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Timbuk2 Aviator vs Tortuga Outbreaker

Messenger bag company Timbuk2 expanded into the travel market with their Aviator backpack. While the Aviator does some things right, like being front-loading, a few glaring flaws make it imperfect for travel.

Size Matters

The Aviator's biggest flaw is an obvious one: it holds less than a maximum-sized carry on bag. Most airlines allow carry on luggage up to 45 linear inches (length + width + height) which works out to a 45L capacity. The Aviator is only 28.5L. That's 37% less than what the airlines allow.

We all know how restrictive airlines are. Why not take advantage of the space you're allowed to use?

A smaller bag is fine for an overnight trip. But, it's overly restrictive for longer trips of a week or more.

Use every inch the airlines will give you.

The Outbreaker travel backpack measures 22x14x9" and holds 45L. It takes full advantage of your allotted space in the overhead bin.

Traveling light is hard. Can you pack everything you need into less than 2/3 of a carry on? If not, don't buy the Aviator.

Avoiding Hassles at Security

The security line will, inevitably, be a nightmare. In order to keep the line moving and get to your gate, you need to get everything out of, then back into, your bag quickly. Here, the Aviator comes up short.

If you carry an Aviator, removing your laptop when going through airport security will be difficult. On the plus side, it has a laptop pocket. Many "travel" backpacks don't even have that.

The problem is that the Aviator doesn't have an exterior access point to reach your laptop. To put it into, or to take it out of, your bag, you have to open the entire top of the bag.

Carrying the Outbreaker, you can leave your laptop inside your bag going through a security checkpoint. Simply unzip the laptop compartment and lay the bag flat on the belt to breeze through TSA like a pro.

Useful Pockets

When you're on the road, you have to carry a lot of small things: money, your passport, boarding passes, tickets, a water bottle, a guidebook, and more.

The Outbreaker was designed so that you can carry this stuff, and reach it, even when your bag is on your back. No need to unhook your straps and take off your backpack every time you want something.

The Outbreaker features two hip belt pockets for easy access to small items like money and tickets. The main body of the pack has two zippered side pockets for holding larger items like water bottles and umbrellas.

The Aviator's only exterior pocket is on the very back of the pack. That location is fine when you aren't wearing your bag but it’s inconvenient when you are.

You shouldn't have to take off your bag every time you need to show someone a ticket or take a sip of water.


The Aviator was designed for very short trips. It only holds 65% as much as the Outbreaker travel backpack. The Aviator also omits a few simple, but subtle, features that are important to travelers.

Tortuga only makes travel backpacks. Not messenger bags. Not commuter bags. Not camera bags. Not tote bags. Our singular focus allows us to do it better than anyone else.

You can learn more about the Outbreaker here.

Travel On Your Terms

We started Tortuga in 2009 so that we could live, work, and travel on our terms. The tools we make help you to do the same. The Outbreaker is designed to be the only luggage you need for your next city adventure - no matter how you travel.