Don't Leave Anything Behind

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Ever heard of a bug out bag? Or a go bag?

As defined by Wikipedia:

A bug-out bag is a portable kit that contains the items one would require to survive for seventy-two hours when evacuating from a disaster.

But out bags are popular with disaster response personnel, survivalists, and those anticipating a zombie apocalypse.

What does a bug out bag have to do with travel? This list doesn’t resemble a packing list.

Fleeing from a natural disaster doesn’t sound like a fun trip. Eating MREs doesn’t qualify as a culinary experience.

You may not need a small bag packed in case of emergency. Do you have one packed in case of a last-minute trip? You don’t need to be disaster ready, but are you travel ready?

Today’s post will outline what to keep in your travel bug out bag. You don’t need to unpack or re-pack from scratch every time you leave town. Keep your travel-only gear in your bag so you’re almost ready to go at any moment.


You probably don’t have a capsule wardrobe packed away in your travel bag to be worn only on the road.

Do you have any clothes that you primarily wear on the road?

Good candidates are merino wool t-shirts, any clothing made of “performance” fabrics, a rain jacket, a down jacket, travel jeans, or a wool buff.

Every item that stays packed in your bag is one less thing you need to pack and one less thing you might forget.

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Steve Jobs wore his trademark black turtleneck.

President Obama keeps his wardrobe simple to avoid decision fatigue.

“You’ll see I wear only gray or blue suits,” he said. “I’m trying to pare down decisions. I don’t want to make decisions about what I’m eating or wearing. Because I have too many other decisions to make.”

Forbes even made a list of celebrities who always dress the same.

What can we learn from the idiosyncrasies of the rich and famous?

You don’t want a closet with dozens of the same outfit. You aren’t Superman.

We can learn to keep our wardrobes simple, especially when we’re traveling.

Building a capsule wardrobe will pare down your packing list.

In today’s post, we’ll discuss what a capsule wardrobe is, look at some examples, and build one that will work for any length of trip.

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Don't Leave Anything Behind

Perfect your packing with our free carry on packing list.

Join our mailing list below to get your packing checklist and weekly packing tips sent straight to your inbox.

Spam is the worst, so we won't send you any.

Everything I needed for the weekend was packed in my Tortuga, but I still had room left over.

Of course I ended up filling up that room with more stuff. Not because I needed it but because I could.

Have you ever left for a trip with lots of unused space in your backpack? Neither have I.

Constraints are helpful when packing. Otherwise, you’ll pack based on how much space you have, not how much stuff you need.

For longer trips, using a carry-on-sized bag is a good way limit how much you bring. Packing carry-on-only is a big adjustment for most people.

But not every trip is a multi-week, international adventure. In fact, most trips are short.

When we surveyed our customers, you told us that you take 2-3 times more domestic trips than international trips per year. Most of those domestic trips are for less than a week.

How long is your average domestic trip?

Short, domestic trips require a different bag than the maximum-sized-carry-on Tortuga Backpack with all its bells and whistles.

For example, two weeks ago, I spent 5 days in Los Angeles with Jeremy shooting new pictures and videos for the website. Last weekend, I spent 4 days in Washington state working alongside other travel entrepreneurs.

I didn’t need a Tortuga’s worth of stuff on either trip.

Introducing the Tortuga Air

Instead, I carried the Tortuga Air. We created the Air based on your feedback about shorter trips. The Air is ideally suited to trips of less than a week: overnight, a long weekend, or a short business trip.

I’ve acclimated to packing in the smaller Air and now prefer it for most trips. Next month, I’ll be documenting a two-week trip to China carrying just the Air.

The Tortuga Air is the perfect bag for most trips. When you hop on a plane for a few days in New York. When you jump in the car for a road trip up the coast. When you need a bag that works equally well on a plane and in the office.

We started with how the Air would be used and built it around these use cases.

Tortuga Air main compartment

The Air is both smaller and lighter than the Tortuga. It’s laid out like a suitcase with a clamshell opening, a divided main compartment, and an expansion zipper. Like the Tortuga, the Air has locking zippers, a pocket for your computer, and specialized pockets for all your small stuff.

For more pictures and info, keep reading.

Tortuga Air Pre-Sale

The Tortuga Air is now available for pre-sale here.

Before placing an order, please read the rest of this post for details about the pre-sale.

If you’re unsure which bag is best for you, compare the Air to the Tortuga on the comparison page.


You have dibs on the first shipment of Tortuga Air backpacks.

Place your pre-order by Monday, October 6th, 2014 to guarantee yourself a bag from the first shipment.


When you place a pre-order, you will be charged immediately, not when your bag ships. The pre-order will work much like Kickstarter. You pay up front, we order the bags, then you get your bag.

Manufacturing and Delivery

We will place an order with our supplier on October 6th. Manufacturing will be completed by December then the bags will be shipped to our warehouse in the US. From there, we will ship your bag to you.

We plan to deliver Tortuga Air pre-orders in January 2015.

Manufacturing, quality control, shipping, and warehousing are complicated. Delays may occur. For that reason, we don’t recommend placing a pre-order if you need your Air by a very specific date.

The January batch should include enough bags to fulfill orders beyond the pre-sale. Placing a pre-order by October 6th is the only way to guarantee that you will get a bag in the first shipment.

You can order an Air from the US, Canada, Europe, Australia, or New Zealand. Standard shipping rates and rules will apply.

If you have any questions, please email us.


The Tortuga Air is now available for pre-order. Place your order by October 6th to guarantee a bag from the first batch. We expect to deliver pre-orders in January 2015.

Please note that you will be charged when you order, not when your bag ships. If you don’t mind paying up front and not getting your bag until January, pre-order now. Otherwise, keep an eye out for the January in-stock announcement.

Remember in high school when everyone wore their backpacks by a single shoulder strap? We were all too cool to wear two straps. Ergonomics was for nerds. One strap was plenty to carry a bunch of heavy books… right?

Oh, teenagers. Thankfully we all grew up and started caring about the comfort of our gear.

Except for one thing…

We still see travelers’ hip belts dangling around their legs. Their overworked shoulders sag under the weight of their backpack.

A good hip belt is a boon for comfort, even if you aren’t carrying an 80L hiking bag.

Your backpack can weigh up to 10 kg (22 lbs) while being carry-on-compliant.

Twenty-two pounds is a lot of weight to put on your shoulders. Imagine carrying that as you try to navigate an unfamiliar city to find your hotel.

A modest load becomes a burden when you’re lost, confused, annoyed, and on foot.

Our flagship product, the Tortuga Travel Backpack, has a hip belt, but this post isn’t a sales pitch. This post is an explanation of why hip belts are so important that we included one on our pack. The smaller, lighter Tortuga Air does not have a hip belt. We’ll address the reasoning for both in this post.

Now, let’s save those shoulders! If you already know why you need a hip belt, you can skip ahead to the section on how to fit your belt for maximum comfort.

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Top quality gear is an investment. You pay a bit more for better materials and construction. You expect your gear to last longer.

Manufacturers like us strive to build the best products. We use quality materials and hardware. We invest in better construction.

Even the best components will wear down if not properly maintained. Occasional, minimal upkeep will extend the life of your gear.

You wouldn’t buy a car then neglect to wash it or change the oil, would you?

Zippers are a common fail point on backpacks. Even YKK zippers, regarded as the best brand (and the one that we use), will benefit from upkeep.

When properly cared for, zippers can outlast backpacks.

Today we’ll discuss how to keep your bag’s zippers running smoothly.

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