8 Best Backpacks for Everyday Carry Reviewed in 2020

By Derrick Ferrell
Updated on
The Rundown
Best Overall
A new generation of EDC backpack carefully designed to adjust to the wearer while maintaining a minimalistic appearance.
Best Value for Price
A high-performance, multipurpose backpack engineered for combat without breaking the bank.
Best Aesthetic
Available in three sleek colors and a camouflage print, this EDC backpack offers military-grade construction for civilian use.
Best Durability
Made with 1000D Cordura nylon fibers, this EDC pack is one of the toughest on the market.
Best Versatility
This laptop bag draws its inspiration from authentic military assault rucksacks while embodying a clean, versatile appearance fit for everyday use.
Best for Urban Commuting
Has a smooth silhouette, side and top handles, and enough space for all your commuting essentials traversing through the urban jungle.
Best Carry-On
For travelers whose outdoor adventures begin with a trip on an airplane, this durable and spacious backpack is the ideal carry-on.
Best Budget
A durable, multifunctional bag with a secured zipper closure and Molle webbing at an affordable price.

When you hear the word “tactical,” you might think of combat or military precision. It’s a word synonymous with rugged functionality, so it’s no surprise that the term has carried over into everyday carry (EDC) backpacks.

Military gear has always been a part of civilians’ everyday lives; some people find that the designs and functionality of packs exceed those of name-brand items. And with good reason: tactical backpacks were manufactured for wartime use.

These days, tactical EDC bags are more than your standard backpacks. They’re designed to carry all of your must-have gear, regardless if you’re heading to work or going on a trek through the wilds. With an EDC backpack, you’ll have access to your essential belongings at all times.

Though most tactical EDC backpacks you’ll find on the market today are military-inspired, some designs are more about fashion than function. To help you choose the right one for your needs, consider the helpful list compiled below where we review the top eight EDC packs currently available.

Best Overall: TAD Fast Pack Litespeed

Best Overall
TAD Fast Pack Litespeed EDC
TAD Fast Pack Litespeed
A new generation of EDC backpack carefully designed to adjust to the wearer while maintaining a minimalistic appearance.
What we like
  • Foam-padded shoulder straps
  • Hugs your body without feeling too tight
What we don't like
  • Basic admin pocket that can’t be expanded to hold more items
  • Can’t stand the bag up with its slanted bottom

If you’re looking for a smaller EDC backpack capable of holding a lot of gear without compromising comfort, this is the one for you. Whether you use it for camping, hiking, traveling, or as your everyday bag, your belongings will be safe and organized in this tough-as-nails pack.

The TAD Fast Pack Litespeed EDC is made with MIL-SPEC Invista™ Cordura® fabric and is reinforced along the primary stress points with Hypalon—a synthetic rubber capable of withstanding extreme temperatures, chemicals, and UV rays. This specially engineered composite nylon is almost impervious to everyday wear and tear; it’s incredibly difficult to rip, making it one of the most durable everyday carry packs available.

This pack is also highly adaptable to the needs of the wearer. It has a lightweight attachment system by way of an 8-foot removable paracord that allows you to carry bulky items at the top of the bag with ease. Thanks to the pack’s interior and exterior webbing, you can easily switch up its configurations with customizable compartments based on your needs for the day.

You can’t get any better comfort than with the Fast Pack Litespeed. The shoulder straps are padded with aerated closed-cell foam and covered with mesh to increase ventilation and reduce wear and tear to the wearer’s clothing. This pack is designed to sit higher on your back to reduce strain and is comfortable enough to wear on a three-day hiking trip or a music festival.

The TAD Fast Pack Litespeed is the favorite backpack of industrial designer Taylor Welden, who claimed its fit, comfort, and construction to be worthy enough for combat soldiers in the field.

Best Value for Price: 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack

Best Value for Price
5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack
5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack
A high-performance, multipurpose backpack engineered for combat without breaking the bank.
What we like
  • Water-resistant
  • Multipurpose
  • Price
What we don't like
  • No hip belt
  • No interior padding

This tactical pack is a compelling blend of high-quality materials with top-notch craftsmanship. Though made to withstand the most formidable combat conditions and marketed as a technical assault bag, it still performs well as an everyday backpack. It can fill any role, from a hunting pack to an emergency bug-out bag.

The 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 has 16 multi-sized compartments with enough space to accommodate all your gear and keep items organized for easy access. The backpack comes equipped with wrap-around Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) webbing for storage customizations. It also has an internal admin pocket with multiple slots to keep small accessories organized.

It’s made from 1050D nylon, which makes it water-resistant and perfect for trekking through wet conditions. It’s designed to keep all gear dry and safe while stored inside. This EDC backpack also has a 17×11-inch hydration pocket, self-repairing YKK® zippers, and a fleece-lined pocket for fragile items like eyeglasses and cell phones.

One of the reasons why the Tactical RUSH 12 pack is considered one of the best EDC backpacks for the price is its comfort. Its adjustable shoulder straps will fit snuggly across your back. The pack also has adjustable sternum straps to give you enough stability to safely and comfortably carry a massive load.

Whether you intend to carry a lot of items or just a few things, comfort will be the least of your worries with the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 12 pack. Logan Greenwood, a writer for the Unwork to Travel blog, thinks this pack works well as an affordable survivalist backpack.

Best Aesthetic: Arc’teryx LEAF Assault Pack 30

Best Aesthetic
Arc'teryx LEAF Assault Pack 30 Wolf Grey
Arc’teryx LEAF Assault Pack 30
Available in three sleek colors and a camouflage print, this EDC backpack offers military-grade construction for civilian use.
What we like
  • Sleek design
  • Spacious main compartment
What we don't like
  • Expensive but you get what you pay for
  • Additional internal storage compartments sold separately

You won’t need to dig for your gear with the Assault Pack 30 from Arc’teryx LEAF. This EDC backpack has a zippered clamshell opening that reveals a 30-liter main compartment lined with hook-and-loop Velcro® for additional organizational pouches. It’s highly versatile, lightweight, and doesn’t sacrifice visual appeal for functionality.

The Assault Pack 30 is constructed from HT 500D Cordura nylon, so it’s durable enough to hold up to the harshest weather and environmental conditions. For additional stability, the bag comes with an 8 mm composite frame to act as a support platform for the suspension system.

With side and top handles, you can quickly grab this lightweight EDC backpack and proceed with your mission. Access to your gear is easy with the zipper closure that opens the pack from the top, side, or end-to-end. The fabric is resistant to both tears and water, and it’s fully padded to protect your gear inside each compartment.

Unlike many other military-inspired tactical bags, this one isn’t covered in MOLLE webbing to carry additional items on the backpack’s exterior. That said, the top and side zip pockets are perfect for storing essential gear such as the 3-liter hydration bladder. The fabric is also covered with a silicone treatment that prevents dirt and grime from sticking to the material. It’s streamlined aesthetic, storage, and durability makes this backpack one of the most stunning bags to own.

Arc’teryx LEAF certainly kept comfort in mind when designing the Assault 30 Pack. This bag comes equipped with 15 mm aluminum stays that can be personalized to fit the user’s back to help transfer the load weight to your hips and minimize back strain. The backpack is designed to distribute weight evenly, even with its large capacity.

Military veteran Cory Mince was happy the Assault Pack 30 blended in with other people’s bags while traveling through airports. It bears little to no resemblance to typical hunting backpacks.

Best Durability: Spec-Ops T.H.E. Pack E.D.C

Best Durability
Spec Ops T.H.E. Every Day Carry Pack Black
Spec-Ops T.H.E. Pack E.D.C
Made with 1000D Cordura nylon fibers, this EDC pack is one of the toughest on the market.
What we like
  • Top-quality material
  • Heavy-stitched drag handle
What we don't like
  • Lack of compartments
  • Small waist strap

The Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack is made with some of the highest-quality fabrics available. It has top-notch “battle buckles” and YKK zippers for maximum durability. Nothing about this pack is flimsy, not even the patented plastic hardware.

Engineered with heavy-duty nylon threads, the Spec-Ops T.H.E. EDC Pack won’t fall apart on you. Each aspect of the bag is double-stitched for added durability, including the drag handle on top. This is one of the few backpacks that can take a tumble down a mountainside or be run over by a car without sustaining much damage.

Despite its small size, the pack is marketed as a 72-hour backpack. All three zippered enclosures open wide enough to store multiple items comfortably. If you need more space, the pack’s bottom is fitted with MOLLE webbing for additional storage options.

According to Living Survival, a premier YouTube outdoor gear reviewer, this pack is ideal for people who want a large backpack that’s low-profile and can also be used as a daypack.

The comfort level of this backpack is just as high as its durability. Both shoulder straps are breathable and padded with a single foam insert, and the two-inch-wide removable waist strap helps to distribute the load, even during long hauls. With its large compartments, you can toss in your gear and go or use individual organizers to pack your preferred layout.

Best Versatility: Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21 Backpack

Best Versatility
MYSTERY RANCH Urban Assault 21 Backpack Black
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21 Backpack
This laptop bag draws its inspiration from authentic military assault rucksacks while embodying a clean, versatile appearance fit for everyday use.
What we like
  • Color choices
  • Water-resistance
  • Attractive design
What we don't like
  • Awkward zipper design
  • Minimal comfort

The Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21 Backpack is a simple laptop bag with a unique Y-shaped zipper design that extends around the top and down its front. It’s available in various colors that you won’t see in many tactical backpacks, including lemon yellow and Aegean blue.

Its versatility extends beyond color, however. This bag is small enough to use every day. It has a 21-liter volume capacity, which is perfect for storing everything you’d need for a brief trip, including a few clothing items and your laptop. It’s also compact enough to fit in the overhead compartment of an airplane.

This EDC backpack isn’t just for traveling; it’s also a decent pack for trips into the wilderness. Though it doesn’t have a hip belt, the Mystery Ranch Urban Assault 21 Backpack does come with a ventilated back panel and sternum straps to make outdoor adventures more comfortable and less sweaty. It’s also made with 50D Cordura nylon and YKK zippers, so it’s highly durable and water-resistant.

When it comes to organization, the main compartment opens up with three zippers—two on the sides and one down the middle. This design allows this section of the bag to open fully and exposes the contents at the bottom of the bag without causing everything to tumble out. Though you can’t open the vertical zipper without opening the top, this feature acts as an additional security measure because no one can undo all three zippers while you’re wearing the bag without you knowing immediately.

The spacious main compartment is spacious enough for a couple days’ worth of clothing, but it also has two sleeves for tech that are padded and separated by a divider. The first section is large enough to fit a 15-inch laptop, and the second can hold a tablet up to 13 inches wide. With these features and three zippered internal pouches, you can safely carry everything you need for a day mission in one convenient pack.

Reviewers from Gideonstactical, a popular YouTube channel devoted to tactical gear, used the backpack daily for several months as a diaper bag for two young children to showcase its versatility.

Best for Urban Commuting: Evergoods CPL 24

Best for Urban Commuting
Evergoods CPL 24 Black
Evergoods CPL 24
Has a smooth silhouette, side and top handles, and enough space for all your commuting essentials traversing through the urban jungle.
What we like
  • Can wear with anything
  • Simple and sleek design
  • Comfortable shoulder straps
What we don't like
  • Lacking a secure sternum strap
  • Few compartments

If you plan on spending more time in the city than the wilderness, the Evergoods CPL24 is the everyday carry backpack you need. It has a sleek design without many of the bells and whistles you’d find in tactical bags used in more rugged terrain. The minimalistic design doesn’t mean it lacks quality, though; the pack is highly durable and can still be used on a hiking trail even though it’s intended for urban landscapes.

This 24-liter EDC backpack is available in black and gray so that it will look good with almost anything, from a business suit to jeans and a T-shirt. Despite its storage capacity, it’s small enough not to require a hip belt or additional straps to help spread the load’s weight across the body. It does, however, have straps on the side so that you can carry it like a briefcase and on your back.

The backpack’s exterior consists of durable 500D nylon with air-textured yarn, which contributes to both its smooth, matte texture and water and heat resistance. The main compartment has a YKK zipper and aluminum stays to maintain the bag’s shape. The ergonomic shoulder straps are filled with a dense foam for comfortable carrying, whether you’re walking or standing on a crowded train.

The Evergoods CPL24 backpack interior is also minimal, so it doesn’t have many pockets or compartments. With a clamshell opening, you can see all your gear and organize it any way you see fit. A zippered section of the bag is dedicated for laptops up to 17 inches, and the small front compartment is ideal for holding keys or a book.

Popular reviewer Ben Brooks of The Brooks Review website claimed the bag’s appearance is understated enough for wearers to carry without worrying about being a target for thieves.

Best Carry-On: Kelty Redwing 50

Best Carry-On
Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack Black
Kelty Redwing 50
For travelers whose outdoor adventures begin with a trip on an airplane, this durable and spacious backpack is the ideal carry-on.
What we like
  • Comfort
  • Lots of space
  • Water bottle pockets
What we don't like
  • No designated laptop compartment
  • Larger than typical carry-ons

For traveling, the Kelty Redwing 50L is one of the best EDC packs to use. Despite being a little larger than the recommended dimensions for some airlines, this pack holds everything you need to store and carry your gear safely, even on planes.

According to travel bloggers David and Zena, who manage the Zigzag Around the World website, they’ve never had issues using the Kelty Redwing 50L as a carry-on, nor have they ever been required to check it. When traveling on smaller planes with little to no overhead storage space, they will gate check the bag.

The EDC backpack’s size isn’t what makes it a worthwhile travel bag; it’s the pockets. This pack has lots of pocket space to maximize your storage and organization.

It has a spacious main compartment that zips three-quarters down the backpack, zippered pockets on both sides of the bag large enough to hold water bottles, and two mesh pockets near the base of the pack. Another zippered compartment on the backside of the backpack is ideal for storing small electronics and personal items.

This backpack doesn’t skimp on storage or comfort. Even when it’s packed to the brim, the Redwing 50 is easy to carry. The adjustable shoulder straps place the bag firmly on the shoulders, and the sternum strap helps it stay snug against your body. If you need to shift the weight off your back and shoulders and onto your hips for additional comfort, this EDC pack has a removable waist belt to help spread the load.

Best Budget: Mardingtop Tactical Backpack

Best Budget
Mardingtop 25L/35L/40L Tactical Backpacks Molle Hiking daypacks for Motorcycle Camping Hiking Military Traveling
Mardingtop Tactical Backpack
A durable, multifunctional bag with a secured zipper closure and Molle webbing at an affordable price.
What we like
  • Price
  • Multifunctional
  • Extra storage
What we don't like
  • Non-removable waist strap
  • Small size

No matter if you’re camping, trekking, hiking, commuting, or traveling, Mardingtop’s 25L Tactical Backpack is versatile enough for nearly any adventure you take. This lightweight pack weighs 1.72 pounds, but it has massive storage capabilities.

The front pocket zips down to reveal a spacious main compartment. The main compartment is also extendable to allow more room for bulkier items, and it has a section for electronics with padding for extra protection. It also has a front pocket fitted with slots for easy access to tools, maps, personal items, a camera, and more.

The Mardingtop backpack also comes with a hydration system. The padded back panel that serves as a laptop compartment can also hold a hydration bladder of up to 2.5 liters. This internal compartment is equipped with dual ports for the bladder’s tube, which allows you to have ready access to water without removing the bag from your shoulders.

If you need additional support, this EDC bag has MOLLE webbing along its front and bottom. With this feature, you can attach additional pockets or strap a bedroll underneath. With compression straps, a waist belt, and a chest strap, you can comfortably carry the load without worrying about the pack shifting from side to side.

According to Prime Influencers of YouTube, this budget bag is durable, not cheaply made, and can serve different applications, including day hiking, school, and camping.

Final Verdict

The purpose of an everyday carry backpack is to have ready access to all the gear you need to complete a mission or activity. Though inspired by military rucksacks, modern EDC backpacks are fitted to accommodate civilians’ everyday needs.

No matter where the day may take you, you can count on a tactical EDC backpack to hold everything you need. Whether you want a bug-out bag for emergencies, a carry-on bag for traveling, a simply designed backpack for daily commutes, or a military-inspired pack with enough storage for a three-day camping trip, there’s an EDC bag for you.

The crucial thing to remember is that your bag’s contents and purpose will determine how you select the right one for your needs. When shopping for a tactical EDC pack, consider everything from how often you’d use it, where you would use it, and the type of gear you’d store inside. Also, keep in mind the backpack’s versatility, its construction materials, price, and carrying comfort to make an informed purchase.

The Ultimate EDC Backpack Buying Guide

EDC Backpack full-loaded on sand
Photo by Chad Zuber

Tactical EDC backpacks have a long military history. Back during the Korean War, troops needed a way to move quickly without alerting the opposition of their position, which meant no items could be left behind. To facilitate a quick getaway, rugged tactical backpacks were created and designed to hold everything a soldier would need on their mission.

These days, you don’t need to be an active or former military member to have access to tactical packs. Everyday carry backpacks are smaller versions of the bags you would find in a soldier’s barracks. These military-inspired bags are meant to hold everyday items and survival gear for emergencies, but some people use them for other activities like camping and hunting.

Before you make your first purchase, here’s a guide to help you find the best EDC backpack to suit your needs.

Authentic Military Gear vs. Name-brand EDC Backpacks

If the requirements for successful military combat inspired tactical EDC backpacks, does that mean you should purchase an authentic bag? Not necessarily. Combat-ready packs are engineered to handle rough environmental conditions while having enough storage for military equipment, weapons, and a few personal belongings.

You don’t necessarily need a military surplus backpack for everyday activities. Name-brand manufacturers design their bags to accommodate various gear types, whether you’re on a mission or commuting to work. These packs are functional and often made from extremely durable, high-quality materials.

Benefits of EDC Backpacks

Though you can grab your keys and wallet and get started with your day, you can’t stuff everything in your pockets. Investing in an EDC backpack allows you to have everything you need at your fingertips. Having ready access to your gear and tools will improve your preparedness for anything life may throw at you.

Some items you might include in your EDC pack include:

  • Wallet
  • Keys
  • Multitool
  • Knife
  • Change of clothes
  • Paracord
  • Cell phone

By choosing a tactical backpack for your everyday use, you can be confident that your purchase is a worthwhile investment that can last for years, even with rough use. These packs use top-notch materials that won’t damage under typical wear and tear conditions. You won’t have to waste money replacing cheap, disposable bags.

How to Choose the Best EDC Backpack for Your Needs

Materials

For a top-of-the-line tactical EDC backpack, look for models constructed from quality materials. Ideally, you want something you can use on any terrain in any weather condition.

Look for packs made with Cordura nylon, specifically within the 500D to 1200D range. This fabric is used for upholstery, luggage, and bags, and is stain-, water-, and tear-resistant. Some backpacks are made with premium materials like X-Pac™, a waterproof, weatherproof, UV-resistant fabric that is nearly impervious to punctures and scratches.

Hardware

Once you find a well-constructed bag made from top materials, you’ll need to ensure it has sturdy hardware such as zippers and buckles that won’t bend or break. The best hardware manufacturers include YKK, ITW Nexus, and TiZip. Even if you don’t plan on using your EDC backpack for missions in harsh environments, cheaply made hardware will render your pack useless.

Comfort

Carrying a full backpack doesn’t mean you have to be uncomfortable. Many manufacturers add padding to the shoulder straps and dense foam along the back of the bag to act as a cushion between your body and the pack’s contents. Your chosen bag should have adjustable straps and a waist belt so your hips, not your back, will support most of the weight you carry.

Access

A backpack that only has one or two large compartments doesn’t leave much room for organizing your belongings, which is necessary if you need ready access to your gear without digging through the bag for anything. A well-made tactical backpack will have several secure compartments or the ability to attach additional storage.

You should also consider how the bag opens. Does it have a zippered opening that extends down the side of the backpack or a roll-top with a large opening and the ability to reduce backpack volume by closing up excess fabric inside? No matter your preference, make sure you can store and organize all your gear.

Volume

Backpacks use liters to determine how much volume a bag can have. Most EDC packs will hold less than 100 liters and are usually around 20 to 35 liters. The bag’s manufacturer determines how the volume is calculated, so they may consider the sum of all compartments in the measurement once the main compartment is closed or include open pockets on the exterior as part of the backpack’s volume.

What’s the Purpose for Your Backpack?

Your reasons for using a tactical EDC backpack will help determine what type of bag you need. If you want a bag for emergencies, you’ll likely go for something capable of holding everything you need to escape to safety. For instance, if you live in an area prone to flooding, you might include a first aid kit, waterproof flashlight, and rain poncho in your EDC backpack.

In urban areas, however, you may want a tactical backpack that’s a bit more subtle in its appearance, regardless of its contents. The same can’t be said if you’re a camper or hunter, in which case a bag with a camouflage print may be better suited for the wilderness.

Final Thoughts

Even if you aren’t in the military, you can take advantage of the technology our armed forces inspired, including tactical everyday carry packs. The best EDC backpacks are rugged and durable enough to withstand typical wear and tear that would destroy a regular backpack. Whether you plan to go on an adventure or commute in the city, you can count on your tactical EDC to keep your gear safe and secure until you need it.