Updated Jun 13, 2022 8:53 AM

When you hear “rucking backpack,” you might think of some hard-charging GI trudging through the jungle. But for those who aren’t familiar with this old Army jargon, rucking simply means to get from point A to B as steadily and quickly as possible, all the while still being able to continue the mission or face whatever obstacle could be in your way. Today, we are going to talk about the best rucking backpacks on the market to help you do just that. 

Yes, we know that rucking and hiking are almost the same thing. The difference, however, is that rucking implies that some haste is needed. With that, these were chosen with the idea that you had to be somewhere quick, fast, and in a hurry, whether it be a brisk walk with your computer and books for school; or you just realized you’re about to miss your flight and now have to skedaddle across the airport.

To that end, we here at Task & Purpose have compiled a no-nonsense and specifically scrutinized list to help you find the right choice out of the best rucking backpacks on the market. Take a gander and find the choice that’s right for you.

How we tested

best rucking backpacks
The rucking backpacks tested for this review. (Steven C. Harbert Jr.)

We loaded the packs to their max and walked. Each pack had no less than 12 miles of rucking on them. The average pace was no less than four miles per hour to test comfort and ventilation. The terrain was hilly state parks and national forests. Each pack got the hose to simulate heavy rain, stressing any of the manufacturer’s water-resistant applications.

All of these products were carried as a daily backpack for a total of seven days. The daily carry consisted of survival gear into thick woods, and from vehicle to workplace in multiple settings from office to military environments. Some variations of the test occurred, such as rocking a concealed carry weapon or computer, or both. And lastly, all of them were used as a range bag with one or two guns, hearing and eye protection, a cleaning kit, water bottle, snacks, and about 200 rounds of ammunition for a day of pew pew. Needless to say, we got our rucking in for the last few months.   

All of the backpacks recommended in this review were hands-on field-tested by your trusty crew of Task & Purpose gear reviewers. We take care to find the best of the best and at affordable prices, too. Not to mention, we also dig into our peers’ reviews and recommendations to maintain a good neutral bias until the verdict is met. Although we rated these, we always keep a lookout for other interesting products and list them as honorable mentions. For further information on our product review methodology, please check here.

Not only is the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 our top pick for the best rucking backpack, but it’s also the most planet-friendly, so it satisfies on two fronts.

The pack is made out of a recycled nylon shell with a recycled polyester lining. The material also meets Bluesign criteria, meaning the way in which the material was made is environmentally-friendly.

The water-resistant ripstop fabric is thin but tough. It features lockable zippers, multiple carry options so you can grab it and go or carry it like a briefcase, and a spring-steel frame. It held up to many rucking adventures in the Georgia forest and never felt overbearing.

Sporting tuckable trekking pole loops and a built-in rain cover, the Ruckpack 40 was designed with hikers in mind. The mesh, padded shoulder straps with a chest buckle kept the pack tight. The waist belt and load lifters, coupled with the spring steel frame, made for a pleasant ride even while lightly jogging.

With 40 liters of carrying space and four exterior pockets, plus the main compartment, it was the easiest pack out of all that we tested to store and access gear. Plus, it has two mesh bottle carriers, which both store a 35-ounce bottle snugly. And the Ruckpack 40 comes in black and terra firma, which looks identical to coyote brown.

A comfy carry, with enough room and organization to take you as far off the beaten path as you want to go, the Ruckpack 40 pack makes a great home base for multi-day trips.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 40 liters
  • Dimensions: 25 x 14.5 x 9 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds 13.5 ounces
  • Colors: Black or Terra Firma
PROS

Durable ripstop recycled materials

Water-resistant with a rain cover

Internal spring steel frame

Convertible design for ease of travel

CONS

Small, cheap buckles

No strap keepers

For the Best Value, we picked the Kelty Redwing 30L Tactical backpack. The 30-liter design combines elements of a military assault pack and a hiking pack, so this well-rounded rucksack gives you the most out of your hard-earned money.

The design features 500D nylon construction, an internal frame, three tool loops, cinch cord water bottle pouches on both sides, and hydration and padded laptop compatible compartments. The adjustable shoulder straps allow for different body types and sizes to carry with ease. The waist belt has the forward pull straps for adjustment on the go, which is a nice touch. And, its U-shaped zipper design made it easy to access any of our gear while out and about.

Filled with about 35 pounds worth of gear, it was comfortable, the mesh padding on the straps and waist belt dissipated sweat, and it didn’t wear on my lower back. It also comes in a few color options: navy, black, forest green, and tactical gray.

Whether your journey takes you to the canyons of Colorado or the streets of Kandahar, the highly versatile Redwing has you covered.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 30 liters
  • Dimensions: 22 x 11 x 12 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds 12 ounces
PROS

Cheapest of the tested packs

Many options for securing tools and equipment

CONS

Lacks a rain cover

Lacks strap keepers

Editors Choice

The Editor’s Choice goes to the Agilite Modular Assault Pack III, or AMAP III, because of how versatile it is. It’s just as effective as an assault pack as it is an everyday carry bag.

Constructed from 500D mil-spec cordura and polymer hardware, the AMAP III feels robust. Each exterior strap sports a hook-and-loop keeper. The laser-cut MOLLE has velcro panels, so it will support multiple load-out options. A small admin pouch for quick access essentials sits top center. Heavy YKK zippers feel sturdy with a paracord lanyard loop through each. On both sides of the pack is well-stitched three-column MOLLE webbing, for even more customization.

While rucking in Chattanooga, the pack turned out to be a fantastic choice. The mesh straps dissipated perspiration well and didn’t cut into my shoulders, which surprised me because of how small they are. When compared to other similar designs, it fits well with a plate carrier.

The AMAP III is the most versatile and universal military assault pack on the market.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 14+ 8 liters
  • Dimensions: 15.7 x 11 x 7.8 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds 3 ounces
PROS

Loads of accessories and space to strap them to

Fairly priced

Comfortable and capable of mating to your favorite plate carrier

CONS

Can feel like you have a giant ball on your back

The removable straps are held in by fabric and plastic

We chose the Helikon-Tex as the Best All-Around rucking backpack due to its features — features that mirror many of our other best of products, at an affordable price. With many color options and durable construction to boot, it holds up against some of the more expensive versions in the same capacity and weight ranges.

With YKK zippers, Cordura materials, decent water resistance and ample comfortable adjustable straps, it rolls out at the top of the line against the best of the best. It served well as an everyday carry, day hiking pack, and range bag with ease. Its elastic sleeve against its plastic internal frame worked well for both a laptop and a hydration system with no issues. Its outer beaver tail with laser-cut MOLLE webbing for more customizable options made it a must-have for rucking enthusiasts.

The only thing we found is that the design of the zipper track is kind of odd, making it a little weird to unzip in a hurry. The materials feel cheap, even though they held up to our average day of rucking through thick forest or hitting the range. It’s a good choice to stuff all your gear into the main compartment with little organization. However, the outer beaver tail with cinch straps definitely makes it easier to throw a rain jacket or a couple bottles of water on the outside without worry. This rucking backpack is recommended if you are traveling light or moving through the woods.

It’s an advanced backpack for any use, from EDC to short hikes, and also as a tactical backpack.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 20 liters
  • Dimensions: 18.5 x 12.2 x 5.91 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds 5 ounces
PROS

Beaver tail

Fairly priced

Concealable waist belt

CONS

Feels bulky and rigid

Zipper to the main compartment can take some getting used to

Best High-End

The GoRuck GR1 comes in as our Best High-End rucking backpack. The popular brand was started by an elite couple — a spec ops husband and a CIA wife — wanting to make a bag fit for the field and the rear. For many, GoRuck is more than a brand: It’s a lifestyle. The brand has become synonymous with training and exercise.

The GR1 is designed to open flat with the tug of paracord pulls looped through YKK zippers. Its padded laptop compartment is capable of standing up to some heavy falls. And, if you don’t want to carry a 16-inch laptop, you could always pop in an armor plate. With three internal organizer pockets and one outside slant pocket, you can be sure to pack all your essentials.

Quick note: While GoRuck describes the laptop compartment as “bombproof,” it’s not. It’s hyperbole, and thank goodness the customer service department got back to us. We were about to start working on fragmentation by shooting steel plates with the bag angled in the direction of ricochet. However, a Kevlar insert and plate, coupled with the quality of this pack, would more than do the trick.

Otherwise, the pack carried well with various items, and it was definitely one of the best on the list when it came to water resistance. Its removable internal plastic frame did not feel cumbersome and helped maintain the shape of the pack when carried. It will certainly suit a day’s travel into the heavy rainforest or your hasty walk through a crowded market. This pack came highly recommended by one of our editors. If you’ve got the scratch burning a hole in your pocket and enjoy the finer things in life, this is the option for you.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 26 liters
  • Dimensions: 12 x 20 x 6.75 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds 4 ounces
PROS

Extremely high-quality materials

Almost completely waterproof

The laptop sleeve is well-padded

Made in the USA

CONS

Expensive compared to similar products on the market

No built-in water bottle pouches

Best Military Day Pack

Eberlestock backpacks are widely hailed by rucking enthusiasts. The H31 Bandit comes in at the Best Military day pack because of its size. At just under 14 liters but lavishing many features of the best packs on the market, we had to add it to our list.

Not only are the bottle side pockets great for bottles, but they are also large enough for securing tripods and spotting scopes. The top admin pouch works perfectly for your quick-access must-haves, or your medical kit. It carries a hefty load regardless of its small size.

The bag’s straps and back support sport a modest amount of mesh padding, keeping you cool when hoofing it. It fits even the smallest of body types compared to some of the other packs on this list. Its utility panel on the outside of the pack can lash down most items and, if needed, to secure many options of MOLLE pouches. That is due to its laser-cut webbing throughout the utility panel. The robust full-zipper main compartment with elastic sleeves is perfect for hydration or a small tablet. The H31 Bandit is a perfect day hike pack, day travel bag, or range bag.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 13.6 liters
  • Dimensions: 16.25 x 7 x 6.5 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds 8 ounces
PROS

Full-zipper access to the main compartment

Perfect for a day ruck/hike to your favorite locations

Multiple color options to suit your wants and needs

CONS

Small capacity for the price

No rain cover

Best Tactical

This mid-level entry into 5.11’s Rush lineup is a classic that just evolved with some new features. It comes in at the Best Tactical rucking backpack quite simply because it packs a harder punch than your average military assault packs. This bad boy works well in almost any situation, from being a go-bag to an everyday carry pack landing flat in your arsenal as a good assault pack for the military.

What really caught our attention with this particular pack was the contoured yoke shoulder strap system. The straps were designed to work while wearing body armor — a plus for the men and women in uniform defending freedom. But let’s not shy away from the hidden CCW compartment or the fleece-lined eyewear/media pocket. 5.11 certainly made a good effort at making its product just a little bit better.

As far as rucking with it, we found that the pack was more comfortable while wearing a plate carrier. By itself with anything more than 35 pounds, the straps cause the pack to sit lower on your back and become uncomfortable after three or so miles. However, it’s a good well-rounded choice for the cost, almost neck in neck with our value pick.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 37 liters
  • Dimensions: 20 x 12 x 8 inches
  • Weight: 3 pounds 12 ounces
PROS

A classic with a few upgrades

Fairly priced

Jam-packed with a ton of features to include a CCW compartment

CONS

The shoulder straps work better with a plate carrier

Overtly tacticool

The Mystery Ranch Rip-Ruck 24 comes in at our Best Urban survival rucking backpack due to its purpose-built and innovative design. Much like the GR1, it mirrors the quality of materials and effort in design for a specific purpose. With small organizational pouches and pockets in a fairly water-resistant material, it sports a rip-zip easy-access system which stands out as a peculiar design. It features a separate laptop and tablet sleeve, with a waterproof coating on the zipper, and another main compartment for all your other gear with the rip-zip main panel. It is sure to impress any city-goer, college student, day-traveler, and everyone in between who is on the move.

Even on the website, you have to dig into what rip-zip even means. Quite simply, it means that a zipper panel coupled with magnets is your easy access to any of your contents. You would think that Mystery Ranch would focus more on this innovative concept, considering that it is very convenient. As far as grabbing and going, the magnets can secure the pack with modest movement if you forget to zip it up. However, if you dropped it, eventually enough force could be applied to lose gear if it tumbled down a hill.
Either way, it is a fantastic concept that many could emulate in the future. It carried well, but only for an office-type setting. We found it hard to pack more than a computer and various essentials into the pack. That was due to its separate compartments that proved to be easy to recall where you put a particular item. It has no strap keepers or outside water bottle pouches to speak of. It does carry well and is a very covert option, as it appears to be just another bag — that is, until you see that infamous Mystery Ranch logo and feel the quality of the material. We recommend going with the larger model if you need more space, located here.

However, if you are using this to carry a laptop or tablet, with snacks and a few other essentials, this may be the right choice for you. It’s definitely a good option for traveling with electronics so long as you have a check bag for any air travel, this being due to its similar dimensions as our smaller packs in this line-up. It can easily meet TSA guidelines and even fits under the seat in front of you.

Product Specs
  • Capacity: 24 liters
  • Dimensions: 18.5 x 12 x 10 inches
  • Weight: 2 pounds 6 ounces
PROS

Innovative magnetic and zipper design

Waterproofing material on the computer/tablet compartment

Comfortable design with loads of features

CONS

No outboard water pouches compared to the 32L version

Not as versatile as similar products in size and price point

Our verdict on the best rucking backpacks

At the end of the day, it’s what’s most comfortable to you. Any of these packs listed are purpose-designed for a shorter trip, so pick the one that works best for you. We took our time in reviewing and putting these products to the test, ensuring that you may have another detailed experience before you decide to buy that pack you’ve been wanting for a while now. 

We choose these particular models based on the idea that they can be used for everyday life or training. Not all of these would work in a military setting, and some of these would be very tacticool in an everyday civilian setting. Overall, we landed with a good mix of well-designed packs for our top picks, and each one carried the weight well while putting miles on them. The REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 landed at an affordable price with many great features. The Kelty Redwing 30L Tactical Backpack was the Best Value for a multipurpose use, and rounding it out with the Editors Choice was the AMAP III Assault Pack – Agilite

What to consider when buying rucking backpacks

Types of rucking backpacks

Framed

A backpack frame is a must if you plan to carry a heavy load (more than 45 pounds). Frames are designed to distribute weight more evenly, so it doesn’t all rest on your shoulders and lower back, and they’re often equipped with other features like ventilation. They’re typically made from lightweight material (aluminum or plastic), and come in different shapes (flat or contoured), which you’d pick based on your gear and preferences. 

Frameless

If your rucking backpack doesn’t have a frame, you essentially have a normal backpack, so be cautious about the weight of your load-out. You could comfortably carry a load of less than 45 pounds with a frameless bag. If you go heavier than that, you risk straining your shoulders and back. 

Key features of a rucking backpack

Quality materials

If you’re going to take rucking seriously and make it a routine, you will need quality materials. Anything over 500D Cordura will be sufficient. Waterproofing will add to the longevity of the pack as it begins to wear. Also, be sure to check vital stress points of the pack for heavy reinforced stitching, such as the shoulder straps, the zipper tracks, the waist belt (if it has one), and the frame (if it has one), and the construction of how it’s mounted or where it is inserted. Once you start getting into heavier weight and longer distances, this becomes particularly important. If the stress point and material are cheap, you won’t get much life out of your hard-earned cash. 

Quality zippers 

If you’ve ever pulled on a zipper and could just feel that it was going to tear apart, then don’t go with that one. Not only the material of the zipper, but the size and a good loop hole so you can replace the pulls are important, along with the sturdiness of the zipper tracks themselves which should be robust and strong. Some can be made of metal and others a type of polyurethane, which can make the difference of staying shut as you pick up a jog on your rucking adventure.

Strap keepers

This is where the saying “wired tight” comes to mind. Having straps flailing everywhere can be annoying, especially if your adventure takes you into the woods where everything is getting snagged on something.

Some strap keepers are made of elastic material, but these wear out over a short time. Others have hook-and-loop-style keepers that are sewn into the ends of the straps. We recommend those, as they typically last longer and are easily replaced if you’re good with a needle or have an awesome sewing shop near you.

Pricing considerations for rucking backpacks

We focused on the mid-range up to the high-end as far as rucking backpacks are concerned. Typically, you find the low-end at up to $90, mid-range from $90 to $200. High-end models are anywhere from $200 to $350. The no-nonsense platinum range is anything over that, while some of the models out there can easily shoot up into the $900 range, which you see in the military realm where the quality of gear makes all the difference in a tactical environment.

FAQs about rucking backpacks

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

Q: Do you need a special backpack for rucking?

A: Not at all. You choose what works best for you when rucking.

Q: Does rucking build back muscle?

A: Yes, and shoulder muscle as well.

Q: How much weight can you ruck with?

A: Depending on the quality of the pack and type of frame, your ability to carry and move with the weight, you may find your answer. In the military, it is typical to carry anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds of gear depending on the mission or training outcome.

Q: What should I look for in a ruck pack?

A: Look for high-quality material that can withstand stress, weight, and wear, along with reinforced stitching and heavily padded shoulder straps. A waist belt and compression straps are important, not to mention a frame (internal or otherwise) that can help immensely in carrying heavy loads without hurting your back.

Q: What’s the difference between a rucksack and backpack?

A: Rucksacks are typically designed for heavier loads with the hiker or military member in mind. Backpacks can come in a variety of shapes, sizes, and purposes.

Q: What rucksack does the military use?

A: Most of the Army use the modular lightweight load-carrying equipment MOLLE II packs. The Marine Corps uses a similar version called the Improved Load-Bearing Equipment, or ILBE.

Q: What are the benefits of rucking?

A: With a heavy load on your body and walking at a brisk pace, you pick up a cardio-like exercise. It helps build strength in your legs, back, and shoulders.

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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