My biggest issue is that the buckled hip belt can make the back of my dress ride up a little in the back, especially if the dress is a looser fabric.
Overall Review of the Tortuga Setout daypack
It’s possible to buy the Tortuga Setout daypack together with the Tortuga Setout for only $20 extra. I’ve included a review of the Setout Packable Daypack here as I think that it’s a good deal to buy both together.
I’ve been using my Tortuga Setout daypack more than my Setout travel backpack in my daily life as it fits easily in my purse and it fits my Macbook Air. Perfect for a day working at a cafe where I’m not sure if I’ll need to pick up a few dinner supplies later.
Review of the Tortuga Setout carry-on backpack
About the Tortuga Setout daypack
Dimensions of the Tortuga Setout daypack
- Dimensions: 17.5” x 11.5” x 5″ (Can fit a Macbook Air!)
- Fits 19L
- Weight: 8.5 oz (0.53 lbs)
- Fabric: 30D ripstop nylon
My experience using the Tortuga Setout daypack
I actually have really been loving using my Tortuga Setout daypack. It fits my Macbook Air inside, which is handy for days when I want to head to a cafe to work. (Shockingly, I don’t own a proper laptop backpack.) I love how small it folds up, so much so that I can even fit it into my handbag when heading out to the supermarket for groceries.
The fabric is a light material without extra reinforcement at the bottom, so I have some concerns about the bottom wearing out long-term, however at the moment, I’m very happy with it and I’ll continue using it regularly until it breaks. I can definitely see this being handy for future hiking trips as my normal hiking backpack is too large to pack within a carry-on bag. (I usually just bring it as my main bag.) I just wish there was a bit more structure to the bag as well as a way to more easily hook a water bottle on it, however these are minor points as I love how lightweight and easy to carry this bag is.
General impressions of the Tortuga Setout travel backpack & Tortuga Setout daypack
Thumbs up from me and my husband. We’ve found both bags to be quite useful as people who love taking weekend trips to nearby cities as well as budget flights to other European cities. Of my carry-on bags thus far, the Tortuga Setout travel backpack has been the best lightweight travel backpack for European travel that I’ve found so far due to its lightweight frame, good weight distribution, and spacious interior. I’m hoping that it lasts for a while.