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.

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

Want someone else's opinion? Check out Rupa's packing list for a year abroad.

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.

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 frequent flyers, international travelers, young people backpacking Europe, 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.


How much does shipping cost?

Shipping is always 100% free, no coupon codes needed.

Where do you ship to?

We ship to any US address.

The Tortuga is not yet available outside of the US. If you want Tortuga in your country, let us know where to bring Tortuga next.

In the meantime, you can use a forwarding service. These 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.

Past customers have recommended the forwarding services below.

Worldwide: MyUS, Bongo International

New Zealand: YouShop by the New Zealand Post

To estimate shipping costs, the forwarding service will need to know the size and weight of the package.

Weight: 5.7 lbs (2.59 kg)

Size: 24 x 18.75 x 6 inches (60.96 x 47.63 x 15.24 cm)

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

When do I get my backpack?

Please allow one day for processing and three to five days for delivery.

Orders to US military addresses will require longer shipping times.


Do I have to pay sales tax?

Sales tax is only applicable to California residents.


What is your return policy?

If you're dissatisfied with your backpack for any reason, you can return it within 30 days for a full refund of your purchase price plus the cost of return shipping. That's right, free shipping both ways.

Please note that we can not reimburse return shipping from outside the US.

How do I return my backpack?

To return your bag, contact us with your order number.

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.