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Aer Travel Pack vs Tortuga Outbreaker

Aer tried to make a carry on backpack that was durable and useful, and they succeeded on some levels. But they missed some of the most important details that travelers crave.

Poor Ergonomics

The Aer Travel Pack is missing one vital feature: a hip belt. Without a padded, weight-bearing hip belt, you carry your pack’s entire load on your shoulders. No matter the distance you’re walking -- from the airport to a waiting train or wandering miles to your hotel -- you’ll feel the painful burn.

A hip belt’s entire purpose is to distribute weight from your shoulders and onto your hips. This shift of weight means you minimize the strain on your shoulders and back. It’s the difference between tense knots and weeping blisters on your shoulders and a weightless feeling of awe as you explore en route to your accommodations.

The Aer Travel Pack is a small 33L, but you’ll feel its weight and it will feel much heavier.

Even though the Outbreaker is a larger bag at 35L and 45L, with its padded hip belt, your shoulders will hurt less.


No Reachable Pockets for Passport or Phone

Aer has a zippered pocket on the top of their backpack, pointing out this pocket is a “dedicated quick access pocket for your small items and travel documents.”

Only this pocket is not quick access. You have to take off the backpack and swivel it around to access the pocket, wasting valuable minutes.

Wouldn’t it be easier to have the pocket on a hip belt, accessible in a single movement from your hands?

Your phone and passport are the last two things in your hands at the airport whether you’re in security or at your gate. These two items are your most valuable. If you lost your phone or passport, your trip would hollering mayday and preparing for emergency exit escapes.

We want them close, too. Always.

The Outbreaker’s hip belt has two -- yes, count them, TWO -- zippered pockets for your most valuable items. So if one hand is holding a steaming cup of coffee, your free hand still accesses your phone or passport in a pocket right on your hip. How about that for reachable.


Aer did everything right in the Travel Pack’s laptop compartment except for one thing: the compartment isn’t lie-flat.

What that means is the compartment doesn’t unzip into two halves and open up. This feature is important per TSA’s guidelines so a laptop is checkpoint-friendly. Specifically, the laptop-only section of your backpack needs to completely unfold and lie flat on the X-ray belt.

If you travel with the right backpack like the Outbreaker, you can leave your laptop in your bag and get through security faster.

At security checkpoints, unzip Outbreaker’s entire electronics compartment in the back panel and lay it flat on the conveyor belt. Breeze through the rest of security, grab your backpack and head for your gate with time to browse a bookstore or people-watch with a cup of coffee in hand.

Stop taking risks with your expensive gear, like worrying about jostles through security, bumps when you take it out, triple-checking that your laptop didn’t get forgotten at TSA. Travel with a backpack like the Outbreaker where your laptop travels in fleece-lined comfort and never leaves your bag through security.

Where’s Your Water Resistance?

Have you ever been caught in a weeping day-long drizzle in London, Boston, or Dublin? Or maybe, this one time in Costa Rica, the weather was so humid the sky sweated… onto your body.

Raise your hand if water happens on your journeys. Raise your other hand if you find it super hard to keep your bag dry in those wet conditions.

Now do the hokey pokey and turn yourself around.

All kidding aside, the Aer Travel Pack belongs to a world of zero water. Aer Travel Pack has no water resistance in its fabric. The backpack is made from ballistic nylon, offering minimal water protection due to the fabric’s tight weave.

But like most fabric, water finds nooks and crannies to seep into. It doesn’t matter how tightly the fabric is woven together. Eventually water gets through and it’s relentless. Just ask the Grand Canyon how it was formed.

Not so with the Outbreaker. Crafted from waterproof sailcloth and coated zippers that are beyond cool, this backpack is (almost) completely weather resistant.

Here’s why: sailcloth is made up of four layers. Two of those layers deal with water resistance: a 210D nylon with DWR (or durable water repellant) coating and an ultrathin layer of PET film.

Go ahead and dance through rainstorms, sprint for your plane in a torrential downpour, or hike during a drizzle while wearing your backpack and focus on living life on your terms, not worrying if your backpack gets a sprinkling of water on it.

Plus, Ballistic Nylon Unravels

If you get one little hole in the Aer Travel Pack, your backpack is done for. Miles later your backpack is falling apart. Less than ideal when you’re halfway around the world.

This is what happens when travel backpacks are crafted from ballistic nylon. Once a hole starts, it keeps growing like a teenage boy’s hunger, devouring leftovers in the fridge. If your backpack tears at a seam while you’re far from home, that is a problem.

We wanted durability, so we searched for nontraditional fabrics to craft the Outbreaker.

Sailcloth was our answer. Instead of one layer with a water-resistant coating, our sailcloth is made of four layers. Each layer serves a unique purpose to improve the durability and longevity of your travel backpack. The diamond pattern on the sailcloth means that it will not fray or rip at the seams, unlike Aer Travel Pack’s ballistic nylon.

Not Maxing Carry On Space

Aer Travel Pack is 33L. If you travel with their backpack, you’re leaving a lot of free space on the table. Airlines are notorious for rigid restrictions on baggage, so don’t make it harder on yourself by not taking advantage of every inch of packing space you’re allowed.

With that space, you could bring a meatier laptop and battery to handle long days of work on the road. Or even a couple extra pairs of clean shirts, socks, and your favorite jacket that makes you feel invincible. Or, leave some extra room for souvenirs you acquire on the road.

Worst part is that this backpack only comes in one size: 33L. That’s great if you’re an economical super-packer, but for the rest of us humans, it’s good to have a little extra space to pick up souvenirs, pack extra pairs of clean underwear or tees, or bring a book to read on long layovers.

The 35 or 45L: that’s your hardest decision when getting the Outbreaker.

Whichever you decide, rest assured that you’re using the possible available space in a carry on.

Cheap Mesh Back Panel

The back panel of your travel backpack puts up with a lot. It’s exposed to lakes of back sweat, protects your skin from backpack, and supports your pack’s weight. Unglamorous work for sure, but its hard work behind the scenes is important.

Aer Travel Pack’s back panel is made of mesh that chafes in wet conditions (like back sweat) and holds onto moisture. That combo is uncomfortable, irritating your skin (and probably your mood).

For the Outbreaker’s back panel, we chose Ariaprene. It’s a high-performance foam engineered for tough workouts like your travel backpack sees daily. This foam wicks away sweat and doesn’t hold moisture. Finally, a cool dry back beneath your backpack.

Read more about the Outbreaker and how we crafted it to be our favorite pack on miles of adventures.

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