A couple of weeks ago, Tortuga Backpacks reached out to me:
“Hey Kris, we designed a backpack for digital nomads and long term travellers that pack light, like you. Wanna give it try?”
Of course I wanted and I did: I spent the last 6 weeks with this backpack, 4 weeks of commuting and about 2 weeks of traveling around the country. It took me so long to test it because I got it for free: Don’t get me wrong here but I don’t like all this “influencer BS” so I used the bag nearly every day until I was sure my opinion is as honest as possible and not biased in any way. That out of the way: let’s start with the review.
specs & material
The Homebase has a volume of 32 liters and weighs roughly 1 kg or 2.2 lbs. It’s big enough for a 15” laptop but still carry-on sized. The fabric is a waterproof sailcloth called LiteSkin with weather resistant and lockable YKK zippers. It comes with a packing cube made of the same fabric and zippers which fits up to 22 liters of stuff and weights about 320 grams or 0,7 lbs.
The numbers aside: it’s unbelievably lightweight. Compared to my other backpacks the fabric is really thin and light. And it’s durable and waterproof at the same time. The bag stays in shape when it’s empty despite the thin fabric. I haven’t fallen in love with that “brushed metal” look yet but I guess this a matter of taste.
The back padding and shoulder straps are made of Ariaprene, “a high-performance foam engineered for tough workouts”, which is “hypoallergenic and moves with your body instead of chafing”. It also “wicks away sweat and doesn’t hold moisture”.
The backpack comes with 3 compartments, a side pocket for a bottle and a back pocket to stow away the shoulder straps if you need to. It also has 3 padded handles: at the top, side and bottom. A forth non-padded handle at the top allows you to hang it, which is pretty cool.
The front compartment has a lot of pockets to organize your everyday stuff like pens, notebook, batteries, external hard drive, cables, credit cards, passport, etc. I actually really like it: it fits all my essential things nicely and keeps them organized. I never used the key holder though: when walking the keys jangle all the time which really annoys me and everyone else around.
I also recommend not putting your credit cards or passport in there if not locked as it is really easy to open the compartment and pick it out for someone standing behind you. So, make sure to lock it when leaving.
The back compartment has a padded laptop sleeve up to 15” as well as smaller one for a tablet or in my case e-reader. There’s also enough space for paperwork or other things that should not be wrinkled. It allows quick access at the office or airport security.
The zippers on the main compartment nearly go around the whole bag, so you can pack it flat like a suitcase. With the packing cube inside there’s enough space for some additional items, like a jacket, some cables or a power adapter. If you want to bring more than just the bare essentials there isn’t enough space for that. But I guess as digital nomads we are all minimalists too, aren’t we? You can take a look at my packing list for digital nomads which is a good starting point to minimize yourself on the road.
You can detach the shoulder straps with a small clip at the bottom and stow them away in a pocket on the back of the pack: briefcase style. This is a really handy feature if you want to check it in on flights. (I had to do this a lot in the past because of my everyday medicine that comes in a liquid form and we all know about those liquid restrictions for carry-on baggage, right?) But if you don’t want to check it in like every digital nomad tries to, there’s no real need for a feature like that. I mean, even business-wise you can come to a meeting with a backpack and no one will really care. I would rather have a hidden pocket for your passport & credit cards at the back or just more space in the main compartment. The pocket is handy for storing a separate rain fly though, if you plan to bring one.
The side pocket for a bottle is flat when there’s no bottle in there - which is pretty cool. Compared to a zip side pocket it doesn’t fit larger than medium sized bottles. In fact, I had trouble fitting my 650ml Nalgene in there when the bag was fully packed.
The packing cube has zippers on both sides for two compartments that share the same space. I don’t know if this is intended but you can put your fresh clothes on one side, your dirty clothes on the other side. This is a brilliant way of keeping them separated within the same bag. The size is perfect for my needs: I can fit all my essentials in there: 1 pair of jeans, 1 pair of swimmers, 1 hoodie, 5 shirts, 5 pairs of underwear and socks, 1 travel towel or sarong in my case, 1 beanie and some cosmetics:
It has a padded top handle, a zip pocket at the front for small stuff and one plastic loop at each side. Unfortunately, there’s NO sling or strap included. To check this out I used one from another bag and turned the packing cube into its own small sling bag:
This is incredibly useful and I honestly don’t know why something like this isn’t included. Hey Tortuga: please include this in your next collection!
comfort & carrying it
The bag sits a little bit higher than most other backpacks what really annoyed me at first - but you get used to it. The high tech foam used for the back padding and the shoulder straps is really comfortable. I did a 20km hike without any irritation of my shoulder area.
And yeah: it will help with the sweaty back but won’t prevent it.
When you get to your co-working space or cafe you just place the bag on the table open the front compartment and voila: your office is ready.
Autumn in Berlin is pretty rainy, so I could test this out in real life conditions. I walked through a rain shower with medium intensity for about 45 minutes with all my important gear like laptop, camera and hard drive inside the bag. Except for 1-2 drops of water in the main compartment, everything stayed dry inside. Lucky for me. I saw other people on the internet showering with the Homebase and I would not recommend that. I guess the bag would not resist a tropical high-intensity rain shower either. So, as Tortuga stated on their website: the bag offers a good weather resistance but is not weatherproof.
I like this bag. I really do. It’s not only a very good companion for digital nomads, it’s pretty good for everyday commute too. You can really feel the love and passion the designers put in there. The quality is awesome and the light fabric is outstanding. I showed the bag to some fellow nomads and they were so jealous. For 245USD you get the perfect all in one solution for your life on the road.
Even the Homebase backpack is so great: I personally won’t use it on the road. I’m missing a feature that is kinda essential for me: loops or rings outside to mount additional gear. My other two bags have loops for mounting additional gear like a tripod or an all in one tent. And since I have them I use them excessively for all kinds of stuff and can’t go on without them anymore.