12 Days in the Tortuga Air

Packing for 12 Days in the Tortuga Air


Earlier this week, I returned from a 12-day trip to China. There I met with our suppliers and attended the Canton Fair, a massive import/export trade show.

As a personal challenge, I packed for my trip in only the Tortuga Air. We usually recommend the Air for short trips, from one to three nights. I wanted to show an example of extreme light packing and to demonstrate that you can travel indefinitely even in a small bag. This approach isn’t for everyone, but perhaps you can find a more sensible middle ground for yourself.

Today’s post will outline what I packed for the 12 day trip and how I made it work. My bag weighed 8.8 kgs (19 lbs) when I checked in with Asiana Airlines for my departing flight.

My bag weighed 10 kgs on my return flight, including a few gifts and everything I had collected at the Canton Fair. The Air was packed to bursting because I wanted to travel without using the expansion panel.

The packing list below is for the departing flight.

What I Packed

  1. Tortuga Air Backpack
  2. 2 books
  3. Laptop charger, phone charger, plug adapter
  4. Laptop
  5. 1 pair of gym shorts
  6. 1 swimsuit (the building had a pool!)
  7. 1 pair of chino shorts
  8. 1 pair of boat shoes
  9. 1 polo shirt
  10. 4 t-shirts
  11. 5 pairs of underwear
  12. 2 toiletry bags (1 for liquids, 1 for solids)
  13. Tortuga Travel Daypack (packed into itself for convenient carrying)
  14. 1 travel towel
  15. Not pictured: 1 pair of socks (in the shoes), passport photos, SIM card, earbuds, pens, business cards, keys

I wore a t-shirt, hoodie, jeans, socks, and sneakers on the plane.

In total, I had 6 shirts, 6 pairs of underwear, 3 pairs of pants/shorts, and 2 pairs of socks. This wardrobe added up to 6 days worth of “outfits” with minimal re-wearing of pants/shorts. I primarily wore my boat shoes except when I was walking the floors of the Fair, which required sneakers and socks.

How I Made It Work

Most importantly, I wore my bulkiest clothes (hoodie, jeans, sneakers) on the plane instead of packing them. Wearing that outfit in-flight saved space in my backpack for lighter clothes and shoes.

Our Airbnb apartment came with a washer, so I did a load of laundry mid-way through the trip. Since the machine was in the apartment, it was free. I hung my clothes on the balcony to dry overnight.

On past trips, when I didn’t have a washer, I’ve taken my laundry to a wash-and-fold which is usually cheap.

I washed everything one more time before leaving so that I wouldn’t have to do laundry at home. The extra wash was helpful but not necessary.


I traveled for 12 days with just one (relatively small) backpack. I packed light, wore my heaviest clothes on the flight, and did one (free) load of laundry. The full-sized Tortuga has ~40% more space than the Air. Remind me again why you can’t pack for a one-week trip (or longer) in a carry on?

What’s the longest you’ve traveled with the smallest bag?

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  • Hey Fred, this is great! I think one of the biggest statements it makes is that people can certainly travel with a standard sized carry on if you can travel with a smaller pack. 19 pounds seems really heavy to me though. I suspect that the laptop and books added several pounds to your bag. If people want to go lighter I’d suggest:
    * Get the books on a kindle app (or a kindle)
    * Take a smartphone only, or if needed use a tablet to save space/weight.(power bricks are heavy, and USB is way lighter)
    * Take less undies and wash nightly (ounces add up)
    One of the things I like best with a small bag is that you never ever have to worry about getting space in the overhead bin. This isn’t usually a problem for international travel, but is a real issue for domestic flights.

    • Definitely. I still can’t give up physical books and my computer is old and heavy. Otherwise, I could definitely cut down on weight. Settling for one pair of shoes would also have helped.

  • Meg

    Hopefully meeting with suppliers to have them make more bags?! Haha. Kidding, mostly. Just got my new Totuga, I’m already a believer. Would love a daypack. Would love an Air. Can’t get either one!

    • No fair! The Tortuga is actually in stock 🙂

      Airs are being made now, arriving in January. We DID discuss the latest sample of the daypack. Another round or two of revisions, and it will be ready for production. Even if it doesn’t seem like it, we’re moving fast. Manufacturing (and shipping) is a long process.

      Enjoy your new bag.

  • Great post! Goes to show just how easy it can be to pack light on the road. A packing list like this could be used for MUCH longer than 12 days if traveling in warm climates!

    • Or if doing multiple washes. Or if carrying a Kindle instead of 2 books. Or if I had a lighter laptop. Always room for improvement.

      • Absolutely! We’re always tweaking our lists to make them lighter and more efficient.

  • Kevine


    Great list, I love posts like this! I was at the Canton fair myself unfortunately I did not see anything as innovative as the Tortuga Air in the bags and cases halls. Far too many “me too” products only thing I was intrigued about was the self weighing luggage. Comfy shoes were definitely a must pack for the vast event.

    I packed for myself in my old but trusty Samsonite backpack probably smaller than the Air and managed to keep it under 5kg for the 4 day trip. Fortunately I did not take a laptop or books which helped.

    My best packing tip, never think “What if I need…” its a killer and remember unless you are Robinson Crusoe a shop for anything is nearby.

  • Matías S. Cao

    Did you put the boat shoes in the pack?

    Do you think that I can fit two pairs of compact men shoes in the big Tortuga (occupying only reasonable space)?


    • Yes, I packed (and often pack) the boat shoes. You can fit two pairs of lighter-weight shoes, though we only recommend packing one. Each extra pair means less other stuff that you can take.