Choosing the best tactical backpack for your needs can seem like a daunting task, but with a little bit of knowledge, it is actually pretty easy.
So, what differentiates a tactical pack from a regular backpack?
Let’s take a look, but before we do the best EDC backpacks being reviewed are set out below:
Last update on 2020-06-04 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API
- 1 Best EDC Backpack Reviews
- 2 5.11 RUSH12 Tactical Military Assault MOLLE Backpack, Bug Out Rucksack Bag
- 3 SOG Opord Tactical Day Pack, 39.1-Liter Storage
- 4 Mardingtop 25L/28L/35L Tactical Backpacks MOLLE Hiking daypacks for Camping Hiking Military Traveling
- 5 ArcEnCiel Water-Resistant Military Backpack Rucksack
- 6 Direct Action Dragon Egg Tactical Backpack
- 7 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 Military Backpack
- 8 SOG TOC Backpack CP1003G
- 9 Timbuk2 Parkside Laptop Backpack
- 10 Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack
- 11 SwissGear Compact Organizer Backpack
- 12 What Makes a Bag ‘Tactical’?
- 13 Conclusion
Best EDC Backpack Reviews
The RUSH12 is the smallest in 5.11’s RUSH series of backpacks. It sits alongside the RUSH24 and RUSH72 with the number being the number of hours 5.11 rated each pack for when packing.
The RUSH12 is one of the more expensive packs on this list, but it is still cheap enough to be considered a high-end value pack.
5.11 makes this pack out of heavy duty 1050D Nylon. This is a good, thick material that is resistant to snags and tears. YKK Zippers are the gold standard around the world. They offer better strength and are self-repairing.
This is decently large for an EDC, offering 24 liters of storage, but it is also relatively small in size. The pack measures in at 12 inches wide and 18 inches tall. For those with glasses or who always travel with sunglasses, this feature is a boon. The fleece lining will prevent your lenses from getting scratched by the rougher materials used in the main pack.
Too many backpacks have the front attached to the back when you open the main compartment. Not the RUSH12. It can be opened and laid flat, allowing for easier access.
The plastic buckles on this pack tend to be a weak point in the design. There is no getting around using plastic, but thicker material would reduce breakage. The zipper for the main compartment can often catch on the mesh pockets to the side of it.
- Heavy 1050D nylon construction
- YKK zippers
- Large, but not bulky
- Fleece-lined eye-wear pocket
- Fully opening front
- Some would say the buckles are a weak point
- Mesh near zippers which may get snagged
You may recognize the name SOG. They have built their reputation on their unique, yet functional knife designs. Now they have applied their tactical expertise to designing a backpack for when you need more storage and less flash.
This thing is large by EDC standards. Some may consider this a con, but with the design work done by SOG, this pack can be adjusted to shift the weight off of your back, to your waist, thanks to the waist strap and yoked shoulder straps.
The polyester construction makes this pack extremely water repellent. There are also two drain grommets in the bottom of the pack to allow water to drain. The Opord Daypack has several add-on options in addition to the MOLLE system, including D-ring attachments. The pack is quite economical when compared to others on this list, but it is still well built.
The straps that keep this pack nice and tight are also a slight inconvenience when you need to access the main compartment. You must undo the straps to open the pack. The zippers are from a cheaper manufacturer and seem to be a weak link in this pack.
Manufacturing defects tend to be more common in this pack than others on this list. These range from zippers without sliders to pockets sewn shut, so do a full inspection on delivery.
- Large pack
- Water repellent
- Extensive expansion attachments
- Strap placement
- Weak zippers
- Quality control
Mardingtop 25L/28L/35L Tactical Backpacks MOLLE Hiking daypacks for Camping Hiking Military Traveling
If you have never heard of Mardingtop that is understandable, but you should get to know them. They offer a well built, feature-filled pack that is right in the middle of the price scale for EDC packs, leaning towards economy. This model pack comes in three different sizes, 25L, 28L, and 35L, so you can choose the size that is right for you.
I cannot overstate the importance of knowing what brand zippers your pack has. Manufacturers can make a pack with the best materials money can buy, but if it has weak zippers, that’s it. For the price of this pack, YKK zippers are a definite positive. Polyester itself is a water repellent material which makes it an excellent choice for tactical backpacks, but it can be weak if the fabric is too light. 600D polyester offers strength and water resistance.
Almost all of the packs on this list offer MOLLE attachments, but Mardingtop takes it a step further by adding security straps to secure your gear against the pack as well. Unlike many models, this pack does not have removable hip straps. They are, however, easy to tuck away against the main body of the pack.
The pouch meant for adding a hydration bladder is not insulated. While this may not be a big deal to some people, others will miss the insulation when they want a cold sip of water on a hot day.
- Different sizes available
- YKK Zippers
- 600D Polyester
- Gear Straps
- Hip strap is not removable
- Non-insulated hydration pouch
The last economy pack on this list, this ArcEnCiel pack is a durable and comfortable addition. While it may lack some of the features of other models on this list, don’t discount it just yet. While all of the packs on this list offer padded backs, only ArcEnCiel provides a fully padded, mesh back. This allows more airflow to keep you cool and dry on hot summer days.
ArcEnCiel constructs their pack out of military grade 1000D Nylon fabric. This is heavy duty nylon that will resist scratches, fading, and tears. While not a feature of the pack itself, a rain cover is included to keep your pack dry when those sudden summer showers hit. Anyone who carries their laptop with them can attest that using the main compartment for your laptop is far from ideal. Thankfully ArcEnCiel added a computer sleeve for just that purpose.
Without the included rain cover this pack will not do much to keep water from getting in, so always make sure you have the cover if it looks like rain. While the body is thick nylon, the stitching leaves something to be desired and is a common point of failure.
One thing to note is that the manufacturer advertises this pack as waterproof, but it requires the cover to achieve this. Since the cover comes with the backpack, it is technically correct, but seems a little misleading.
- Full padded mesh back
- 1000D Nylon construction
- Rain cover included
- Comes with a computer sleeve
- Not water resistant
- Weak stitching
Dragon Egg is a fitting name because this is one tough backpack. While the Dragon Egg is the most expensive pack on our list, it is also the most full-featured and Direct Action makes it with the best materials. While some packs offer some MOLLE functionality, most are in a limited area. Not the Dragon Egg. The entire back of the pack is set up for MOLLE attachments.
Sure, 1000D Nylon is good, but it has nothing on 500D Cordura. Cordura is a tough fabric. Manufacturers usually make it out of nylon, but the extremely tight weave makes it much tougher than regular nylon. Direct Action specifically chose the egg shape because it allows for more storage in a smaller footprint.
Almost all packs you are going to see come with a grab handle, but most are a sewn on strap. The Dragon Egg takes it a step further by replacing the strap with a woven paracord handle. As someone who has used para cord in more than one tight spot I can say, any time you can add paracord, it’s a good idea.
As always, you hope you never have to contact customer server, but when you do it is nice to know you will be taken care of This is by far the most expensive pack on this list; however, it is still cheaper than many specialty packs on the market today.
- Full MOLLE system
- Cordura 500D fabric
- Egg shaped for storage
- 550 Para cord handle
- Excellent customer service
Made of high-quality nylon, this military-style everyday carry pack is well-suited for intense hiking and trekking experiences. The tactical military backpack features a variety of compartments and attachments that make it remarkably versatile and functional. Its army-inspired design is sleek and manly at the same time. What is more, its ergonomic design allows for a roomy main storage area that’s very secure.
Without being too clunky, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 Military Backpack is sturdy and voluminous enough to produce a definite sense of security when you carry it. Of course, its generous proportions allow for great spaciousness as well. As a matter of fact, the bag’s main compartment is roomier than you would expect. Despite not being conspicuous at all, its dual-zipping side pockets are also remarkably spacious.
We could talk all day about this EDC backpack’s organizational benefits. In particular, we love its stuff-it pocket. It features an integrated drawcord, and its glove-friendly pull tabs make it very easy to access. As if all that wasn’t enough, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 Military Backpack includes a great hydration bladder made of durable 1050D nylon.
Without a doubt, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH24 Military Backpack stands out due to its tough and durable construction. In addition to being resistant to rips and tears, the 1050D nylon that this pack is made of is resistant to water. Apart from helping keep your belongings nice and dry, this capability helps prevent water-based wear as well as rot.
- Great storage capability
- Adjustable shoulder and sternum straps
- Includes a hydration pocket
- Features water-repellent coating
- Durable construction
- Laptop pocket is not secure
- The cinch strap is not very functional
Despite its unassuming looks, the SOG TOC Backpack CP1003G is actually a very advanced EDC backpack. Made of high-quality plastic and expertly constructed, this everyday carry pack can help you carry your survival items efficiently and securely. Featuring a clever distribution of pockets, it is also great for keeping your belongings organized and at hand. In addition, it has optional attachments for carrying additional items.
Without a doubt, the SOG TOC Backpack CP1003G emphasizes comfort and ergonomics above everything else. To start with, every surface that comes in contact with your body is very well padded. That does not mean that the pack slumps, however: Thanks to its rigid suspension and adjustable shoulder straps, this EDC backpack adapts to your body while maintaining a balanced center of gravity.
The sheer number of sleeves and pockets that this backpack has will excite you. Apart from being plentiful and varied, these pockets are strategically located in order to help you keep your items organized. Of course, the two external side pockets are also located strategically so you can reach them without having to take the pack off.
Even though its design makes it more of a work backpack, the SOG TOC Backpack CP1003G is versatile enough to be used as a travel backpack as well. To ensure functionality, it features webbing lash points and hyperon zinger tabs that can help you carry additional items during long and difficult hikes.
- Features emergency audio alerts
- Very organized interior pockets
- Good weight distribution system
- Its padded back panel improves comfort
- Features webbing lash points and hyperon zinger tabs for easy item carrying
- Not very breathable
- Zippers often get tangled together
Compact, sleek and stylish, the Timbuk2 Parkside is one of the best urban EDC backpack options on the market. It’s simple and yet ergonomic design makes it a great carry backpack for everyday use. While it is certainly not the most spacious out there, it provides enough room to fit EDC items such as books, a laptop, your lunch and even a jacket.
Even though it doesn’t have as many pockets and sleeves as the previously-reviewed SOG TOC Backpack, this everyday carry backpack has useful divisions in the main compartment that help you keep your things organized. In addition, it features internal organizers for pens and other small items. As if all that wasn’t enough, the Timbuk2 Parkside backpack features hidden zippered pockets for carrying important things like cards, money and your ID.
While it is certainly perfect for students and workers, the Timbuk2 Parkside can also be used in outdoor settings with great success. Its external pockets are spacious and ergonomic, allowing for easy and quick access at any point. What is more, the backpack features a useful elasticized external side pocket that can fit a water bottle with no problems.
The Timbuk2 Parkside is, without a doubt, very comfortable and ergonomic. Its shoulder straps are beautifully padded, which can really help when you carry a lot of heavy EDC items like books and electronics. It also includes an adjustable waist strap that can help provide balance and stability during long walks. All this considered, it’s easy to see why this product would stand out to a lover of EDC backpacks.
- Great for laptop carrying
- Compact and lightweight
- Very sturdy and resistant
- Three interior pockets
- Allows quick access
- Not enough padding
- The front compartment is too tight
Those who are looking for the best EDC backpack for outdoor use would be wise to look at the Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack. Made of high-intensity military-style nylon, it is incredibly resistant to the kind of wear and tear you will come across during long hikes. What is more, it is resistant to water, sunlight and dirt. Despite its compact size, it has a spacious main compartment as well as several strategically-located pockets.
While it is great for outdoor adventuring, the Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack can also be used more casually in urban environments. The fact that it includes a useful and very secure pocket for a 10-inch tablet or laptop helps prove this fact. In addition, it has a large front pocket and a variety of smaller internal sleeves and pockets for organizational purposes. As if all that wasn’t enough, the Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack also has an external compartment designed to fit a water bottle.
Without a doubt, the Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack is on the smaller side. However, it is still spacious enough to allow carrying all your essential items. If you need more space, however, do not worry: This everyday carry backpack includes an external expansion system that can be used in combination with other equipment, allowing you to have additional pockets, accessory kits and even a water bladder.
In order to improve your comfortability, the Huntvp 10L Mini Daypack Military MOLLE Backpack has padded straps and even a padded backpanel. These features, in combination with the pack’s ergonomic rigid structure, help diminish the strain caused by carrying a lot of weight for extended periods of time. Even better, due to its high-quality materials and expert construction, this backpack does not become deformed over time.
- Compact and lightweight
- Features external expansion system
- Features high-strength nylon buckles
- Maintains its shape over time
- Resistant to water and rot
- Limited compartments
- Limited space
Featuring an elegant, sleek and unique narrow-profile design, the SwissGear Compact Organizer Backpack may be the best EDC backpack for those who want to be able to move freely and comfortably at all times. While it does have a very narrow profile, the pack compensates with its vertical dimensions. The result is a comfortable and liberating backpack that still has enough space for you to carry everything you need during the day.
Without a doubt, the people at SwissGear invested a lot of time and energy into making this backpack the most comfortable it can possibly be. For one, its padded shoulder straps are made of a breathable mesh, preventing discomfort after extended periods of use. To ensure a perfect fit, the pack features thumb ring adjuster pulls that are very easy to use. In addition, its padded backpanel is incredibly cushy and soft without ever getting too hot or provoking excessive sweating.
When it comes to pockets and compartments, the SwissGear Compact Organizer Backpack is among the best out there. To maximize its organizational potential, the pack features two main panels: a front one and a back one. The front compartment includes various pockets and sleeves while the back compartment allows carrying larger objects. The pack also includes secure and hidden compartments for carrying important items such as credit cards and identification documents. In addition, the back compartment includes a padded pocket for carrying a tablet safely and efficiently.
- Narrow and stylish profile
- Includes compression straps
- Organized and functional compartments
- Silhouette conforms to your body type
- Very small
- Straps can be tight
What Makes a Bag ‘Tactical’?
Don’t Forget MOLLE
MOLLE webbing, pronounced Molly, stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It is an internationally recognized standard in the tactical backpack market.
If a manufacturer includes MOLLE webbing in your EDC pack then any accessories you buy that support the MOLLE standard will transfer from tactical pack A to B to C and so on.
A full description of the MOLLE system is beyond the scope of this review, but for more information, check out this article.
Don’t Go Bursting at the Seams
Another essential factor to consider when looking for a backpack is the zippers. Personally, I learned this the hard way when riding through Texas several years ago.
A friend and I were on a week-long trip from Alabama to New Mexico and back on our bikes, so needless to say, I had quite a bit of gear stuffed into my pack. Back in those days, I aimed more for economy than quality and paid the price for doing so.
At some point during the endless expanse that is Texas, my overstuffed pack burst open and half of my gear, including my gloves and cold weather gear, went flying down the interstate. Of course, I didn’t realize this until night fell in the desert, and I was left trying to stay warm in day gear.
Upon inspection, I realized the zipper itself had failed and cost me a couple of hundred dollars in gear and supplies. Learn from my mistake and make sure the pack you are buying uses quality hardware, not cheap knockoffs.
Specifically, you will want to look for YKK zippers. YKK zippers are durable and self-repairing, so if a few teeth get chewed up in an accident, it can generally be fixed byjust zipping it up a few times. YKK makes half of all zippers world-wide for a reason.
Light Pack, Heavy Fabric
Another vital thing to consider is the fabric used to construct the EDC pack. In most cases, a quality pack manufacturer will include the weight of the material in the product description. If not, don’t immediately discount the pack, but do put it under extra scrutiny.
Generally the heavier the fabric used in the construction of the pack, the better. Manufacturers often use nylon, polyester, and Cordura for backpack construction. These fabrics offer strength and water resistance, but if the material is too light, it is still going to fail.
Look for 500D and better ratings. Not all manufacturers will include this in their product description, so let that be a point for makers who do.
A Little Extra Padding
This one may seem obvious to some, but it is easy to overlook. Make sure the straps and back are padded. You don’t want to be walking miles with a loaded pack and nothing to keep the straps from digging into your shoulders.
You should also aim for wider straps to help disperse the load more. What may start as a minor annoyance can quickly turn painful when you have a loaded pack.
Another feature that is typically not included in “book bag” style backpacks is access for hydration packs. Many tactical backpacks will include routing for hydration pack access. The style used will depend on the pack, but in general, there are two options here: bladder inserts or additional pack.
The better of the two, in my opinion, is the bladder insert option. Packs with this option already have a pouch built in for adding a water bladder and have routing for the tubes. This allows you to add a hydration system without the need for a second pack.
Pockets Inside of Pockets
Perhaps one of the most important things to consider when looking for a backpack is the pockets.
Not only the number of pockets but also the sizes and layout of the pockets. A pack with only one, large pocket is not going to do you much good considering it doesn’t allow for any organization.
Likewise, a pack with dozens of small pockets, but only one large pocket is similarly inconvenient as it offers you only limited storage for larger gear. Too many pockets can also mean spending more time trying to remember where you stashed a particular item, rather than only having a few places to check or remember.
Generally, fewer pockets with a better organizational system is preferable to just having more pockets to the pack.
Of the five packs listed, there are two that really stand out above the rest. Those are the RUSH12 and the Dragon Egg. Both offer MOLLE webbing, superior construction, YKK zippers, and a 25-liter capacity.
These two packs are very similar in design and size, but in the end, the 5.11 RUSH12 is the better pack for the money. It offers more MOLLE webbing than the Dragon Egg and is significantly less expensive.
Plus, you have the peace of mind knowing that your pack is from one of the leading names in tactical gear around the world. 5.11 has a reputation to protect.
So next time you are planning a trip out to the sticks, be sure to pick the right EDC pack. The last thing you want is to be miles from your car and have a zipper burst and spill your gear everywhere.
- Tactical Backpack featuring 16 individual compartments, a roomy main storage area, and a hydration pocket. Equipped with an adjustable height sternum strap, two external compression straps and contoured yoke shoulder strap system
- Made from durable 1050D nylon (Multicam: 1000D nylon), this military backpack is water-resistant and features self-repairing YKK zippers and 5.11’s signature centerline design.
- Molle compatible with the wrap-around molle/5.11 slick stick web platform, internal multi-slot admin compartment and a zippered fleece-lined eyewear pocket. strap system
- Our Military backpack has hook and loop nametape, flag patches and glove-friendly pull tabs; perfect for patrol, outdoor hiking, trekking and camping, survival expedition, or day pack.
- The Rush12 backpack can be used as a multipurpose pack, bug out bag, range bag, hunting backpack, survival backpack, hiking Rucksack, or everyday outdoor backpack. This assault pack is ready for any rescue or adventure for all of your gear and equipment.
Last update on 2020-06-05 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API