Best Tactical Backpack of 2020 | Expert Advice
If you quickly want to find out which is the best tactical backpack, I’d recommend the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72.
Tactical backpacks differ from their hiking counterparts in one big way: weight. Hiking backpacks, even if they’re not designed for ultra-light backpackers, must strike a balance between weight and durability. Tactical backpacks, on the other hand, prioritize durability above all else. Because they’re made from stronger and thicker fabrics, they are nearly always heavier than a hiking backpack of the same size.
If weight is not a concern for you, because you won’t be carrying the bag long distances or because you need it to withstand a lot of abuse, a tactical backpack will be a good choice for you.
Below are reviews for ten of the best tactical backpacks on the market. They vary in size, style, and organizational features, so carefully consider what your specific needs are before purchasing any tactical backpack.
Our Top 10 Tactical Backpacks of 2020
#1 Maxpedition Sitka Gearslinger
1000 denier Polyurethane Coated Nylon
15 L (940 ci)
#2 Hazard 4 Plan-B
1000 denier Cordura
17.7 L (1080 ci)
#3 Tactical Tailor Flight Right Removable Operator
500 denier Cordura
19. 3 L (1178 ci)
#4 Blackhawk Cyane Dynamic Tactical Pack
500 denier Nylon
21.7 L (1329 ci)
#5 Maxpedition Falcon II
1000 denier Polyurethane Coated Nylon
23 L (1400 ci)
#6 Erblestock Halftrack
1000 denier Nylon
35.2 L (2150 ci)
#7 5.11 Tactical Rush 24
1050 denier Nylon
37 L (2275 ci)
#8 Condor 3 Day Assault
1000 denier Nylon
50 L (3038 ci)
#9 5.11 Tactical Rush 72
1050 denier Nylon
55 L (3342 ci)
#10 Sandpiper of California Long Range Bug Out Bag
1000 denier Cordura
91.8 L (5600 ci)
When you want to go fast and light, this sling is the pack to have. At just 15 liters, it’s the smallest pack on this list. If you’re the minimalist type who doesn’t need a whole lot of gear, but want the things you do carry to be highly accessible, the Gearslinger is the perfect option.
It’s not the ideal bag for long slogs in the woods, but for shorter trips, its design will keep your gear close at hand. Priced at around $120, it’s a little more expensive than most bags of its size, but you’ll appreciate its quality and accessibility as an everyday carry.
- Unlike many sling packs, the Gearslinger has an additional retention strap that connects the main sling to the side of the pack. This prevents it from moving around too much and makes it more comfortable to carry.
- At 2.3 lbs., the Gearslinger is incredibly light, and its small size will prevent you from overloading it. It’s great for carrying just a few crucial items for an outing.
- The admin compartment has a few elastic pockets to keep smaller items organized and tidy. The Gearslinger is all about easy access, and that means your pack needs to be well organized.
- Sling packs are often less comfortable than their double-strap counterparts, but the Gearslinger seems to be more uncomfortable than most. Perhaps it’s the angle of the strap or way it carries the load, but this is not a bag that you’d want to carry all day, especially if it’s on a grueling hike.
- At just 15 liters, you’re not going to be fitting much in this pack. It’s not a bug out bag, and it’s barely a daypack. If you’re previously hiked with a pack of this size, you’ll need to consider the configuration of its compartments, too. A single 15-liter compartment is going to feel larger than three smaller pockets than total 15 liters, as on this pack. While the company says it can carry a laptop, it can really only fit something the size of a MacBook Air or smaller.
Sling packs are great for people who need to get to the gear in their bag quickly. With a traditional backpack, you need to take off one strap, if not both of them, to access what’s inside. A sling, on the other hand, can be quickly maneuvered around to the front and then returned to the back once you have what you need.
The Plan-B is a fantastic example of a great sling pack, one that is highly customizable and carries as much gear as your normal daypack.
- This is an excellent pack for keeping everything organized, with a main compartment, two external pockets (one large and one small), and a pouch for a three-liter hydration reservoir.
- The main compartment has movable internal dividers that would make it a great camera bag for carrying lots of accessories.
- Sling packs aren’t for everyone, and it’s going to take some getting used to if you’ve never carried one.
- They’re also just not great for long distance hikes; all of the weight is carried on your shoulders, which gets tiring after a while.
- At 18 liters, the Plan-B is the second smallest pack on this list. It’s a great pack if you know exactly what you need for your outing, not so much if you are the “always be prepared” type. It just doesn’t have the capacity to hold that much gear.
This Flight Light pack was designed with flexibility in mind. On its own, it’s a very well made 19-liter daypack. However, it can also be attached to a larger, MOLLE loop-equipped backpack or armor plate carrier using a series of detachable buckles.
For longer trips, fill it with your most essential supplies and hook it to your bug out bag, and then remove it when you need to be more mobile.
- The Removable Operator has two zippered compartments, a main pocket and a smaller external pouch. Together, they hold a surprisingly large amount of gear – plenty for most day trips.
- The MOLLE webbing on the outside allows for some accessory attachments like a knife or flashlight holder. Just don’t get too crazy with pouches, or the bag will get too heavy for its size.
- Another plus: the shoulder straps and waist belt can be tucked away when attaching the bag to an armor carrier or another backpack.
- The padded straps that come on the Removable Operator are not very strong and shouldn’t be used to carry much weight. It’s just a 19-liter pack, though, so it probably won’t be that heavy in the first place.
The Cyane from Blackhawk is a small (21-liter) low-profile daypack with a fairly innovative design. The well-padded straps come up high on your shoulders, so the bag will sit lower on your back and provide a more stable posture.
The pack is divided into two main compartments that are connected by compression straps and mesh, for gear that shouldn’t go in the main compartments. Priced at around $100, it’s a fantastic buy for anyone who needs to carry a day’s worth of gear and doesn’t mind if their pack cuts down a bit on mobility.
- MOLLE webbing on the back panel means the pack can be attached directly to armor carrier and vests, which is particularly advantageous to consumers in the military and law enforcement. However, it also means that this small pack can be secured to a larger one, making it a great choice for hikers and travelers who want a detachable daypack.
- The Cyane has a large mesh stuff pocket located between the main compartment and front beavertail-style compartment. This is a great place to put wet or dirty clothes, and prevents damage to gear in the other compartments.
- The Cyane has no hip belt; even though this isn’t a particularly large bag and you won’t be carrying too much weight in it, not having a belt seems like a glaring error.
- The secondary, beavertail-shaped main compartment isn’t large enough to hold much. It’s useful as an admin pocket, but not much else.
The Falcon II is an excellent choice for anyone who needs a solid everyday carry that is built well and offers just enough space for the day’s essentials.
This 23-liter bag has four compartments, two of which are admin pouches filled with elastic sleeves for holding smaller items. Priced around $120, it’s a good bargain for a bag of this size.
- The Falcon II has a low-profile design, which is very narrow and doesn’t leave much sticking out on the sides. This is great if you’ll be moving through thick brush or tight spaces and don’t want to be bumping into everything.
- The 1,000-denier nylon and YKK zippers make this one of the toughest backpacks on the market. It will last through years of abuse, and you’ll never need to worry about a sudden trip-ruining failure in the field.
- It also sports a lockable zippered compartment up front that can be used to hold a concealed carry or larger pistols.
- While most of the packs on this list are somewhat water-resistant, Maxpedition goes a step further by applying a layer of polyurethane to the nylon. This makes it much more impervious to water, but it has the side effect of making the bag feel stiff and plastic-like. That’s not a huge problem if what you’re carrying is uniformly shaped and rectangular, but it will be annoying if your gear is more irregular. It also won’t conform to the load as well, which will cause things to jostle around more if the bag isn’t completely full.
- Many users have also reported that the backpack’s tight fit and poor backpanel ventilation make for a very sweaty experience. As a result, this may not be the best bag for hot weather hiking.
Eberlestock isn’t that well known, but with packs that are incredibly tough and well designed, they’re becoming a major player in the tactical backpack industry. Continuing in that tradition is the 35-liter Halftrack, a modular-style pack that’s also the perfect carry-on bag.
- The Halfrack is made from 1,000-denier nylon, which is nearly indestructible. The stitching is also top notch, so you won’t notice any fraying for years to come. Beyond some minor scuffing, this pack would last for several years with nearly everyday use.
- The pack utilizes a panel loading design, with a large main compartment flanked by two large side pouches, a top pocket, and a hydration sleeve capable of holding two 3-liter bladders.
- Both the interior and exterior of the back panel have MOLLE loops sewn in, allowing for the attachment of a variety of accessory pouches, an important feature for a versatile tactical backpack.
- While the exterior of the bag is incredibly tough, the same can’t be said of the interior fabric. The elastic pockets that line the sides of the main compartment will quickly wear out with much use; it probably would have been better to not have them at all.
- There’s also a “shelf” divider built into the main compartment, which you may or may not like. If you prefer some extra organizational features, it’s a nice addition, but it might just be annoying if you’d rather be able to customize how your bag is set up.
Built to last and with all the space you need for 24 hours worth of gear, the Rush 24 just might be the perfect daypack. The 37-liter bag is divided into three compartments: the main pouch and two smaller admin pockets behind it.
Of all the bags on this list, it might be the most well organized, with the main pouch containing multiple zippered mesh compartments and the admin pockets filled with elastic sleeves and compartments to organize smaller objects.
- The Rush 24 is really well made, constructed from 1,050-denier nylon and utilizing YKK zippers. This bag’s durability is unmatched – it’s going to last for years. The zipper pulls are also large enough that you’ll easily be able to operate them with gloves on.
- The backpanel and sides are both covered in MOLLE loops, so you can add pouches external pouches for things like a First-Aid kit, some snacks, or holders for flashlights and knifes. Anything attached to the loops will be very accessible.
- The shoulder straps are inadequate for a bag of this capacity, and there’s also no hip belt, which is not ideal for a 37-liter backpack. While the name suggests it can hold a day’s worth of gear, it’s unlikely you’d want to carry this bag fully loaded for a whole day of hiking. That’s just too much weight on the shoulders.
- Some users might also be bothered by the over-organization of the pack. A look in the front pocket reveals numerous admin pockets and sleeves, which are great if they fit the items you want to put in the bag, but not so great if they don’t. Numerous admin pockets are always a feature of the 5.11 Tactical packs; you either love it or hate it.
Note: To see an in-depth review of this product, click here.
Condor’s 3-Day Assault Pack is an excellent choice for a bug out bag, with enough space to hold three days worth of gear. It has a total of 50 liters worth of storage between its expandable main pocket, admin pockets, side pouches, hydration pockets, and bottom pouch.
- This is a great bag for keeping all your gear organized. The main zippered pocket has a panel opening, which reveals two large zippered pouches on the back panel. Opening the second zippered pocket on the top of the bag reveals an admin pouch, with several storage spaces and elastic keepers for holding smaller objects.
- There are also zippered pouches on each side, which are great for things like a radio, phone, or other small electronics. Then, there’s another admin pocket on the bottom of the bag for bulkier items.
- To store hydration systems, there are pockets on both the front and back of the bag, which can hold 2- or 3-liter bladders each.
- This bag also has a few details that are fairly common in mountaineering bags but aren’t seen as much in tactical backpacks.
- The first is drainage grommets; there’s always a possibility your hydration bladder could leak in your pack, and you don’t want your gear sitting in that water. The grommets will allow the bag to drain.
- The second is compression straps, which are standard on larger hiking packs. They keep your load from flopping around, and will make longer expeditions infinitely more comfortable.
- There are not very many downsides to this bag, especially since it costs less than $100. Some users have reported that, although the zippers are high quality, the pull-tabs on them can come off easily.
- The large number of admin pockets might also be a bit of a turn off, if you prefer to customize how your bag is used instead of having the manufacturer decide for you.
The Rush 72 is one of the most popular bug out bags on the market, because it’s the perfect size (fits 72 hours worth of gear) and has just the right amount of organizational features for holding all your emergency supplies.
- At around $200, it’s well priced for budget-conscious consumers. This is almost unheard of for a tactical backpack of this size.
- This pack is designed for neat freaks, with all kinds of organizational compartments including a fleece-lined glasses pouch, map and pen pockets, small electronics pockets, large shove-it pouch, and multiple leashes for holding things like key rings.
- Even though the Tactical Rush can hold 55 liters of gear, its dimensions still allow it to be used as a carry-on bag on most airlines.
- When full, this backpack can feel boxy, and it does not contour to the body very well. You’ll have to be careful in crowded areas or you might bump into things or other people.
- The Tactical Rush is large, and it’s intended to carry a lot of gear, but the hip belt doesn’t hold the bag’s weight very well on your hips. If you need to carry it long distances, you’re going to be feeling the weight on your shoulders.
The Long Range Bug Out Bag is a great choice for anyone who needs to carry several days worth of critical supplies; it’s a 68-liter bag when cinched down, but can be expanded to 90 liters. It’s probably too large to use for an everyday carry, but priced between $150 and $200, you can’t beat it for storing emergency supplies.
- Compression straps on the side let you make the pack as big or as small as the load you’re carrying. This feature is often missing from tactical backpacks, but it’s an important one for making a bag this large more manageable.
- The shoulder harness can be concealed to allow the pack to be carried from the side handle, like a suitcase. However, even in its unexpanded form, it’s probably too big to work as a carry-on bag when fully packed.
- When fully expanded, there’s 90 liters of storage space in this pack; but its design, especially the thin hip belt, is inadequate for carrying this much weight more than a mile or so. The pack also has a boxy shape that extends too far behind the user, making it a hazard in crowded area.
Conclusion – The Best Tactical Backpack
While all of the backpacks reviewed here could be a great choice, one is clearly superior to the others. With its durable construction, durability, and organizational capacity, the 5.11 Tactical Rush 72 is the best tactical backpack and a cut above the rest. As an everyday carry or a carry-on bag, it’s the perfect size too. It’s also not the most expensive bag on the list, and is a good option for budget minded consumers.
While it’s is probably the best tactical backpack overall, you should still consider your specific needs and how they might be better served by one of the other packs on the list. Perhaps you need more space or would prefer a sling pack that can be accessed more easily.
Tactical backpacks are a great choice for anyone that wants a pack that can stand up to abuse, but most are specialized in their purpose and it’s incredibly important that you know which features will be useful for you. Buying a tactical backpack is all about finding the bag that works best for your specific needs.