The Best Tactical Backpacks for 2017


Kelty Raven

Kelty Raven

A backpack is one of the most basic pieces of tactical equipment because it allows you to easily carry your gear. Tactical backpacks differ from other backpacks (such as backpacking and hiking backpacks) by being more durable so that they can withstand rigorous abrasion encountered during field use. Furthermore, tactical backpacks also have more compartments and pockets which allow you to organize your equipment meticulously. However, due to the exceedingly durable materials and numerous compartments (which require more zippers and fabric) they are usually also heavier than other backpacks.

As there are many tactical backpacks on the market, some caution is required when buying it – especially because high-quality tactical backpacks are fairly expensive. Here we selected the best tactical backpacks and reviewed them to make your buying decision a little easier. We were especially looking for highly durable backpacks that offer a good volume-to-weight ratio. In order to suit everyone’s needs we selected three tactical backpacks with a volume of more than 40 liters and two tactical daypacks with a volume of less than 30 liters. How big a backpack you need, greatly depends on the equipment that you are planning to carry with you. We do not recommend purchasing a very spacious backpack if you don’t need it – a backpack needs to be packed sufficiently to be stable (otherwise the packed equipment can move around and decrease your balance). Furthermore, big backpacks are heavier than small backpacks because they require more fabric. For more information on how to properly pack a backpack for functionality and stability, read our article How to pack a backpack.

This selection was updated on the 13th of January 2017.

 

1. Buying a Tactical Backpack – What is important?

Weight:

As mentioned above, tactical backpacks are heavier than other backpacks (such as hiking and backpacking backpacks) for the volume they offer as they have more compartments/pockets and are made of more durable materials. Nevertheless, a tactical backpack should be as light as possible for the volume it provides. Lightweight equipment allows you to move faster and easier as it reduces the aerobic demand (heart rate, breathing, calorie consumption etc.).

Manufacturers make backpacks lighter by using cutting-edge materials which provide superb durability and abrasion-resistance while being relatively light. All tactical backpacks in this review weigh less than 2.5 kilograms.

Material:

Tactical backpacks are normally made of nylon as nylon provides good durability and abrasion resistance. Nylon comes in different denier – the higher the denier, the more durable and heavier is the fabric. High-quality tactical backpacks use nylon with a denier value of at least 500. In comparison light-weight hiking and backpacking backpacks usually use nylon with a denier value of less than 250.

Compartments and pockets:

In addition to the main compartment, a tactical backpack should have enough outer and inner pockets in different sizes so that you can easily organize your gear. It is crucial that you know where every piece of gear is at any moment as this allows you to react fast to various situations. All backpacks listed in this review have plenty of inner and outer pockets.

Backpanel:

The backpanel of a tactical backpack should be ergonomically shaped and sufficiently padded for good comfort. Furthermore, the backpanel should also have ventilation channels so that the sweat from your back can easily evaporate. Tactical backpacks usually have backpanels made of foam. More spacious tactical backpacks often have backpanels which are equipped with aluminum stays for increased stability when you are carrying heavy loads.

Hydration System Compatibility:

Hydration system compatible backpacks have a pocket or a sleeve for water reservoir as well as an opening for the tube. A hydration system allows you to hydrate without taking your backpack off first or asking somebody to give you a water bottle from your backpack. For more information about hydration systems read our article Hydration Systems VS. Water Bottles.

MOLLE Compatibility:

It is a great benefit if a backpack is MOLLE compatible as MOLLE webbing allows you to easily attach other MOLLE compatible gear (such as pouches) to it. The MOLLE system consists of rows of durable nylon that are stitched to the main fabric. All backpacks in this selection are MOLLE compatible.

2. The Best Tactical Backpacks Review

Best Tactical Backpacks

Best Tactical Backpacks

  1. 5.11 Rush 72
  2. Kelty Raven 41
  3. Snugpak Endurance 40
  4. Maxpedition Zafar 28
  5. Direct Action Dragon Egg 25 

Comparison:

Feature/Product 5.11 Rush 72Kelty Raven Snugpak Endurance Maxpedition ZafarDirect Action Dragon Egg
Weight2300 g 2400 g 1400 g 1600 g 1620 g
Volume55 l 41 l 40 l 28 l25 l
Material1000D Nylon 500D and 1000D Nylon 600D Nylon 1000D Nylon 500D Nylon
BackpanelPadded with air channels Padded with air channelsPadded with air channelsPadded with air channelsPadded with air channels
Hip BeltYesYesYesYesYes
Sternum StrapYesYesYesYesYes
MOLLE CompatibleYesYesYesYesYes
ColorsBlack, Coyote, MultiCam, TAC OD, Sandstone, Double Tap, Storm Black, CoyoteOlive Green, Black OD Green, Khaki Adaptive Green, Black, Coyote, Multicam, Olve Green, Pencott Snowdrift, Pencott Sandstorm, Shadow Grey
5.11 Rush 72

5.11 Rush 72

1. 5.11 Rush 72

Suitable for:

  • Military use
  • Police use
  • Hunting
  • Airsoft
  • Everyday use

 

The 5.11 Rush 72 backpack is highly popular among military personnel, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. The backpack is made of abrasion-resistant 1000-denier nylon and thus it offers superb durability. The durability is further increased with high-quality YKK zippers. The backpack offers a volume of 55 liters and is thus suitable for activities lasting up to three days. It has a spacious main compartment and a smaller front compartment. The stash pocket between those two compartments is perfect for storing bigger items like for example a helmet. The main compartment also has two spacious mesh pockets while the front compartment features an organization panel which allows you to securely store maps, pens and other small items. Additionally, the backpack has two large side pockets, a water reservoir pocket and two external pockets at the top. The side pockets are perfect for storing water bottles and other items that you want within easy reach while the two external pockets at the top come in handy for small items (compass, sunglasses etc.); one of them is lined with fleece in order to protect items from abrasion. The water reservoir pocket is placed between the backpanel and the main compartment and fits water reservoirs with a volume of up to three liters. The backpanel is firm and uses a single aluminum stay to provide good stability when you are carrying heavy loads. However, the aluminum stay can be also removed to reduce the weight if you are carrying a bulky but not heavy load. The backpack features fairly wide and well-padded shoulder straps and hip belt. It is also equipped with a sternum strap. All in all, the 5.11 Rush 72 backpack is a great option for everybody who likes to spend time in the great outdoors.

 

Pros:

  • Durability (material)
  • Numerous pockets
  • Handy compartments
  • Well-padded shoulder straps

Cons:

  • Backpanel (padding could be better)

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Video

Kelty Raven

Kelty Raven

2. Kelty Raven

Suitable for:

  • Military use
  • Police use
  • Hunting
  • Airsoft
  • Everyday use

 

The Kelty Raven backpack is designed for radio operators and thus it allows you to easily carry a military radio together with various antennas. Nevertheless, as the radio-specific holders can be removed, the backpack can be also used for more general tasks. The backpack is smaller than the 5.11 Rush 72 backpack but otherwise has a quite similar construction. It features a spacious main compartment and a smaller front compartment with a stash compartment (for a helmet or other frequently needed items) between them. The front compartment is equipped with numerous small pockets and holders so that you can efficiently organize your gear. The main compartment features a radio holder on the backside as well as a spacious pocket on the front side. The radio holder can securely and firmly accommodate various military radios and allows you to vertically adjust the radio. The holder can be also removed in case that it is not required. Additionally the backpack has two zippered side pockets and a zippered pocket at the bottom. The pocket at the bottom contains a rain cover. The backpack is made of 500-denier nylon, but reinforced with 1000-denier nylon in the areas that are prone to abrasion. The backpanel is rigid and the shoulder straps are wide as well as well-padded. The backpack is also equipped with a hip belt and sternum strap. All in all, the Kelty Raven backpack offers great functionality and durability. It is especially recommended for radio operators.

 

Pros:

  • Functionality
  • Pockets
  • Compartments
  • Backpanel

Cons:

  • /

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Snugpak Endurance

Snugpak Endurance

3. Snugpak Endurance

Suitable for:

  • Military use
  • Police use
  • Hunting
  • Airsoft
  • Everyday use

 

The Snugpak Endurance backpack is the lightest backpack in this selection (it weighs merely 1400 grams) while offering a volume of 40 liters. Therefore, it is perfect for those who need a highly durable but super light backpack. The Snugpak Endurance backpack differs from the above reviewed 5.11 and Kelty backpacks by having a top-loading design (the other two backpacks have front-loading design). The backpack is made of abrasion-resistant 600-denier nylon and thus it provides good durability. On the front as well as on the sides the backpack is equipped with MOLLE webbing so that you can easily attach extra pouches and accessories. In addition to the main compartment, the backpack also has an external zippered lid pocket, internal zippered lid pocket and two side pockets. A hydration sleeve is placed inside the main compartment and fits water reservoirs with a volume of up to three liters. Because the hydration sleeve is placed in the main compartment, it is slightly harder to get your water reservoir in or out when the backpack is full – unlike the 5.11 and Kelty backpacks listed above which have an external pocket for a water reservoir – thus enabling you to easily insert a water reservoir even when the backpack is full. The Snugpak Endurance backpack also features a bungee cord on the front side (perfect for attaching a helmet), hip belt and sternum strap. It is a great choice for those who want a lightweight but highly durable backpack for various outdoor activities.

 

Pros:

  • Weight
  • Durability (almost no zippers that could malfunction)
  • Bungee cord on the back
  • All-around MOLLE webbing

Cons:

  • Lacks pockets and compartments
  • Internal water reservoir sleeve (hard to get water reservoir in when the backpack is full)

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Maxpedition Zafar

Maxpedition Zafar

4. Maxpedition Zafar

Suitable for:

  • Military use
  • Police use
  • Hunting
  • Airsoft
  • Everyday use

 

The Maxpedition Zafar backpack offers a volume of 28 liters and is thus best for one day activities. The backpack is, like the 5.11 Rush backpack, made of 1000-denier nylon for good durability. The durability is further increased with sturdy YKK zippers and high-quality Duraflex buckles, which can be closed silently due to their special construction.  The material is also treated with Dupont Teflon coating for better water-resistance. The backpanel features a polypropylene frame with a single aluminum stay and thus provides good stability. It also offers great ventilation as it has air channels. The frame can be accessed through the main compartment and removed to reduce the weight of the backpack. However, the frame provides stability when carrying heavy loads and thus it’s not recommended removing it unless the items in the backpack are very light. For storing equipment the backpack has a spacious main compartment, zippered front pocket (mesh pockets inside), zippered pocket at the top (lined with fleece), two deep side pockets, two zippered side pockets and two zippered hip belt pockets. The main compartment has a sleeve for a water reservoir (with a volume of up to 3 liters) as well as one zippered mesh pocket. The backpack is also equipped with a hip belt and sternum strap for good fit and stability. The Maxpedition Zafar backpack is a great choice for those who need a durable and well-structured backpack for day-long activities.

 

Pros:

  • Durability (material)
  • Many pockets
  • Functionality
  • Comfortable backpanel

Cons:

  • Internal water reservoir pocket (hard to get water reservoir in when the backpack is full)

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Video

Direct Action Dragon Egg

Direct Action Dragon Egg

5. Direct Action Dragon Egg

Suitable for:

  • Military use
  • Police use
  • Hunting
  • Airsoft
  • Everyday use

 

The Direct Action Dragon Egg backpack offers a volume (25 liters) comparable to that of the Maxpedition Zafar backpack. It is, however, made of a less robust material; the Direct Action Dragon Egg backpack uses merely 500-denier nylon compared to the Zafar’s 1000-denier. The Direct Action Dragon Egg backpack is equipped with robust YKK zippers and Duraflex buckles. The backpanel provides great comfort and ventilation – it is made of molded foam and has an air channel in the middle. The straps are wide and well-padded which additionally increases the comfort. For storing items, the backpack has a spacious main compartment, front admin pocket, zippered pocket at the top, two side pockets and a zippered compartment between the main compartment and the backpanel.  The latter is perfect for storing a water reservoir but it also fits 15-inch laptop without a problem. The front admin pocket has numerous mesh pockets and holders which allow you to easily organize small items while the zippered pocket at the top is lined with fleece and thus perfect for storing sunglasses. The backpack is also equipped with a sternum strap and hip belt. The hip belt is unfortunately not padded like the hip belts on the other backpacks in this selection. The front side of the backpack is equipped with laser-cut MOLLE webbing for attaching extra pouches. The Direct Action Dragon Egg backpack is a very versatile backpack which comes in handy for various tasks.

 

Pros:

  • Pockets
  • Compartments
  • Functionality
  • Comfortable backpanel

Cons:

  • Hip belt is not padded

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3. The most attractive product in the review

Which product is the most attractive?
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