Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack review

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack review

Like many digital nomads, we like to travel with carry-on-luggage only — and that is why we bought ourselves each a Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack. Read our review and find out how well this backpack is made.

When we decided to become digital nomads, we knew that we had to get rid of most of our belongings and travel only with the most necessary things. In the beginning, Alina had her doubts if she would be able to fit everything into one bag. Turns out: It’s not that hard once you realise that you don’t necessarily have to carry around so much stuff you won’t ever use.

Why we chose the Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack

Minimalism has fascinated Deian for quite some time. In 2016, he proposed to give the one-bag-challenge a chance. We started looking for a travel backpack that would meet the requirements of European airlines.

Another important criterium for us was a separate laptop compartment for our laptops. A normal backpack wouldn’t have worked for us.
Update: The Tortuga Air 2 is out of stock and not for sale anymore. You can still buy one of the newer models directly from Tortuga.

After a few days of research, we narrowed down the list of backpacks to the Tortuga Air 2, Minaal Carry-on 2.0 and Osprey Farpoint 40. While we loved the Minaal from the first time we laid eyes on it online, the price was a bit too much for us. Not necessarily the price for the bag itself but the costs involved in importing it. Of course, the same goes for the other two companies since they are all from the US; however, at the time, Tortuga had a huge sale and the Air 2 was insanely cheap.

After we had done some calculations and established the cost of importing two Tortuga Air 2 backpacks, we started reading reviews. Of course, a good price is important, but the carry-on still had to be really good.

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack choice

Not only were there many positive reviews on the Tortuga website (which has been redesigned in the meantime and the reviews are gone now), people on Amazon and also many fellow digital nomads, adventurers and other travellers seemed to love this backpack from Tortuga.

We had read enough and knew that it was perfect for us. So we ordered two Tortuga Air 2 and two rain covers to keep the backpacks dry in case of a nasty storm.

Packing the Tortuga Air 2 for the first time

Alina’s first thought when we got our hands on the Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack:

It looks a lot smaller than I imagined it to be.

Indeed, it did. But here is the thing: The backpack is 27 litres big in its normal form and can expand to up to 35 litres.

Well, I still don’t think I will be able to fit everything inside it.

After a short conversation, we knew we had to test the Tortuga Air 2 to truly measure its potential. And so we did a few weeks later.

At the end of 2016, we travelled to The Netherlands and Belgium, where we spent one week in each country (our travel stories will follow soon). This was the first time we had been travelling with only one bag and it turned out to be a lot of fun. We would have never imagined how flexible you can be with just a backpack on your shoulders. Casually check in at the airport, board the plane, get off and go to your destination; no more waiting for your luggage, no more praying that it arrived undamaged.

What did we pack for two weeks?

Alina

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack Alina luggage

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack Alina luggage packed

Clothes:

  • 1× pyjamas
  • 1× house shoes
  • 6× panties
  • 6× socks
  • 1× jeans
  • 1× undershirt
  • 1× blouse
  • 1× pullover
  • 1× towel
  • wet wipes
  • ears rod

1 l zip bag:

  • remover pads
  • plaster
  • redness relief serum
  • exfoliant
  • 100 ml make-up remover water
  • 10 ml scrubs
  • 60 ml moisturising cream
  • 50 ml cleansing lotion
  • 100 ml hand cream
  • 60 ml SPF cream
  • 3.5 ml moisturising oil
  • 1× travel deodorant spray
  • intimate gel

Other:

  • 1× MacBook Air Mid 2012 + cover
  • 1× MacBook charger
  • 1× Apple Earpods
  • tissues
  • 1× wallet
  • 2× Tourist guides about Timisoara for our Airbnb hosts
  • 1× iPhone SE
  • 1× hairbrush
  • 1× toothbrush

Total weight: 6.8 kg (14.99 lbs)

Deian

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack Deian luggage

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack Deian luggage packed

Clothes:

  • 1× pyjamas
  • 1x house shoes
  • 4× t-shirts
  • 1× towel
  • 1× pullover
  • 1× jeans
  • 6× socks
  • 6× underwear

1 l zip bag:

  • 1× toothpaste
  • 1× travel deodorant spray
  • 100 ml mouthwash
  • 100 ml shower gel
  • 100 ml shampoo
  • 50 ml perfume

Other:

  • 1× Olympus OM-D E-M10 Mark II
  • 1× Olympus charger
  • 1× Olympus M.ZUIKO DIGITAL 25mm 1.8 lens + lens hood
  • 2× lens filters
  • 1× Olympus M.Zuiko Digital ED 40-150 mm 1:4.0-5.6 R lens
  • 1× GOBE Explore SDXC card
  • 1× SanDisk Extreme Pro 32 GB SDHC card
  • 1× MacBook Pro 13″ Late 2016 no TB
  • 1× MacBook Pro charger
  • 1× Wallet
  • 1× Nokia Lumia 630
  • 1× toothbrush

Total weight: 7.1 kg (15.65 lbs)

Things we shared: Hand and moisturising creme, toothpaste, mouthwash, shower gel, shampoo and perfume.

Our first trip with the Tortuga Air 2 carry-on backpack

In the pictures above, you might have noticed that we didn’t optimise a lot besides compressing our underwear in a zip bag. We still managed to stuff everything we needed in it for two weeks; one backpack wasn’t even fully expanded.

The first test was obviously to see how the material would hold up. We flew from Timisoara (Romania) to Weeze (Germany) and took a Flixbus to Antwerp. Once we arrived, it started raining like crazy. Great, we thought, let’s test those rain covers.

From the train station where the Flixbus leaves you in Antwerp, we had to walk half an hour to our Airbnb host. The Tortuga Air 2 was completely dry when we arrived. So far, so good.

The following day, we transformed Deian’s Tortuga Air into a daypack because we didn’t have one at the time, so his carry-on had to do the job. Thankfully, the Air 2 isn’t terribly big and, once you stuff it with some cloths and water bottles, it is comfortable on your back — and of course, our laptops where always with us.

Still, we didn’t initially plan to use our carry-ons as daypacks. But we didn’t find a daypack we liked before we left Romania so we had to improvise. To our surprise, the Tortuga Air 2 is a pretty okay daypack, although a bit too big to be used all the time.

After one week in Antwerp, we took another Flixbus to Nijmegen (Netherlands). We spent six days in the beautiful city and, once again, used one Tortuga Air as a daypack. The laptop compartment turned out to be incredibly useful during our travels. Deian even pulled out his MacBook Pro on the ride from Antwerp to Nijmegen and wrote a few articles for his clients.

The small compartment on top is being used by us for our Olympus OMD-E M10 Mark II camera; it fits perfectly and snug in there and can easily be pulled out for a quick shot.

Tortuga Air 2: Compartments and comfort

After our two weeks long journey, we evaluated the quality of the Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack and came to the conclusion, that it was quite comfortable and practical. It has padded straps, a chest strap and a nice padding against your back. It doesn’t have a hip belt, which you only get if you buy the big brother Tortuga Outbreaker. However, the Air 2 is not that big so we don’t think that it’s necessary.

It is very important, however, to distribute the weight correctly:

  • ▸ heavy items should be near your back and at the bottom
  • ▸ make sure that they’re distributed evenly
  • ▸ put items you need often in the front compartment

The many compartments of the Tortuga Air 2 are enough for our needs. There is, of course, a separate one for your laptop and in the front pocket, you can stuff all sorts of cables, your wallet, your Nintendo Switch, passport and other small things. The side pocket for the water bottle could be a bit larger, we think.

6 months later: How the Tortuga Air 2 carry-on backpack holds up

The first time we used our Tortuga Air backpacks, it was pretty cold and rainy. We didn’t want to rush a review because the carry-ons had to be put to a proper test. Half a year later, we’ve used them on all our trips in different conditions. How did the backpack hold up?

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack conclusion

Well, we can comfortably say that it not only met our expectations but also exceeded them. We couldn’t find a single fault, nothing tore apart or got damaged so far. Of course, we do take very good care of any product we use, but the Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack still seems to be a very robust carry-on. We highly recommend getting a rain cover and using it even when it doesn’t rain because it protects the backpack in harsh environments. Buying a new rain cover is much cheaper than a new Tortuga Air 2.

Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack giveaway

At this point, you should have realised that we are huge fans of the Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack. In fact, we like the carry on so much that we’re giving a brand new one away. Enter our Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack giveaway below for a chance to win. The giveaway runs until August 8th, 2017.

Update: Our giveaway has now ended. Thank you to all participants and congratulations to the lucky winner.

  1. It’s a good backpack!

  2. Alejandro Cerdas

    Awesome backpack, definitely one of the best options on the market. Tortuga fan!

  3. shannon fowler

    I really like the look of this backpack, and it seems like it would be very easy to organize everything!

  4. I like the advice about getting the rain cover. In our country, we are told to have grab bags for emergency evacuation but it rains a lot too so getting a rain cover is great advice thanks.

  5. Anita Singh

    This is so amazing n useful bag, wish to gift to my husband n daughter….hope i win ????

  6. it’s a good travel backpack!thanks!

  7. Carol Keays

    I will be traveling in October and this would be great to take along with me. Lots of packing in the backpack

  8. Todd Hochman

    great for a carry on for a plane

    • Alina & Deian

      Yes, it is. We didn’t have any problems so far in Europe, even with strict airlines like Ryanair.

  9. Barbara Fehmel

    My Granddaughter is about to travel overseas for 3 months, and is in a quandry about how much to take. I would love to give her this amazing Backpack and the items that can be fitted into it.

    • Alina & Deian

      Wonderful, good luck and may your granddaughter have an amazing trip!

  10. stylish bags awesome

  11. Great review and amazing product!

  12. Andreas Theodoulou

    just what I need for my next future holiday. a good size backpack

  13. Calvin F.

    I like a long lasting durable product, glad this one went well for you. I also like the design and that it can hold many things.

    • Alina & Deian

      Thanks for your comment. The backpack really is quite durable.

  14. I really like that it’s so compact, and that it has a padded laptop sleeve!

  15. Always on the lookout for a great travel bag and this one fits the bill to a T.

  16. Love that it opens from the front like a suitcase! Perfect for short trips and day trips; especially for exploring a few city!

  17. Stephen Taylor

    just right for school work as well

  18. Ilya Shcherbatov

    Really cool and quality product, full and useful review

  19. Looks fine for my laptop

  20. Ashley Nolan

    I love the different compartments in this backpack!

  21. Anita Kennett

    This has been extremly helpful.Thanks for sharing

  22. I like this review very much, especially pictures for what you packed for two weeks!

    • Alina & Deian

      Thanks for your comment and liking our pictures. We thought they were important to show how much you can pack inside such a compact backpack.

  23. César Hernández

    I like this review?

  24. Shareena bano

    Awesome product

  25. It is the perfect backpack for travelling

  26. I like the plain color and look of this backpack. Great job getting a bunch of stuff in it. I have learned to pack well in small bags!

  27. maria cristina

    great bag

  28. Annaloa Hilmarsdottir

    Exremely clever design, would love to win !!!

  29. CATHERINE LE

    Oh wow thank you so much for this awesome giveaway! That’s just soooo generous! Beautiful bag. Good luck

    • Alina & Deian

      Thank you for your kind words, we’re happy you like the giveaway. Best of luck to you.

  30. I’d like to win this awesome backpack for my holiday and work trips. Thanks.

  31. Francesco Chessa

    Holy shit! That seriously looks good! I like the fact that a laptop fits perfectly and that you can put so much in it. Looks cool too. Gj for the people who made it.

  32. Darío Hernan Rueda

    Is great!

  33. Lawrence Giordano

    Looks great, but is there enough space for a bigger laptop in the compartment?

    • Alina & Deian

      There is enough room for a 15 inch laptop and maybe even a 17 inch laptop, but not completely sure. We don’t have laptops that big to try it out.

  34. oumaima guizani

    omg i need to have one!

  35. AMAZING BAG

  36. Samantha Pontes

    I make a lot of quick 1-3 flights now and I’ve been using my college backpack – the front pocket is literally tearing off so I need something for the next one. I usually like to travel light because there’s sometimes a lot of hiking, but I have to bring a laptop etc…

    This looks perfect.

  37. Derek Brewer

    I appreciate the mesh covers – too many packs seem to be omitting them entirely these days.

  38. You mentioned the water bottle mesh was a bit small – when the pack is stuffed, can it hold a bottle (e.g. 20 ounce)?

    • Alina & Deian

      Not 100 percent sure. We just tried a 500 ml kefir bottle that is quite wide (7.50 cm [2.95 inch]) and it fits if the Tortuga Air 2 is empty. The fuller the backpack gets, the bigger the possibility it won’t fit anymore. We recommend getting a long bottle that doesn’t have such a big diameter.

  39. Tortuga Air 2 travel backpack, I love that the bag opens into two compartments instead of one deep compartment, making it shallow enough that I can see most of the contents without having to remove other items. It is the perfect backpack for travelling.

  40. I just like the look – it’s relatively plain and well put together, so I could use it anywhere.

  41. Allen Nazarian

    It’s got a simple look, which I like, it’s the perfect size to fit everything you’d need, and price wise it’s awesome. Would recommend to anyone that’s regularly out and about.

  42. Looks like a great backpack, packs well and aesthetically pleasing… But I’m yet to meet a backpack that could stand the durability testing my son would put it through. Could this be the one?

  43. Im looking for a new travel backpack, this one looks good.

  44. I really appreciate the honest review and how in depth everything was.

  45. Karlyle Donesa

    This is a must have for me! Especially since I like to travel but hate bringing a lot of bags. I like that it has a lot of compartments since I’m the type who doesn’t want to mix up my things in a bag.

  46. Those are some neatly folded and packed items – do you always travel like that or is it just for show 😉

    • Alina & Deian

      Actually, we always pack like this because our items wouldn’t fit otherwise. Maybe we’ll get some packing cubes soon to optimise our packing even more.

  47. Ömer Ziya Gencer

    Wonderful backpack, I want it!!!

  48. Edis Zukić

    Well it looks awesome, good quality and i couldn’t believe how much it can hold. Perfect for travel, well at least for this i would take with me.

  49. Awesome bagpack for travelling or adventure

  50. Kristina S

    Impressive storage. My daughter’s (15) looking at going to Hawaii in December as part of a school project and this would be amazing

  51. Karla Oleinikoff

    My daughter’s going to France next year, this would be perfect for her. What a great backpack!

  52. tracy wedding

    im shocked at how much you can pack into such a compact and easy to use backpack looks great

  53. Shaun Madden

    Holy crap, you really crammed all that stuff in there?

  54. Felix Barth

    That things massive!

  55. Amanda Wood

    This info is exactly what i needed! I’ve been looking at an all-around travel backpack for a while now, and this one takes the cake for sure!

  56. Mark Massad

    This backpack has everything necessary for a good long weekend, plus durability.

  57. Brandon Sparks

    This is just what I need. It would be so perfect.. So awesome..

  58. Samantha Vargas

    The compartments seem great for packing even more stuff into an already big backpack

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