Discover the Top 9 Best Military Backpacks for Hiking
It doesn’t matter if you’re a causal hiker who enjoys an afternoon walk to the top of a small mountain or the guy who decides to take a 2-day hike on the longest trail in your state, you’re both going to need a dependable backpack that has enough storage space for food, water, or anything else you require. Below we have a list and explain how to choose the best military hunting backpack for hiking.
What is a Military Backpack?
Usually, a military backpack is made with more durable materials that stand up to constant use and abuse. They also have several different pockets that can be utilized for the storage of different items. The biggest downside they have is that, because of the many compartments and heavier material used to make them, they usually weigh more than the normal backpack. Also, it can be overwhelming having to pick one out from the large selection you can find online or at your local army surplus.
What is Important When Purchasing a Military Backpack:
Think about what type of trips you’ll be taking. Are you going to be hiking 10 miles a day for multiple days in a row, or are you just using this for an afternoon hike that will last a few hours? If you’re in the latter category then weight is not much of an issue for you. However, if you’re in the former, it should be taken into account.
Military and tactical backpacks are usually made out of nylon. This material provides great durability and has outstanding abrasion resistance. You’ll notice that nylon is available in different deniers. This refers to the weight of the fabric used. Heavier and more durable packs usually have a denier around 500 while lightweight packs are around 250.
There is usually one large compartment big enough to fit most items with several smaller pockets used to hold maps, pens or anything else relatively tiny. Make sure to know exactly what you’ll be hauling in and out of the woods so you can choose how many pockets you need accordingly.
If you have ever lugged around a backpack all day, then you know of the infamous backpack back sweat that will occur. The great thing about tactical bags is many, if not all of them, have ventilation channels to help sweat evaporate. Most packs have a foam back panel, but the bigger styles will also have aluminum stays. These are great when carrying a heavy load as they help disperse some of the weight off of your shoulders and onto your hips via the hip belt.
The capacity determines the amount of gear your pack can carry. The shape of your bag and the number of compartments it contains will affect how much it can hold. When wanting a bigger bag remember that the more it can carry the heavier the bag will be. It’s great to have a big bag on a long three-day trip, but don’t forget to factor in all that weight you’ll be hiking around with. The majority of 30-liter packs and smaller will be perfect for day trips or even everyday carry. If you plan on staying out for 48 hours or more start looking at the 40-liter capacity bags or larger.
What you are looking for in a bag
When selecting a bag take a moment to really think about what you are going to be using it for. Consider how many compartments you need as well as the size of the bag. Do you need an area for a hydration bladder or just a side pouch for water bottles.
Now that you know what to look for, below we have a list of the nine different military style backpacks that will work best for hiking.
1 – Condor Outdoor 3-day Assault Pack
First up, we have the best bang for your buck pack. The Condor Outdoor 3-day assault pack costs under three figures. Which is really a steal for the quality you’re getting, and considering most packs are over $100. This pack comes with a 50-liter carrying capacity, and as you guessed it from the name, is built for a 72-hour trip.
This backpack has extra sternum and weight support which really helps your back when hauling a heavy load. There is also enough space for 3- liter hydration bladders. It also comes with a pocket dedicated to holding documents as well as a large external pocket with a web system. The shoulder straps are padded for extra comfort.
2 – 5.11 Rush 72
Made with 1000 denier nylon this backpack will stand up to just about anything you can throw at it. It also comes equipped with YKK zippers which are regarded as some of the most durable in the world. Similar to the Condor, this pack has a 55-liter capacity and is suited for a 72-hour trip. The main compartment has two mesh pockets and the front pocket has an organizational panel which can be used to store maps and other small items. The main compartment is large enough to store a helmet or other larger materials.
There are also two side pockets which are perfect for storing a tactical flashlight, compass, sunglasses, or water bottles. The water reservoir is located between the back panel and main compartment and is capable of holding 3 liters. The back panel contains an aluminum stay for back support for heavy loads. However, the stay can also be removed. The pack comes with padded shoulder straps, hip belt, and a sternum strap.
3 – Spec Ops T.H.E. Pack
This 40 liter bag is perfect for travel or a day hike. Its size fits perfects into the overhead bin of an airplane and comes in both black and camo. If you’re searching the perfect travel or day hike bag, this is the one for you.
T.H.E. stands for “Tactical Holds Everything”, which is a marketing gimmick implemented by the manufacturer. The space inside the bag is broken-down into two front compartments as well as a main compartment. Of the two front pockets, the bottom is the largest one. When using this pack for day hikes there is plenty of space in the front compartment to place food and drinks on top of any emergency items that you like to carry with you as well. Even when not completely full the pack will remain firm and comfortable.
4 – Kelty Raven
This was actually designed to be for military radio operators. However, the specific straps used to hold the antennas in place can be removed and when done so creates a great spacious hiking bag. Slightly smaller than the 5.11 Rush 72, but has a very similar design. There is a large main compartment and a smaller front compartment along with a stash compartment. In the bottom pocket of this pack is a rain cover.
It’s made with 500 denier nylon but is also reinforced with 1000-denier nylon in areas that are prone to getting the most wear and tear. The back panel is rigid which is easier on your back and comes with wide padded shoulder straps, as well as a hip belt and sternum strap. This pack provides great durability and if you’re a hiker who wants to carry a radio, well, this is the perfect bag.
5 – Blackhawk! 3-day Assault Pack
Again, like the name implies, this is a 72 hour pack, and is a medium-sized bag rated for 37 liters. There are fewer external pockets, and it has a smaller profile. Because of its smaller profile it makes for a great every day carry bag, and despite it being rated for 72 hours, it’s a perfect day trip bag.
This bag has a large main compartment and a large external pocket with a slanted opening. There are D rings on the shoulder straps and also individual padding in the back panel which helps increase breathability.
The Blackhawk! Is made with 1000-denier nylon which makes its very durable and also water resistant. Perfect for someone who wants quality and durability in their pack.
6 – Maxpedition Falcon-II
A medium sized pack that has a max capacity of 25 liters. It’s a great bag for long trips and shorter getaways. While it is one of the smaller bags on this list it can hold a plethora of items. It comes with main and secondary compartments and several external front pockets which are held in place by an adjustable strap, as well as a compartment for a hydration bladder.
It contains PALS webbing on the front and sides, which gives you easy and quick access to small items while hiking. Because of its smaller size, this is also a great pack for short term trips as well. It comes equipped with compression straps that you are able to adjust depending on the load in the main compartment. It features a 1050-Denier Nylon and is built to last a long time. For anyone who is rough on gear, this item is for you.
7 – Snugpak Endurance
Coming in at only 3 pounds, this pack is one of the lightest you’ll find. This is great for anyone who enjoys long hikes and wants to keep their load as light as possible. This comes with a top loading design, and is made of 600-denier nylon for good durability. It also comes with the MOLLE webbing which makes it easier to attach extra pouches or accessories.
There is a hydration sleeve that fits inside the main component and holds a volume of up to 3 liters. A downside is that it’s more difficult to get your water reservoir in or out of the backpack, especially if it’s full. There is also a bungee cord on the front side, hip belt, as well as a sternum strap. It is perfect for those who want light weight but also durability in their packs.
8 – Direct Action Dragon Egg
This bag comes equipped with only 500-denier nylon which causes it to have less durability than desired. However, it does have YKK zippers and is slightly lighter because of its lower density of nylon. The straps are wide and the main compartment is large for stowing bigger items. The water reservoir sits between the main compartment and the back panel.
There is also a front admin pocket that contains quite a few mesh pockets and holders which gives you the option to organize your gear however you want. There is a zippered pocket at the top which is lined with fleece and is perfect for storing your sunglasses or anything that may scratch. The hip belt is not padded like some of the others on this list but there is also a sternum strap. The front of the bag has MOLLE webbing which can be used for attaching any extra pouches. The Direct-Action Dragon Egg is a very versatile backpack which works great if you want this to be an everyday carry as well as your hiking bag.
9 – CamelBak MilTac M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack
Perfect for the minimalist traveler, the CamelBack MilTac has an 8-liter gear capacity. Practically unusable for long multi day trips but is perfect for the day hike or potentially even an overnighter depending on your experience. This product has three exterior pockets and, of course, a hydration bladder. There is an organizer in the lower pockets and the bag itself has a slim profile. It also contains sternum and waist straps for extra support and a well-ventilated back panel.
While this is not the best multi day hiking bag, it’s perfect for the day hiker and boasts strong durability. There are not many color options for this one, coming in only coyote, black, and camo, with black being the best for an everyday carry bag.
With the above list and buying guide, you are well on your way to purchasing a quality military backpack for hiking. Think about exactly what you need for your hike and feel free to select from any of the above bags, or just use this list as a guideline. Military backpacks make great hiking bags and on top of that can carry a lot of other items as well.