The Best Tactical Backpacks of 2019


Kelty Raven

Kelty Raven

A tactical backpack is one of the most basic pieces of tactical gear because it allows you to easily carry your essentials. Tactical backpacks differ from other backpacks (such as hiking backpacks) in materials and colors. They are made of more durable materials to withstand rigorous abrasion during field use. Furthermore, they also have more compartments and pockets which allow you to organize your gear meticulously. Precisely due to the very durable materials and numerous compartments, they are usually heavier than other backpacks. Here we selected and reviewed the best tactical backpacks to make your buying decision a little easier.

We only listed durable and lightweight tactical backpacks in this review. To suit everyone’s needs we selected three backpacks with a capacity of more than 40 liters and two tactical daypacks with a capacity of less than 30 liters. How big a backpack you need, greatly depends on the gear you plan to carry with you. We do not recommend purchasing a very big backpack if you don’t need it – a backpack needs to be relatively full to be stable on your back – otherwise items in it move around and decrease your balance. Furthermore, bigger backpacks are also heavier.

We regularly update our reviews and selections to always recommend you the best products on the market.

1. Buying a Tactical Backpack – What is important?

Weight:

Tactical backpacks are heavier than hiking and backpacking backpacks for the volume they provide, because they are made of more durable materials and have more pockets and compartments. Nevertheless, a tactical backpack should be as light as possible without compromising quality as lightweight gear reduces the strain on your muscles and thus allows you to move faster. Manufacturers make backpacks lighter by using cutting-edge materials which are lightweight but provide superb durability and abrasion-resistance. In this selection we only listed lightweight products – they all weigh less than 6 pounds.

Material:

Tactical backpacks are normally made of nylon because nylon provides good durability and abrasion resistance. Nylon is available in different deniers – the higher the denier, the more durable and heavier the fabric. High-quality tactical backpacks are made of nylon with a denier value of 500 or more. In comparison, lightweight hiking and backpacking backpacks are usually made of nylon with a denier value below 250.

Compartments and pockets:

In addition to the main compartment, a tactical backpack should have plenty of external and internal pockets in different sizes. Pockets and compartments allow you to easily organize your gear. It is crucial that you know where every piece of your gear is at any moment as this allows you to react quickly to different situations. All backpacks in this review have plenty of internal and external pockets.

Backpanel:

The backpanel of a backpack should be ergonomically shaped and sufficiently padded. Furthermore, the backpanel should also have ventilation channels so that the sweat from your back can evaporate. Tactical backpacks usually have foam backpanels. Bigger tactical backpacks often have aluminum stays behind the backpanels. Aluminum stays are very useful when you are carrying a heavy load as they efficiently transfer the weight from your shoulders to your hips (via the hip belt).

Hydration System Compatibility:

Hydration system compatible backpacks have a pocket or a sleeve for water reservoir/hydration bladder and an opening for a tube at the top. A hydration system allows you to hydrate without having to take off your backpack first to unpack water bottles. For more information about hydration systems read our article Hydration Systems VS. Water Bottles.

MOLLE Compatibility:

It is a great benefit if a tactical backpack is MOLLE compatible because MOLLE webbing allows you to easily attach other MOLLE gear – for example pouches. The MOLLE system consists of rows of durable nylon which 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

The Best Tactical Backpacks – List

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

Comparison:

Feature/Product 5.11 Rush 72Kelty Raven Snugpak Endurance Maxpedition XanthaDirect Action Dragon Egg
Weight5 lbs. 1 oz.5 lbs. 5 oz.3 lbs. 1 oz.3 lbs. 9 oz.3 lbs. 9 oz.
Weight (Metric)2300 g 2400 g 1400 g 1700 g 1620 g
Volume55 l 41 l 40 l 32 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 very popular among soldiers, hunters and outdoor enthusiasts. The backpack is made of abrasion-resistant 1000-denier nylon and thus it provides superb durability. The durability is further enhanced with high-quality YKK zippers. The 5.11 backpack has a capacity 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 these two compartments is perfect for storing bigger items, like 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.

The 5.11 backpack also 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 which you want within easy reach while the two external pockets at the top come in handy for small items (tactical flashlight, compass, sunglasses etc.); one of them is lined with fleece 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 has a single aluminum stay to provide good support when you are carrying heavy loads. However, the aluminum stay can also be removed if you want to reduce the weight of the backpack. The 5.11 backpack features 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)
  • Many 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 tactical backpack is designed for radio operators and thus it allows you to easily carry a military radio together with different antennas. Nevertheless, as the radio-specific holders can be removed, the backpack can also be used for more general tasks. The Kelty backpack is smaller than the 5.11 Rush 72 but otherwise has a quite similar design. It features a spacious main compartment and a smaller front compartment with a stash compartment (for a helmet or similar) between them. The front compartment is equipped with many small pockets and holders so that you can meticulously organize your gear.

The main compartment features a radio holder on the backside and a spacious pocket on the front side. The radio holder can securely and firmly accommodate different military radios and allows you to vertically adjust the radio. The holder can also be removed in case that you are not carrying a military radio. The backpack also has two zippered side pockets and a zippered pocket at the bottom. In the pocket at the bottom is a rain cover. The Kelty Raven backpack is made of 500-denier nylon, but reinforced with 1000-denier nylon in areas which are prone to abrasion. The backpanel is rigid and the shoulder straps are wide and well-padded. The backpack is also equipped with a hip belt and a sternum strap. All in all, the Kelty Raven backpack provides great functionality and durability. It is especially recommended for radio operators.

 

Pros:

  • Functionality
  • Pockets
  • Compartments
  • Backpanel

Cons:

  • /

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Where to buy?

Also available at:

Kelty

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 3 pounds. Therefore, it is perfect for those who need a very durable but lightweight tactical backpack. The Snugpak Endurance backpack differs from the 5.11 and Kelty backpacks in design. It has a top-loading design while the other two backpacks have a front-loading design. The Snugpack Endurance backpack is made of abrasion-resistant 600-denier nylon for good durability. It is equipped with MOLLE webbing for attaching extra pouches and accessories.

In addition to the main compartment, the Snugpack 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 if the backpack is fully loaded. The Snugpak Endurance backpack also features a bungee cord on the front side (perfect for attaching a helmet), hip belt and a sternum strap. It is a great option for those who want a lightweight but very durable backpack for different 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 Xantha

Maxpedition Xantha

4. Maxpedition Xantha

Suitable for:

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

 

The Maxpedition Xantha backpack has a capacity of 32 liters and is thus best for one-day tasks. 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 design.  The fabric 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 support when you are carrying a heavy load.

The Maxpedition Xantha backpack has a spacious main compartment, zippered front pocket (with mesh pockets), zippered pocket at the top (lined with fleece for objects like sunglasses etc.), two deep side pockets, two zippered side pockets and two zippered hip belt pockets. The main compartment has a sleeve for a water reservoir and one zippered mesh pocket. The backpack is also equipped with a hip belt and sternum strap for good fit. The Maxpedition Xantha is a great option for those who need a durable tactical backpack for day tasks.

 

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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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 EDC backpack has a capacity comparable to that of the Maxpedition Xantha backpack. It is, however, made of a less robust material – merely 500-denier nylon in comparison to the 1000-denier nylon of the Xantha. The Direct Action backpack is, nonetheless, equipped with robust YKK zippers and Duraflex buckles. The straps are wide and well-padded for good fit. 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 meticulously organize your gear while the zippered pocket at the top is lined with fleece and thus perfect for storing sunglasses. The Direct Action backpack is also equipped with a sternum strap and hip belt. The hip belt is unfortunately not padded like the hip belts of 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 EDC backpack is a very versatile backpack which is useful for different 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

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4. Questions and Answers

What is a Molle backpack?

A Molle backpack is a backpack equipped with Molle webbing which enables you to easily attach other Molle-compatible gear such as extra pouches. Many military backpacks are equipped with Molle webbing on the front side and some also feature Molle webbing on the inside.

What is an EDC backpack?

EDC refers to Every Day Carry. EDC backpacks are relatively small (volume of 30 liters or less) and allow you to meticulously organize you gear. Such backpacks are perfect for various activities as well as for everyday use.

How heavy is a military backpack?

Military backpacks utilize very durable materials and therefore they are slightly heavier than hiking and backpacking backpacks. A high-quality 55-liter military backpack typically weighs less than 6 pounds while a high-quality 25-liter military backpack weighs less than 4 pounds. Low quality backpacks are typically even heavier due to low-grade materials.

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Post Author

Post Author

Blaz

Outdoor enthusiast with experience in all types of hiking and mountaineering. Hiked in the Alps, Iceland and other countries. In love with via ferrata trails and snow-covered slopes. Check out my hikes.

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