From armed forces to rescue services and survivalists, professionals often use tactical backpacks on their missions. The reason why they pick a tactical backpack as their faithful companions is because these bags combine a highly functional design with a rugged shell that withstands harsh outdoor use.
Thanks to their practicality and durability, tactical backpacks have received a much wider audience in recent years. This is well-justified because everybody can benefit from features like waterproof compartments, MOLLE webbing, or hydration bladders.
In this article, you’ll read about the best tactical backpacks on the market and learn how you can get the most out of them regardless of your activity. Functionality and reliability were our main focus points when choosing products for our tactical backpack reviews, so you can be sure that your backpack won’t let you down no matter where you are.
How To Choose A Tactical Backpack – Buying Guide
Weight of the Backpack
Compared to standard everyday backpacks, tactical models are made from thicker materials throughout the bag and often come with extra straps and buckles. All of this inevitably increases weight, and most of them weigh between 1.5 and 4 pounds when empty.
However, these backpacks are designed to take a lot of weight, which means that a few extra pounds of the bag itself won’t make much of a difference when you have a fully stocked 40-liter bag (it’s going to be a small percentage of the total weight). Because of this, weight should be your primary concern as these backpacks aren’t meant to be lightweight.
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The material used for tactical backpacks has to be rugged and thick to withstand the challenges of outdoor use. Not only does it need to be resistant to abrasion and tears, but it also needs to hold the weight of the gear that you pack inside.
When it comes to the material quality and thickness, the unit used to measure it is called a Denied (D). It shows the linear mass density of a particular fabric, and a higher number means a stronger material. High-quality nylon and polyester are the most common choices as they provide the best results.
Pockets And Compartments
The hallmark of tactical backpacks is the number of compartments that they have. The standard setup of these bags is to have two large compartments in the middle of the bag with multiple pockets on the front and the sides of the bag.
This gives you a lot of flexibility when packing your items, so they are secure but still easily accessible when you need them. As you’ve had the chance to see, tactical backpacks come with a different number of compartments depending on the model.
Having a spacious main compartment is always good, as it allows you to pack bulkier items. However, we also think that it’s a plus to have a fleece-lined compartment for electronics, and a separate one for the water bladder. Lastly, all of these come with a MOLLE webbing system so you can safely attach gear to the outside of the MOLLE backpack.
Back Panel and Shoulder Straps
If you want your new backpack to feel comfortable, you want a model that has a lot of padding. This layer of foam will form a barrier between you are items inside the backpack so that you can hold it close to your body without anything digging into your back.
In addition to padding, both the back panel and the shoulder strap system need to be ventilated too. In this regard, it’s best if the panels have a grooved designed with plenty of mesh to prevents your back from sweating while wearing the assault pack.
Hydration System Compatibility
While some people prefer to simply take a water bottle on their trip, others see the merits of having a hydration system inside the assault pack. A hydration bladder is clean, convenient, saves a lot of space, and comes with a hose for easy drinking on the go.
All of the military tactical backpacks we’ve reviewed are compatible with hydration bladders, with special compartments made just for them. The maximum size of the bladder you can fit varies from one model to the other, so that’s worth checking out. Also, some tactical backpacks like the Monkey Paks come with a bladder already in the package.
Use and Versatility
The build quality and functionality of tactical backpacks make them incredibly useful for many different activities. While it’s unlikely that you’re going to use them for war, they will be very handy when going hunting, fishing, backpacking, or camping.
Even if a bag has a smaller volume, the layout of its compartments allows you to pack gear for several days. The material quality we’ve mentioned makes it possible to load the backpack to the top, and the addition of waste and sternum strap that many of them have makes carrying a lot easier.
Storage Capacity (Volume)
The storage capacity of these bags can be very important depending on the activity. If you are going on a multi-day backpacking trip in the wilderness, you’re going to need a bag with a high capacity. In these situations, a model that holds 35-40 liters is going to be ideal for packing everything you need.
On the other hand, if you are going on a one-day hike, you won’t need such a large capacity and you can focus on portability. In this scenario, a 20-liter bag will do the job just fine. However, we always suggest getting a tactical bag that is slightly larger than you think you need, as it gives you a lot more options in use.
While getting the largest tactical backpack possible might seem tempting, you should also think about portability. Hauling a packed 50-liter backpack can be problematic, especially on difficult terrain outdoors. For this reason, it’s good to find a balance and get a size that you can carry the whole day.
In addition, the padding and straps we’ve mentioned will also indirectly improve portability. A comfy back panel will make the tactical backpack feel softer, while a sternum strap and hip belt will help distribute the weight on your torso and hips.
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The carrying capacity refers to how much weight the tactical backpack can hold. This is where tactical backpacks excel as they can hold a significant amount of weight before breaking. The carrying capacity of a specific model comes as a direct result of construction quality (materials and seams) and the volume it can hold.
For most of these bags, the breaking point is much higher than the load you can physically carry, so you have nothing to worry about even if you choose a smaller model.
Q: What Is Tactical Backpack?
A tactical backpack is a specially-designed backpack that focuses on functionality and durability. It’s the preferred backpack style of armed forces, search and rescue services, and survivalists among others. It’s generally tear-resistant, waterproof, and has many compartments and attachment points for organizing gear.
Q: What Backpacks Do Special Forces Use?
While this depends on specific mission requirements, special forces often use tactical backpacks from renowned manufacturers like 5.11, Mystery Ranch, or London Bridge Trading. For military use, it’s most important that the gear can be organized properly so it’s ready to use quickly.
Q: What Does 5.11 Mean?
The name of the famous tactical gear company originated from rock climbing. To be more specific, 5.11 represents a level of rock climbing difficulty. When it first came to use, it was the most difficult level a climber could attempt, and it served as an inspiration for the name.
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Tactical backpacks are well-designed versatile products that can be equally valuable to a military member and a non-professional outdoor enthusiast. As you’ve had the chance to see, tactical backpacks can withstand all the trials of outdoor use, while giving you plenty of options for organizing your gear how you like it.
Hopefully, our guide has pointed you in the right direction so you can confidently choose a tactical backpack and safely carry everything you need for your trips and missions.
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