The last thing you want after a day of invigorating hiking is crippling back pain from a badly designed backpack.
Maybe you're struggling to find a bag that big enough to fit everything you need, but one that is still easy to commute with.
Maybe you have a long trip coming up and you don't want to drag a suitcase behind you.
Have you thought about getting a tactical backpack?
We get asked all the time if we find tactical backpacks practical. Well, we have found uses for them whilst traveling, hiking, sporting, and in everyday life. There isn't a part of your life a tactical backpack can't improve.
The one problem with tactical backpacks is that picking the right one is very tricky. It can involve hours of research and experimenting.
Luckily for you, we've done all the research so you don't have to worry about it. In this article you'll find 8 of the best tactical backpacks currently on the market. You'll also find a guide to buying the perfect backpack for you. And a tactical backpack FAQ section.
Want to find your perfect tactical backpack, keep reading….
It is very rare to come across a backpack as equally stylish and practical as the Oakey's Men's Kitchen Sink Bag. The name alone gives you an idea of how much this backpack can handle.
This backpack cinches the top stop for a few key reasons.
Firstly, this is a 34L bag, but if you were to see it in person you'd struggle to believe us. Not only is this a stylish backpack, but it is one of the most compact bags we've ever used. This makes it perfect for commuting and/or traveling.
The bag's internal padding, webbing, and pockets provide specialized spaces for all your belongings (laptops, cans of food, maps, etc.). Whilst the heavy-duty, abrasion-resistant, mixed fiber outside will protect against all elements. Its shoulder straps are thick and come with extra webbing.
This bag can hold a laptop up to 17" inches. It comes with specialised phone pockets and even has a shoe compartment.
One of the few downsides to this bag is that it comes with a very short warranty (only 90 days).
OUR TOP PICK
The Oakley's Men's Kitchen Sink Backpack will help you carry around literally everything, well except the kitchen sink. This is a 34L tactical backpack, that comes in one shade (stealth black).
It is designed to make modern living easier. This bag comes equipped with internal padding with specialised pockets for phones, water bottles, and laptops.
It has both internal and external MOLLE. It has an extra wide shoulder, chest, and hip strap abrasion-resistant.
The bag is made from a heavy-duty mixed fiber exterior that is abrasion resistant. This material is waterproof. The typically vulnerable areas of the bag (sides and top) are reinforced with flexible plastic armor.
This is an incredibly compact bag that is easy to travel with, even when packed to full capacity (34L).
Whilst the Kitchen Sink Bag only comes with a 90 day warranty, it is possible to buy up to four years of extra cover online.
Anyone who is familiar with the brand Mystery Ranch will not be surprised to see one of their bags so high on this list. In the world of tactical gear, these guys have an unrivaled reputation for producing quality products.
So, does this backpack live up to that reputation?
Absolutely, the only reason it's not taking the top spot on this list is that it's a little small.
The hardware on this back is made by two of the best in the business. The zippers are produced by YYK, and the outer hardware is made by ITW. It is made out of scratch resistant and waterproof 500D CORDURA nylon.
This bag has a padded back for extra comfort, as well as a height adjustable chest strap, with an emergency quick release.
This is a 21L backpack that is perfect for commuting and everyday activities around town. The one extra we wish this bag had was a set of hip straps. These would help the wearer distribute weight more evenly around their body.
If you're looking to trial a tactical backpack but aren't ready to commit to the hefty prices of some of the other bags on this list, check out the SOG Ninja Tactical Day pack.
Whilst this bag is not made of the greatest materials (100% polyester) it does offer some great features at a really good price.
This backpack comes with a lifetime warranty from the manufacturer and claims to be waterproof. Both the bag and its MOLLE webbing is made from polyester. The bag has drainage holes to keep garments dry.
The shoulder straps are thick and height adjustable. This bag comes with a chest strap as well as built-in piping for a hydration pack. It has non-adjustable MOLLE webbing on the outside as well as the inside.
This back has a capacity of 24.2L.
The REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack is another great low cost option. This is perfect for tactical backpack beginners.
Like the SOG Ninja, this is mostly made of polyester, so it won't last you as long as the numbers #1 & #2 on this list will. But for the price difference that's not surprising.
If you're looking for a stylish, 40L tactical backpack without having to fork out a lot then check this one out.
The REEBOW GEAR comes with wide, yoke style shoulder straps. It has a set of chest and hip straps as well. The material these straps are made from is comfortable and breathable.
It comes equipped with multiple waterproof compartments with heavy-duty zippers and external MOLLE webbing. It has a waterproofed section designed to store a 2L hydration pack.
It has a side and front load compression system. However, this doesn't work very efficiently. This bag can end up very front heavy and bulky.
It will take you a little time to pack this correctly. It cannot be done in a hurry.
If you want a tactical backpack made from the most durable material currently available to civilians then you'll want the Mardingtop Day pack.
This 35L military inspired backpack is made from a 6000D nylon polyester blend. This type of nylon is heavy-duty, thick, and abrasion resistant.
It is also waterproof and is able to survive all sorts of weather conditions. It can also survive being dropped from great heights.
Its outside hardware is made by ITW, and its zippered is made by YKK. These are two of the best hardware makers in the business.
This assault pack has built-in storage space for a 2.5-liter hydration pack. It is both internal padding and MOLLE.
The back, the shoulder straps, and the waist strap on this bag are all padded. This bag is designed to be worn for days at a time so has been built to be as ergonomic as possible.
This is a compact bag that takes up very little room, even when at full capacity.
This is one of the closest bags to military tactical equipment out there. It even comes in classic camouflage colors to add to the experience. You will however be paying extra for that experience.
This is a 25L tactical backpack made from 100% 500D CORDURA nylon material. The front of the bag is fitted with a large amount of MOLLE webbing.
The sides of the bags have a series of hooks mounted onto them. There is plenty of space to store extra equipment.
Its hardware is produced by Duraflex, and its zippers are made by YKK.
The shoulder straps are padded and can be adjusted by 15". It also has chest and hip straps. The waist strap is detachable.
The bag has a cotton lining with CORDURA 500D laminate lining within its pockets to protect your valuables.
It has space for a 2L hydration pack and canteen storage. The bag is waterproof and scuff-resistant.
Inspired by the tactical gear of the L.A.P.D, the Atlas 72H tactical backpack is a great option for those of you who need something for the more extreme side of life.
This bag is made from extremely durable 9000D polyester and has a PVC coating to keep out any harsh weather conditions. It's MOLLE is laser cut, which Atlas claims makes it easier to use than regular MOLLE.
This bag also has a compartment to store a 2L hydration pack in. At the base of the bag, there is a separate section to store bulkier items like shoes and helmets.
There are both internal and external loops that allow you to attach Atlas accessories and compartments to extend the capacity of this bag.
It has no obvious compression system and is quite bulky, even before you add anything else to it. This is a bag we would recommend taking hiking but not on the train.
Whilst this is not technically a tactical backpack we had to include this one.
Firstly, this one of the best reviewed backpacks of all time. Secondly, it is modeled after many of the best tactical backpacks but is fully designed for day to day commuting and city life.
With this backpack, you can truly have all the benefits of tactical gear applied to your everyday life.
This bag comes with a lock system, USB charging point, internal MOLLE webbing, and a compression system. It comes with shoulder and chest straps. The shoulder straps are heavily padded for the user's comfort.
This bag has an impressive 30L capacity and is extremely compact.
Best Tactical Backpacks Buying Guide
The world of tactical gear can be a complicated one. Particularly for newcomers.
Below we have put together a guide to selecting the perfect tactical backpack for you:
The first choice you will have to make about your tactical bag is: what capacity do you need.
The answer to this will vary depending on how you intend to use your backpack. The sections below offer rough suggestions of what range of capacity you will require.
However, everyone has different requirements, so make sure to do your own research, as well as reading ours:
This option for those looking for a backpack that can handle their everyday adventures. Bags like this are great for carrying everything you need for the office in one place. Or your equipment for a short, one day hike. They're great for small food shopping trips and weekend getaways.
Some people may require a greater capacity to handle their EDC (everyday carry).
This is the size you want to consider if you're longing to go camping (or hiking) for extended periods of time, like over a fortnight. This is also a great size if you're looking to travel internationally.
If you are a minimalist packer then you will be able to get away with the lower end of this range. However, most of us will be looking at the upper end, if not in the next category altogether.
30L - 60L+
This is the perfect size for preppers and survivalists. Or if you're interested in long term hiking trips and don't want to stop to pick up more food.
Bags in this size range give you the luxury of being able to pack more than just the bare essentials. There may even be enough space to bring something luxurious like a book on your hiking trip. Or a bigger first aid kit.
Materials, Modules, and Hardware
This is probably the most complicated part of picking out a tactical backpack.
Doing a lot of research into the materials, hardware, and modules will pay off in the long run.
Firstly, you should avoid bags that are made of polyester, Kordra, or CORDURA nylon under 500D. Instead, look for a backpack made from 500D - 1200C CORDURA, or even better X-Pac VS fabric.
Although those fabrics are heavier than the ones you should avoid they will survive the elements and some pretty hefty falls if they need to.
The secret to getting a bag with high-quality hardware is to do your research. Bags that have high-quality hardware from well-respected brands will boast about it in their specifications.
If the hardware brand is left off, or you don't recognize them, be a little wary. Do more research, and dig deeper.
Before picking out a tactical backpack, spend some time researching MOLLE webbing. You will want to know if this is something you need before purchasing a bag.
MOLLE is a lightweight way to increase the bag's capacity and to attach external gear. Many brands even make backpacks with customizable MOLLE webbing.
One of the major pros to tactical backpacks is (if you get the right one) they are a lot more comfortable than the average backpack.
Having both shoulder and hip straps are essential for preventing strain on the back. Everyone has a different preference for spreading weight across their body. It is important you know you're before committing to a tactical backpack.
If you have a smaller tactical backpack you will be able to bear the weight slowly in your shoulders. If you have a bigger back, you will want to make sure you have hips straps, and possible chest straps as well.
Finally, you'll want to make sure that you like the way your bag looks. Whilst this is not an essential element to the bag's performance, you will be more likely to use a bag you find appealing.
You don't want to spend all this time researching a tactical backpack, only to be too embarrassed to wear it. And for it to spend the next 10 years under your stairs.
Frequently Asked Questions
One of the things we get asked about most frequently is Tactical Backpacks. There is a lot of mystery and contention surrounding these items.
So, we have answered below the three most frequently asked questions we get about tactical backpacks:
Do I really need a tactical backpack?
Most people think that just because they're not at war, they won't find any use in a tactical backpack.
We could literally talk for hours about all the benefits tactical backpacks can bring to the average person's life. But neither of us have time for that, so here's a quick list of their benefits:
- More compact than the average backpack
- You can carry more stuff
- Most come with security features
- You'll only ever need to carry one bag
- They're more comfortable than the average backpack
How big does my tactical backpack need to be?
The answer to this entirely depends on what you need your bag for and how you intend to use it.
For day to day needs, we recommend finding yourself a 22L capacity bag. Any smaller and you'll struggle to enjoy all the features of a tactical bag. Any bigger and it may start to get in your way.
If you are looking to take your bag out hiking, or you want to use it for survival activities then we would recommend a 36L+ bag. In these situations the more space you have the better.
Is Military Surplus the best option?
This is a common belief amongst fans of tactical gear. However, it's not necessarily true. Whilst Military gear is high quality it is designed for war, and not everyday life. These bags are designed to carry Claymore Mines and rations, not reusable coffee cups and Moleskins.
There are many companies that apply the philosophy and design of Military tactical gear to civilian lifestyles. Meaning you can have the best of both worlds. You can get a Military standard backpack that has a slot for your iPhone 11.
If you are looking to use your backpack for survival activities or outdoor sports you may find a Military design more practical.