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.

Whether you’re looking for a small day pack like the 5.11 rush 24 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.

Backpack and Rucksack Comparison Chart

Image
Pack Name
Approx Dimensions (Inches)
Approx Internal Capacity (Cubic Inches)
Rating
Price
Free Knight Military Style 3 Day MOLLEFree Knight Military Style 3 Day MOLLE20x16x928804.5$$
Maxpedition Falcon-IIMaxpedition Falcon-II10x19x8.515204.6$$$
Mil-Tec Army Patrol MOLLE Assault 50LMil-Tec Army Patrol MOLLE Assault 50L20.1x11.4x11.130504.5$$
Spec-Ops T.H.E.Spec-Ops Brand T.H.E. Pack19x13x1225504.8$$$
ACU Large MOLLE AssaultACU Large MOLLE Assault17x14x1023804.7$$
5.11 Rush 245.11 Rush 2420x12.5x820004.8$$$
5.11 Rush 125.11 Rush 1218x11x612964.7$$
ALPS OutdoorZ Commander FreighterALPS OutdoorZ Commander Freighter23x15x1552504.7$$$
Maxpedition Vulture-IIMaxpedition Vulture-II16.5x21x828104.7$$$
MOLLE II Standard US IssueMOLLE II Government Issue22x17x10.530004.8$$$
Military Expeditionary AssaultMilitary Expeditionary Assault20x12x1945604.7$$
Condor 3 Day AssaultCondor 3 Day Assault22x17x1130404.6$$
VISM by NcStar TacticalVISM by NcStar Tactical20x18x725204$
Condor Urban GOCondor Urban GO18x12x729004.6$$$
MOLLE II LargeACU Molle II Large23x15x14.550004.8$$$
Rebel Tactical Assault 3 DayRebel Tactical Assault 3 Day20x14x11.532204.4$$
ExtremePak MountaineerExtremePak Mountaineer34x13x7.533154.3$$
5.11 Rush 725.11 Rush 7223x13.5x8.526404.8$$$
Mil-Tec Army Patrol MOLLE Assault 30LMil-Tec Army Patrol MOLLE Assault 30L16.5x8x9.812954.2$
Classic Army StyleClassic Army Style18x15x1027004.2$$
Sandpiper of California BugoutSandpiper of California Bugout22x15.5x827284.2$$
Medium A.L.I.C.E.Medium A.L.I.C.E.19x11.5x9.524004.2$
17 inch Tactical Assault17 inch Tactical Assault17x9x1116504.1$
Military MOLLE Medium TransportMilitary MOLLE Medium Transport16.2x12.3x4.59004$
ExtremePak Heavy-DutyExtremePak Heavy-Duty12.5x19x6.515453.9$
Condor Compact AssaultCondor Compact Assault18x10x1013624.3$$
LEVEL III MOLLE AssaultLEVEL III MOLLE Assault18x10x1018003.4$
Deluxe Large MilitaryDeluxe Large Military13.5x24x825904.3$
G.I. Type Heavyweight Canvas Mini A.L.I.C.E.G.I. Type Heavyweight Canvas Mini A.L.I.C.E.13x16x714554$
Sandpiper of California Three Day PassSandpiper of California Three Day Pass20x14.5x8.524654.6$$
Misc ExtremePak w/ padded shoulder strapsMisc ExtremePak w/ padded shoulder straps16x13.5x714503.7$
Global Warrior Tactical Go MOLLE 3 DayGlobal Warrior Tactical Go MOLLE 3 Day22x14x927704$$
Large ExtremePak InvisibleLarge ExtremePak Invisible31x2x149103.7$
24 inch Digital Camo Hiking24 Inch Digital Camo Hiking13.5x24x825904.2$
Large A.L.I.C.E. W/ frameLarge A.L.I.C.E. W/ frame22x20x1938004.5$$
ACU Digital Medium TransportACU Digital Medium Transport17x8x415504.1$
USMC ILBE ARCTERYX MARPAT AssaultUSMC ILBE ARCTERYX MARPAT Assault18.5x11x1020354.3$$
Field Operator's Action/ComputerCUSCUS Army 3 Day Assault/Hiking22x16x931703.9$
CUSCUS Army 3 Day Assault/HikingField Operator's Action/Computer19.5x7x1216404.3$
Maxpedition Condor-IIMaxpedition Condor-II13x16x919504.7$$$
Comparison chart of popular Military Issue and Military Grade backpacks and rucksacks

 

What is a Military Backpack?

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.

 

How to find the backpack that’s right for you

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.

 

Review of our top 5 military backpacks

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:

 

USMC ILBE Main Pack – 2nd gen

USMC ILBE Main Pack – 2nd genThe 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.
 

Maxpedition Falcon II

Maxpedition Falcon IIThe 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.
 

Large A.L.I.C.E. Pack with Frame LC-1

Large ALICE pack with frame

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.
 

Mil-Tec MOLLE Assault Pack

Mil-Tec MOLLE Assault Pack

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.
 

Condor 3 day Assault Pack

Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

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
 

Your Turn!

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:)