9 Best Tactical Backpacks in 2020 That Are Worth The Money

By Derrick Ferrell
Updated on
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The Rundown

First used in the civil war, tactical backpacks are designed to stand up to the elements—and do so over long hauls. They offer the epitome of durability in a lightweight, comfortable-to-carry package, and offer a plethora of pockets, compartments, pouches, webbing, loops, and more to neatly store all your gear.

While originally designed for military use, tactical backpacks are perfect for everything from an afternoon stroll or a leisurely bike ride to a strenuous multi-day, backcountry trek. If you value high-quality construction and versatility, a tactical backpack is your best bet, and if you’re looking for the best tactical backpack, you’re just in the right place.

We’ve scoured the market for the best of the best and put together a comprehensive review covering everything you need to know to make an informed buying decision. Here are nine of the best tactical backs of 2020:

Best Overall
Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault 27L Black
Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault
Premium rugged material, industry standards for load carriage technology, tested over the harshest elements.
What we like
  • 27-liter capacity
  • 3-zip opening for easy access
  • MOLLE compatibility
  • Ultra-rugged 500D Cordura fabric
What we don’t like
  • Not 100% waterproof

Mystery Ranch is the brainchild of Renee Sippel-Baker and Dana Gleason. The duo has worked together since 1978, but it took until 2000 for them to found Mystery Ranch. Since its inception, the company has made backpacks that exceed the industry standards for load carriage technology.

The crown jewel is the 2-Day Assault. It seamlessly blends sturdiness with a lightweight frame, allowing users to climb higher and hike longer than ever. The tactical backpack weighs only three pounds but can carry up to 27 liters worth of material. The spacious 1,650 cubic-inch capacity interior gives you more than enough room to fit gear for a weekend expedition or take things from home to the gym or office.

The inside has multiple compartments for intuitive organization. A padded section provides a cushion for laptops, while a divider offers a separate space for your tablet and other mobile devices. Mystery Ranch also incorporates several zipper pockets so that you can store small items. 

The exterior has a range of essential features for urban and rural living, including multiple water bottle pockets, an adjustable harness, and compression straps. Each 2-Day Assault comes with MOLLE compatibility.

A MOLLE grid, also known as modular lightweight load-carrying equipment, allows you to add modules to your backpack for increased versatility, and carry even more gear with a single bag, such as:

  • Canteen carriers
  • D-rings for slings
  • First-aid kits
  • Holsters
  • Knives
  • Magazine pouches
  • Multi-purpose tools
  • Sustainment pouches

What makes the 2-Day Assault our best overall tactical backpack is its rugged material. It uses premium 500D Cordura fabric, which manufacturers describe as “designed for living and built to last.” The experts at OrientBag.net tested different material’s abrasion resistance and found Cordura withstood wear the best.  

While Cordura costs approximately twice as much as other name brand fabrics, it makes up for it with superior performance. Thanks to a woven construction and high tenacity nylon 6.6 filament fibers, the material has high tear resistance. It also has a water repellent exterior that comes with optional coated and laminated finishes.

Mystery Ranch goes above the call of duty by making high-quality tactical backpacks and testing them in the harshest elements. Each bag receives a full field-test to ensure it withstands any extreme. Whatever your destination is, the 2-Day Assault can take you there.

Best for Heavy Duty
Eberlestock Halftrack Rusksack Backpack Black
Eberlestock Halftrack Pack
Rugged and weather-resistant, the half-track pack handles all terrains.
What we like
  • Weather-resistant
  • Comfortable air-mesh foam
  • Removable rain cover
  • Radio communication storage compartment
What we don’t like
  • Pricey
  • Doesn’t have straps on the bottom

Eberlestock has roots in the biathlon, a grueling sport that requires athletes to ski cross-country and intermittent drop everything to shoot targets. Transporting the rifle between shooting stations requires a backpack that is both rugged and lightweight. Eberlestock pioneered tactical backpacks that deliver precisely that.

You don’t have to be a biathlete to enjoy the Halftrack’s beauty and tactical design. It appeals to hunters, outdoorsmen, and adventurers alike. Even if you want to go on a three-day expedition, this backpack has the storage space necessary to make that trip possible.

Any tactical backpack needs strong material if you want to support your equipment and gear. The half-track utilizes 1000-denier nylon with a thoughtfully-designed internal lining and sturdy zippers. It also has an interior plastic sheet and two aluminum stays so that the backpack holds its shape.

While the heavy-duty design is what sells these backpacks, the Halftrack Pack stands out for its versatility. With its MOLLE integration, the company recommends adding-on a small rain cover, a saddlebag, a padded accessory pouch, and an A2FK IndiTAK Pouch.

The interior features various tuck-pockets to keep your small items separated. Eberlestock includes a fold-down shelf that bisects the backpack. You can pull it down and lock it into place if you want to divide the storage space into upper and lower halves.

The Halftrack has 25-liters of space and enough room for two three-liter hydration kits and two two-liter bladders. Eberlestock also incorporates a compartment for radio communication. The rack has a large antenna portal that fits against the back wall with a Gossamer polycarbonate frame to keep items from shifting while in transit.

Eberlestock recommends the Halftrack Backpack for law enforcement and military members on three-day assaults. We believe the backpack has a broader audience, appealing to any hardcore outdoor adventurer. If you plan to explore challenging elements, there’s a place for the Eberlestock Halftrack in your collection.

Best Minimalist
GoRuck GR1 Coyote Brown
GoRuck GR1
The gold standard for users in search of lightweight backpacks.
What we like
  • 1000-denier Cordura
  • Bombproof compart
  • Lifetime guarantee
What we don’t like
  • Pricey

The GoRuck GR1 is undoubtedly one of the finest backpacks ever made. It delivers world-class durability that stands up to punishing climates without weighing you down. For this reason, the U.S. Special Forces use the same material for combat as the GR1.

According to NYT Times writer Kit Dillon, “GoRuck more or less invented (and now defines) the tough, buy-it-for-life pack.” While other businesses made expensive backpacks before GoRuck, the company brings a unique flair to the craft. It’s hearty enough to last countless cross-country treks and stylish enough fit in at the office. 

The GR1 uses 1000-denier Cordura. The material has more strength and density than the comparable No. 7 Duck, but it comes in at half the weight. The textured nylon resists wear and tear while minimizing the risk of rot, fading, or fungi. 

Thanks to the water-resistant polyurethane exterior, you can dry off quickly if you get stuck in the rain or cross a river of chest-deep water. The fast-drying material preserves your belongings, whether you carry a gun, camera, wallet, blanket, or skiing equipment. The all-around toughness has made Cordura the optimal fabric for the best tactical backpacks.

Here are some other aspects of this backpack’s durability:

  • YKK zippers tested in Middle East sandstorms
  • Strength-tested over 400 pounds
  • Bombproof laptop compartment
  • A lifetime warranty

The tactical backpack has more than 1,100 cubic inches of space and holds 21 liters. If you’re over six feet tall, GoRuck offers a larger model that holds up to 26 liters. The medium-sized backpack weighs three pounds, making it slightly heavier than some of its counterparts of the same size.

Each GR1 has an assortment of compartments, making travel more convenient. There are two main sections with one for primary storage and one for your laptop or hydration. There are also spaces for hydration tubes and an external slack pocket so that you can locate miscellaneous objects with ease.

The GR1 delivers industry-leading strength and versatility without sacrificing comfort. The shoulder pads have supple foam padding to prevent chafing. It also has two rows of MOLLE compatibility, so you get the structure and versatility you need while on the move.

One downside of the GR1 is its hefty price tag, but it may be worth it for the right buyer. If you’re serious about buying a military-grade backpack, you should consider it a long-term investment. While other models may entice you with lower prices, the odds are you’ll need to replace them three or four times, while the GR1 won’t succumb to age or wear.

GoRuck founder Jason McCarthy created the GR1 after a year and a half of designing and testing. His background as a Green Beret helped him find the best ways to extend the backpack’s longevity. If the GR1 is good enough for the best and brightest in the U.S. military, we’re confident it’s good enough for you.

Best Bug Out
5.11 Tactical Rush 72 Backpack Black
5.11 Rush 72 Backpack
Spacious and durable, this MOLLE-compatible bag makes extensive travel a breeze.
What we like
  • 55-liter capacity
  • Multi-purpose capabilities
  • 30 individual compartments
  • 1000-denier Cordura
What we don’t like
  • Relatively heavy at five pounds
  • Waist and chest straps provide minimal support

French biologist Louis Pasteur once said, “chance favors the prepared mind.” If you’re going to rough it for 72 hours, you’ll need as many essential items as you can carry. What’s the best tactical backpack to hold all those goods? The 5.11 Rush 72 Backpack.

This bug out bag takes its name from bailout bags that U.S. military pilots would carry in case of emergency. The kits provided aviators with the essential supplies they would need to evacuate a location and survive off the land. People now use bug out bags when escaping disaster areas due to wildfires, hurricanes, and floods.

The best bug out bags have copious storage space, and the Rush 72 is no exception. It has 30 separate compartments, inside and outside the backpack. The main storage component has 2,639.25 cubic inches of space, more than the entire storage areas of other bags on this list.

The Rush 72 Backpack has four other storage spaces for your belongings. The front offers 356.5 cubic inches of space while the side pockets add 173.25 cubic inches apiece. Each backpack also has a hydration pocket that stretches 21 inches by 13.5 inches.

This bag provides ample storage on top of the rugged design. The self-healing YKK zippers hold up against any environment, while 5.11 designers integrated a drainage grommet for convenient water access. You can even take advantage of molded grip pulls that ensure your belongings remain secure.

If you own the Rush Tier System, you can use it in conjunction with the Rush 72 Backpack. The four-piece strap set makes transporting your gear simpler, whether you’re going to work, home, or the gym. The system also works with other 5.11 backpacks, duffle bags, and accessories.

For multiple days in the field, choose the 5.11 Rush 72. It dwarfs the competition when it comes to space and strength. The multi-purpose bag has everything you need to make it through a hunting, hiking, or outdoor survival trip.

Runner-Up Best Bug Out
Condor 3-Day Assault Pack with Multicam Black
Condor 3-Day Assault Pack
The roomy backpack won't sacrifice your comfort with its ergonomic design.
What we like
  • Seven separate pockets
  • 50-liter capacity
  • Contours to body
  • Affordable
What we don’t like
  • Could use added reinforcement on the bottom
  • Not as durable as others

The Condor 3-Day Assault Pack is pound-for-pound one of the best bargain bug out bags. You can drag it through the mud or bring it on a rocky trail, and the backpack will ask for more. The bag stands apart from other models for its simple yet flexible construction.

The 3-Day Assault has many similarities with Camelbacks, known for making hydration packs and water bottles. It has an expansive main compartment with two side pockets for hydration bladders. These isolated sections hold up to three liters of fluid without taking away storage space.

The bag comes with seven different pockets so you can readily divide your gear within the backpack. Its primary compartment has 2,288 inches of cubic space, more than enough to hold clothing, blankets, or hunting equipment. The secondary section has room for three maps, two radios, and writing utensils.

You’ll also enjoy shoulder straps that contour to your body, as well as the D-ring equipment attachment. The form-fitting composition creates a snug fit that doesn’t hold you back while you move.

While the 3-Day Assault has a bulky 50-liter frame, it doesn’t sacrifice comfort. The backpack weighs 2.5 pounds, which is below-average for bags of this size.

There’s a strong correlation between a bag’s durability and its weight. Heavier materials tend to have superior all-terrain capabilities and weather-resistance. As one of the lighter options, the 3-Day Assault Pack may not have the durability you’d expect from a GoRuck GR1 or Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault.

Most people do not need an expensive backpack for their outdoor activities. This backpack caters to consumers looking for an affordable option that delivers above-average performance. It costs roughly a third of some of the high-end options while touting a greater emphasis on ergonomics.

The average durability shouldn’t dissuade you from buying the Condor 3-Day Assault Pack. For its price, the backpack delivers more than enough value to mountaineers, hikers, and hunters. Overall, it will help you get where you want to go.

Best Daypack
Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack Black
Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack
The company's crown jewel goes through rigorous testing before its release.
What we like
  • Rigorous product testing
  • Multi-purpose capabilities
  • Ergonomic design
  • YKK zippers
What we don’t like
  • No bottle holder

Maxpedition got its start creating military-grade gear in 2003. The Falcon-II Backpack has made a name for itself as one of the company’s crowning achievements. It is the quintessential Maxpedition bag that caters to people from all walks of life. The everyday appeal and universal functionality make it a standard for industry quality.

The Falcon-II Backpack has a 1000-denier nylon exterior for protection from wind, sun, and hail. Maxpedition applies DuPont’s Teflon fabric protector and three coats of polyurethane to keep your possessions dry. The nylon even has GSA compliance, which is the highest level for fabric quality in the industry.

Maxpedition stands apart from other companies for its rigorous product testing. It provides quantifiable feedback on how the backpack performs against the elements and how designers can improve it. Some of the tests Maxpedition runs include:

  • Flex endurance
  • Water repellency
  • U.V. exposure
  • Tensile strength
  • Abrasion
  • Aging
  • Scuff abrasion
  • Color match and transfer
  • Zipper durability 
  • Jerk
  • Tumble

The backpack has an ergonomic shape that contours to your body, while the padded shoulder straps ease your burden. Maxpedition includes sternum and waist supports to reduce strain further.

The Falcon-II is a medium-sized backpack with 1,520 cube inches of space. While it’s smaller than many competing options, it’s spacious enough to accommodate your essential equipment and three liters of water. The nine compartments and pockets inside and outside the bag ensure you have a place for all your gear. If you need even more pockets to stow away your equipment, you can use the five rows of two-channel PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing on each side.

If you want a tough, versatile bag that is perfect for a day in the woods, Maxpedition Falcon-II is no doubt an excellent choice.

Best Versatile
Direct Action Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack 25L Coyote Brown
Direct Action Dragon Egg
Military-grade material and aesthetics combined, wide selection that matches your environment.
What we like
  • 500-denier Cordura
  • Paracord drag handles for grip
  • Water-resistant exterior
  • Redesigned side pockets for standard-sized canteens
What we don’t like
  • Sunglass pocket doesn’t cushion glasses
  • Relatively small interior

The Direct Action Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack is slightly smaller than some other options but makes up for it with style and durability. Thanks to laser-cut slots on the back and side pockets, it’s one of our most distinctive choices. If you work in military or law enforcement, this bag will look very familiar.

The Dragon Egg has a 25-liter interior with one main compartment. The primary space has an internal mesh and enough room to fill a hydration pocket. However, if you’re carrying a laptop or a spare pair of clothes, you may struggle to get everything to fit.

Open up this tactical backpack, and you’ll find a host of pockets for small items. Thanks to heavy-duty YKK zippers and laminate construction, these belongings stay safe and dry under most conditions. That said, the backpack may allow water to enter through the zipper, even though the rest of the material is water-resistant.

Direct Action redesigned its side pockets to fit the standard American canteen. The pockets have PALS/MOLLE on the front and sides so that you can attach accessories. If you don’t want to use the sides for a Nalgene, you can always fill the main compartment with water since it’s compatible with hydration bladders.

Even if you pack the Dragon Egg Backpack to maximum capacity, it will remain easy to carry. It has padded shoulder straps, plus side and bottom retention straps with extra buckles.

None of the bags on this list do a better job capturing the military aesthetic than the Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack. Direct Action offers 14 different colors, including Coyote Brown, Urban Grey, and Pencott Wildwood. The wide selection lets you have a backpack that matches your environment, whether you use it for work or in the wilderness, and the compact design, yet ample pockets and attachment options make this bag suitable for an impressive array of activities.

Best Budget
CVLIFE Tactical Military Backpack Black
CVLIFE Tactical Backpack
A highly customizable bag with more than enough space for weekend trips.
What we like
  • Affordability
  • Detachable bags
  • 60-liter capacity
  • Heavy-duty zippers
What we don’t like
  • Polyester fabric
  • No padding on the waist strap
  • Short warranty

You shouldn’t have to empty your wallet to get a high-quality tactical backpack. The CVLIFE 60L Tactical Backpack fills the void and then some. The spacious bag is the most expansive option on our list, with 60 liters of storage space.

Outside of the rock bottom price, the most appealing feature is its multiple distinct compartments. CVLIFE made the bag so it could hold three days’ worth of supplies. These include a central chamber, one detachable front bag, and two detachable side bags. There are also numerous sub-pockets within each section. 

The detachable features give you control over the backpack’s look and feel. You can convert the front bag into a tactical fanny or change the side pouches into first aid kits. If you want to shed weight from this 2.5-pound bag, leave those compartments at home.

The CVLIFE Tactical Backpack has a MOLLE system that increases its overall usability. You can attach gear to the exterior straps that run across the shoulders, back, and outer pockets.

Buying a budget-friendly bag means that you’ll have to make some sacrifices. The CVLIFE Tactical Backpack doesn’t have padding around the waist, and the polyester fabric feels low quality. It also has a 12-month warranty, while superior options have lifetime ones.

If you’re a fair-weather hiker or need an emergency kit, this backpack can accommodate your needs. It comes at a fraction of the price of competing options and has a range of useful features.

Runner-Up Best Budget
SOG Ninja Tactical Daypack Black
SOG Ninja Tactical Daypack
A compact and affordable bag that appeals to the budget-conscious shopper.
What we like
  • Affordable
  • Lifetime warranty
  • Padded mesh
What we don’t like
  • Not suitable for long-distance hiking
  • Isn’t the most durable option on the market
  • Does not have a strap keeper

The SOG Ninja Tactical Daypack appeals to campers, hikers, and adventurers. It is a small bag, but with 819 cubic inches of space, it’s still big enough to store your essential items on an afternoon escapade. It even has compartments suitable for up to two liters of fluid.

While this SOG Backpack may not be spacious enough for extending hikes and its durability can’t compare to more expensive packs, it offers impressive organizational capacity and weather-resistance. The bag’s primary section is suitable for storing your clothing or equipment, and the additional spaces have a polyester lining so that they won’t scuff your electronics.

The exterior has tightly woven polyester for a water-resistant seal. Even better, SOG reinforces the bag with heavy-duty zippers that minimize the chances of a leak. You can also redirect liquids inside your backpack through the dual bottom grommet drainage slot.

The backpack comes in seven different colors, ranging from Canyon Camo to Desert Clay, so your bag will fit in whether you use it for camping or commuting to work. The addition of padded mesh yoke-style shoulder straps ensures you remain comfortable wherever you go.

This bag’s most important feature isn’t visible. With its lifetime warranty, SOG guarantees to repair or replace any defective materials or craftsmanship. Simply contact the customer service team to file a claim.

The SOG Ninja Tactical Daypack appeals to budget-conscious shoppers in the military and law enforcement. Although it is small, you can rest assured it will last for many years.

How We Picked and Tested

We considered several dozen backpacks with a reputation for all-purpose and durable construction. We also wanted bags that deliver comfort. Tactical gear often comes with a militaristic design and excessive MOLLE compatibility that can hinder its usability.

Our quest for broad appeal meant that our backpacks should hold a 13-inch laptop and have at least 20-liters worth of space. Ideally, the pack should have a lifetime warranty where the company will repair or replace damaged bags. After all, anything associated with the U.S. military should have enough wherewithal to last a lifetime.

We used these criteria to narrow down the field while considering the price, reputation, and consumer reviews. We relied heavily on research and online reviews to make our list, especially with the coronavirus pandemic hindering our testers’ outdoor activities. Some things we looked at before finalizing our list and reviews include the materials, accessibility, comfort, weight, and warranty.

Final Verdict

Choosing a tactical backpack is a personal decision. The best overall option might not be the best one for your specific needs. If you plan on taking a quick afternoon hike, the 5.11 Rush 72 Backpack would be overkill. The same applies if you use the GoRuck GR1 for three days on the road.

While each backpack on this list caters to distinct niches, they have many similarities. The most durable options have 1000-denier Cordura fabric and weather-resistant exteriors. Other throughlines include spacious hydration compartments, MOLLE compatibility for additional storage, and military-grade reliability.

If we could only recommend one backpack, we would choose the Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault. While the GR1 comes in a close second place, it’s hard to beat a company that focuses all its design and manufacturing power exclusively on backpacks. Even if you don’t buy the 2-Day Assault, you can have confidence knowing that any option on this list has the tactical capabilities to handle your upcoming adventures.

The Ultimate Tactical Backpack Buying Guide

Man wearing tactical backpack hiking in the woods
Photo by Syda Productions

We briefly touched on the five elements we used to find the best tactical backpacks. While these aren’t the only criteria worth considering, they do distinguish great bags from average ones. Note that the gravity of each characteristic depends on your needs and preferences.

Materials

The best tactical backpacks have a robust nylon Cordura or a ripstop composite material. These provide a water-resistance exterior that holds up to most abrasion and weather. The material’s quality depends on its overall weight, density, and weave.

Cordura has long been the gold standard for tactical backpacks. DuPont originally developed it for the U.S. military during World War II. Over the following 45 years, the military used it for vests, backpacks, tires, and other gears.

Cordura has T420 Nylon 6.6 threads that look like cotton yarn. While it has a fuzzy texture, the ruggedness allows it to distribute force evenly on impact. This trait makes it hard to tear the Cordura fibers.

Higher thread counts go hand-in-hand with strong and heavier material. Most tactical backpacks max out at 1000-denier Cordura. Other models have 500-denier Cordura, which has half the weight, but comparable abrasion resistance.

Most tactical backpacks are water-resistant as opposed to waterproof. Some include a polyurethane waterproofing membrane that repels liquid. Companies often apply a single layer to their tactical backpacks, though you can add more at your discretion.

Accessibility

You can have the most robust tactical backpack, but it won’t do you much good if it takes forever to pack it or retrieve gear. The best bags make accessing different compartments straightforward, whether you’re sitting or on the move. It helps if the backpack has multiple internal and external sections so that you can group your belongings.

Don’t confuse having a lot of pockets with outstanding accessibility. It’s more important to find your items quickly than to carry loads of gear. Simple features, such as an interior partition, can make storing and retrieving your laptop fast and easy. It also helps it the backpack has isolated pockets for hydration bladders.

The GoRuck GR1 is a shining example of exceptional accessibility. The main space has a lay-flat clamshell design, so you can open your backpack and see all the contents at once. This aspect is particularly useful if you need to pack and unpack frequently.

The GR1’s inside has three pockets with various designs where you can hold small books, maps, or food. They provide some organization along with outer pockets that can handle surplus goods. The GR1 also has a well-cushioned laptop sleeve that protects your computer from drops.

Comfort

Bulky construction shouldn’t compromise your comfort. Focus on models with manageable weights that you can easily carry for several hours. These backpacks often have uncomplicated designs and strategically placed foam pads.

The best backpacks often have adjustable shoulder straps with plush padding. While the straps don’t have the adjustability range of hiking backpacks, they make it easy to contour the bag to your body. We understand that everyone is built differently, so it helps when a company offers the same product in multiple sizes.

Weight

Weight may be the easiest trait to overlook. A four-pound backpack might not seem like much, but you’ll notice the extra heft when you carry it for 72 hours. The small discrepancy can make all the difference when it comes to your comfort.

The caveat is that stronger bags tend to be heavier. That applies almost universally to the packs on our list. For instance, durable waterproof polyurethane fabric weighs 15 ounces per square yard, compared to flimsy cotton, which has a quarter of the weight.

Most of the backpacks on our list weigh under three pounds. It’s the optimal weight for users, regardless of size. We did include some exceptions, such as the 5.11 Rush 72 Backpack, which weighs five pounds.

Warranty

If you buy a tactical backpack, there’s a good chance you’re buying it for life. Many companies advertise their bags as highly durable and military-grade. It makes sense that tactical gear should hold up for decades.

Many companies offer lifetime warranties, but not all of them stand by these claims. If you purchase an expensive backpack, you want peace of mind knowing that the company will honor the warranty. Ideally, companies will repair the damage, or if the bag is beyond salvaging, replace it. 

We recommend reading customer reviews before making your purchase. See which tactical companies have a track record for living up to their warranty. These companies will bring your bag back to their manufacturing facilities for repair. Our list prioritized companies with strong track records for customer services.