best tactical backpacks

What is a Tactical Backpack?

So, let me try and make it as simple and as straightforward as I possibly can.

First, a backpack is a fabric sack carried in one’s back secured with straps that go over the shoulder.

A tactical backpack as opposed to the zillion other common backpack applications is one that is made with military inspired utility in mind.

As expected, tactical backpacks come with all sorts of features that originated in the armed forces such as hydration pack compatibility, MOLLE webbing [Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment] and ammunition pouches – all these features meant to offer combat advantages.

About Tactical Backpacks

What are Tactical Backpacks used for?

Well, in answering this question you can really let your imagination run wild.

Some of the most common uses for tactical backpacks can be long-distance hiking, law enforcement, military deployment, outdoor games, and all kinds of other high-activity ventures.

Typically, tactical backpacks feature hydration bladders compatible with external port nozzles, radio antennae, and earphones.

History - What is a Bergen Pack?

The word backpack was first coined in the United States back in the 1910’s.

Britons used to call Alpine-style backpacks “Bergen rucksacks,” which takes the name of its creator Norwegian Ole F. Bergan, combined with the Norwegian city of Bergen.

The so-called “Bergen pack” is a backpack designed to contain the most important gear and equipment for a short journey.

The main chamber of the pack is used for housing clothing and equipment for camping.

The side pockets are used for carrying food, water bottles and similar gear.

The Bergen pack has three different places to carry an ax and two pockets designed for carrying a saw or a knife.

Civil war soldiers knapsack

Union soldiers carried knapsacks during the Civil War

What goes into a Tactical Backpack?

As you can imagine, what you pack in a tactical backpack will very much depend on your choice of adventure.

Some of the most common or basic items in a tactical backpack will often include items such as: a First-Aid Kit or IFAK pouch as well as food related items.

If your backpack is meant to be use for any kind of “survival” activity you will also pack some of the following basic items for that objective:

  • Bedding
  • Clothing
  • Communication Equipment
  • Defense Gear
  • Fire-starting kit
  • Flashlight
  • Shelter
  • Knife

What is a Three-day Pack?

So, let’s just say that the term ‘three-day pack’ is, as implied by the name, is a backpack that is meant to be used for military simulations or equivalent lasting from 24 to 72 hours, where there will not be any fixed bases of operations and/or where your intent is to remain self-sufficient without access to any re-supplies.

These unique and challenging conditions demand, as you well can imagine, equal challenges in what and how you will pack items which are critical to the mission.

Packing lists for three-day packs will vary based on a multiple of variables all relative to the specific conditions of the ultimate mission

What to look for when buying a Tactical Backpack?

As true for most all tactical gear, the primary consideration when buying a tactical backpack, would be its use and/or intended mission.

From thereon it is all a matter of best judgement in choosing a tactical backpack featuring some foremost considerations such as, material construction, pockets and compartments, hydration compatibility, storage capacity, portability, etc.

As with many other items in the tactical gear world, tactical backpacks come in all shapes, sizes, models, uses, you name it.

My job today, as always, is to help you navigate through the complex universe of tactical backpacks.

I will say this, my preferences, and choices for some of the best tactical backpacks which I will be discussing in this review are all relative to and/or based on my personal uses - backpacks which I personally use either/or, I am very familiar with.

Hopefully, with my help, I will be able to save you a lot of time while guiding you through a maze of options, many of which I have already traveled many times before.

What Are The Best Tactical Backpacks?

1. Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack

Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack

Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack

At number 1 in my list of best tactical backpacks I have the Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack

At 27 liters, this one was designed for urban necessities.

Somewhat smaller than the Standard 3-Day Assault version, the Mystery Ranch 2-Day is loaded with features for everyday travel or carry.

Comes equipped with dual water bottle pocket, front compression straps, MOLLE webbing and has an adjustable harness.

The signature feature on this backpack is its 3-ZIP opening and again its urban mission design has built-in internal organization with a padded computer sleeve and a separate divider for a table plus 2 detailed zippered pockets.

By far my first choice, the Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack, has everything a tactical backpack should have and then some.

Do yourself a favor and check this one out before you make your final decision.

2. SOG Ninja Tactical Backpack

SOG Ninja Tactical Backpack

SOG Ninja Tactical Backpack

The SOG Ninja is one of the better all-around tactical backpacks that I’ve used.

First, the acronym SOG, stands for Studies and Observations Group - a military concept developed during the war in Vietnam in the 1960’s, referring to a highly classified, multi-service special operations unit which conducted covert unconventional warfare operations in the war.

The MACV-SOG, the original name of the Vietnam war special operations unit, carried a unique combat knife which later inspired designer Spencer Frazer to start the SOG Specialty Knives company which later expanded to produce all kinds of situation-ready gear for professionals, adventurers, and everyday users, among them their very popular SOG backpacks. 

So, needless to say, the SOG brand knows how to make tactical gear, and the Ninja is no exception to their lineup.

Whether it's exploring the trails or taking a weekend camping trip with friends, this pack has proven itself to be A-1 for me.

The Ninja isn’t your typical backpack with just a simple main compartment.

The Ninja design has spaces for water bottles on both sides of the pack, or, if you're really serious, a full-on hydration system. The back pouch provides extra space for storage that is also easy to access. Meanwhile a pouch on the inside of the pack is perfect for carrying a tablet or thin laptop.

The SOG Ninja is made from high-quality polyester and the design makes it a functional choice for a vast array of circumstances.

If you're looking for a daypack that can withstand anything you can throw at it, look no further than the SOG Ninja.

3. GoRuck GR1

GoRuck GR1

GoRuck GR1

At a close 3rd in my preference list, I have the GoRuck GR1®. 

This is a medium-sized backpack featuring a simple design synonymous with Special Forces quality rucksacks.

Also synonymous with the best of American Manufacturing.

The GR1® excels in cities, warzones, and traveling the world while rucking.

The original design was used by soldiers operating in Baghdad, yet, versatile enough for city use.

This one features a 21-liter design, and it offers a covert easy-access front slant drop pocked with a triple-row MOLLE webbing for gear attachment.

A bombproof laptop compartment sits against the rear of the pack and is designed to accommodate laptops or hydration pouches.

In a large internal compartment, the GoRuck GR1® also has additional MOLLE webbing, an elastic pouch, a mesh catchall zipper pocket and a shallow zipper pouch near the top for easy access.

I have owned this one for quite some time now and I am quite satisfied with all it has to offer.

4. 5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack

5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack

5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack

Whenever you enter the tactical backpack world, the 5.11 brand-name is synonymous with some of the best backpacks in the industry, which explains why I have this one ranking at the 4th place in my preferred list of tactical backpacks.

The 5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack features an ultra-sturdy construction made of 1050D Nylon. 

The sturdiness of this backpack did not compromise its spacious capacity.

At a 29-liter capacity, the 5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack you can carry all the supplies and essentials you can think of as you head to your outdoor missions.

This backpack features expandable storage space with a shove-in pocket and a fully customizable web and loop platforms on the interior as well as the exterior, easily compatible with extra storage compartments and pouches.

The 5.11 Tactical All Hazards Prime Backpack was strategically designed for staying hydrated and includes a hydration compartment to fit a single hydration pack to keep you fresh in sunny and/or humid environments.

This multi-functional backpack is reliable and sufficiently versatile for most any activity, be it at the range, camping, or hiking, this one is built to do it all.

Must check it out before you decide which is the best tactical backpack for you.

5. 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack

5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack

5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack

As I said before, it is no coincidence that I have two 5.11 backpacks ranking among some of the best tactical backpacks available in the marketplace today.

The 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack, comes in at 5th place, closely following in the footsteps of the 5.11 Tactical All Hazards as cited above.

The 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack also features a sturdy construction of the 1050D Nylon.

It has a zipper closure and a 15.5” shoulder drop.

The Rush 72 is a military design featuring high strength, water-repellant rucksack at an impressive 55-liter capacity.

This MOLLE style backpack has double zippers in the front and in the main compartments with glove-friendly molded grips pulls.

Got to tell you, the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpacks are multifunctional and can be used in a wide array of missions, whether in the range, hunting, hiking, as survival backpack, or for everyday outdoor use, this one fits the bill for all uses.

6. Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

At number 6 in my preference list of best tactical backpacks comes the Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

This modular design is made with the 1050 Denier nylon for water-resistant and tear-resistant sturdiness, and it also features a final coat of DuPont’s Teflon Fabric Protector to repel the elements.

The Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack uses YKK zippers and slides and has military-grade nylon webbings in the straps, handles and modular attachment points.

This backpack offers added strength and functionality by using genuine Duraflex buckles and hardware, which provide for quick access to the central compartment.

The weight distribution on this backpack is handled with its unique Y-shaped midline compression straps, while the foam padded shoulder, waist and sternum straps help to eliminate pressure points.

Really like this one.

Do yourself a favor and check this one out before making your final decision.

7. Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

So, ranking 7th in my list of preferences, is the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

As mentioned earlier, all 3-Day Assault Packs are meant to be used for military simulations which last 2 to 3 days.

As such the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack was designed to hold a large load cargo if yet with ease of access and organization with 7 pockets, including a hydration pack compatible with a 2–3-liter bladder.

This one features body contour shoulder straps with D-Ring for attaching equipment.

It also has a sternum strap and a removable waist belt.

The individual foam back panel offers extra comfort as well as maximum airflow capability.

This heavy-duty backpack has a 50-liter capacity, and you will certainly be able to use this one in your 3-Day mission.

8. Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack

Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack

Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack

Ranking number 8 in my list of best tactical backpacks is the Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack

I can tell you from my own experience, after owning one of these for some time now, the Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack is one of the best tactical backpacks for the money.

Made from 1000D Cordura Nylon 6/6 fabric this versatile 3-pocket design comes with a YKK #10 self-healing chain and zip closures.

This one is a fully modular design featuring dual exit ports for Radio/hydrations set-up.

The one-piece MTX shoulder harness is comfortable, tough, and breathable with an updated modular chest-strap.

This backpack uses tough patented “Battle Buckles” hardware, made here in the USA.

This very affordable backpack offers a lot of value for your money.

9. Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Pack

Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Pack

Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Pack

At number 9 in my preferences comes the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Pack

This one features over 100 external S.T.R.I.K.E. webbing attachment points, thus the name.

The anodized D-rings and quick-cinch buckles offer great compatibility with 3-Day accessory pouches.

The IVS back panel is molded for comfort, stability, and airflow

The Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. Cyclone Pack comes with a 100oz Hydration Pack.

The twin compartments offer extra storage capacity, and a large main compartment has an internal pouch for radio packs and 3 antenna ports with flaps.




The TAD FAST Pack EDC comes in at number 9 in my favorites list of best tactical backpacks. 

This 1800 cubic inch backpack is made of superior materials to protect it against ordinary wear and tear.

The main compartment in this one has a full-zippered clamshell opening with sectional storage capacity as well as a spacious open-air pouch designed for fitting bulkier gear.

Its three-way PALS webbing allows for the attachment of MOLLE accessories, making one a highly customizable daypack.

The ergonomic shoulder straps have D-ring attachment points for stability along with a removable waist strap.

11. 5.11 Rush MOAB 10

5.11 Rush MOAB 10

5.11 Rush MOAB 10

Finally, ranking 11 in the list of best tactical backpacks is the 5.11 Rush MOAB 10

Notably, it is no strange coincidence that this one is yet the 3rd backpack in my list of preferred tactical backpacks made by the tactical American apparel brand name of 5.11.

The 5.11 Rush MOAB 10 is a fully customizable pack with an adjustable cushioned shoulder strap made of water resistant 1050D Nylon.

This military design is loaded with coms pockets at the shoulder, a covert tactic pocket at the rear, and a secondary double-zip pocket.

The MOAB comes with a MOLLE ready sling pack which has multiple interior admin and stash pockets, including a hydration pocket with a pass-through port.

This one is truly a multipurpose backpack.

Honorable Mentions – Two More SOG Backpacks

I just could not finish up this list of the best tactical backpacks without at least making mention of two more SOG Backpacks.

As previously noted, the SOG name is well known in the tactical pack space, and for a good reason. 

Simply put, they make some of the best tactical backpacks on the market. So, while they may not have made the initial cut, here are two more SOG packs that are worth a mention in this list, and worth your consideration:

Summary and Conclusions

So, like I suggested at the beginning of this review, when talking about tactical backpacks, what separates the men from the boys, in our case, tactical backpacks from common everyday packs is the fact that tactical backpacks were all made with military inspired utility in mind.

By the same token, those of us interested in buying tactical backpacks will, for the most part, do so for uses relative to our missions, mostly relative to activities which demand the same qualities, stresses and capabilities as those required in the military.

We can readily conclude and assume that military-style backpacks are quite a critical accessory within the tactical gear world. 

Matter of fact, depending on the specific mission for which you intend to use your tactical backpack, it could be one of the most fundamental considerations in your choice of gear and/or accessories needed.

As I mentioned earlier, tactical backpacks come in a multitude of sizes, shapes, or otherwise a varied array of styles, all of which will have some direct impact on which is the one that will best suit your needs.

I hope that my review here today proves to be of value to you when making that final decision as to which is the best tactical backpack for you.

Whatever you decide, I wish you the best in your undertaking and, again, I hope to have been instrumental in making it somewhat easier for you to reach that final decision. Good luck!

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