Best Bushcraft Backpacks for Survival Situations


In a hurry? Our top pick for the best bushcraft backpack is the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 Pack.

While there are a few folks who can survive in the wild with nothing more than a sharp knife and even sharper wit, most of us need some extra gear to get started. A solid backpack, no matter the size, is just as important as anything you might be shoving inside of it – a truth that I find most people overlook. So, if you value durability, comfort, and organizational power, I have a feeling you’ll resonate with many of the backpacks listed out in the following review.

In this article, we’ll be reviewing the following best bushcraft backpacks:

Capacity

man carrying a backpack uphill into the sunlight

Very few survivalists will be able to live off the contents of a 20 liter pack, if they’re embarking on a multi-week trip. Inside a backpack that small, there would only be enough room for the bare essentials to help tide them over until they reach a location with more supplies. Which is to say, any product that falls within the 20-30 liter range is perfect for an overnighter or as a simple grab bag.

Something larger, like a pack with a 60 liter capacity, is more ideal for a week (or multi-week) adventure into the wilderness. Inside of it, there will be enough room to store supplies to tide you over until you can establish a basecamp somewhere more permanent. At that point, you should be able to source your own food and water, perhaps keeping only a few bare necessities inside the backpack for emergencies.

Weight

It doesn’t matter if you’re backpacking, mountaineering, or partaking in the art of wilderness living, a heavy backpack is going to be a pain in your neck. Literally.

A few of the packs we mention below weigh in excess of 5 pounds. And that’s just the weight of the backpack, not including everything that you plan to stuff it with. When you’re hiking deep into the wilderness for several hours at a time, trust me when I say you’ll notice the extra weight – even if it’s only another pound or two.

Of course, the game you play is finding the balance between weight and durability. Thick canvas material and sturdy metal buckles ensure that your backpack will last awhile, despite being exposed to a harsh environment. But the durability of a material is often positively correlated with its weight, which is to say that when one goes up, the other will too. Finding a happy middle ground is crucial when looking for the best bushcraft backpack.

Durability

gray rucksack on rocky ground

Before we move on, I’d like to expand upon this topic of durability. It’s one of the more important features to pay attention to, since it directly relates to your backpack’s ability to do its job: carrying your gear. When you’re deep into a survival expedition, you might not have the time or resources to fix a broken strap, sew together a hole, or mend a snapped buckle. Any one of these problems could be devastating, putting your backpack out of commission, depending on how bad the damage is.

When looking at materials, there are some notable pros and cons to consider. Cotton and canvas are tear and abrasion resistant, holding up better than most materials over the course of time. However, they also absorb water like no one’s business. Assuming your pack isn’t properly waterproofed, this oversaturation could lead to hypothermia, chafing, and damaged gear.

Synthetics, like nylon and polyester, are usually the gold standard when it comes to weather resistance. They work well to repel moisture, but they lack some of the durability that you’ll find with canvas.

Overall, the general thought is that you can make canvas waterproof, but you can’t make synthetics tearproof. That being said, canvas is usually the material of choice when survivalists purchase a backpack. It’s unmatched in its ability to withstand the onslaught of stray branches, sharp rocks, and excessive wear and tear, giving you the best bang for your buck.

Water Resistance

As we just mentioned, synthetics are going to do a better job at repelling water than canvas. However, modern canvas isn’t what it used to be, having come a long way in its ability to withstand heavy rain showers. While I’d say that it still doesn’t perform as well as synthetics, it will be good enough for what most of you would use it for. Generally speaking, I imagine very few of you will find yourselves in an environment so saturated with water that canvas will pose a problem. And on the off chance that you do end up somewhere like that, I’d play it safe and go with synthetics.

Price

man in yellow coat carrying a backpack

Of course, we can’t talk about outdoor gear without mentioning one of the most important factors of all – price. A few that we’ve mentioned below are surprisingly affordable, hanging out well under the $100 mark. Others are going to run up your bill quite a bit, and you may want to skip over those if you’re on a tight budget.

I would just caution you that the price of a backpack is closely correlated to its quality. Getting a budget backpack might make you feel good in the short term, but after you get some use out of it, you’ll likely find that it wasn’t worth the savings. Don’t skimp out on such an important piece of gear. If you can’t afford it now, wait to buy a bushcraft backpack until you can.

The Best Bushcraft Backpacks – Reviewed

Mystery Ranch 2 Day Assault Pack

From personal experience, I find that there are few things better than a good Mystery Ranch backpack. They really had quality on their mind when they designed the Assault Pack, making it from durable nylon with a sturdy, plastic frame. The size and materials help keep the weight down to a modest 3 pounds, which isn’t too bad for a pack with a 27 liter capacity.

With a generous amount of Molle on the back, you’ll have plenty of options to choose from when you want to hang some gear. While it was created with urban use in mind, it’s perfect for hiking and bushcraft purposes as well. You don’t necessarily need to use the laptop and iPad sleeves for their intended purposes either, as they make good places to store food items or clothes.

Given the size of the pack, it’s ideal for overnight or weekend excursions. You can shove enough inside of it to get by for a couple days, but anything longer than that might be a struggle, unless you’re a well-seasoned survivalist.

Of course, you don’t just have to use this pack for bushcraft purposes. Its size fits airplane requirements for carry-on luggage, allowing you to bring it for work or pleasure wherever you go.

Pros:Cons:
DurableZippers can be a little tricky
Plenty of Molle
Fits carry-on requirements for airplanes
Compression straps take in unused volume
Adjustable harness

Frost River Isle Royale Bushcraft Backpack

The first canvas backpack on our list, the Frost River Isle Royale pack might be a little expensive, but it’s definitely worth the price. With a touch of buckskin leather here and there, it’s a luxurious product that feels good to hold onto and is extremely durable. There isn’t a hint of plastic in the whole thing, giving you the quality that you need for an extended expedition.

It comes in three different sizes, ranging from 18 liters to 45 liters. Whether as a day pack or something you’ll take on longer trips, there’s an option that will give you the right amount of storage space for your needs. And trust me when I say that you’ll have no trouble fitting all of your gear inside. I’ve had 45 liter packs before, but that size in the Isle Royale just feels so much bigger when fully expanded.

The high-quality leather straps and brass buckles let you secure and compress the backpack without issue. There’s an ax sleeve and multiple outer compartments for additional gear storage. If you need them, you can make use of several brass D rings and a map compartment as well. All that being said, having enough space is going to be the least of your worries with this backpack.

All Frost River products are made in the USA, specifically in Duluth, Minnesota, the state that I call home. There’s a notable difference in quality between the Isle Royale’s and other backpack brands that are manufactured in China, which is just another reason why I’m a big fan of this product.

Pros:Cons:
Made in the USAPrice
Durable canvas and leather
Plenty of storage space
Expandable
Comfortable

HUNTVP Military Rucksack

To put it one way, the HUNTVP rucksack is very affordable. To put it another way, you’re going to find that out that it’s cheap for a reason. There are plenty of things to complain about with this rucksack, but before we get into that, let’s start with the good.

As a 40 liter pack, the size is decent, and suitable for a weekend trip out to a base camp. Several storage compartments give you space to pack your gear, including the main compartment, a place for a water bladder, a few odd and end pockets, and a moderate amount of molle on the outside. It’s nothing too impressive, but it does get the job done.

In terms of durability, it seems like the manufacturer’s claims are mostly accurate. The stitching seems to be well done, and the material itself is better than average. Certainly not the same quality as the Frost River Isle Royale, but then again, they’re in two completely different price ranges.

Alright, now onto what I don’t like about the pack. First, you might remember me saying that there’s a special compartment for a water bladder. That’s all well and good, but there isn’t a convenient way to get any tubing out of the pack and up to your mouth. That pretty much nullifies the benefits of a water bladder in the first place, making the space pretty useless if you wanted to use it for its intended purpose.

The waterproofing on the pack is also questionable. While the description of the product indicates that it’s waterproof, that seems to be a case of false advertising. To a point, it’s water resistant, but it’s quite the stretch to say that it’s waterproof. I would keep it out of the water as much as possible.

Pros:Cons:
Good sized compartmentsNot exactly waterproof
Fairly durableDoesn’t really work with a hydration pack
Very affordable
Comfortable fit
Versatile

Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 Pack

The first time I slung the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 over my shoulders, I couldn’t believe how comfortably it fit. I mean, at first glance, it doesn’t look all that impressive, but the padding is more than adequate for its size. And though it is somewhat small, there’s plenty of space to store some food, water, a knife, fire starter, and other essentials. The Rip-Zip opening certainly made it easy for me to grab my gear without a hitch when the trail offered unexpected surprises.

From a durability and waterproof perspective, this pack is capable of withstanding just about any weather condition. The urethane zippers and durable fabric provide enough protection to keep my gear dry until I could make shelter – and that protection extended to a more urban (or suburban, in my case) setting as well. Walking to the coffee shop with my laptop, I don’t have to worry about anything getting ruined if I get caught in a freak rain shower.

That being said, I’d be lying if I said the snug outer pockets were fun to navigate. My wallet and keys really like to get stuck in there, and my hand is big enough where it’s not easy to pull them out. On top of that, given its smaller size, I had to be careful about what I chose to carry. Still, for those who appreciate a tactical edge in an urban-friendly package, the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck 24 stands tall amidst the bushcraft backpacks I’ve explored.

Pros:Cons:
Quick access to compartments enhances convenienceOuter pockets can be snug for larger hands
Robust construction withstands rigorous usePremium price point might not fit all budgets
Versatile for both urban and field environments
Perfect size for a shorter trip into the bush
Sleek design

Maxpedition Condor Backpack

A pack sporting more of a militaristic design, the Maxpedition Condor-II doesn’t just carry your gear – it protects it. With a solid build, I’ve found that this backpack is practically second to none when it comes to withstanding the rough treatment of bushcraft and outdoor activities. And despite its appearance, I’m sufficiently impressed by its storage space and organizational pockets, helping to keep any essentials accessible and secure.

I know some people have mixed feelings when it comes to MOLLE webbing, but I find it to be useful for a variety of circumstances. As someone who likes to keep things as accessible as possible, hanging as many items from the outside of my pack as possible is something I always try to do. When paired with all the pouches and pockets, the MOLLE has got you covered for gear storage.

I don’t have any complaints about the comfort, either. Even on multi-day treks, the wide shoulder straps (coupled with the ventilated back) make it comfortable to carry throughout the journey.

Still, just looking at the price tag, it’s a bushcraft backpack that will stretch some of your budgets. Those who carry lighter loads might also find this pack to be overkill. But, when pitted against its peers, the Maxpedition Condor-II stands out for its rugged endurance. Other bags might weigh less or cost less, but few are able to rival its capacity to take a beating and keep on trekking. I’ve stuffed it, dropped it, and put it through the wringer—it’s quite literally a tank in backpack form.

Pros:Cons:
Exceptional durabilityMight be too bulky for minimalists or day hikers
Comfortable to carry even when fully loadedHydration bladder sold separately
Spacious main compartment and multiple pockets for organization
MOLLE webbing for additional storage
Good weight

MT Military Alice Rucksack

In case you’re not familiar with the terminology, an “ALICE” pack is an all-purpose lightweight individual carrying equipment backpack. It’s a style of pack that the military adopted, which means it’s perfect for off-grid, bushcraft experiences.

The material sports a 1000 denier – beyond that, do I really need to say more? Durability will be the least of your worries, even if you like to play rough with your gear. Abrasions and abuse don’t leave a dent in the MT Military Rucksack. I’m also a fan of the padding on the straps, which really helped to ease the burden of my (somewhat) hefty load. Not to mention, the quick-release buckle was a godsend when I needed to shed weight fast during an impromptu river crossing.

However, when you first get your hands on the pack, getting the configurations right will take some time. The ALICE system is impressive but does come with a learning curve. Still, it’s a learning curve worth working through, since porting gear will become much more efficient. The number and placement of pockets means everything vital is always within arm’s reach, which is useful during a variety of weather conditions.

That being said, the weight is something to consider. While I don’t mind the extra pounds (because they translate to a sturdier build), those of you using the bag for more laid-back hikes might prefer something lighter. Compared to other backpacks I’ve reviewed, this one is definitely for the serious bushcrafter or military enthusiast; its features and build quality are definitely overkill for a casual day hikes or urban commuters.

Pros:Cons:
Rugged build withstands the rigors of outdoor lifeThe initial setup might be a bit complicated
The pack’s capacity is ample for extended tripsPotential overkill for casual day hikes
Versatile ALICE system compatibility for customization
Good padding on the straps
Meant for hardcore use

Gregory Men’s Baltoro 75 Pack

There comes a point in time when you have to look at your rucksack and think, “You know, 25 liters just isn’t enough anymore.”

And when you come to that realization, the Gregory Baltoro 75 pack will be there waiting for you. Made from sturdy 630 denier nylon, dense forests and sharp rocks are unlikely to put a nick in this pack. But on top of durability, the Baltoro also excels in comfort, featuring a foam back and an A3 suspension that lets you tweak the fit until it feels like a part of your body. Needless to say, this backpack isn’t just about surviving the elements; it’s about making your journey more enjoyable. After hoisting a (roughly) 30-pound load, I had no complaints about how evenly the weight was distributed, sparing my shoulders and back from the usual strain.

Despite the larger size, the Baltoro won’t hold you back. It’s flexible and has no trouble squeezing through tight spaces or under low hanging branches. That being said, as you might expect from the size, this is complete overkill for weekend bushcrafters. I’d only recommend taking something this large if you plan on spending a couple of weeks in the bush – or if you need a lot of specialized gear for winter survival.

Pros:Cons:
Spacious and tough design withstands the wildernessHeftier than some might like for shorter outings
Suspension system comfortably distributes weightHip pockets can feel a tad too snug
Ample padding makes extended wear a breeze
Great customization
Best for longer trips

Final Thoughts

Finding the right bushcraft backpack doesn’t have to be a painful experience. I’ve found all of the backpacks listed above to be more than adequate for the task, especially if you’re able to tailor the capacity to fit the length of your trip. That being said, I do find that the Mystery Ranch Rip Ruck pack is one of the best overall, especially from a utility perspective. For both bushcraft and daily life, it’s an effective way to comfortably carry your belongings in any weather condition, without worrying about the gear inside.


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Jason Strohl

Jason Strohl

An introvert at heart, Jason has spent most of his life exploring the outdoors as a way to escape the rush of daily life. When it came time to go to college, he got his BS in Psychology because of his desire to help people in every aspect of life. Now he takes his expertise to The Daily Survivalist in order to teach even more people how to make it through the challenges we see, as well as the ones we don't.

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