Ruck It: Top Tactical Backpacks – Updated January 2017

Are you looking for the best tactical backpack? You’re in luck, as there has never been a better time to consider a tactical bag with tons of great options on the market. 2016 starts a new era for most new firearm enthusiasts. When looking at all the new weapons and ammunition that’s coming out, a lot of people often stop to think of how they are going to carry all this new weaponry. Tactical bags and backpacks are definitely the answer to making sure you’re ready to get in the training or fighting arena with all your gear in tow.

 

Innovation in tactical bags moves quickly but before we move forward we should look at where tactical backpacks came from. Backpacks have been used during all military operations as far back as the early armies were formed in most civilized nations. The invention of the pack allowed all ground troops to carry small items with them (such as food, water, and misc items) and would allow them to survive a few days away from their home units. The bags of today greatly differ from the earliest packs due to the creation of materials that allow packs today to be much more sturdier and comfortable than before. Packs today have been designed with some medical research that allow weight to be evenly distributed across the shoulders, spine and hips.

Best Tactical Backpacks

A tactical backpack allows you to carry equipment into a combat or combat training environment. Usually consisting of earth tones, the colors allow the operator to blend into their environments with minimal color differentiation from the surrounding space. A dedicated water source is usually designed into the pack. Hydration is critical when carrying 40 pounds of additional gear over a planned mission. MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing is also stitched on the bag so that pouches and other accessories can be webbed onto the bag as needed.

 

Most tactical backpacks are made of ripstop Cordura nylon. The nylon allows for water to be repelled during use. The nylon also ensures that the weather elements don’t break down the fibers while exposed, causing your bag to rip while the mission continues. The ripstop nylon feature allows the bag to have some resistance to tearing while troops move through rougher environments such as caves, deserts, and jungles.

 

Since tactical packs are priced mid-range and can quickly escalate in price who would benefit from a tactical backpack? All military troops benefit from a tactical pack and most are even standard issue. Security forces or personnel in charge of protecting other people would also benefit from a tactical pack. Tactical bags vary in sizes and are small to large depending on the assignment of the user. Field medical personnel can also benefit from tactical packs as they have to carry many intricate items within their compartments. Smaller bags are designed for special forces that need minimal equipment other than what is already on their chest or their weapons.

 

Tactical packs are different than regular backpacks because they usually consist of several features. Wider shoulder straps, an internal frame, a water source, and Molle webbing allow end users to customize their packs to the mission. Tac-bags need to be modular and need to be adaptable to many different environments and missions. Accessory outlets within the bags allow the soldier to run electronics while still concealing the equipment in use. Antenna cutouts, water hose cutouts, and even quick release latches allow the soldier to drop a pack and engage his fight without carrying the extra weight. The soldier can quickly recover the pack when he is done engaging the targets.

Tactical packs have compartments within them that allow the operator to store intricate items such as batteries, pens, maps, radio equipment, glow sticks, flashlights, magazines, small weapons, knives, 550 cord, food, and warming layers. Most bags will have compartments for these smaller items.

A solid tac-pack should also allow the operator to wear body armor and cold weather clothing without interfering with a comfortable shoulder replacement. When troops wear additional layers the shoulder straps can slowly slip off. A sternum strap will help keep the shoulder straps in place.

Tactical bags and backpacks are definitely an essential piece of gear for any gun enthusiast to purchase. Protecting critical gear to finish the mission is important. Even more so is taking that gear with you. Keep training, and stay organized.

The Best Tactical Backpack List


5.11 Rush 24 Backpack

Best Tactical Backpack - 5.11 Rush 24 Backpack

The 5.11 Rush 24 is an internal frame backpack. The 24 in the name is taken from the fact that the bag is supposed to be able to support you for 24 hours in the field. The side pockets each have two compartments to help organize them. The hydration tube can be taken from either side of the hydration bladder up through the feed holes by handle, which is double-sticked to give it robust durability. There are two compression straps on each side of the bag, which really helps keep your load out nice and tight, as you definitely don’t want your gear shifting around on you in the field.

The Rush 24 has 2,000 cubic inch capacity, and 5.11 makes similar packs in other sizes. Specifically, the Rush 12 in 1,296 cubic inch capacity and the Rush 72 in 2,639 cubic inch capacity. The Rush series from 5.11 constantly gets praise for being incredibly tough. The 1050 denier ballistic nylon the bag is constructed from can stand up to virtually anything. Make no mistake though, this is not a backpacker’s ruck. It weighs over 3 pounds due to the bags robust construction, so if you value weight over durability for your use, look elsewhere. However, if you’re looking for an amazingly tough tactical bag at a very fair price for its capabilities, read on.

It’s obvious from first interacting with this bag how well it is designed. Everything on this bag is proof of how much thought and user feedback 5.11 put into making the best possible tactical backpack. The most obvious example of this is the eyeglass pocket on the top of the bag, which is quite handy. It sucks looking for your glasses when you need them, and it helps knowing that they aren’t being crushed in the bottom of the main compartment. The eyeglasses pocket is even lined so cases for your favorite pair of shades are optional when you have this bag with you. Fancy. This careful eye for design follows throughout the bag, and most pockets have extremely well laid out organizational features.

The only thing even close to a complaint we have about the design is that only the Rush 72 comes with a waist strap. This means that if you go with the Rush 24, really load it down and pack for an extended period of time, you will likely find yourself very tired. For that reason, we would have liked to have seen the option for a waist strap on the 24, but it might be a nonissue to some users depending on their individual preferences.

The capacity of the bag is aided by the generous use of a MOLLE system that will allow you to attache almost anything to the external areas of the ruck. The back panels and side panels of the Rush series are MOLLE capable.

In terms of construction quality, users of the Rush series sing praises of the packs for the heavy-duty self healing zippers from YKK, which are aided by 5.11’s paracord that help you operate the bag with gloved hands, the heavy wear seams are great, and the water resistance works well in light showers. Although, if you do find yourself stuck in a downpour, the bag will get soaked. However, the two drain holes will help get the pack dry again as soon as possible. The bag really cleans up well also, and looks great even after moderate to hard use if you attempt to keep it well maintained.

If you would like to see 5.11 give an overview of the bag, watch the following short video.

If you’re short on time and you’re looking for a great tactical bag, just go get a Rush series pack from 5.11 picking the most appropriate size for you.

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Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

 

Best Tactical Backpacks - Maxpedition Falcon II

The Maxpedition Falcon-II bag really does a great job at expanding in exactly where you need the additional space. The bag easily fits as a carry on in commercial airliners, but the dual directional zippers allow the bag to completely open as a clamshell, making accessibility a breeze.

The bag is very generous in capacity, coming in at 1,520 cubic inches. However, Maxpedition have purposely kept the width of the big to a minimum. This is important for a tactical ruck, as added width could impair your ability to go through small doorways, getting in tight areas, or moving through brush quickly. For that reason, Maxpedition made the Falcon-II deep rather than wide. While the MOLLE attachments aren’t quite as generous as they are on the 5.11 pack, the placement of the webbing makes sense and should allow you to attach anything you need in an area that makes sense with that philosophy. If you are looking for a backpacking bag, this is good, but not ideal. The shape really was designed with a tactical slant, which means the weight can be some distance from the back when carrying this pack, making some long overnight camping trips difficult. However, the ergonomics as a tactical backpack are superb and the pack allows a generous range of motion. You can move your arms really freely for having a good-sized pack on your back. Maxpedition also includes plenty of extra strap material for big and tall guys, which is always nice.

The bottom is a rubberized, which feels very strong, but the downside is it does not have drainage holes. If you know you will be out in the field in miserable conditions, that may be a downside, but if you only plan to go hiking on weekends with beautiful weather, it is a non-issue.

The pack is constructed with 1050 Denier water and abrasion resistant ballistic nylon fabric. Maxpedition has added a fabric protector to its nylon for grime resistance and easy maintenance. High strength zippers and zipper tracks and double stitched stress points all combine to make this bag ready for anything from a company that has a great brand name due to a reputation of delivering.

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Condor 3 Day Assault Backpack

Best Tactical Backpack - Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

The Condor 3 Day Assault Pack is a large 3,038 cubic inch internal frame backpack made from 1000 denier, water and wear resistant nylon. Capacity is massive in this bag, which can handle overnight trips with ease. This pack is clearly a large pack, coming in at about 6 pounds. The hydration pocket can fit up to a 3 liter bladder, which can be secured by two velcro hangers at the top of the bag. The fact that grommets at the bottom allow the liquid to drain out in case the bladder is punctured or leaks is an added benefit to this pack.

The main compartment has two pairs of zippers which allows you to only open the part of the bag that you access, and that is a great thing. The very large main compartment, which allows you to lash things down with internal compression straps, is relatively open compared to the other options on this list, but the double zippers quickly enable you to get to what you need at that moment.

Each side pocket of this bag features double zippers, which really helps accessibility. A large 1 liter water bottle would easily fit into these pockets and be quickly accessible.

The front pocket is expandable, which is a nice feature and enables the bag to remain relatively small when not fully loaded out. The foam backing is very comfortable as is the waist belt that includes elastic retention. Elastic straps that catch the webbing is a really nice touch to keep stray straps from being in the way. The belt also had an adjustment strap on each side making it easy to fine tune.

The grab or drag handles are very durable and stitched on well. Also, there are plenty of them, with one on the top of the pack an additional one on either side. They definitely come in handy if you are in a situation where you need to pick up the bag and go fast, or just grab it from a non-standard angle, like reaching into the back seat of a car or truck bed.

The straps are well made all around, and have top adjustment straps to make sure the bag rides exactly where you want it to. The sternum strap to keep the bag in a secure position is adjustable both vertically and horizontally. Comfort is good for a wide range of heights because of all the adjustability.

This pack also includes some of the best water resistance features. There are rain flaps over the main compartments and the zippers are water resistant. And while this pack is clearly not water proof, the drainage holes at the bottom does ensure that any excess moisture in the bag will be able to drain out of the bottom of the pack.

The ample MOLLE capability will let you strap on anything you require to the outside of the pack.

In short, if you need a large capacity bag that will is well designed and proven, this is definitely a best buy on this list given the price point. This bag really delivers.

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CamelBak Motherlode

Best Tactical Ruck - CamelBak Motherlode

Many call the CamelBak motherlode the best ruck they have ever owned. This is without question one of the most comfortable packs I’ve ever worn. The shoulder straps are thick and feel curable. The waist belts on the Motherlode are incredibly comfortable, which is a must for a pack this size.

The compression straps on the side make sure you can cinch the contents down to a manageable sized package with the contents and weight load being securely held in place.

One thing to note, CamelBak does not have as many organizational pouches in the compartments themselves as the other options on this list. Having said that, the layout is very well thought out. The capacity is very large at 2258 cubic inches, or 37L, plus a 3L hydration reservoir. At this size, the pack is huge and offers ample storage for a few days. If you’re looking for a similar 3L hydration pack, but in a daypack size, look to the CamelBak HAWG instead. The MOLLE attachments on the back of the pack allow for a versatile system where you can configure virtually anything you can fit.

The pack is tough as nails, made in the U.S. of A with 420D high density nylon on the shoulder harness and 500D elsewhere. The weight comes in at a very reasonable 4.9 pounds, which is great for the features of this bag.

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Direct Action Dragon Egg

Best Tactical Backpacks - Direct Action Dragon Egg

The Direct Action Dragon Egg is a medium pack with a 1,525 cubic inches capacity. The weight is 3.5 pounds, which is great. More and more manufacturers seem to be realizing that the 500D nylon is a good blend of durability and weight efficiency. The 500D cordura is also Durable Water Repellent (DWR) coated and the pack has drainage holes to deal efficiently with water retention. Other materials are premium as well, like heavy duty YKK zippers. The hardware is also duraflex and the sunglasses pocket is fleece lined.

The support straps and setup supports the weight well for the size pack it is, but lacks the full support system of larger packs, like the Motherlode. This was designed as a 2 day or fewer pack, and it fits that role very well.

Unlike some other packs, the MOLLE attachments here are not to PALS webbing, but instead, the pack has holes laser cut into it for attaching extra kit. This makes the pack more streamlined and cuts down on weight, especially if the bag is gets wet. This pack just feels innovative and ahead of it’s time. And speaking of, the drag handle is also 2.5 meters of 550 paracord, which is a really useful and unique feature.

Pricing will vary based on the coloration option you choose. Also, it should be noted that some of the patterns used by Direct Action, Kryptek, PenCott, and Mulitcam, are NIR(Near-infrared) treated, which helps prevent detection with nightvison.

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