Best Small Tactical Backpack

There are many situations in which you’ll find yourself having to carry equipment. This may be if you are a first responder, a service member, an outdoorsman, or simply someone who enjoys long days on the gun range.

In all of these cases, and more, you will need a way to bring your tools and supplies with you, and a backpack may be the most convenient and comfortable option. In this article, we will look at four of the best small tactical backpacks you can purchase, depending on your needs.

Which is the Best Small Tactical Backpack?

The best small tactical backpack depends on your intended use. For tactical applications, the 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 and LA Police Gear Atlas 12 won’t disappoint. If you need to carry medical gear — consider Voodoo Tactical’s Field Medical Pack Lite instead. And if your primary requirement is lightweight, the Mardingtop 25L Daypack is the backpack for you.


  • Everyday Carry (EDC)

Many small tactical backpacks are ideal for EDC, allowing you to carry books, laptop computers, tablets, and other electronic devices to and from school and work. 

  • 12-Hour Emergency Kits

Whether a backpack is considered suitable for 12, 24, or 72 hours will indicate its volume and size. Small tactical backpacks typically fall into the 12-hour category, balancing capacity, weight, and functionality for a lightweight, practical option.

  • Range Bag

If you’re a recreational or competitive shooter, or shoot to maintain proficiency with your concealed-carry weapon (CCW) or duty sidearm, a range bag is useful for securely carrying ammunition, targets, ear and eye protection, and cleaning kits.

  • Hunting Backpack

Hunters need to carry a variety of supplies, such as calls, decoys, attractants, specialized knives, trail cameras, spare ammunition, food and water, and a medical kit. Keeping these provisions dry and neatly organized is a necessity for a successful hunt.

  • Wilderness Survival/BUG

A daypack can be useful for hiking and camping for a period of 12 hours or more, providing you with a convenient way of carrying food, water, a mess kit, an individual first-aid kit, navigation equipment (e.g., a map and compass), and a way of making fire.

A small tactical backpack can serve as a lightweight BUG (bug-out bag). Some of the contents of a BUG are likely to overlap with those of a hiking/camping rucksack, but may also include a water filtration system, weapons for self-defense, and a way of building shelter.

Backpack Considerations

When you’re selecting a small tactical backpack, you need to consider the materials, organization, and capacity for the best results.

  • Materials

The materials and construction determine the strength, durability, and weather resistance of the backpack. Fabrics are commonly listed as “600D” or “1,000D,” but what do these values indicate? The “D” is the common abbreviation for denier — a unit of linear mass density used in textiles. 

The denier rating of a material denotes its thickness and weight. A single silk strand, for example, has a denier of one — this is the reference point. The higher the denier rating, the heavier the fabric. While this usually correlates to durability, it also adds to the weight and cost. 

  • Organization

The purpose of a backpack is to store equipment — the modern tactical backpack is a sophisticated fabric sack. Unlike a sack, however, a backpack needs to keep tools and supplies organized. Separate internal compartments improve access and ensure that your gear remains protected. They also allow you to categorize your supplies based on their type and how important it is for you to be able to access them quickly. For example, while it’s acceptable to keep spare ammunition stored in the main compartment on a firing range, medical equipment should be readily available in an instant. 

  • Capacity

Your tactical backpack may be small, but it should still provide sufficient capacity for you to carry everything that you need. The capacity or volume that you require will depend on your intended use and is typically measured in either cubic inches or liters.


You’ve probably seen the acronyms PALS and MOLLE used in relation to military-grade equipment, but what do these abbreviations mean? 

PALS stands for Pouch Attachment Ladder System and consists of a grid of horizontal webbing. The webbing itself generally comprises strips of Cordura nylon spaced apart in rows. The advantage of this system is that it allows you to increase the carrying capacity of your gear by attaching pouches and bags to the exterior surfaces of the backpack.

MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. MOLLE equipment uses, and is compatible with, PALS, but you may see “PALS webbing” and “MOLLE webbing used interchangeably.

Four Best Small Tactical Backpacks

The best small tactical backpack depends on your budget and your intended application. To determine the best small tactical backpack overall, it’s necessary to compare what the market has to offer. Here are four of the best examples available.

1. 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 2.0

5.11 Tactical, founded in 1992, is an American apparel and tactical equipment manufacturer. If you’re a hunter, fisherman, outdoorsman, or competitive shooter, you’ve probably encountered this brand at one time or another. Hence, when you’re in the market for a small tactical backpack, 5.11 is a logical place to start.  

Capacity and Compartments

The RUSH12 2.0 is the latest iteration of the company’s Rush series and has a capacity of 1,476 cubic inches (24 liters), which is spacious for a bag of this size. If you carry a concealed handgun and would prefer to place your weapon in an off-body location, the company includes a CCW compartment with hook and loop Velcro attachment points in the latest iteration, allowing you to hide a firearm and holster securely. As a backpacker, keeping a kit gun with you can be highly beneficial for hunting, personal defense, and as an emergency signaling device. 

The front pocket contains multiple small pockets for administrative/organizational use, and both the front pocket and the main compartment open using YKK zippers. In the front pocket is another deep pocket with a zipper.

But don’t think that the RUSH12 is only limited to tactical and outdoor applications — there’s also a padded sleeve for storing a 15-inch laptop. If you need glasses — whether prescription eyeglasses or protective eyewear — you will also have a fleece-lined pocket to protect the lenses. 

External Attachment

The RUSH12 is a MOLLE-compatible backpack, and 5.11 Tactical manufactures accessories to take advantage of the PALS webbing. 

If you intend to use the backpack during the warmer months, despite the fact that the RUSH12 doesn’t have its own water bottle pouch, the PALS webbing on both sides provides several points for attaching one yourself. The backpack also has ports for a hydration tube (e.g., CamelBak). In addition, you can clip carabiners to the webbing to suspend the backpack or for attaching accessories that are not otherwise MOLLE compatible.

To personalize your backpack or identify yourself to others, the RUSH12 features a Velcro square and strip for patches and name plates. If you carry a rifle or shotgun with you outdoors, you can also attach cartridge loops to the Velcro strip for carrying additional ammunition. 

Comfort and Carry

The ability to comfortably carry your backpack is an important characteristic, especially if you intend to carry heavy items for a protracted period. Fortunately, the contoured yoke shoulder straps of the RUSH12 are padded to evenly distribute the weight of the backpack. For added support, there’s a sternum strap to keep the straps close together, and you can detach the shoulder straps using buckles for quick removal.

Materials and Weight

The RUSH12 2.0 weighs 3.15 lb. The compression straps, located on each side, are designed to flatten the backpack when it’s not full, reducing bulk when traveling. The 1050D nylon construction is durable and resistant to water, ensuring that the contents remain dry in inclement weather. 

Bottom Line

The RUSH12 is highly durable and well suited to those who carry concealed firearms and need spacious storage. Furthermore, it can double as a laptop bag.

5.11 Tactical RUSH12Specifications
Storage capacity (cu. in./L):1,476/24
Material:1050D nylon
Weight (lb.)3.15
Height, width, depth (in.)18×11×6.5
Special features:CCW compartment with Velcro hook and loops


  • MOLLE compatibility 
  • 1,476 cu. in. (24 L) of storage space
  • Sixteen compartments and pockets 
  • CCW compartment for kit gun or self-defense firearm
  • Padded laptop sleeve
  • Fleece-lined pocket for eyewear 


  • Relatively heavy — 3.15 lb.
  • On the more expensive side

2. LA Police Gear Atlas 12

For a more budget-friendly and discreet option that provides many of the same features as the 5.11 RUSH12, consider the Atlas 12, sold by LA Police Gear. LAPG is a retail store, founded in 2001, that specializes in supplying tactical equipment to private citizens and law-enforcement personnel. 

Capacity and Compartments

One of the categories in which the Atlas really shines is its capacity — 2,142 cu. in. (35 liters) — 666 more than the RUSH12. At this price point, that’s a significant advantage. The main compartment contains three sizable pockets for storing equipment. Unlike the RUSH12, there is no CCW compartment in the Atlas 12, and while the Atlas 12 does contain a laptop sleeve, it’s not padded.

External Attachment

One of the first features that you’ll notice regarding the Atlas 12 is the nondescript laser-cut MOLLE-compatible webbing. Traditional MOLLE webbing has a conspicuously tactical appearance, which may not be what you want, depending on your environment. If you think that this may disclose what kind of equipment that you’re carrying, or raise suspicion, you’ll want to consider a more discreet option. 

For attaching name plates or patches, there’s a wide Velcro panel on the front pocket and a Velcro strip on the outside of the main compartment.

Comfort and Carry

As with any tactical backpack, your comfort matters. The back is breathable, featuring a channel to promote air flow. The Atlas 12 uses a yoke shoulder-strap design, which is padded, and also provides a waist belt to distribute the weight more evenly. 

Materials and Weight

While the RUSH12 is composed of 1050D nylon, the Atlas 12 is 900D polyester with a PVC coating. It should be noted that neither material is truly waterproof but water resistant. You shouldn’t submerge either backpack, especially if you’re using it to transport valuables or electronics. That being said, rainfall shouldn’t be a problem, and the Atlas 12 has drainage holes to keep the inside dry.

The difference in weight between the Atlas 12 and the RUSH12 is not significant — the Atlas weighs ⅓ of a pound more. However, in exchange for the added weight, the Atlas 12 provides increased storage capacity.

Bottom Line

The Atlas 12 is a durably constructed tactical backpack that will provide you with a substantial amount of storage space in a rather inconspicuous package.

LA Police Gear Atlas 12Specifications
Storage capacity (cu. in./L):2,142/35
Material:900D Polyester
Weight (lb.)3.5
Height, width, depth (in.)18×13×8.5
Special features:Discreet laser-cut webbing
High-capacity design


  • Discreet laser-cut MOLLE-compatible webbing
  • Spacious design — 2,142 cu. in. (35 L)
  • Durable 900D-polyester construction with PVC water-resistant coating
  • Wide Velcro panel and strip for ID, ammo holders, etc.
  • Relatively inexpensive


  • Somewhat on the heavy side — 3.5 lb.
  • No CCW compartment

3. Voodoo Tactical Deluxe Professional Special Ops Field Medical Pack Lite

Paramedics, emergency medical technicians, retired or active-duty military personnel, law enforcement, and those with first-aid training will benefit from this specialized medical backpack. The Voodoo Deluxe Professional Special Ops Field Medical Pack Lite can be used for storing and carrying a variety of tools, but it’s specifically designed for use with medical supplies. 

Capacity and Compartments

The Field Medical Pack has a total capacity of 2,400 cu. in. (39 L), providing a high-capacity option. The company reduced the bulk of the Lite variant, while preserving the same panel loading system that allows for increased access. The pockets inside are clear, so you can find exactly what you need without wasting time. For individual placement of supplies, the interior compartments contain a variety of pouches, web loops, and straps. 

You’ll also find a removable carry bag suitable for airways and resuscitation kits. As this carry bag is water resistant, you can use it to store IV and eyewash kits. In the event of a rupture, the liquid will remain separate from the other contents. 

External Attachment

The most versatile options for those with medical training should feature standardized external attachment systems, and the Voodoo Field Medical Pack is no exception. By using PALS webbing, it’s compatible with both carabiners and a wide range of MOLLE pouches, bags, and other gear. Unfortunately, the webbing is less prominent on the sides, limited to one vertical strip each.

Comfort and Carry

The shoulder straps are adjustable and lined with padded mesh to promote cooling and relieve pressure. Combined with the padded belt, which is contoured, you’re able to support the backpack’s weight on your hips. There’s also a sternum strap to prevent the shoulder straps from sliding off your shoulders.

Materials and Weight

The Field Medical Pack is composed of a heavy-duty, water-resistant nylon fabric that should hold up to abuse. While compact — this is the “Lite” variant of the Deluxe Special Ops Field Medical Pack — the backpack is not as light as its direct competitors, weighing 4.4 lb. However, the increased weight is understandable given the specialized purpose for which this backpack was designed and its high capacity.

Bottom Line

Whether you’re an EMT or a survivalist who wants to carry an individual first-aid kit (IFAK) or more advanced supplies, the Voodoo Tactical Deluxe Professional Special Ops Field Medical Pack Lite provides a wide range of specialized storage options. It is, however, the heaviest item on the list.

Voodoo Tactical Deluxe Professional Special Ops Field Medical Pack LiteSpecifications
Storage capacity (cu. in./L):2,400/39
Material:Heavy-duty, water-resistant fabric
Weight (lb.)4.4
Height, width, depth (in.)20×15×8
Special features:Specialized medical backpack for first responders
High-vis color option available


  • Backpack designed specifically for carrying and organizing medical supplies
  • MOLLE compatibility
  • Panel loading system featuring pouches, web loops, and straps
  • Water-resistant removable carry bag with window
  • Available in several colors, including red for high visibility


  • Limited PALS webbing on sides
  • Heavy compared with other small tactical backpacks on the market

4. Mardingtop 25L Daypack

The Mardingtop 25L Daypack, weighing only 1.72 lb., is ideal for any application that requires an ultra-lightweight tactical backpack with MOLLE compatibility.

Capacity and Compartments

The 25L Daypack has, as the name suggests, a total storage capacity of 1,525 cu. in. (25 L), which provides ample space for carrying a variety of supplies. The main compartment separates from the hydration sleeve using a nylon divider, and the front pocket has space for several compact items. 

External Attachment

Mardingtop products, as most tactical backpacks, are compatible with MOLLE gear due to the use of PALS webbing on back and sides. There are two compression straps, one on each side, that you can use to reduce the bulk of the backpack. 

As with the other entries on the list, the 25L Daypack provides a square Velcro patch for attaching identifying name plates or other accessories. 

Materials and Weight

The 25L Daypack is composed of 600D polyester, which is lighter in weight, less expensive, and more resistant to water than nylon. The result is a lightweight backpack of equivalent capacity to the RUSH12 and Atlas 12. However, nylon of equivalent density is stronger and more resistant to ripping; therefore, if you need the most durable option available, the Mardingtop may not be your first choice. 

Comfort and Carry

To carry the 25L Daypack, Mardingtop provides yoke shoulder straps, a waist belt, and a sternum strap for support, but there’s less padding for the shoulders than some other designs.

Bottom Line

The 25L Daypack is not as rich in features as some of the other products on the list, but it’s incredibly lightweight and convenient to carry, especially for protracted periods. 

Mardingtop 25L DaypackSpecifications
Storage capacity (cu. in./L):1,525/25
Material:600D polyester
Weight (lb.)1.72
Height, width, depth (in.)17×11.8×7.87
Special features:Ultra-lightweight design


  • Lightweight construction — 1.72 lb.
  • MOLLE compatibility
  • High capacity for the size — 25 liters
  • Water-resistant 600D polyester provides adequate strength for most applications
  • Suitable for low-drag applications, such as motorcycle riding


  • No top-mounted carry handle
  • Not as durable as nylon backpacks

In Conclusion

In the field of tactical backpacks, 5.11 Tactical and LA Police Gear manufacture some of the most durable, well-organized, and versatile products on the market. Many of the differences between the 5.11 RUSH12 and LAPG Atlas 12 are minor, such as weight and dimensions. 

However, the Atlas 12 offers 666 additional cubic inches (11 liters) of storage capacity, a more discreet external appearance, and more Velcro panel space than the RUSH12 — all at a lower price. The RUSH12’s primary advantages are that it’s somewhat more durable and includes a CCW compartment.

At the same time, if you need a lightweight tactical backpack, the Mardingtop 25L Daypack provides ample storage and weighs less than 1¾ lb. Its compact design is perfect for applications, such as riding a motorcycle, where you need to reduce wind resistance as much as possible and space is limited.

Finally, if you need a specialized medical backpack for responding to medical emergencies, either as a part of your job or simply to be prepared, the Voodoo Tactical Deluxe Professional Special Ops Field Medical Pack Lite provides a unique panel loading system to ensure that can always access the equipment you need. 


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