Which Carry On Backpack is Right for You?

The Lab,  
Taylor Coil

So… which one should I get?

We hear that question a lot. The short answer is, “it depends.”

Your bag choice depends on a lot of things, but the core question to ask yourself relates to your goal when packing for a trip. Are you in it to pack as light as possible, or bring as much as you can?

One perspective is not inherently better than the other. Personally, I’ve tried both, and experimenting was crucial for me in finding my own packing style. Though I am a “capsule wardrobe person,” I find that I prefer more variety than ultralight packing allows for and don’t think that’s worthy of scrutiny. I don’t love that “ultralight” is sometimes regarded as the “one true path.” At the same time, I feel overly encumbered when I truly bring as much as possible in a carry on and do like to cull my packing list to just the essentials.

All that to say: At Tortuga, we believe in packing light, but know that “light” is a subjective concept. Some travel best with a minimalist packing list, and others thrive with a maximum-sized carry on. Some are in the middle. We’re here to give high fives (and packing tips, of course) to all three groups. 

 

For the Ultralight Crowd: Homebase Backpack

Think of Homebase like a minimalist’s mobile office and wardrobe. It’s the one bag for your travel, work, and life essentials when you’re on the move. Pack your capsule wardrobe, toiletries, and electronics inside and bask in the joy of packing light.

What fits inside the Homebase Backpack:

  • 5-6 tops
  • 1 pair of pants or shorts
  • 1 light jacket
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 3-4 pairs of socks
  • Laptop (up to 15”)
  • Tablet (up to 10”)
  • E-reader
  • Headphones
  • Mouse
  • Keyboard
  • Laptop stand
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Deodorant
  • Etc

Pro Tip for Toiletries: pack the absolute essentials and buy the rest when you land.

The Homebase Backpack at a glance:

  • $245
  • 32L
  • 20.75” x 12.3” x 8.25”
  • 2.3 lbs
  • LS21 waterproof sailcloth with built-in abraison resistance
  • Weather resistant YKK zippers
  • Injection-molded foam shoulder straps that conform to your body over time
  • Hideaway shoulder straps
  • Included two-sided packing cube to separate clean clothes from dirty
  • Signature three-pocket layout

Learn more about the Homebase Backpack here.

For Packing as Much as Possible: Setout Backpack or Outbreaker 45L Backpack

Important caveat: these bags are for packing as much as possible in a carry on, not packing as much as possible full stop. We certainly don’t advocate packing enough to need a luggage cart stacked to the brim with hard-sided cases.

So: you want to bring more than the bare minimum, but still travel carry on only. The Setout Backpack and Outbreaker 45L Backpack should be your top considerations.

They have similar amounts of packing space, so here’s what you can fit in both of them:

  • 4 short sleeve tops
  • 2 long sleeve tops
  • 2 bottoms: pants, skirts, etc
  • 1 pair of gym shorts or lounge pants
  • 6-7 pairs of underwear
  • 6-7 pairs of socks
  • 1 jacket
  • 1 pair of lightweight, packable shoes (we love Allbirds)
  • 1 swimsuit
  •  17” laptop (45L Outbreaker) or 15″ laptop (Setout)
  • 9.7” Tablet
  • Laptop charger
  • Tablet charger
  • Smartphone charger
  • Travel adapter
  • Earbuds
  • E-reader
  • Toiletry bag
  • Passport
  • Local ID
  • Boarding pass

If you pack all of the above, you’ll have a little room left over for souvenirs, an extra pair of shoes, or an extra outfit.

Outbreaker or Setout?

The Outbreaker 45L at a glance:

  • $299
  • 45L
  • 22″ x 14″ x 9”
  • 5.1 lbs
  • Height-adjustable suspension system
  • Padded, removable hip belt
  • X-Pac waterproof sailcloth that won’t rip or tear
  • Weather resistant YKK zippers
  • Sweat-wicking, quick-dry Ariaprene
  • Obsessive internal organization
  • Lie-flat, TSA friendly electronics compartment
  • Signature three-pocket layout

The Setout at a glance:

  • $199
  • 45L
  • 22″ x 14″ x 9”
  • 3.3 lbs
  • Hideaway straps
  • Padded, removable hip belt
  • Heathered grey polyester with a weather resistant finish
  • YKK zippers
  • Injection-molded foam shoulder straps that conform to your body over time
  • Internal organization pockets
  • Dedicated electronics section
  • Signature three-pocket layout

TL;DR: Setout is a nice “in between” of features and weight at a lower price point, and Outbreaker is a fully-featured bag focused on premium weather resistance, ergonomics, and organization.

Compare Setout and Outbreaker 45L further here to find the right bag for you.

For Those In Between Minimalist Packing and Packing as Much as Possible: Outbreaker 35L

If you don’t particularly indentify with either camp, a mid-sized, fully-featured carry on like, the Outbreaker 35L, is your sweet spot. This is the bag that I travel with as my primary bag.

A little aside: I started packing in the 35L because my fiancé stole my 45L backpack with the justification that, since he is a foot taller than me, his clothes naturally take up more room. Seemed like a feeble argument to me, but, pick your battles, right? Now, I’m so used to packing less that I reach for the 35L over the bigger version. So, thanks for making me better at packing, dearest.

You can fit the following in the 35L Outbreaker:

  • 5-6 tops
  • 1-2 pairs of pants or shorts
  • 1 jacket
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 3-4 pairs of socks
  • Laptop (up to 15”)
  • Tablet (up to 10”)
  • Laptop charger
  • Tablet charger
  • Smartphone charger
  • Travel adapter
  • Earbuds
  • E-reader
  • Toiletry bag
  • Passport
  • Local ID
  • Boarding pass

The Outbreaker 35L has the same featureset at the 45L in a smaller size. Here are the specs at-a-glance:

  • $269
  • 35L
  • 20.3″ x 12.9″ x 8.2”
  • 4.6 lbs
  • Height-adjustable suspension system
  • Padded, removable hip belt
  • X-Pac waterproof sailcloth that won’t rip or tear
  • Weather resistant YKK zippers
  • Sweat-wicking, quick-dry Ariaprene
  • Obsessive internal organization
  • Lie-flat, TSA friendly electronics compartment
  • Signature three-pocket layout

Note: the Outbreaker 35L is so beloved that it’s currently sold out, but you can get on the wait list here. We’ll be restocking them soon.

 

 Compare all of our travel backpacks here to find the right bag for you.

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