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Published May 25, 2022 2:19 PM

Sometimes, you just need an EDC backpack. Sure, you can fit your knife, keys, phone, and wallet into your pockets, but you’re a natural Boy Scout, always prepared with a full EDC loadout. (Ok, so maybe you’re a Coastie. Almost the same thing, right?) Water bottle? Check. First aid kit? Got it. Rain jacket? Probably a good idea. Pen and paper? Yep. iPad? Of course. The latest title from the Task & Purpose reading list? Duh. Unfortunately, none of that’s gonna fit in your pockets without turning you into a board-certified dork. (Boot much?)

No one needs a 55-liter rucksack to pack around their daily essentials, but sometimes, you do need a pack. You need something that can take a daily beating. You need something that’ll go everywhere without looking like a Jansport that lost a match with the washing machine. So, we’ve found (and tested) the best EDC backpacks on today’s market to get you what you need without all the fuss and bother of doing it yourself.

How we tested

Testing EDC backpacks is simple and complex all at once, so to evaluate these packs, I had to put in a good bit of effort to get a good sense for what each bag could handle. Each bag rode along with me for a solid week or more as I hit the road, went to the coffee shop, and generally lived life in, around, and out of town. 

The loadout was the same each time: a full-size first aid kit, a Level IIIa ballistic panel, snacks, eyewear, an OBDII reader, writing utensils, and a handful of other odds and ends. Since it’s springtime in the Rockies, I also packed in a rain jacket, down jacket, hat, and other weather-appropriate gear, depending on the day. If the pack in question had a laptop sleeve, my laptop was sure to hitch a ride, and if it included a CCW pouch, I gave it a good going over with my eyes, hands, brain, and a handy (unloaded) subcompact.

Each time I packed a new bag, I paid close attention to each one’s design layout, organizational options, and ease of access. I checked to see how easy I could “rip” open the main compartment single-handedly, and I adjusted each pack to evaluate how much of a “custom” fit it could provide. I also conducted a stuff test which entailed packing heavy coats and jackets into the pack to the point of bulging and tossing the stuffed goose, er, bag around to see how well the seams and zippers could take the strain.

Choosing a single EDC backpack as the best overall is no small chore, but that said, the Arc’teryx Mantis 26 managed to impress us despite many tough challengers. No other pack we tested could combine comfort, features, weight, and build quality quite as well as the Mantis 26.

Only one pack can match the weight-to-cargo capacity ratio of this Arc’teryx offering, but it lacked the 26-liter capacity of this bag. Despite its rigid weight-distributing back panel and selection of features, this bag tips the scales at just 2.06 pounds, and it sports a non-removable hip belt to further disperse the weight of a fully loaded backpack.

The Mantis 26 includes a strong selection of organizational pockets, pouches, sleeves, and more with virtually everything you’d need and nothing you don’t. The hydration bladder pouch doubles as a laptop sleeve and the dual water bottle pouches can fit wide 32- and 40-ounce stainless steel Takeya water bottles, although barely. The shoulder straps are well-padded and are easily adjustable for a comfortable fit. Best of all, the pack is so narrow your range of motion is practically unimpeded.

Other than the slightly high price tag, our only real complaint with this Arc’teryx bag is the lack of a CCW pouch. It does have two slit pockets that could be pressed into CCW service, but you can be sure a firearm will print badly without a jacket or other padding to soften its profile.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 26 liters
  • Weight: 2.06 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Hydration bladder pouch, dual water bottle pouches
  • Electronics sleeve: Laptop
PROS

Lightweight for size

Very good weight distribution features (rigid back panel and hip belt)

Very good organization

Lots of space without the bulk; doesn’t impede range of motion

CONS

A little pricey

Lacks dedicated CCW storage solution

When bang for your buck matters more than fancy features and cool looks, the Samurai Tactical Wakizashi comes through. This EDC backpack packs in plenty of practical and semi-tactical elements while sparing your wallet.

With 24 liters of cargo capacity, the Wakizashi offers loads of space for all your EDC gear and then some. For a budget pack, it incorporates a respectable number of sleeves, pockets, and pouches. At 2.5 pounds, it’s no lightweight, but it boasts both a water-resistant hydration bladder pouch and a single water bottle pouch.

Outside, it boasts abundant PALS webbing for MOLLE lovers, an adjustable sternum strap, and quick-release shoulder straps should you ever find yourself needing a fast escape from tangle gear. The padding and ventilation on the back panel are surprisingly comfortable for all but the heaviest loadouts. Despite all these features, it lacks excess bulk, a definite pro for everyday carry.

Of course, nothing lacks tradeoffs, and this Samurai Tactical pack is no exception. Most EDC packs include either an electronics sleeve and many feature a dedicated CCW storage slot. The Wakizashi incorporates nothing of the kind. This bag is a budget pack, and that shows a bit in the build and material quality. Finally, it lacks a true clamshell design which can make accessing bottom-dwelling gear a little challenging. Still, the Wakizashi’s bang for the buck is hard to beat.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Weight: 2.5 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Hydration bladder pouch, single water bottle pouch
  • Electronics sleeve: None
PROS

Affordable

Good value

Good selection of features

Lots of cargo space

CONS

Lacks electronics sleeve, dedicated CCW storage solution

Not the most durable/highest build quality

Does not allow for easy access to entire main compartment (not a clamshell design)

Editor’s Choice

Most modern EDC sling packs lack the grit to tough it out in hard conditions, but the 5.11 Tactical LV10 is no ordinary sling pack. In fact, this bag was a top contender for this group’s Editor’s Choice award despite it not being a true backpack.

Since sling packs by nature do not distribute weight well, the LV10 is a 13-liter pack that sports a very wide, well-padded, and easily adjustable shoulder strap to mitigate the physical stresses that many sling packs deliver. At 2.1 pounds, this 5.11 bag is no lightweight, but it is built to last thanks to its water-resistant 840D nylon construction and tough build quality.

Designed with prepared individuals in mind, this bag includes great organizational options and a wealth of practical features. In addition to a dedicated CCW compartment, the LV10 boasts a surprising number of storage and organization solutions, including internal and external pockets, an electronics sleeve, multiple internal hook-and-loop panels, internal MOLLE-compatible webbing, and an external water bottle pouch. Cinch straps and a sternum strap provide extra security, while glove-friendly zippers and multiple carry handles round out the package.

For its size, the LV10 is a bit heavy. Due to its size, this 5.11 pack has limited cargo capacity and will not accommodate most laptops. The other downside is that the shoulder strap cannot be reoriented for left shoulder carry. While the price tag is unappealing at first glance, the 5.11 Tactical LV10 provides a good bang for the buck.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 13 liters
  • Weight: 2.1 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Water bottle pouch
  • Electronics sleeve: Small laptop
PROS

Very good storage and organization

Convenient, well-designed layout

Built like a tank

Great for grab-and-go use

CONS

Heavy for its size

Limited cargo capacity does not accommodate many laptops

Only one sling orientation (right-shoulder only)

Best Lightweight

In terms of weight, no EDC backpack comes close to challenging the Osprey Daylite. We loved this pack so much, it made the battle for Editor’s Choice a knock-down, drag-out fight. It tips the scales at a mere 1.09 pounds, but this featherweight pack punches well above its class.

This affordable 13-liter backpack covers all the essentials for most EDC applications and can handle a surprising amount of weight without straining the wearer’s back and shoulders. The pack’s back panel contains a stiff foam panel with ventilation cutouts and a mesh covering on the exterior to provide a load-bearing structure and maximize cooling. The Daylite also includes a sternum strap and hip belt to further distribute the load. In terms of durability, this Osprey pack is decently robust for such a lightweight backpack, passing our stuff test with ease.

The main compartment houses a dual-purpose pouch to accommodate the user’s choice of either a hydration reservoir or up to a 13-inch laptop. The smaller secondary features two pockets and a key lanyard. Each side of the pack sports external water bottle pouches for increased storage.

The Daylite does fall short in a couple of noteworthy ways. Most notably, its payload capacity and organizational features are limited, and the main compartment does not fully open like many clamshell-style packs. For those who carry, it’s also worth mentioning that this lacks a CCW pouch. That said, while no pack is perfect, the Osprey Daylite does well as an EDC pack despite these drawbacks.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 13 liters
  • Weight: 1.09 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Hydration bladder pouch, dual water bottle pouches
  • Electronics sleeve: 13-inch laptop
PROS

Affordable

Very lightweight

Relatively high degree of internal structure

Comfortable, plenty of ventilation

CONS

Limited cargo capacity, organization

Main compartment does not fully open

Lacks dedicated CCW storage solution

Few names carry the weight of respect associated with 5.11 Tactical’s RUSH series, so it comes as no surprise that the 5.11 Tactical RUSH12 2.0 earns a place on this list. For overtly tactical applications, the RUSH12 2.0 simply cannot be beaten.
This 5.11 pack is virtually indestructible, relying on highly water-resistant 1050D nylon, heavy-duty zippers, and lots of high-quality stitching to help it outlast an Abrams. With a clamshell design and 24 liters of cargo space and tons of pockets, pouches, and sleeves, this pack can handle virtually any loadout thrown at it.

The RUSH12 2.0 boasts a hydration bladder pouch, a laptop sleeve, and a very secure CCW pouch in addition to more subtle add-ons, such as a sternum strap, quick release shoulder straps, and glove-friendly zipper pulls. Generous amounts of nylon webbing and a few well-considered hook-and-loop panels make this pack truly customizable. Despite all these features, the pack barely impedes the wearer’s range of motion, a huge plus in our book.

The biggest knocks against this pack are its weight, CCW pouch, and price tag. At 3.15 pounds, this pack will never let you forget you’re wearing it. We didn’t care much for the CCW pouch as access is difficult, noisy, and impractical. That said, it’s a decent option for a backup weapon, especially since it’s well-hidden and reasonably secure.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Weight: 3.15 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Hydration bladder pouch
  • Electronics sleeve: Laptop
PROS

Tough and durable as they come

Very good organization features

Very good range of motion

Good selection of tactical features

CONS

Heavy

A little pricey

Impractical, noisy, difficult-to-open CCW slot pouch placement

Best for Concealed Carry

Looking for a little CCW magic? The Eberlestock Little Trick packs plentiful surprises sure to put a grin on your face. While plenty of EDC backpacks integrate a dedicated CCW slot pouch into their design, few hold a candle to this bag’s capabilities.

Like any good tactical pack, the Little Trick will endure years of heavy use and abuse due to Eberlestock’s use of touch materials and durable construction techniques. The pack boasts tons of advantageous features, including a profusion of pockets and pouches, excellent organizational elements, good ventilation, generous padding, and glove-friendly zipper pulls. It also sports thin external PALS webbing as well as standard-width Velcro-faced webbing inside.

The Little Trick boasts a laptop sleeve compatible with 17-inch machines and high-capacity hydration reservoirs as well as a file folder that will accept ballistic armor panels. Another major highlight is the CCW slot pouch inside the back panel with its rare-earth magnetic closures and integrated handgun and magazine sleeves. Best of all, the Little Trick includes a bottom panel-mounted zipper which expands the pack and turns the multi-purpose electronics sleeve into a scabbard large enough to accommodate PDWs, SBRs, and other long guns up to 23.5 inches in overall length. Talk about concealed carry!

Sadly, this Eberlestock pack has its drawbacks with the high price tag being the most obvious. On the scale, the Little Trick isn’t so little, coming in at a burly 3.56 pounds. The CCW slot pouch also lacks a holster or security strap, although the pack does a pretty decent job of funneling handguns back into place should they bounce loose.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 18.5 liters
  • Weight: 3.56 pounds
  • Hydration solutions: Hydration bladder pouch, dual water bottle pouches
  • Electronics sleeve: 17-inch laptop
PROS

Tough, durable construction

Very good organization

Expandable main compartment can store PDW, SBR, or AR/AK-style pistol

Includes desirable extras

CONS

Expensive

Heavy

CCW slot pouch lacks holster or security strap

Our verdict on EDC backpacks

Today’s market is loaded with EDC backpacks, so narrowing it down to one pick can be quite a challenge. That said, the Arc’teryx Mantis 26 managed to beat the pack thanks to its combination of size, weight, versatility, durability, and user-friendly features. For the penny pinchers out there, we like the Samurai Tactical Wakizashi for its size, versatility, and price point.

What to consider when buying an EDC backpack

Everyday carry backpacks may be called upon to fill a wide variety of tasks, but in the grand scheme of things, they all serve a similar purpose: to tote your gear. Of course, EDC loadouts can vary dramatically from person to person, especially once big-ticket items enter the picture. That said, all EDC backpacks fall into a handful of overarching categories, and all good EDC bags will sport a handful of key features.

Types of EDC backpacks

Urban

Urban EDC backpacks are like the EDC equivalent to vanilla ice cream. These backpacks often have a traditional, Jansport-esque vibe and are found in classrooms, cubicles, and coffee shops around the world. Generally, they fall into one of two subcategories: school or professional.

Urban EDC packs almost always feature a padded electronics sleeve that can house your laptop or iPad. They often sport a “slick side” aesthetic with little more than a couple of water bottle pouches to mix things up. Urban-style packs often come in a variety of colors to keep things fun and interesting, although this can be a significant shortcoming for you “gray man” types.

Outdoor

Some spend more time in the great outdoors than others, and for nature-loving EDC practitioners, a proper backpack is in order. Outdoor EDC backpacks are designed to pull double duty in both the backcountry and the ‘burbs. As such, these EDC packs boast a tough construction and a handful of valuable features.

Outdoor backpacks are designed to take a beating and to help lug around tougher and heavier gear than what the typical EDC bag can handle. To accomplish this mission, these packs sport extra padding and ventilation to increase comfort. Outside, they sport external gear attachment points, glove-friendly zipper pulls, and sometimes a water bottle pouch or two. They also include internal hydration bladder pouches and hose ports, and often, these pouches double as padded laptop sleeves for maximum versatility.

Tactical

If your definition of “living on the edge” includes the potential for flying lead, then maybe a tactical EDC backpack may be the way to go. These EDC packs are built like a tank and can accommodate more gear than most people will ever own.

Like outdoor backpacks, these tactical EDC bags incorporate practical features into their designs, such as extra padding and ventilation, glove-friendly zipper pulls, and quick-release shoulder straps. They often have a hydration bladder pouch/laptop sleeve and a hydration hose port as well as storage space for firearms, such as a dedicated slot for your CCW, and accommodations for flex cuffs, ID patches, and other valuable accessories.

Tactical EDC packs usually fall into one of two subcategories: overt or covert. Overtly tactical packs usually have plenty of PALS webbing to handle all your MOLLE gear and come in “tactical” colors for when camouflage and concealment actually matter. On the other hand, covert tactical packs skip the webbing and take on an urban or outdoor aesthetic for situations in which a low profile is essential.

Key features of an EDC backpack 

Design

An everyday carry backpack is only as good as its design and construction quality. After only a few outings, a cheap, uncomfortable pack will end up collecting dust in your closet right alongside those soccer participation trophies you got in elementary school.

A backpack’s design directly affects how usable the bag will be, especially in an everyday carry context. Look for a pack with a clamshell design or something similar that will allow you to fully open the backpack’s main compartment, exposing everything inside for easy access to all your gear.

Construction quality is a key design factor. A sub-$50 pack likely won’t last more than a couple of years, so if durability matters much to you, look for something that’s well-built. Thick materials, reinforcements, and a smart design choice will help ensure longevity. That said, the most durable packs tend to be heavy, so look for a good balance between toughness and weight.

Comfort

Comfort is a critical consideration in an EDC backpack and especially so if you spend loads of time on the move. A pack’s weight (also an important design consideration) directly impacts its degree of comfort, but be on the lookout for other features as well.

A comfortable EDC pack will be well-padded and well-ventilated to support heavy loads and all-day use. In particular, the shoulder straps and back panel will benefit most from these upgrades. A sternum strap can go a long way toward distributing weight a bit more evenly, and the relatively uncommon hip belt does this even better.

Cargo capacity and organization

An EDC backpack that fails to keep your gear accessible is nothing more than a glorified plastic Walmart bag. Cargo capacity and organization are key components of a good pack but pay attention to what specific features a given bag may include. In terms of cargo capacity, a typical EDC backpack will measure somewhere between 10 and 25 liters, although the sweet spot for most people is in the 15- to 20-liter range.

As for organizational features, make sure to snag a pack with most of the following (depending on your specific loadout, of course). Hydration solutions, such as hydration bladder sleeves or water bottle pouches, and electronics sleeves are commonly available features that many users will appreciate. If you prefer to pack heat off your person or simply what an additional storage location for your CCW boomstick, then look for a bag with a dedicated CCW sleeve. Also, look for interior pockets and pouches as well as external gear attachment points.

EDC backpack pricing 

Budget

Quality EDC backpacks aren’t cheap, although on occasion, you can find a decent pack for less than $75. The best packs in this price range tend to run light on features, but that doesn’t necessarily make them any worse than a higher-priced option. Usually, affordable packs of sound quality will have small cargo capacities and limited or streamlined organizational features, such as a dual-purpose hydration bladder/tablet sleeve.

On the other hand, low-cost packs that boast oodles of features usually come up lacking in other areas. A $50 “tactical” backpack with a platoon’s worth of PALS webbing and 25 liters of interior space usually will come up short in the comfort, design, and durability departments.

Mid-range

For most people, the $75 to $150 range is the sweet spot for EDC backpacks. Most packs in this price range boast a solid combination of features commonly required by the average EDC practitioner

In this category, clamshell, and similar backpack designs make frequent appearances. Construction quality tends to be solid, with build materials and bag layout usually receiving good thought during the R&D phase. This often results in a comfortable, practical pack regardless with a decent price tag.

Mid-range EDC backpacks usually shine in the cargo capacity and organization departments as well. These packs usually run the gamut in size, and there are at least one or two offerings that are perfectly set up for virtually every conceivable use case.

Premium

Once you hit the $150 mark for an EDC backpack, you can expect a premium product. High-end packs boast high-quality materials, durable construction, and (usually) great layouts. These bags are built to endure years and years of abuse without compromise. Not only are these packs designed to be comfortable, but they also often feature some degree of sizing adjustment for an almost custom fit.

Most of these backpacks run on the large side in terms of cargo space, which means they tend to be best for individuals who pack along bushels of gear with them every day. In terms of organizational features and gear attachment points, it’s tough to beat these bad boys.

Tips and tricks

As with something you do for decades upon decades, you pick up a few tips and tricks along the way in terms of selecting the right product, and/or using it. That’s the case with us and EDC backpacks. To help you bridge the information gap, here’s a selection of what we’ve learned along the way.

  • Before buying an EDC backpack, determine your EDC loadout to avoid buying too much pack. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain, particularly if you plan to wear your pack all day, every day.
  • Once you’ve determined your typical EDC loadout, figure out how much additional cargo capacity you might need for “rainy day” gear. A properly spec’d bag will always have room for a little extra.
  • Don’t pay for features you don’t need. For example, if you never use a laptop on your daily adventures, skip the electronics sleeve. Remember, ounces equal pounds.

FAQs about EDC backpacks

You’ve got questions, Task & Purpose has answers.

Q: How big should an EDC backpack be?

A: The general consensus is that an EDC backpack should have a cargo capacity somewhere between 15 and 25 liters. That said, the size of your ideal pack will depend on what you regularly carry and any additional gear you may need for a given occasion, such as a rain jacket on a cloudy day.

Q: What is a tactical EDC backpack?

A: A tactical EDC backpack is similar to a more traditional EDC bag but with extra features and tougher construction. In some cases, tactical EDC packs will sport PALS webbing that allows them to accept MOLLE pouches and accessories, and many tactical packs incorporate CCW pouches into their designs.

Q: What is a MOLLE backpack?

A: A MOLLE backpack is any backpack equipped with PALS webbing which is designed to accept MOLLE pouches and accessories. Often, “MOLLE” and “PALS” are used interchangeably in product descriptions, so don’t overthink it. MOLLE backpacks and accessories are 100 percent compatible with PALS gear and vice versa.

Q: What should I carry in my EDC backpack?

A: EDC loadouts can vary dramatically from person to person due to factors such as daily activities, personal skill sets, and local climate. Write down what items you absolutely must have with you on a daily basis (keys, wallet, etc.) plus any activity-specific gear (laptop, rain jacket, etc.). Anything that won’t reasonably fit into a pocket goes in your backpack.

Task & Purpose and its partners may earn a commission if you purchase a product through one of our links. We independently evaluate gear by putting products in the hands of subject matter experts. The products we test may be purchased by Task & Purpose, our staff, or provided for review by a manufacturer. No matter the source, our testing procedures and our assessments remain free from third-party influence. Learn more about our product review process.

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