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The Best Sling Bags and Tactical Backpacks [2022]

The Best Sling Bags and Tactical Backpacks [2022]

Posted by RangeOften.com on Mar 17th 2022

With so many sling bags and tactical packs to choose from - all those sizes, materials, straps and loops, fasteners, and whatnot - it gets overwhelming. You might find two bags that look alike, but one's a knock-off. Today we're sorting throughthe popular options available in 2022 to find the best of the best.


Factors to Consider

Picking the right range bag or backpack means making sure you've got the right "specs" figured out. We're going to cover the important ones:

  • Material. Some bags are made from lighter nylon to save weight and bulk. Others use heavy-duty ripstop fabrics, made for abuse and tough environments. 
  • Capacity. A good tactical backpack provides only the amount of space you need, and not much more. This is also to save weight and bulk. Bag capacity is usually expressed in liters, shown as "55L" or "80L".
  • Straps. Never overlook the straps your next bag comes with. You might want a cummerbund to help distribute weight across your hips, especially if you're rocking a 72-hour bag for a long trek. But maybe you prefer a single sling bag for daily, compact concealed carry.
  • Framed vs. Frameless. Many tactical bags come with internal frames to help carry heavy loads and distribute weight. But a frameless setup can save a ton of weight.
  • Storage. What's inside? That matters most of all. Some bags are actual gun backpacks (like the GPS Handgunner). They come with internal storage specifically for transporting firearms. Others might just be an "empty kitchen sink", of sorts: Throw all your stuff in and hit the road. Of course, most bags fall somewhere in the middle, with individual storage compartments. It's important to plan out your bag's setup while you shop.

Best EDC/Sling Bags

Sling bags and messenger bags are the smallest of the bunch. They're mostly used for daily commutes and repetitive trips - and most importantly, they're often used for concealed carry in sensitive environments. Let's take a look at the top picks and why we love them.

5.11 Tactical MOAB 6 Bag

The short, squat, and very capable MOAB 6 Sling Pack is a favorite in the category. It's small,  very tough based on our personal experiences traveling with it, and it sports a very thick, padded strap. That makes for one of the smaller messenger bags that can hold a ton of weight. More than larger ones, perhaps. We found it can take a solid 40 pounds without tearing, fraying, or getting floppy and tough to carry.

Bag Specs

  • Capacity: 11 liters / 671 cubic inches
  • Material: 1050D Cordura
  • Ambidextrous? Yes
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: Ranger Green, Black, Double Tap (Black/Gray), Kangaroo (Tan)
  • Dimensions: Main Pouch 10.5” H x 9” L x 5” D; Front Pocket 9.5” H x 8” L x 2” D; Water Pocket 9.5” x 8”.

Big Features

  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Water-resistant treatment
  • Reinforced grab handle
  • Hook-and-loop flag patch
  • Fleece-lined glasses pocket
  • Bottom strap kidney pads
  • Hidden CCL pocket

Why we like the MOAB 6

The 5.11 engineers like to make their bags tall and skinny. So we were pleased to see them effectively "squash" down a larger MOAB series into this square, compact unit. It sports a great center of gravity and a very low profile, making it great for crowded urban commutes and air travel. It's lightweight, too, coming in at just around 2 pounds. 

If the amount of storage leaves you wanting, but you're stuck on the size, just slap some MOLLE gear on. The MOAB 6 comes with plenty of webbing on all sides for adding extra pouches only when needed.

What we don't like

It's tough to pick apart a 5.11 bag. They usually do a good job designing their bags' storage compartments and other bits. But we found the adjustable shoulder strap on the MOAB 6 (while useful for sizing the bag up based on what you're carrying or wearing) got loose after long walks and required readjustment. It's a nitpick, but still something to consider if you're carrying heavy weight.

Don't Forget The MOAB 10

We didn't forget the sling bag that's actually, well, perhaps more popular than the MOAB 6. We simply used the MOAB 6 recently (and extensively) and felt that 1.) an honest review was warranted, and 2.) we felt the MOAB 6 better suited the daily traveler wanting something compact and subtle.

However, if you love all the 6's features (including the hidden CCL pocket) but want a bit more space, the MOAB 10 is a perfect choice. It only weighs 0.6 pounds more, and it comes with a hydration compartment with a hose pass-through for your typical drinking bladder.

Bag Specs

  • Capacity: 18 liters / 1,093 CC
  • Material: 1050D Cordura
  • Ambidextrous? Yes
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: Ranger Green, Black, Double Tap (Black/Gray), Kangaroo (Tan)
  • Dimensions: Main Pouch 18.25" H x 9" L x 7.25" D ; Front Pocket 12.5” H x 8” L x 2” D;

5.11 RAPID Sling Bag

The MOAB 10 is a great choice for holding a full-backpack-sized amount of gear. But it can easily become, well, too big to be an effective sling bag. So, enter the RAPID Sling. It offers about 10 liters of space, making it a nice "middle-of-the-road" choice between the MOAB 6 and 10.

It does this by sacrificing plenty of little compartments and loads of webbing. But for a tactical daily carry bag meant to be discrete, you may not find this a problem. Perhaps that's the selling point, here. We thought so, and we grabbed one to compare it to the MOAB series.

Bag Specs

  • Capacity: 9.5 liters / 580 cubic inches
  • Material: 1050D Cordura
  • Ambidextrous? Yes
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: Coal (Black/Gray), Kangaroo (Tan)
  • Dimensions: 15.5"H x 7.5"L x 6.0"D

Big Features

  • Adjustable shoulder strap
  • Water-resistant treatment
  • Reinforced grab handle
  • Hook-and-loop flag patch
  • Simple design - one large pouch
  • Also comes with CCL pocket

Why we like the RAPID:

What could be better?

NOTE FROM SCOTT

- has smaller version for attaching to itself

- better padding on back/shoulder strap

- smaller profile than moab 10

- Easy to swap shoulder sides

- all are ambidextruous

- includes hidden CCL pocket

- works with 5.11 velcro holster


That Sling Bag off Amazon

Admit it: You went there. You searched up "tactical sling bag", hoping to find something good and cheap and reliable and shipped quick. Yah-deh-yah. Prime Shipping. Oooh. Aaaah. But seriously, are any of those offbrand sling bags on Amazon - which, to be fair, do look a lot like a 5.11 bag - worth the cheaper rub? 

Surprisingly, yes. It's called the "Tactical Sling Bag Pack Military Shoulder Sling Backpack EDC" by half a dozen overseas resellers. This bag functions well. We bought one and tried it. It's made from ballistic nylon with decent stitching, a wide and comfortable shoulder strap, plenty of padding and breathable material on the backside, decent storage, and (with some basic clip upgrades) it is quite robust. Even, dare we say, reliable.

Bag Specs

  • Capacity: 20 liters / 1,220 cubic inches
  • Material: 600D ballistic nylon
  • Ambidextrous? Yes
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: ACU, Black, OD Green, Khaki, White Kryptek, Black/Blue Multicam
  • Dimensions: 14" H x 10.5" W x 7.5" D

Big Features

  • Wide, centered shoulder strap
  • Breathable mesh backing
  • Hook-and-loop ID patch
  • One main compartment
  • Two exterior zipper pouches
  • One interior zipper pouch

What's to like about the Amazon Bag?

Price gimmicks aside, the Amazon Sling Bag - we grabbed the relatively popular option made available by the "REEBOW GEAR" Store - does stack up well enough to a basic 5.11 bag. It's compact, surprisingly comfortable thanks to its over-sized strap, and it can hold some weight.

The main compartment's large enough for a laptop, a bagged lunch, and some gym clothes. The smaller compartments easily hold things like a charger, portable stereo, paperwork, and personal items. Notice we're mostly sticking with "daily commuter" things, here. This bag shouldn't be relied upon without making some of your own upgrades, first.

What can make it better?

The Amazon Bag's made from nice material. It feels like 600D ballistic nylon, which is the standard for virtually all "tactical" bags, 1000D+ notwithstanding. The stitching holds up and didn't fray when we used it for a few days on a trip to the tropics. 

But we'd be lying if we said this bag is reliable enough to fit the "tactical" definition: The bottom straps are secured with removable plastic clips that stand a good chance of breaking over time. If you swap out those buckles and clips for your own D-rings and metal fasteners, though, this cheap little Amazon Bag provides a capable, water-resistant alternative to those "name brand" $100 to $200 units.


Propper Bias Sling Backpack

Maybe you're not up for taking a small gamble with The Amazon bag. That's completely understandable. If that's you, just grab the Propper Bias Backpack. It's the same, basic design except it boasts some quality stitching, metal fasteners, robust clips and webbing, and thick ballistic nylon/Cordura. Basically, this is the bag all those Amazon sling packs are copying. 

Bag Specs

  • Capacity: 22 liters / 1,342 cubic inches
  • Material: 600D ballistic nylon
  • Ambidextrous? Yes
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: Gray
  • Dimensions: 20" H x 10.5" W x 8.5" D

Big Features

  • Wide, centered shoulder strap
  • Breathable mesh backing
  • Hook-and-loop ID patch
  • One main compartment
  • Two exterior zipper pouches
  • One interior zipper pouch
  • Available left- or right-handed

What's to like about the Bias?

The Propper Bias provides all the advantages you just read about when we discussed that conglomerate of Amazon bags. Except it's also noticeably larger, providing enough space for a 17" laptop. There's also a hydration pocket for a water bladder and a D-ring for securing your drink hose to the shoulder strap.

A second water bottle pouch rests on the side of the bag with a strawsring, and it boasts four rows of webbing (as opposed to the usual three rows) with hook-and-loop on the top pocket for a velcro name tape, flag, or patch. Most of all, we love the fasteners, overall build quality and construction. 

Anything bad here?

No, not really. The Propper Bias uses a thinner shoulder strap than other bags, so you may find cheaper options with wider straps to be more comfortable if you're carrying a ton of weight. But those large, wide straps can also snag on things and tug on your shirt or jacket. But the shoulder padding on the Bias Bag is more than enough to provide comfort under load.


Best 72-Hour Bags & Assault Packs

When you imagine a tactical backpack, you're probably thinking of an Assault Pack.: A "standard" backpack-sized bag sporting two padded shoulder straps, a chest strap, perhaps the optional cummerbund, and a total capacity of 50 to 100 liters if we ball-park it.

That leaves a ton of options, and many of them simply aren't up for the task. Let's weed through the grit and talk about some reliable assault packs and Go Bags we have personal experience with.

RUSH72 2.0 Backpack (55L)

If knew it was coming. Of course the Rush72 is our first - and arguably best - entrant on this list. It's a bag made and refined over and over by 5.11 Tactical, used and abused by actual operators and paramilitaries globally. The Rush72 gives you exactly what you need for a 72-hour or assault pack, and nothing else.

Backpack Specs

  • Capacity: 55 liters / 3,342 cubic inches
  • Material: 1050D Cordura
  • Attachments: MOLLE / PALS Webbing
  • Available Colors: Black, Ranger Green, Dark Gray, Tan
  • Dimensions (Main Compartment): 23" H x 13.5" L x 8.5" D
  • Dimensions (Left/Right Pocket): 16.5" H x 6" L x 1.75" D
  • Dimensions (Front Pocket): 15.5" H x 11.5" L x 2" D

Main Features

  • Thick, contoured yoke system
  • Wide, padded cummerbund
  • Aluminum "stay bar" for rigidity
  • Rear hydration compartment
  • Also comes with CCL pocket
  • "Shove-it" gusset pocket for helmet or gear

Why we love the Rush72

The 2.0 generation of the RUSH72 maximizes space and capability while providing one of the most comfortable and low-profile tactical backpacks currently available. With 55 liters of space (and plenty of extra space outside for gear using the gusset pocket) the RUSH72 manages to out-match larger, heavier bags for storage. When you need even more space, just slap on as many MOLLE pouches as you need. Thanks to the 72's extensive load-bearing strap and cummerbund setup, the RUSH can easily distribute 50 to 75 pounds of weight without feeling bulky or uncomfortable.

What don't we like about the Rush72?

We did nit-pick, here: Zippers. Maybe our bag just needs to get "worn in", but the zippers, coupled with the relatively tough fabric, can be challenging to open and close single-handedly. They'll probably wear in over time, but you might find yourself yanking and tugging on those drawstrings until you abuse this bag enough to "loosen" it up. But hey, we weren't able to rip any stitching.


5.11 Tactical AMP24 Tactical Bag

Yes, you're probably tired of seeing "5.11" everywhere -- but trust us when we say, this is the tactical bag for folks who hate MOLLE and PALS webbing.The AMP24 is the answer to every operator's request for a backpack that doesn't make him or her look like a Tac Rat in every airport terminal.

At 32 liters (1,950 cubic inches) and sporting a custom "not-MOLLE" web system with thick shoulders, the AMP24 provides more than enough storage carry comfort to qualify as a proper Go Bag, but it ditches the typical rows and rows of webbing for something calle the "HEXGRID". this 9x9-tiled web system works with 5.11 Tactical's Gear Sets: Attachable add-ons (mostly pouches) that function like MOLLE/PALS.

Don't want any webbing? The HEXGRID is removable, making the AMP24 a "slick" bag that truly blends in.

Backpack Specs

  • Capacity: 32 liters / 1,950 cubic inches
  • Material: 500D Cordura
  • Attachments: 9x9 rows/tiles of 5.11 HEXGRIDS
  • Available Colors: Black, Ranger Green, Dark Gray, Tan
  • Dimensions (Main Compartment): 20" H x 11" L x 8" D

Main Features

  • One-compartment "clamshell" design
  • CCL pocket with loop panel for holster
  • HEXGRID provides multi-angle attachment
  • (4) side pockets + (1) bottom stash pocket
  • Laminated with TAC-LAM for water resistance
  • Holds up to a 15" laptop with internal storage

Why we like the AMP24:

The 2.0 generation of the RUSH72 maximizes space and capability while providing one of the most comfortable and low-profile tactical backpacks currently available. With 55 liters of space (and plenty of extra space outside for gear using the gusset pocket) the RUSH72 manages to out-match larger, heavier bags for storage. When you need even more space, just slap on as many MOLLE pouches as you need. Thanks to the 72's extensive load-bearing strap and cummerbund setup, the RUSH can easily distribute 50 to 75 pounds of weight without feeling bulky or uncomfortable.

What the AMP24 can do better:

We did nit-pick, here: Zippers. Maybe our bag just needs to get "worn in", but the zippers, coupled with the relatively tough fabric, can be challenging to open and close single-handedly. They'll probably wear in over time, but you might find yourself yanking and tugging on those drawstrings until you abuse this bag enough to "loosen" it up. But hey, we weren't able to rip any stitching.


Mystery Ranch 2-Day Assault Pack

Mystery Ranch is a tactical backpack company that exploded onto the scene with its line of unique tri-fold assault packs. Enter the Mystery Ranch 2-Day, arguably their most popular choice. This bag manages to stuff 1,650 cubic inches into one, giant pouch. And it does it while offering the wearer smaller dimensions than almost any other tactical bag with the same capacity.

Mystery Ranch's backpacks operate unlike most other assault packs and backpacks. Using one top-opening flap and two side-opening flaps, the 2-Day Pack allows users to merely open the top of the main storage compartment like a conventional bag. But for packing and unpacking - or for truly stretching those 1,650 cubic inches - you can open the main pouch completely, separating it like a clamshell. 

Backpack Specs

  • Capacity: 27 liters / 1,650 cubic inches
  • Material: 500D Cordura
  • Attachments: MOLLE/PALS
  • Available Colors: Black, Tan, Green, Gray, Blue, Woodland Camo
  • Dimensions (Main Compartment): 21" H x 12" W x 11.25" D

Main Features

  • Tri-fold clamshell compartment
  • Integrated lightweight frame
  • Adjustable yoke for comfort
  • Integrated, padded cummerbund
  • Two interior mesh pockets
  • Exterior compression straps
  • Padded 15" laptop sleeve

Why we like the Mystery Ranch Pack:

There are almost no tactical backpacks on the market that check all the boxes like Mystery Ranch: Integrated frame, removable cummerbund, compression straps, tech compartments, hydration pouches, and rough 1,500 to 2,000 cubic inches of capacity without going over two feet in height, or over one foot width or depth. 

In fact you'll be hardpressed to find any other assault pack that provides everything we just listed above, and at a price that's still competitive with most conventional bags. The 2-Day currently prices in at around $220, on par with your typical "gold standard" 5.11 bag.

Things we don't like:

The tri-fold clamshell opening of the Mystery Ranch Backpack has its pros and cons. You'd be correct in giving pause, considering the zippers on the 2-Day Pack are load-bearing: Unlike other packs that rely on a single opening, the Mystery Ranch's zippers are largely responsible for keeping the main compartment together, preventing all your gear from falling out. 

We tested this concern out, and we wouldn't fret much: Mystery Ranch uses YKK zippers with solid lock-up, and we didn't have concerns about a zipper busting after shoving a bag full with a sleeping system, cold-weather gear, and MREs. The main compartment is also kept shut with buckled compression straps. Just make sure you can still close the thing after shoving it full.


Condor 3-Day Assault Pack

Yes, we've heard the Condor rant. But hear us out: Many of us at RangeOften have worked with professional-grade equipment. That includes TA-50; military-issued assault packs and rucksacks. And while gear like 5.11 Tactical is relied upon by "the real operators", there is truly nothing wrong with rocking a cheap, reliable Condor Assault Pack. The truth is, most of us aren't rolling into a combat zone with high-cuts and NVGs in this lifetime (at least not anymore). We probably don't need to spend $750+ on an IR-compliant rucksack.

Backpack Specs

  • Capacity: 50 liters / 3,038 cubic inches
  • Material: 500D Cordura
  • Attachments: MOLLE/PALS
  • Available Colors: Black, Tan, Green, OCP, Kryptek
  • Dimensions (Main Compartment): 22" H x 17" W x 11" D

Main Features

  • Includes 7 supporting pockets
  • Internal dividers and pouches
  • Large "clamshell" main compartment
  • Interior compression straps for soft gear/sleeping bag
  • Hydration pack-compatible (up to 3 liters bladder size)
  • Adjustable padded cummerbund and straps

Why try the Condor Pack?

Condor's equipment makes for a great budget option that won't fall apart at the seems on your first hike or hunt. At below $100, the 3-Day option from Condor comes with all the goodies you'd find for twice the price: Padded cummerbund, Cordura fabric, all the tacticool color options, plenty of webbing, a hydration pouch, and a high weight capacity (at least 50 pounds). Condor even licensed proper Kryptek camouflage and the US military's Scorpion W2 pattern for this bag. Try finding that on some bags from other big brands.

Why question the Condor Pack?

Reputation. Condor still gets complaints about quality control. We picked up a W2-camoflauged Condor Pack (like the one above) and took a look at the stitching, seams, and fabric. We found nothing critical, but there was a stitched pocket corner that looked a little rough. 

Was this stitch work bad enough to claim the Condor would fall apart? No and eventually, all backpacks suffer a bad stitch or loose seam. When Condor's quality control is up to far, their equipment works great. This writer has personally used Condor magazine and radio pouches on his issued gear, no problems. 

For a full assault pack this like, would we trust Condor's quality control in combat? No. But does this pack work for anything else? Absolutely. it is adequate for any overnight hike or extended camping trip, and that's how this writer currently employs this bag. It's comfortable, light, easy to pack and organize, and the straps and cummerbund are durable enough to hold 3 days' worth of food, camp stuff, and cold gear.


Norrøna Recon 125 Synkroflex Pack

Of course we saved the best for last: The Recon 125 from Norrøna is the ultimate tactical backpack: Developed by and for active-duty special forces, the Recon utilizes a full aluminum frame, loads of detachable pockets and straps, plenty of compression straps, large cummerbund, hydration system pouches, all wrapped up in a unique material called ECONYL® yarn. This ballistic nylon-like material provides strength and water resistance, but it saves on the bulk and weight that Cordura bags suffer.

Backpack Specs

  • Capacity: 125 liters / 7,627 cubic inches
  • Material: ECONYL® yarn
  • Attachments: Compression straps, removable pouches
  • Available Colors: Military Green, Caviar Black
  • Dimensions (Main Compartment): 22" H x 17" W x 11" D

Main Features

  • Weighs only 4,674 grams (10 pounds)
  • Adjustable back length and frame
  • Detachable side pockets and top lid
  • Converts into a standard packback
  • Double-dividable main compartment
  • Metal sledgering on hip belt
  • Synkroflex carry system
  • YKK RC zippers

Why we love the Recon 125

Aside from its capacity and build quality, the Recon boasts one of the most capable load-bearing systems on the market. The Synkroflex pack frame provides an external frame with additional rails, a shock-absorbing system, and extra padding for every inch of contact. The carry system on the Recon can be perfectly sized up for any wearer between 67" and 75" in height. The bag advertises a total load capacity of 35 kbs, or 77 pounds.

Why not get the Recon 125?

Cost.The Recon 125 is one of the largest (and most expensive) tactical backpacks available today. It's made to stand up to extreme conditions, like the battlefield or that mountain summit. But if cost is no concern, go for it: The Recon can be converted into a smaller, traditional assault pack, making it one of the best on our list for satisfying just about every application.

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