Best Small Tactical Backpack in 2020

Rangermade’s small tactical backpacks chart and reviews

Small tactical backpack

Welcome to Rangermade’s page dedicated to the best small tactical backpacks, where we review a number of small tactical backpacks or daypacks up to 1700 cubic inches. These are backpacks from the tactical class, meaning they offer military-grade builds and good organization of your gear. Virtually anyone can use these backpacks: from military personnel to fans of outdoor activities, and on to regular people or students. These can be used in the city as well as in the field, woods, bush or desert. They make perfect daypacks, bug-out bags, everyday-carry (EDC) bags, travel bags, school bags, you name it. They could also be very well used by teens and women.

The last rage is solar backpacks, we haven’t forgotten about them. But we’ll do a future article exclusively about them.

Below is a chart we compiled of a number of top-rated small tactical backpacks that we’ve chosen based on actual customer ratings and popularity. Out of these, we selected 5 backpacks that we included in a Top 5 of small tactical backpacks. Detailed reviews for these are found down the page. Without further ado, let’s head on to our chart.


The Top 5 Small Tactical Backpack Reviews

1. 5.11 Rush 12 Back Pack Review

The 5.11 Rush 12 is by far one of the most popular and highest rated backpacks in the small pack class, which is a good reason to make it number one in our Top 5 chart. Not only that, but we have used it ourselves and can vouch for the quality of materials and workmanship. Extremely sturdy and durable, with waterproof seams and very robust YKK zippers, you are sure to own this backpack for a long time.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

The main compartment is spacious enough to take the bulk of your gear. It will fit a laptop up to 13” in size among other things. There is a sleeve inside, but it’s too thin to protect the laptop, so you may want to get a proper sleeve separately. Also in the main compartment, there are a couple of zippered pockets, one of mesh and one of fabric, to help keep things organized.

On the top there’s a fleece-lined pocket for your sensitive items like cellphone, GPS and sunglasses.

The front pocket may be called an admin panel. It’s got a couple long vertical pockets on one side, and a number of stacked pockets on the other side, and two hooks for keys. There’s room to fit a good amount of items here overall.

There is a pocket at the back for the hydration bladder, but if you don’t use one, you can fit for instance a rain jacket to have handy at all times, which will also give you additional padding for your back. Some owners claim they have fitted their 13” notebooks in the hydration pocket and keep books and other stuff in the main compartment, but we haven’t tried that and can’t vouch for it, but it may well work.

This backpack does not have a water bottle pocket, but you can attach one to the Molle expansions.

See how other people use the RUSH 12.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


2. Fieldline Alpha OPS Daypack Review

Given the price, the Fieldline Tactical Alpha OPS Daypack exceeded our expectations.  This backpack is, hands down, one of the best bangs for the buck in this class.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

This backpack looks a lot like the 5.11 RUSH 12, but it is not just a cheap replica. It’s actually well built and is slightly differently organized as well. It’s got a large main compartment with zippered mesh pockets to hole the bulk of your gear. It also has a roomy secondary compartment with organizer.

On the front it has the regular fleece-lined pocket at the top, and the larger accessory pocket. In the back there is also a hydration compartment for a 2-liter reservoir, with Velcro closures at left and right. The top handle and shoulder straps are well padded. Even when loaded, the straps will not dig into your shoulders. The sternum strap is adjustable up and down.

There are water bottle holders on the sides, which will hold a 40 oz. bottle.

Other highlights would be that there’s a good amount of solid Molle webbing, and the stitching is good everywhere. The bag is comfortable to wear, and there’s good mesh cushioning on the back for perspiration breathing.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


3. Small Military Tactical Backpack Army Assault Rucksack Pack Bug Out Bag

The Tactical Assault Bag is an excellent surprise for the money, and the backpack is loaded with good things.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

The versatility of the bag is a selling point, and you can use it for tactical purposes, but also for hiking or when running errands in town. You will be able to organize your things very smart as the backpack features numerous compartments. It can store clothes for a 3-day trip and provides space for your essential gear and toiletries as well.

The build is sturdy, and the backpack can take a load. Even if you loaded full, the pack could take the weight, and the durability feel gives confidence. Additionally, the pack is water-resistant, so it can handle a splash.

Since it’s made with a tactical purpose in mind, the backpack is also hydration compatible, which only increases its reliability for tactical or outdoor activities. It doesn’t come with a bladder, but it can take a 3-liter bladder.

The backpack is made with 600 D polyester, and it’s tear-resistant. The zippers are good quality and reversible, running smoothly. They also feature metal pulls for more straightforward use.

Comfort isn’t skipped, and the mesh padding back area with padded shoulder straps improve comfort when carrying.

Beggars cannot be choosers, but you’re not going to fail at all when getting this backpack!

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


4. SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack

Don’t let the price of SOG Ninja Tactical Day Pack mislead you, as the backpack is an excellent option for the price.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

It’s a highly functional and versatile backpack that works for tactical and outdoor activities for a long time. It’s made with water repellent material, and the modular build ensures comfortable to carry.

You get to organize your items in the large main compartment, front zippered pocket, and the numerous other compartments.

When it comes to comfort, the features are great, too, as the backpack has yoke-style shoulder straps. Additionally, the shoulder straps are cushioned and easy to adjust. The pack also comes with a customizable sternum slider, whereas the contoured foam back features several air channels for efficient ventilation. Therefore, the pack remains comfortable even when loaded on a hot summer day.

Also, if you’re going to load the packet, the side compression straps let you get a compact appearance.

The tactical features aren’t skipped, and we notice the MOLLE webbing allowing you to add all sorts of accessories. The Velcro patch holder is an excellent addition as well.

The backpack comes with a tubing port so that you may easily access the hydration bladder pocket. There’s also hook-and-loop on the front of the pack, and the side pouch is stretchy for a better fit of most water bottles.

Performant and reliable, the backpack is one fantastic option within the category.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


5. Condor Compact Assault Pack (small) Review

The Condor Compact Assault Pack makes for a great hiking, EDC or bug-out bag. It is good value for the money, and then more.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

This is another of the highly popular small tactical packs. While less expensive than the Rush 12, this sturdy contender has a lot to offer. It’s got good materials and a good set-up. There’s one main compartment, a middle compartment and two front pockets that offer plenty of organization with inner pockets and sleeves.

When loaded, the compression straps do a good job pressing it in to not allow the gear move inside. This is especially helpful when hunting in the woods.

The waist straps are removable to make it a better fit for everyday use. The pack will fit a 13” laptop without trouble, and some users say it can even gulp a 15 incher.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


6. First Tactical Specialist Half-Day Backpack

Lightweight and rugged, the First Tactical Specialist Half-Day Backpack is going to be the perfect companion for your tactical missions for a reasonable amount of time.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

The backpack comes with a 1525 cubic inches/25 liters capacity, and plenty of options for organizing your items efficiently. You get five external pockets and three internal ones for organizing your gear smart. The inner hook/loop mounting system lets you organize your items, whereas the external web platform is compatible with MOLLE/PALS. These details make the backpack a reliable choice for tactical activities.

The clamshell opening of the main compartment allows effortless access to your items. Functionality and ease of use aren’t skipped on the backpack either.

The specialist half-day backpack comes with dual density shoulder straps so that you carry it without getting tired. The shoulder straps are wide for more comfortable carry. The bottom is double-layered so that the backpack takes a good load.

The pack doesn’t disappoint in terms of ruggedness, either. It’s made with 1000D nylon, taking a beat for a long time. It’s thick and water-resistant fabric, leaving a durability feel. The stitching is well made, and the Molle has double stitching. The zippers run smoothly and seem sturdy too.

Even if the backpack isn’t all roses and rainbows, it’s still very close to being one of the best small tactical backpacks out there.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


7. Maxpedition Lithvore Backpack

Should you be looking for an ergonomic backpack for your everyday carry, the Maxpedition Lithvore Backpack is a wise investment to make.

See Price and Reviews on Amazon

The pack may seem small, but it’s big enough to fit your essentials and some for the day. Many will find the 1040 cubic inches capacity perfect for their everyday activities.

The design is smart, and every detail on the backpack proves to be efficient. The shapeshift handles increase comfort for carrying, whereas the shoulder straps are well padded. You may also carry the load for the day easier thanks to the adjustable sternum strap. The curvaceous double shoulder straps are foam-padded and contour the chest for more comfortable carry. Not only that, the sternum suspension belt is easy to adjust, but it also distributes the weight evenly throughout the entire body. Carrying the backpack loaded will become easier too.

The list of good things continues with a top loop field for patch adhesion, a shock cord retention Array, and a front admin pocket for better organization of your items. The backpack also features two expandable bottle pockets with double zipper garages.

There’s complete clamshell opening for the main compartment, and the sizeable gossamer mesh pocket allows storage.

The several layers of padding on the rear of the pack ensure efficient ventilation, which matters so much on a day-long mission.

You may feel like paying the extra buck for it, but the backpack is worth every single penny for sure.

===> See the Pricing and Reviews on Amazon.


Buyer’s guide

If this the very first time you’re thinking of buying a tactical backpack, a shopping guide is going to be useful. The market is loaded with various options, which cover budgets of all sizes.

Even if, for many, the price may be a deal sealer, the price tag shouldn’t be the central aspect when selecting your small tactical backpack. Read the guide down below to find out what matters the most on a small tactical backpack.

Fabric

The kind of material used for the pack is essential for the looks and durability of the pack. With looks not being fundamental for a small tactical backpack, it makes sense that you focus on the sustainability of the material.

Some fabrics are used more often due to their strength and durability. Ballistic nylon, ripstop nylon, and Cordura nylon are some of the most representative within the category of sturdy materials.

Ballistic nylon is used a lot on small tactical backpacks because it presents anti-tearing abilities. Cordura nylon is sturdy and lightweight at the same time. And for a small tactical pack being durable and lightweight is fundamental.

Water-resistance/waterproofness

Truth be told, finding a small tactical backpack that is entirely waterproof is almost impossible. Any zipper or hole in the build means that waterproofness cannot be achieved.

It’s possible, though, to find water-resistant backpacks. The water-resistant backpacks will protect your gear and even handle a little rain.

Also, when you have waterproofness, you sacrifice the breathability. Ideally, you want your small tactical backpack to be both water-resistant and breathable so that your gear stays dry, but also your back.

Capacity and size

Anything under 20 liters of capacity is considered to be small. However, suitable small backpacks will provide you plenty of space for organizing your gear for the day.

15 to 20 liters is ideal for everyday carry. As for size, you should think about what matters for you the most. Is it the height or the width? For instance, 11 inches for the width and 18inches for the height will be more than enough for a small tactical backpack.

Weight

Entry-level customers skip the weight of the pack, and it’s an understandable mistake. As we’ve already mentioned, some fabrics manage to be water-resistant, durable, and lightweight at the same time. You need to find a balance between ruggedness and lightweight.

Since you’re looking for a small tactical backpack, the chances are that you’re going to be on your foot a lot. Remember than all the extra features, such as metal zipper pulls, double stitching, MOLLE webbing, and hooks, will add to the weight of your backpack. They’re also increasing the functionality of your tactical backpack, but you’ll lose on the weight.

Organizational options

You never want the tactical backpack to be a simple big pack with no compartments for organization. A good backpack will provide enough pockets and compartments for efficient organization of your gear.

You don’t want to have too many pockets, though, as they will add more weight to the small tactical backpack.

Molle system

It’s a fundamental feature to have on a tactical backpack, no matter its size. A pack featuring MOLLE means that you will be able to add more gear, as needed. Always get a pack that comes with a MOLLE system, and Velcro for improving your organizing options.

Adjustability

Many customers forget that backpack should fit your body for the best comfort. There are all sorts of shapes and sizes for the human body, and some backpacks will fit better than others. It’s difficult for the manufacturers to build backpacks according to all types and sizes of bodies, but that’s why adjustable straps matter so much.

No pack will be good if it begins to rub on your shoulders in the middle of the day. Shoulder straps, waist straps, and chest straps that are easy to adjust will make the carry more comfortable, no matter how heavy your load is. The straps will ensure an even distribution of the weight of the backpack, for increased comfort.

Comfort

Comfort depends a lot on the shape of the backpack and the adjustability of straps. Enough padding on the shoulder straps and ventilation on the back of the backpack will also reduce the strain throughout the day.

Chafing isn’t something you want to have, so make sure that the pack doesn’t rub against your hips or shoulders.

Hydration Bladder Compatibility

It’s not a mandatory feature, but it’s rather pleasant to have a backpack that is hydration bladder compatible. A pocket specially designed for the water bladder with a hole for porting tubes is going to ease out the user when out on the field. It’s not efficient to stop regularly for pulling the hydration pack, especially when you’re in a hurry.

Color and appearance

It’s not like that you’re going to buy a bright yellow backpack for your tactical activities. More often than not, tactical backpacks are subtle and come in jungle/desert/camouflage colors. Either way, you want the small tactical backpack to be as subtle as possible, helping you blend into the surroundings more efficiently.

Overall quality

Many aspects are giving the overall value of a small tactical backpack. Durability, quality of the stitching, the thickness and toughness of the fabric, are only some to name. Just to give you an example, a tactical backpack with double stitching has a better chance of taking full use for a long time.

Finishes on the straps, padding, ergonomic design, long-lasting zippers, and organizing abilities are also on the lest. A backpack ticking most boxes will become the right choice, nine times out of ten.


Frequently Asked Questions About Tactical Backpacks

Q: What defines a small tactical backpack?

A: A small tactical backpack is the mini alternative of a traditional tactical backpack. It’s made for helping the military personnel, hunters, climbers, and outdoor enthusiasts. It comes with specific features and compartments for organizing the tactical gear and various essentials.

Many of the small tactical backpacks also come with a hydration system, for easier access to water.

In theory, capacity and size are what make a small tactical pack different from a regular model.

Q: Why would anyone need to purchase a tactical backpack?

A: Ruggedness and durability matching the challenges of military and outdoor activities are the main reasons for which you’d buy a small tactical backpack. Many small models are more durable than regular models. Since the capacity is smaller, you won’t be tempted to overload the backpack. Therefore, the fabric and stitching will hold the weight of your gear.

Most of the time, small tactical packs are made with the same materials as regular models. Therefore, they will handle the weight and loads for a more extended amount of time.

Q: Is it mandatory for the backpack to provide easy access to the compartments?

A: When you’re out on the field, you want to be able to reach your items effortlessly. In the case of regular tactical backpacks, it’s challenging to have effortless access to your gear on the cause of the big capacity. It’s not the case with small models, which will provide straightforward access at all times.

Let’s not forget that you should place the more important items at the bottom of your pack, and getting it from a regular model will always be difficult. But when your backpack is small, everything is within reach and easy to obtain.

Q: Is the small tactical backpack more comfortable than a regular model?

A: In theory, a small tactical backpack should be more comfortable than any other regular opponent simply because of the lighter load you carry. However, there are plenty of factors affecting the level of comfort. The adjustability of straps, the design and shape of the backpack, breathability, and the right amount of padding give the level of comfort. Having said that, you can have a 45-liters pack that is more comfortable than a 15-liter option, thanks to the features we’ve mentioned.

Also, the level of comfort depends on how the backpack fits the shape and size of your body. All in all, it’s not a general rule for small packs to be more comfortable than the larger models. It’s fair to say though that they’re going to be lighter.

Q: Why get a small backpack made of Cordura?

A: Cordura is a fabric designed by DuPont, with high-tenacity fiber technology. For some time now, Cordura has been the no.1 option for manufacturing high-performance gear, tactical backpacks included. The fabric is abrasion resistant and the most common choice for the US Army combat uniforms. When your pack is made from Cordura, the chances of taking excessive use for a longer time are higher.

Q: Cordura or Cordura Nylon?

A: Cordura and Cordura Nylon are two different things. Cordura nylon is also used for manufacturing small tactical backpacks as it’s lightweight and sturdy. However, Cordura nylon has a more prominent weave, which makes it less water-resistant. It’s one thing to consider when selecting your tactical backpack, no matter the size of it.

Q: Can you find dependable tactical backpacks made of nylon?

A: As a matter of fact, nylon is one of the most common fabrics used for tactical backpacks. It’s sturdy, lightweight, and has resistance to water and tear. The robust diagonal weave makes it resistant to both rip and abrasion, which is why so many small tactical backpacks are made of nylon.

Q: What is Ripstop Cordura?

A: Ripstop Cordura presents box or diamond-shaped patterns, leading to a grid-like system. The grid-like system makes a backpack incredibly sturdy. Even if you make a hole in the pack, the hole will not expand, and the fabric will not rip off. Ripstop Cordura is one of the most durable fabric to have in the small tactical backpack. Additionally, it’s lightweight and waterproof.

Q: Is polyester a reliable material for small tactical backpacks?

A: If durability or strength aren’t fundamental for you, you may buy a small tactical backpack made of polyester. Polyester is a versatile fabric, but not as tough as nylon. It’s affordable, which seals the deal for many. However, a polyester tactical backpack won’t take heavy loads nor great use for a very long time.

Q: Is the denier number relevant for the durability of your small tactical pack?

A: You only need to take a look at a backpack to see the 650 Denier, 1000D, or 1000 Denier. Denier reflects the thickness of individual threads in a fabric. Therefore, the higher the denier count, the more robust and more durable the material will be. Any small tactical backpack made with 600D and higher is the right choice. Anything lower than 600D will not take use for a very long time.

Q: How to clean your small tactical backpack?

A: Cleaning the tactical backpack is different than when cleaning a regular backpack. Manufacturers and professionals recommend cleaning the tactical backpack every single day. The better you take care of it, the longer the life span will be.

Read the instruction on the fabric for maintenance. Typically, a toothbrush and a mixture made of baking soda, water, and soap will be enough for regular cleaning. Wipe the dirt away from the backpack, so that it stays in good shape for a longer time.

Q: Do small tactical backpacks have a specific number of pockets and compartments?

A: The number of pockets and compartments is fundamental on a tactical backpack, but it depends a lot on what you need. Most of the time, a tactical backpack has a main compartment, admin organization pockets, glasses pockets, and hydration bladder compartment are fundamental. A laptop sleeve is necessary only if you need to carry your laptop with the backpack. Molle system, Velcro, and hoops are essential for the functionality of a good tactical backpack, no matter the size.

Q: Are some models safer than others?

A: When it comes to tactical backpacks, a model that is made with sturdy material is considered to be safe. Nylon is a more reliable choice than polyester, but that’s just an example.

The most important thing you want on your backpack is not to lose any of the gear as you’re in the line of duty. Lockable zippers, durable caps, strong Velcro, and other safety functions will keep everything in place throughout the day.

Also, a tactical backpack that is water-resistant will protect your essential, so it’s safer than one that doesn’t protect gear against water.