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Ruck It: The 6 Best Military Backpacks for Rucking in 2022

Updated for 2022

Rucking is a simple cardio exercise that you can add to any workout routine, especially if you are a hiker and enjoy the outdoors.

To begin rucking, you will need a military-style backpack that allows for ruck weights and a hydration bladder, and a good pair of military boots.

When rucking it is important to realize that a regular backpack will not work, a traditional backpack simply lacks the durability and features needed to ruck comfortably. However, this is where I come to the rescue.

Today, we’re going to review the best backpacks for rucking, while guiding you through everything you need to know before choosing your ideal rucksack. If you have not read it yet, I highly recommend checking out our Rucking Guide. Now let’s get down to business and get you out there!

Top 6 Backpacks for Rucking Available in the Market

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  1. 5.11 Rush 72
  2. Military Molle 2 Rucksack
  3. The ALICE Pack
  4. LAPG Atlas 24
  5. CVLIFE Tactical Backpack
  6. REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack

Rucking is a growing fitness trend, finding the best backpack to use can be a daunting challenge.

We have put together a list of the best backpacks for rucking. Let’s dive in to see what each backpack of them has to offer.

1. 5.11 Tactical RUSH 72 Rucking Backpack – Best Overall

5.11 Tactical Backpack ‚ Rush 72 2.0 ‚ Military Molle Pack, CCW and Laptop Compartment, 55 Liter, Large, Style 56565 ‚ Double Tap

Kicking off our list with one of the best military rucking backpacks. The 5.11 Rush 72 is one of the best tactical backpacks money can buy.

The 5.11 Tactical RUSH series is known for its mission-oriented highly organized rucking backpacks that are both comfortable and highly durable. 5.11’ tactical RUSH 72 lives up to the name of the series.

5.11 tactical RUSH 72 is the most extensive rucking backpack in the RUSH series. The rucksack boasts an enormous capacity of 55 liters, which gives you enough space to store all kinds of camping equipment such as food, electronic gear, camping tools, and more.

The tactical backpack is made from 1000 denier nylon, which offers an unrivaled level of sturdiness, durability, and long-term endurance. The fabric is also highly water repellent.

Another great feature of this bag is its MOLLE system compatibility, which significantly increases its overall capacity. With the right gear and food rations, you can have everything you need to survive for weeks with this backpack.

In addition to the MOLLE system, the bag offers several compartments and tool pouches for extra reliability. The backpack offers dual zippers to ensure its functionality.

Additionally, the rucksack features a hydration package compartment for maintaining hydration on the go. The backpack is also comfortable to carry due to its padded straps and durable buckles.

Despite its bombarding price tag, the bag isn’t going to be short of buyers anytime soon thanks to its exquisite features and superb adaptability.

5.11 also offers smaller variants of the Rush 72. The Rush 24 and 12 are also viable Rucksacks that can double as an everyday use backpack.

Pros

  • Huge backpack capacity offers plenty of room for everything
  • Highest quality 1000 denier nylon
  • Can double as an everyday use backpack
  • MOLLE System compatible
  • Can fit a 3L hydration bladder
  • Laptop compartment is perfect for a Ruck Plate

Cons

  • One of the more expensive tactical backpacks
  • Lacks an external frame

2. MT Military MOLLE 2 Large Rucksack – Best External Frame

MT Military MOLLE 2 Large Rucksack with Frame, Army Tactical Backpack, Multicam

Rucking has its origins in the military. Therefore it is not a surprise we are recommending a military surplus rucksack. This Military Molle 2 Rucksack assembly is the first pack we are recommending with an external frame.

Why is an external frame a key feature of a good rucksack? An external frame allows the weight to be distributed more evenly on the back. This means that whatever weight you decide to ruck, will be more comfortable during your hike.

External frame packs are perfect for individuals that are getting ready to enter the military and those that want to load more weight than a tactical backpack would be comfortable bearing.

This military surplus rucksack is MOLLE compatible. This means you can attach whatever you need to the rucksack assembly. Even though this sack does not come with a dedicated hydration bladder compartment, it is easy to attach any bladder system that is also MOLLE compliant such as a Source Tactical 3-Liter Hydration Pack.

Pros

  • Insane amount of capacity
  • Actual military surplus
  • External frame for optimal weight distribution
  • MOLLE system compatible
  • Great for long hikes and backpacking into the wilderness

Cons

  • Too large for everyday use
  • Hydration bladder pouch not included, but can be purchased separately
  • Expensive entry point

3. Military Surplus Rucksack Alice Pack – Best Old School Ruck

MT Military Medium Alice Pack Army Survival Combat Backpack ALICE Rucksack Olive Drab

ALICE or the All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment is the second external frame rucksack on this list. The ALICE Pack was one of the first load-carrying equipment assemblies that featured an external frame to which the rucksack itself was attached.

It entered service for the US army in 1973. This is the rucksack for enthusiasts that want that retro experience. The ALICE features an aluminum external frame and a large ruck. Though this pack is starting to be phased out, the ALICE is still an important piece of equipment.

This pack is more than enough to meet the requirements for anyone who wants to ruck for fitness or those that are getting ready for entrance into the military.

The ALICE shows its age in its lack of MOLLE compatibility as well as its lack of hydration compartment. However, the ALICE is one of the best rucksacks due to its radio compartment.

Located near the top of the pack is a compartment designed for radio equipment. This is an optimal spot to place a sandbag pill as shown in our DIY Ruck Weight Article. Keeping the weight near the top of a pack is the best way to ruck without injury.

Pros

  • Military Surplus
  • The OG external frame rucksack
  • Radio compartment is perfect for ruck weights
  • Excellent storage capacity
  • Dedicated rucksack

Cons

  • Not good as an everyday use backpack
  • Not MOLLE Compatible
  • No hydration bladder support

4. LA Police Gear Atlas 24 – BEST VALUE

LA Police Gear Atlas 24H MOLLE Tactical Backpack for Hiking, Rucksack, Bug Out, or Hunting-Coyote

LAPG’s entry onto this list is the best rucksack for the money. The Atlas 24 backpack comes with MOLLE compatibility and a dedicated compartment for a hydration reservoir. 

The pack has a similar setup to the 5.11 rush series with hydration ports on either shoulder.

This ruck will hold whatever you decide to use as a weight, from plates to bricks. Do not let the price fool you. The Atlas Pack is seriously durable. This backpack has every feature of its more expensive counterparts at almost half the price.

Another cool aspect of this ruck is the ability to add a chest pack to carry more gear. This bag is great for more than just rucking and will quickly become your go-to go-bag.

This ruck is easy to set up as well. You simply slip your ruck plate in the laptop compartment and then set up your hydration bladder in the main compartment. The great thing about the back compartment is the rigid backplate. It keeps your weight from smacking into your back.

Pros

  • Functions of a premium pack, half the price
  • MOLLE System
  • Budget-Friendly
  • Dedicated hydration bladder compartment
  • Excellent storage capacity

Cons

  • No YKK Zippers
  • No external frame

5. CVLIFE Tactical Backpack Military Army Rucksack – Budget Friendly

CVLIFE Military Tactical Backpack 40L Army Rucksack 4 Day Assault Pack Molle Bag …

The CVLIFE Tactical Backpack Is your basic bare-bones rucksack. This military-style backpack comes with MOLLE compatibility and a dedicated compartment for a hydration reservoir. This bag comes with detachable smaller bags.

This ruck will hold whatever you decide to use as a weight, from plates to bricks. This is an entry-level rucksack for people that wish to try rucking but do not want to commit the money on a more dedicated setup.

At a sub 30 dollar price point it is expected that this bag will encounter some durability issues. However, it is hard to beat for its price in terms of storage and versatility.

Pros

  • Sub 30 Bucks
  • MOLLE System
  • Budget-Friendly
  • Dedicated hydration bladder compartment
  • Excellent storage capacity

Cons

  • Durability issues
  • No external frame

6. REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack – Budget Friendly 3 Day Pack

REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack Large Army 3 Day Assault Pack Molle Bag Backpacks…

The REEBOW GEAR Military Tactical Backpack comes in tan khaki or charcoal black. What’s great about this rucksack is that it’s made to suit all kinds of outdoor activities due to its generous 34 liters capacity, such as rucking, trekking, camping, and woods hunting.

The high-density fabric also works as a tough barrier between the backpack’s contents and water, which gives the backpack a good level of water resistance. This makes this backpack a wonderful choice for anyone who is going on a trip in a rainy forest or wet area.

In addition to the thick fabric, the backpack also has double stitching along every lining of the backpack for extra fortification. This protects the backpack from all kinds of tears and cuts in harsh environments.

When it comes to versatility, this backpack shows an example of what a modern tactical backpack should be. The backpack is loaded with lockable sections each with its large zippers.

Moreover, REEBOW GEAR’s rucking backpack also has a MOLLE system, which allows for extra pouches and gear to be attached to the rucking backpack. Consequently, that can easily turn this small backpack into a full camping and survival unit.

The tactical rucksack also features an easily accessible designated container that can fit a 2.5 liters hydration bladder. However, the hydration bladder isn’t included with the backpack and needs to be purchased separately.

The most amazing thing about this rucking backpack is that it didn’t sacrifice its comfort for its high durability and workmanship.

The backpack has a front and side-loaded compression system coupled with a ventilated mesh padding in the back and shoulder straps to allow for comfortable long-distance marches.

Pros

  • Durable high-density fabric and double stitching
  • Water-resistant
  • MOLLE System

Cons

  • The zipper tassels fall off easily
  • The buckles aren’t as durable as the rest of the backpack

10 Things to Keep in Mind While Shopping for a Rucking Backpack

While searching for your ideal rucking backpack, there is a lot of aspects to consider to land your perfect pick. Here’s our top 10 checklist for a great rucking backpack.

Materials

The first thing you should be considering while searching for your rucking backpack is its material.

Rucking backpacks are made of several materials, such as polyester, nylon, and normal fabrics. However, nylon and fabrics are much more durable than most polyester bags in terms of tear and abrasion resistance.

Since polyester bags are usually cheaper, some manufacturers make military design polyester rucking backpacks. These bags usually tear under high loads, which can be highly problematic if you’re out in the wilderness.

Regarding nylon, you should always opt for durable grades of nylon such as 500 Denier Nylon or higher. However, if you’re going for a polyester bag, it should be at least 600 Denier to withstand heavy loads.

Weight

Whether it’s the backpack’s net weight or the maximum weight it can carry, the weight is a game-changing factor that’s usually overlooked by many people. If you’re going to carry a rucking backpack, this means that it’ll be filled with loads of heavy items.

This makes lightweight rucksacks a much better option since you can only carry too much. However, an excessively light backpack can sometimes be an indicator of its low durability and poor endurance of heavy loads.

This is why the best strategy to follow while checking a rucking backpack weight is to make sure that it’s neither too heavy nor too light. This can grant you a durable rucking backpack while not being cumbersome to carry on its own.

Backpack Capacity

Backpacks’ capacity is usually estimated by their volume. This means that the backpack’s capacity can be measured in liters.

If you’re rucking or going on a trip, the size of your bag can either make it or break it. Show up with a larger than needed backpack and you’re going to carry its burden along the whole trip.

Similarly, having a small rucking backpack can be extremely inconvenient if you’re planning on a long hike.

Generally, any rucking backpack with a volume between 15 to 25 liters is good enough for a short trip. A range of 25 to 40 liters is a good volume for a day hike without camping.

However, if you’re planning on a long trip with camping included, you’re going to need a larger bag that can reach up to 60 liters depending on how much equipment you’re going to bring with you.

Water Resistance

What’s the point of a rucking backpack if it isn’t going to protect your electronics from an unexpected downpour?

Although it’s almost impossible to get a fully waterproof backpack without paying an arm and a leg for it, a good rucking backpack is going to have some sort of waterproof compartments for your electronics.

Another important thing to mention regarding full waterproofing is the breathability tradeoff. Even if you managed to find a reasonable price full waterproof backpack, don’t expect any kind of aeration inside the bag.

The best compromise here is either going for semi-waterproof rucking backpacks that offer a waterproof compartment for your electronics or protecting your electronics by yourself in a waterproof cover such as plastic bags.

Padding, Belts, and Straps

It goes without saying that if you’re going on a trip, you’re doing all the carrying. That’s why it’s highly important to choose a bag with comfortable and thick foam padding for your back and shoulders.

This won’t only help you stay comfortable, but padded shoulders enable you to lift even higher loads in the process by easily distributing the pressure across your body.

Similar to padding, belts are essential for extra security and better weight distribution while rucking.

Although they’re optional, it’s always great when a rucking backpack offers all kinds of belts and straps such as hip, sternum, and waist straps. You can then use the belts that provide you with maximum comfort and support.

Zippers Durability

Even the best rucking backpack is rendered useless when its zippers are broken or malfunctioned.

Rucking means marching long distances where dirt, water, and gravel is everywhere. Walking around these items with weak zippers is a recipe for an inevitable disaster.

That’s why having big sturdy zippers is something that should always be on your radar while looking for your ideal backpack for rucking.

Double Stitching

Similar to the backpack’s material, polyester stitching is one of the worst things you can go for when buying a backpack for rucking. It’s very weak compared to nylon stitching.

Heavy loads in backpacks cause a lot of strain on your stitching, which can end up tearing it. This is why you should go for backpacks with double stitching whenever possible.

Frame Sheet or Body Support

For extra fortification and maximum protection to the bag’s contents, it’s always better to go for a bag with a frame sheet or body support that retains the bag shape and prevents excessive shakiness while walking for a long distance.

Compartments and MOLLE compatibility

One of the most trendy aspects of rucking and tactical military backpacks is the MOLLE system.

MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, where backpacks offer different designated and undesignated pouches for various common rucking and hiking gear.

Hydration Pack Compatibility

Coming from experience, it’s always better for your rucking backpack to have an

easy-access external slot for water bottles.

Going on a long trip means you’ll need to stay hydrated. Although you can always throw your water bottle inside your backpack, the fact that you have to stop just to take out your bottle can easily discourage you from drinking.

Being dehydrated can be remarkably dangerous if you’re alone or far from modern society, as it can quickly get you disoriented and confused.

The Verdict

Rucksacks have seen lots of modifications and additions throughout the years. From sturdy new materials such as nylon to extra storage capacity such as the MOLLE system.

This is why if I was thinking of a winner for this round, I’d pick the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 72. From enormous capacity to extremely durable nylon and MOLLE compatibility, it has everything I need in a rucking backpack.

If you are in the market for a purpose-built rucksack or are preparing for entrance into the military then I would go with the MT Molle II Large Rucksack Assembly(OCP).

However, if you’re on a budget, then the LAPG Atlas 24 can get the job done without poking a hole in your wallet. This pack gives you the most value for your dollar and almost beat out the Rush Series by 5.11. Coming down only to personal preference.

For additional information on rucking check out our Ruck Hub. We also have a Complete Rucking Gear Checklist if you are looking for additional equipment to make your ruck as safe and enjoyable as possible.

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