TL;DR: we surveyed customers who carry the now-retired Tortuga Air on their travels. We learned a few key things about how they travel, which features of the product they particularly love, and where we could improve. We’re incorporating those learnings into a brand new backpack launching this summer. In 2016, we retired our entire line of products (known as V2 to long-time fans) and replaced them with new versions. We built the V3 line of travel backpacks based on our many years of traveling, research, and product development. In that batch of retired products was a backpack called the Tortuga Air. It wasn’t our best selling product, but it was, arguably, our most beloved. I won’t go into huge detail here, as we haven’t sold or produced this backpack in years, but I think it’s helpful to know a bit of context given the topic of this post. The Air was a 27L travel backpack ideal for short trips. Primary features included:
- Clamshell opening with two divided sections: one zippered mesh, one with internal compression straps
- Expandable to 35L
- Laptop sleeve
- Front organizer pocket
- Top hanging pocket for small items
SizeThe Air’s smaller, compact size was a particular draw for light packers and travelers taking shorter trips. One customer said,
“Sometimes the full-size Outbreaker 45 feels a bit excessive. So, [the Air] feels liberating in comparison.”Many customers cited that they’d slide the Air under the seat of an airplane instead of needing to place it in an overhead compartment. That convenience was an important one, as it meant customers would carry the Air in tandem with a rolling suitcase on a longer trip and didn’t have to worry about overhead space if it was their only bag. Takeaway: for light packers, a smaller size is crucial. Ideally, a similar product should fit under the seat on most airplanes.
ShapeThe Air was more rounded than the Outbreaker collection. It felt like a backpack first and a suitcase second — which is a difference from our maximum-sized carry on backpacks. As a customer noted,
“[The Air is] shaped more like a backpack and [it’s] not like carrying a square suitcase on your back like your other cases.”Carrying a 45L bag that seeks to maximize packing space (like the Outbreaker) does, indeed, can feel like having a suitcase on your back. For some travelers, that’s an ideal scenario. But not so for the Air audience. Takeaway: a rounded shape and a backpack that wears like a backpack are both important.
Main CompartmentAll Tortuga backpacks are front-loading for easy packing, which means you pack them from the front and not the top. Top-loading backpacks are frustrating to pack, even more fustrating to unpack, and leave your stuff a jumbled mess. There are a few ways to approach a front-loading design:
A middle opening with two divided compartments was the #1 most beloved feature of the Tortuga Air. One customer said,
“I love the clamshell style opening. The ability to separate the front compartment with the interior divider is great.”Another noted,
“Being able to have an organized space is great because I’m not digging through lots of small items.”Takeaway: this bag should open from the middle, like a book, and have two divided sections in which to organize your clothes.
What Customers Thought We Could ImproveWhile the Air was beloved, customers had a few requests for us to address in future designs. The most common requests:
- More comfortable shoulder straps
- A larger, easier-to-access front pocket for organization
- A water bottle pocket that accomodates larger bottles
- A more functional pocket for small items; the Air’s version was a hanging pocket on top, which was tough to use when the bag was full
- Improved ease of use for the laptop compartment
- Add a hip belt.