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TORTUGA SETOUT Review [What No One Tells You…]

Whether you are looking for the Best Digital Nomad Gear on the market or are just interested in Tortuga as a whole, welcome to the most brutally honest Tortuga Setout review on the web!

We at Nomads Nation have pushed this bag to its limits. We’ve travelled with it, we’ve jumped on it, someone even kicked it – but most importantly we’ve explored and trial tested every one of its awesome features.

And in this EPIC Tortuga Setout review, we take a look at all of those features – leaving no stone unturned!

With the help of this insider guide you will know EXACTLY if the Tortuga Setout is the perfect bag for you (and if it isn’t, we’ll show you the bag that IS perfect for you).

Let’s jump right into it!

The Tortuga Setout is PERFECT for you if...

  • You’re seeking a compact, yet spacious backpack with all the durability, stylishness and features of a capable and reliable travel bag to last you 3 - 4 days.
  • You need an extremely practically designed backpack that has space to spare, with compartments for things like your laptop, water bottle and frontal zip pockets for things like your wallet and phone.
  • You need the perfect travel companion to exploring the hearts of cities- not getting lost in mountains or wading through rivers.
TORTUGA SETOUT
The Tortuga Setout is one of the best backpacks that money can buy

The Tortuga Setout is NOT for you if...

  • You’re the outdoors adventuring type. For hiking and camping, the Tortuga Setout is a poor choice, being not well adapted for outdoor needs. It’s designed for travel and use in urban areas, not multi day hikes. 

    If you are looking for an awesome hiking bag - check out the Osprey Farpoint 40!
  • You don’t travel light. Although the Tortuga Setout packs a serious punch when it comes to spaciousness, it’s still only a carry on. If you’re just taking one piece of bagging and tend to cram half a houses worth of belongings into bags, you might need something bigger. 

    If you are looking for something bigger, check out the HUGE Tortuga Outbreaker!
  • You want a good ole’ classic style backpack. The Tortuga Setout not only has a modern look (extremely sleek and stylish to some), it also has a somewhat different build and internal compartmentalisation.

The Tale of Tortuga

This bag is one of the best Digital Nomad Backpacks on the market.

Here’s the story. 

Originally, it was just a pair of dudes – Jeremy and Fred, who founded Tortuga, after they became fed up with the limited range and diversity of travel bag options. Both were experienced travelers who knew what travel backpacks of today really need and what they don’t.

Subsequently, Tortuga prides itself on creating backpacks to meet the modern backpacker with gear and backpacks being designed for digital nomad types. With all the digital nomads out there, it’s no wonder Tortuga has become such a success.

You’ll see the Tortuga philosophy of meticulously detailed, lovingly crafted and digital nomad friendly bagging all over the Tortuga SetOut- it was designed to make travel convenient, easy and fun – just as it should be. So how did Tortuga achieve this mighty feat? Let’s find out!

Tortuga Setout
The Tortuga Setout has TONS of packing space

• Bottom Line •
Why You Should Buy the Tortuga Setout

Organization

The Tortuga Setout is a masterpiece for organization, as there is a place and a pocket for everything

Durability

Made from premium materials, this bag will last you a long, long time

Size

Not too big, not too small. The Tortuga Setout is a perfect size for any road warrior

Other Tortuga Backpacks

Currently, Tortuga are toting three different backpacks. Similar in ways and different in others, each one has been made with a specific kind of traveller in mind. This in itself we love.

It shows that Tortuga are not trying to cram every travellers varied requirements into one backpack, which would dilute its applicableness. Instead they have gone the three extra miles by making three different backpacks for three different kinds of travel.

This killer article reviews the Tortuga Setout, but let’s quickly check out the other two as well:

Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack

Tortuga Setout Divide Backpack​
Don't confuse the Setout with the Divide!

The Tortuga Setout Divide is the smallest backpack of the trio and subsequently it’s perfect as a daypack or laptop bag and those shorter 3 day trips. With regards to design and compartmentalization, it’s remarkably similar to the Tortuga Setout with pretty much the same exact same features (reviewed in the main section below) and internal layout.

Now, you’re probably thinking: Hmmmm. Doesn’t sound so specialised at all. Hey Nomads Nation what gives? You said these backpacks were different! Boooo! Wait – hear us out. They are different.

You see, even though it’s similar to the Tortuga Setout, the Tortuga Setout Divide has one fundamental difference that is a total game changer. Can you guess what it is? The clue’s in the name.

The Divide has a convenient mesh divider

It has a mesh divider between the two main compartments. This is great for dividing your dirty laundry from your fresh, separating outdoors clothing from smarter attire to hit up the those classy bars with, as well as all round geeking out when it comes to precise organizational skills.

But here’s where it gets cool. That main compartment is expandable – that’s right you can switch the carrying capacity of the Tortuga Setout from 26 to 34 Litres. What this means is that the Tortuga Setout, whilst still having enough carrying capacity to serve you for a short trip, is also perfect for use as a day bag (just like it’s competitor – The Nomatic Travel Pack).

Whether you’re headed to the office, a coffee shop or just hitting town, the Tortuga Setout is perfect. You can shrink it down to 26 L to save space and Carpe Diam the fuck out of the day!

But if you find yourself about to embark on a several day urban quest, than simply crank out those other 8 Litres and your good to go! From a versatility point of view the Tortuga Setout Divider is the best of the bunch. But we’ll not stop there. Let’s move on to…

Tortuga Outbreaker

The Outbreaker is easily the most durable of all Tortuga bags

In many ways the Outbreaker similar to it’s Tortuga Setout cousin, but in others not so much. Undeniably, it does have a cooler name. But the major difference between these two backpacks is that the Tortuga Outbreaker has an entirely separate, extra large storage compartment located on the opposite side from the laptop and tablet sleeves. 

With numerous mesh zip pockets it is a digital nomads dream for organizing digital accessories like charging cables, additional tablets, portable mouse (mice?) etc.

The Tortuga Outbreaker was designed for long term travel with enough space for 5 – 6 days if you know how to pack smart. Like the Tortuga Setback, the outbreaker is still designed for urban city use and not scaling mountains or trudging through alpine forest bogs. 

This is a badass backpack (but it's heavy)

Despite this, the Tortuga Outbreaker is still the same size as the Setout (coming in 35L and 45L) which is great because most of the time you’ll still be allowed to take it as a carry on. Although it’s technically the same size as the Setout, something about the Outbreak just felt slightly bigger and more spacious.

Although clearly better equipped for longer term travel (think mainly more space for additional clothes, accessories and toiletries), and sporting even more in depth organisation, not every traveller needs so many pockets and organizers, especially if they are just in the city – meaning the Outbreaker may be overkill for some.

Or maybe not. If you’re the kind who needs as much packing space as possible for the same lifestyle requirements as the Setout but…more – than you should definitely check out the Outbreaker! It’s really a matter of preference. It’s an extra 100$ which may be worth it for you, or may steer you right back to the Tortuga Setout.

In terms of features the Tortuga Setout has most those of the Tortuga Setout (listed further down in the main Setout review). The only real differences are:

  • The Outbreakers extra compartment perfect for electronic accessories or more clothes.
  • The Tortuga Outbreaker is Height Adjustable whereas the Tortuga Setout... aint.
  • The Tortuga Outbreakers laptop sleeve is suitable for a 17 inch laptop whereas the Tortuga Setout is only suitable for a 15 inch laptop.
  • The Tortuga Outbreaker does not have hideaway straps, unlike the Tortuga Setout.

Tortuga Setout

Tortuga Setout
Finally! The Setout Review begins!

Slap bang between the Setout Divider and Outbreaker in terms of size and functionality, the Tortuga Setout is your jack of all trades and perfect for those 4 day urban excursions partaken by the Digital Nomad.

It’s got absolute mountains of features that we want to point out, as well as a few small areas of improvement we could see, which we’ll gleefully mention with maximum scorn and ridicule at the end.

There’s a lot to get covered, so let’s jump on in!

Tortuga Setout Size:

The Tortuga Setout boasts a formidable 45 liters of carrying capacity. For most (sane) backpackers that’s ample space and if you really know how to pack you can truly utilize every last one of those 45 litres to the max.

Alternately, it also comes in a 35 Litre size, which is great if you are a lighter packer or only on the go for 2 – 3 days and want to save some space and load.

Dimensions:

The 45L (the most appropriate size in our opinion) dimensions come in at 22” x 14 x 9”. Compared to the majority of backpacks, the Tortuga Setout only has 5 extra litres of space – but that’s still 5 litres more than nearly all other backpack designs in this field which constantly come in at 40. And 5 litres of extra space makes all the difference, especially to the tactical packer.

 

Tortuga setout

In a lot of ways, the layout and structure of the Tortuga setout is actually more like a traditional suitcase (complete with clamshell opening and large hollowed out compartments with relatively few pockets), meaning you can fit way more stuff inside without anything getting rumpled, crumpled or…bumpled?

Yeah, yeah yeah - but is the Tortuga Setout a Travel On?

Yep! There that was easy wasn’t it? Might not seem so obvious though. At 45 liters, carry on specifications are pushed to their max, but conveniently the Tortuga Setout still pass as a carry on on account of it being not too tall. That’s because its shape is more squarish, meaning that when you get your bang for your buck out of those 45 liters it’ll be stretching sideways as much as upwards.

I’ve travelled all over with this bad boy – Asia, America, Europe – not once have I been unable to take it on the plane, even when I had stuffed it to bursting point and it seemed to have gained a couple of extra litres.

The Tortuga Setout is marketed by Tortuga as a full size carry on backpack and has obtained a reputation for being so – it actually won the best carry on of the year – not the first award Tortuga have claimed and it won’t be their last. So pack sensibly, don your brightest smile at checkin and you’ll be fine.

Tortuga Setout - Organizational Features

Ah, the part we’ve all been waiting for. Let’s tear this bag apart! Ok first things first, the Tortuga Setout is not heaving with pockets and compartments, such as say the Tortuga Outbreaker.

Despite this, there’s still more than enough practical design features and organisational compartments to make the Tortuga Setout a backpack worthy of the most serious digital nomad.

2 Main Zipped Compartments and small frontal zipped compartment

The large main inner compartment is where you’ll store the majority of your stuff, and is perfect for stashing heaps of clothes. It features clamshell opening which is a lifesaver when it comes to packing and unpacking your garments without ruining the lovely folding done by you or your mum.

On the inside, it features two mesh lined zippered compartments which are perfect for underwear, socks, a belt, toiletries, etc etc.

Located at the front of the bag, the other main compartment has a main zip pocket and several different sized flap pockets which are good for storing documents, stainionary and other bits and bobs.

The bulk of this compartment is actually just a large empty space allowing you to fit relatively large things in here such as toiletry bags, more clothes, etc.

Laptop Compartment This is located at back of the setout (to provide some protection) and features a padded laptop sleeve, where you can fit laptops of up to 15 inches. 

For ease of use, the laptop pocket can be accessed without unzipping the entire main compartment, again particularly useful as that’s where you’ll be storing your clothes. There’s an additional pocket where you can store a tablet or kindle, but no other zip or mesh dividers.

laptop tortuga setout

Frontal Zip Pocket At the front end of the bag is one final zip pocket which despite its initial appearance goes surprisingly deep. This is a great place to store things that you need easy access to like headphones, wallet, phone etc.

Lie Flat Water Bottle pocket – This is located on the side of the backpack, perfect for reaching into and grabbing a bottle to swig from whilst on the go. The design is nice and suttle and blends in with the rest of the backpack well.

Side Handle – On the other side of the bag’s exterior you’ve got a handle which is great for carrying the bag like a duffel, merrily swinging it this way and that and possibly even using it as a club against gnomes, children etc.

Removable and Padded Waist Straps with Zipper Storage – Waist straps on bags. Some people dig em, others foam at the mouth at the mere thought! Tortuga have catered to both crowds by making it so that the waist straps of the Tortuga Setout are removable. 

Those who do employ the waist straps will find them comfortably padded as well as each one featuring a zipper with a small amount of easily accessible, storage space for things like money and cards.

bottle Tortuga Setout
The adjustable shoulder straps are 👍🏼

Adjustable Shoulder Straps – The shoulder straps can be adjusted to heighten or lower the bag, moulding it around the body type of whoever is wearing it for extra comfort and convenience. Pretty cushty. Like the waist strap, these to can be hidden away when not in use.

Tortuga Setout Packability – The most defining feature of the Tortuga Setout is the very reason some people will love it whereas will hate it. You see, it has far from a traditional backpack layout. That’s because traditional backpacks are top loading only, which can be a massive bummer.

Every traveller knows this story: Fruitlessly, they rummage about in the bottomless cavern of their backpack, searching in vain for that one rogue sock or last condom. They rummage this way. They rummage that way. 

Nada! So they delve further – when suddenly, something from the depths of their bag grabs their hand and pulls them within! Ok, so the last part of that story has hasn’t happened to anyone who wasn’t tripping balls, but all the rest is not only true, it’s virtually common practice amongst owners of backpacks with the old school design.

This is simply not so with the Tortuga Setout. Due to the square shape of this backpack, the packing process is wide, which makes finding and packing a breeze, even more so thanks to the clamshell opening of the main zipper compartment. 

Say goodbye to having to dive into your backpack every time you realise you need something you forgot to organise properly. No more impatient checkpoint guards, no more awkward pauses, no more demonic hands sucking you within your backpack.

small stuff tortuga Setout
The Setout does NOT skimp on organization

Tortuga SetOut Comfort: How comfortable a backpack is, is a vital benchmark for how practical it is and how much you’ll come to love using it in the long term (or not!). You want it to feel like a soft cushion strapped to your back, not a horrific hump erupting from your spine.  

We really weren’t worried when it came to reviewing this aspect of the Tortuga Setout, as comfort is something that Tortuga have always excelled at.

And with the Setout they have absolutely nailed it. In addition to featuring the already mentioned padded waist straps (which are also adjustable and removable), the actual back of the Tortuga SetOut is generously padded as well. This makes it more comfortable to wear than your exes hoodie.

Lockable Zippers – This can be a great reassurance when you might have to store your bag somewhere unsecure and out of your sight for a journey. Or if you need to skip to the loo in that dodgy ass workspace. 

You know, the one with that dude with the cool facial scar, who keeps staring at you and running his hook for a hand hand across his neck? Ah right, that dodgy.

The Tortuga Setout is a pocket-lovers delight

Tortuga Setout - The Good and the Bad

We’ll be totally frank with you. There’s no such thing as a perfect Backpack. However, the Tortuga Setout does come pretty damn close, provided you’ve thoroughly researched it and are using it for the right style of travelling. 

That said, as we reviewed this backpack, as well as there being things about it that we loved, we did also find room for improvement. Below, we’ve reviewed our favourite features of this nifty-schwifty bag as well as ways we think it could have been better:

Pros of the Tortuga Setout

Comfort – The padding on the waist straps as well as on the back of the Tortuga Setout (the latter being the most important in our opinion) makes it a pleasure to wear. Urban Travel usually involves running from place to place on a never ending quest of sight seeing. 

If you have an uncomfortable backpack clinging to your back as you do this, you’re going to notice it. Fortunately with with the Tortuga Setout, this won’t be the case.

Design The non traditional, square design of the backpack means that not only is packing and unpacking it quick and effortless, access is an absolute breeze. 

From an organisational point of view, it’s also insanely handy to be able to open your backpack like a book (which the clamshell opening allows), as you can easily reshift and organise stuff in the main compartment without affecting gear in the rest of the pack.

Tortuga Setout

Digital Nomad Friendly – the Laptop sleeve and additional tablet sleeve define this backpack as digital nomad friendly. 

In addition to providing some level of protection for electronic devices, it’s really handy to have your electronic devices compartmentalized separately for quick and easy access. 

We love the additional electronic accessories compartment for the very same reason, as well as the fact that it makes you feel like an absolute boss having the backpack equivalent of a trey for your cables, wires and electro-gear.

Protection – In addition to having lockable zips, a godsend when you have to store it out of sight in dubious locations, the Tortuga Setout has some limited padding in the laptop compartment which is also located at the back of the bag providing a little extra protection. 

The material that this bag is made from is also water resistant, meaning if you get caught out in the rain your stuff will stay dry – even if you don’t’…

Compartmentalization and Layout The clamshell opening, square shape and separate laptop and clothing compartmentalization layout of the backpack, make packing and retrieving items quick, easy and organised. 

Due to its relatively minimalist approach towards pockets, this bag is insanely spacious whilst still having enough places to sensibly divide up all yo’ shit.

Cons of the Tortuga Setout

Comfort – Yes the Tortuga Setout is immensely comfortable. But it could have been more so. 

It would be really nice if Tortuga had also included some padding on the shoulder straps. So long as you don’t pack the bag too heavy this isn’t an issue, but if you do pack it to its maximum carrying capacity, you may find the shoulder straps dig in a little. 

In addition to this, when packed to the max, the back of the Tortuga Setout can bulge outwards slightly, reducing it’s comfort and potentially dig into your back. 

As we say, this is only if you pack the bag it as full as possible, but it’s a little frustrating that you have to choose between maximum comfort and the last few litres of space. Just as well it’s got 45 of them!

Design The square design can be a little bulky, which may make storage in overhead plane bins a little tricky. As well as this, if your bag is fully packed, it may look like you have some kind of grey felt tortoise shell. Digital Mutant Backpacker Turtles anyone?

Digital Nomad Friendly – You are limited to a 15 inch laptop. If it’s bigger you won’t be able to fit it in the sleeve. The tablet sleeve can also be a little big and if you use it for something like a kindle, this may slide about. We’d have loved it if there were feed through holes between the separate compartments, for cables to allow on the go charging as seen with some other backpacks like the Nomatic Series.

ProtectionThat said, the padding in the laptop sleeve is minimal. Considering how emphasis has been placed on this being a digital nomads backpack we’d feel a little more secure if some extra protection has been provided for our laptop’s here.

After all, a laptop is a digital nomads livelihood, our job…our…precioussss. Furthermore, the backpack isn’t waterproof which blows if you wanted to take it for a swim or to the lost city of Atlantis.

Compartmentalization and Layout We would have loved it if there was some sort of compartment for electronic devices as seen on other backpacks like the Tortuga Outbreaker and Nomatic Travel Pack. 

The main compartment at the front has just one zipper pocket – the rest are merely flaps with no way of closing, which means packed items can potentially come out of them and get jumbled up. 

We feel that Tortuga could have improved the flappy pockets with closings or maybe added a few more zipper pockets for maximum convenience without detracting from the spaciousness and simplicity of the setout.

Tortuga Setout - Final Verdict:

Tortuga setout

Boom! Done. Epic Review of awesomeness Over. All in all, we absolutely love the Tortuga Setout. It combines convenience with spaciousness, it moulds durability with sleek design and it smacks accessibility right in the face with comfort.

Sure it’s not the most conventional backpack and whilst for this reason some people will be put off by it, for others this will be the very thing that makes them get a great big backpack boner from the mere mention of the word Tortuga Setout.

Now you’ve completed this mammoth guide, you’ll know exactly what the Tortuga Setout is suitable and what it’s not. Digital Nomads on 3-4 day urban excursions, eat your hearts out – this one’s for you! Nomad Nations Out.

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Written by Aaron Radcliffe

City dweller. Dumpling crusher. Aaron is a serial entrepreneur, and the founder of Nomads Nation. Connect with Aaron Radcliffe -