I own a lot of travel bags. While my husband likes to toss around nasty words like “hoarding” and “compulsive buying,” I prefer to think of myself as a bag connoisseur. A collector, if you will. After all, what choice do I have? Travelers, nomads and other folks who find themselves in constant motion between points A and Z can tell you that NO ONE BAG solves all transit needs.
One, however, has come close. Very, very close. So close I’ve been able to purge my collection down to a select few.
Meet my new Tortuga Air. I feel like the bag was designed by travelers just like me, who had the same gripes and pains I had when traveling with luggage that came up short. In this case, it’s true. The creators are two guys who suffered the indignities of broken straps and poor design on their own travels, and who decided to make the bag they couldn’t find for themselves.
I love this compact carry-on, and here’s why:
- It’s just the right amount of bag for trips of a week or less.
- Aside from its smaller footprint, it feels just as feature-rich as the full-size Tortuga Backpack (which many a savvy traveler has already reviewed here, here and here), with the added bonus of a zippered mesh compartment useful for separating out dirty clothes. That area is also handy for storing garment pack-it folders, as you can see from my photos.
- The clamshell opening is everything. Pack it like a suitcase, wear it like a backpack the website claims, and I was amazed to find out how much I could cram in. Optional packing cubes (sold separately, but strongly recommended) and the internal compression straps help to keep everything orderly, wrinkle-free and locked down, yet still easy to get to. Speaking of access…
- All the little storage nooks and crannies one could want. No detail was overlooked, including a side pocket for your water bottle as well as easy-access pockets for your passport, cash, ID, maps, guidebooks and anything else you need to reach quickly. (There are locking zippers for all main compartments, so securing your items in the bag is not an issue.)
- Exterior laptop and iPad compartment, which means no rifling through and unloading the main compartment to get to your electronics.
- Padded back panel, padded shoulder straps and a chest strap. A must for being able to walk comfortably for long periods.
- Expansion zipper.
- Expansion zipper.
- Expansion zipper. Important because, well, I am of West Indian heritage. Which means I come from a long line of overpackers. (We can’t help it. Where we’re usually going, a lot of people are depending on us to bring things down.) Thankfully, though, I’m in recovery and experiencing all the joys of packing and traveling light. This bag inspires discipline, forcing me to turn over each item in my hand and ask myself whether or not I really need it. (Konmari, anyone?) While the Air gives me a little extra room to expand, its compact size means there’s only so far I can take it. Unless I’m packing kettle bells, there’s little risk of me exceeding weight or size limits, even by the strictest of airline standards. (The Air weighs 2.4 lbs and measures 19″ x 12.5″ x 7″.)
I could go on and on about all the ways this bag makes traditional vacation travel easier, but what I really want to talk about is how this bag makes life easier in common day-to-day scenarios. I know far more people who could use a bag like this because they stay weekends or several nights a week at a boyfriend/girlfriend’s place, or the home of an ailing relative they help take care of, or a hotel room on domestic business travel lasting only a day or two. Not to mention people who travel to their day job with a change of clothes for whatever reason. Maybe they have a date later that night. OR they are interviewing for another job on the sly and don’t want to tip off everyone in their office by walking around all day in full interview gear. OR they have a second job requiring a different mode of dress.
A suitcase or even full-sized carryon is too much bag for these occasions, and a tote or duffel bag won’t cut it, especially if you’ve got to pack a wrinkle-free business or dress outfit, or several changes of workout gear. (Not to mention having to carry along and secure electronics like a laptop or tablet.)
I’ve experienced this first hand. Since my sister had her babies and, more recently, I’ve started working out with my daughters, I wind up visiting family an hour away several times a week after work. The last thing I want to do afterwards is drive an hour back home on the highway in the dead of night. In that case, I just stay over and leave for work from their house in the morning. As you can see from the pictures below, my Tortuga Air stays packed by my bedside, week in and week out, for just this purpose.
Listen, this may or may not be the right bag for you. I don’t know anything about your life, your travels or what you’ve got going on. All I know is that it works like a boss for me. If you happen to be in the market for a compact bag of exceptional design, that does more than just sit in your closet waiting for your next great adventure afar, you might want to seriously it.
Tortuga Air. The hardest working bag in “Go” business, whether domestic or abroad, whether three days, three weeks or – for you hardcore minimalist packers out there – three months. Check the Tortuga Backpacks website for more information or to purchase.
Safe travels, all!