GORUCK  vs Tortuga Travel Backpack

Published February 6, 2023

Written by:

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Ben Beck
ben beck headshot

Ben Beck is the director of marketing at Tortuga Backpacks. He is a recovering full-time RVer who traveled all around...

Edited by:

Headshot of Jeremy Michael Cohen
Jeremy Michael Cohen
Headshot of Jeremy Michael Cohen

Jeremy Michael Cohen is a co-founder of Tortuga. He also works as a screenwriter and director. Aside from travel and...

The Tortuga Promise

At Tortuga, our mission is to make travel easier. Our advice and recommendations are based on years of travel experience. We only recommend products that we use on our own travels.

Not Designed for Travel

The GORUCK GR2 is a general-purpose, large-capacity backpack, unlike the Outbreaker which is specifically designed for travel.

Read the GR2 product description. You’ll see phrases like:

  • Bombproof
  • Special Forces
  • Ammunition

Look at the pictures of the GR2. You’ll see it used for hiking, muddied in one of GORUCK’s bootcamp-esque events, and even laid next to a giant gun and helmet. That’s not standard usage for a travel backpack.

The GORUCK GR2 is military-inspired and built for situations that most travelers will never encounter. The backpack is a good choice for boot camp events and rugged adventures, but imperfect for city travel.


Most airlines allow carry-on bags up to 45 linear inches (length + width + height), which typically breaks down to 22 x 14 x 9.” The GR2 is smaller than that. Airlines are stingy with their space. Don’t give any of it back to them.

The GR2 measures 22″ x 12.5″ x 9″ and can hold 40L. The Outbreaker holds 45L, so you can pack 12% more stuff in it. We designed it to use every inch of allowable space in the overhead bins. The Outbreaker measures 22″ x 14″ x 9″ and is therefore a maximum-sized carry on backpack.

No Hip Belt

Hip belts are essential to saving your back and shoulders. When traveling, you’ll have your bag packed near capacity, weighing twenty pounds or more. Without a hip belt, that entire weight is pulling on your shoulders. Despite its capacity, the GR2 doesn’t have a hip belt. The Outbreaker does.

A hip belt transfers 80% or more of your bag’s weight off of your shoulders and onto your hips. From there, you can use your powerful leg muscles to carry the load.

You may have noticed that every hiking bag has a hip belt. When you’re carrying a full pack for miles at a time, you have to use your legs. But you can still see the benefits of a hip belt on shorter trips of a mile or two while walking to your hotel, finding the nearest train, or exploring a new city.

Test a backpack by fully packing it then adjusting the hip belt and shoulder straps. As you tighten the belt, you’ll feel the bag’s weight move off of your shoulders and onto your hips. The shift is instant and feels like magic. Once you experience it, you’ll know that a hip belt is essential when carrying a full pack.

No Reachable Pockets

In an effort to be as streamlined as possible, GORUCK does not have any external pockets that you can reach while wearing your bag. This lack of pockets makes the bag more streamlined but less usable.

Team Tortuga has spent enough hours in airports to understand how crucial reachable pockets are. Taking off your backpack just to dig out your passport is annoying.

The Outbreaker has pockets on the hip belt for storing change, tickets, a passport, and everything you take out of your pockets at airport security. You can use the pockets on the side of the Outbreaker for storing a water bottle, umbrella, guidebook, map, and anything else you need to navigate a new city.

Checkpoint Unfriendly

The TSA allows travelers to leave their laptops inside their bags through security, if the bag is designed with a separate, lie-flat laptop compartment. If you’re carrying an Outbreaker from Tortuga, you’ll be able to breeze through security like the pro traveler you are by leaving your laptop inside your bag.

GORUCK missed this detail. If you’re carrying a GR2, you still have to take your laptop out of your backpack in every security line.

Made for Soldiers, Not Travelers

Read about GORUCK’s origins. The company was born out of the military. When Jason, the founder, was designing his first bags, he asked soldiers to test them.

“Green Berets became judge and jury of quality.”

Green Berets have high standards. They guaranteed that GORUCK would make tough bags that military personnel would love.

But your needs are different from a soldier’s. Toughness is necessary but not sufficient for a travel backpack. It’s a nice feature, but it’s not the only thing that matters.

Max emailed us after deciding to switch away from his GR2 for traveling. He puts it nicely:

“It’s designed to be run over by a tank which is way over the top for an around the world trip.”

We made the Outbreaker for travelers. While planning a backpacking trip through Eastern Europe in 2009, we discovered that no perfect travel backpack existed. We were forced to choose between wheeled suitcases that couldn’t handle city travel or giant backpacking bags that we couldn’t carry on or organize.

The Outbreaker was made to solve this problem. As frequent travelers ourselves, we designed the backpack for city-to-city travel. The Outbreaker is for trips, not obstacle courses.

Waterproof for Travel

The Outbreaker is made of X-Pac waterproof sailcloth, which combines four layers for optimal performance. We also use weather resistant, lockable YKK zippers. Between these two components, the Outbreaker is almost entirely waterproof in any weather condition.

The GR2’s fabric, 1000 Cordura, is tough but not waterproof. Their zippers don’t lock, either. 

GORUCK has great products and an admirable mission. But the GR2 is not designed for travel. The Outbreaker Backpack was designed for travelers, by travelers.

ben beck headshot

Ben Beck

Ben Beck is the director of marketing at Tortuga Backpacks. He is a recovering full-time RVer who traveled all around the USA and now lives in Texas.   He also enjoys exploring National Parks, eating tacos, and traveling with the family.

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