This is a review of the Tortuga Setout Backpack 45L. It’s a high-quality, durable, and minimalist backpack designed for light travelers. This product has been well made with clever features to make it easy to pack and carry around when you travel! The Setout includes one large main compartment, organizing pockets at the front panel that holds laptops up to 15 inches in size, an organizer pocket on top of this section, and three exterior mesh pockets which are perfect for water bottles or flip flops during summer trips along with two padded shoulder straps so carrying this bag isn’t too hard.

Okay, the moment has finally arrived. We’ve had a lot of requests for a review of the Tortuga Setout, and we’re now ready to share our opinions and experiences after three months of testing.

Tortuga markets this bag as being “just perfect” for travelers. It is “packed like a suitcase and carries like a backpack,” as they put it. It’s meant to allow you to take more on your trip while still fitting inside most airlines’ carry-on limitations.

Tortuga Setout 45L Men's & Women'sWe’ve taken it to Detroit, California, and New York over the last three months to put it through its paces. Does it live up to the hype? Continue reading to find out.

Review of Tortuga: Materials and Aesthetics

You’ll note right away that the Tortuga Setout is comparable in size to Tortuga’s other popular backpack, the Outbreaker, which has more features but is more expensive. It’s also a little bigger and thicker than the Homebase, but that’s the point.

The Setout weighs 3.3 pounds with the hip belt connected and has a 45-liter capacity. It opens up like a suitcase, making it simple to arrange your belongings and get what you need as soon as you arrive at your hotel.

The Setout is composed of 900D Polyester, which is the first thing we noticed about it. This makes it less expensive than Tortuga’s other sailcloth-based backpacks, the Homebase and Outbreaker.

Note: For additional information on sailcloth or other materials, see our backpack guide, which covers every fabric you’ll come across in the world of backpacks.

Tortuga Setout / Homebase ComparisonThe polyester’s heathered appearance helps cover scratch marks and scuffing, ensuring that the bag looks beautiful for longer. Scraping was a concern with the Homebase, so switching to polyester for the Setout seems to be a sensible decision.

So, what more can we say about this thing’s materials? The following are the most important details:

  • The polyester isn’t as lustrous as the Outbreaker and Homebase, two of our favorites. It also lacks the wrinkled texture and sound and is typically more pleasant to touch. In a busy hostel, no one wants to be the loud crinkle!
  • The pack itself is significant; however, it mixes nicely in a city context despite its size. In addition, the minimalist design doesn’t have the same ‘backpacker feel’ as many other big packs.
  • Ripstop nylon lines the interior for added weather protection, tear resistance, and strength.

Tortuga Setout Internal Ripstop NylonInternal Ripstop Nylon Tortuga Setout

  • It’s the size of a legal carry-on bag. We at Pack Hacker are huge fans of one-bag travel, so this is just up our alley. However, not all airlines have the same luggage limitations, so double-check with yours before flying!
  • On certain flights, you may be able to conceal this bag under the seat if you don’t pack too much, but we found it best to stow it in the overhead bin (due to the bag’s enormous capacity).

Tortuga Setout Minimal BrandingBranding for Tortuga Setout is kept to a bare minimum.

  • The Tortuga logo is discreet. There are some modest shell motifs on the strap, a little Tortuga Tortoise Shell logo in the middle of the pack, and a stitched Tortuga Tortoise Shell logo on the back, between the straps. This gives the bundle a sleek yet understated look.
  • Finally, the pack has YKK zippers and Duraflex plastic buckles that are both strong and dependable. There’s also injection molded foam, which we’ll discuss in more depth later.

Components from Outside

Let’s go into the features now that we’ve covered the materials.

Tortuga Setout Compression StrapsThe compression straps come first. As we’ve covered in our previous backpack reviews, strap design may be challenging for backpack designers, but the Setout gets it just right. We were pleasantly astonished to discover how well-placed these compression straps are. They don’t obstruct the zips in any way, and you can completely unzip the pack without adjusting the compression straps. This makes unzipping fast and painless, which we appreciate.

However, we noticed a stress point on the zipper when the bag was filled. We discovered spots approximately 1/3 of the way down on both sides where the zipper was under significant stress when we loaded the bag full.

We didn’t have any issues with the zipper throughout our testing period—it performed admirably—but these stress spots might become a concern months or years later.

We were pleased to discover fast grasp grips on both the top and side. They’re great for getting your suitcase out of an overhead bin and onto public transportation or any time you need to grab your bag and move quickly—like when your bag is halfway through the metal detector and the gate for your aircraft is about to shut.

The handles are cushioned with thick foam, making them easy to grip. However, since the handles aren’t built for long-distance hauling, we don’t advocate utilizing them for that purpose. They don’t have a lot of structure—the bag will collapse a bit as you use them—but they’re reinforced and robust enough for your short carry.

Tortuga Setout Top HandleTortuga has done an excellent job with this bag by including a separate, non-padded top handle for hanging it up. We loved it since the handle is positioned so that the pack is level with the wall, which is perfect for avoiding soiled airport restroom floors or saving space in a busy closet.

There are two clips on the exterior of the pack for a messenger strap, which we observed. We have no idea why they’re there. Clips with no apparent use seem like an unusual inclusion, but they might help attach stuff to the exterior of your bag.

We don’t believe the bag messenger style is incredibly comfortable or practical, but hey, we’re not here to tell you how to wear your bag—do whatever you want with it!

The lay-flat water bottle compartment is one of our favorite features. It’s constructed of a mesh-like material on the other side of the fast grab handle, and the top is elasticated to grasp your water bottle or anything else you could put in there.

It’s a reasonable size—it’ll comfortably accommodate a big S’well bottle, and the robust elastic will keep it in place. This pocket’s basic design keeps it looking neat even when it’s not in use, which is a nice touch. Nobody likes a sloppy side pocket—you’re begging for it to snag on anything and tear.

System of Harnessing

The guys at Tortuga are continually listening to the one-bag travel community and working to improve their designs, which we appreciate.

As a result, they’ve produced a female-specific version of the Setout Backpack 45L. It also has a harness mechanism that is built exclusively for women’s bodies. The remainder of the bag is identical.

The following are the main differences between the Tortuga Setout Backpack 45L for men and women:

Women’s Specific Fit

Tortuga Setout 45L Women's VersionWomen’s Version of the Tortuga Setout 45L

  • The harness system is designed to suit torsos ranging from 15.5 to 18 inches in length.
  • The shoulder straps are cushioned with a softer, cushier open-cell foam to make that enormous 45L weight comfortable—plus, they’re closer together for narrower shoulders.
  • Instead of crossing the nipple line, the adjustable sternum strap lies just below the collarbone.
  • The hip belt’s cushioned parts are smaller, and it adjusts to a tighter circle.

This women-specific harness system is the same as the one found on Tortuga’s Setout Backpack 35L, which we reviewed in-depth in our comprehensive review. So, if you want to get down to the nitty-gritty, go there.

Focused Fit for Men

Tortuga Setout 45L Men's VersionThe Tortuga Setout 45L is a men’s version of the Tortuga Setout 45L.

  • The harness system is designed to suit torsos with a circumference of 17-19 inches.
  • The shoulder straps are cushioned with durable, injection-molded closed-cell foam that maintains the bag’s shape.
  • The hip belt is broad, meaty, and lengthy enough to accommodate bigger torsos.

In this review, we’ll go over every component of the men’s harness system, beginning with the sophisticated injection-molded straps we described previously.

The curved straps hug your body well, which we always like. The thickness of the foam has a “gradient” to it—thicker it’s towards the top of the bag and thinner at the bottom. This struck us as a really clever idea that we haven’t seen on many other packs. Because your body won’t be in touch with the bottom of the straps anyhow, tapering them out at the bottom makes logical. It seems to be a no-brainer!

Tortuga Setout Shoulder Strap DetailWe were reminded of Nike Air Technology by the “injection molded” shoulder straps, which had openings that seem nearly like a honeycomb. They seem to be ‘high-tech,’ but they’re just well-padded foam straps that make the bag pleasant to carry. Mesh is also used to cover the straps for enhanced ventilation.

Is this injection-molded shoulder strap technology going to change the hiking world? No. It is, nevertheless, really comfortable.

One difficulty we experienced with the shoulder straps was that in two instances while lifting up the pack, a strap unclipped unexpectedly. While this seemed alarming at first, we immediately discovered that you can avoid this by making sure the carabiner clip on the pack is pointing outwards. When the carabiner clip is in use, it naturally pushes towards the interior of the pack, thus if the clip is facing inwards, the strap might squirm its way out of the clip and come detached.

All you have to do is make sure the carabiner is facing outside and it will not come undone. If you put the strap flat, the carabiner will naturally face outwards, so simply don’t twist the straps.

Tortuga Setout Sternum StrapThere’s also an adjustable sternum strap with a piece of elastic to hold any extra strap in place, so no straps will flake about in the wind. We felt this was a good addition since we don’t like hanging straps.

Tortuga Setout Hip Belt StorageThis item is big, comfy, removable, and comes with pockets for fast grabs while you’re out and about. Snacks, a phone, or your passport will fit neatly in there, and being able to reach for them without taking off your backpack is really handy. These little pockets might be hit or miss at times, but we believe Tortuga did an excellent job in this situation.

Tortuga Setout Hip BeltWe enjoy how Tortuga specifies which torso sizes their packs fit, since this may be perplexing when purchasing a pack online. The Setout is designed to accommodate torsos measuring 17-19 inches in length. Keep in mind that if you’re a little taller, the hip belt may end up feeling more like a belly belt, which isn’t ideal.

It is, however, optional—it is removable through velcro—and the pack may still be used without it. However, if you start to stuff this thing with heavy gear, you’ll probably want to put the hip belt on.

We appreciate the general harness system, although there is one little flaw. I all, a Pack Hacker review wouldn’t be complete without some nitpicking, right? Our issue was with the velcro—we thought it was a strange choice. In this region, a longer-lasting metal clip (like the ones on the straps) would have been preferable. We’re simply not sure how well the velcro will stand up against the metal clips, which are more or less unbreakable.

Maybe there’s a reason they went with velcro. If someone from Tortuga happens to be reading this, we’d love to hear about your thinking process, so please contact us!

Tortuga Setout Shoulder Straps & Padded Back PanelFinally, there’s some good foam cushioning on the rear panel to aid ventilation. This allows for some ventilation and reduces the dreaded back sweats when hiking. Will you be fully sweat-free after wearing this for a long time? No, no, and no. It isn’t a magical backpack.

Overall, the pack is pleasant to wear since it rises high on the back, distributing weight and keeping the pack tight to your back.

Tortuga Setout SaggingOne thing to keep in mind is that when the pack is highly filled, it tends to droop down on your back. The top of the pack has more room, which we like since it keeps more of the weight higher on your back. However, we believe that load lifter straps, which draw the weight closer to your back, or a stronger frame sheet, which gives it more rigidity, would be beneficial.

Whew! That was a long list. The overall carry, harness system, and exterior features are robust and well-thought-out, with the exception of a few nitpick concerning the straps unclipping and a small drooping while lugging big objects. Whether you’re hopping in and out of cabs in hectic Asian cities or walking alone in the mountains, there are many alternatives for carrying your backpack and keeping your belongings safe.

Inside the Bundle

Now, let’s take a peek inside the pack to see what storage options we have.

Tortuga Setout Small Front PocketFirst, we’ll take a look at the little pocket on the pack’s front. This YKK #5 zippered pocket is 7.5 inches deep and ideal for any form of rapid grab. It’s pretty flat, which is beneficial for getting through customs fast.

A zipped compartment on the rear of the bag has a space for a 15″ laptop and a tiny pouch for a tablet. This compartment is designed for flat things, so if you have a big notepad or A4-sized papers, they will fit well and remain pretty flat and crease-free in this section.

Tortuga Setout Laptop Compartment w/ Velcro StrapThe laptop pocket has a velcro strap to keep the laptop from slipping out, which is a good addition.

Tortuga Setout FramesheetAs previously said, we wish the framesheet was a bit more strong so that this compartment would be more resistant to bending. The laptop pocket has some cushioning, but a firmer framesheet would provide more security, particularly when the bag is full of travel items. Nonetheless, we suggest a cushioned laptop sleeve for an additional protection layer. We don’t fool around when it comes to protecting laptops—and, by implication, our livelihoods.

Tortuga Setout Front PocketA colossal pocket with another robust YKK zipper can be found at the front of the pack. The cover folds up when the zipper is opened, exposing one of our favorite features of this backpack: the internal storage system.

We know the Tortuga crew comprises seasoned travelers, and they’ve certainly put a lot of consideration into this bag’s organization. It’s obvious here, so thanks to everyone at Tortuga.

Tortuga Setout Storage System w/ Key ChainThree pen slots, a wider side slot, card pockets, and another pocket made of the same mesh-like material as the water bottle pocket make up the storage system. You’ll also notice a little metal carabiner, which is ideal for keys or anything else you wish to secure.

There’s also a little zipped compartment here, approximately the same depth as the one on the front of the pack (around 7.5 inches) but not quite as broad. This little compartment is perfect for keeping valuables and other things that don’t need immediate access.

A flap for a notepad or other flat things is located just in front of that little pocket, near the rear of the storage system, which is ideal for those who like taking an excellent book on the road!

Additional free-floating goods may be stored at the bottom of this main front pocket. However, we suggest adding some small packing cubes to keep things orderly. You don’t want a slew of loose stuff to mess up the neatness you’ve just achieved!

Tortuga Setout Main CompartmentMoving on to the main compartment, we have some sturdy YKK #8 Zippers that are lockable and immediately identifiable from the front pocket zippers, so you’ll never be mistaken about which one opens which compartment. This is one of those subtle increases in quality of life that we love to see on bags. Tortuga has been there, done that, and grabbed the incorrect zipper pulls enough times to know what they’re doing!

This compartment opens like a suitcase, and the inside space is enormous. You’ll feel right at home with this if you’re accustomed to packing luggage.

This area is ideal for packing cubes, which we strongly advise you to use since they will keep your belongings organized and help retain the pack’s form.

Tortuga offers a day pack for the Setout separately. Not only is it lightweight and great for day travels, but it also fits neatly within the main compartment. The day pack is similar to the main backpack, but it is built of different materials and is considerably smaller and lighter.

Although we never needed to, the day pack may be used as an interior organizer or packing cube. However, this may be a decent solution if you need more organization or don’t have enough packing cubes.

Tortuga Setout Mesh Pockets w/ YKK ZippersFinally, two extra mesh pockets are included on the bottom of the ‘lid’ for further organizing. These are flat, yet they can contain little objects like shirts, notepads, and other flat items.

Overall, the interior of this bag provides enough organization—but not so. Of course, when a load is covered with pockets and other features, it might reduce the amount of accessible space. Still, we believe Tortuga did an excellent job here by not going crazy with internal organization. As we previously said, the arrangement of this bag has undoubtedly been given a lot of attention, and it shows.

Testing & Durability

Before writing a review, we carefully put our gear through its paces in the real world. We’ve been testing the Tortuga Setout for approximately three months at the time of this Tortuga review, and it’s gone from Detroit to California to New York.

Overall, the pack has proven to be a reliable travel companion.

Tortuga’s other pack, the Homebase, had some visual concerns earlier. The sailcloth was our primary gripe, as it is rapidly scuffed and scratched. But, thanks to heathered polyester, the Setout has resolved this problem.

Tortuga Setout Slight Scuff MarksWe like how it resists scratches and scuffing—aside from regular wear and tear and the occasional smudge mark, it still appears brand new after thousands of kilometers on the road.

Although polyester is a weaker material than the ballistic or ripstop nylon packs we’ve examined, this pack feels sturdy, has some high-quality zippers and buckles, and we’re confident it will last for many journeys.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is the Tortuga Setout water-resistant?

A: The Tortuga Setout is not water-resistant.

Related Tags

  • tortuga setout
  • tortuga backpack review
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  • tortuga setout 35l review
  • tortuga setout backpack 35l
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