We’ve tested and reviewed some of the best tactical backpacks this year and narrowed the choice down to eight fantastic ones you can choose from and one to avoid. Hope you like it!
Last updated: March 30, 2018 at 11:50 am
Ever wished you had a go-to, super-practical, one-pack-does-it-all solution for your storage and carrying needs in the backcountry? If so, then maybe it’s time you owned a tactical backpack. While standard trekking or alpine rucksacks have their merits, tactical varieties offer something a little bit different and are specifically designed to be the most efficient, functional and user-friendly system in a variety of activities, including hunting, fishing, bugging out, survival situations, backcountry photography and also for more general use, off the beaten track or not.
If you’re in a hurry, check out the Maxpedition Falcon-II. It’s made out of high quality water-resistant material and MOLLE webbing. It’s easy to store everything you need and it’s perfect for hiking, hunting or if you just want a comfortable, yet study pack to take on your travels.
Don’t, however, think it’s as easy as simply plumping for the first or most attractive-looking pack you come across on a Google search or at your local outdoor store. With so many options on the market and a host of cheaply made knockoffs and poor designs to avoid, the task of finding the best tactical backpack for your requirements presents quite a challenge. Luckily, we’re here to help you, having trawled the market and done the research to ensure that you find a pack that’s going to do everything you need it to do, whatever you might be getting up to.
Let’s get down to business with our top picks of 2018.
|Product Image||Name||Main Feature||Price||Rating|
|Maxpedition Falcon-II||• Compression straps|
• MOLLE webbing
• Military grade nylon
|Kelty Redwing||• Not too pricey|
• Adjustable frame system
• Interior hydration sleeve
|Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger||• High-quality materials|
|5.11-Tactical-Rush 24||• MOLLE webbing|
• High-quality construction
• Very comfortable
|5.11 Tactical Covrt 18||• High-quality construction|
• 1800 cubic inches of storage
|Bonamana Haversack||• Very cheap|
• Lots of storage space
|Kavu Rope Bag||• Very stylish|
• Lots of storage space
• Sturdy sling
|Victorinox Altmont 3.0||• Dual-compartment design|
• 1680D nylon base
• Very comfortable
Want to Find the Best Pack for Your Outdoor Activities?
The following backpack might not be suited to the needs of everyone heading into the outdoors as the type of storage required for some pursuits – climbing, alpinism and long-distance trekking, for example – varies greatly from that required for the type of activity in which a military pack is in its element. For those of you likely to be spending a lot of time hunting, fishing, foraging, taking part in tactical training or any other activity that requires a more sophisticated, convenient and organized storage solution, however, we’re sure you’ll find something ideally suited to your needs on our list of the 8 backpacks that we personally recommend.
Why the G4Free Multipurpose Tactical Rucksack is NOT on our list…
A few readers might be wondering why the very popular and wallet-friendly G4Free Multipurpose Backpack is not on our list. To answer that question, we can offer the following:
- The G4Free’s straps are a tad sketchy and tend to slide about and require readjustment frequently on the trail, all the more so if you are carrying a heavy load
- The stitching is fairly poor quality, with many reviewers having had their pack fall apart after minimal use
- Despite looking the part and having undergone an ‘upgrade’ early this year, many reviewers are still finding the stitching inadequate and liable to breakage
Top Rated Military Backpacks Reviews
Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack
Boasting a plethora of storage pockets inside and out, an incredibly robust construction and quality throughout, the 25-liter Maxpedition Falcon-II might just be the ideal bag for one-day trips into the backcountry.
Most reviewers found this pack to be very rugged and hard-wearing, even if it lacked a little in the comfort stakes due to a shortage of padding and the stiff material of the straps.
- Stylish – even if you aren’t the ‘real thing’ it will make you look like you are!
- Lots of pockets
- Hard-wearing and robust
- MOLLE webbing
- Quality stitching
- Military grade nylon on straps, handles and attachment points
- Compression straps to secure and streamline your load
- Feature-rich (bladder pouch, Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS), side and front compression straps, reinforced base)
- Not all users found this entirely comfortable – the straps are very stiff and have a tendency to dig into your skin
- Slightly short on padding
- Lacks a good ventilation system in the back
- Fairly narrow central storage compartment
- Too small for multi-day excursions
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack
With an adjustable frame system, 50-liter capacity and plenty of storage pockets, the Kelty Redwing is a very spacious, user-friendly and well-thought-out option that can be used for multi-day excursions as well as short day-trips.
Many user reviews commented favorably on the Redwing’s convenient front-loading system and adjustable frame but weren’t so keen on the pack’s lack of water-resistance.
While the Redwing isn’t the lightest option in our review, for those extra few ounces you get a lot of storage and a frame system more likely to spare you the scourge of sore shoulders and chafed skin if you’re carrying a heavy load.
- Spacious enough for multi-day excursions
- Not too pricey – good value for money
- Front-loading system makes for easy packing and unpacking
- Adjustable frame system allows the user to fit the pack to their torso
- Interior hydration sleeve
- Lack of features (no hip pockets and short on MOLLE-compatible mesh on exterior)
- Not waterproof
- A touch on the heavy side (3lb 11oz)
Maxpedition Kodiak Gearslinger
The first of our sling-style backpacks, the Kodiak Gearslinger sets the standard high with regard to ease-of-access, the array of storage options and the quality of the material and padding.
A number of users commented favorably on the pack’s construction, toughness and cushioning, although others were not so keen on the lofty price tag, strap design and the pack’s lack of comfort when loaded with too many items.
On the whole, this is a tidy, functional little bag that might be a tad short on storage capacity but offers something different for those who need to access their bag frequently and are unenthused by the prospect of clipping and unclipping every time they have to do so.
- High-quality materials and stitching
- Comfortable with lighter loads
- You can sling it around your chest and access your things without removing the pack
- Ample padding and cushioning
- Makes good use of storage capacity
- Not suitable for multi-day excursions
- Won’t stand upright – topples over when set down even on flat surfaces
- Can feel a bit ‘lumpy’ on the back when fully loaded
- Some reviewers stated the sling is only suitable for wearing over the left shoulder
- Uncomfortable with heavier loads
5.11 Tactical Rush 24
For a rugged, well-made and well thought-out daypack that may just suffice for a multi-day outing, you might not have to look much further Tactical Rush 24.
This pack is full of handy storage pockets, has MOLLE-compatible exterior loops and mesh, is water-resistant, offers 34-liter storage and receives, on the whole, overwhelmingly favorable reviews across the web.
While some reviewers found this pack to have a few unfavorable design features such as the grommet drainage holes and the lack of a waist-belt, the Rush 24 makes up for these drawbacks with superior comfort and better storage and organizational capacities than many of its competitors.
- MOLLE webbing on front and sides
- Available in multiple camouflage color options
- High-quality construction
- Very comfortable, even with heavy loads
- Pockets and compartments galore!
- Handy fleece-lined sunglasses pocket
- The two grommet drain holes on the backpack bottom won’t be to everyone’s liking
- Questionable ruggedness – some reviewers mentioned the pack’s tendency to fray and split when subjected to a bit of rough treatment
- Smaller pockets at the top of the pack are rendered useless if the main compartment is tightly packed
- No belt strap
- A tad pricey
5.11 Tactical Covrt 18 (30 Liters)
The 5.11 Tactical Covrt 18 resembles a perfectly ordinary backpack yet comprises many of the features and design components you’d expect from a more military-style pack, such as 500D water-resistant nylon, double-stitched seams, MOLLE webbing, modular storage and hydration bladder compatibility.
While many reviewers appreciated the ruggedness and quality of the design and materials, the drawbacks mentioned just as frequently included lack of comfort when filled with a sizable load, the lack of a waist belt and early signs of wear and tear.
Given the price of this pack, many buyers may look elsewhere for something better-equipped to deal with a heavy load and with an integrated waist belt, but on the whole the Tactical Covrt 18 is still a solid gear-carrying option boasting the quality build and ruggedness for which 5.11 packs are renowned.
- High-quality construction
- Solid stitching
- Handy admin pocket
- 1800 cubic inches of storage
- Padded sunglass pocket
- Sizeable main compartment (19”x12.25”x6.5″)
- Questionable durability – a few reviewers mentioned straps and draw-strings deteriorating quickly
- No compression straps to secure exterior load
- Grommet holes in base of pack
- Not comfortable with heavy or bulky loads
- No waist belt
- Quite expensive
- Electronics pouch is too small for most cell-phones and navigation devices
Bonamana Canvas and Leather Haversack Bag
The teardrop-shaped Bonamana Men’s Canvas Sling Pack is a low-budget, stylish and convenient haversack-style pack that boasts plenty of pockets, pouches and compartments to keep all of your gear well- organized. Although many reviewers commented favorably on the comfort, storage options and aesthetics of this pack, just as many bemoaned the quality of the stitching and the zippers, which tended to split under the strain of a bulky or heavy load.
While this bag is not something you’d want to trust on a serious outing in the backcountry, it is a classy-looking and functional budget option that will serve your needs if not overloaded or put through too much rough and tumble.
- Very cheap
- Lots of pockets and compartments
- Two useful pouches on the strap
- Looks great
- Nice, snug fit
- Decent option for those on a tight budget
- Sketchy zippers – tend to come off and split
- Low-quality stitching
- Cheaply made – shows sign of wear and tear fairly quickly
- Limited adjustability in strap
- Teardrop shape means it can’t accommodate larger rectangular items, i.e. a laptop
- Small capacity and not suitable for loads in excess of 10lbs
- Not water-resistant
Kavu Rope Bag
If flashy or quirky is your thing, the Kavu Rope Bag may well be the pack for you.
Coming in multiple colors (many of which are none too subtle) and with a climbing rope-styled strap, this tiny bag is a bit of a looker and, moreover, manages to combine a smattering of features from more conventional military packs such as ease of access and external storage pockets.
User reviews tended to rave about the appearance of the pack but many also noted its lack of durability, citing burst stitching and fraying after a few months of frequent use.
The Kavu isn’t going to win any prizes for functionality, capacity or the quality of its construction, but if fuss-free, eye-catching and lightweight simplicity is top of your tick-list, you can look no further!
- Very stylish (if that’s your thing!)
- Holds more than you’d expect going by first impressions
- Slim and snug fit
- Sturdy sling
- Not the best value for money given its limited storage capacity and overall functionality
- Outer pockets are very small
- Durability – some reviewers mentioned the bag falling apart after a few months of regular use
- The rope strap is not the most comfortable
- Tends to slide about on your back
Victorinox Altmont 3.0 Dual-Compartment Monosling
Weighing in at a mere 11oz and having a capacity of only 814 cubic inches, the Victorinox Altmont 3.0 is both the lightest product in our review and the smallest. This teardrop-shaped, slimline little haversack, however, boasts a handful of useful design features such as a dual-compartment interior, a reinforced nylon base and an ambidextrous sling with a handy device pocket. It was found by many users to be very comfortable, despite others complaining about its tendency to swing about, lack of water resistance and overly small pockets.
Although the Altmont 3.0 certainly isn’t going to fulfill your overnight carrying needs or provide the multi-faceted storage required by your average hunter, fisherman or general outdoors-person, it nevertheless offers a very portable, fuss-free carrying solution for less extreme one-day activities.
- Dual-compartment design
- Device pocket on sling strap
- Decent padding on the back
- Reinforced 1680D nylon base
- Super-lightweight (11oz)
- Very comfortable
- Can be worn on either shoulder
- Reasonable capacity for one-day trips
- Tends to swing about on the user’s back
- Only 3 pockets
- Inner pocket difficult to access when main compartment is full
- Not made for load carrying
- Not water-resistant
- Very low capacity (814 cubic inches)
How to Choose a Tactical Backpack That’s Best For You
Sadly, not all military packs are created equal and before buying there are a number of factors well worth taking into consideration in order to ensure you get your hands on the pack that’s right for you. The most important of these factors include the following:
Material and Construction
Because you don’t want your pack falling apart on you a long way from home – or anywhere, for that matter – the material and construction of the pack is perhaps one of the foremost concerns when buying. Within the ambit of material and construction fall additional factors such as water-resistance, ruggedness, durability and general functionality. Double-stitching, decent-sized compartments, a reinforced base and tough material (such as 500D nylon) are all desirable attributes – if a manufacturer doesn’t mention that their pack comprises any of these facets, assume their product doesn’t have them and look elsewhere.
The two most common pack types – and those we’ve included in our review – are the standard, double-strap backpack and the monosling haversack-type bag. Although many will consider this a matter of personal choice, they most probably haven’t tried lugging a 15 or 20-pound load through rough terrain on a sling (not recommended!) or endured the frustrations of taking a double-strapped backpack on and off every few minutes to locate their gear in activities which require speedy access!
For day trips, a pack with up to a 30-liter capacity will probably be adequate for most users. For overnight or multi-day excursions, however, it’s highly unlikely that anything less than a 35-liter pack will suffice (unless, of course, you’re sleeping al fresco, nude and without a sleeping bag!).
A pack’s comfort depends of a number of variables, most notably load distribution and cushioning on the straps and the back of the pack. If you’re not going to be travelling very far or carrying a heavy load, comfort isn’t such a big consideration, but if you anticipate putting in the miles with ten, fifteen or twenty pounds of gear, you want to make sure your pack is going to allow you to do so with a reasonable amount of comfort.
While most military backpacks aren’t out to win any prizes in the fashion stakes, the color of your pack can determine how suitable it will be for your purposes and your selection will depend largely on how conspicuous or inconspicuous you want to be. For hunters, a camouflaged option is obviously going to be pretty high on the list of must-haves, while for your Average Joe or preppers using the backpack as a bug-out bag (you don’t want anyone trying to pilfer your supplies in an emergency situation), something that’s not going to attract a lot of attention will most likely be your best bet.
Certain features can elevate the functionality of your pack from average to awesome. Amongst these, the most obvious are MOLLE-compatibility, plenty of compartments, front-loading central storage, an interior hydration sleeve, a rear ventilation system and strap pockets.
Photo Credit: davidd via Flickr
Benefits of Owning a Tactical Backpack
The must fruitful way to enumerate the advantages of owning a military pack is to highlight what they offer that you won’t necessarily find in a regular hiking backpack, haversack or other non-tactical carrying solutions (many of these differences also stand true in comparisons made with regular briefcases, laptop bags or shoulder bags). Foremost amongst these advantages are compartmentalized design, versatility and general user-friendliness.
Most military packs boast an array of storage pockets, mesh compartments and MOLLE exterior webbing, all of which make it easier and quicker to organize your gear. Compared to traditional trekking packs, the central storage compartment is reduced in favor of separate internal and external storage points which bring organization and quick access to the fore.
Traditional backpacks and other non-tactical carry bags tend to be awkward when it comes to locating items of equipment, lacking the wealth of external and internal divisions you can expect to find in a tactical backpack. They also tend to have less in the way of convenient features such as bladder sleeves, sling or belt pockets, mesh compartments and pockets for cell-phones and navigational devices you can reach without having to stop and take your pack off. While regular packs may boast a higher capacity in terms of their central storage compartment, moreover, almost all are top-loading and so finding your gear often means rummaging through the entire contents of the bag before finding what you need – not great if you’re in a hurry or patience is not your forte!
Instead of having a briefcase for work, a gym-bag for workouts and a rucksack for backcountry adventures, a military backpack will allow you to streamline your carrying options and have one pack that’s suitable for all occasions.
The world of tactical backpacks is one replete with more nuance and variety than many would expect. Delving into this world can, however, reap a wealth of worthy rewards, offering us a choice of highly versatile, practical and efficient load-carrying options which boast superior organizational capacities, ease of access and far more sophisticated design features than standard trekking or other non-military backpacks.
Given the array of options on the market, however, choosing the right pack is no walk in the park and finding the one that offers the best value for money and is best suited to your needs can cause confusion and frustration in many a potential buyer. Navigating the gauntlet of specs, features and attributes during the selection process, however, can be simplified and is best approached by matching the most important pre-purchase considerations – capacity, materials, construction, general practicality and value for money – to your own requirements and budget.
In each of the above factors we have found the Maxpedition Falcon-II to excel, rising above its competitors as the standout, best tactical backpack on offer in 2018. This well thought-out, user-friendly and feature-rich assault pack has it all: tough, durable materials, external and internal storage compartments, pockets galore, MOLLE meshing, a rear bladder pouch and a strong, reinforced base.
While the Falcon-II isn’t the cheapest option out there and some users will lament the lack of ventilation and fairly small capacity, for one-day excursions this versatile, tough, functional and reliable assault-style backpack could well become your go-to gear for years to come, whatever use you plan on putting it to.