Review on Tortuga Backpacks’ daypack

On August 5th, 2015

Our flat-bottomed boat hit another large ocean swell. I was hung onto the seats in front of me, my knees cushioning each bone-shattering impact.

The boat was air-borne for a split second. I was flying, anchored only by my white-knuckled hands gripping the seats.

The boat hit the bottom of the next swell flat-on and rocked. Overhead waves splashed the boat’s clear plastic roof.

A second later, the boat was air-borne again, face-planted into the next wave, tossed water over its bow and kept plowing through the ocean.

This was Vancouver’s bay. Seeking the whale pod reportedly dancing on the imaginary line between Canada and United States, the boat’s bow sliced towards the open Pacific ocean.

At my knees, a small black daypack bounced, held to the seat by a small loop. With every brain-shaking impact, the daypack leaped into the air and slammed its weight against the loop as the boat fell back to the ocean.

The team at Tortuga Backpacks was kind enough to send me their new daypack to try out. So I brought it on my three-day trip to Vancouver.

Welcome to my real world travel gear test of Tortuga Backpacks’ daypack.

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Overview of daypack

Tortuga Backpacks’ daypack is a 20L black collapsible backpack that has its own storage pouch built in. When you’re not using it, stuff it into its little pouch. When you need it, pull it out of the pouch and use it.

This daypack boasts an inside organizer panel, a large main compartment, large mesh front pocket large enough for a jacket, a small top pouch that doubles as the daypack storage pouch and a handy stashing place for your wallet and sunglasses when the daypack is in use. Two side mesh pockets easily fit a large water bottle.

Inside is a laptop sleeve (for a 15″ laptop) with minimal protection. This daypack is not designed to carry your laptop through airport jungles, just to bring it to the cafe around the corner to plug into WiFi and work.


Since it’s a daypack, there’s two factors in size:

  • Size when unfolded and used as daypack;
  • Size when folded into its pouch for transportation.

1) Size when daypack

20L is a lot of space. And I swear, Tortuga Backpacks has struck a deal with the space-saving gods. Whenever I thought this daypack was full, I’d stuff something else in and it’d fit.

2015-04-11 21.03.08At the end of one day of walking around Vancouver, here’s what my daypack held:

  • Three water bottles
  • Four apples
  • Two bars of soap
  • Bag of carrots
  • Wallet
  • Two pairs of glasses with one case
  • Two sandwiches
  • Two small to-go containers
  • Two energy bars
  • Four bananas
  • Hat
  • One smartphone

2) Size when in pouch

It’s the size of a paperback book, only more flexible so you can shove it into small spaces. Toss it into your bag on top of your clothes and you’re good to go.


The real question: how does this daypack feel on your back?

Daypacks are notoriously flimsy and not designed with comforts like padded backs or straps. They are designed primarily to fold up into tiny little bundles then shake out into carrying bags.

Tortuga Backpacks changed that.

This daypack has a padded back that even allows air flow for sweaty spines. True, the padding is minimal, but it’s contoured for comfort and some padding is heaps better than nothing. A chest-strap evens out the load.

Photo courtesy of Tortuga Backpacks

Photo courtesy of Tortuga Backpacks

I wore this daypack for three days straight walking around Vancouver. Most of the time it was jammed full of water bottles or fruit. Never once did my back or shoulders complain about the weight.

Toughness factor

Let’s be honest here: I need my travel gear to hold up to my adventures. The last thing I want is a strap to break, seam to rip out, or zipper fall apart. What I need is tough.

Here’s what I put this daypack through:

  • 7 hour boat ride through choppy seas where full daypack bounced against loop;
  • 3 full days of walking in rain or drizzle with daypack loaded with water, fruit, snacks and mementos;
  • 6 hour train ride with daypack holding two full-size takeout containers filled with food and zipper straining to stay shut.

How did it stand up?

It looked like I hadn’t just beaten it for three days straight. Even though Tortuga Backpacks doesn’t claim this daypack is waterproof or water-resistant, it is.  After walking under the Northwest’s weeping skies, my stuff inside never got damp.

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Final word

Will I be retiring my leather messenger bag on trips for Tortuga Backpacks’ daypack? Probably yes on those longer trips where lots of walking and carrying is involved. After a long day of carrying a messenger bag’s weight on one shoulder, I ache.

But I never had a backache in Vancouver with this daypack. And it’s super nice to not jam your bag under your jacket every time it starts to rain.

Tortuga Backpacks’ daypack is available for pre-order here and costs $54.

Laura Lopuch has gypsy-blood running through her veins and writes at Waiting To Be Read where she helps you find your next awesome book to read.

Image: Jason Priem (flickr)