The Ultimate Guide to Military Backpacks
Whether you’re a serious backpacker, ex-military day-tripper or somewhere in between, If you’re here, you obviously know the importance of a good backpack. You know you need quality, durability and, when it comes to carrying your gear, military backpacks are a sure bet.
GORUCK is having a Veterans Day Sale – 20% off all gear! GORUCK proudly makes their products in the USA and stands behind them with a lifetime warranty! If you can’t wait, check out GORUCK right here. On the other hand, if you’ve got a minute, read our review of GORUCK’s original pack, the GR-1.
If you’re looking for an all around day pack like the GORUCK GR-1, or a full blown expedition setup like the Maxpedition Falcon II, the following interactive backpack chart will help you find which pack is right for you . We’ve all got our own opinions, some based on military experience (like me), but in the end, you need to decide which backpack is right for you, and so we’re here to help. After browsing about, we also have an excellent article on how to choose a pack.
I suppose when it comes to military backpacks, there are two schools of thought as to what legitimately rates…
1) A pack that is/was actively used by military personnel like an Army Soldier or a Marine
2) Any pack that is built to military specifications or “Mil-Spec” for short. i.e. a pack that was designed specifically with military men and women in mind.
Which school is the right school? In a word… both. The reason I say that is because I know something that most people don’t. Well, most people that weren’t in the military AND ultra-inquisitive. Let me explain. I was an armorer in the US Marine Corps. Through ordering gun parts for repairs which needed to be made, I learned about something called a Nato Stock Number or “NSN” for short. That’s basically a SKU number for military gear. Anyhow, I learned from tracing NSN’s and comparing the government’s cost on particular gear to the cost of similar consumer-grade gear at stores like REI or Cabelas that the US Government doesn’t buy “the best” gear for its military. Nope. Uncle Sam buys what he can get the best deal on. The general public assumes that because the US Marines use a certain pack, it must be the best, toughest most insane pack available. Untrue. More likely the cheapest item per million bought which may happen to also be constructed from a durable fabric.
Uncle Sam may be a cheap skate -no, actually he definitely is- but the truth is that some official military gear really is, well, the best of its kind. But, there are tons, I mean TONS of other gear out there which is military inspired, tactical in every light and durable like no other. I call that gear “Mil-Spec”. So, in conclusion, just because a backpack isn’t issued by the government, for me, doesn’t make it non-military gear. It just means the military was too cheap to buy it.
Finding the right gear isn’t always easy. It really depends on your experience level for the most part. I created the interactive guide to help you narrow down your choice but, ultimately, you have to be the one to pull the trigger. You can read reviews until the proverbial cows come home but you’ve got to understand you’re interpreting some other person’s opinion on a backpack. What matters is that you get the pack that’s not only right for your body, but perfect for what you’re going to use it for. There’s a big difference between a backpack you’re going to camp with and one that will become a Bug Out Bag. My best advice is to decide firmly, the features you need, narrow down your choices based on that and then use the reviews and ratings to weight your choice from there.
All of the packs we have listed on the site are excellent choices overall however, because this is a comparison site and because I’m a human being with a military background, we’re not without bias! We’ve rounded up our top 5 picks and provided a brief review of them. In no particular order, here they are:
The ILBE Main Pack 2nd Generation is one of the original packs used by Marines and as such, is appropriate for all survivalist needs. This pack from the 2nd Generation is one of the best all-purpose packs for medium to large excursions. The ILBE Pack is characterized by durable MOLLE webbing on the pack’s exterior, which is head and shoulders above the webbing of regular civilian packs. With an adjustable hip belt for all waist sizes, weight is effortlessly transferred. This pack also has a number of great components, including multiple compartments, fabric made of durable nylon dennier, and is in a tactical woodland design of camouflage. The pack has a lid, shoulder straps, hip belt, and radio pouch. The hip belt has a length of 51″ when extended fully, and is military grade Marines Corps issue. The sheer size of this pack is supremely useful as well, because of the many compartments that the ILBE pack contains. This pack is able to stow everything the hiker needs for an extended period. At 5000 cubic inches and with the ability to carry 120 pounds, this is the pack for all of your needs.
The Maxpedition Falcon II is designed to be a high end day pack made for long trips hiking or running long distances in more remote areas. Though it may be more expensive, it is one of quality and endurance perfect for active users. The pack is 18 in (high) x 9.5 in (wide) x 4.75 in (depth) with multiple compartments for users to store their items. This makes it large enough for carrying extra items like a first aid kit, food, and water. Yet it is small enough that its size is not likely to overwhelm an adult wearer.http://amzn.to/ZJBaF5
It contains multiple areas to arrange and organize your items in the main compartment, secondary compartment, as well as two large back pouches, one on the left and one on the right. There are also additional straps which help to secure the pack to the back and to keep things cinched tight so nothing slips out. It’s total storage capacity is 1520 cu. inches (25 liters). The Maxpedition Falcon II is available to customers in a variety of colors as well.
Maxpedition has been in business since 1988 with a clear dedicated to making all their products durable for military specification nylon gear. The Maxpedition Falcon II is another high quality design which stands up to its expectations proving it popularity among its class of backpacks.
The Large A.L.I.C.E. Pack is a standard military pack meant for carrying individual equipment. It is manufactured by Heartland Values Outdoors, a well known and reputable company that has been manufacturing military grade equipment for many years.
This pack is a well rounded yet exceptional piece of equipment. Being standard military issue, build quality is great as expected. The material that the pack is made of is flexible enough to allow for maximum storage space, while being tough in order to avoid being punctured by items either inside or outside the pack. Included with the pack is the standard A.L.I.C.E. pack frame. The frame is made of metal that is sturdy yet light, and allows the wearer to carry much heavier items in the pack without much strain. To further take the load off of the wearer’s shoulders, Heartland Values Outdoors includes a full set of green LC-1 shoulder straps with quick release belts as well as the kidney waist pad belly strap. These extra straps are invaluable when traveling for longer distances and makes it feel as if the pack is half its actual weight.
The high construction and material value of the Large A.L.I.C.E. Pack w/ frame makes it a must buy for the outdoors man or military fanatic.
The Mil-Tec Army Patrol M.O.L.L.E. Pack is a heavy duty assault pack that is built to withstand harsh environments and operating conditions. It is manufactured by Mil-Tec, a long standing company which has proven its competence in producing reliable military equipment.
After extensive testing, this pack meets or exceeds all the expectations we had for a backpack of this type. To begin with, it’s extremely comfortable, even after hours of use. The padded back protects the wearer’s body from any jagged or hard objects that my be inside the backpack, while the adjustable hip belt and lateral compression straps ensure the backpack is securely fastened to the wearer at the precise location he or she wants it to be.
Carrying capacity and ease of use, of course, are the next most important aspects of any pack. The Mil-Tec Army Patrol M.O.L.L.E. Pack has a capacity of 50 Liters, making it one of the larger packs available. The capacity is split between four sections; there are two larger compartments to hold bulkier items and two smaller front pockets. Simply put, there is plenty of room in this pack for any use.
Ultimately, the Mil-Tec Army Patrol M.O.L.L.E. Pack has shown itself to be an excellent pack for all occasions and therefore won a spot on our top 5.
The Condor Assault Pack is manufactured with heavy duty materials that last a life time for consumers. This backpack has 2 compartments specifically designed to hold a 3L hydration bladder each and shoulder straps which feature a D ring for gear attachment. Boasting an impressive 3000 cubic inches internal capacity, The condor is broken up into 7 compartments, all of which have drainage holes for the safety of their contents. The secondary compartment even includes 3 document pockets, 2 radio pockets and pen holders.
These military style back packs are top of the line out door gear. Foam packing material lined inside each compartment allows for continuous airflow and maximum comfort for all wearers of this multi-functional outdoor pack. It is available in many color options as well.
Military personnel and civilians alike seem very satisfied with the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack and it’s on and off trail capabilities. For anyone needing excellent quality packs for exploring the wilderness, Condor Assault Packs are the way to go. These excellent and well made backpacks have some of the highest ratings on Amazon.com
Now that we’ve listed and reviewed our favorite military backpacks, it’s your turn to take in the information and make an informed decision on your next purchase. We’ve seen many quality manufacturers put out gear that is second to none but in the end, our opinion is just that. There are many, many more backpacks out there right now and new models being built every year. We’ll try our best to stay on top of the market but in the mean time, If you feel like we missed an extraordinary backpack, leave us a comment and tell us your thoughts. It might just make it on our list! (and if it does, we’ll give you props on the site:)
This post is from: The Ultimate Guide to Military Backpacks and Beyond
This site is exactly what I was looking for! I’m looking to upgrade from an old Cap Trails external frame pack I’ve had for years. Now that my son is old enough to go for a weekend trip, I’m looking into something with an internal frame. The USMC ILBE seems like the ticket!
Jeff, the ILBE pack is a serious piece of equipment. When I was in the Marine Corps, all we had was a used(many times over) ALICE pack with holes in it! The ILBE is a full size pack that will serve you easily on a weekend trip. It’s actually large for a weekend trip. It may very well hold you and your son’s gear on it’s own.
Hi were the ratings done out of 5?
Yes, the ratings are on a scale from 1 to 5, 5 being perfect. Of course, ratings are based on opinions. Thanks for stopping by! Having any suggestions for a pack we should look at?
You need to look at the S.O.G packs sold at Wal-Mart, I’m ad army and these packs are more promising than my assault pack that was issued.
Are these genuine SOG packs?
This backpack guide is great, another way to classify packs based on quality would be to organize by top rated within a budgeted category. Any thoughts on adding a “pouches” section based on use, including attachment possibilities, ie: maxpedition tactie, malice clip, alice, and alice to molle. Most pouches however include molle with button snaps. Great write up. Thank you.
Really good suggestions Chris! I’ll definitely look into your ideas. There’s actually a *lot* of other information that will be making its way to this site, I’ve just been so busy lately, I haven’t been able to get to ANY of it! I like the idea of a dedicated section for pouches. Quite honestly, I don’t have the free time I once did, and that has affected my ability to go out and field test as much gear as I’d like to – but I’m still trying!
Hey! Just received the MilTec Assault Pack, digital camo, 30 liter version. Amazing! Its extremely comfy, it has double stiching everywhere, fabric is very tough, and it has a very intelligent layout. For just 36EUR, it’s a steal!
I bought it for my brother, he kept wasting his school backpacks every four months, so he asked me for a durable one. When i showed him this, he couldnt wait!
It’s so good tha i’ll probably get the 50L version myself.
Thanks for pointing me towards it!
I’m glad you like it, and what’s more, I’m happy to hear you found it through information on this site! Thanks!
Thanks for this nice review,
My old bag is getting tired and I would like to buy a new one. I rode some very good reviews about Camelbak and I’m surprised I did not find any of their models in your review. Are they bad ?
I really like the dragonegg and the falcon on your review, but I wonder if they are enough for a 3 days hike, what would be your opinion on that ?
Thank you in advance for your answer, and thanks for your website !
I don’t know if Camelbak bags are good or bad – I’ve not tested any of them. For 3 days, you can’t go wrong with the Rush 72. It’s my current pick for a 3 day pack.
I bought the Condor Assault pack in 2009 before I deployed to Iraq. It was actually labeled as a CamelBak style backpack, model or style I don’t know but it has all the features described with the Condor. I took the bladder out and the plastic “back saver”, which gave me another compartment where I would store my laptop. We convoyed all over the place in Iraq and this bag got stuffed to the tilt. It held everything I needed and took all kinds of abuse climbing in out of trucks for 9 months. I love all of the compartments as it kept me somewhat organized and able to find things quickly. After about 6 months, threading for the zipper for the main compartment started coming loose getting stuck in the teeth on zipping and unzipping and eventually teeth were lost and the zipper was shot. Didn’t keep me from using it. When I got back stateside. I took it to a canvas shop and they sewed me in a better, badder zipper. Maybe they have improved upon the zipper/zippers with the Condor. I still burn back threading occasionally on the others but they are just fine. I still use it everyday going on 6 years now. Absolutely love it.
I had numerous friends in our beloved Corps whom swore by Condor gear. It wasn’t always easy to get away with “other than issue” gear, but these guys loved their Condors. Fact is, how long a bag will last is very dependent on how it’s used. I rank Condor up at the higher end of the packs I’ve used/tested. Not a bad choice no matter what you’re comparing it to.
The Ultimate Guide to Military Backpacks
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