The tools you bring on a bushcraft expedition play a major role in your ability to survive, so the backpack you use to carry those tools is of equally great importance. We compared 16 tactical backpacks and bags by looking at their durability, storage space, comfort, and more, and in our opinion, the OneTigris Bushcrafter is the best bushcraft backpack out there. It’s made of an ultra-durable water-resistant nylon that can stand up to any abuse you throw at it, it’s lightweight and comfortable to wear, and it has plenty of storage for your accessories as well as MOLLE webbing for any add-ons. Article Summary
There are two types of people who “love” the outdoors – those who occasionally visit state parks in their comfortable motorhome with running water and a pantry full of food, and those who set off into the mountains on foot with nothing but a backpack full of tools.If you’re the bushcraft type, the tools you choose can make or break your experience – but before packing a single blade or fire tender, you need to make sure you have the perfect backpack.
Choosing a bushcraft backpack isn’t like choosing one for work or school. There’s a lot more on the table here. You need one that’s durable so that it can withstand typical outdoor wear and tear as well as unexpected weather changes. You need one that offers a decent amount of space so it can carry knives, ropes, or anything other tools you like to carry when you’re out. And, of course, you need something that’s comfortable to carry! Otherwise, you’re going to be miserable within the first hour of your trip.
With the above needs in mind, we compared 16 tactical packs to find the best bushcraft backpack. We took a close look at materials and construction to determine their levels of durability, and we examined the size and designs of their pockets to see which offered optimal space for the average bushcraft tools. To figure out comfort, we turned to customer reviews and read through hundreds of peoples’ experiences using each backpack from basic day trips to week-long excursions. After scoring each backpack based on these categories, we’d say the following three are the best backpacks for bushcraft.
The best bushcraft backpack overall
If you’re looking for a pack that will stand up to any kind of abuse and hold all of the gear you need (with easy access) without breaking your back, you’ll be hard-pressed to beat the OneTigris Bushcrafter. In case it isn’t obvious from the name, this backpack was literally made with bushcraft in mind, and it’s definitely earned our vote as the best bushcraft backpack available.
Starting with durability, this backpack is made of ultra-durable 1000D nylon. For those who aren’t familiar with fabric specifications, the ‘D’ stands for denier – and the higher the number, the tougher the material (generally speaking). To give you a quick comparison, the average school backpack is in the range of 200-400D nylon, so 1000D is about 3-5 times stronger and means this pack can hold up to tons of outdoor abuse without an issue. As if that wasn’t enough, the material also features a water-resistant coating, keeping your pack dry in any conditions.
As far as storage is concerned, there are three main spaces to store tools along with an expansion pouch that can be clipped onto the side or bottom for extras. The main pack is sized at 20” x 15”, with the front and middle pockets at 15” x 12” and the expansion pouch at 14” x 5.5”. This all totals out to over 50L of storage space (in other words, about 3-4 days’ worth of clothes, tools, and more for the average person). Inside these main pockets are several sub-pockets and sleeves with MOLLE webbing to store every type of accessory you’d want, and there is even a spot for a hydration pack, if you choose to take one (unfortunately, the hydration pack itself isn’t included, but that’s not a deal breaker since those are pretty cheap to buy on their own).
With durability and storage checked off the list, the other important factor to look at is comfort – and this is where the OneTigris really excels. The shoulder straps are padded nicely and wider than average, and on top of that, you’ve got a soft back panel and both sternum and waist straps to help keep the pack securely strapped to you. This makes it very easy to move around in, which is perfect for climbing and other terrain that isn’t just basic trail walking.
Regardless of whether you like short trips or long excursions, the OneTigris Bushcrafter should be at the top of every bushcrafter’s list. It’s super comfortable to wear, it can handle any weather conditions, and it has perfectly-designed storage space for every type of tool you could want to bring.
A bigger, versatile multi-bag setup
If you’re looking for something a little more heavy-duty than the OneTigris pack, the Monkey Paks “Big Monkey” Backpack Bundle would be the perfect alternative for you. With a unique multi-bag setup, this backpack presents an extremely wide array of tactical features that can help you stay hydrated, stay dry and stay mobile while you’re out and exposed to the elements.
Like the OneTigris pack, the Monkey Paks backpack is made of a very durable nylon. It’s only 600D compared to our previous picks’ 1000D, but that’s still about twice as strong as the average backpack, allowing it to stand up to all the regular wear and tear you will experience on your trips. In addition to the tough nylon, the backpack uses large-teeth zippers, which create a more secure hold than standard backpack zippers and again add to its solid durability.
The most interesting thing about this backpack is its versatility, which is one of the key reasons it earned a spot in our list. This backpack isn’t just one piece; it’s actually comprised of four different bags. You have your main bag (aka the actual backpack itself, which has a built-in organizer and four zippered pockets for smaller tools), and attached to the sides and back are three MOLLE bags (two pouches and a small waist bag). This multi-bag functionality is great because it gives you the option to gear up or down depending on the needs of your trip. Bring more when you need to, but stay minimalist when you don’t.
To keep things comfortable, the shoulder straps are padded, and as an added luxury, there’s a 2.5-liter hydration pack with routing out the back so that you can hydrate while on the move. Not many bushcraft backpacks actually come with a hydration pack, so this is definitely a positive for those who’d rather not have to buy this extra. Some customers have addressed some concerns regarding the toughness of the strap’s buckles and stitching, but those same people also said they were able to get replacements from Monkey Paks’ warranty team without any issues, so that’s good. Customer service is an extremely important aspect of any company, so Monkey Paks earns some points there for sure.
Overall, the Monkey Paks “Big Monkey” is a versatile setup that is a great choice for bushcrafters. It’s not quite as durable as the backpack from OneTigris, but its multi-bag system gives you the option to gear up or gear down according to each trip’s unique needs, which is an awesome benefit.
A sturdy bushcraft satchel
For shorter outings, or simply to provide more of a challenge, many bushmen and women prefer to travel lighter. For those that also like an easy, grab-and-go solution for your gear, a satchel is often the best choice. Using a satchel does have some obvious drawbacks compared to a regular backpack setup, but if you prefer this style, the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel is arguably the best choice.
Satchels, first and foremost, are compact. This can be both a benefit and a drawback depending on your specific needs. They do not have the same capacities as backpacks, so they often aren’t good picks for those who are going to be out for several days and require a lot of gear, but on the flip side, this makes them very easy to carry if you’re just doing a quick day trip. In the case of the Helikon-Tex, you’re looking at roughly 25L of storage space spread across two main pockets (one internal and one external), which is half the size of the OneTigris pack for comparison. Don’t worry, though – this bag still features all the usual specialized compartmentalization and plenty of tactical webbing on the outside for knives, flashlights and the rest of your accessories.
Another benefit of satchels is that they make it extremely easy to access your gear. With backpacks, you have to take the time unbuckle your sternum strap, waist strap, and shoulder straps before you can grab whatever tool you need. With satchels, all you have to do is reach your hand down, pull open the zipper, and there are your things. Quick access obviously isn’t the most important thing in the world, but on those rare occasions when you need to grab your knife quickly, it’s less than 10 seconds away. The Helikon-Tex even has built-in sheaths for your blades, so that’s one less thing to worry about.
The biggest drawback to satchel designs, and therefore the biggest drawback to the Helikon-Tex, is that weight isn’t evenly distributed. Even though this satchel has a nice, wide, padded strap, this uneven load distribution can obviously lead to discomfort and even shoulder or back pain over time, especially if don’t switch sides regularly. This is something to keep in mind if you know you typically like to pack a lot of gear. The pack can easily hold 30lbs or more, so strength and durability isn’t an issue, but comfort may be.
For wilderness enthusiasts looking for a more streamlined excursion with a knockaround bag that will last you for years, the Helikon-Tex Bushcraft Satchel is an excellent choice. There are some obvious limitations and comfort concerns to keep in mind, but as long as you’re aware of those ahead of time, you should be completely happy with this bag over your shoulder.
How we picked our top three
There were a number of things we looked at when judging backpacks in order to determine which ones made our top three. Below is a detailed look at the most important metrics so that you can see how we came to our conclusions.
Design and storage
Backpacking with some old backpack you used to put your school books in is a recipe for disaster. Will it hold some of the stuff you need? Of course; however, without dedicated compartments, easy-access pockets and straps designed for comfort, that old backpack isn’t going to be anywhere near as efficient as a backpack designed specifically for bushcraft. Features specific to outdoor expeditions were at the top of our priority list when judging backpacks, and we only picked bags that had a good amount of them. MOLLE pouches, zipper location, strap location, etc. – all of these things are important and played a part in our decision.
You’re bound to encounter all types of abuse in the wild, from regular wear and tear to harsh weather conditions and more. This is why you need the most durable equipment you can get your hands on. The only backpacks that made our top three were bags made out of super-durable materials such as high-denier nylon, ballistic-grade plastic and similar. We ideally also looked for extra protectants like waterproof coatings so that your bag would remain dry during river crossings or unexpected weather changes (our top pick from OneTigris is the only model in our guide to offer such protectant, in case that’s one of your priorities).
Little things can make a huge difference, especially in survival situations. An extra loop here, an extra pouch there, a hidden pocket over yonder – all of these and other small features can add up to make a big difference in the quality of the bag, as well as its usability in the situations it was designed to thrive in. The most notable extra feature we looked for was a spot to store a hydration pack, as this is arguably the most important “extra feature” that most bushcraft bags lack. Hydration packs are better than carrying bottled water because they are more compact, easier to use, and don’t create waste. Both backpack-style bags in our list feature hydration packs, but unfortunately, the satchel’s design doesn’t allow for it.
Things to consider before buying
There are certainly some things to think about before buying to ensure you end up with the best bushcraft backpack for your personal explorations. What type of terrain do you encounter? How long are you out for? To help you cut straight to the chase and find the perfect bag, here are the main things you should ask yourself.
How often do you go on trips?
If you’re an avid outdoors enthusiast who spends a lot of time in the wild, you’re going to need a bag that can stand up to that kind of use and abuse. It’s also a good idea to invest a little more into a bag that has all the necessary features you require or have become accustomed to. On the flipside, if you only go out a couple times a year, an expensive pack that’s built like a tank and jam-packed with special pockets and sheaths might not be totally necessary.
How long are you typically out for?
The length of your trips is also going to be a factor in determining the style and size of your bag. Longer expeditions require more supplies, and in turn, a bigger bag. We recommend trying to find a good balance between size and mobility, because there is a point where a backpack is a bit overkill (as in, it’s way too big and bulky). Expedition length will also define some of the other features, such as strap configuration and hydration options – thinking long-term about these things will put you in a better spot a few days into your outing.
What are your most-used accessories?
If you have a set series of go-to accessories, you’ll want to make sure that they are accessible at all times. Folding saws, pocket knives, canteens, flashlights, fire starters and many other accessories can be convenient to have on hand. Dedicated compartments for these accessories, or quick-access pouches, can be a lifesaver to keep you from rummaging around for your essentials. Looking for a bag with these features, situated in a configuration that jives with you, can make a big difference in your time in the wilderness.
Must-have bushcraft tools and accessories
There are a lot of things you’re going to need if you want to be ready for all of the twists and turns mother nature can throw at you when you’re out in the wild. However, the spirit of bushcraft has its base in still being able to travel light and make do with what little you have. If you’re a beginner to survival trips and the outdoors, here are some must-have accessories that will help you get by during your time in the wilderness.
Knife (or knives)
A good knife is standard-issue equipment for an outdoor expedition. This will be your saw, your scissors, your hatchet, your hammer and even your fork. There are a ton of great survival knives out there, so take some time to compare blades and find one that’s compact yet versatile.
Whichever type of water purifier you prefer, you’ll need to have a way to make water drinkable if you’re going to be out for a few days and you’re carrying limited water. The right water purifier can be an actual life-saver should you get lost or end up in a tight situation where hydration is an issue. There are plenty of water bottles with built-in filters available, but if you want a more compact solution, the LifeStraw is an incredible little tool with a super-efficient filter.
Being afraid of the dark is something that many people outgrow; however, in the wilderness, the dark can be a much scarier place. Finding your way safely, signaling for help, and identifying sources of noise in the dark are all extremely necessary, and they are only achievable with a light. Be sure to use something well-built as opposed to some cheap flashlight from Walmart.
Wrapping it up
Going out on wilderness expeditions will give you practical survival skills, experience fending for yourself in harsh environments, and a very fair amount of exercise. The very nature of bushcraft involves being prepared, and getting a solid backpack and filling it with essential accessories is the best way to do that. Each of the picks in our guide met our strict standards for durability and comfort, and each has the necessary storage to fit common bushcraft tools like knives, flashlights, fire starters, and more. All you need to do now is figure out which style fits your needs and you’ll be ready to roll.