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Best Tactical Backpack [2019]

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5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack
  • 24-liter volume with 60-ounce hydration pocket
  • 1,050 denier nylon
  • MOLLE compatible webbing


The 5.11 RUSH12 tactical backpack was designed with 1,050 heavy-duty nylon, to be military-grade. There are an adjustable height sternum strap and contoured yoke shoulder strap system for superior load balance and comfort. This really shows up if you need to hike through uneven terrain, where an awkward and shifting pack could increase your risk of suffering a mechanical injury.

The 24-liter internal volume can support you for one to two days in the bush and includes a 60-ounce hydration picket with dual hydration tubes. There is also an easy to access admin panel designed to hold things like maps, keys, flashlights, and other important small items.

The 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 also comes with MOLLE compatible webbing. The high-quality YKK zippers have pull tabs that are easy to use with gloved hands.

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack
  • 24.2-liter volume capacity with hydration pocket
  • Polyester and canvas blend with MOLLE webbing
  • Comfortable straps and shoulder yolk


The Outdoor Recreation Group designed the SOG Ninja day pack for quality and versatility. This includes an impressive lifetime guarantee from a company that is bound and determined to grow its industry reputation.

This tactical backpack is made from a thoughtful blend of polyester and canvas fabric that has also been treated for additional water resistance. It also has comfortable shoulder straps, sternum strap, and a padded shoulder yolk. It includes a hydration pocket that is comfortably placed to help maintain pack balance.

The exterior of the SOG Ninja day pack has MOLLE webbing for added versatility. With the right accessories and some thoughtful packing, you could extend it to a 2 or possible 3-day tactical backpack. Just keep in mind that the hydration bladder is not included in the original purchase.

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack Med First Aid Patriot Bundle
  • 1000 denier water-resistant nylon with MOLLE
  • 55-liter maximum capacity with 3-liter hydration pocket
  • Patriot bundle with medical kit and comfort features


The 5.11 RUSH72 is one of the largest and most comprehensive tactical backpacks on the market. This upgraded “Patriot Bundle” comes with thoughtful features built-in as well as a 6.6” medical pouch. It also accommodates up to a 3-liter hydration bladder.

The pack itself has a 55-liter maximum capacity and is made from heavy-duty 1000 denier water-resistant nylon fabric. The exterior also features their Slick Stick MOLLE attachment system. There is also an admin panel for holding and organizing small items

The compression shoulder straps are padded with closed-cell foam which resists absorbing water while also providing superior comfort. The characteristics of the pack the other supporting straps were also designed to keep the load balanced as well as comfortable. When thoughtfully packed the 5.11 RUSH72 Patriot Bundle can support you for three or more days.

How We Picked

Organization features and durability are often the two prime characteristics that people look for in a tactical backpack. With that in mind, there are a few things we looked for when shopping for tactical backpacks that appeal to both professionals like first responders as well as consumers who are looking for a pack that can handle their specific outdoor needs.

Volume is an important factor to keep in mind. Small volume packs of 24-liters or less are generally only meant to accommodate a single day or perhaps an overnight trip. Beyond that, these smaller packs don’t necessarily have the space to support your equipment needs longer than that. Particularly when it comes to water carrying capacity.

A tactical backpack that goes over 35 to 40 liters can potentially support you for up to three days. Perhaps more if you pack thoughtfully.

Fabric selection is always important. Most tactical backpacks are made from water-resistant materials like nylon and polyester. Though some do also use special weaves or blends with things like durable canvas. In some cases, the weave pattern or additional waterproofing treatments are a factor in how much weight the pack can comfortably support.

MOLLE webbing and MOLLE hooks are also very appealing to professionals as well as outdoor enthusiasts who want to be able to customize their tactical backpack’s accessories. They can also be accompanied by other important features like drag and carry handles or built-in hydration ports. If you are going to be hiking in cold weather, you might want to also prioritize things like YKK zippers with pull tabs that let you use them with gloved hands.

The ability to accommodate a hydration system or a water bladder is also an important factor we looked for. The longer you need to be off the grid the greater volume of water you want to be able to bring with you.

Sometimes you can get by with a pocket that holds a water bottle, but this is only for a single day hike. If you need to be away from resupply for more than a day, you likely need to prioritize a tactical backpack that is meant to hold at least a 2-liter water bladder.

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack

Specs:

  • 24-liter volume
  • 1,050 denier nylon
  • Water-resistant construction
  • MOLLE compatible
  • 16 individual compartments
  • Hydration pocket

The 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 tactical backpack was designed to be military-grade. It uses 1,050 denier nylon and waterproof construction.

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack

It has com It has a 24-liter maximum capacity, and weighs just 2.6 pounds. It is MOLLE compatibility and 16 individual compartments. There is an adjustable height sternum strap as well as a contoured yoke shoulder strap system, for superior comfort.

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack

It includes a 60-ounce hydration pocket with two hydration tubes. The main compartment measures 18″ x 11″ x 6.5″.

5.11 Tactical RUSH12 on hiking trip

There is also a multi-slot internal admin compartment to help hold small accessories. It also has self-repairing YKK zippers with pull tabs that are convenient for gloved hands.

What We Liked

The MOLLE compatibility and 1,050 denier nylon mean it has the durability and versatility to handle a wide range of roles. The small admin panel to hold small accessories is also a nice touch.

Overall

This is a small lightweight tactical backpack that was designed for maximum comfort. It might be a little on the small side if you plan to use it for a prolonged excursion. Still, if you need a great day pack or you want to move fast and light, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 military-grade tactical backpack deserves consideration.

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5.11 Tactical RUSH12 Military-Grade Tactical Backpack

  • 1,050 denier nylon
  • MOLLE compatible with 16 compartments
  • 60-ounce hydration pocket with 2 hydration tubes

CVLIFE Tactical Backpack

CVLIFE Tactical Backpack

Specs:

  • 50-liter volume capacity
  • 600 denier oxford cloth
  • Front detachable pack
  • 2 detachable side packs
  • Comfortable straps
  • 3.85 pounds

The CVLIFE Tactical Backpack was designed to have some basic MOLLE features. It has a detachable front and two detachable side packs. The primary chamber is large for storing substantial items.

CVLIFE Tactical Backpack

With a 50-liter capacity, this tactical backpack can support around 3-days in the bush. It has a 600 denier oxford weave that was designed to be water-resistant. The shoulder straps, sternum strap, and belt were designed to be comfortable. For a pack this large it only weighs in at 3.85 pounds.

CVLIFE Tactical Backpack

This tactical backpack doesn’t come with a hydration pack or water bladder. However, it will accommodate the most reasonable size hydration systems.

What We Liked

The 50-liter capacity and multiple detachable bags make this is a good pack for getting off the grid for up to three days. It allows you to hike in, set up base camp, and then take one of two of the detachable packs with you for lightweight foraging or recon. The comfortable mesh straps are also a nice touch.

The 12-month warranty also speaks to the manufacturer standing behind their product.

Overall

The friendly price point and simple versatility make this an attractive tactical backpack for hunters and individuals who need to get off the grid for more than a day.

It would be nice if it came with a hydration system, but that would increase the price point. If you already have a water bladder or camel pack it wouldn’t be a problem.

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CVLIFE Tactical Backpack

  • 3 detachable bags
  • 50-liter capacity
  • 600 denier oxford weave

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

Specs:

  • 24.2-liter volume capacity
  • Polyester and canvas blend
  • Water repellent treated
  • Hydration pocket and port
  • Bladder not included
  • Comfortable straps and shoulder yolk
  • MOLLE webbing

The SOG Ninja day pack was designed by the Outdoor Recreation Group. This manufacturer has made a concerted effort to develop a reputation for offering quality products. This includes backing this tactical backpack with a lifetime guarantee.

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

It is made from a careful blend of polyester and canvas fabric that has also been treated to be water repellent. The shoulder straps, sternum strap, and shoulder yolk were designed for maximum comfort.

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

There is MOLLE webbing which adds to this pack’s versatility and the ability to add optional extras. As it stands, it’s designed to be used as a hike-in day pack. Yet it still only weighs in at 1.94 pounds and has a 24.2-liter maximum volume.

The SOG Ninja day pack has a compartment that is meant to hold a hydration bladder, which includes a port for a standard hydration tube. However, it does not include a bladder in the original purchase. This is reflected in a very friendly price tag.

What We Liked

The SOG Ninja has pretty much everything you want in a tactical day pack. The fact that it was designed for comfort, with adjustable padded straps is also a nice touch. The MOLLE webbing also lets you customize it to your specific needs, or simply use it as-is.

You also shouldn’t look pack Outdoor Recreation Group’s lifetime guarantee. It’s a real statement of quality for a company that is working hard to grow its industry presence.

Overall

This is a great little lightweight day pack that has the versatility you want. It was thoughtfully designed and backed by a manufacturer’s lifetime guarantee for quality.

It would be nice if it came with some sort of hydration bladder. Still, that’s reflected in the friendly price point and it will accommodate one with a port for the hydration tube.

SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

  • 24.2-liter volume capacity and weighs 1.94 pounds
  • MOLLE webbing
  • Polyester and canvas fabric blend

G4Free Outdoor Tactical Backpack

G4Free Outdoor Tactical Backpack

Specs:

  • Designed as a sling bag
  • 600 denier high-density polyester
  • 7-liter maximum volume
  • Multiple inner pockets

While technically defined as a “Tactical Backpack” the G4Free is more of a “Tactical Sling Bag” that was designed to fit a specific niche of needs.

G4Free Outdoor Tactical Backpack

It’s best used as a day bag for a light nature hike, or perhaps as an accessory with a larger backpack on an extended trip.

G4Free Outdoor Tactical Backpack with open compartments

It has a 7-liter maximum volume capacity, with multiple inner pockets that are thoughtfully arrayed. The strap configuration allows you to use the G4Free as a crossbody bag, a handbag, or a chest bag. It’s made from 600 denier high-density polyester for durability, and it only weighs in at 1.6 pounds.

What We Liked

The multiple internal pockets are thoughtfully designed to hold a high volume of what would otherwise be loose items. The main compartment is also big enough to accommodate a standard tablet device. The fact that you can use it as a crossbody bag, handbag or chest bag is also convenient.

Overall

This is a quality little bag. On its own, it’s not really intended to be more than a light day bag for a hike. It really shines as an accessory sling bag working in tandem with a larger tactical backpack to hold the smaller accessories that you want to keep close at hand.

G4Free Outdoor Tactical Backpack

  • 600 denier polyester
  • 7-liter small volume
  • Designed as an accessory or day bag

Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack

Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack

Specs:

  • 50-liter large capacity
  • Nylon blended material
  • 7 pockets with easy access
  • Foam padded back and shoulder straps
  • Accommodates two 3-liter hydration bladders

The Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack was designed with military functionality in mind. It has a large 50-liter capacity with 7 pockets that are capable of supporting you off the grid for three days or more.

Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack

Made from a blend of Nylon and other special fabrics. The back and shoulder straps are padded for maximum comfort. It includes a sternum strap as well as a removable waistband to help balance out a heavier load.

Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack on a trip

There are also compression straps that allow you to reduce the bag’s overall profile. The bottom includes special webbing for attaching accessories and perhaps a smaller rear pack. The top has a heavy-duty carry or drag handle.

It’s designed to accommodate up to two 3-liter hydration bladders with tube ports. However, they are not included in the initial purchase.

What We Liked

The 50-liter load capacity makes this one of the largest, functional tactical backpacks on the market. The padded straps and back panel also help maximize comfort.

You also shouldn’t overlook the heavy-duty drag/carry handle, or the bottom webbing for an accessory pack, which could extend its support duration.

Overall

If you need a large capacity tactical backpack that is capable of supporting you for three or more days off the grid, then this pack should be at the top of your list. Condor is a trusted name in the industry, and they designed this bag to meet many military standards.

Condor 125-002 3 Day Assault Pack

  • 50-liter capacity
  • Bottom webbing for an accessory pack
  • Accommodates two 3-liter hydration bladders

Seibertron Falcon Water Repellent Hiking Camping Backpack

Seibertron Falcon Water Repellent Hiking Camping Backpack

Specs:

  • 37-liter maximum capacity
  • 900 denier polyester
  • Waterproof fabric
  • Hydration system compatible
  • Accommodates a 2-liter bladder
  • Bladder not included in the purchase
  • 2.8-pound empty weight

The Seibertron Falcon was designed for versatility and durability. It’s made from sturdy 900 denier polyester, which has been treated to be waterproof and only weighs in at a 2.8-pound empty weight.

Seibertron Falcon Water Repellent Hiking Camping Backpack

It has a maximum capacity of 37 liters. It was also designed to be “Hydration System Compatible” and there is an internal pocket capable of holding a 2-liter water bladder. However, the bladder is not included in the initial purchase.

Seibertron Falcon Water Repellent Hiking Camping Backpack

This pack was designed to handle a multi-day off the grid experience, as well as being able to take with you as a checked bagged when you fly on vacation. Seibertron even goes so far as to offer to help secure the Falcon tactical backpack to the extension handle of a hard-sided suitcase.

What We Liked

The 900 denier heavy duty waterproof fabric is certainly an attractive feature for people who need to take a tactical backpack with them into wet environments. It’s especially nice for duck hunters and those who need to pack their gear through wetlands or rain-soaked areas.

Overall

For the money, this is a very sturdy 37-liter tactical backpack that is just as at home deep in the bush as it is on a luggage carousel at the airport. The hydration compatibility for a 2-liter bladder and the luggage accessory strap features are also a nice touch.

Just bear in mind that the zippers themselves are not fully waterproofed. If this tactical backpack is accidentally submerged or heavily, water could infiltrate the interior through the zippers.

If you are going into a particularly wet environment or there is heavy rain in the forecast, you might want to try lightly applying a light glaze of waterproofing wax.

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Seibertron Falcon Water Repellent Hiking Camping Backpack Compact Pack Summit Bag

  • 900 Denier waterproof polyester
  • Hydration System Compatible up to 2-liters
  • Can be attached to luggage with accessory straps

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack Med First Aid Patriot Bundle

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack

Specs:

  • 1000 denier nylon fabric
  • Water-resistant
  • 55-liter maximum capacity
  • Slick Stick MOLLE attachment system
  • Medical pouch included
  • Straps and shoulder yolk designed for maximum comfort
  • 3-liter hydration pocket

The 5.11 RUSH72 represents one of the largest and most comprehensive backpacks in their line. Their “Patriot” bundle also includes a 6.6” medical pouch that was designed to be easy to access and detach when needed. It can also accommodate a 3-liter hydration bladder.

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack

The pack itself has a 55-liter maximum capacity. It’s made from heavy-duty 1000 denier water-resistant nylon fabric with a Slick Stick MOLLE attachment system. Yet it only weighs in at an empty weight of 5.8 pounds.

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack

The compression shoulder straps have closed cell foam for superior comfort. The closed cells in the foam are also waterproof, which is a nice touch. There are some water-resistant backpacks on the market that don’t have closed-cell foam. With those units, the pack might stay waterproof, but the straps turn into shoulder-soaking sponges.

There are multiple pockets and compartments. This includes a large admin panel for easy access to things like maps, pens, keys, bug dope, emergency rain poncho, and other small accessory items.

What We Liked

The Patriot Bundle and 6.6” medical pack help this iteration of the 5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack to stand out from the competition and even other units in their own line. It’s also tagged with a medical symbol for quick identification in an emergency situation.

You can quickly slip one strap free to sling the pack around for easy access to the medical kit, or you can quickly detach it from the MOLLE system webbing on the back of the pack.

Overall

The 5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack is popular on its own. The Patriot Bundle and medkit are a nice bonus that maximizes your return on investment. The 55-liter capacity means this tactical backpack can support you for multiple days in the bush.

If you don’t want or need the medical kit the 5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack is available without it.

5.11 RUSH72 Tactical Backpack Med First Aid Patriot Bundle

  • Includes a 6.6” medical kit
  • Accommodates up to a 3-liter hydration bladder
  • Designed for maximum water resistance

Mardingtop 25 Liter Tactical Backpack With MOLLE Compatibility

Mardingtop 25 Liter Tactical Backpack

Specs:

  • 600 denier water-resistant polyester
  • 25-liter maximum volume
  • YKK zippers
  • 2-liter hydration compartment with port
  • MOLLE webbing
  • 4 MOLLE hooks
  • 90-Day Warranty

There are several volume sizes of the Mardingtop tactical backpack. The 25-liter version is meant to be able to support the user for up to two days.

Mardingtop 25 Liter Tactical Backpack

It is made from 600 denier water-resistant polyester and includes high-quality YKK Japanese zippers. The exterior features MOLLE compatible webbing with four MOLLE hooks.

Mardingtop 25 Liter Tactical Backpack worn by hiker

The interior includes a compartment for a 2-liter hydration bladder. There is a port conveniently integrated with the top of the pack, allowing you to loop the tubing toward your mouth, without worrying about it getting tangled by your arms or passing brush.

What We Liked

The Mardingtop 25-liter tactical backpack’s MOLLE compatibility and four MOLLE hooks let you use this backpack as a solid base for adding other accessory packs. You can also use luggage straps to secure it to a suitcase handle when you travel.

The hydration port at the top of the bag isn’t something to overlook. Some tactical backpacks will put the port at the side or mid-back. Most of the time, this isn’t an issue. However, if you are walking through thick brush, a side-port hydration tube has a knack for getting caught on passing branches.

With a port at the top of the bag, you are less likely to have this happen, as clearing branches from your face, also keeps them away from the hydration tube.

Overall

This is a well-designed pack for the money. It doesn’t necessarily have a lot of bells and whistles, but the MOLLE compatibility provides you with the opportunity to add your own accessories to create a custom tactical kit.

The 90-day warranty is also a nice touch and a statement of quality intent.

Mardingtop 25 Liter Tactical Backpack With MOLLE Compatibility

  • 25-liter capacity
  • 600 denier water-resistant polyester
  • MOLLE webbing with 4 MOLLE hooks

Buyers Guide

A tactical backpack goes beyond the standard shoulder bags that might have hauled with you to school or took with you to carry clothes on a camping trip. Tactical backpacks were originally designed for military, and law enforcement, but in recent years they have evolved to supply other niche interests.

Today outdoorsmen, first responders, ecotourists, and avid climbers gravitate toward tactical backpacks for their rugged functionality.

Key Features of a Tactical Backpack

While tactical backpacks share some of the same features with their simple counterparts, they do have some distinct differences. In general, they are more compact in designed and sturdy.

Compartments and Pouches

They tend to have multiple separate compartments. Each one is meant to keep necessary items organized and easy to access. Some have compartments that are specifically designed to hold a particular specialty item. They also tend to have multiple side pockets for holding items you need to access at a moment’s notice.

The straps and back panels tend to be padded for maximum comfort when you are on the go. Most have some type of compression strap to secure the pack to your shoulders while also serving to rebalance the load. Many include a sternum strap to draw the straps together, which can also reduce the chances of wear and tear on your back.

Hydration Systems or Canteen/Water Bottle Holder

Hydration compartments or camelbacks are sometimes included in the design. This helps the user to quickly drink water and stay hydrated, which is very important when you are on the move.

Waterproof Materials and Closures

Waterproofing is especially important in the design of a tactical backpack. Wet clothing, gear, and other critical items can have a major negative impact on the pack’s performance. Waterproof materials and/or treatments are critical. Covered zippers and other waterproof closures are also a priority in successful tactical backpacks that need to be used in rain or wet environments.

Size and Volume

Tactical backpacks are available in many different sizes. Selecting the one that’s right for you requires a fair amount of forethought. It can help to take a while laying out everything you need or intend to carry in the pack.

Then condense each time down as small as you can, while also keeping in mind that you may need to access the item quickly. If you are really industrious, you can take the full inventory and fit them in plastic bags. Keeping track of the volume you are using up with each one.

Most tactical backpack manufacturers will list the capacity in cubic inches of liters of volume. This number includes the maximum capacity of every single compartment, pouch, pocket and mesh bag. Unless you have past experience of special training with how to pack a tactical backpack, you will likely struggle to maximize the stated full capacity.

A large tactical backpack will be rated around 40 to 50 liters. However, you might only be able to efficiently pack about 75% of that volume.

Material

Most tactical backpacks are made from either nylon or polyester. Each has its own characteristics that affect the design and functionality of the backpack.

Nylon tends to be stronger than polyester and offers superior abrasion resistance. It does tend to absorb a modest amount of water in highly wet conditions. Yet it does dry very quickly. It’s very flexible, but it has inferior UV resistance, which could lead to sun fading over time.

Polyester generally isn’t as strong or abrasion-resistant as nylon. It will absorb a little water in wet conditions, but not as much as nylon. When it does get wet, it is relatively slow to dry. It’s not as flexible as nylon, but it’s hardly rigid. However, it is highly UV resistant.

Fabric weight is also an important factor to consider when shopping for a tactical backpack. Fabric weight can vary and will affect a backpack’s overall strength, and durability. In some with some, it can impact the overall weight or how it feels when worn for a long period of time.

Fabric weight is typically measured in deniers. This is a unit of fineness where the strand of fabric is equal to one gram for every 9,000 meters of yarn. Essentially, the higher the denier, the more durable and heavier the tactical backpack will be.

Weave Style

The weave style of a tactical backpack’s material can also affect its durability and strength. Different diagonal weave characteristics can enhance a backpack’s abrasion and tear-resistance.

Kodra or Cordura

Originally created by Dupont, Kodra or Cordura is essentially an air treated nylon fabric that is very similar to a fabric made by Korea’s Olon International. This type of weave structure gives the fabric a somewhat rough or even fuzzy texture.

It also has thicker fibers which impart superior abrasion and tear-resistance. The tradeoff here is that it makes the tactical backpack heavier per square inch than many other weave styles.

Ripstop Weave

A ripstop woven fabric tends to use thick threads to help prevent a minor tear from spreading. They use a regular grid pattern that is sewn into the fabric at tight intervals. This type of weave is more common with nylon tactical backpacks and has become increasingly popular.

Oxford Weave

Oxford weave is a well-established fabric pattern that you find in a lot of different applications. One everyday example is the linear weave of vehicle seatbelts. A few manufacturers will use oxford weave, but it tends to not be as strong, and not ideal for tactical backpacks.

MOLLE Compatibility

MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is largely a military term that has been adopted by other niches. It’s a special type of heavy-duty nylon that is specially stitched into rows to create a Pouch Attachment Ladder System or PALS. This gives the user the ability to attach additional pouches and equipment.

In terms of consumer use, MOLLE compatibility might be something to prioritize if you intended to use the tactical backpack for a variety of different activities. Say you wanted to use it for climbing a rock face in the summer, then for a weekend hunting in wetlands, you might prioritize a tactical backpack with MOLLE versatility.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Do I need a MOLLE compatible backpack?

A: This is a little bit of a personal preference thing. People with military experience will swear by the value and versatility of a MOLLE system. It allows you to add a wide range of accessory packs and stow gear. If you need to use the pack for truly tactical purposes like law enforcement, security services, or even smoke jumping, then MOLLE compatibility is likely going to be a priority for you.

If you are simply looking for a well-designed hunting or camping backpack, you can probably get by without a MOLLE compatible system. Still, it doesn’t have a major impact on the price, so you likely won’t save much money one way or the other.

Q: Is There A Way To Waterproof The Fabric?

A: Most tactical backpacks are “Water Resistant” or made from water-resistant fabrics. Though few are truly “Waterproof” on their own. Fortunately, there are some outdoor products and camping manufacturers who offer waterproofing treatments or sprays for exterior grade fabrics. It won’t make the pack’s fabric permanently waterproof, but it should get you through a multi-day trek in the rain.

If you need to keep things dry inside your pack when wet weather looms, you can always improvise with some zip-top or other plastic bags. It might inelegant, but it could keep key items dry. Keeping a few tucked away in a side compartment of your pack means you’ll have them if you need them.

Q: Is There A Way To Waterproof Zippers?

A: Even the most water-resistant tactical backpacks can be vulnerable to water intrusion at the zippers. Some manufacturers limit this risk by putting gussets or protective flaps that cover the zipper. This is usually sufficient for dealing with rain and occasional drips from a wet canopy. Most tactical backpacks won’t be able to handle long-term immersion in water.

If you know you are going into a particularly wet environment or there’s a bad storm in the forecast, you might want to apply a light glaze of waterproofing wax.

Q: Do All Tactical Backpacks Come With A Hydration Bladder?

A: Water bladders, hydration bladders, and camelback systems are very popular for tactical backpackers who need to drink water while they are on the go. It spares you having to stop or reach for a water bottle. They also tend to fit more comfortably and don’t bang in the pouch-like a bottle.

It’s a nice touch when a tactical backpack includes a hydration bladder in the initial purchase. Though many don’t. True, this helps trim down the price point, as many avid backpackers and those with tactical needs often have their own hydration bladder or prefer to buy a separate one specific to their needs.

The most important thing to look for is a pack that states having things like “A Hydration Pocket” that also states the maximum volume it can accommodate. You should also subtract this amount from the stated maximum volume of liters the pack can hold. A pack that includes “Hydration Ports” is also a nice touch as it allows you to pass the tubes through, rather than casually leaving a zipper partially open.

Q: Where Can I Buy A Water or Hydration Bladder?

A: If you are in love with a particular pack, but it doesn’t come with a hydration bladder, don’t dismay. The online marketplace is rife with options of varying volumes. Check these: Leakproof Water Bag for Hydration Pack, HydraPak Shape-Shift Water Bladder, CHERAINTI Military Water Storage Bladder Bag, CamelBak 90352 Omega Water Reservoir.

Q: Do I Need To Clean My Hydration Bladder?

A: As time goes on microbes and other water contaminants can start to buildup inside a hydration bladder. If you don’t periodically clean it, your water can start to taste funny and even be unpleasant to drink. Some manufacturers have their own specific instructions for how to clean their hydration bladders, and some don’t. It’s a good idea to clean out a hydration bladder after or at least before each trip.

There are some hydration bladder cleaning kits like InnerFit Hydration Bladder Cleaning Kit and TAGVO Hydration Bladder Tube Brush Cleaning Kit online that are relatively inexpensive and easy to use.

Q: Are All the Straps and Belts Really Important?

A: Most tactical backpacks are designed to comfortably hold items with a relative sense of balance. Still, even the most well-packed bag can gradually start to wear on your shoulders and back. Some tactical backpacks don’t talk about their strapping configuration in detail, leaving you to look at the pictures to make sure it has some of the features you might prioritize.

A simple sternum strap helps bring the shoulder straps together which significantly changes the load on your shoulders and upper back.

A waistband or belt is more common with large tactical backpacks. They tend to help hold the load of the pack in balance keeping it from shifting as you walk. Some can even help reduce the impact on your back. They are particularly nice if you have to walk across uneven terrain where you need a good balance.

A padded shoulder yolk and back padding is also very nice for reducing the hard-physical impact on your back. Some packs even have lumbar padding. For a smaller volume tactical backpack, these features aren’t all that important. Once you get over a 40-liter volume, you should consider a padded shoulder yolk and back pads as a necessity.

Compression shoulder straps are nice for keeping the load balanced on your back and shoulders. They tend to work in tandem with a sternum or chest strap. They also help to keep the load from swaying or digging into your back as you walk.

Padded compression shoulder straps are also nice for times when you need to carry a heavy load. Some manufacturers don’t mention what their padding is made from. Some simply insert a cut piece of open-cell foam and call it good. These straps tend to wear down and flatten over time, ultimately losing their comfort. They also tend to be absorbent and will soak up water in a rainy environment.

A manufacturer who states they use closed-cell foam in their padding might be a priority if you plan to hike through a wet environment. This material isn’t as absorbent and tends to last longer than open-cell foam.

Q: Can I Use A Tactical Backpack As Luggage?

A: There are many people who maximize the value of their tactical backpack by using it as luggage. They tend to be durable enough to handle the luggage handling system at the airport and convenient to carry with you. Some inspectors might give you a hard time if they feel the need to go through every single compartment as part of a spot check.

There are also some tactical backpacks with or special MOLLE attachments that you can use to connect it to a suitcase handle. This usually requires a small investment in some special luggage straps.

Conclusion

Tactical backpacks used to be something you could only access if you had a military or first responder access. Today manufacturers realize that they are attractive to a wide range of niches interests. This includes backcountry hunters, eco-tourists, scientific researchers, preppers, and climbers, just to name a few.

Make sure to take the time to think about how you will most likely use the pack. This will give you a ballpark of the volume that is right for you. If you only intend to take the pack with you for a single day you might only need a 20 or 25-liter volume. The longer you intend to be away from the civilized world, the greater the volume you will need to support you. On the other end of the spectrum, you don’t need a 55-liter capacity pack if you’re only going to be out for a simple hike through a national park.

Once you have your intended use and needed volume dialed in, you can expand to other features that might matter to you. This could include padded compression straps to help comfortably bear the heavy load of a large pack. Maybe it’s a large hydration system, or perhaps an administrative panel to keep small items organized and close at hand.

Take the time to treat the tactical backpack shopping process as a little bit of a thought of experiment. Let the vision you develop lead you to the unit that is just right for you.

Product Boxes: Last updated on 2019-12-11 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API