10 Best Tactical Backpacks

Law enforcement, the armed forces, outdoorsmen, rescue workers and more require the services of a well-constructed, well designed tactical backpack. Even avid climbers know the value of having a tough, no-nonsense backpack along for the trip because you never know when the weather above treeline is going to suddenly turn south and you’ll be faced with a survival situation. Tactical backpacks are designed to give you access to vital gear and accessories so that you can get on top of situations before they overwhelm you and stay there until the danger has passed.

Below we’re going to take a look at our top 10 tactical backpacks to see what makes them tick and why you should consider buying one. As always the opinions expressed here are those of our product review experts, none of whom have skin in the backpack game that might influence them.

Our Top 3 Picks for Best Tactical Backpack

Contents

If you need to have fast, easy, dependable access to emergency gear and other tactical equipment you’ll want one of these: our 10 best tactical backpacks. First up, our 3 Hall of Fame entries.

Multiple exterior pockets for easy access to important gear.
● 15D nylon with water repellent coating throughout.
● Hydration pocket with dual zippered pull tabs.
● Easy access sunglass pocket at the top is fleece lined to prevent scratches.
● Exterior webbing allows for numerous convenient attachment points.
● Engineered for 3 days of intense activity.

This is the largest backpack in the RUSH series. It’s intended to provide enough space to stow gear, food and other supplies for 3 days. If you are a rescue worker in hurricane prone states you know that the prospects of being on call for 72 hours straight is no fantasy. It’s an unfortunate reality. The RUSH 72 makes sure you’re prepared for it.

Highly durable, water resistant and with enough molle webbing on the exterior to allow you to ad-lib when the situation calls for it, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 72 Backpack doubles as an everyday backpack and an indispensable method of getting the emergency supplies you need, where you need them.

Pros
  • Keeps your equipment and supplies safe and dry in virtually all conditions.
  • The RUSH 72 backpack can be adapted to any situation.
  • A life time tactical companion for about the price of a pair of concert tickets.
Cons
  • They don’t offer many of their own removable exterior bags.
  • Can get a bit unwieldy when fully loaded.
  • You might have to take the pack off to access your sunglasses.

The RUSH 72 tactical backpack is purpose built and fulfills its purpose beautifully. Whether you’re in survival mode above the treeline at night or making your way through floodwaters to assist your neighbors, the RUSH 72 will help you bring the gear, supplies, blankets, medicine or whatever is needed and get it there dry and ready to use.

Among the largest storage compartments of any backpack.
● Fit 2, 3 liter hydration bladders in the special external pockets.
● Dual heavy duty pulls on main compartment optimize access.
● Foam padded back panel for comfort.
● Plenty of molle webbing available for maximum versatility.
● Contour shoulder straps with external compression straps as well.
● 7 total compartments means you’re prepared for any eventuality.

This specialized backpack is built for extreme situations where you’ll need to be toting extra clothes, blankets, food, medicine, flashlights and batteries either for your own survival or to aid in the safe conduct of others from dangerous situations. It’s thoughtfully designed, keeping in mind one of the maxims of emergency tactical gear – versatility is everything. Your maps will be safe and dry inside in the driving rain and when you reach your charge you’ll be able to offer a dry blanket and nutritious snacks aplenty.

Pros
  • This is a big tactical bag, purpose built for extreme situations.
  • Double stitching throughout for secure transport of your materials.
  • Plenty of pockets, Velcro straps and webbing.
  • Extremely comfortable even when fully loaded.
Cons
  • It’s big. Maybe too big for some people. Could become more hindrance than help.
  • Since you’re likely not going to be wearing this backpack in combat situations we’d like to see some reflective materials so people can see you.

From the molle webbing all around to the radio pocket, padded back and heavy duty pulls on the main zippers, this is a backpack that means business. The overall quality is unassailable, the fabric tough as nails and the pockets generally easy to access and large enough to accommodate a variety of materials. Well worth the money, as long as you’re big enough to handle it.

● Hidden pistol compartment just in case.
● Cross body shoulder strap accommodates righties and lefties.
● Nifty coms pocket complete with earplugs cable pass through.
● 1.5 liter hydration pocket ensures you’ll stay hydrated while searching for or waiting on help.
● 5.11 Tier System compatible with any other RUSH backpack.
● Tough 15D water-repellant nylon keeps maps, notes, clothes and blankets nice and dry.
● 5.11s unsurpassed quality and reliability.

Another entry from 5.11 Tactical, the RUSH 10 is a more compact backpack but may be our favorite tactical backpack. Let’s start with the concealed pistol compartment. If you’re tasked with patrolling an evacuated area that’s been hard hit by Mother Nature, there’s always the chance that while you’re looking for survivors you’ll run into some nefarious types looking to take advantage of the situation. In such cases it pays to be ready. Beyond that the interoperability of the RUSH system is another thing we really appreciate about all the RUSH entries. And of course the renowned 5.11 backpack quality always gets our attention.

Pros
  • The ambidextrous shoulder strap makes it easy to secure the backpack under any conditions.
  • The compact size means your backpack is never going to get in the way of your duties.
  • It also means that you don’t have to be built like a linebacker to wear it.
  • We also like the coms pocket with the earbuds cable passthrough.
Cons
  • The location of the coms pocket makes access a bit of a chore.
  • If fully loaded, the shoulder strap can rub on the neck, especially if you’re running.

If you need to move fast and a bulky full size backpack is getting in your way, trade up to the RUSH 10 Mobile Operation Backpack. The RUSH 10 backpack understands the needs of rescue workers to be able to access emergency gear and supplies while also staying light on their feet. It also understands that the world is full of less than honorable types who put first responders and rescue personnel in danger on a daily basis. If we had to pick one tactical backpack a majority of us agree it would be this one.

Honorable Mentions

Now that we’ve had a look at our Hall of Fame backpack entries let’s take a look at those top 10 tactical backpacks that didn’t quite make the HoF cut but are well worth the investment nonetheless. You may even think several of these belong in the Hall of Fame and we’d have a hard time arguing that.

● 900D waterproof nylon throughout for tough conditions.
● Plenty of molle webbing for supreme versatility.
● Small gear pouches inside to keep valuables dry and safe.
● Detachable side pockets available that greatly increase storage capacity.
● Dual shoulder straps augmented by generous chest and waist belts for added stability.
● Available through Amazon only.

The Seibertron Falcon is the kind of backpack that makes you question why others need to be so expensive. You get just about everything here from a waterproof exterior to heaps of molle loops to plenty of optional storage upgrades, attractive design, comfort and durability for about what you pay for cable every month. Seibertron obviously put a lot of thought into the engineering of this tactical bag.

Pros
  • Generous size backpack to hold whatever you need to take into action with you.
  • Shoulder, chest and waist straps mean your gear isn’t going to be clanging around on you.
  • Plenty of separate internal storage pockets for tech, maps, medical supplies and more.
Cons
  • There have been some reports that interior stitching can come loose when stressed.
  • Fully loaded you’re going to be carrying around a lot of weight.
  • Not all zippers seem to be waterproof.

If you want a great backpack for less than 50 bucks you can’t really go wrong with the Seibertron Falcon. While people can rightly debate some of the details, the overall picture is of a tactical pack that will enable you to respond to virtually any situation effectively and efficiently. And isn’t that the whole idea?

● Hydration bladder allows for sipping on the go for added mobility.
● Inspired by the military backpack.
● 600D water resistant polyester exterior won’t back down from rain and snow.
● Scores of molle attachments for optimal versatility.
● Removable waist, shoulder and fanny bags provide multiple storage options.
● 100% “love it or return it” guarantee from Monkey Paks.

Anyone who’s spent time in the armed forces will recognize the design cues at work here. This is, in our humble estimation, what a tactical backpack should look like. Not only that but it delivers on the promises the design makes by being one of the most versatile bags you can buy for less than 100 bucks. It’s comfortable, durable, attractive and has storage options to beat the band and we can’t say enough about the ‘sip on the go’ hydration option. Marathoners have used this type of feature for years. It’s great to see it in a backpack.

Pros
  • Removable bags aplenty give you myriad configuration options.
  • 4 interior zippered pockets watch after your tech and other valuables.
  • Double stitched seams ensure long term durability.
Cons
  • Can be a bit of a low rider backpack depending on the configuration.
  • Other than the detachable bags there aren’t a ton of external molle options.
  • The expandable upper compartment can become a bit cumbersome.

We love the look of this backpack, we’re not going to deny that. There’s also no denying that the bag’s shortcomings are few and far between. For the most part it’s comfortable, even when worn for hours at a time. It’s more or less weatherproof (which is more than you can say for a lot of so-called ‘tactical backpacks’) and it’s durable as all get-out. For less than a C-note you really can’t go wrong with the Monkey Paks Tactical Backpack Bundle.

● Molle attachment options to beat the band.
● Contoured shoulder straps with generous padding for long term comfort.
● Back panel is fully padded and ventilated with Velcro closure at the top.
● Waterproof 600D polyester exterior keeps your kit safe and dry.
● Optional external pocket for 2.5 liter hydration bladder.
● No hassle expansion and contraction via 4 quick release straps.

The volume of material you can carry in this essentially compact backpack is pretty amazing. Unleash the expansion straps and it will accommodate days’ worth of gear and supplies for those long woodland treks or black ops in the Hindu Kush. While you will likely employ it for more prosaic purposes one things is certain: regardless of how or why you use the Red Rock Outdoor Gear Assault backpack you won’t be left wanting.

Pros
  • They’ve thrown in just about everything but the kitchen sink into this backpack.
  • This is one tight, easy to deal with tactical pack that won’t ever wear you out.
  • Shoulder straps have plenty of molded padding which helps on those long slogs.
Cons
  • The molle webbing is too tightly jammed together in places.
  • With the main compartments extended the pack can become a bit unwieldy.
  • The overall look of this backpack isn’t going to win any style awards.

The Red Rock Outdoor Gear Assault Pack makes an excellent first tactical backpack. If you’re not sure exactly what type of backpack you need this one will help you figure it out for short money. It’s got most everything you want in a tactical bag although it’s not an ergonomic masterpiece. For the price though you can’t really go wrong here and we would have included it in our “Best Bang for your Buck” category if we had another space there.

● Compact, expandable design provides an array of configuration options.
● Fashioned from 600D polyester with waterproof coating.
● Heavy duty backpack zippers are oversized for easy open, easy close capability under duress.
● Ultra-lightweight backpack construction means you don’t need to be the Hulk to carry it.
● Available in an array of attractive designs for hunting, camping or rescue work.

The Eyourlife Military Tactical Backpack is not flashy but it gets the job done. A plethora of storage options, the ability to easily expand the main compartments and the various molle stations on the bag’s exterior mean that you’ll never be left stuffing important supplies into your pants pockets. Overall the pack is lightweight and efficient, though it’s not without its issues, which we’ll touch on below.

Pros
  • Compact enough to take ice or rock climbing, hunting and more.
  • Won’t melt in the rain or dissolve when the snow starts falling.
  • Some of the most attractive design options of any low-end backpack.
Cons
  • With main compartments extended outward balance can become an issue.
  • Could use a couple of more expansion straps.
  • You’re not going to take this backpack into combat so where is the reflective fabric?

As you may have noticed by now we get a bit peeved when bags clearly earmarked for recreational use don’t include some form of reflective surface so you can be seen easier in an emergency. That said, in most other respects this is a great starter backpack and one that will serve you well whether you’re heading into the woods on 2 feet or 2 wheels. Pros may want a backpack with better overall balance but for everyone else this backpack is an outstanding value.

● High density 600D waterproof polyester material for durability.
● Hydration compartment with pass through feature for access tube.
● Smart backpack design. Well balanced and human scale.
● Main compartment expandable to provide for extra materials, gear and supplies as needed.
● Comfortable padded shoulder straps.
● 4 zippered side pockets for convenient, easy access to your most important kit.
● Top carrying strap for when you need it.

With the look and feel of more expensive bags, a waterproof shell and a plethora of storage options the NPUSA Men’s Expandable Tactical Backpack would be a great deal at twice the price. For a compact backpack it holds plenty of material and does so with ease, until you expand the main compartment and try to cram it with whatever. At that point balance begins to break down a bit although novice users may not even notice. You’re probably not going to wear this backpack during the siege of Raqqa so we’d recommend the solid black version.

Pros
  • The 4 external pockets make it easy to access important gear, medical supplies etc.
  • The hydration pocket with the built in pass through feature for your mouthpiece is welcome.
  • Military backpack overtones make for a more appropriate profile for a tactical backpack.
Cons
  • Some of the camouflage options are head-scratchingly bad.
  • Backpack can become unbalanced with fully loaded and expanded.
  • Shoulder straps aren’t as comfortable as you need on long excursions.

Whether hiking, camping, hunting or even if you play a support role in rescue ops, the NPUSA Men’s Expandable Tactical Backpack will serve you well in any conditions. It looks more serious than it is but it’s still plenty versatile and displays above average functionality. You could choose a more expensive tactical bag but unless you have some compelling need to this should serve your needs just fine for a long time.

Best Bang For Your Buck

● Heavy duty 600D polyester waterproof shell for maximum mission versatility.
● 5 distinct compartments with plenty of storage capacity.
● Expandable backpack compartments to accommodate extra clothes, gear, food and medical supplies.
● External 2.5 liter water bladder included so you’re never left high and dry.
● Paracord zippers are quiet and smooth but tough as nails and built to military standards.

The Monkey Paks Bug Out Backpack is yet more proof that MP knows their stuff. This is an exceptionally made tactical bag with plenty of storage options, a water resistant shell and the company’s standard issue external bladder because they know an army runs on water. All the zippers here are first rate, open and close effortlessly and are built to last. The shoulder straps are well padded and the molle features are well-placed if a bit sparse.

Pros
  • Rock solid construction in a fairly compact extremely versatile tactical bag.
  • Excellent vessel for your kit whether you’re camping or rescuing hurricane victims.
  • External top hook is always a welcome feature.
Cons
  • Like many a backpack with a similar boxy profile it gets unwieldy when expanded.
  • Not as many molle options as we normally like.
  • When the 2.5 liter water bladder is full the backpack gets heavy.

This tactical bag is one of the few bags at the low end of the price spectrum that could attract the attention of seasoned pros. The build quality is excellent. The storage capacity is generous. Backpack is laid out logically. The shell will stand up to rain, snow, hail and whatever. And it’s nice to know you’ll always have plenty of water in the backpack if you need it.

● 3 way carrying capability via the shoulder, chest or back for optimum versatility.
● Ultra-compact backpack design carries just the essentials.
● Convenient top carry strap of rip-stop nylon.
● Lightweight water resistant 600D polyester shell keeps the outdoors outdoors.
● Durable double-stitching keeps everything together.
● Paracord zipper pulls for easy open easy close capability.
● Unbelievable low price.

The G4Free Tactical Sling Pack is a breath of fresh air in the often crowded tactical backpack environment. First responders, emergency workers, hard-bitten special ops soldiers, ice-climbers and more will find this backpack to be a compact companion when the going gets tough. Rock solid throughout with molle attachments, loops and snaps galore this is not only the smallest backpack on our list, it might just be the most versatile when all is said and done.

Pros
  • Compact size ensures backpack never gets unwieldy.
  • No matter how you wear it, it’s always there in seconds when you need it.
  • While you won’t summit of Everest with this backpack it’s perfect for rock and ice-climbing.
  • It’s a small tactical backpack but it’s loaded with plenty of places to attach additional gear.
Cons
  • The fact that it’s a small tactical backpack will be seen by some to be a drawback.
  • The single strap can become tiresome on long hauls.
  • Zipper quality is questionable.

A great little backpack and a solid Best Bang for your Buck entry that will have you wondering if you might just be able to leave your full sized backpack home next hunting season. More than that, it’s ideally sized for first responders, allowing them to carry the necessary medical and other supplies they need to do their job effectively. It can also be used as a dedicated medical backpack to augment a larger tactical bag for extreme emergencies like the aftermath of tornadoes and hurricanes.

Buyer Questions

Here are a few of the most common questions people have related to tactical backpacks.

What is a Tactical Backpack?

As alluded to at the beginning of this piece this type of backpack is designed to give military personnel, first responders, emergencies services, hunters, climbers, campers and others ready access to vital gear and accessories in order to get and stay on top of situations.

Who Makes the Best One?

This is a common enough but completely subjective question. There are those who swear by this brand of backpack and others who are just as vociferous in their support of a rival make and model. The bottom line question should really be: “Who makes the best tactical backpack for your needs?”

How to Use a Tactical Bag?

This type of backpack is designed to withstand greater stresses, endure a multitude of environmental hazards, provide you the ability to think on your feet and have ready access to the things you need to neutralize emergencies. You’d do well to think carefully about the distribution of materials and various emergency and other supplies in your backpack, with prime consideration given to access and likelihood of use.

Where to Buy a Tactical Backpack?

While many manufacturers of tactical backpacks offer their products through brick and mortar outlets, you’ll probably save more buy purchasing one through an online retailer like Amazon. The one drawback of course being that you can’t get a feel of the backpack before you buy it.

Things to Consider When Buying a Tactical Backpack

Materials – The material your backpack is made from is important. If you spend a lot of time outdoors exposed to the weather, you’re going to want one that’s waterproof and extremely durable.
Storage Capacity – Depending on how you plan to use your backpack you may need one with lots of space to hold emergency blankets and the like. If you just intend to use it to hold ‘biners, ice screws, power bars and water you’ll be alright with a smaller pack.
Portability – If you plan on taking your backpack on long treks you’ll want one with padded shoulder straps, a chest strap and a waist strap. If you just sling your pack quickly as you dash toward the accident victim a single shoulder strap should do just fine.
Carrying Capacity – While the volume of backpack storage space needs to be considered, so does the overall weight of the pack when full. As a general rule you don’t want to carry more than 20% of your total body weight on your back for any prolonged period of time.
Hydration Bladders – Hydration is a major consideration for trekkers. If you are taking your backpack into the woods or on long exposed treks the more water the better.

Conclusion

The backpack has evolved over the years to the point now that they provide just about every level of durability and functionality a person could want or need. Whether you operate out of an air base in Kandahar or a fire station in Kansas City or whether you’re a hunter, climber or camper you owe it to yourself to augment your everyday kit with a hard-working, affordable tactical backpack.

We hope you find these tactical backpack reviews helpful and be sure to check back often for more useful reviews and information.