Gear Review: Tortuga Setout 45 Travel Backpack
Too Long; Didn't Read
- Consistently highly-rated brand and model
- Maximum-sized carry-on, plenty of room
- Fairly light
- Comfortable harness
- Durable materials
- Somewhat pricey
- Interior needs more organization
- Non-adjustable hip belt to fit different torsos
If you want to choose a travel pack based solely on awards won, the Tortuga Setout 45 may be the pack for you. Both it and another Tortuga product, the 45L Outbreaker, have won various “best travel backpack” awards.
I myself used an earlier Tortuga model for the first two years of serious travel. It was an old Tortuga V2 I got on Craigslist for 50 bucks, and that thing served me well. The materials were durable and the workmanship was solid.
The Setout has taken many of those attributes and raised them to the next level. While I have a number of quibbles with it it’s a solid all-around travel pack that does one thing and does it well.
I got the navy blue, 45L version of the Setout, which also comes in black and gray and 35L versions. While the color schemes are not the most visually arresting, it does have a nice sleek look to it.
More substantially, the Setout is made of 1000D nylon, which is strong yet light. This gives it a lightweight frame, but still has an understated sturdiness to it.
The water bottle holder is a little looser than I’d like, but that’s a small quibble.
There are two well-padded grab handles, one on top and the other on the side. You’ve also got some useful compression straps on either side to help compress unused space.
Opening up the front part of the pack, you’ll find several pockets for pens and such, as well as a zipped pocket and carabiner pocket. This type of organization is great, but unfortunately I was in for a bit of a shock when I opened up the main compartment:
I would say this recipient-of-so-many awards pack has standard organization, except it doesn’t even. There’s NO organization here. With the exception of the two zippered toiletry pockets on the left, it’s just one big space.
In all honesty, I was taken aback by the lack of organization in the main compartment. Even my former travel pack, an old Tortuga V2, at least had those pocketed compression straps you find in a lot of carry-on luggages. Why Tortuga would have taken this step backward with a newer model is confusing to me. Even with packing cubes, there’s nothing keeping them from accidentally falling out. Not great, Tortuga, not great.
Moving right along, the laptop compartment is definitely large enough for anything up to a 17″ laptop, and in the right spot. Right on top of that is a sleeve for a tablet or book.
The harness on the Setout is pretty good…for the most part. It’s also a little awkward, for reasons I’ll get into later.
The shoulder straps are very comfortable and ventilated.
The hip belt is nice and large and comfy, and features pockets. One thing to note about the hip “belt” is that it is actually two separate pieces, not one long belt. Not a real issue, just different.
My problem is that it’s not adjustable. I’m 5’8″ and the hip belt did feel like it was sitting a little high. But I imagine for most torsos this may not be a problem.
To put the Setout into carry-on mode, you unclip the shoulder straps and tuck them behind the back panel. To detach the hip belt, you pull out that velcro strap connecting either piece to the pack. Yes, you have to do this for each hip belt section (and then keep track of each), but it’s pretty quick and easy to detach them.
In all honesty, I would prefer a hip belt that was an actual belt, one piece. Especially for me, who’s super scatterbrained, the fewer things to keep track of, the better. You don’t want to have more things to think about when traveling. It’s one of those things that doesn’t sound like a big deal until it is.
Notes from the Road
I loaded this pack with as close to 25 pounds as I could get (the maximum allowed on a plane, but more importantly, the most you’ll want to carry before your shoulders really feel it) and went for a two-mile walk around my neighborhood.
While the hip belt seemed to sit too high and so felt somewhat awkward, it also did what it was supposed to. My shoulders weren’t really feeling the weight after that distance. Awkward as it is, it seems to work!
I will say that for $200 I was expecting a bit…more. It’s not the most expensive pack, but it’s also not the cheapest. True the Allpa 42 costs even more, but it also gives you *far* superior interior organization and more features.
The bottom line with the Setout 45 is that is a perfectly functional travel backpack. But, you can find a perfectly functional travel backpack for way less money.
Note: Tortuga is actually getting ready to release their brand new “V4” backpacks, and so a lot of their Setouts are on sales. I don’t know how long these sales will last, but I think these discounted prices are much more reasonable for the products.
I hope my list has set you on the right path to choosing your next (or first!) carry-on travel backpack. Please be sure to add any advice or recommendations in the comments below.
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