People love tactical backpacks. Sure, a lot of it has to do with the seeming obsession consumers have with military-grade gear, as they tend to bring the durability and rugged aesthetics that a good load of people simply appreciate. Beyond the heavy-duty construction and uncompromising style, though, tactical backpacks also tend to be very practical, with their multiple compartments, all-weather build, and expandable designs. Suffice to say, they’re the kind of bags you can rely on for the long haul.
Here are some of the roughest, toughest, most versatile tactical backpacks you will find today.
There’s a reason the GR1 appears in nearly every “best backpack” list you’re going to find. It’s a pioneer in the category and continues to hold its own even after all these years. Designed for rugged function, it has a shell that’s incredibly tough (you’ll need to stab it with intent if you want to cut through that fabric) and highly water resistant (your gear will stay dry in the rain), while every seam and stitch feels heavily reinforced to support unreasonable amounts of weight. Heck, they even claim the laptop compartment is bomb-proof, although we didn’t expose it to any IED, so we can’t confirm.
It opens flat, so you can pack and organize your stuff as neatly as you want, while three pockets on the flap allow you to organize some stuff in the main compartment. It also has an extra exterior pocket, a laptop compartment in the back, and four rows of MOLLE webbing, so you can attach MOLLE-compatible pouches and smaller bags when necessary. We particularly appreciate the subtle looks, which make it viable for both the office and the backcountry alike, while plenty of small details round it out into one of the most thoughtfully-designed packs out there. The one thing to complain about? There’s no breathable mesh panel in the back, so it’s prone to making whoever’s carrying the bag sweat a good amount.
It’s available in 21L and 26L sizes.
Triple Aught Design Axiom 24
This 24L pack offers a clear departure from the typical aesthetics of tactical packs. As in, there’s very little hint of any military inspiration in the styling, making it ideal for everyday urban use. Despite that, it is one heck of a bag. For one, its laminated nylon and synthetic rubber construction, along with YKK reverse-coiled zippers, leaves it completely impenetrable to the heaviest downpours, while the VX-21 ripstop shell and nylon webbing should shrug off all the roughhousing it can encounter.
Want plenty of pockets on your backpack? There’s no shortage of that here, as you get over half a dozen pockets inside the front compartment alone, while the main compartment comes with two rows of attachment points on the back, two rows of webbing loops top and bottom, and two PALS webbing panels, so you can customize it using any accessories of your choosing. It even has vertical side pockets with over six inches of expansion each, an ambidextrous (two zippered openings on left and right side) back pocket that can fit laptops, tablets, and other flat items, an external bottom pocket, and a zippered sunglass pouch on top.
Simply put, this one manages to cram a ton of pockets while looking absolutely clean – a truly rare feat.
5.11 Tactical Rush12 2.0
This updated version of the Rush12 takes the same general design as its predecessor, all while getting updated for better adaptability. You get the same rugged and water-resistant 1050D nylon construction, along with a ton of MOLLE webbing, a pair of panels for attaching patches, side compression straps for streamlining the contents, and a contoured yoke shoulder strap system.
It’s especially generous in the pocket department, as it gets a total of 16 individual compartments, including a hook-and-loop pocket for concealed-carry, a front admin panel with tons of pockets, a padded laptop compartment, and a designated slot for a 1.5L hydration bladder. While the MOLLE makes it a bit intimidating (there’s way too much), the size and general styling does keep it pretty viable even for everyday city use.
Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack
While Mystery Ranch touts this as a smaller 27L urban version of their military-aimed assault pack, truth is, its aesthetics really belong more in muddy and rocky trails. Seriously, the darn thing, especially with all that MOLEE webbing outside, looks like it’s built for the battlefield.
It’s one of the reasons we love it as a backpack for those weekend adventures, as it embodies the rough and rugged aesthetic that goes so well with the outdoors, while all that MOLLE gives you plenty of options for expanding the storage. With premium 500-denier Cordura construction, it’s tough enough to take on the elements, while compression straps take up unused volume while stabilizing all the gear you carry inside. The main compartment, by the way, can be accessed via dual zippers at the top, as well as from a quick-access third zipper on the side, while a number of exterior pockets, interior mesh pockets, and interior dump pockets help you organize things easily. It also has two water bottle pockets on the sides, while being compatible with water bladders, so you have plenty of options for carrying hydration.
At just three pounds, it’s impressively light for a backpack that looks like it’s ready to go to war. It’s also one of the more comfortable bags in the category out there, especially with the hip strap and sternum strap secured