What Makes a Backpack Tactical?
Tactical always makes something sound way better and much cooler. Throw the word in front of a knife, watch, and even a backpack and all of these items are elevated. Does the army use that watch? Will the knife be your one-stop-shop for all your outdoor needs? And, will that backpack help you survive in the wilderness with only your wits?
But what does tactical actually mean?
And what sets a tactical backpack apart from regular backpacks?
Tactical backpacks are stronger and more durable than their regular counterparts. You may have to pay a little more for them, but they will save you money in the long run by lasting almost forever.
They usually implement heavy-duty polyester or ballistic-grade nylon so that they will not rip or tear easily, and many are almost impossible to pierce. This means that you can throw anything at your tactical backpack, literally.
If you are buying a tactical backpack, you might be doing so to better organize your gear and equipment. Most regular backpacks will come with two or three compartments, enough for the basics, but you need more.
Tactical backpacks can have up to 10 separate compartments, and sometimes more. This gives you enough room to stash your gear and keep it organized, making for easier packing and unpacking.
Tactical backpacks are made to be used a lot and to carry weight, so they need to be comfortable, and you will find that they are more comfortable than regular backpacks. This makes them a great choice if you are after a regular backpack but want to take advantage of the added comfort.
Tactical backpacks have extra padding on the shoulders and waist, sharing the weight of the bag.
Tactical backpacks and hydration go hand in hand. If you are using a tactical backpack, then chances are that you are going to want to take some extra hydration with you.
With a regular backpack, you are either trying to reach around to grab the bottle from the side, almost dislocating your shoulder in the process, or taking the backpack off completely to get to your H20. With a tactical backpack, you can have the option of a water pouch and a soft hose. All you need to do is grab the end and take a drink without ever having to stop.
Of course, it’s sometimes nice to take a break and enjoy your surroundings, and a tactical backpack will give you that versatility.
With a regular backpack, what you see is what you get. With a tactical backpack, what you see is what you start with.
There are many tactical and military-grade connection systems available for tactical backpacks, and you can add all manner of additions, pouches, pockets, and specific use attachments. This can only help you to be more organized when out and about.
Uses for Tactical Backpacks
You know a little about tactical backpacks, but what would you actually use one for? Let’s take a look at some common uses.
Even if you never need it, a tactical backpack can make the perfect container for your emergency kit. If you plan on surviving out in the wild (or anywhere else) for a few days, weeks, or months, then you can pack your survival gear into your tactical backpack and be ready to go.
If you are worried about the threat of an impending war, a runaway virus, or the zombie apocalypse, then load up your backpack with medical supplies, hunting gear, and other survival gear, and be ready to leave at the drop of a hat or shelter in place.
If you want to have the same gear with you out in the wild for a week-long hiking or camping trip, you have it all ready to go.
Just because it is a tactical backpack, that does not mean that you cannot use it every day. After a few uses, you will understand why tactical backpacks are far superior to regular backpacks, and you will never go back.
These backpacks have room for all your electronic devices, have protective padding, and often block out any unwanted signals that aim to steal your identity. You will also have room for a flashlight, notebook, pocket knife, phone, snacks, water, and everything else.
Tactical backpacks often offer a more streamlined design, extra comfort, and more capacity while being organized and tough too.
In truth, a tactical backpack can be used for anything and, if you have a specific use in mind, you can take advantage of the organizational nature of the bag to fit your needs. Let’s take a look at one example that can be a matter of life or death: Babies.
If you are looking for the perfect baby change bag, then you have it. Not only does a tactical backpack have enough room to store and organize everything, but it looks way cooler than the other options out there.
And, if you throw in some of your survival gear, too, you can take off should those zombies come calling at an inopportune moment.
Best Tactical Backpack
Best Overall Tactical Backpack
Tacticon Battle Tactical Backpack
This company is owned by a battle veteran, so you know that a lot of care has gone into the design of the backpack and that it is going to be functional and comfortable.
The rugged material resists damage, and the waterproof lining protects all of your electronics inside. The comfortable padded mesh feels great on your back and allows the air to circulate so that you are not bogged down by moisture. The seams are double-stitched, and everything is over-engineered to last a lifetime.
The bag is concealed carry compatible, laptop safe, and allows for a hydration bladder. We also love the 1-day to 3-day pack. The collapsible and extendable design means that you can keep the backpack slim when you are not hauling a lot and expand it to pack in a ton of gear.
A US company headed by a veteran that makes tactical backpacks that will fit your every need.
Best Value Tactical Backpack
Samurai Tactical Backpack
You are not going to find a better backpack much cheaper than this one.
You will feel like a samurai when you are carrying this on your back, and the slimline look has enough space for a bug-out or everyday carry bag, though there is a MOLLE system, so you can attach additional tactical pouches or gear if you want to expand your carrying capacity.
You have an initial capacity of 24L, and the heavy-duty zippers and cord pulls ensure that you can safely secure everything without putting too much pressure on the bag exterior. The backpack is hydration compatible with a hose port, and the straps are extremely comfortable.
An affordable and useful tactical backpack.
Best Lightweight Tactical Backpack
HDE Tactical Military Backpack
If you want a light tactical backpack, then look no further. This backpack is small and light but still packs a punch.
The 9” x 9” x 17” backpack is great as a carry-on if you are traveling or can be taken absolutely everywhere with you. You have 20L of capacity with 4 zippered compartments, a padded rear pouch, quick-release buckles, and padded straps.
You can still haul a lot and, while the backpack is light, if you load it up with heavy items, it is going to remain comfortable all day.
A perfect hiking tactical bag, you are almost not going to know that it is on your back.
Best Travel Tactical Backpack
Wolf Warrior Large Capacity Tactical Backpack
Whether you want to use this as a travel backpack, carry-on, or checked bag, this expandable backpack can do it all.
The backpack starts at a generous 39L and can expand up to 64L, enough space for everything that you need for an extended trip. There are 4 loading spaces and a mesh water bottle pocket. The adjustable chest belt and waist strap are a welcome addition, spreading out the weight of the bag, which can be considerable when packed full.
The water-resistant 600D material is rugged enough to support your journey if you are backpacking through the wild, and the side buckles help to adapt the size of the bag, securing it when it is not expanded to full size.
A great travel bag, but also a bag that can be used for almost any occasion.
Most Comfortable Tactical Backpack
Mardingtop Tactical Backpack
Not only is this tactical backpack one of the most comfortable out there, but it also comes in so many color and style choices that you will want to buy more than one.
You can carry up to 35L of gear in this bag, and when you have it packed full, you will be appreciative of the waist belt design and the stitched-in strap that can slide positions for the most comfortable fit. There is also extra back padding, and the fully adjustable shoulder straps feel great when worn.
This multifunctional bag can be used on camping trips, as a school backpack, or as a bug-out bag. There are multiple compartments, a hydration chamber, and 2 extra webbing straps for extra gear.
A comfortable and functional backpack.
Best Laptop Tactical Backpack
ProCase Tactical Outdoor Backpack
This 30L tactical backpack has all the space you need for your gear, along with a main compartment that will protect your laptop.
Not only will this tactical backpack cushion your laptop, but it is perfect for all of your other electronic devices too. There are two front pockets that can hold your cell phone, extra cables and chargers, and 5 zippered compartments for everything else.
The heavy-duty 1000D nylon material offers exceptional durability, protecting all of your electronics, and all the seams are double-stitched with heavy-duty zippers.
A comfortable and light backpack that is great for school or work.
Best Waterproof Tactical Backpack
ArcEnCial Outdoor Tactical Army Backpack
If you are worried about water damage, this tactical backpack will keep all of the moisture out and all of your belongings safe.
The 60L capacity bag is naturally water-resistant, but there is also an additional rain cover to offer an extra layer of protection. Inside, you have multiple compartments for all of your gear, and there are additional zippered pockets on the outside too.
You can fit everything you need in this bag to last you for a long time and protect it all from the wet and rain too—a perfect bug-out bag.
Best Everyday Tactical Backpack
Pans Military Tactical Backpack
All of the backpacks on our list can be used every day, but this one gives you the most flexibility.
No matter what the occasion, this backpack will come in handy. You can use it as a bug-out bag, an everyday carry, travel backpack, camping bag, hunting bag, work, school, and lots more. The MOLLE system allows you to add more customization to the bag, should you need it, and the multiple compartments inside allow you to organize everything.
If you don’t know what you need a tactical backpack for, then choose this one.
Best Camping/Survival Tactical Backpack
Tru Salute Tactical Backpack
You want to head out into the great outdoors, and you don’t want to leave behind any of your survival gear. Well, grab this bag, fill it up, and go enjoy your wilderness adventure.
The enormous central pocket lets you pack the essentials that will not be needed until you find a spot to spend the night, allowing you to put everything else within close reach. Within the central compartment, there are 5 individual pockets, so you can organize everything before you set out. On the outside, there are multiple pockets and compartments for all your hunting and survival gear.
You can also add additional tactical pouches and gear should you want to. The bag is durable (you are going to have this backpack for a long time), and the water-resistant material is going to keep your gear in good shape when you are outdoors for a long time.
With this bag, you are going to make survival as enjoyable as possible.
Most Durable Tactical Backpack
Reebow Gear Military Tactical Backpack
You never know what life is going to throw at you, so always be prepared with this extra-tough tactical backpack.
You have 40L of capacity, and the military-grade high-density fabric is both durable and water-resistant. The seams are double-stitched, removing any weak points, the zippers are heavy-duty for repeated use, and the utility-style cord pulls are as tough as they get.
Of course, you get everything that you would expect from a tactical backpack: multiple pockets, hydration pocket, MOLLE system, comfortable padded straps, ventilation systems, and load compression systems.
This could be the last tactical backpack that you ever purchase.
Best Hydration Tactical Backpack
Sharkmouth Hydration Tactical Backpack
If you are out hiking, trail running, or just need to take extra hydration, then this tactical backpack comes with an included hydration bladder to keep you going all day.
The bladder has a 2L capacity, is BPA -free, is leak-proof, has an automatic shut-off valve, and a connector tube that easily runs from the backpack to you. The lid screws on tight for safety and allows a generous opening when you need to refill the bladder, allowing for refilling from streams or any other water source.
Surrounding the bladder, you have a large tactical bag, crafted from 900D tear- and water-resistant polyester. There is also a MOLLE system, so you can adapt and enlarge the bag as needed.
A great backpack for those who are worried about hydration.
What to Look for in a Tactical Backpack
You want a tactical backpack; I mean, we all do, right? But what should you actually be looking for when you buy one? Here’s a handy checklist.
You might not give this much thought, as you are buying the backpack for the functionality, but you should pay attention if you are hunting, camping, or surviving. If you need to blend in, then a camo backpack is going to be your best friend. If this is an everyday backpack, go with what you like, but match it to your surroundings if you do not want to be seen.
This is a big one. If your backpack does not hold all of your stuff, then it is going to be next to useless. First, check what you need to carry and opt for a bag that fits all of that gear. To be safe, you can choose a backpack with a MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) system and add more gear and compartments later.
Tactical backpacks need to be durable, so you should never settle for less than 500D fabric, opting for nylon if you can find it. The more durable the material, the longer the backpack is going to last, and the more protected your belongings are going to be. Also, if you have delicate items in your bag, you might want to look for a pierce-resistant tactical backpack.
Zippers and seams are the weak points of the bag, so look for tactical backpacks that are double stitched and come with heavy-duty zippers. That goes for all of the other hardware too. You want double-stitching on all pulls, straps, and handles. If the hardware fails, it can ruin the functionality of the entire bag.
MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) modularity allows you to add extra gear and pouches onto your backpack. This could be specific storage space for rounds of ammunition or a hunting knife or an extra compartment for anything that will fit inside. Even if you do not use the MOLLE system, it is worth having just in case. It is better to have it and not use it than to not have it and need it.
Another big thing to consider. There is no point in having a bag big enough to carry everything if you cannot carry it. Look for padded straps and extra straps around your waist and chest to help spread the weight. You should also consider ventilation. Mesh on the back can be the difference between a comfortable day and one where you are drenched in sweat.
The large pockets are fine for your belongings, but you are going to be carrying some stuff that you want easy access to, such as your passport or a hunting knife. Make sure that you have outer pockets and compartments for everything that you need.
What Should Be In a Tactical Backpack
It does not matter if you are packing for an everyday carry or wilderness survival, there are a few items that should be in every tactical backpack. Make sure to always carry the following:
- First Aid Kit
- Food (high-protein & energy-boosting)
- Personal Hygiene Items
If you are packing a survival bag, you may also want to pack the following:
- Defensive Items
- Fire Starters
- Solar power equipment
When you are packing your bag, start at the bottom and work your way up. At the bottom of the bag have the gear that you do not need through the day and will only need access to when you are done carrying the bag, such as your bedding, clothing, and hygiene items. You can also pack heavier tools at the bottom of the bag.
On top of that should be anything that you need to set up camp for the night. In the middle of the bag should also be extra food and water that you won’t need through the day.
In the top of the bag, keep an extra pair of socks, waterproof gear, navigation equipment, self-defense gear, snacks, and any water filtration equipment.
You can use the outer pockets and any MOLLE gear to attach water packs, first aid kit, eye and ear protection, weapons, and any other essentials.
Where to Buy a Tactical Backpack
We have presented a list of some of the best backpacks out there, but that does not mean that you have to buy one from the list. There are a number of stores and websites out there that have numerous tactical backpacks, though we do pride ourselves on finding the best tactical gear.
If we can leave you with one tip, it is this:
Shop around in stores and buy online when it makes sense. By checking out tactical backpacks in a store, you get to try them on, feel the comfort, and then discover what you like and don’t like. After that, you can purchase the bag or shop around online for a better deal.
This page last updated January 3, 2022