You’ve heard the term before; tactical backpack. It’s hard to avoid, in fact. It’s impossible to deny that “tactical” packs are a trend that isn’t going away any time soon in the carry world. In fact, at this point it may not even be a trend, but one of the pillar groups. How did this happen? Well, as long as there has been military, there have been people who want to use the gear for their civilian lives (the common day tshirt is a perfect example of gear popularized by military design and use). And just to be clear, civilians using military gear is awesome. As long as you’re not going around claiming you’re a soldier when you’re not. That’s not cool. Otherwise, feel free to enjoy the benefits of these awesome packs and gear. In one way or another, you’ve already paid for them via taxes!
People are drawn to this rugged gear for good reason too. Packs, clothing, and kit that is designed specifically for armed forces are all meant to go to war. Literally. They’re focused on strength, durability, modularity, high activity, and premium quality materials/hardware. Fashion is not even considered. It’s all pure function here. That being said, some may think tactical packs are a bit loud/attention grabbing, so they’ll want something a bit more subdued. Everyone has their own preferences, which we dig.
Long story short, in this particular case the term “tactical” is essentially another word for “military” or “military inspired”.
As the title states, this is a breakdown of tactical thigh bag for beginners. An introduction. So let’s dig in and explore what makes one functional tactical pack great versus a cheap knock-off for fashion’s sake.
We’re material geeks over here. And generally military tactical packs all should be made from quality fabrics that can take a beating. As a general rule of thumb, they should be made from 500D – 1200D CORDURA nylon fabric (or better). Not 200D. Not Kodra. Not polyester. This is an easy one. Some packs may even use nicer materials, such as X-Pac (VX) fabric. Usually these fabrics are heavier (not always), but they’re weather resistant and take a fall down a mountain or twenty.
Look for brand names listed in the pack’s specifications. Brands to look for are YKK, TiZip, ITW Nexus, AustriAlpin, and more. If you haven’t heard of the brand (or if it’s intentionally left off), it probably doesn’t have a reputation of having a great track record. These parts can make or break (literally) a pack, so you’ll want something you can trust. If you’re deep in the wilderness and a buckle that keeps your shoulder straps attached busts on you, you’re out of luck.
Whether you’re looking for a bag for day hiking or an everyday go-everywhere pack, the right tactical backpack offers a perfect combination of ample storage, practical features, and all-day comfort.
It’s simple. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time wearing a backpack, choose a reliable one. Unlike many other backpack categories, tactical backpacks offer lots of utility for a wide variety of activities including long hikes, military deployment, traveling, and cycling.
Good tactical backpacks have numerous pockets, compartments, and clever features. Features to look for include external ports for nozzles and headphones, hydration bladder compatibility, two-way radio holders, compartments for medical supplies, and more. Furthermore, all-weather capability and durable materials define the characteristics of high-quality tactical backpacks.
For both professional and recreational applications, tactical vest offer carefully structured layouts that carry comfortably and keep gear secure, even when packed with heavy loads.
We’ve examined and reviewed options from across the tactical backpack market and determined which packs rank among the best in 2021.
Scroll through our list to view our picks, or jump ahead to the specific category that you’re interested in.
This 27L pack from Mystery Ranch is one of the most versatile tactical packs on the market in 2021. Thanks to its lightweight profile and compact size, the 2-Day Assault Pack ($200) is the perfect choice for a weekend of camping when you don’t want to lug around a full-size backpacking pack.
Firstly, it’s both comfortable and secure on your back, thanks to removable hip straps and shoulder straps. And second, at just 3 pounds, it won’t weigh you down while hiking.
For professional and urban use, an integrated and padded laptop sleeve and robust YKK zippers add impressive multiuse utility. For water storage, the 2-Day Assault Pack is compatible with water bladders. Each pack also includes dual water bottle holders.
We love that this pack is made from hardy material. Its premium 500-denier Cordura fabric is field-tested and built to last.
For quick overnight adventures or practical everyday use, the 2-Day Assault Pack from Mystery Ranch offers great features and overall value at $200.
A backpack is a bag for holding things. It’s hard to make that tactical, since one bag is very like another. When discussing turning a piece luggage into a lean, combat-equipped fighter, the first question that must be answered is: How? It’s a simple matter to put a few MOLLE straps onto a rucksack and call it battle-ready, but that does not fit the bill. True tactical packs are build with missions in mind, giving operators a lot of customization of the inside depending on if they’re doing recon, hunter/killer missions, sabotage, or simply going on a day hike. Real tactical suits also step up the durability to the point that they’re nigh indestructible, and are replete with hidden stash spots for secreting away a weapon, a jump drive with the Death Star plans, or a message to the wetwork pro who will find your body.
Finding the level of flexibility and resiliency that a tac-op bag should have can take a lot of digging, and if you’re serious about needing it, your life could be put in jeopardy should you pick a pretender. Don’t gamble with your blood, sweat, and more blood. Take one of the 16 top tactical backpacks and get to work.
If your spouse just brought one of these home, get ready for them to leave you, because this is a serious bag for serious people who are seriously never coming back. Though you can go bigger than the 2,100 cubic centimeters, it’s the webbing and handles atop, around, down, and under this bag that make it clear it’s just the base. The triple straps are the tale here, giving adjustable relief that makes this bearable for hours of trail wear.
Though not as traditionally “tactical” as the other options here, the Recon is a smart backpack in that it uses tactical elements to create a good day pack that is cost efficient and doesn’t have the miles of MOLLE or extra features that average tac-pack users don’t actually need. If you aren’t headed for a survival mission but would like some 210 Denier Cordura in a slick, sleek, go to the end of the world bag that’s dressed down and modern, here’s how to do it up right.
7 compartments intended to carry every survival item you require for living out of this for 3 solid days, this is the bug out bag serious survivalists suggest. More than 3,000 cubic inches of space inside outfitted with sleeves for hydration bladders, D-rings for expansion and extension packs, and it has a deep foam back panel for both support and ventilation that guards against sweaty-back syndrome. Ooh-Rah or bust.
Going in an asymmetrical direction, the Javelin looks a little awkward at first, but the design is intended to land at your body’s natural load-bearing points for an even distribution across your entire back to prevent walking cock-eyed. Built with 1000 Denier cordura and neoprene handles, the large number of small compartments makes this a good field bag for medical, electrical, demolition, or photography work. Top or side access gives it a convertibility that’s welcome in a tactical bag.
We can’t force Snugpak to change their name, but it’s on our To Do list. In spite of the cutesy label, this is a serious sack for people with serious sack. It’s only 1,400 grams, having been made for rangers who must move quickly across varied terrain. Unlike most tactical backpacks, this is made for keeping your survival essentials only, which is why it has a huge central compartment, but few pockets for organization. The huge range of MOLLE straps all over this bag are where you do your organizing.
Though not traditionally a backpack, the Plan-B’s cross-body build allows for quick access from the left or right, which adds field facility, even if it breaks from the mold a bit. 1080 cubic inches worth of gear storage, webbing from tip to tail, and an integrated system that can work with your favorite water bag, this can make a traditionalist into a sling-bag convert.
You’ll never go wrong carrying a Maxpedition, so it’s buyer’s pick. We prefer the Falcon-II because it uses a Y-shaped compression strap in the middle, unique to its design. Using that seems to distribute weight more evenly, keeps parcels in place during serious action, such as taking a tumble down a ravine slope, and makes the carrying feel incredible. That’s to say nothing of the side-buckles, dual-open zippers for clamshell storage and easy access, as well as the 1050 Denier build. Whew, it’s a piece of work.
Weight concerns brought the Dragon Egg from it’s original design, which called for 1000 Denier Cordura was downgraded to 500-D, because this bag needed to be light as gossamer to achieve its goal. The balance of the 500-D means a tad less rip resistance – though you’ll be hard-pressed to notice it – but far less weight than many similar bags. This mixture creates a capacity of 1,500 cubic inches that can be carried by smaller soldiers comfortably.
You’ll never stray far from quality with 5.11’s tactical belt. Though their Rush line gets more attention, the more basic All Hazards Prime has a straighter build. Constructed using input from MACTAC (Multi-Assault Counter-Terrorism Action Capabilities) instructors, the layout is made specifically to give you access to all your gear, and keep it precisely where you expect it to be. Should you drop something, hi-vis orange lining makes it pop out, day or night.