Reviews & Buyer’s Guide
Who doesn’t like their backpacks rugged and built tough?
After all, whether you’re dragging it through your campsite or an urban jungle, you need something that will last.
We all want that bag of steel!
Traditionally, tactical backpacks were (and are) used by our military and police personnel to haul their gear for different tasks and missions. Also called assault backpacks, these packs are rugged, durable and give the user a lot of room and compartments.
It’s no wonder that us civilians have adopted the tactical backpack for every day and outdoor uses. The modern tactical backpack is a descendant of the bunched up blanket hanging off a stick of the Civil War-era soldiers. We’ve come a long way with our modern carrying systems and our best tactical backpacks list will get you on your journey.
We’ve compiled this list to find the very best tactical backpack for your needs. Once you try these, you probably won’t want to go back to your old Jansport.
Comparison Table for Our Top Five Tactical Backpacks:
|5.11 Tactical Rush Backpack||Medium||24 Litre||1050D Nylon||Check Price|
|Reebow 3 Day Assault Pack||Large||40 Litre||600D Polyester||Check Price|
|Orca Tactical SALISH 34L||Large||34 Litre||600D Polyester||Check Price|
|Red Rock Large Assault Pack||Large||35 Litre||600D Polyester||Check Price|
|Maxpedition Falcon II Backpack||Medium||25 Litre||1050D Nylon||Check Price|
Details on the Best Tactical Backpack
5.11 Tactical Rush Backpack – Best Quality
“The world is full of unknowns. We cannot possibly predict what is going to happen every minute of every day. But we can prepare for it. In the gear we carry. The clothes we wear. The mindset we hold. Whether we are on duty or off road. In country or out of range. The mindset is all the same.” – 5.11 website
5.11’s rise to fame began when the FBI’s training academy adopted the original 5.11 pant in 1992. Since then, it has extended its 5.11 web to many law enforcement agencies and the public.
The quality is unparalleled; from the bag layout and organization to the bag material – 1050D durable nylon with water-repellent coating. You could throw this thing off a cliff a few times and it would be good as new. This bag is compartmentalized beautifully – a main compartment, three mesh sections, a water bottle pocket, hydration pocket and even an eyewear pocket.
Extra attention is paid to compression, with two shoulder straps that can hook into the sternum strap. You’ll love that the zippers are self-repairing and easy to pull, even with gloves.
This backpack packs a punch in 5.11 style – any way you can think to use it, it will deliver.
As 5.11 is a company geared to professional users, as a result, may find this backpack to be pricey. As the old saying goes though – “buy once, cry once.”
- In proven use by the US military
- Highly ergonomic
- Price may be a turn off
- Can be small depending on your load-out. Different sizes available at link.
Military Tactical Backpack 3 Day Assault Pack by Reebow Gear – Best Capacity
Let’s be honest. Sometimes you just have to haul a lot of crap. You need a bag with a lot of room and you don’t want it breaking apart under the load of the weight either.
Reebow Gear is a great company that makes a wide range of tactical gear that’s widely used for outdoor activities. They even claim to test all their products in combat environments, which is apparent in this backpack. As a result, it is considered one of the best tactical backpacks for the outdoor enthusiast who needs to pack a lot of supplies.
The extra large compartments allow it to be easily used for a three day hike. With a 40 liter capacity, you can pack all your gear in here and probably still have room left over. Made of nylon, the bag is durable and won’t struggle under the weight of your gear. It’s tough as old combat boots.
The only issue is that the waist strap may be a little short for heavier people; if you’re a six-foot, 300 pound guy, the shoulder straps will fit fine but the waist strap probably won’t wrap around.
Maybe Reebow will fix that in the future but for now, the 3 Day Assault Pack is the perfect tactical backpack for carrying heavier loads or certainly for when you have longer trips with more gear.
- Very affordable
- Large capacity
- No proven track record with professional users
- Waist strap may not accommodate larger people
Orca Tactical SALISH 34L Molle Army Military Survival Backpack – Best Starter Backpack
You’ve seen your friends lugging around their awesome backpacks and you’ve decided it’s time you took the plunge. If you’re just getting into tactical backpacks and want to try one out, the Orca SALISH is a great starter pack. And because of the low cost, it’s also one of the best buys out there.
Orca Tactical makes an array of high quality products for outdoor enthusiasts, law enforcement and military personnel. With its SALISH Survival Backpack, they have created an inexpensive bag that doesn’t sacrifice quality. Made of 600D polyester material, it will stay tough and intact as you use and abuse it.
The rectangular, rugged design of this bag is a most noteworthy feature; it looks and is built strong. Although the shoulder straps has padding, it could definitely use more. Even so, the straps are sturdy and durable. With plenty of room and compartments – including a hydration compartment – and features like extensive molle compatibility, it’s a miracle this well-designed pack doesn’t cost more. Hence, it is a powerhouse best value pack and would be an excellent starter pack as well.
- Very affordable
- Amazingly durable
- Large capacity
- Shoulder straps could use more padding
Red Rock Large Assault Pack by Red Rock Outdoor Gear – Best for MOLLE
Red Rock Outdoor Gear is a leader in all things outdoor and understands the needs and mindset of its enthusiasts. This bag falls in line with that vision.
A most noteworthy feature is that the pack is strapped with strips to attach MOLLE accessories galore: cups, binoculars, holsters…you name it. Out of the bags, this one has the best molle compatibility.
The MOLLE perk isn’t its only benefit; this water-resistant pack has extensive storage: two main compartments and two roomy front compartments. It holds well under a lot of weight and seems like it would fit larger people comfortably.
The chest straps are versatile and comfortable, and the back padding is great. As a result, this is a very comfortable backpack. The only strap that has an issue is the wrist straps, which have no padding and can be difficult to secure.
At such an inexpensive price, this pack is sturdy, versatile and true to Red Rock quality!
- Ample padding
- Amazingly durable
- Large capacity
- Wrist straps are not padded and are kind of unnecessary
Maxpedition Falcon II Backpack by Maxpedition – Best Quality, Editor’s Pick
The Maxpedition Falcon II is the most brilliantly designed bag we’ve come across. At first sight, it looks small, especially if you have big aspirations for it. But, if you know how to pack, it will fit more than you can imagine. The design of the compartments are the shining feature on this bag, making it easy to access and locate everything you need.
The quality and craftsmanship of this backpack is unparalleled. Made from 1050D water and abrasion resistant nylon, this is built for hardcore use. If you want a tough-as-nails, durable bag that lasts through your years of outdoor adventures, Falcon II should be numero uno on your list for best military backpack.
Although many fans use this for day hiking, consequently because of the inside depth, it can be a little heavier than similar sized packs, so its something you should take into consideration.
Hence, this is the choice if you have high standards and are willing to invest a little extra in your tactical backpack.
- Maxpedition has a world-class reputation
- Nylon material is superior
- Very ergonomic
- Price may be a turn-off
- Heavier than the competition
Buyer’s Guide to Tactical Backpacks
Let’s face it: humans have a lot of stuff. We also like to carry our stuff around. Whether we have a sport we love, or we have a job that demands a lot out of our stuff-carrying bags, we need something reliable. That’s where tactical backpacks come in.
The word “tactical” just means military or military-inspired. When you’re going out in combat, you need gear that is tough and resilient and able to survive intense situation. Although we hardly go through in our daily life what our brave soldiers deal with, the idea of strength and durability in the products we use is attractive; that’s especially true in today’s world, where it seems everything seems to be made cheaply. And hey, if it’s good enough for the military, it’s good enough for us!
Buying Retail vs. Military Surplus
In a nutshell, there is a very big bonus to buying retail: the quality is better than what our government produces for our men and women in uniform. Our government is not one to splurge on backpacks or any other ancillary gear our soldiers – or law enforcement – use. With retail, you have privately-owned companies who depend on people to become long-term customers and buy again. If their products – especially ones with the adjective “tactical” – aren’t well-made, customers won’t re-buy. Let’s also not forget that new customers depend on ratings and reviews on various websites as well.
Material and Construction
Yes, they are all going to say they are made-to-last or “built tough.” As we all know, that doesn’t always mean it is. For material, it definitely needs to last, especially if you want the bag to take a beating or plan on using it for a long time.
The most recommended material would be nylon. should be made from 500D – 1200D CORDURA nylon fabric (or better). Not 200D. Not Kodra. Heavy fabric X-Pac (VX) fabric. This kind of material will ensure holes don’t form or threading doesn’t unravel.
Water resistance is another crucial factor. Consequently, the tactical backpack must be relatively impervious to the elements.
Test your potential purchase
Make sure the zippers or any other hardware is quality. The most infuriating thing is if the zippers start to malfunction or even break. The straps on the pack should fit your needs, your body and most of all, be comfortable! Consequently, one person’s choice may not be suitable for another person.
In conclusion, one should make sure the design fits your needs. Some bags have one main compartment and a couple of external compartments, some are clamshells that show everything inside, some have a main compartment and several outside pockets to fit small gadgets. Finally, it’s important to know what you plan to carry in your bag and if the one you’re looking at fits your plans.
An important factor for a tactical backpack is comfort.
Do the straps have padding? If it does, does it have sufficient padding if you’re carrying heavier loads? Think of suspension. It may have shoulder pads but if you’re carrying a lot of gear, does it have other straps to help redistribute the weight? If you’re going on long hiking trips where you’ll carry the bag for long distances, your body will thank you for getting a comfortable bag. Above all, remember the military credo of “ounces become pounds”.
MOLLE just means “Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment.” It’s nylon webbing that allows the attachment of compatible accessories.
Why would you want MOLLE compatibility? It allows you to attach a whole assortment of different things – from binoculars to additional pouches – to the outside or inside of the backpack. It allows you customize your backpack to your needs as well. MOLLE is so popular, there is a whole host of companies that only make MOLLE gear.