It’s true you can put on any backpack if you just want to skip along enjoying nature; but if you’re headed out where the sun blazes, the rains beat down, and frostbite is a foregone conclusion, you need a tactical backpack to keep you alive. These bags are the backbone of your bug out bag and are meant to reduce weight, prevent snags, avoid popping out seams, and keep everything easily accessible. They’re a necessity for survival preppers, military and police personnel, or anyone looking for an edge in the wilderness.
The first thing a good tactical pack needs is a few straps to keep it in place, but not so many that they will catch on branches or brambles. It needs a degree of weather protection, and loops for attaching additional gear to the outside. Ideally, you want an optional place to keep a hydration bladder since any mission without water is a guaranteed failure. The size should be just big enough that the bare necessities fit with no space for accessorizing. Considering these needs, we located the 10 best tactical backpacks that earned an Ooh-Rah! rank.
Condor 3 Day Assault Pack
Pro: Drainage grommets keep gear dry
Con: Zipper tabs tend to break
G.I. Tough: The first thing to suffer in most tactical bags when the price drops is the material. Such is not the case here. 1,000-Denier material all around keeps weather off your gear and prevents general wear and tear. Plenty of disparate storage spaces and more than 3,000 cubic inches of storage space give you easy arrangement of documents, tech, gadgets, gear, and your hydration bladders. The only problem with the size is it runs tall and has minimal options for locking it down.
Hazard 4 Evac Plan-b Sling Pack
Pro: Made of DuPont 1000D Cordura
Con: High speed side buckles are flimsy
Prepper Papoose: The name might say this is plan B, but it’s the first thing that should go on your list. Using a single strap design, the Plan-B is easier to get into and out of tight spaces, as well as making it simple to swing around your body for rapid gear access. Tack on loads of MOLLE straps on every side and padded comfort panels on the back, and you’ve got a slender recon partner.
5.11 Rush Moab 10
Pro: Zippers are self-healing
Con: Not a heavy load carrier
Quick Pick: MOAB stands for Mobile Operation Attachment Bag, and it is made with truly tactical use in mind. The narrow body fits anyone well while providing ample storage in a single-strap ambidextrous swingbag style complete with communications pouch. Covert pockets allow for stashing sensitive information as well as a standard sidearm. Using the 5.11 Tier System, you can easily pair this with other bags from 5.11’s laudable Rush line.
Grey Ghost Lightweight Assault Pack
Pro: Straps tuck away when not in use
Con: Lacks organizer pockets, divisions, loops, or pouches
On the Offensive: Built especially for special ops, this isn’t necessarily large enough to be a solid 2-day bag, but rather a lean attack pack that comes in your choice of LiteLok or 500D cordura nylon. The double-layer construction makes it harder to spot in low-light and the water-resistant coating prevents your survival knives from rusting when you’re on mission during monsoon season.
JAVELIN 2.0 VSlinger
Pro: High-visibility interior
Con: Pack strap sling side is fixed
Optimum Organization: Never again lose a piece of gear inside your bag. The VSlinger can easily be altered to lug around a computer and some EDC notebooks for days on the job, or you can use the multitude of pockets and divisions to load up all the CCW stuff you could possibly need. Side pockets and plenty of PALS loops inside and out make the slingpack design easy to use and expand or contract depending on the scenario.
5.11 Tactical Rush 72
Pro: Compacts well
Con: Hip belt does not work for tall users
Strategically Simple: Among the Rush line from 5.11, the 72 was our favorite. A large packing pocket makes stowing your gear in a rush easy, along with excellent internal organization for slower loading. Made of 1050D nylon that has PUx2 coating inside and out, this stands up to wear and weather for a simple solution with a large web array for expansion.
Eberlestock Halftrack Hunting Pack
Pro: Removable rain fly
Con: No drainage hole
Homeward Bound: Built for covering long distances, no expense was spared when it came to outfitting the Halftrack with comfort. A plastic framesheet, loads of pads, a generous waistbelt, and large straps to evenly distribute weight make this easy to carry even with a serious load. Long pockets on either side let you stash trekking poles as easily as hydration bladders and give you a little creative space for stowing lengthier hardware or takedown rifles.
Kifaru International Urban Zippy
Pro: Exceptionally comfortable straps
Con: Limited expansion options
Casual Wear: Built less for the hard-core survivalist and geared more to the everyday carry crowd, the Urban Zippy is a friendly pack for any occasion, from a day at the beach to trips behind enemy lines. Bungee straps have been used in favor of MOLLE loops for stowing gear on the exterior, and water bottle pouches rest on the sides instead of hydration pockets. Even the bladder pocket it does have doubles as a padded pocket for your laptop or your feelings diary.
Triple Aught Design Fast Pack EDC
Pro: PALS webbing with webbing underneath for tons of accessorizing
Con: Tons of pockets make it easy to forget where something is
True Operator: We don’t necessarily think of a backpack as being rich with features, since it’s really just some loops, zippers, and pockets, but the Fast Pack has us rethinking this attitude. It is a constant surprise, mostly because you find yourself discovering all the hidden compartments and useful bits as you go along. It has the most versatile use of 1,800 cubic inches that we have ever seen, and it’s ability to shift from a day pack to a survival pack to a student backpack was unparalleled. It’s either overkill or just enough to be your go-to for every situation.
Mystery Ranch CrewCab BVS
Pro: Easy to use with body armor
Changeling: When a pack claims to be capable of expanding, it usually means it adds a few hundred cubic inches, not a few thousand. Jumping between 1,900 and 5,000 cubic inches the Crewcab not only expands, it takes on several forms using the buckles and straps to accommodate any other accessories and be used in a thousand different ways. The NICE frame is incredibly comfortable however you arrange this beauty, and it’s top quality from stem to stern. A true lifetime purchase.
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