Whether you want a backpack for everyday activities such as camping, fishing and hiking – or as a “bug out” bag in case of a crisis – it’s vital to choose a rucksack you can rely on. This is where tactical backpacks excel.
The best tactical backpacks are designed for extreme durability. They are larger than regular rucksacks with more compartments – making them perfect for carrying supplies for an extended period.
There are also a range of qualities available, so it’s important to pick a bag you can rely on. The last thing you want is a bag that tears at a crucial time, or that has a weak zip that breaks when you’re out in the field.
Quality and durability is partly decided by your budget, but there are some great bargains out there if you know what to look for.
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2016 Buyer’s Guide
Buying a military backpack isn’t easy, though. It’s important to choose an option that matches your needs. There’s no point buying a heavy, high-volume backpack if you’re never going to fill it – or if you don’t have the strength to carry it when full. And choosing a bag without the right size compartments for essential items is likely to cause frustration.
The best tactical backpacks are built for heavy usage – but that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be comfortable. In fact, when you’re on a hike or other long trip, it’s vital that a bag is comfortable to carry.
How can you tell whether a bag is going to be comfortable? The easiest way is to look at online reviews. These people have bought and used the product, so know better than anyone how comfortable it is. Also, look for hip padding and straps, as these make it easier to carry a bag for long distances. Other things to look for include wide straps and air channels.
The downside is that more comfortable bags are usually expensive. It nearly always makes sense to spend more for additional comfort though.
The capacity of a backpack affects how much gear you can carry. The space available also partly depends on the number and shape of compartments.
With that said, bigger isn’t always better when it comes to finding the best tactical backpack. The more volume a bag has, the heavier it’ll be when full. You need to consider how much volume you really want to carry with you. This depends on the length of your average trip and type of activity (read our EDC backpack buyer’s guide).
As a general rule, 30 liter backpacks are acceptable for day trips. If you’re going to use the bag for multiple nights, choose a backpack with a minimum capacity of 40 liters.
Your rucksack needs to meet your personal requirements. Think carefully about the type of items you need to carry and choose compartments to match this gear. It’s also a good idea to buy a backpack with multiple compartments of different sizes. This makes it easier to organize your gear and access it quickly.
Material and Durability
The material affects a backpack’s durability and strength. Each material has advantages and disadvantages, making them suitable for different purposes. Some of the most common materials include:
Nylon. Nylon is incredibly strong and makes for a durable backpack. It also dries quickly.
Rip-Stop Nylon. Rip-stop is created by weaving extra-large threads into traditional nylon. It’s even stronger than nylon, and has quickly become a popular choice for those needing a sturdy rucksack.
Polyester. Polyester isn’t as strong as nylon and also takes longer to dry. An advantage of polyester is that it’s more UV resistant than Nylon.
Canvas. Those old-fashioned backpacks you see in films were made from canvas. While the material isn’t new, it’s still highly durable. The downside is that it’s relatively heavy.
Color. The color of a backpack is mostly personal preference – especially if you’re hiking or taking part in other activities. Many people prefer military-style camouflage, but there are a range of colors available. The exception is if you’re buying a “bug out” rucksack. These bags shouldn’t have a camouflage color scheme, as this could alert people that you are prepared and may be carrying supplies.
Additional features. Some products come with additional features such as a rain hood or foam back panel. These can be useful – especially for long trips. Hydration systems are particularly valuable, as they make it easy to carry enough water.
Loading Design. Backpacks can either be front or top loading. Front loaders are the most common, and make it easy to access all your items. Top loaders are often used for long trips. They are light and have fewer compartments – but usually make it more difficult to organize your gear.
Budget. Your budget is always a factor, but it’s much more important to get a high-quality rucksack that meets your requirements than to save money.
Not only that, but the compartments make it straightforward to organize your gear in one place. If you find yourself in a dangerous or time-sensitive situation, you simply don’t have time to deal with more than one bag. Military bags organize all of your gear in a way that’s easy to access when you need it most.
We’ve made choosing the right backpack a breeze. After hours of research, we’ve narrowed it down to our top four picks as seen below.
Our Military Backpacks Reviewed
5.11 Tactical Rush 24 Backpack
The 5.11 Tactical Rush is a water resistant and highly durable 2070 cubic inch capacity bag. It’s made from a combination of fabric and nylon, for increased strength, and is available in a variety of colors. Other features include dual zip side pockets and three mesh compartments.
One of the best things about this product is that it’s MOLLE-compatible. This means you can customize the bag with a huge range of additional components such as med kits and other pouches. If you want the freedom to create a bag that perfectly fits your requirements, a MOLLE-compatible option is essential.
The 5.11 Tactical Rush is one of the most popular backpacks worldwide. Many happy owners talk about its durability and genuinely believe there isn’t a better option out there.
Kelty Redwing 50-Liter Backpack
The Kelty Redwing is a backpack that means business. It’s built with a tough fabric/polyester combo and has a U-Zipper design that functions as both a panel and top loader. This mixture of loading styles means you always have fast access to your gear. You also won’t struggle to keep the backpack stable while walking, due to the single aluminum support and cooling back panel.
One Kelty owner said that the Redwing is great for traveling. They also mentioned that it is comfortable to carry – even though it’s a relatively large bag – and durable.
A small complaint about the Redwing is that the central frame is uncomfortable when bending over. This doesn’t affect the comfort of the bag when hiking though.
The Falcon-II is a popular product that’s great for hiking and travelling. It’s not as large as the Kelty Redwing, and only has 25 liters capacity, but it’s a convenient bag that’s durable and strong. The Falcon-II is built with tough nylon and has an ergonomic shape, sternum support and padded straps for extra comfort.
A bonus is that the Falcon-II is available in ten different colors. This makes it a great choice regardless of whether you want to blend in or stand out from the crowd.
One happy owner called said it’s the most useful backpack they’ve ever purchased. The Falcon-II isn’t a large bag. If you plan on going on long trips, or even extended day trips, it’s probably not the best option. For short trips and light traveling it’s a fantastic product.
5.11 Tactical Covrt18 Backpack
The 5.11 Tactical Covrt18 is designed to provide instant access to all of your gear. It’s a nylon backpack with a concealed “roll-down assault” compartment. It also has accessory straps that can be quickly added to the shoulder straps, a large main compartment and extra BBS Weapons pocket.
In our opinion, the best aspect of this backpack is the spacious “main compartment”. It also has quite a few smaller compartments that make it easy to separate the different items you put in it.
While most give it high praise, some have mentioned that it has a firm center, and that it can press on your back while fully loaded. Fortunately, this seems to be an isolated problem, as most discussions surrounding the Covrt18 talk about it handling heavy loads with ease.
Tactical backpacks provide the durability, comfort and organization you need to handle any situation you encounter. They are designed to be strong – you don’t have to worry about tactical rucksacks tearing – and make it easy to organize your gear.
When buying a military rucksack in 2016, the most important considerations are comfort, capacity and durability. It’s vital to get a bag that matches your requirements – each bag has strengths and weaknesses that make it suitable for different environments.
If you’re not sure which to buy, we’re calling the 5.11 Tactical Rush 24 our best tactical backpack for 2016. It’s a strong and durable rucksack that’s the perfect size for 24 hour trips. It also has a number of compartments and is available in several colors.