Daypacks are one of the most essential pieces of hiking gear and are often the first piece of equipment you’ll buy. You may not have the time to take multi-day trips to the woods or to go on six-month-long thru hikes, but you can always set aside a couple hours for a day hike close to where you live. And that’s where the 5.11 Rush 12 comes in.
If you have even the slightest interest in the outdoors, you’ll need a daypack. If the pack doesn’t fit your needs, any problems only compound over time.
This article provides you with an in depth review of the 5.11 Rush 12 Tactical backpack and why it should be the first choice for your next expedition.
5.11 Rush 12 Tactical Backpack Reviewed
Size: 24-liter/1476 cubic inch capacity
Materials: 1050 denier nylon, YKK zippers
Straps: Wide shoulder straps equipped with MOLLE loops and an adjustable height sternum strap
- Main (18”x11”x6.5”)
- Bottom-Front (12”x9”x1.75”)
- Hydration Pouch (17”x11”)
- Eyewear Pouch
One of the biggest advantages to a tactical backpack, or any pack designed for military personnel, is that they tend to be very well built. The 5.11 Backpack is no different in that respect; it’s constructed of 1050 denier nylon and closes with YKK zippers. You will want a backpack made from high quality materials even if you’re not in a warzone or survival scenario.
1050-denier nylon, also known as ballistic nylon, is more abrasion- and puncture-proof than standard backpacks, which are usually made of lower quality nylon and polyester instead. It will last longer for you, and you can trust that it won’t rip when it’s loaded down.
YKK manufactures high quality zippers, and having a backpack outfitted with them will prevent those annoying situations where the zipper pull becomes bent and can no longer close its teeth as intended. The zipper pulls are also large enough that they can be used with thick gloves in the winter.
Plenty of Space
At 24 liters, the Rush 12 is a larger daypack. Many people carry bags in the 15- to 20-liter range for day hikes; having some extra space will give you more flexibility in how much you can carry and how long you can stay out in the wilderness. The extra space in the Rush 12 doesn’t come with the burden of being too bulky; compression straps on the sides of the bag allow you to cinch it down to whatever size load you’re carrying.
If you want to use the Rush 12 for more than your hiking adventures, it works well as a commuter bag and can transport a computer as large as a 15” MacBook Pro. Be sure to wash the mud off before you carry it into the office though.
If you do run out of space for gear, the MOLLE loops on the front, sides, and shoulder straps allow for endless configurations of external pouches. If you don’t need the space, they can also be a great place to store items you need to get to quickly: a flashlight, water filtration system, First-Aid kit, map, or even just snacks.
The Rush Tier System is sold separately and provides an easy-to-use set of straps and buckles for attaching external pouches to any MOLLE loop-equipped backpack. You can attach and detach pouches to suit the requirements of the trail you’ll be hiking that day.
Can’t Carry Enough Water
The hydration pouch compartment can only hold 1.5 liters of water. This is not enough for hot weather or strenuous hikes. It would be less of a problem if the pack also had external water bottle holders, but unfortunately, it doesn’t. You’ll need to carry extra bottles of water in the pack when you go hiking on anything more than easy trails.
The biggest downside of this pack is something that 5.11 backpack promotes as a positive – the pack has organizers already built in. The fleece-lined eyewear pouch can hold your sunglasses, and the admin pouch has various pockets for organizing keys, flashlight, and other small pieces of equipment.
This is the wrong approach if you want a tactical backpack though. You should buy your own organizational pouches to insert into the main compartment or attach to the outside of the pack. This would better solve the clutter problem. The admin pockets are a case of over-engineering that limits the pack’s flexibility.
Inadequate Straps for Carrying Heavy Loads
There’s no hip belt included with the 5.11 backpack, which means you’ll be carrying the full weight of the pack on your shoulders. Daypacks don’t need to carry as much weight as an overnight pack, but it would be exhausting to haul this bag around all day at full capacity.
You can purchase an optional hip belt if you feel it’s too much strain on your shoulders. Unfortunately, the strap is too narrow to be effective and sits higher than will be comfortable for your hips. This tactical backpack’s biggest downside is that it severely limits how much weight you can carry.
What You Want in a Daypack
You need to consider how you’re going to use your daypack and what you’re planning to use it for, particularly what kind of gear you’ll be bringing and how long you’ll be in the wilderness. The first, and most important consideration you’ll make will be the capacity of the backpack.
If you’ll only be hiking well-worn trails that are near town, you can bring less survival equipment (fire-making, water filtration, etc.) and carry even less First-Aid gear, since help will be nearby. On the other hand, if you are traversing very technical terrain far from medical attention, you’ll need a large pack capable of carrying a wider range of gear.
If you’ll be carrying a heavier load, it’s a good idea to choose a daypack with a wide hip belt, as this is where most of the weight will be sitting and you don’t want the belt digging into your skin. Sternum straps are also useful, especially on more technical terrain where you might be scrambling. It will keep the backpack centered and prevent it from swinging around.
Most packs have a place for a hydration reservoir, and it’s important to compare the reservoir’s capacity to the amount of water you’ll need on a typical hike. You can always supplement with water bottles if a particular trail demands it though.
Hikers often overlook organization when purchasing a daypack. Items fall to the bottom of the main compartments and become inaccessible. This will result in you having to unpack your whole bag along the side of the trail to reach them.
Look for a daypack that’s easy to organize, but don’t be afraid to buy additional tools (stuff sacks, pouches, etc.) to turn a cavernous main compartment into a tidy gear storage space.
Whatever backpack you choose, be sure it’s something that fits your hiking needs. It should be comfortable, and keep your gear accessible and well organized. The 5.11 Rush 12 Tactical backpack is a great choice for many hikers, and this review will show where it succeeds and fails on these criteria.
The 5.11 Rush 12 is excellent if you want the flexibility and durability that comes with a tactical backpack. It’s constructed of high quality materials, and the MOLLE loops let you attach and detach equipment as the situation dictates. However, the admin pockets in the main compartments limit this flexibility by dictating what kind of gear should go where.
The backpack is also not that suitable for long distances or hikes that require you to carry heavy gear. The waist belt (not included) is inadequate and the hydration pouch won’t let you carry enough water for long hikes in hot terrain.
Ultimately, this bag is recommended for light-duty hikes, but for consumers who want something that is built to last.