A tactical backpack is essential to military servicemen and law enforcement officers around the world. The design can make it a life saver for numerous reasons.
However, how do you know if a tactical pack is the right move for day-to-day use? Is the best tactical backpack on the market worth the money if you’re just a casual camper?
These backpacks offer plenty of customization options which, for the most part, may come in handy at one point or another. Even if you can’t see its use upfront, it’s better to have the option later down the road than to have to buy a new bag.
Luckily, most tactical backpacks made for civilian use are customizable and quite affordable too. Check out some of their features as well as what you should pay attention to in terms of specs before deciding to buy one.
Best Tactical Backpacks Reviews
1. SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack
This 24.2L backpack comes in a variety of colors and at a very budget-friendly price. It has a decent storage capacity for everyday use and certainly looks the part.
Polyester is the fabric of choice on the SOG Ninja. It’s not waterproof but does have a water repellent treatment applied which can help out in a pinch.
The modular design gives it plenty of versatility as it allows for a wide range of accessories.
The backpack has one large top-access main compartment and a large zippered pocket in front of it which can hold a large smartphone, wallet, etc. The two shoulder straps have yoke adjustments and extra padding for maximum comfort.
You may notice the same treatment on the sternum slider which not only makes the backpack feel more secure but also helps with maintaining proper posture and better weight distribution.
The backpack measures 13” in width and 18” in height. The polyester is not as elastic as it could be, so chances are the backpack doesn’t react well to overstuffing.
What's to like about the SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack
Apart from the solid MOLLE webbing on the sides and the back, the coolest design feature is the well-ventilated sternum slider. The multiple air channels prevent the wearer from overheating.
What's not to like about the SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack
Although fitted with a hydration bladder pocket, the bag doesn’t come with a reservoir. Of course, it’s not exactly a priority on a day pack but one can argue that it makes the product feel unfinished.
2. CVLIFE Outdoor Military-Style Tactical Backpack
Although passing yourself off as a soldier is something you should never do, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look like one. This CVLIFE tactical backpack may just make it happen too, especially if you go for the camo pattern.
This backpack uses 600D nylon fabric which has pretty decent durability for various outdoor applications. It has a 50L capacity which is more than enough for light packing for the road.
Moreover, it’s also a MOLLE backpack which means you can add side pouches and attachments for important gear and equipment that you need at hand. This makes it easy to keep a flashlight, GPS tracker, or any other essentials within arm’s reach.
The MOLLE webbing is all around the backpack. The padding on the straps is soft which is important given how much you can carry. The design also includes a chest belt and a hip belt for extra stability when carrying maximum load.
There are three MOLLE pouches already attached, one on the front and two on the side. You may also remove them or add extra smaller pouches to them.
The main compartment measures just under 20” in height and 13” in width. The depth is around 8.7”. Given the depth and the elasticity of the fabric you can carry pretty much anything you need for a longer trip.
What's to like about the CVLIFE Outdoor Military-Style Tactical Backpack
The MOLLE attachments on all sides is this backpack’s most important quality. The craftsmanship is also quite impressive.
What's not to like about the CVLIFE Outdoor Military-Style Tactical Backpack
Although comfortable, this CVLIFE tactical backpack doesn’t help with breathability much. It can overheat your back quickly when stuffed and the extra thick waist belt does the same thing on long hikes.
3. Reebow Gear Tactical Sling Backpack
Few backpacks can match the mobility of sling backpacks. While this Reebow Gear backpack may not have the best weight distribution, it excels at comfort especially when packed with light items.
The backpack is 9.5” wide, 12” high, and 6” deep. There’s enough storage capacity to pass as a day pack or a gun range bag.
There’s room to carry a handgun and enough ammo for the range and plenty of space for everyday gadgets and accessories too.
The backpack also features MOLLE webbing so there’s room for customization. However, since it isn’t a dual shoulder strap design it won’t be ideal for carrying heavy equipment. Luckily the backpack stays very secure.
There are two additional small straps to keep it in place if you have to run or balance yourself on rough terrain or water. The fabric is a military-grade 600D nylon which is not waterproof but does come with good water repellent treatment and high durability.
Only two colors are available, the all-black and the desert military-style camo. Either way, it has the looks and the features of a proper military tactical sling backpack, minus the armament.
What's to like about the Reebow Gear Tactical Sling Backpack
If you value mobility more than anything else, the Reebow Gear tactical sling backpack shines in that department. Keeping it close to the body is not an issue and the full range of motion it grants your arms makes it a very nice shooting range gear.
What's not to like about the Reebow Gear Tactical Sling Backpack
Its only downside is what plagues any sling backpack really and that’s poor weight distribution. If you’re looking for a better-rounded backpack for a range of applications, this one is not for you.
4. Army Camo USA Military Tactical Backpack
This tiny backpack is advertised as a three-day assault rucksack due to its multiple compartments and modular design. Whether or not it’s more than just a bug-out bag that looks the part remains to be seen.
Starting off with the size, the 14” width and 17” height doesn’t exactly translate to a solid assault rucksack. However, for civilian use, the modular design, easy fit, and level of comfort make it one of the best in its category for short hikes and camping trips.
It has a hydration system already installed. It also features high-comfort shoulder straps and quick-release features on the sternum and waist straps if you need to drop it in a hurry.
The main compartment is divided into multiple sections so packing various items should come a lot easier. The MOLLE webbing on the front, sides, and back pockets allows you to carry plenty of extra camping or hunting gear.
What's to like about the Army Camo USA Military Tactical Backpack
The most interesting feature is the inclusion of compression straps on the sides. Most tactical backpacks don’t have them, even though they should, especially those high-volume models built for heavy loads.
What's not to like about the Army Camo USA Military Tactical Backpack
The waterproofing is somewhat lacking except on the back panel which also houses the hydration system. At least spills won’t cause any issues.
5. 5.11 Rush24 Tactical Backpack
Few backpacks on the market come with such expert craftsmanship as those from 5.11. The high-end fabric and design features are why the 5.11 Rush24 is favored by many law-enforcement professionals and true survivalists.
The fabric is 1050D nylon which is pretty much the gold standard when it comes to tactical backpacks. It’s light, very durable, and performs really good in wet weather.
A MOLLE/SlickStick webbing is used all around the backpack which opens up a variety of configuration options for pretty much anything that you care to take with you.
The 37L capacity is pretty good and doesn’t account for the volume of the hydration pocket. Two compression straps ensure that everything stays put which translates to less strain for your shoulders and hips when carrying heavy stuff.
The main compartment is not divided which should give you more freedom when packing. There are also two zippered side pockets for smaller items that you need easy access to, as well as a stuff-it pocket.
What's to like about the 5.11 Rush24 Tactical Backpack
The craftsmanship and the use of 1050D nylon are what set this tactical backpack apart from the rest. Simply put, it’s one of the most durable and reliable on the market with matching attachment options.
What's not to like about the 5.11 Rush24 Tactical Backpack
Although the quality is high-end, the price can be quite steep for the casual hiker.
Types of Tactical Backpacks
You see ‘MOLLE’ thrown around a lot with respect to various military-style equipment. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is a special design that allows users to customize the backpack to fit specialized equipment.
Each MOLLE attachment is added, strapped, and secured individually on the backpack. That ensures a tight fit regardless of weather conditions or physical impact.
Most armed forces in the world use MOLLE tactical backpacks. However, don’t think that members of national defense branches always get the best equipment because tactical backpacks can get very expensive. Some commercial MOLLE backpacks may even be more advanced than those used by soldiers.
For civilians, MOLLE backpacks aren’t usually a top choice for everyday use, but they do get plenty of use on treks, camping trips, and other adventurous activities. That’s because you can make a MOLLE backpack as light or as spacious as you need.
Furthermore, most of them allow you to add various pouches and other modules to carry even more necessary items, such as survival gear.
The military uses modern technology as well so it makes sense that some operators need specialized tactical backpacks that can store and protect sensitive electronic equipment.
Some tactical backpacks are fitted with extra padding to protect devices from impact and harsh weather conditions and temperatures. While these may be a solid choice for survival vloggers, they’re not a great choice for the average hiker due to the lack of storage space.
For casual use, tactical laptop backpacks offer great protection for your sensitive gadgets. This may come in handy for people who spend a lot of time commuting or work in hazardous conditions.
However, all that extra protection comes at a cost. Tactical laptop backpacks are a lot heavier and rugged which doesn’t make them too comfortable.
The easiest way to tell tactical sling backpacks from casual backpacks is by looking at the number of compartments. Tactical bags are usually designed with multiple small pockets.
As opposed to other tactical backpacks, sling-types don’t always have amazing waterproofing features. The majority of them are made for carrying things indoors. That makes them a preferred choice for students and teachers.
The capacity of tactical backpacks is commonly expressed in liters (L). For reference, 1L is equivalent to 61 cubic inches or 33.814 fluid ounces.
However, backpacks also come with dimensions for length, width, and depth, even though depth is hard to measure accurately due to the elasticity of the fabric.
Usually it’s best to compare the capacity of different tactical backpacks by the volume of the interior compartment. Keep in mind that not all manufacturers swear by this method of measuring because it’s not always accurate.
The presence of multiple interior compartments may allow you to neatly pack more items even if the overall bag volume is smaller.
Materials and Durability
For a very long time, canvas was the fabric of choice for most backpacks. While there’s no denying that canvas makes for a tough backpack, it is heavy and rather hard to waterproof properly. These days, a variety of nylon fabrics are used to create longer-lasting versatile backpacks.
Nylon is light but has good resistance to tearing. It’s easy and rather cheap to create waterproof nylon fabric. The addition of a water-repellant coating as extra protection is also easy.
But standard nylon is not the best fabric for tactical backpacks because it can’t take too much punishment. There are three major varieties of nylon that are used in medium- to high-end tactical backpacks for both military and civilian applications.
Cordura nylon is a bit more rugged and therefore less comfortable than standard nylon. However, it’s lightweight and highly durable. It’s a popular choice in MOLLE and sling tactical backpacks.
Although most hikers and campers seem to prefer the material due to its durability, it’s worth noting that Cordura nylon has a looser weave than standard nylon which makes it somewhat harder to waterproof.
Kodra nylon is only made in Korea. Its similarities to Cordura nylon are most apparent in the waterproofing department. Kodra may be slightly more durable than Cordura and more comfortable, but it shares the same waterproofing difficulties.
This is the latest development in backpack fabrics. Ripstop nylon uses larger threads woven in a square pattern, which means that the tear resistance is superior to anything else on the market.
However, it is pricier than the rest and it doesn’t seem to work all that much better with waterproofing technologies.
Polyester – special mention
Polyester, a similar synthetic fabric, has better drying capabilities than nylon. However, in terms of durability it often falls short.
Nevertheless, many tactical backpacks designed for the general public use polyester, because it’s also rather cheap.
Depending on your needs, you’ll have to make a decision concerning the fabric. If your main concern is damage from the elements, then standard nylon with a high waterproof rating is perhaps the best choice.
If you’re more concerned about wear and tear, one of the other versions will serve you better in the long run.
The standard tactical backpack design, or its simplest form, has one large compartment and multiple side pockets and compartments for small accessories. Of course, depending on the manufacturer, even a tactical laptop backpack may have multiple interior storage options.
Tactical backpacks don’t weigh too much these days since canvas is no longer the fabric of choice. However, they can still carry a lot of weight.
For example, tactical backpacks made for combat missions are sturdy enough to carry 100 lbs. for long periods of time.
Commercial tactical backpacks have a weight capacity of at least 50 lbs. MOLLE packs may allow you to add even a few extra pounds because you can customize the attachments to optimize weight distribution.
Tactical Backpack FAQ
What is a good backpack?
Whether you’re thinking of a tactical backpack or a regular backpack, there are a few basics to cover. First and foremost, a backpack should be comfortable, especially if you are to wear it for long hours.
Secondly, it needs to offer enough protection or the situation or weather conditions you’re facing. It’s rare to find one backpack that works better than others for everything, anytime, and anywhere.
Backpacks in general, and more importantly tactical backpacks, are categorized and each category has its own pros and cons and specific purpose. Understanding what you need and what each type of backpack has to offer is the only way to determine your best course of action.
How to pack a tactical backpack?
In order to properly pack a tactical backpack, or any backpack for that matter, all you need is some spatial awareness. You should always start with thin items or gadgets first, as those tend to go in separate compartments or sleeves.
Then you should pack your heavy items and put them in the backpack next. These would include sweaters, jeans, shoes, books, etc.
Keep stacking up with lighter and lighter items. Only make exceptions if you have a raincoat with you or something else you might need to reach in a hurry.
Save lateral compartments for toiletries, chargers, Swiss army knife, etc. Also, put your MOLLE attachments to better use by stuffing them with items you may need on the fly such as a compass, GPS device, paracord, and first-aid kits.
If you’re preparing for a mission, your tactical backpack has to be packed according to the standard operating procedure which usually differs depending on the branch of the armed forces.
How to use tactical backpack?
Use a tactical backpack at your own discretion. They’re stronger than most regular backpacks and a lot more versatile, especially if you’re getting one with a MOLLE system.
It’s more important to know what you’ll use it for so that you can ensure you’re getting the best design and fabric.
How does MOLLE system work?
MOLLE systems are designed to carry extra magazines, grenades, first-aid kits, holsters, MREs, D-rings, and any other type of survival tools that an operator may need in the field.
Multiple rows of heavy-duty nylon are stitched on backpacks or load-bearing vests for a soldier to add other pouches, compartments, and accessories.
The rows of fabric are also called PALS which is short for ‘pouch attachment ladder system’. The beauty of this system is that it allows military personnel or civilians to customize their setup and figure out the optimum locations for each piece of extra gear.
The MOLLE attachment system is also very user-friendly. First you need to weave the strap or stick through the last row of nylon webbing and align it with the MOLLE attachment. Then you weave the other end from the backside while tightening.
The last step is to secure the ends together using the snaps or buttons, depending on the design. These will hold very tight as they’re single attachments.
What size backpack do I need?
The size of the backpack always depends on what you need to pack and where you’re going. If you want to take it on a plane for instance, you’ll have to check TSA regulations for the list of accepted sizes.
For daily general use, a backpack of up to 35L is considered sufficient. In comparison, an expedition backpack for serious camping or mountaineering should probably be above 100L in capacity.
Now that you know what tactical backpacks are all about, you’ll have a much easier time picking out your perfect match. If money’s no object and you’re looking for a long-lasting versatile solution, the 5.11 Rush24 is perhaps the best tactical backpack right now.
Its modular design, reinforced straps, hydration system, and highly durable 1050D nylon fabric are just a few of the features that set it apart from the competition. The fact that you can also get it in full black and various camo patterns is the cherry on top.
Of course, there are plenty of more affordable options to choose from, including the other four reviewed in this article.
Don't forget to also read our article on the "Best Tactical Sling Backpack of 2018 Complete Reviews with Comparisons".