Frequently Asked Questions

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Why use a backpack instead of a suitcase?

Because you want the right tool for the job. Suitcases are fine for business trips in ideal conditions like the polished linoleum floors of an airport or an office. A backpack is a must-have for urban world travel. Backpacks are tough and adaptable enough for any terrain, transportation, or accommodations you might encounter.

When you break a cheap plastic wheel dragging a suitcase through the uneven streets of Europe, you will know why you should use a backpack instead of a suitcase.

Why not use a hybrid backpack-suitcase?

Backpacks with wheels combine the worst of backpacks and suitcases. The plastic wheels and handles take up 20-40% of your carry on weight allowance so you can't pack as much. The extra plastic also makes the bag less comfortable (and heavier) when carried as a backpack. Read more about the pitfalls of hybrids here. We designed the Tortuga Travel Backpack to combine the best features of backpacks and suitcases.

Where can I find your products in stores?

We only sell our products directly through our website, not in stores or through third-party distributors. This is true both in the US and abroad.

Tortuga Travel Backpack

Can I use the Tortuga as a carry on bag?

Yes. We designed the Tortuga to be a carry on bag. Most airlines allow bags up to 45 linear inches (length + width + depth) or 22" x 14" x 9". The Tortuga was made to these exact measurements so you don't have to sacrifice packing space.

Always check your airline's carry on guidelines before flying.

Why is the Tortuga so rectangular?

The Tortuga is rectangular so that you can maximize your packing space within the airlines' carry on guidelines. You can read more about rectilinearity on, our favorite packing site. Suitcases are rectangular for the same reason.

Unfortunately, many backpack makers prioritize pretty shapes over packing space. When shopping for luggage, always check a bag's volume, not just its dimensions. Many backpacks are the same dimensions as the Tortuga but, because of their shape, hold 25-33% less stuff.

Some backpack makers go the other way. They completely ignore appearance to make a perfectly rectangular bag.

We made that mistake with the first Tortuga then learned to consider both looks and volume. We designed the Tortuga to maximize packing space without being an ugly rectangle.

How much can I pack in a Tortuga?

The same amount that you can pack in a carry on suitcase. Your Tortuga may arrive flattened and not look very spacious. Don't be discouraged. Open it up and start packing it. You'll find that it holds plenty of stuff.

For reference, a sample packing list is below. Combined with what you're wearing, this list will last over a week without repeating any outfits. The following gear fits in the Tortuga's main compartment and front pocket (with room to spare) leaving the side pockets and waist belt pockets for anything else you need to carry.

  • 4 t-shirts
  • 2 long-sleeved shirts
  • 1 light jacket or sweater
  • 1 pair of jeans/chinos
  • 1 pair of chino shorts
  • 1 pair of athletic shorts
  • 6 pairs of underwear
  • 6 pairs of socks
  • 1 pair of flip flops
  • 1 light scarf
  • 1 quart-size toiletry bag
  • 1 paperback book
  • 1 pair of sunglasses
  • 15" Macbook Pro laptop
  • 1 Macbook Pro charger
  • 1 iPhone charger
  • 1 passport

How much does the Tortuga weigh?

When empty, the Tortuga weighs 3.65 pounds (1.66 kg).

Will the Tortuga fit me? I'm really short/tall.

The Tortuga was designed to fit a range of heights. Hailey, the blond model in the product photos, is 5'1". You can see that the bag fits her comfortably and isn't overly large. We (Fred and Jeremy, the founders of Tortuga Backpacks) are both over 6' tall and carry Tortugas wherever we travel.

The best way to fit a backpack is to have someone measure your torso length with a soft tape measurer.

Tilt your head forward to find your C7 vertebra, the one that sticks out at the base of your neck. Then place your hands on the top of your hip bones, also known as your iliac crest. Place your hands flat with your fingers pointing forward and thumbs pointing backward. Your hands will mimic the "shelf" that your backpack will rest on. Have someone measure the distance from your C7 vertebra to the top of your hip bones.

That distance is your torso length. The Tortuga is 22" tall but can comfortably fit torsos of 18" and up.

Is the Tortuga waterproof?

The Tortuga is water resistant, not waterproof.

Here's what Scott Gilbertson of Vagablogging had to say when he tested an older version of the Tortuga (made of the same material):

I stuck it in the shower for 20 seconds or so and it managed to repel most of the water. Suffice to say if you’re caught in a brief rain shower you don’t need to worry.

We don't make a Tortuga-specific rain cover (yet), but past customers have told us that REI's store brand covers work well.

What material is the Tortuga made of?

1680D ballistic nylon.

What type of frame does the Tortuga have?

An internal, HDPE (high-density polyethylene) framesheet.

Does the Tortuga have a single shoulder strap like a duffel or messenger bag?

No. The Tortuga can be worn as a backpack or carried by its top or side handles. At the Tortuga's size and weight (when packed), a single strap is uncomfortable and unergonomic. When the Tortuga is in "luggage mode" with its straps covered for protection, you can carry your bag down an airplane aisle by its side handle.

"Convertible" bags try to be both duffel bags and backpacks. They end up being mediocre at both. We designed the Tortuga to be a great backpack by focusing on a single function.

Does the Tortuga have load lifters?

No. On a bag designed like the Tortuga, load lifters wouldn't do anything.

The Tortuga's shoulder straps come out of the top seam of the bag. Load lifters are only useful on tall hiking bags that extend beyond the top of the shoulder straps. In those cases, the straps keep the bag at the correct angle and distance from your body. For more details, check out this explanation from Carryology.

The Tortuga's shoulder and chest straps, hip belt, and compression straps will keep your load balanced and close to your body. No load lifters needed.

How does the Tortuga compare to Backpack X?

See this comparison chart to compare the Tortuga to its most common competitors. Below the chart is a full write up on how the Tortuga compares to each bag.

How can I afford such a great piece of luggage?

We've worked hard to make the Tortuga affordable without sacrificing quality.

By avoiding checked bag fees, the Tortuga pays for itself in 4 flights. Here's the math:

$25 checked bag fee X 2 flights (per roundtrip flight) X 4 roundtrip flights = $200.

The Tortuga costs just $199 (plus tax for California residents) and shipping is free.

If you only care about finding the cheapest bag, this is not the bag for you. The Tortuga is for travelers who want to buy the last bag they will ever own.

Who is the Tortuga for?

The Tortuga is ideal for international travelers, backpackers in Europe, vagabonds on RTW trips, middle-aged people finally getting to see the world, study abroad students, and digital nomads.

Who is the Tortuga NOT for?

The Tortuga is not for hikers, athletes, business travelers, commuters, photographers, wannabe-soldiers, or overpackers.


Where do you ship to?

We ship to the US (including PO Boxes and military addresses), Canada, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand.

What if I live somewhere else?

More countries will be added in the future. In the meantime, you can use a forwarding service to get Tortuga Backpacks' products to countries not listed above. Forwarding services provide you with a US address to use when ordering from online stores like ours. After you make a purchase (using that US address), the forwarding company will receive your package then ship it to you. During checkout, you will need to use the US shipping address as your billing address.

Forwarding Services: MyUS, Bongo International (We've heard good and bad feedback about Bongo. Online reviews are mixed. Use with caution.)

To estimate shipping costs, the forwarding service will need to know the size and weight of the package. Use the numbers below when ordering a Tortuga Travel Backpack.

Weight: 6.1 lbs (2.8 kg)

Size: 26 x 20 x 4 inches (66 x 51 x 10 cm)

If you know of a forwarding service that we should add to the above list, let us know.

How much does shipping cost?

Shipping within the US is free.

Shipping to Canada is $30, to Europe is $50, and to Australia or New Zealand is $55. The flat rate price is the shipping cost only and does not include duties, taxes, or other import charges levied by your country of residence. Read more on our Shipping page.

When do I get my backpack?

For US orders, please allow 1 business day for processing and up to 5 business days for delivery. Orders to US military addresses will require longer shipping times. We cannot guarantee delivery dates on orders to military addresses.

For international orders, please allow 1 business day for processing and 6-10 business days for delivery.

Read more on our Shipping page.


Do I have to pay sales tax?

Sales tax is only applicable to California residents.


What is your return policy?

If you are dissatisfied with your gear for any reason, you may return it unused, within 30 days of your purchase for a full refund excluding shipping fees. We do cover the cost of return shipping for US orders.

To return a Tortuga Backpacks' product, contact us with your order number. We will reply with further instructions.

For international returns, we cannot pay for return shipping and will not accept customs charges. Mark your package as "Goods Returned Under Warranty" before sending.

If you can't find the answer to your question here, please contact us. We'll answer your question then add it to this FAQ.