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15 Tougher-Than-Hell Tactical Backpacks

Using rugged materials and packing as much function as possible, these backpacks blur the line between battlefield and everyday use.

best tactical packs
Gear Patrol

Once it’s declassified, advanced military technology tends to drip down into civilian goods. It’s how we got GPS, the internet and the Jeep. But the relationship goes both ways, with innovative outdoor products and materials influencing what the military uses, too.

The tactical backpack exists on a spectrum that covers outdoor-specific and everyday use. Like the war zone-ready backpacks worn by service members around the globe, today’s military-inspired backpacks are tougher than hell, with organizational features that go far beyond the capabilities of ordinary backpacks.

Heavyweight reinforced nylon, weatherproofing capabilities and earth tone colors are common themes in these crossover bags. They also often feature PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing to be MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) compatible. There’s no better catch-all for all the things you carry throughout your day. And these 14 picks are the leaders of the pack.

Additional contributions by John Zientek, Michael Finn and Hayley Helms.

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Best Overall
GoRuck GR1

  • Goes anywhere, does anything

  • Could use more volume for larger loads

Thirteen years ago, ex-Special Forces soldier Jason McCarthy founded GoRuck with the simple conviction that he could build a backpack unlike any that existed at the time. He wanted one that would be ideal for service members fighting overseas and desk workers heading in for a day at the office. His answer was the GR1 Rucksack, a backpack that has become the standard bearer for military-inspired everyday bags. The GR1 blends commuter-friendly features such as a padded laptop compartment and interior organizing pockets with a tough, take-anything construction. The pack has a plastic backing plate and a false bottom for extra protection and its weatherproof exterior seals up with silent zippers. The GR1 is also equipped with MOLLE-compatible webbing on the face and straps, plus a velcro hit for your favorite patch.

Volume: 26 liters

Weight: 3.2 lbs

Material: 1000-denier Cordura nylon

Best Upgrade Tactical Pack
Mystery Ranch 3-Day Assault Pack
Mystery Ranch

  • Made in the U.S.

  • On the bulky side

Bozeman, Montana-based Mystery Ranch is another one of our favorite pack makers, and this offering is a great example of why. Made in the USA, the 3-Day Assault Pack features the brand’s distinctive three-zip design that allows easy access to your gear at a moment’s notice. An internal sleeve accepts a hydration reservoir — or a 17-inch laptop — while PALS webbing on the sides and daisy chains on the straps and back enable you to carry additional gear. There are also side water bottle pocks, plus internal drop-in pockets and zip mesh pockets. Compression straps keep the pack compact when it’s not fully loaded, and the waist belt tucks away when it’s not needed either. Last but not least, the Futura Frame system keeps your back feeling great during long days on the trail.

Volume: 30 liters

Weight: 4.6 lbs

Material: 500-denier Cordura nylon

Best Value Tactical Pack
Red Rock Outdoor Gear Large Assault Pack
Red Rock Outdoor Gear

  • Great value for price

  • Less durable materials used to cut costs

The value proposition here is borderline insane. For less than 80 bucks, Red Rock's big-time 35-liter pack boasts internal dividers, zippered pockets, padded shoulder straps, adjustable waist and sternum straps and a padded mesh back panel that can also store a hydration reservoir. The pack also features compression straps to condense the size when it's not fully loaded, plus plenty of external MOLLE-compatible webbing on the back and sides for securing add-on packs or extra gear. Our only major knock? Unlike most of the packs here, this one is made of polyester rather than Cordura nylon.

Volume: 35 liters

Weight: 3.15 lbs

Material: 600-denier polyester

Best Special Edition Tactical Bag
Mystery Ranch Special Blend Summit 26
Mystery Ranch

  • One of a kind

  • These bags sell out fast

As mentioned above, Mystery Ranch is revered for its dedication to craft, quality and domestic manufacturing, all of which help set it apart from other pack makers. Keeping in line with that ethos, the Bozeman-based brand has released a series of special-edition packs this year, including this everyday carry number equipped with a floating padded computer sleeve that doubles as a hydration sleeve, internal side division panels for organization, an adjustable tool attachment for securing trekking poles or tripod and of course, a bomb-proof 500D Cordura upper and 1000d Cordura lower. Each of the Bozeman Special Blend bags are conceptualized, prototyped, and produced from start-to-finish in Montana, making each limited-release bag one of a kind.

Volume: 1585 cu-ins

Weight: 2 lbs

Materials: 500-denier and 1000-denier Cordura

Best Designed Tactical Pack
Prometheus Design Werx S.H.A.D.O.
Prometheus Design Werx

  • Useful and sleek design

  • Heavy for its capacity

Suspension, haul, access, durability, organized — these are the guiding design standards that Prometheus Design Werx applied to the S.H.A.D.O. (hence the acronym). The pack leans more toward technical outdoor than tactical, but it’s not without fundamental military-inspired features such as strap-mounted MOLLE-compatible webbing and an oversized Velcro panel for patches. The S.H.A.D.O. is filled with small features that make it a great everyday and adventure pack — a laptop sleeve, hydration compatibility, an external bungee for securing gear — but its most useful component might be a massive, top-to-bottom zip opening into its main compartment.

Volume: 24 liters

Weight: 3.8 lbs

Material: 500-denier Cordura nylon

Best Bugout Bag Tactical Pack
5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack

  • Great for emergencies

  • Not an everyday pack

The “72” in this pack’s name refers to “72-hour capacity.” That number is considered the benchmark for optimal bug-out bags as if you can hang in there that long, help is likely on the way. With its two side pockets and front admin pocket, this pack will easily hold hold three or more days of food, water, shelter and assorted survival tools. The front admin pocket neatly organizes smaller goods, and a sleeve tucked away in the main compartment holds a large hydration bladder. This pack is also almost completely covered with MOLLE-compatible webbing, enabling you to attach anything that doesn’t fit inside onto its exterior.

Volume: 55 liters

Weight: 4 lbs

Material: 1000-denier Cordura nylon

Best Camera Bag Tactical Pack
Lowepro ProTactic 450 AW II Pro

  • Will protect/ organize your expensive gear

  • Heavy

Carry your camera gear, tactical style, with this fully loaded — and fully loadable — Lowepro pack. Lightweight FormShell construction, internal padding and an all-weather cover protect one or two pro DSLRs (one with lens attached), a drone, a 360 cam, plus lenses, lights, battery packs, a 15-inch laptop and more. External MOLLE-compatible straps let you attach a tripod and other accessories to the outside, while the waist belt detaches into a utility belt for streamlined missions.

Volume: 25 liters

Weight: 6.26 lbs

Material: Nylon

Best Dry Bag Tactical Pack
BRU Active Premium 40L Dry Bag
BRU Active

  • Keeps things nice and dry

  • MOLLE bags can get in the way traveling

By itself, the main pack here is a top-notch, 100 percent waterproof dry bag that can protect electronics and other delicate gear. It also boasts heavy-duty zippers, buckles and padded strips for a secure and comfortable carry. But Bru's bag really excels via its handy PALS webbing and the six included MOLLE bags: three large, two medium and one small flashlight holder). Though these mini-packs are not themselves waterproof, they are perfect for stashing clothes, food, tools and other essentials you need out on the road or trail. Hopping in a kayak? Throw the bags in the main compartment, seal it up and you're good to go.

Volume: 40 liters

Weight: 4 lbs

Material: Tarpaulin PVC

Best Hydration Tactical Pack
Camelbak M.U.L.E. 100oz Mil Spec Crux

  • Capable and rugged hydration

  • Not a lot of volume

Lotta acronyms in this roundup already, so why not one more? This one stands for Medium to Ultra-Long Endeavors, and you’ll have enough water for just about any mission thanks to the 100-ounce Mil Spec Crux Reservoir. With tough 500D Double-rip Cordura Fabric, this pack can also carry up to 8 liters of additional cargo in the top and bottom pockets, with the lower one also featuring MOLLE-compatible webbing. The suspension system keeps the pack snug on your back and can be removed quickly via the side release buckle.

Volume: 8 liters

Weight: 1.8 lbs

Material: 500-denier Cordura nylon

Best Urban Tactical Pack
Nike RPM Backpack

  • Durable and practical everyday bag

  • Not made for tactical use

You won't find any mention of MOLLE or PALS in Nike's RPM Backpack description. Still, a full face of one-inch webbing — along with larger Velcro straps for carrying a skateboard — is the defining feature of this everyday backpack. Of all the bags on this list, it exhibits its military inspiration the least, though Nike was the first to bring MOLLE over to an everyday bag with no intention of actual tactical use. Nevertheless, the functionality is here, and the bag's overall streamlined design can serve as an entry point into the tactical backpack category. (There are also external pockets, a laptop sleeve and a padded back panel.)

Volume: 29 liters

Material: polyester

Best Weekend Tactical Pack
Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

  • Great for multi-day trips

  • Bulky

Take away its MOLLE webbing, and Condor's 3 Day Assault Pack looks a lot like the backpack strap-equipped adventure travel duffels that began popping up recently. Those bags are ideal for weekend trips and minimalist travel, and so is the 3 Day Assault. It has a 50-liter main compartment that provides more than enough space for such trips, and a clamshell-style opening and internal compression straps make packing it more akin to loading a rollaboard than a backpacking bag. There's also a smaller front pocket with loads of organizational sleeves and three more exterior pockets that are ideal for items like water bottles or a spare pair of shoes. The bag is compatible with hydration reservoirs too, and its hipbelt is removable.

Volume: 50 liters

Material: 1000-denier Cordura nylon

Best Organized Tactical Pack
Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack
Now 12% off

  • Clever organization

  • Not made for multi-day excursions

It may be on the smaller side, but the Falcon-II makes this list because it uses the space it does have smartly. You can think of this backpack as having three layers — the main compartment, a smaller middle compartment and a front that's split into two separate pockets. All of them have internal mesh sleeves for small items, and compression straps allow you to cinch them all down depending on how full a load you're shouldering. The pack also has a hydration pocket and, of course, lots of MOLLE attachment points.

Volume: 23 liters

Weight: 3.2 lbs

Material: 1050-denier Cordura nylon

Best Hunting Tactical Pack
Eberlestock X2 Pack

  • Ideal for hunting

  • Over-engineered to be an EDC option

Yes, the X2 can accommodate a compound bow or Eberlestock’s A1SS or A2SS Side Scabbards for toting shotguns and hunting rifles. But this pack is actually loaded with smart features that extend its value beyond intended use. The Ample FlexChassis can not only cradle loads you strap to the back but flip forward for use as a clever and convenient seat. The oversized compression straps can lash down a heavy load, while quick-access side pockets keep whatever you need close at hand. The X2 also features a back-friendly tubular aluminum Intex frame and plenty of PALS webbing for additional packs or equipment.

Volume: 30 liters

Weight: 4.75 lbs

Material: Microsuede waterproof fabric

Best Sling Tactical Pack
Hazard 4 Plan-B
Now 24% off

  • Streamlined and slim

  • Not a ton of capacity

Perhaps the most unique pack on this list is this streamlined sling pack from Hazard 4, which is great for navigating confined spaces and darting through crowds. The single padded strap is ambidextrous and ergonomic, so you can wear it comfortably over either shoulder. You can also swing it around to the front to access its fully unzippable main pocket and two smaller outer pockets. The main pocket also features a photo bag-style internal divider and accommodates a hydration reservoir. And of course the MOLLE-compatible sides and back can be loaded with additional gear or add-ons.

Volume: 17.7 liters

Weight: 2.4 lbs

Material: 1000-denier Cordura nylon

Best Tactical Fanny Pack
DYJ Tactical Fanny Pack

  • More unique than other fanny packs on the street

  • Over the top

If you love your fanny pack but wish it were a bit more, you know, tactical, here's your low-cost upgrade. DYJ's over-the-top pack features a zippered main pocket, front pocket (also boasting a buckle}, back pocket and two side pockets to allow all kinds of storage options. Slightly bigger than your average fanny pack, it's got room for your phone, wallet, keys, pocket knife, portable charger and more. And because it's, you know, tactical, a couple of Velcro strips and MOLLE-compatible straps permit you to attach even more stuff.

Main pocket dimensions: 7.9"–12.6" (length) x 5.1" (width) x 5.9" (height)

Weight: 0.9 lbs

Material: 1000-denier Oxford nylon

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