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The Best Tactical Backpacks to Take a Beating

Best Tactical Backpacks 00 Hero
Photo: TAD FAST Pack EDC

Seeing as how backpacks are one of the most ubiquitous pieces of everyday carry gear around, it should come as no surprise that there are a ton of sub-categories therein. And while most folks are probably looking for something that fits more in the realm of everyday usage, hiking haulers, or even college-ready bags, there’s another class of person that needs something a bit tougher, more versatile, and ready for anything.

We’re talking, of course, about the tactical and military crowds. Now, you don’t actually have to be active duty or a veteran in order to desire a tactical military backpack, but knowing what that entails will certainly help you understand what to expect out of these bags. Designed for durability, expandability and modularity, and more — the following bags are the best of the best when it comes to tactical military backpacks. And they’re all available to buy right now.

Best Tactical Backpack Breakdown

A Question of Purpose

What Makes A Backpack Tactical?

Determining what, exactly, qualifies a piece of gear as being tactical is no easy feat. That’s probably because, while there’s a clear definition for “tactical” (of or relating to military use), there’s not actually any standards in place as set by a governing body or institution. That doesn’t mean you can’t tell what’s tactical and what isn’t, so long as you keep your eyes on a few specific points, as we’ve outlined below.

Material: One of the clearer indicators as to whether something qualifies as being tactical or not is the materials out of which it is made. For reference, there are a number of fabrics used in the construction of backpacks that are widely used by global militaries. In regards to backpacks, the most common material is ballistic nylon — a woven fabric marked by durability, natural water-resistance, and high tensile strength. For nylon to be considered “ballistic,” it has to be made to a specific military standard that denotes its ability to survive hard battlefield usage. If it isn’t specifically denoted as ballistic nylon, that doesn’t immediately disqualify it as being worthy of a tactical designation — but you should perhaps research it a bit to discover if it can stand up to similar types of punishment.

Modularity: One of the clearer indicators of tactical functionality is the inclusion of a MOLLE grid. Widely used by militaries to allow additional modules to be added onto existing carry systems, MOLLE grids are ideal for tactical usage, as they help increase a bag’s versatility. If you need a medkit, you simply attach it to the MOLLE grid. Same goes for some bladed tool sheaths, ammo packs, some flashlights, and more. Because MOLLE is so popular, however, it can sometimes be found on non-tactical items or things that were inspired by tactical gear. Still, it’s a fairly good indicator.

Intended Purpose: It’s not always immediately apparent, but there are many pieces of gear that were originally developed for military use but are now widely available to the civilian population. Often, however, brands are proud of their military heritage and will clearly advertise their offerings as such. If you see a claim on a brand’s site that their gear is specifically used by soldiers, the likelihood is that this is factual. You can always to a quick internet search to be sure, but if a backpack was made for the Navy SEALs, Army, or Marine Corps, then you can bet your bottom dollar that makes it a tactical bag.

The Best Tactical Backpacks

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 2.0

511 Tactical RUSH12 2
Photo: 5.11 Tactical
  • Offers exceptional value
  • Super supportive harness system
  • Now has laptop pocket & dedicated CCW compartment
  • Looks out of place in non-outdoor & military settings

The 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 2.0 Backpack is new and improved take on an existing fan-favorite tac-pack that now benefits from extensive user feedback on the gen-one. Crafted around a water-resistant 1,050-denier nylon shell, the RUSH12 2.0 pack boasts a rear hydration compartment, a fleece-lined media compartment, and an ultra-supportive contoured yoke shoulder strap system. Compatible 5.11’s Tier System, the changes to this second-generation model include a new hidden loop panel-equipped concealed carry weapon pocket and a padded 15” laptop pocket with a false bottom. While these factors make the RUSH2 2.0 an impressive pack, the bag is made all the more noteworthy by the incredible value that it offers, with its sub-$100 price getting you materials and an overall build quality that are typically reserved for backpacks costing several times as much. 

Capacity: 24L
Exterior Material: Water-Resistant 1,050D Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: Yes

Prometheus Design Werx S.H.A.D.O. Pack

Prometheus Design Werx SHADO Pack
Photo: Prometheus Design Werx
  • Top-shelf materials & build quality
  • Features multi-purpose frame sheet
  • Outstanding shoulder straps & harness system
  • Includes dedicated laptop compartment
  • Also makes for a fantastic hiking & outdoor pack
  • Boutique nature & small-batch production can make it hard to get

Prometheus Design Werx’s lineup of S.H.A.D.O. packs are so superb that, although they’ve been making them for years, they’ve not needed any updates and they remain the only bag the brand presently makes. And that should tell you a lot, considering PDW is still very much at the forefront of constantly crafting excellent military-styled gear. Short for Suspension Haul Access Durability Organized, the SHADO is built from durable CORDURA nylon, spandex, and ripstop to give it toughness and versatility in any situation. It also carries 24L of gear, has both internal and external modular attachment grids, adheres to a dual-compartment format for organization, and so much more.

Capacity: 24L
Exterior Material: 500D CORDURA Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: 15″

Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack

Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack
Photo: Mystery Ranch
  • Widely viewed as industry standard for premium military packs
  • Constructed around framesheet draped in 500D CORDURA shell
  • Ultra-rugged build quality
  • Equipped w/ a padded, floating laptop sleeve
  • Not as tactical as brand’s larger 3 Day Assault Pack

A scaled-down version of the Bozeman brand’s game-changing 3 Day Assault model, the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack is a more urban and EDC-friendly version of the 3DAP that still retains the 3 Day model’s highly tactical nature. Adorned in multiple rows of MOLLE webbing, the exterior of the 2DAP is cut from 500-denier CORDURA and features Mystery Ranch’s signature Y-shaped three-zip design, an adjustable yoke, and compression straps. Offering 27 liters of internal storage space, the 2 Day Assault Pack also features an  integrated floating computer sleeve that can accommodate notebooks as large as 15”. 

Capacity: 27L
Exterior Material: Water-Resistant 500D CORDURA
Laptop Sleeve: Yes

Spec-Ops T.H.E. Pack U.A.P., MC

SpecOps THE Pack UAP MC
Photo: Spec-Ops
  • Made in America
  • Features ballistic-grade shell
  • Highly-modular
  • Offers ample storage space & organizational features
  • Could benefit from more supportive harness system considering its massive size

If you’re going to have the gall to call your company “Spec-Ops,” you had better be able to back up that name with some of the best tactical military gear around. Luckily for this brand, that’s exactly the case. If you can look past the somewhat awkward nomenclature of this particular bag, you’ll come to realize that T.H.E. Ultimate Assault Pack is a powerhouse of a backpack — boasting a 1,000-denier CORDURA nylon construction, dual compression straps, a modular attachment grid, hydration bladder compatibility, and more. Perhaps best of all, this superb tactical backpack is made entirely in the USA.

Capacity: 42L
Exterior Material: 1000D CORDURA Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: Yes


  • Design inspired by Spec-Ops medical packs
  • Unparalleled mil-spec durability & build quality
  • Made in America & protected by lifetime warranty
  • Also offered in X-Pac VX-21 shell version
  • Harness system lacks support
  • Doesn’t feature waist & sternum straps

If we were forced at gunpoint to pick out the best overall backpack of all time, the GORUCK GR1 would absolutely come to mind. The same bag that got this company off their feet and vaulted them into the hearts of the everyday carry and tactical crowds, this backpack has only gotten better with time. And while it looks a bit more subdued than some of the other options, we find that its minimalist styling is more a point of pride than one of pain. Of course, that sleekness still leaves room for a modular exterior grid, your choice of a 21L or 26L capacity, and (of course) the bag’s signature bombproof laptop sleeve. It’s also made in the USA, comes with a lifetime guarantee, and has been tested in the field by actual Special Forces soldiers.

Capacity: 21L or 26L
Exterior Material: 1000D CORDURA
Laptop Sleeve: 16″

Triple Aught Design FAST Pack EDC

Triple Aught Design FAST Pack EDC
Photo: Triple Aught Design
  • Incredibly modular
  • Made in America
  • Top-shelf mil-spec materials & build quality
  • Brimming with external attachments, rows of MOLLE webbing, & anchor points
  • Aerated closed-cell foam padding benefits from unique high-pressure nitrogen gas solution process
  • Internal organization very sparse w/o add-ons or attachments
  • Boutique nature & small-batch production can make it hard to get

Right alongside the GR1 in the conversation for the best overall backpacks, Triple Aught Design’s FAST Pack EDC is absolutely a contender for the top spot. The bigger brother to the award-winning Litespeed, yet still very nimble, this pack shares most of the same features in a slightly bigger format — making it better for those that have a large haul of gear. It also boasts one of the most comprehensive external PALS webbing grids of any bag on this list, it has plenty of storage pouches both inside and out, it’s comfortable to carry thanks to padded straps and a back panel, and so much more. If you need more of a vote of confidence than that, just look at the user reviews on TAD’s site for further confirmation.

Capacity: 28L
Exterior Material: 1000D & 500D CORDURA Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: No

Eberlestock F4 Terminator Pack

Eberlestock F4 Terminator Pack
Photo: Eberlestock
  • Engineered specifically for tactical military use
  • Load-bearing-specific
  • Features innovative Intex II frame
  • Removable LP1 MultiLid top doubles as traditional fanny pack
  • Great rucking backpack
  • Massive 67-liter volume makes for a very large & bulky pack

Eberlestock is well known for crafting some of the best tactical, military, and hunting gear and accessories around. But their bags are undoubtedly the highlight of their catalog — one that they give quite a bit of well-deserved attention to. In fact, the Terminator pack you see here has gone through four different renovations to become what it is today. As it stands, this is the lightest Terminator pack the brand has ever built — thanks largely to the inclusion of an Intex II aluminum frame which runs all the way around the pack. It also has comprehensive webbing throughout the exterior, tons of internal and external organizational slots and pockets, it can be adjusted to house firearms, and it comes with its own removable rainfall.

Capacity: 67L
Exterior Material: Waterproof 500D CORDURA Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: No

Arc’teryx LEAF Assault Pack 30

Arcteryx LEAF Assault Pack 30
Photo: Arc’teryx LEAF
  • Used by countless elite operators & military personnel
  • Outstanding build quality
  • Engineered to withstand the extreme rigors of combat & modern warfare
  • Designed to be worn over body armor & helmet
  • Equipped with porting for comms systems
  • Expensive price
  • Can be difficult to get (as a civilian)

Arc’teryx is already a well-respected outdoor brand, but their LEAF lineup (short for “Law Enforcement and Armed Forces”) takes things to the next level with unheard-of levels of superb design, durability, versatility, etc. And the crowning jewel of the carry solutions within that lineup is the Assault Pack you see here. Not only is this weatherproof bag built from waterproof CORDURA nylon, but it has internal channels for routing communications cables, it is compatible with 3L hydration bladders, there’s a small personal items pocket at the top, and it has internal expansion panels for Velcro packs and additional organizational options. And while all of those features are enough to garner this bag some well-deserved attention, the fact that it is used by actual law enforcement and armed forces personnel essentially solidifies its spot on our list.

Capacity: 30L
Exterior Material: Waterproof 500D CORDURA Nylon
Laptop Sleeve: No

Matbock Mr. Dry 2.0

Matbock Mr Dry 2
Photo: Matbock
  • Used by U.S. Navy SEALs
  • Designed using spare-no-expense approach
  • Completely waterproof & submersible down to 150′
  • Constructed around Mystery Ranch NICE frame (the industry standard)
  • Offered in enormous 122-liter version
  • Extremely expensive

The fact that the Matbock Mr. Dry 2.0 is actually used by Navy SEALs should be reason enough to earn it a spot on this list — and the respect of everyone reading. Of course, even if the SEALs didn’t even use this bag, it would still be a remarkable specimen for military and tactical usage. Available in a trio of sizes (56, 77, and 122 liters), this hybrid backpack-duffel is available in three different colorways, it’s entirely submersible — meaning you can dunk it up to 150 feet underwater without anything inside getting even a drop on it — it supports usage with the Mystery Ranch NICE frame (the industry standard), and it can be inflated for added buoyancy during waterborne missions and/or adventures. Obviously, this bag is a bit too hefty and expensive to be for everyone, but for those that can afford it, it definitely can’t be beaten.

Capacity: 56L, 77L, or 122L
Exterior Material: Waterproof Double-Urethane-Coated 500D CORDURA
Laptop Sleeve: No

The Ultimate Guide To Mil-Spec Outdoor Gear

A lot of the bags on this list were actually built to mil-spec standards. But what, exactly, does that mean? Learn all you need to know on our comprehensive guide to mil-spec outdoor gear.