Colombia generally attracts complete and utter degenerates. A cheap country full of stunning women and strong narcotics doesn’t attract too many of the “holier than thou” crowd.
I remember my first time in Cali, Colombia. Chilling with my Australian neighbor who’d been visiting the country for the past 15 years, I asked him what it was like back in the day. His reply was expected:
“I came for the coke. Everyone did. The only people that were visiting Colombia in 2001 had a significant drug problem. But I stayed for the women.”
I laughed. While I try to steer clear of certain things, I’m certainly no saint, either. We all have our vices, right?
It was going to a be a different kind of boys night.
Limp Dick Lashings For All Involved
It was boys night out. While the name couldn’t get gayer, getting five men living in Colombia to clear their schedule on the same night was no easy task, especially on a Friday.
I spent the afternoon with my girl at the time. After living in her city for nearly two months, we’d started spending a lot of time together. And she wasn’t thrilled about the plans for my guys night. She knew her city better than I did.
So, she demanded I spend some time with her before I met up with my friends. And by time, she meant cooking me ample food and doing her best to drain me of all “energy” before I head out.
Around 7 PM, I hailed her an Uber and got ready to meet up with the boys. The squad picked me up in a taxi and we headed to the shadiest neighborhood I’ve ever stepped foot in.
My boy had been here a few times and told us to walk straight into the club when we got out of the taxi. No lingering outside. It sounded legit.
The taxi pulled off the highway and into the ghetto. We turned down a side street and my jaw dropped. Homeless drug addicts were legitimately everywhere. Crack whores were plentiful.
It wasn’t a pretty sight, especially when you’re born and raised in the suburbs.
I began questioning my life choices. Mingling with crack whores and homeless heroin addicts wasn’t my idea of an exciting Friday evening with the boys.
Then we pulled up to the “club” or whatever you want to call it. Well, I thought it was a club. Then I realized we were in the red light district of Bogota, Colombia.
After paying the taxi driver, we quickly made out way into the now legendary club/brothel.
My friend said he’d been a few times, but when we walked in the staff treated him like a regular.
“Do you want your regular table, sir? A bottle of whiskey?”
A brothel with English speaking staff? Must be a classy joint.
We were escorted to a table right in front of the main stage. Smoke filled the area and a bottle of whiskey quickly found its way to our table.
We sat down and got acquainted. Shots all around. Then my friend started explaining how things worked around the place.
Santa Fe during the day.
Basically, we were in the classiest strip club/brothel in all of Santa Fe in Bogota, Colombia.
By classy, I mean not classy. My friend pointed to the 60+ women lined up behind our table. Apparently, they were all whores. If you fancied any one of them, you just pointed at them and waved her over.
She’d walk up to the table and for the low price of $20 USD you could take her upstairs. Upstairs was the brothel area of the strip club.
Your $20 USD got you 20 minutes of happy time with the stripper-whore of your choice. And with 60+ of these classy specimens hanging around the club, you had your pick of the litter.
Now, you’re probably thinking a $20 USD whore probably looks like dogshit. Wrong.
Some of these quasi stripper-whores were legit “9s” in my book. At least five of these girls were almost hotter than any woman I’d ever seen. Truly stunning women. Near perfection.
A few were even hotter…
It Gets Even Sketchier
We started drinking our whiskey, talking shit, and watching the fine strippers do their thing on the pole.
The main stage, which our table was conveniently situated right in front of, was surrounded by seating for at least 200 people. Well over 100 of the seats were filled up already.
And we were the only gringos in the joint.
Now, we had booze and whores, but there was still one thing missing. After all, we were in Colombia.
And just like, my buddy’s coke dealer showed up. We pulled him a seat to our prime table and he threw the goods on the table.
I was thinking that we should be a little more discreet about our cocaine consumption, but we were in Santa Fe. There wasn’t a police officer around. No one gave a shit.
In fact, many a Colombian had coke on their table, too. When in Rome and shit.
So now we had five gringos, a drug dealer, copious amounts of cocaine, a plethora of whores, and whiskey.
Ideal South American Strip Club Style!
What else could a man ask for? Well…
The waiter came around and ask my friend if he needed anything. My friend whispered something in his ear and magically a half dozen little blue pills appeared ne to t our cocaine on the table.
We had bootleg Viagra, too. Hooray!
One by one my friends took turns selecting the hooker of their dreams and heading up to the brothel. The Colombian drug dealer even went twice.
While I was considering sampling the goods, I wasn’t confident I’d be able to muster up a full hard-on for the duration of the 20 minutes. My girl had done her job earlier that day and my “energy” was completely drained.
Still, the night was going splendidly. I was getting drunker and drunker while talking shit with the boys and having a grand ole’ time in the sketchiest place I’d ever been.
It Gets Better – MUCH Better
It was getting close to midnight and thoughts of a long shower sounded wonderful. We started talking about leaving, but my boy was insistent:
“We can’t leave yet!”
Ok, bro. Chill. You can have another 20 minutes with your favorite whore. No worries.
But it wasn’t that. As the clock struck midnight, a siren went off. Whores started combing the crowd. The stage cleared.
A Colombian MC got on stage and started yelling over the music. Apparently he was looking for volunteers.
Dudes were eager. Hands raised throughout the crowd. Whores called Colombian guys up to the stage.
Five guys were selected and they lined up around the stage. They were nervous. A bit antsy. I had a feeling things were about to get weird. I was right.
The MC, a butt ass naked stripped, and another stripped got on stage with the guys. The MC handed one stripper his leather belt and the festivities began.
The MC began shouting out the rules to the crowd.
Apparently, each guy had a chance to fuck the butt naked stripper on stage. He had two minutes to get hard, fuck her, and finish – in front of 100+ other people.
If he finished, he got a free bottle of liqour for his table.
If he couldn’t finish, he got half a dozen lashings from the stripper with the leather belt.
If he couldn’t get or stay hard, he got a dozen lashings.
And with that, the events began.
The first drunken Colombian was dragged to certer stage by the stripper. She quickly undressed him and whipped out a condom.
She slid the condom on his limp cock and started going to work. She danced. She attempted to give him a blow job. Nothing worked.
This dude wasn’t getting hard. His friends hooted and hollered. The crowd cheered and laughed.
After a minute of little movement, the MC boo’d him off center stage and the stripper with the belt got her hands on him. The MC cam over and held him in place. His bare ass bent in the air.
Then the stripper began to lash him with the belt. Now, I figured she’d be playful about it. I thought this would be a light whipping. I was wrong.
The stripper put everything she had into it. She was whipping him as hard as she could. The guy moaned with each lashing. The MC held him in place.
And the crowd loved every second of it. Cheers were had. I laughed so hard I almost cried.
The process repeated over four more times. Not a single guy could stay hard. All five of the guys got a dozen lashings. One guy even started to bleed a little after his lashing. he crowd couldn’t get enough of it.
The crowd couldn’t get enough of it.
Apparently, it was quite difficult to maintain an errection in front of 100+ people. Or they’d all consumed too much coke. I’ll never know.
The limp dick lashings were the main event. Watching your good buddy get whipped by a hot stripper was a popular form of entertainment on a Friday night.
A True Third-World Experience
Sadly, I never went back to the strip club/brothel. While it was a third-world experience I’ll never forget, one time was more than enough.
You never know what you’re going to get while traveling. Sometimes things seem a lot like they are back home. Other times, you watch a guy try to fuck a hooker on the main stage of a strip club before receiving lashings from a leather belt due to his inability to maintain an errection.
Oh, Colombia! It’s nearly impossible to list off a meager seven things to do in Colombia. But I wanted to share some of my best experiences in the country after spending nearly 10 months here.
As a massive country of nearly 50 million people, you can imagine there’s tons to do. Uniquely situated on the Caribbean Sea, Pacific Ocean, and Amazon River – natural beauty isn’t in short supply.
Not to mention the mountains throughout Colombia provide stunning views in nearly every inland city. You simply can’t miss the views throughout Eje Cafetero! Hell, there’s a lot you can’t miss when visiting the country.
Click here to save $40 off your first Airbnb rental in Colombia!
7 Amazing Things to Do in Colombia: A Gringo’s Guide
Alright, enough of the small talk. Let’s dive in and check out some of the best things to do in Colombia:
– Visit Parque Tayrona
It’s a tourist trap. Thousands visit Parque Tayrona nearly every day. Why? Because it’s worth it. The stunning beaches. The mountain hikes. Palm trees all over. If you come to Colombia and skip Parque Tayrona, you missed out.
Parque Tayrona truly is a tropical paradise. Some of the best beaches I’ve ever seen were in Tayrona. I’m talking crystal clear waters surrounded by pristine white sand with massive palm trees in the background.
While there’s dozens of amazing things to do in Colombia, I’d venture to say that a visit to Parque Tayrona is the only “MUST” in Colombia. Make it a priority to take a trip when you’re in the country. It’s just a short trip from Santa Marta.
The highlight of El Cafetero, Valle de Cocora features the highest palm trees in the whole world. The trees are called the Quindio Wax Palm Tree and offer unique photo opportunities. You’ll find stunning views, mountain landscapes, and great hiking throughout the valley.
You’ll find stunning views, mountain landscapes, and great hiking throughout the valley. Located outside Salento, and a short drive from both Armenia and Pereira – Valle de Cocora is a must if you’re in the coffee region of Colombia.
You can even rent a horse to hike up to the top where you’ll find amazing views. Just be careful! My horse bucked me off and I went rolling down the mountain for a bit. Not a pleasant experience!
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Bogota has the best nightlife in all of Latin America. It’s not even close, especially when you throw out tourist traps like Cancun and Playa del Carmen.
Zona T features dozens, if not hundreds, of bars, pubs, and clubs. There’s so many spots you’ll struggle to even check out every single one. There’s just too many places to go.
People go out to mingle, there’s every type of music imaginable, and there’s even a late night spot that stays open until 6-7 in the morning. What more could you want! If you like to party, Bogota is a must visit for a weekend of rumba.
While every tourist that goes to Cartagena checks out the Old City, there’s a reason – it’s amazing. The Old City aka Ciudad Amurallada is one of the finest colonial cities in the world.
Compared to places like Zona Colonial in Santo Domingo, Ciudad Amurallada truly shines. The area is truly beautiful and a must for any visitors to Colombia’s Caribbean coast.
Here you’ll find amazing architecture, stunning ocean views, and so much more. The best thing to do? Grab a cup of amazing Colombian coffee and start exploring every nook and cranny in the morning before it gets too hot.
As the largest “waste waterfall” in the world, Salto de Tequendama isn’t a hugely popular tourist destination. To be frank, it smells like poop here. All of Bogota’s waste gets sent to the river accompanying the waterfall. While the smell isn’t pleasant, the views are absolutely amazing.
While the smell isn’t pleasant, the views are absolutely amazing. Situated about 30 minutes outside Bogota, you’ll find a “haunted” hotel and a giant waterfall – an ideal scene for taking selfies and Instagram photos.
Most don’t consider the waterfall an important tourist attraction in Colombia, but I loved it. We were the only tourists the day we went. We got a private tour of the old hotel, which was being renovated. Then we got free reign to take some photos from the giant balcony overlooking the falls.
Gringos can’t dance. Why? Because Colombian moms teach their kids to dance salsa before they even start walking. You’ll see 5-year olds who can dance salsa better than you ever could in Cali.
Still, taking a few lessons and working on your salsa dancing is a must when in Cali, Colombia. As the salsa dancing capital of the world, you won’t find a better place to bust a move. Plus, it’s cheap to take classes and lessons.
A few salsa bars have beginners lessons and classes during the week before the floor opens up and everyone starts dancing. Just ask around while in Cali. Or head over to El Manicero and take some group lessons with the locals.
One of the best tourist experiences in my life was visiting San Fernando de Bocachica near Cartagena. We took a small boat to the island where this colonial Spanish slave prison was located.
It was deserted outside of a few local kids running around. We had this giant prison filled with stunning views all to ourselves. No other travelers. No other gringos. It was amazing.
We took stupid photos, climbed through tunnels with local kids playing a joke on us, and generally had an amazing time. If you’re in Cartagena, you absolutely must check it out.
My Favorite Things to Do in Colombia
Above you’ll find a small sampling of my favorite things to do in Colombia. With such a large and diverse country, there was no way I could cover them all. If you’re headed to the South American nation, try to enjoy a few of these things while exploring the unique Colombian culture.
Is South America dangerous for gringos in 2017-18? Well, that all depends on who you ask. Pretty much anyone that’s been traveling and living in the region for over six months will have a horror story – or at least heard a few.
Some get mugged. Others, like me, get jumped…
See, going to the park around dusk is never a great idea in a city you don’t know, especially in Latin America. But it was 5:30 PM and my slight hangover from the night before was still in full effect. I needed some exercise to get the blood flowing and prepare me for the night ahead.
So I called up my buddy and we walked over to the park. We were new to the area but noted the streets seemed especially calm. No one was out and about. Only a few cars were out. A bad sign.
P.S: This article is about safety throughout Latin America. South America, Central America, Mexico, and the Caribbean will be discussed.
Still, the thought of crushing some pull-ups, push-ups, and sprints made the park too alluring for caution. We were strong young lads in decent shape – not some lassy with a purse that’s easy to snatch.
We were idiots. The park was surrounded by a 10′ tall chain-link fence. There was a basketball court, soccer goals, and a place to do pull-ups. Everything looked great.
We opened the gate and walked over to the pull-up bars. A few stretches and jumping jacks were done before we heard a commotion coming towards us.
We both looked up from our warm up to see five young fellows sprinting down from the barrio above the park to join us. That can’t be good.
They make it to the gate before we even know what’s going on. They’re yelling, but it’s not too aggressive. I was confused. Maybe they wanted to workout with us.
A few of them kept grabbing their pockets like they had something in them they want us to notice. And then they finally get to us. What didn’t seem too aggressive, got really aggressive really fast.
Luckily they didn’t look this intimidating.
They shoved us. I was able to stay on my feet. My friend fell due to the force of three guys. It was over for him. They started kicking and punching him. One pulled out whatever he had in his pocket as a threat.
My friend stopped even trying to fight back. His shoes, shirt, and shorts were immediately taken from him.
The focus turned to me. The two guys “guarding” me were waiting on the others. One has some shape metal stick thing. It wasn’t a knife, per se. But I wasn’t interested in seeing if it could be rammed through my torso or not.
My friend quickly got back on his feet. We didn’t have our cell phones on us. We didn’t have anything. My boy was standing in his underwear.
I decided to make a go for it. “YO, LET’S GO!” I yelled to my friend. He would be fine. They had no interest in his underwear.
I shoved the guard standing next to me who was closest to the gate and started sprinting. All five guys took off after me.
They knew if I got outside the gate of the park I was free. Luckily, I was faster than these guys. I barely made it out the gate before the chain-link fence was slammed shut. The huge metal door missed my back by about 6″ – give or take.
I looked back while jogging a little further away. My boy was walking out slowly. They weren’t worried about him any longer. They got everything they wanted from him.
We reconvened outside the gate and quickly jogged back to the hotel. Adrenaline was running high, but we got lucky. One pair of old Adidas sneakers, crusty basketball shorts, and a tank top was all we lost. No injuries.
Is South America Dangerous For Gringos? – 2017/18 Edition
My little issue with some park gangbangers in Latin America certainly isn’t the worst of it. Many fellow travelers have found danger lurking around every corner in the region. Here are just a few of the stories I’ve heard:
In the Chapinero neighborhood of Bogota, Colombia – a guy attempted to rob my friend with a gun. He stopped him in the street, pointed to the gun in his fanny pack, and demanded his cell phone. My friend promptly tackled him and held him down until the cops came. A gun in a fanny pack isn’t usable. You have to take it out. So my friend decided to take matters into his own hands. Unadvisable.
My friend was renting a hotel room in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic while searching for a long-term apartment. The receptionist found out he had valuable electronics and cash in his room. So he booked his gang-banger buddies a room next door and helped them rob my friend. A knock on the door, a gun to the head, and he was out thousands of dollars in valuables.
Another buddy had met a seemingly nice girl at a club in a small Colombian town. He talked with her for a bit and then they went on a date. Everything was going well and they ended up back at his apartment. He poured some wine and went to the restroom. Next thing he knows it’s 8 AM and the girl is gone. So are all his electronics, including a MacBook, iPad, and smartphone.
If we’re being honest, South America can be dangerous. But so can anywhere else in the world. So let’s dive into the statistics and see if Latin America is dangerous when compared with the rest of the world.
The mean streets of Bogota, Colombia.
Don’t Be Scared!
First and foremost, don’t be scared. While the stories above can be intimidating, many travelers spend years in Latin America without a single issue. While the region may be more dangerous than Europe or Asia, there’s ways to nearly negate all danger and avoid any issue.
I’ve traveler around Latin America for the better part of three years. I spent a ton of time in “dangerous” countries like Colombia and the Dominican Republic. I’ve stepped foot into place like El Salvador and Honduras.
Outside the story about the park above, I’ve yet to have an issue or feel like I was in any danger.
What the Stats Say?
Now, I’ve been all over Latin America, including:
…While I haven’t been everywhere, I do have a little experience in the region. I know how to get around and I speak some Spanish.
I don’t feel scared when living in the region, but travelers who are about to make their first trip may feel differently.
If you Google around, you’ll find a lot of stats that claim South America is a third-world hell-hole filled with corruption and violence. Just look at these stats:
43 out of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in Latin America. (Source)
19 of the 50 most dangerous cities in the world are in Brazil, 8 are in Mexico, and 7 in Venezuela. (Source)
Every city that made the “Top 10” on the list is in Latin America. (Source)
That’s a lot of violence if you ask me. There’s no denying that Latin America is the most dangerous region in the world outside war zones.
Most people in Latin America are good-hearted and like to have a good time.
“Tens of thousands of U.S. citizens safely visit Colombia each year for tourism, business, university studies, and volunteer work. Security in Colombia has improved significantly in recent years, including in tourist and business travel destinations such as Bogota, Cartagena, Barranquilla, Medellin, and Cali. However, violence linked to narco-trafficking continues to affect some rural and urban areas.”
Here’s the advisory from the U.S. Department of State offers for a truly dangerous country, Venezuela:
“The U.S. Department of State warns U.S. citizens against travel to Venezuela due to violent crime, social unrest, and pervasive food and medicine shortages. All U.S. direct-hire personnel and their families assigned to the U.S. Embassy in Caracas are subject to an embassy movement policy that limits their travel within Caracas and other parts of the country. These security measures may restrict the services the Embassy can provide. Country-wide shortages of food, water, medicine, electricity, and other basic goods have led to social unrest, including violence and looting. Security forces have arrested individuals, including U.S. citizens, and detained them for long periods with little or no evidence of a crime.”
As you can see, the U.S. Government believes these countries can be dangerous, too. However, with a little precaution, you’ll find traveling in the region fairly safe.
The Most Important Safety Tip For Travelers in Latin America
If you plan to visit South America, there’s one thing you should always do…
Research any neighborhood you’ll be staying in. Before you decide to book a hotel or Airbnb in a city, always find out which neighborhoods are safe and which ones are not.
You’re much better off spending a little more to stay in a nice neighborhood than trying to save a few bucks by staying in an off-the-beaten-path location.
For example, in Cali, Colombia – the neighborhood Granada is fairly safe. Yet it’s next door to the center of the city, which is quite dangerous.
You can find hotels and apartments in Granada for $25-30 a night, but rentals in the center may only be $10-20 a night. While it may be tempting, don’t do it! Spend more on accommodation in nicer areas. You’ll be much safer and have a better overall travel experience.
Personally, I always stay in Airbnb rentals. I try to find centrally located apartments that have doormen, are in walkable neighborhoods, and have a number of reviews vouching for the safety of the rental.
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Is Latin America Safe? – 3 More Safety Tips
Alright, so you still want to travel around Latin America. Maybe the unique South American culture allures you. Maybe you want to hit some Caribbean beaches. Maybe the Mayan Ruins fascinate you.
Whatever it is, you’re ready to hit the road and explore the “most dangerous region in the world” for yourself. Do it!
Just make sure to follow a few of these travel tips:
Learn the Language
This is HUGE! While a criminal isn’t going to stop robbing you just because you bust out a few words of Spanish, speaking the language allows you a better sense of your surroundings and can help you escape sticky situations – once you realize whats going on.
The vast majority of countries in Latin and South America speak Spanish. Brazil, the largest and most dangerous country in the region, speaks Portuguese.
Whatever country you plan to spend a lot of time in, try to pick up some of the language before you go.
Is South America dangerous? If you do dumb stuff, yes. If you’re truly concerned about safety in Latin America, try to avoid drugs and prostitutes.
If you head to a dangerous foreign country where you don’t speak the local language and plan to do drugs and pay for sex – you’re almost asking for some type of trouble.
If you stay away from these two vices, you’ll vastly reduce the risk of problems in Latin America.
Dress Nice, But Low-Key
In many South American cities, you see gringos rolling around in flip-flops and tank tops. This attracts attention as many locals dress well all throughout the day – sometimes in jeans when it’s 90 degrees Fahrenheit. What does attention attract? Well, it can attract the criminals.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, you have other travelers rolling around in custom suits and fancy watches. I can’t advise this, either. You become a target if you look too wealthy, too.
You want to dress nice, but not too fancy. I typically wear an outfit like this:
While there’s nothing too fancy this attire, these type outfits look good and won’t stand out too much – a good thing when safety is of concern.
The Verdict: Is South America Dangerous?
Overall, Latin and South America are dangerous. There’s no denying that. However, most of the violence revolves around the drug trade and petty crime. If you’re a tourist, the worst that’ll happen to you is someone decides to rob you – unless you’re acting like a degenerate.
Latin America isn’t a travel destination for individuals without a little street smarts and common sense. But the region certainly isn’t as dangerous as some portray it to be. With a little precaution, you should have no issue staying safe in Latin and South America.
Minaal Carry-On vs. Tortuga Outbreaker. If you’ve been around the travel backpack scene, you’ve probably heard of these brands. Both have a huge following and make great products. But which bag is better?
Well, we’re going to find out. See, I’m no backpacker, but I’ve been traveling around for the better part of three years. While I prefer to stay in Airbnbs over hostels, I also like to travel light. Lugging huge bags from city to city is tiresome, and often fairly costly.
You’re much better off limiting yourself to carry-on luggage only. Some may disagree, but most long-term travelers would concur – a large carry-on bag with a personal item is the best way to travel.
Tortuga Backpacks: Spacious Enough to Nap In!
You’ll avoid checking bags at the airport, and it won’t take you but 15 minutes to pack up all your things and move to a new, unique city. Talk about convenience.
With regards to Minaal vs. Tortuga, both these companies offer a large carry-on backpack designed with digital nomads and city living in mind. So, which is better?
Who is Minaal?
Minaal is a luggage company dedicated to making travel faster and easier. As one of the first backpacks to crowdfund through Kickstarter, Minaal quickly gained a following.
We don’t want to make just one bag. We want to build a long-term business that truly cares about the travel experience – and you, the committed traveler.
And that’s exactly what they did. Minaal Backpacks are well-thought out and designed to last a long time. They’re durable and stylish – ideal for digital nomads and backpackers alike.
Who is Tortuga?
Other than producing some of the best travel bags known to man, Tortuga Backpacks is a small business created for travelers, too. The company claims:
Our mission is to help you live, work, and travel on your terms.
After traveling with my Tortuga Outbreaker, I certainly believe them. The brand was created after a backpacking trip through Europe in 2009. The founders realized that backpacks were made for hikers – not digital nomads hopping from city to city.
So they worked to change that, and the Tortuga Backpack was born.
Minaal Carry-On Vs. Tortuga Outbreaker: A Travel Backpack Showdown
Alright, now that we know a little about both companies, let’s dive into the great travel backpack debate. Minaal vs. Tortuga Outbreaker. Which bag should a digital nomad spend their hard earned cash on? Here’s my answer:
The Minaal and Tortuga backpacks are different sizes. If you get the large Tortuga Outbreaker it will be significantly bigger than the Minaal Carry-On. The dimensions of the bags are as follows.
Here are the specs for the 35L Tortuga model:
Height: 20.5″ Width: 13″ Depth: 9″ Capacity: 35 liters Weight: 4 lbs, 11 oz Laptop: Up to 15” Tablet: Up to 13” (iPad Pro) Fit: 16-19” torsos Price: $224
And the 45L Tortuga Backpack:
Height: 22″ Width: 14″ Depth: 9” Capacity: 45 liters Weight: 5.1 lbs Laptop: Up to 17” Tablet: Up to 13” (iPad Pro) Fit: 16-20” torsos Price: $249
Now, let’s look at the Minaal Carry-On:
Length: 21.6″ Width: 13.7″ Height: 7.87″ Capacity: Minaal doesn’t list this any longer, but 35 liters seems to be the estimate. Weight: 3.12 lbs Price: $299
Now, I’ve traveled with and used both these bags for at least six months each. I know how they pack and I know how much stuff each bag hold.
The Tortuga Outbreaker 45L can hold significantly more clothing and items than the Minaal Carry-On when fully packed. There is not a shadow of doubt in my mind. To me, this is fact.
Packing the Tortuga Backpack.
Now, the question is does this extra size benefit you as a traveler or not. For some, the smaller bag is a huge win. The Minaal offers a sleek design, is lighter, and may be easier to carry for smaller individuals.
If you’re like me and jam as much stuff as possible into your carry-on, then the Tortuga Outbreaker is the winner.
Verdict: Tortuga Outbreaker. While many people find the Minaal has more than enough space, I find the extra 10L the Tortuga offers a big benefit.
Ease of Packing
Now, this may come down to personal preference. Some people rave about the unique “oval shell packing system” that Minaal uses. When you’re packing light and the bag isn’t too full, it works well.
When the bag is chalk full of clothing, stuff often ends up spilling out the side when you try to close it. It can be a hassle.
On the other hand, the Tortuga Outbreaker is designed to be a backpack that opens and closes like a suitcase. There’s a shell area that holds the clothing, and then the bag closes from the top.
How the Minaal Carry-On Packs.
Personally, I find packing much easier with this style bag. You can jam the clothing into the sides and fit more stuff. The ease of packing combined with the extra space ensures you’ll have a ton of space to fit whatever you need with the Tortuga Backpack.
Verdict: Again, I found the Tortuga to be the clear winner here.
This is where things start to get interesting in the Minaal vs. Tortuga Backpack debate. The Tortuga comes in 35L and 45L sizes. The 35L is the maximum carry-on size allowed on most budget European airlines. The 45L is the maximum carry-on allowed on most North American airlines.
Minaal is roughly 35L. Thus, you can carry-on this backpack anywhere in the world. And you won’t have any issues. The Minaal is a sleek, stylish bag that won’t look too big on your back.
Tortuga’s Unique “Flop-Top” Design.
Both bags are TSA-friendly, but there’s no denying that the Minaal bag offers a sleeker design that would get by the stingiest of airport employees looking to force you to check a bag. Tortuga may get waved down in certain areas of the world.
Verdict: Minaal Carry-On, as the bag is sleeker and guaranteed to end up on the plane with you. But you shouldn’t have any issues with the Tortuga, either.
If we’re honest, both of these backpacks look good. Minaal and Tortuga both put great amounts of thought into their design and look.
Minaal features a smooth blue color, while Tortuga went with a strong black look. Both designs work, but which is better?
Making the Tortuga Look Good 😉
Personally, I find the Minaal has a better look, especially when on the back. The Tortuga is larger, black, and square. The Minaal Backpack is oval, blue, and sleek.
For me, I value the size of a maximum carry-on more than how a bag looks on my back. But others may find the stunning look of the Minaal an important factor.
Verdict: Minaal, but this may just be my personal opinion.
Overall, both of these backpacks offer amazing organization. From pockets to built-in packing cubes and more – you can’t go wrong with the Minaal Backpack or the Tortuga Outbreaker here.
So, how did I pick a winner? Easy. The Tortuga features a TSA-friendly laptop sleeve that allows you to leave the device in your backpack while going through security. All you have to do is unzip it. You don’t have to take the computer out.
This is a huge benefit for someone who fills their luggage to the brim. With the Minaal, there were times I had to spend 2-3 minutes unpacking and repacking when I took my computer out at security. Tortuga solved this problem for me.
Verdict: Tortuga due to the unique laptop sleeve.
Minaal and Tortuga Backpacks both do an exceptional job with comfort. Both bags feature fantastic shoulder padding and offer weight displacement options to take some stress off your back.
If this is one of your main criteria, I’m sorry. I just didn’t notice much of a difference.
With just the bag, Tortuga seems to do a better job waterproofing. This is thanks to the sailcloth’s ability to quickly repel any and all water it comes in contact with.
The Minaal Carry-On is made out of heavy-duty nylon. The fabric does a solid job repelling water, too. However, the Minaal also offers a rain cover to ensure nothing gets wet. I’ve used it, and it works well. But you do have to remember to pull it out of the compartment and cover the bag.
Verdict: Tie. The Tortuga has a better waterproof material, but the Minaal’s waterproof cover does an amazing job.
No tie here. The Minaal Backpack is $299. The Tortuga Backpack is $249. Unless you want to spend more money, the Tortuga is the winner.
Verdict: Tortuga Outbreaker.
Minaal Vs. Tortuga: The Verdict
So that’s my comparison of Minaal and Tortuga. Did I cover everything? Maybe not. Did I give you enough information to make a solid buying decision? I certainly hope so.
How I see it – the Tortuga is best for larger travelers who need as much space as they can get in their carry-on bag. If size matters to you, the Tortuga Outbreaker is the clear winner.
If you value style, have carry-on size concerns, and don’t need as much space – than the Minaal Backpack is an excellent choice.
After using both bags extensively, it was an easy choice for me. Personally, I prefer the Tortuga Backpack due to the extra space provided.
I wish I could be unbiased. I wish I could be impartial. But this Tortuga Outbreaker review may seem far from it. This travel backpack is just too damn good to offer anything other than a glowing review. Still, I’ll try to be fair and reasonable.
I bought the Tortuga Outbreaker last year before I left for Colombia. After spending six months traveling all around that magical country with my Tortuga Backpack, I got to know the product pretty well.
My travel backpack has accompanied me to major cities, mountains, beaches, lakes, and so much more. To say the Tortuga is durable would be an understatement. These Tortuga Backpacks can take a beating and then some.
But enough with the small talk, let’s dive in and see if this is the best travel backpack on the market…
About Tortuga Backpacks
Well, other than producing the best travel backpacks known to man, the company is unique in that it’s a small business. When you buy with Tortuga Backpacks, you’re buying from a company created by travelers like you and me. Tortuga states:
Our mission is to help you live, work, and travel on your terms.
And after using the Tortuga Outbreaker, I genuinely believe that. The brand began on a backpacking trip through Europe in 2009. Simply put, the founders quickly realized that backpacks were made for hiking mountains and rugged terrain back in the day.
There wasn’t a solid backpack for digital nomads who enjoyed urban living all around the globe. So Tortuga decided to create that backpack. And they did a damn good job.
Tortuga Outbreaker Overview
Tortuga is a luggage company. As such, they’re continually modifying, upgrading, and releasing new products and models. The Tortuga Outbreaker is an updated version of their original backpack.
The Outbreaker comes in two different sizes – 45 liters and 35 liters. The 45L backpack is the maximum carry-on size allowed on most North American airlines. The 35L is typically the maximum carry-on allowed by budget European airlines.
To make things simple, larger people may find the 45L model preferable. I know I did. However, smaller individuals may prefer the 35L backpack, as it’s lighter and won’t look as big on your back.
Here are the specs for the 35L model:
Capacity: 35 liters
Weight: 4 lbs, 11 oz
Laptop: Up to 15”
Tablet: Up to 13” (iPad Pro)
Fit: 16-19” torsos
And the 45L:
Capacity: 45 liters
Weight: 5.1 lbs
Laptop: Up to 17”
Tablet: Up to 13” (iPad Pro)
Fit: 16-20” torsos
My Personal Experience With Tortuga
As I said, I’ve spent the last six months traveling around Colombia with my Tortuga Backpack. I also made a few trips back to the United States. And I’ve loved every minute of it.
Tortuga perfectly combines carry-on travel with a ton of space. 45-liter capacity ensures you don’t have to cut much from your wardrobe when traveling with the Outbreaker.
Headed to the coffee region of Colombia with my Tortuga filled up!
I’ve used this bag on long hikes into the mountains in the coffee region of Colombia. I’ve filled it to the brim and carried it on a plane when returning to the United States. I’ve taken it on weekend trips to Cartagena for some sun and sand.
And I’ve yet to have a single issue. This travel backpack has performed admirably in every situation I’ve thrown at it. After six months of travel, the bag still practically looks brand new, too.
Tortuga Travel Backpack: Pros
Now, before you buy this Tortuga Backpack, we need to get into the specifics. Tortuga offers a great product, but there are hundreds of other travel backpacks on the market. Why should you spend your hard-earned cash with Tortuga?
Well, here’s a few reasons I’d highly recommend it before your next big trip:
HUGE Carry-On Bag
If the romantic notion of hopping from country to country with nothing but a carry-on bag appeals to you, then the Tortuga Outbreaker is right up your alley.
See, most travel backpacks are simply too small to facilitate carry-on travel for more than a few weeks. Personally, 30-35 liters just isn’t enough space for me – especially when one trip may last 3-6 months.
I need all the space I can get. That’s why Tortuga Backpacks are the best. The Outbreaker offers a full 45 liters of space. Honestly, it’s even a little bigger than most rolling carry-on luggage.
If you want to carry-on, but have a lot of stuff to bring, this is by far the best backpack I’ve found. The Tortuga Backpack makes it possible to avoid paying baggage fees ever again!
No puppies were harmed in the writing of this review.
Tortuga makes it incredibly easy to stay organized while on the road. See, the Tortuga isn’t designed like a hiking backpack. You don’t need to dump everything out to get the item you need.
The Outbreaker is designed in a suitcase-style. This means you open the bag from the top and place your clothing and things in a shell area that holds your stuff.
The design not only ensures you can hold a ton of stuff in the 45 liters, but that you’ll be able to easily access all of it by simply placing the bag on your bed and unzipping the main compartment.
Suitcase-style design offers easy access and a lot of space.
Now, most travel backpacks do a good job of creating products made with high-quality and durable materials. No highly-rated backpack for digital nomads will be made out of cheap materials that rip easily or absorb water too often.
Tortuga takes things to the next level. The Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack is made with 4-layer, waterproof sailcloth materials. What does this mean? It means that the backpack was designed to repel water and last for years.
While the Tortuga isn’t a cheap backpack, the product is designed for maximum durability. Many travelers have had their original Tortuga pack for 2-4 years, and it still holds up.
Along with the incredibly durable sailcloth, the company adds the highest-quality YKK Zippers and Duraflex buckles to ensure the bag is ready to roll for dozens upon dozens of adventures.
Unique water-resistant sailcloth material.
Unique & Useful Laptop Storage
Most travel bags handle laptop storage well, especially when created for digital nomads. However, I found Tortuga’s system an improvement.
With the Outbreaker, you don’t even have to take the laptop out of the backpack. Simply unzip the laptop compartment and lie the bag open and flat. Tortuga follows TSA’s rules to a “T” and makes life easier on digital nomads than ever before (Source).
This is a huge benefit when your bag is close to full. Instead of having to yank your computer out and then reorganize stuff to get it back in, you just “flop it open” and TSA will run your Tortuga bag without you having to take anything out.
“Flopped” open for my friends at TSA!
Well-Thought Out Organization
With a computer slot, tablet area, and so much more – it’s clear to me that Tortuga Backpacks are designed by travelers – for travelers.
There’s also pockets for smaller electronics, chargers, cables, and more. There’s a lot of attention to detail that went into the Outbreaker. You’ll even find outer pockets for your water bottle, headphones or keys, and more.
One unique feature is the built-in packing cubes found throughout the main compartment. It’s super simple to store your merino wool socks and underwear in these little cubes while still saving space elsewhere.
Excellent organization everywhere.
Fantastic Shoulder Straps
I’m not as much of a bag nerd as some. Others claim they love the height-adjustable shoulder suspension system. I’m sure it’s nice and all. But I own the bag and still have no idea what that means.
What I do love is how comfortable this bag is when filled up. Due to heavily-padded shoulder straps, you feel comfortable walking around with the Tortuga Outbreaker filled to the brim.
I’ve yet to find a more comfortable travel backpack to hit the road with. There are even padded-hip straps that help take any extra pressure off your shoulders. A huge plus for me in the comfort department.
Incredible shoulder strap comfort.
Tortuga Backpack: Cons
Now, no product or travel backpack is perfect for every consumer. Some things I love about the Tortuga Backpack you may not like. Overall, I’m a huge fan, but here are a few negatives I noticed:
Big, Heavy Bag
If you’re looking for a lightweight or sleek travel backpack, the 45-liter Tortuga is not what you want. This is a maximum sized carry-on bag meant to carry a lot of stuff. It’s not meant to look sleek and stylish on your back when filled to the brim – although it doesn’t look bad at all.
The Outbreaker weighs 5.1 pounds when unpacked, which means alone it’s a fairly heavy product.
Not Useful For Most Day Trips
You’ll need a day trip bag when traveling with a Tortuga. This bag is simply too big and heavy to head off to the beach or some Mayan Ruins with.
I’ve taken the bag on long hikes when I packed some gear, food, and water. While it worked well, I always wished I had a smaller daypack to bring instead. The bag is just too big to pleasantly lug along on a nature-esque day trip.
Minor Details Missing
The shoulder straps don’t store away at all – another downside to using the bag on day trips. As well, there’s no side carry-on handle. Both of these features or details are certainly minor, but still worth noting.
Tortuga Outbreaker Travel Backpack Review: The Verdict
Overall, the Tortuga Outbreaker is the best travel backpack on the market. Tortuga is a company that takes nearly every detail into account before designing their products. This backpack is no different.
If you’re looking for a maximum sized carry-on backpack, then the Tortuga Backpack is ideal. You’ll be able to hit the road with only one bag and bring every single thing you’d want to. I cannot recommend this product enough.
Normally, I’m not a fan of hostels. I stay in furnished apartments 95% of the time I’m on the road. I just don’t like not having privacy.
But I only planned to stay at Lago Calima for a day or two. And Local House looked really cool. With modern amenities like hot water, W-Fi, and a solid looking breakfast included – I decided to check it out and booked.
Plus, the place offered a sweet pool overlooking the lake and the local knowledge of where to go and what to do while at Calima Lake.
Making friends at Calima Lake.
Calima Lake 101
Alright, so let’s dive in and talk about Lago Calima. First, you need to get there. This will require a bus or a car. For most travelers, the bus will be the best option. You can get to Calima Lake from Cali, Buga, and Buenaventura.
Jumping into Calima Lake.
If you’re in Cali, just head to the bus terminal and ask around. Depending on the time of the day, the bus will leave from the first or third floor. It just depends on the time of day. The bus takes around an hour and 45 minutes each way.
Make sure you show up early, especially on the weekends. There aren’t many spots on this bus and it gets packed quick. Furthermore, you’ll definitely want to show up early for the bus coming back to Cali. If you try to head back on the last bus of the day, things can get pretty hectic and you may get stuck in Calima.
Where to Stay in Lago Calima
If you’re coming to Calima Lake, then I highly recommend staying at Local House Hostel – as previously discussed.
Brand new hostel.
Unless you’re coming in a big group and renting a Finca on Airbnb, which would be fantastic, this hostel will be your best option. The place features an amazing pool, jacuzzi, solid breakfast, decent Wi-Fi, and great house dogs to play with.
The location is up in the hills of Lago Calima, and seems to be an old Finca turned into a hostel. For short stays at the lake, Local House is the ideal option.
Solid pool and views from the hostel.
Things to Do in Lago Calima
Ideally, Lago Calima is a great place to unwind after living the city life in Cali. You’ll find stunning views and a variety of water sports and eco-tourism. Here are a few great things to do here:
Ride Jet Skis: You can rent jet skis here for dirt cheap. I think it was $16 for thirty minutes where I went. Due to the wind, the lake here offers solid waves, which makes cruising around on a jet ski quite fun. Just make sure you get the fastest model they have, as some of the older jet skis don’t go too fast.
Jet Ski Lifestyle.
Kite Surfing: Lago Calima is a Colombian weekend hang out spot for wealthy Calenos. Gringos only recently found out about the place due to kite surfing. I didn’t partake, but you’ll see people practicing all around the lake. Lessons and rentals are cheap here. Just talk to the manager of Local House Hostel and he’ll hook it up.
Mountain Biking: If you’re looking to get away from the water, there are some impressive mountain biking trails here. Just click here and get in touch with this rental and tour company.
Relax and Unwind: Overall, the best thing to do in Lago Calima is relax and unwind. Enjoy a dip in the lake, relax by the pool, take in some sweeping views, and sleep in.
A Gringo’s Guide to Calima Lake
If you’re in Cali and looking to enjoy some nature and unwind, take the bus to Calima. Stay at Local House Hostel, ride some jet skis, enjoy the views and relax. You’ll be happy you did.