tactical backpack

The Best Survival Backpack

There are numerous options out there that fit into the category of survival back packs. The best survival backpack is the one that meets your needs, fits your size, carries your necessities and matches your circumstances. We are tall and short, live in warm and cool climates, have larger and smaller survival kits and have different styles. So one size doesn’t fit all.

However, we can give you some insights about finding the best backpack for your survival situation and will leave you with suggestions of excellent backpacks that may work for you. Always keep in mind that your best survival backpack may well be different from your neighbor’s, spouse’ and best friend’s.

To find the best survival backpack for your needs, begin by assessing your situation beginning with your survival backpack contents. For the purposes of this analysis, consider your needs for 3 day kits and 5 day kits. Once you’ve established a base gear list, for longer periods you are likely able to simply multiply these basics.

Our Top List: The Best Survival Backpacks

Best Overall Survival Backpacks: 

BLACKHAWK! Lightweight Phoenix Pack

Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG

Best 5 Day Survival Backpack: 

Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

Best 3 Day Survival Backpack: 

5.11 Tactical Rush 12 EDC

North Face Jester

Best Survival Backpack Kit: 

Prepper’s Favorite Complete Get Home Bag

Scroll down to read our detailed reviews on each of these items, but you can check out the current prices and read customer reviews on Amazon by clicking the links above.

Survival Backpack Buying Guide

Survival Backpack Contents

Perhaps you have often visualized your bug-out situation or perhaps you have only imagined yourself on the road. With whom are you traveling? Your pack, your child’s pack and your mother-in-law’s pack will not have the same contents; no two of those people can carry the same load.

The very best way to do uncover what you will need to carry is to actually assemble the contents of your 5 day survival pack. Examine your supplies. What do you want in outside pockets for easy access? Is this a substantial category? Will you carry some items on your person, such as a knife? What order would you use to pack, keeping fragility in mind?

Estimate the weight of your contents and continue the analysis.

Maximizing Comfort

You likely won’t actually be comfortable. After all, you are anticipating an emergency, carrying what you need probably in the company of less able, even less responsible people.

In the comfort category, therefore, we are stacking the deck to ensure you are as little discomfort as possible while carrying a backpack.

We consider three design aspects support the highest level of comfort: Internal frame, padded shoulder straps and padded waist support. You need all three and here’s why:

Internal Frame

External frames are all but dead because internal frame packs have taken over. Framed backpacks are better able to distribute the load so your pack feels lighter. Couple that with the internal framed packs being more durable since the frame isn’t exposed to the weather and the interior frame is a must have.

external frame backpackHaolenate

Padded Shoulders

A no brainer, but the challenge is finding well-padded, well-designed padded shoulder straps. Even the smallest Sponge Bob backpack for kindergartners has padded shoulder straps, but you want padding that will preserve your shoulders and arms. You’re going to need your muscles for more than just getting away so you want to do all you can to ensure they answer when required.

Padded Waist Support

Hiking backpacks don’t work quite the same way as a school backpack does.  A school backpack is supported 100% by your shoulders, while hiking backpacks that are fitted correctly actually spread the load out across both your shoulders and your hips.  Because of this, a padded waist support is very important. Waist supports that aren’t padded end up rubbing against you and can lead to some pain over the course of a longer hike.

Water Resistant

Get the rain guard; no matter how water resistant your pack is, extra protection from moisture will improve your success. There is no waterproof pack, but here again you can improve your odds by adding appropriate waterproofing.

Another good way to protect your contents is to pack everything in plastic bags. The bags themselves may turn out to be useful and if you drop your pack in a stream or pool, you have that bit of extra protection.

If you take the additional step of inflating the bags, it will add buoyancy, further protecting your supplies from damage.

No amount of waterproofing is wasted.

backpack with rainflyPublic Domain


Another tough category; how do you like your pants to fit? Baggy, tight, low or high waist? This is a personal preference. Unfortunately, what you cannot do is carry your assembled kit to Camping or Survival World, pack it into all the backpacks you are considering in turn until you find the perfect fit; such places frown on that behavior.

What you can do is go out and try ‘em on. The dimensions, balance and strap placement is different in almost every model. This process takes time, but it is time well spent. For one thing, it exposes you to the wealth of supplies out there to assist your survival. For another, there is nothing like actually feeling the material, pulling on the seams and judging for yourself if the outlay is reflected in the quality of the product.


I know you’re thinking camouflage, but that is actually not what we recommend here. The key disadvantage of camo is that it labels you as one who is prepared or is a hunter that probably has some outdoor skills. In many situations, that is a good thing, but in a survivalist situation, it might attract unwelcome attention or even violence. Pick solid black, dark blue, dark green – most of the big makers of appropriate backpacks offer them in such colors; avoid the hot pinks, dancing elephants in tutus and roaring yellow – they are another way of attracting the wrong element.

Best Overall Survival Backpack

BLACKHAWK! Lightweight Phoenix Pack

Weighing in at about 2.5 pounds, this super cool backpack is built to take the punishment you hand out. Multiple rows of S.T.R.I.K.E webbing enable you to attach almost anything you want at hand; with 2175 cubic inches capacity, you can pack everything but the piano in here and for durability and comfort – relative comfort – this is very highly rated. It’s a bit of an investment, but the quality is worth it.

Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG

The Osprey Men’s Atmos 65 AG is a close second in this category, sharing many features and durability, but ranking a little lower because of size; you really do need manly dimensions for this design to work for you.

Best 5 Day Survival Backpack

Condor 3 Day Assault Pack

In contrast to the name, the Condor 3 Day Assault Pack may be a good match for your 5 day survival backpack category. You get the necessary padded shoulder straps with sternum strap for greater comfort and balance, hydration pocket, d-rings for attaching equipment and durable carry and drag handle – this is too often under designed; we all have to carry and may have to drag our packs and this feature ensures that possibility. The multi-pocket system is an excellent way to preserve important supplies, and the back is padded for additional comfort.

Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack

For people who must take the kitchen sink even on a 5 day outing, examine the Maxpedition Falcon-II Backpack. You get a great, interesting, useful pack with 1520 cubic inches of storage, durability for nearly any adventure and design elements common to much more expensive packs such as multiple ways for exterior storage, reinforced stress points and Teflon fabric coating.

Best 3 Day Survival Backpack

5.11 Tactical Rush 12 EDC

For a smaller backpack, we suggest the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 backpack. As far as bang for your buck, this is a great investment. It’s an excellent, hard-wearing backpack with 16 pockets, hydration pocket, MOLLE wrap-around system and many other features.

North Face Jester

Another excellent option in this category is the North Face Jester; don’t discount this because North Face has become the new fashion icon. This giant of the outdoors still remembers its roots and this pack can be an excellent emergency/bug out bag, particularly for smaller people.

Best Survival Backpack Kit

Prepper’s Favorite Complete Get Home Bag

For those of you interested in a pre-packed bag stocked by experts in the survival business, we like the Prepper’s Favorite Complete Get Home Bag; there is no point in describing the many attributes of this bag when you can get the details by following the link, but for a small investment you can purchase peace of mind. Keep one in the car, maybe gift the college kids with one, and sleep easy knowing that you have prepared your family. The contents of this bag will help keep you alive; it won’t have your favorite jeans, 5 pair of underwear and your sub-zero coat, but for addressing a real emergency, this is a cornucopia.

No backpack defines your survival; that depends on your mental preparedness, the luck of the draw, and much, much more, but we always want to tweak the odds in our favor as much as possible, and backpacks are no small part of that tweak.

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