Tortuga Backpack Review: Women’s Setout 35L

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addie wearing a black tortuga backpack
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Disclaimer: Tortuga sent me a complimentary Womens Setout 35L backpack in exchange for my honest review. All opinions, as always, are my own.

If you’ve been on the search for the perfect travel backpack, then you’ve come to the right place. The Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack is hands down the best backpacks I’ve ever owned! Stick around for my honest Tortuga backpack review.

I first started searching for a new backpack a little less than a year ago when I started to get fed up with the top-loading system of my trusty Kelty backpack. In August, I came across the Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack and knew that I had found my one true love.

Sleek, stylish, with a suitcase-style opening and plenty of room to pack everything I need, this thing honestly couldn’t get any better.

I’ve been testing out the Tortuga Women’s Setout 35L backpack for a few months now and have been absolutely loving it! Here’s my honest Tortuga backpack review.

Tortuga Backpack Review: Quick Thoughts on the Women’s Setout 35L

I’ve been traveling with the Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack for the last few months. It’s come on both a transatlantic flight and mini adventures at home, and it hasn’t once let me down.

This backpack is super sleek and stylish while also being crazy functional. It opens fully, like a suitcase, meaning that it’s super easy to pack and keep organized. The waist belt keeps weight off your shoulders and, best of all, it’s carry-on-compliant!

In my opinion, this is definitely one of the best travel backpacks out there.

In-Depth Tortuga Backpack Review

Size

the inside of the tortuga setout backpack
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The Tortuga Women’s Setout Backpack has two volume options: 35 liters and 45 liters. The 35 liter pack measures in at 21.5” x 13.5” x 7.5”, while the 45 liter one is
22″ x 14″ x 9”. Both of them are carry-on compliant on most airlines, which you can’t say for a lot of backpacker-style backpacks!

When I ordered my Tortuga backpack, the 45 liter option wasn’t actually on the market yet. I was a bit worried that 35 liters wasn’t going to be anywhere near enough space, but it turns out that the Tortuga Setout is deceptively huge!

The Tortuga website says that you can easily fit a week’s worth of clothes and other supplies in the backpack. While I haven’t been able to fit that much in there with all of my camera gear, I’ve still been able to get a good 5 days worth of clothes in the backpack, plus toiletries and everything else I need to bring.

Because the backpack is shaped much like a suitcase, rather than a top-loading backpack, it’s a lot easier to fill every nook and cranny and fit a lot in there.

So whether you get the 35L or 45L backpack, you’ll have plenty of space!

Suspension System

the hip belt
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The Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack has a classic travel backpack-style suspension system, with adjustable straps and waist and chest belts, as well as plenty of strategic padding.

The suspension system is also specifically built for narrower shoulders and shorter torsos, making it perfect for women’s bodies.

the chest belt
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With all of my camera gear, I’ve had some serious weight in this thing, and even when walking for long periods of time I’ve never felt like my shoulders were going to die. A great suspension system honestly works miracles, and this backpack has one!

Straps

The straps on the Tortuga Setout are pretty bulky and extremely well-padded. While I was at first worried that the bulkiness of the straps was a bit much, I’ve since come to absolutely love them because they’re so bulky and padded.

The wide straps mean that they can’t dig into your shoulders, and the padding provides even more relief.

Another great thing about the straps is that you can tuck them away for storage! There’s also straps on the sides which you can pull down to compress the backpack.

Handles

the side handle on the tortuga backpack
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The Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack has 3 different handles. One classic, thin backpack handle on the top and then two thicker, padded handles–one of top and one on the side, which make it super easy to pick up and carry around.

Opening

the backpack opened like a suitcase
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Perhaps what I love the most about this backpack (and that’s really saying a lot) is that it opens like a regular suitcase, rather than a simple opening at the top, like most travel backpacks do.

I’ve gotten so used to stuffing all of my things into the top of a backpack that having a clamshell-like opening like this seems like an absolute luxury!

In reality though, it should really be a requirement for any good travel backpack these days. A clamshell, suitcase-style opening will allow you to stay so much more organized while you’re on the road, and will also help you find those little nooks and crannies for stuffing things in much easier 😉

Pockets & Layout

the front pocket of the tortuga setout backpack
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the laptop pocket of the tortuga setout
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When you first look at the Tortuga Setout backpack, you wouldn’t think that there are very many pocket and organization options, but you’d be wrong.

In addition to the main pocket, there’s a back zippered pocket which can hold up to a 17-inch laptop, a big, front pocket for additional storage (with additional extra pockets inside), and a small zip pocket at the very front. There are also zip pockets on the hip straps for easy access to things like your phone, and a water bottle pocket on the side!

Zippers

The zippers - tortuga backpack review
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The zippers on this thing are absolute monsters in the best way. They’ve been sewn in really well and are super strong, so over-packers can’t rip the seams. They’re also lockable (just insert a little padlock through the holes), so you don’t have to worry about things getting stolen while you’re not looking!

The zipper pulls are made of a sort of rubbery material with a grip which makes it super easy to zip the backpack up, no matter how stuffed it is as well.

Fabric

The Tortuga Setout backpack is made with 900D polyester made from recycled water bottles (love that!). It feels a bit like nylon, and is a pretty similar feeling to the backpack you probably had once for school–it just feels a lot stronger than that.

The fabric is also weather-resistant, so if you’re caught in the rain y0u’ll be safe!

Looks

Perhaps the best part about the Tortuga Setout backpack is its looks. When it comes to most travel backpacks, you’re stuck with ugly looks which seem more suited to a mountain trek than a city break. And while that’s totally fine for some of my more adventurous travels, when it comes to city breaks and (occasionally) staying at a slightly nice hotel, I was left feeling pretty embarrassed and out of place with my Kelty backpack.

All of Tortuga’s backpacks are built with looks in mind. The Setout is black, sleek, and won’t stand out in a crowd of stylish European city-dwellers. I absolutely love it.

Tortuga Women’s Setout Backpack 35L – Pros & Cons

addie wearing the tortuga setout backpack
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With the full Tortuga backpack review out of the way, now I just want to highlight a few short pros and cons based on my experience!

Pros

  • Stylish – What I love the most about the Tortuga Setout backpack is just how stylish it is! If you’re a frequent Europe or city traveler, then it’s the perfect backpack for you because it means you won’t stand out from the crowd.
  • Great size – At 35 litres, this backpack is the perfect size for short getaways, and lets me pack absolutely everything that I could need for a week or even a bit more, without being so big that I overpack.
  • Durable and well-made – I could tell the second I got my hands on the Tortuga Setout that this backpack is made to last. The fabric and zippers are super strong, and it just feels well-made. I know I’m going to be using it for years to come!
  • Perfect suspension system – I’m an absolute sucker for backpacks with suspension systems built specifically for women’s bodies, and the women’s Setout backpack goes above and beyond by doing that AND having the suspension system take basically all of the weight off your shoulders. I’m in straight up heaven when I’m wearing this thing.

Cons

  • Price – Starting at $179 for the 35 litre backpack, the Tortuga Setout is a little bit expensive, especially if you’re on a budget like I am. That being said, if you’re looking to invest in a high-quality piece that will last you for ages, I think it’s a steal.
  • Size – While I love the size of this backpack, I also do find myself wishing that I could take it on longer trips, too! At 35 litres, it’s perfect for short trips, but anything longer than a week or so and I think I’d struggle. I can sense a purchase of the 45 litre version in my future!

Tortuga Setout Packing Cubes

tortuga backpack with packing cubes inside
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In addition to the backpack, Tortuga also sent over a set of their packing cubes made specifically for the Setout backpack! These little guys have rounded corners meant to fit perfectly into the corners of the backpack so that you can fit things just right.

These packing cubes, like the backpack itself, are super well-made and durable. Although I do find myself wishing that they’re a little bit deeper (they’re about half as deep as the backpack itself), I’ve been able to stuff them pretty stupidly full thanks to their quality (other packing cubes I’ve tried have ripped the second I try to get a little bit more in than I should), which makes up for that.

Tortuga Backpack Review: Final Thoughts

If you hadn’t already figured it out from this lengthy Tortuga backpack review, I am absolutely starry-eyed over the Tortuga Women’s Setout backpack! It is super well-made, easy to travel with, and perfect for weekend getaways and short trips. I’ll definitely be using it for many more trips!

Pin it for later!

The Tortuga Setout backpack is the holy grain of carry on travel backpacks! If you're looking for a cute but functional travel backpack for all your adventures, then this is it. Click through to read my full review!
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The Tortuga Setout backpack is the holy grain of carry on travel backpacks! If you're looking for a cute but functional travel backpack for all your adventures, then this is it. Click through to read my full review!
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MY FAVORITE TRAVEL TIPS & RESOURCES

Booking Flights: The first place I turn when I’m searching for flights is actually just Google Flights - it’s great to figure out what sort of routes are available. Then, I check Skyscanner and Kiwi for deals. I also love Kiwi for its destination: anywhere feature!

Transportation: I love Omio for figuring out the cheapest way to get from one place to another, and Trainline for booking train tickets within Europe.

Accommodations: I absolutely love Booking.com for finding great hotel deals. After you stay a certain number of nights, you get Genius discounts! For hostels, Hostelworld is my go-to, and I use Airbnb occasionally as well (click here for $40 off your first booking!)

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Travel Insurance: I knew that I shouldn’t travel without insurance for the longest time, but I really learned my lesson when I got an infected cut in Bali. Thank goodness I had travel insurance! I use and love World Nomads for their extremely comprehensive coverage.

Tours: I always check Urban Adventures for great day tours of cities first–I’m obsessed with them! GetYourGuide and Viator are also great options. For multi-day tours, I highly recommend Intrepid.

Camera Gear: I use a Sony Alpha A6300 camera with an 18-105 mm lens and a 35 mm lens. My tripod is the MeFoto Backpacker Air and I loooooove it! I also use a DJI Mavic Air and a GoPro and which allow me to capture everything my regular camera can’t.

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