In 2009, we backpacked through Eastern Europe. This is the bag we wish existed for that time in our lives.
Summer 2009. In the depths of the last recession, we booked flights to Frankfurt for $500. From there, we’d figure out where else to go before racing back to fly home two weeks later. That trip led to our starting Tortuga. Eleven years later, we find ourselves building the bag that we needed then.
We were going on a backpacking trip, so we needed… backpacks. Comfortable to carry around cities, down darkened alleys, and up the stairs of abandoned buildings in search of our hostel. Carry-on-sized but able to fit as much as possible. We weren’t light packers yet.
We didn’t need any bells and whistles. Just a backpack that was the right size, easy to pack, and comfortable to carry.
That bag didn’t exist.
We spent weeks before our trip researching bags. I searched all over the internet and went to the North Face and REI stores in San Francisco. Like most new travelers, I was looking in the wrong place. This trip was my first time outside of North America. I was a newb. I was shopping for hiking backpacks because that’s what I’d seen in movies and on the backs of other travelers.
Hiking backpacks are for hiking, not for traveling. I made the same mistake as most first-time travelers. I bought a Go Lite hiking bag from Zappos. The quality of the bag was fine, but it wasn’t made for travel.
My bag packed from the top, like all hiking bags. That’s fine in the backcountry but not when you need to find your shorts buried somewhere in your bag in a cramped hostel dorm. I had to dump everything out of my bag then repack it every time I needed something. Packing is the least fun part of traveling, so I’d prefer not to do it multiple times per day.
On that trip, we had the idea for a front-loading backpack that was easier to open and to keep organized. The ideal travel backpack should open like a suitcase but still carry like a backpack. My hiking bag fit well and was comfortable. The hip belt took the weight off of my shoulders even though my bag was overstuffed and heavy. We wanted to use that suspension system but change the rest of the layout.
After that trip, we started Tortuga. We released our first travel backpack in 2011 then an update in 2013.
We started down a new path in 2016 when we launched the Outbreaker Backpack, our first premium backpack with high-end materials, water-resistant zippers, and an adjustable suspension system. The following year, we launched the first Setout Backpack, which was meant to be the “just right” bag for most travelers. Now, three years after that launch, we’ve come full circle with the Prelude Backpack.
If Setout is “just right,” Prelude is “just enough.” Like other Tortuga backpacks, the Prelude is carry-on-sized, packs like a suitcase, and carries like a backpack. That’s it. Just the basics.
The Prelude is the backpack that we needed on our first backpacking trip in 2009. Perfect for beginner travelers on a budget who still want the right tool for the job.
The Prelude also has a few unique touches:
- Size: The Prelude is a European max carry on measuring 55 x 35 x 20 cm (38.5 L). Budget travelers won’t need to worry about fitting on European and and other airlines with strict carry on limits. Plus, with a simpler design, you’ll have nearly as much packing space as our 45L bags despite smaller exterior dimensions.
- Electronics: The Prelude takes a minimal approach to electronics. The front pocket fits up to a 10.5” tablet (or ereader), but the bag doesn’t include a laptop compartment. Leave your laptop at home and use your tablet to watch movies on your flight, or skip both and just use your phone.
- Extensibility: Backpackers aren’t limited to the space inside their bags. They seem to always have a few more things attached to their packs. The Prelude includes exterior webbing loops so that you can attach your neck pillow, wet clothes, or flip flops.
- Materials: The Prelude Backpack is made of the same 900D recycled polyester as the Setout Backpack but includes a matte TPU coating on some panels for increased durability and water resistance.
We started the Prelude project with the idea of a “minimum viable product.” We asked ourselves, “What is the minimum viable Tortuga?” Our goal was to build a bag up to our standards, with all the core benefits of a Tortuga product, but priced for budget travelers.
The bag I bought in 2009 was $130. At $149, the Prelude is an even better value once you account for inflation.
The Prelude Backpack is made and priced for the Tortuga traveler on a budget or on their first trip. We made the bag for budget travelers, students, backpackers, hostellers, and for our 2009 selves.
We expect to see an increase in students taking gap years—whether domestic or abroad—this fall. We’ve funded gap year grants in the past and are working with the Gap Year Association to figure out how to best support students taking time away from their campuses.
Our belief in the power of travel remains as strong as ever. As the travel industry begins a cautious reopening amid a recession and pandemic, we remain committed to making travel easier and more enjoyable for you. We’ll always stay focused on our mission, even during the most challenging times. With that in mind, we’re excited to share the Prelude Collection with you.
The Prelude Daypack is a fully featured, extensible daypack that also carries your tablet. The Prelude Daypack is not packable and does not have a laptop sleeve. Made to be carried with the Prelude Backpack or any other luggage. When you aren’t traveling, use the Prelude Daypack as your work or school bag.
The full Prelude Collection will launch in July. Get on the wait list for early access by adding your email below.