What’s A “Good” Tactical Backpack?

In case you’re not familiar with the name, tactical backpacks are typically used by our armed forces when carrying their tactical gear when out on a mission. This type of backpacks do stand out from the crowd with their durability and reliability.

At a glance

Tactical backpack are larger than regular backpacks and feature many compartments that organize efficiently your gear. Additionally, these backpacks are also hydration ready, which is why they’re so reliable for expeditions, marches and patrol or any other jobs for the military. This is another reason for which the tactical backpacks are also known as assault backpacks or military backpacks.

This doesn’t mean that civilians can’t use them, though. As a matter of fact, the tactical backpacks are a common choice when hiking, camping, fishing or backpacking.

What makes a backpack “tactical”?

A tactical backpack does come with specific features that makes it tactical and it’s not only the purpose that it serves. Tactical backpacks are compact in size which gives you better mobility when on the move.

  • You know a backpack it’s tactical if it features plenty of separate compartments that take care and organize efficiently the tactical gear that any soldier/hiker would have. A tactical backpack should come with side pockets so they give fast and easy access to some gear in case of emergency.
  • A good tactical backpack comes with padded straps for minimizing the strain on your shoulders and back, taking the weight of your load and increasing the comfort. The back should also be well-padded so that the objects inside the backpack don’t dig into your back, but also for bringing more comfort to your back.

A sternum strap on the backpack is going to give more support for your chest, while keeping the backpack in place, no matter how fast you may be moving.

  • Take a look at your tactical backpack as you want it to come with compression straps so that they compress efficiently the weight of your load. You want the load to be well balanced and evenly distributed so that the risk for pain is lower.
  • Most of the tactical backpacks out there come with hydration compartments and they’re very helpful as you don’t want to worry about not having any water when out in the desert. Look for the drainage holes as well as they ensure easier drainage of the liquid in your pack.
  • Not only a good tactical backpack is waterproof, but it also comes with padded pockets so that your fragile items (sunglasses, laptops) are well protected. Some tactical backpacks feature laptop compartments that safely store your laptop. And if you worry about some precious essentials, you may want a backpack that comes with concealed compartments as well. We talk about a special pouch that is going to hide efficiently the more precious items.
  • A reliable tactical backpack comes with quick-access pockets that give you fast and easy access to gear you may need in emergency or on regular basics. Some tear-out medical pouches are also a nice feature as they give fast access to your first-aid equipment.
  • Don’t forget about the mesh pouches and the attachable pouches that give you more options to organize and store your gear.

For more versatility, you may want to get an ambidextrous backpack that you may use, no matter if you’re left or right handed.

Make sure that your tactical comes with double stitching and reinforced stitches in the stress points, which make it durable and able to take the heavy-duty use.

  • Last, but not least, a good tactical backpack is also MOLLE compatible so you may attach/remove easy and fast more gear.

Even though a tactical backpack may serve you well without presenting all the features that we mentioned, it’s good to know what to look for when in need.

The tactical backpacks come with various designs and it’s not only their capacity, but also the volume they may store that counts when selecting one.

Most tactical backpack manufacturers do list the volume that the pack may hold (in inches or liters). This number refers to all the space in the pack, including the space taken by the compartments or the pockets. If your tactical backpack comes with attachable pouches, you need to check if that volume is included or not.

Just to give you a hint, a 45 liters backpack falls in the category of “large” backpacks and anything less than that is a small backpack.

If you want to make an idea about how much gear a backpack may hold you may fill it up with small plastic balls and then count their volume altogether. It’s difficult to fit nice and easy our gear in a real world, so the backpack is going to hold even less than your count shows.

The material

Most tactical backpacks out there are made with nylon or polyester and each of them comes with ups and downs, so you need to balance things a bit when buying.

Here are the characteristics for nylon:

  • Very resistant to tear and abrasions
  • Absorbs water
  • It dries fast
  • It’s very strong
  • It’s resistant to mildew
  • It has good flexibility
  • It has some sort of UV resistance

Let’s list the characteristics for polyester:

  • Absorbs some water
  • Not very strong
  • Doesn’t resist to tear and abrasions
  • It dries rather slow
  • It’s resistant to mildew
  • It’s highly resistant to UV
  • It’s flexible enough

It’s not only the material that counts for the durability of your backpack, but the weaving method as well. Many backpacks feature a basic diagonal weave which increases and protects the pack from abrasions and tears.

There are other materials used for tactical backpacks:

  • Ripstop fabrics that minimize risk for tear and spreading as the weave is very strong and resistant to tearing
  • Cordura and KOdra fabric that is rough and fuzzy, with impressive abrasion resistance
  • Oxford Weave that isn’t very strong

One last thing to consider

The density of the material also says something about the durability of your tactical backpack. The “denier” unit  is related to the strength, durability and weight and the higher the denier, the greater the strength.

All in all, there are many things to consider when looking for a tactical backpack and the more you’re willing to spend, the better the chances for you to get a great deal.