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Away Luggage vs Tortuga Travel Backpacks

The Away is a nice suitcase, but a suitcase is the wrong luggage for cultural explorers.

The Case Against Wheels

Let's start at the most obvious point of comparison between Away luggage and Tortuga travel backpacks: wheels or no wheels? 

Wheeled suitcases are fine on the polished floors of an airport or an office building. If your travels are limited to sterile environments with elevators everywhere, flat surfaces, and no public transportation whatsoever, a wheeled suitcase like the Away might work well for you.

The problem with suitcases is that they're ill suited to urban travel. The cobblestone streets of Europe and dirt roads of underdeveloped countries render them all but useless. You'll rethink carrying a suitcase after fighting with your luggage on uneven streets only to arrive at your Airbnb and have to lug it up the stairs.

If your travels bring you from the dirt roads of South America to the charming towns of Europe to the beaches of Southeast Asia, you need a travel backpack - not a rolling suitcase. Backpacks are convenient for urban travelers because they allow you to be agile. Flexible enough for any terrain, you can easily grab your bag and go.

Maximize Your Carry On Space

Experienced travelers know never to check luggage. By traveling carry on only, you avoid hefty baggage fees on roundtrip flights, ensure that the airlines can't lose your bags, and minimize your time at the airport.

Away's "Bigger Carry On" is technically too large to qualify as a carry on bag on most airlines. They claim that it is "made to fit the sizers of major US airlines," and yet the dimensions exceed major airlines' published rules. Its capacity is 46L, which is roomy, but you'll have to gate check the bag on a smaller plane (and possibly a large plane, if you confront a strict attendant).

The Outbreaker Backpack has roughly the same dimensions as Away's smaller carry on but holds 18% more stuff (45L). Why? Because of the “curse of curves." OneBag.com describes how two similarly-sized bags can have very different carrying capacities.

Although it's not a perfect rectangle, the Tortuga version of carry on luggage is closer to this ideal so that you can pack more stuff.

Of course, bigger isn't always better. You should use the full carry on space that the airlines allow if you need it. If you don’t need that much space, compress the Outbreaker Backpack using the side straps. You can't shrink a hard-sided suitcase when you're traveling lighter than usual.

What About Electronics?

Seasoned travelers know that agility is easier with one bag travel. The fewer bags you carry, the more unencumbered you are. If you're able to pare down your packing list to one piece of luggage, you're free to explore without worrying about the hassle of several bags. Even better if that bag is a travel backpack, because you'll be able to explore hands free.

If you're traveling with a computer, one bag travel is not feasible with a wheeled suitcase like the Away. With no dedicated space for a laptop, your precious computer will side around willy nilly, subject to damage. Even if you were to risk packing a computer in the Away, you'd have to open the entire suitcase just to grab it at the airport or on the plane. What if you have to gate check the bag because it's too bulky to fit in the overhead compartment? Computers aren't allowed in the cargo hold, so you'll have to take it out of the bag.

You get the idea. In order to travel with electronics and the Away, you'd need a second piece of luggage. 

A travel backpack like the Outbreaker Backpack is designed for 21st century travelers. Your gadgets probably cost more than your bag, the rest of its contents, and your flight combined. We know that you can’t take any risks with your electronics, especially when you’re halfway around the world. When you open the Outbreaker Backpack’s back panel, everything stays in place, secured by a velcro tab. You don’t have to worry about your laptop sliding out as you open your bag for security screening. Both the laptop and tablet sleeves are padded to protect your gear if you drop your bag or it gets jostled during your flight.

Bonus: the lie-flat design means that you can leave your laptop inside the bag when you're going through security.

What about Away's most distinguishing feature: the internal battery? Your suitcase can charge your phone. While admittedly cool (and convenient for the airport), it's another example of why a traditional suitcase is unideal for the cultural explorer. If you're out and about for a full day of sightseeing, taking photos with your phone, you might need an extra charge during the day. If your backup battery is attached to your suitcase instead of portable (like our favorite - the Anker), you're out of luck.

Best of Both Worlds

Suitcases and backpacks each have their own strengths and weaknesses. The ideal piece of luggage would combine the best parts of each into a suitcase/backpack hybrid.

Suitcases are far more accessible and organized than most backpacks, which means you can grab anything you need out of your bag without moving anything else. However, backpacks function in any environment (not just the airport) and allow travelers to be more agile.

We took the best features of backpacks AND suitcases like the Away when we designed the Outbreaker Backpack. We combined those features into the ideal luggage for global explorers: a travel backpack that is organized, comfortable, durable, and carry on sized.

Learn more about how the Outbreaker Backpack combines the best elements of a backpack and a suitcase.