The GORUCK GR2 vs Tortuga Setout

I am a self-proclaimed “one bag travel” kind of girl and only carry a backpack with me whenever I go on new adventures.  It’s so much easier to carry a backpack than rolling a suitcase on the beaches of Thailand!  The best part is being able to leave the airport right away instead of waiting for your checked bags.  Also, how many people do you know who have told you the airline ended up losing their luggage?  That is a total nightmare and I think I’ll pass on that.

When I travel, I don’t like using top loading backpacks like Osprey or Deuter because it’s super hard to find stuff hidden at the bottom.  Also, the Osprey pack I own is a 65 liter pack which would be considered a checked bag.  Don’t get me wrong, I use them when I’m in the backcountry and they are great for that but there is a time and place for it.

I bought a Tortuga Setout a year ago which is a maximum 45L carry on sized backpack you can bring onto most airlines without having to check it.  Prior to owning the Tortuga Setout, I had the GORUCK 34L GR2 which I actually used for GORUCK events!  I know there have been a lot of questions about which one of these backpacks is better and I’m here to tell you the pros and cons of both.


Price: I bought it for $395 but now it’s $325

Color: Black

Size: 34L, also offered in a 40L size

Where I bought it: Directly from GORUCK

Trips taken: 1 month backpacking through Europe, 2 months backpacking through New Zealand


  • The GR2 is a tactical rucksack made in the USA. It has the best Scars LIFETIME Warranty where if it ever breaks, they will repair it or straight up just give you a new one!  I have taken this baby through actual GORUCK events and it has survived everything I threw at it and in it.  It is definitely made to last!
  • The organization in the GR2 is pretty amazing!  It also opens up flat so you can pack it like a suitcase.  It’s also carry on compliant and you won’t get stopped to check your bag.  I only do one bag travel so this is really important to me.
  • The GR2 is weather resistant and I have never had a problem with my stuff getting wet inside.  There is a bombproof laptop compartment with a false bottom so you know your laptop will be totally safe in this bad boy.  


  • One of the issues I have with this pack is that is looks very rugged and tactical which is totally fine but I don’t want to stand out as an American when I’m backpacking.  
  • It is really freaking heavy for a backpack!  The GR2 weighs almost 5 pounds!  This is the heaviest backpack I own but it is meant to last forever.  That being said, if an airline weighs your bag before boarding a flight, you may have to pay an extra fee.
  • The size of this GR2 is 34L and is a little too small for a long trip abroad.  I have used this rucksack comfortably for a week long trip and a bunch of weekend getaways and it’s practically perfect in every way.  It really depends on how much of a minimalist packer you are, however, they also sell a 40L size.

Tortuga Setout

Price: $199 for 45L or $179 for 35L

Color: Heather Grey, also offered in Black and Navy

Size: 45L, also offered in 35L and Women’s Fit

Where I bought it: Directly from Tortuga

Trips taken: 3 months backpacking through Southeast Asia, 3 weeks backpacking through Peru, 2 months backpacking through Europe


  • The Setout is a maximum carry on sized backpack which is 45L in size. It is pretty massive and perfect for long trips abroad! I love the way it opens like a suitcase but carries like a backpack. It is also super lightweight for the size at 3.9 pounds.
  • This backpack looks really cool and urban. I don’t want to stand out when I’m traveling so I like the fact that the Setout is made more for city travel. The dark heather grey color is something I have been digging as it’s different than just basic black.
  • Lots of options for carrying the Setout. You can tuck the shoulder straps into the back pocket, you can remove the hip belt when you are stuffing it into the overhead bin and there are two beefy padded handles when you are throwing it into the trunk of a car. I also bought the shoulder strap for another way to carry it.


  • One of the things I dislike about the Setout is the durability. I noticed some wear and tear after the first trip I took with it. The Heather Grey Setout is made with 900D polyester while the Black and Navy Setout is made from recycled 900D polyester. Also, the material definitely isn’t water resistant but Tortuga sells a rain cover that fits perfectly over the bag which I bought and think it’s an important Setout accessory.
  • Organization could be better. I love me some organization but the Setout isn’t the best for it. I would have liked more pockets in the main compartment but I think Tortuga did that so you have a ton of room in there.
  • Without packing cubes, the Setout doesn’t hold it’s shape very well. I did purchase two sets of the Setout packing cubes and they fit perfectly! They also help keep the shape of the backpack which I like. Highly recommend buying the packing cubes if you are planning on purchasing the Setout.

At the end of the day, I love both of these backpacks and will continue to use them but for different purposes. My GORUCK GR2 is my go-to bag for car camping, road trips and short weekend adventures. The Tortuga Setout is pretty much the only bag I will travel abroad with. It’s big and roomy and I have never had to pay extra for baggage fees even on budget airlines.

Have you tried the GORUCK GR2 or the Tortuga Setout before? Let me know what you think about them in the comments below.