Military and police forces are incredibly demanding on their gear, so it’s no surprise that packs and bags designed for their use is incredibly durable and functional. If you’re looking for the most bombproof, function-first packs around, a tactical backpack is your best bet.
Tactical backpacks are designed for hard use in demanding situations. They make a great choice for everyday carry or outdoor adventures, but you need to separate which packs truly live up to the name and which are merely for show.
With so many critical aspects of pack design, from materials to features to the harness design, it can be difficult to pore through the specs of different tactical backpacks to find the best one for you.
That’s why I’ve created this guide to the best tactical backpacks. Read on to learn more about how to choose the right tactical pack for your next expedition.
- Best Tactical Backpack Overall: Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack
- Most Versatile Tactical Backpack: GORUCK GR1
- Best Budget Tactical Backpack: Red Rock Large Assault Pack
- Best Laptop Tactical Backpack: Nike SB RPM Backpack 26L
- Best Photography Tactical Backpack: Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II
- Best Sling Tactical Backpack: Hazard 4 Plan B Sling Backpack
- Best Hiking Tactical Backpack: 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 2.0 BACKPACK 55L
- Best Tactical EDC Backpack: Mission Workshop Rhake
1. Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack: Best Tactical Backpack Overall
Mystery Ranch builds a wide range of packs for soldiers, police, and wildland firefighters, so you can be sure they know their business when it comes to high-quality tactical backpacks. Used by Navy Seals on the battlefield and hotshots in the backcountry, their packs are put to the test in some of the most demanding situations imaginable.
The Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack is intended for non-military personal use while still incorporating many of the same materials, features, and construction of their professional line of packs. You’ll get the same performance and durability with features optimized for everyday use.
Where the 2 Day Assault Pack stands out over other tactical backpacks is its load-carrying capability. This pack builds on Mystery Ranch’s military tactical backpacks that are designed to handle heavy loads without discomfort.
The cushioned shoulder straps are thick and comfortable and feature load-lifter straps at the top to help snug the pack into your back. The hip belt is minimal and lightweight, but, combined with the internal frame, it does a good job of getting some of the load onto your hips.
There are external zipper pouches on the lid as well as the side flaps of the bag, complemented by water bottle pockets on both sides. There are internal zipper pouches as well as two padded pockets suspended from the frame of the bag.
There is even a laptop sleeve at the back of the bag that expands this bag’s versatility. It can work as a hiking pack or an everyday pack for commuting.
You’ll find Molle webbing on the outside of the pack for you to attach Molle-compatible accessories. The webbing loops on the bottom allow you to easily attach a mat or sleeping bag.
The 2 Day Assault Pack does not feature any Velcro strap keepers. This may be an issue for those who constantly need to adjust their straps’ tightness depending on adventure. Also, for an “everyday carry bag” (EDC) it is on the heavier side, weighing 3 pounds, which may not be ideal for some.
It can hold up to 27 liters and is constructed out of heavy-duty 500D Cordura nylon and YKK zippers, ensuring that the day assault pack is durable and can take on all the adventures you find yourself on!
Looking for more options? Check out our full list of the best laptop backpacks.
2. GORUCK GR1: Most Versatile Tactical Backpack
GORUCK prides the GR1 on being the toughest tactical backpack on the market, while being versatile enough to thrive in cities, war zones, and traveling the world.
This bag has been used by Special Forces in areas like Baghdad, proving its durability and practicality. It even comes with their SCARS Lifetime Guarantee to give you peace of mind.
The pack has a sleek, minimal aesthetic, making it the perfect all-around bag for both rugged adventures and city strolling. It looks a lot less tactical than many tactical backpacks out there, so you don’t have to look like you’re in a war zone.
That doesn’t mean it skimps on features or durability though. The 1000D Cordura nylon is thick, heavy duty, and nearly impossible to wear out. When you pick up this pack, it immediately feels well-built and bomb-proof.
The GR1 is available in two different sizes (21L and 26L), so you can pick a size that fits your needs. I think the 21L would be perfect for an everyday bag while the 26L would be better for travel.
Its clamshell opening makes it extremely easy to pack and organize all your gear, and the 1000D Cordura protects everything inside from weather and rough handling. Even the laptop compartment is made of bombproof material and features a false bottom to protect it when you set your bag on the ground!
Three internal pockets and one external slant pocket help keep your things organized, and Molle webbing provides points to attach extra gear.
One thing I don’t love about the GR1 is that it uses 210D Cordura on the shoulder straps and back panel instead of spacer mesh. This material is smooth and feels good when you first try it on, but it isn’t breathable at all, so you may have issues with sweat on long days with this pack.
There also is no hip belt, which would be nice to have for hiking or other uses beyond everyday carry.
Besides being one of the best tactical backpack brands on the market, one of my favorite things about GORUCK is that 1% of every purchase is donated to organizations that help those who have served, meaning your GR1 purchase is giving back!
3. Red Rock Large Assault Pack: Best Budget Tactical Backpack
This spacious rucksack is arguably the most value-packed tactical backpack for those on a budget. This pack is very spacious and comes with expandable compartments that can store up to three days’ worth of supplies.
The Red Rock Large Assault Pack is made out of 600D polyester, weighs about 3 pounds, and provides up to 35 liters of internal storage space.
The bag is equipped with mesh shoulder straps that are contoured to fit your body along with a waist strap and adjustable sternum strap that offer increased support and stability. The comfortable shoulder straps and waist belt help distribute the weight of your equipment evenly across your shoulders for more comfort while on the go.
Even with these features, though, this bag doesn’t quite have the comfort and load-carrying capacity of higher-end tactical backpacks like the Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack. It has a hip belt, but it is just a piece of webbing without padding. I wouldn’t want to load this pack up with too much weight.
When it comes to organization, the Red Rock Large Assault Pack is loaded with options. There are tons of internal and external zippered pockets, so you can have a place for everything. The Molle webbing on the outside gives you space to mount extra gear.
If you need a lot of space and are on a budget, this pack gives you a lot of pack for your money.
4. Nike SB RPM Backpack 26L: Best Laptop Tactical Backpack
You probably don’t think of tactical gear when you hear Nike, but the Nike SB RPM Backpack is perfectly tailored for the rugged urban explorer. This backpack is designed for convenience, allowing urban dwellers to navigate day-to-day life in the cities with style.
While it may not look like typical tactical backpacks seen in the outdoor community, this sleek yet functional bag retains many features that you would expect from capable tactical backpacks. There are also plenty of zippered compartments to store smaller items, versatile velcro straps, and loops to attach gear.
This backpack’s small size makes it ideal for maneuvering around the crowded concrete jungle. But don’t be deceived by its lack of bulk, as the zippered main compartment is pretty spacious!
A unique feature that may appeal to adventurous city dwellers is its buckled straps that you can use to secure a skateboard. This makes it easy to secure and detach your board for convenient commuting.
If you tend to carry a heavier load, this backpack offers a stabilizing chest strap for added support along with a padded back and customizable shoulder straps that fit comfortably on your shoulders.
There are water bottle compartments on the side so that you can stay hydrated, and an internal padded laptop sleeve to keep your computer safe as well.
As this is a backpack for everyday urban use, it may not be ideal for long trips or tough weather conditions. However, for the modern city dweller who is always on the go, it’s the perfect balance of compact, sleek design and ample packing space and organization!
5. Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II: Best Photography Tactical Backpack
Designed by photographers, for photographers, the Lowepro ProTactic BP 450 AW II is perfect for traveling with your photography gear!
As a photographer myself, I know the struggle of finding a backpack that accommodates camera gear well. This tactical backpack takes the cake for its intentional design and ample storage space.
When it comes to ergonomics, this backpack design doesn’t fall short. It has comfortable shoulder straps and is designed to be worn close to the body using a sternum strap to reduce the load on your back and neck. The semi-rigid framesheet gives the bag structure and helps distribute the load down to the padded hip belt.
The hip belt is also much better than most other packs on this list, with plenty of structure and padding. This can make a huge difference in taking some of the load off your shoulders when you’re carrying heavy camera gear.
Made with reinforced ballistic nylon and heavy-duty zips, this tactical backpack will withstand the wear and tear of your adventures. It even comes with a rain cover that fits snugly over the bag.
The bag has plenty of storage options and options for easy access. There are Velcro dividers in the main compartment to sort your lenses and cameras, which can be accessed from the top, side, and even back of the bag.
There is a dedicated cradle-fit padded laptop sleeve that can securely hold a 15” laptop, and an internal hard case to store fragile equipment like drones! On the outside, there is a full rack of Molle-compatible webbing to attach additional gear.
Like most tactical packs, this backpack lacks mesh pockets for water-bottles, so you’ll have to resort to strapping them to the Molle webbing.
This backpack is definitely built for one purpose, so it isn’t very versatile, but if you need a rugged pack to carry camera gear, this is a fantastic choice.
6. Hazard 4 Plan B Sling Backpack: Best Sling Tactical Backpack
This tactical backpack is much smaller than the others in this article and is perfect for those wanting an easily portable, versatile bag for their everyday adventures.
This backpack is hallmarked by its signature multi-mode sling, making it easy to configure depending on your preference. This unique shoulder strap (or chest strap?) design isn’t ideal for heavy loads, but it’s great if you want a convenient way to carry smaller items.
Due to its small size and weight, this backpack is much more versatile and can be used for day-to-day activities as well. The bag can be worn on your back or on your chest. The ambidextrous sling is padded, ensuring that it hugs your body without any gapping, making it a lot more comfortable compared to other sling bags on the market.
As a tactical backpack, it features robust Molle webbing to attach bulkier objects that do not fit in the pack. It boasts a quick-release buckle and a stabilizer strap that keeps your bag secure and compact so that it does not get in the way while you are on the move.
Although compact, this small tactical backpack incorporates dividers to organize your belongings, and additional dividers can be purchased separately to maximize your organization even more.
If you want to take this sling pack hiking, the hydration pocket that can fit a water bladder is fantastic for easy access to water.
A sling pack with just one shoulder strap isn’t for everyone, and many people will be better served by a tactical backpack. If you know you like sling bags and are looking for one with tactical style and construction, you won’t be disappointed by the Plan B Sling.
7. 5.11 Tactical RUSH72™ 2.0 Backpack 55L: Best Hiking Tactical Backpack
A well-designed, quality tactical backpack is one of the most important things you’ll need for backpacking trips. The 5.11 Tactical RUSH72™ 2.0 Backpack 55L is perfect for a weekend trek.
Made out of 1050D Nylon, the 5.11 Tactical Rush72 2.0 is water-repellant and durable and meant to last you for many years of outdoor adventures. The YKK zippers are durable and self-healing, so you won’t have to worry about them breaking down over time.
This bag has 55 liters of storage capacity, which gives you plenty of room to store all your gear, clothing, and food for a multi-day trip.
Like many tactical backpacks, the outside has Molle webbing so you can easily attach extra gear to the outside of the pack. You also have a large front pocket and zippered pockets on the side. For hiking I’d prefer to have better easy-access pockets for water bottles, but the side zippered pockets work okay for carrying bottles.
The most important aspect of a backpack for hiking is comfort and support. You need a bag that can carry the load without weighing on your shoulders. The 5.11 Tactical Rush72 delivers on this front with well-padded shoulder straps, a thick, structured waist belt, and a framesheet to distribute the weight.
It’s definitely heavier than many purpose-built backpacking packs, but if you prefer the durability and functionality of a tactical backpack, this 5.11 tactical pack may be a great choice for you.
8. Mission Workshop Rhake: Best Tactical EDC Backpack
Mission Workshop is a modern lifestyle brand focused on providing products optimized for everyday use with cutting-edge technical materials and a level of functional design you normally only see in high-performance tactical backpacks.
The Mission Workshop Rhake is the brand’s go-anywhere, do-anything everyday backpack. This highly versatile pack can serve as a laptop bag for work, a travel pack for shorter trips, and a hiking backpack for casual days on the trail.
The construction of this pack is heavy duty. You can choose between HT500 or X-Pac VX21 fabrics for the main body material. HT500 is Mission Workshop’s proprietary 500-denier coated nylon that is water-resistant and virtually indestructible. VX21 is a four-layer laminate fabric originally designed as a sailcloth. It is entirely waterproof and a bit lighter. Either fabric will make for a durable, water-resistant daily bag
Where this bag really shines is in its versatility and organization. You don’t get Molle webbing, but the built-in zipper pockets are fantastic, and the side compression straps help keep everything secure and prevent shifting or sagging.
You have two large accessible exterior pockets on the outside, and each has a range of smaller mesh pockets inside for small items like headphones, keys, charging cords, notebooks, writing instruments, and more.
There is an internal laptop compartment that can be accessed from the main compartment or through a separate side zipper. This is a fantastic feature so you don’t have to dig through your pack to get your laptop out.
The comfort is also great. The shoulder straps have ample padding and are well-shaped to stay comfortable through long days on the go. The sternum strap lets you dial in the fit, and you have different options for removable waist straps to help distribute the load.
While you can definitely use this as a hiking back, the abundance of features, pockets, and straps is a little overkill and adds unnecessary weight.
This is a high-end pack, so you’ll pay a lot for it, but if you are looking for the best EDC bag money can buy, I highly recommend the Mission Workshop Rhake.
What To Look For in a Tactical Backpack
Everyone’s needs and preferences differ, so you need to choose the backpack that is perfect for you and your adventures. Here are the most important aspects of tactical backpacks that you should consider before making your purchase:
Tactical backpacks come in various sizes, so you should pick the one that fits your needs best. The size of your tactical backpack should depend on your typical use case and what you need to bring along.
One type of bag is an everyday carry (or EDC) pack, also known as 12-hour packs. As the name suggests, this backpack holds your daily necessities and is perfect for short hikes or daily commutes. Generally, EDC bags range from 5 to 35 liters in capacity.
If you’re going to be on the road for a while, the 24-hour backpack may be a good pick for you! These tactical backpacks typically range from 30 to 40 liters in volume, so there is sufficient space to pack more belongings for you to last a day or two.
Finally, for avid trekkers who will be in the outdoors for a few days, a 3-day backpack is the best option. Typically ranging from 40 to 60 liters in volume, these backpacks can accommodate your items for those multi-day trips.
Tactical backpacks ought to have ergonomic load management in order to provide comfort. A tactical backpack that carries your load well can prevent exhaustion and even physical injuries.
First and foremost, you should look out for padded shoulder straps, as they are one of the most fundamental features of tactical bags. It’s not just padding that matters. The shape of the shoulder straps also makes a huge difference in comfort. If possible, find a pack you can try out in person or buy from a company with a good return policy so you can ensure it fits your body.
If you’re planning on carrying heavy loads, you’ll definitely want a pack with a Waist strap. Waist straps ensure an even distribution of the backpack’s load. They transfer the weight from your back and shoulders to your hips, giving you a much more stable and comfortable carrying experience.
A waist belt with significantly padded straps will have much better carrying comfort than one that is just simple webbing.
In most tactical backpacks, the waist strap often works in concert with a backpack frame to fully support the backpack’s load distribution. There are three types of backpack frames: frame sheets, internal frames, and external frames.
Frame sheets are generally used to reinforce the backpack’s back panel and give it rigidity to keep your pack secure. While they aren’t as stiff as a rigid frame, they still help transfer weight to the waist strap.
Internal frames are usually made with aluminum or composite rods that directly attach to the waist straps and transfer a significant load from the shoulders to the hips.
External frames perform the same function but provide more functionality as you can strap items directly onto the frame. However, external frames are rarely found in the bags of today—instead, you may find external compression straps, rear loading straps, and side loading straps.
Side compression straps compact the bag and bring it closer to the body, allowing for better balance and load management.
Also look for a sternum strap, which wraps around your chest and helps secure the bag to your body for a more comfortable, load-bearing fit. Sternum straps seem like a small detail, but they can make a big difference in dialing in the fit and comfort of a heavy pack.
The best tactical backpacks are much more than just a bag with some shoulder straps attached. They also include smart features that keep your gear organized and accessible.
External pockets offer places to keep items in easy-to-access places on the outside of your pack. The best tactical backpacks offer at least one external zippered pocket to keep your essentials at hand.
Interior organization is just as important. Zippered pockets inside the main compartment help with organization and provide a secure place to store valuables like keys, wallets, passports, and electronics. If you will be using your pack for commuting, you’ll also want to find one with a padded laptop sleeve.
For hiking and other outdoor activities, hydration bladder compatibility is also a huge plus.
Molle webbing is another key organizational feature of good tactical packs. Molle webbing is one of the most recognizable elements of a tactical backpack, and it provides you with easy access to external gear that you can’t fit or may not want inside of your pack.
With Molle attachment points, you can hook on external pockets for easy access to items such as a first aid kit, additional pockets, water, outdoor gear, and any Molle-compatible accessories. If you’re looking for maximum versatility, Molle webbing is a huge plus.
Side compression straps are another great feature to look for. Not only do they help cinch the load closer to your body, but compression straps can also be used for securing large items like hiking poles, a tripod, a sleeping pad, or other gear to the outside of your pack.
Having an organized backpack can significantly improve your experience when traveling. You would have peace of mind knowing where everything is, and you wouldn’t waste any time trying to find them.
Tactical backpacks are only as good as the materials they are made of. You can get the most feature-packed pack on the market, but if it is made of cheap materials, it won’t last very long.
Most tactical backpacks are built from some form of Cordura (a heavy duty nylon fabric) or thick polyester fabric. You really can’t go wrong with Cordura for durability, but I’ve found the actual fabric material matters less than its weave and thickness.
Fabric thickness is typically measured using “denier”. This is a count of how many individual fibers are in each thread. The higher the number, the more durable the fabric. For a tactical backpack, I’d recommend picking a pack with a 500-denier (500D) fabric or higher. Some of the packs on this list use heavy duty 1000-denier fabric that will be almost indestructible.
I also recommend choosing a pack with a water-resistant fabric. All of the tactical backpacks in this list use some sort of coated fabric that offers great water resistance.
Another option for pack fabric (used in the Mission Workshop Rhake) is a laminate fabric like X-Pac. These fabrics layer multiple different materials to get a high-performance material that is entirely waterproof.
A good tactical backpack can be a lifelong companion on your adventures. When shopping for tactical backpacks, make sure you focus on durability, comfort, and features to get one that fits your need and will last a lifetime.
Each product on this list of the best tactical backpacks on this list was chosen because they excel at their intended purpose. If you want a lightweight hiking backpack or stylish travel daypack, you may want to choose something different. For a bombproof pack you can take anywhere without concern, these tactical backpacks won’t disappoint.
Whether you are using it for the office, a short hike, or a multi-day backpacking trip, I hope this guide helps you find the right tactical backpack for your next adventure!