Tortuga Setout Vs. Outbreaker (Two Carry On Backpacks That Rock) ⋆ Expert World Travel
Last Updated: June 4, 2021

Tortuga Setout Vs. Outbreaker (Two Carry On Backpacks That Rock)


Tortuga Setout 45

  • Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9”
  • Volume: 45L
  • Weight: 3.9 lbs
  • Laptop: 17"
  • Materials Information
  • 900D heathered polyester
  • YKK zippers
  • Duraflex buckles
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Tortuga Outbreaker 45

  • Dimensions: 22” x 14” x 9”
  • Volume: 45L
  • Weight: 5.1 lbs
  • Laptop: 17"
  • X-Pac waterproof sailcloth
  • Ariaprene foam
  • YKK zippers
  • Duraflex buckles
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Travel backpacks have an advantage over carry-on suitcases, at least in my book. For one thing, they are lighter, and they are more adaptable, which means that you can more easily get them to fit in the overhead compartment (compression straps help). And two such backpacks are made by Tortuga, and they are called the Setout and the Outbreaker.

Both have their advantages and disadvantages, but both are also ultimately very well-made travel packs. They can replace just about any other carry-on bag because they are packed with useful features. If you want to find out what those features are, you’ve come to the right place.

Both backpacks have a few things in common, and I’ll tell you all about those. After that, I’ll tell you which features are unique to each backpack, so that you can easily decide which one to purchase.

If that sounds good, scroll down to find out everything about the Tortuga Setout and Outbreaker backpacks!

Check out size 35 of Setout and Outbreaker below:

In General About The Tortuga Travel Backpacks

Let’s start with the most obvious difference – size variety. The Outbreaker backpack, unlike the Setout, can be bought in two sizes – the 35 and the 45-liter versions. It’s great to have a choice, as some of you will probably find the smaller pack just the perfect size for them.

On the other hand, the larger packs are made specifically to conform to the carry-on requirements of most airlines, but still, be as large as they can. They can fit about a week’s worth of clothing inside them, and they are great for trips of that length. And Tortuga claims that their travel packs are a much better choice than a suitcase, and I bet you are wondering why.

Well, for one thing, they make a point that suitcases aren’t as convenient for carrying around the town. Or rather rolling around the town, because of their plastic wheels. And I kind of agree with them; if you are going to be walking around the town a lot and you need your carry-on with you, then a backpack is a much more convenient choice than a suitcase.

We’ll move on to the shared features of these backpacks first, and then we’ll talk about what features are unique to each backpack. And I’ll kick off the next section with a little segment on the materials since Tortuga was so nice to list everything that these awesome backpacks are made of.

Tortuga Setout 45
Tortuga Outbreaker 45

Tortuga Setout Vs. Outbreaker: What They Have In Common

It’s obvious from just the specs of the backpacks that there are some features that they share – weather resistance, laptop and tablet sleeve, adjustable shoulder straps, etc. Well, we’ll talk about those first, and later on, we are going to see if one has the upper hand over the other.

Spoiler alert – there is a backpack that is a clear winner (feature-wise), but the win comes at a (high) price. If that is the only part you’re interested in, you can use the quick navigation to skip my detailed account of the shared features of these two Tortuga packs.

The Materials (Hardware)

Tortuga Lockable Zippers

Okay, not all of the materials are identical, but it’s close enough. For one thing, both backpacks are equipped with sturdy YKK zippers. Fun fact; did you know that YKK zippers make up for about half of the zippers in the entire world? And with half the world using them, they are bound to be the best zippers to put on a travel pack. They are also lockable, but you are going to have to buy the lock separately.

There’s something else these packs share – the Duraflex buckles. If you are unfamiliar with the company, suffice it to say that these buckles are used in military and marine equipment. That should give you some idea about how sturdy they are, and how long they will last you.

The rest of the materials of the packs are not really identical, but they do share one thing – they are weatherproof. Both of these packs will be able to handle all kinds of weather conditions, and your electronics will be safe and dry even if you get drenched in the spring showers.

Both Are Front Loading

And what does that exactly mean? Well, it’s just a fancy phrase for a book-like opening. The front part of the pack unzips from the side, and you can then access the large, single packing compartment.

For travel backpacks, I find it more convenient when they are font loading than top-loading. That is because with top-loading backpacks, your clothing is not as accessible, and getting to something at the bottom can be very frustrating.

There’s another thing you should know – the front of the backpack has two large mesh pockets on the inside. These are great for your underwear or socks, or whatever you want to keep separate from the clothes in the main compartment.

Padded Hip Belt With Pockets

Tortuga Hipbelt Pockets

A hip belt is a very important part of large travel backpacks. Why? Well, we are talking about a pack that can carry some 40 pounds of load, and a hip belt helps transfer most of that weight to your hips. Without it, your shoulder would have to carry all the weight and you would probably be sore half your trip.

But, you can also remove the hip belt, if you are not a big fan of it. However, I strongly advise you to do that only if the backpacks are lightly packed, and you left most of your belonging at the hotel.

There’s one more cool feature that these packs share in this area – there are two large pockets on each side the hip belt. They are the perfect size for your phone and some spare cash in the left one, and wallet or sunglasses in the other one – things you will want to have handy while you are walking around; be it from the airport to your hotel, or just around the airport.

Laptop And Tablet Sleeves

Setout Electronics Compartment

Both the Setout (pictured) and the Outbreaker feature separate sleeves for your laptop and tablet. This allows you to safely pack your electronics and not worry about them for the rest of your trip. However, there is one obvious difference – the sizes of the sleeves.

So, the Setout and the smaller Outbreaker (35L) can fit a 15” laptop in the designated compartment, while the Outbreaker 45 can fit a laptop that is up to 17”. Do I have to state the obvious? If you own a 17”, get the Outbreaker 45!

Another thing I noticed is the size of the tablet sleeve. The Setout has a 9.7” tablet sleeve that will fit just about any tablet there is – except the largest iPad Pro. That’s where the Outbreaker comes in – both packs have a 13” tablet sleeve that can fit this monster tablet. However, a 13” sleeve can also store another, smaller laptop!

So, if you are the kind of person that carries around two laptops of different sizes (one for business and one for pleasure), then you could really benefit from the Outbreaker’s design.

Organization Panel In The Front Compartment

I dare call this a key feature of good, travel backpacks. Before you board the plane, you will have to access your passport, ticket, and other necessities, and having to unzip the entire main compartment of the backpack just to get to them is not practical at all. Luckily, with these Tortuga backpacks, you don’t have to.

They are both equipped with an organizer panel in the front compartment, which is designed to fit everything you might need handy during your trip. That includes a key clip, a sunglasses pocket, and several other slip pockets, as well as a few zippered ones.

However, the Outbreaker goes even a step further in this aspect, and it includes pockets for your ID and credit cards in this compartment. And there are some other benefits to it (organization-wise) that we’ll talk about in a few minutes, and if staying organized is one of your main concerns, definitely consider getting this pack.

Other Exterior Pockets

setout side pocket

Both packs feature an additional zippered pocket on their very front. This is great for anything you remember to pack last-minute, or just a book or a magazine that you want to be able to take out easily.

Also in terms of pockets, both the Setout (pictured) and the Outbreaker have water-bottle pockets. You see now why these backpacks are not just suitable for overhead compartments, but also for walking around all they with them – Tortuga really thought of everything.

But there’s a twist – the Outbreaker has more of these pockets. It has two stretch water-bottle pockets (one on each side), as well as an additional zippered pocket on its lower front. Enough said.

Tortuga Setout 45
Tortuga Outbreaker 45

Features Unique To The Tortuga Setout Backpack

In this section, we are going to check out all the design features that the Setout has and the Outbreaker doesn’t. It’s up to you to decide whether these are upsides or downsides.

The Materials

I normally wouldn’t talk about the materials of backpacks in such details, but with these two I have to. For one thing, they are largely responsible for such a different price tag. The Setout is made of 900D heathered polyester, which is the cheaper material.

However, it’s still very sturdy and durable, and it’s what most similar backpacks are made of. And as I already mentioned, it’s weatherproof.

Tortuga also used different materials for the padding of the two packs. In this one, they used injection molded foam. That is another common, affordable material, and it’s also used for the harnesses and shoulder straps on most other backpacks. Basically, the Setout is just as good and comfortable as an Osprey, at least in terms of materials used.

Multiple Carry Handles

setout side carry handle

This backpack is intended to replace your carry-on suitcase, and just like it, it has several carry handles. One is on the top of the backpack, and the other one is on its side. So, if you get tired of carrying this beast around on your back, you can just pick it up and carry it in your hands.

Also, the carry straps allow you to do some light exercises with the backpack if you get bored waiting to board your transport of choice. Why not stay fit even when you are traveling?

I don’t know if you noticed in the photos, but the carry handle on the Setout is in the same place where an extra water-bottle pocket is on the Outbreaker. Now, whether that’s an upside or a downside depends on your personal preference. I prefer to have the side carry handle, since I find that the weight of the backpack is better distributed with it, than with the top one. So, I find this to be an upside.

Hideaway Shoulder Straps

Setout Hideaway Straps

When you want to utilize that extra carry handle, the hideaway shoulder straps will come in handy. You can just tuck them away into their designated compartment on the back panel, and they won’t bother you at all.

The Outbreaker doesn’t have this option, so this is definitely a bonus point for the Setout. And it makes it more convenient as a good carry-on bag, and not just a huge backpack.

Tortuga Setout 45
Tortuga Outbreaker 45

Features Unique To The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpacks

And now we move on to the features that are specific to the Outbreaker backpack. If you haven’t guessed it by now, I find this to be the better pack out of the, and its unique features are precisely the reason why.

The Materials

So, we talked about how the Setout is made from very common and affordable materials. This backpack, on the other hand, is made of materials that are not common or affordable at all, but they are durable as hell.

For one thing, the fabric is made of sailcloth. Yes, that’s right, I’m talking about boat sails. Now, just imagine the torture that they go through and everything that they are built to withstand. And then consider the fact that this bag is made of that same material – I think that this alone justifies its higher price tag.

And then we move on to the padding. The Outbreaker has a back panel and shoulder straps that are padded with Ariaprene foam. This material is usually used in workout gear (sneakers most often), and it is designed with breathability and comfort in mind. It doesn’t hold any moisture, and it is also hypoallergenic.

So, even if you sweat a lot with this pack, it won’t get wet and stinky. And it won’t irritate your skin at all. In fact, Tortuga suggested that you can even wear it shirtless without any irritation – do you dare accept their challenge? I want to hear all about it if you do!

Better Organization

setout main compartment

I already talked about the added exterior pockets of this backpack, but it also has better internal organization. For one thing, the organizer panel is larger and has more compartments, so that you can better separate all of your smaller belongings. But at the same time have an overview of them all.

However, the Outbreaker takes internal organization a step further. With 4 separate pockets in the main compartment, it allows you to organize everything to the very last detail. Put your toiletries in one pocket, socks in the other, and belts and underwear in the remaining two. Or do it however you want; the main point is that you have the ability to separate all your belongings however you find it the most convenient.

TSA Friendly Electronics Compartment

outbreaker tsa friendly

And this is the final nail in Setout’s coffin. Unlike the Outbreaker, its electronics compartment unzips only partially. That’s just enough for you to be able to access your belongings, but it’s not enough for TSA.

As for the other Tortuga backpack, the TSA-friendly laptop and tablet compartment is what really makes it the ultimate carry-on. It unzips fully and lies flat, and going through TSA checkpoints with this pack will be a breeze.

And another thing – this compartment also has three zippered mesh pockets for all your accessories. So, your laptop will not only be safely tucked away in its sleeve, but your chargers, cables, power bank, and headphones can keep it company!

Tortuga Setout 45
Tortuga Outbreaker 45

Tortuga Setout Vs. Outbreaker: Is There A Clear Winner?

For me, there is. The clear winner here is the Outbreaker.

First of all, it is made of materials that are sturdier and of higher quality than the other backpack. That means that it will last you longer and that it will be able to endure harsher conditions, and I think that justifies its higher price tag.

Second of all, it is TSA friendly, which is very important for a good, travel backpack. No one likes spending a lot of time at TSA checkpoint, and the Outbreaker will ensure that you don’t have to.

And finally, it allows for a better organization than the Setout. It has more pockets and compartments, which will inevitably help you find a separate spot for all of your belongings.

The Tortuga Setout is still a very good backpack. There are some things about its design that I actually prefer to those of the Outbreaker, like the multiple carry handles and the hideaway harness.

And it is more affordable. So, if you are on a budget, definitely consider getting the Setout backpack – you won’t regret it, and it’s still cheaper than most high-quality carry-on suitcases.

The decision is ultimately yours. Choose one of these two awesome Tortuga backpacks, and head over to Amazon – but only if you want to get a great deal.

Check out size 35 of Setout and Outbreaker below:

Tortuga Setout 45
Tortuga Outbreaker 45