In today’s tacticool world, daypacks and everyday carry backpacks often fall between the cracks, much like a Toyota Camry. The heavy haulers and the slick, sweet rides get all the attention, but day in and day out, small packs get it done. Thankfully, 5.11 Tactical hasn’t overlooked the need these packs fill, and the Rush 12 2.0 does everything the previous generation pack did and then some.
Editor’s note: the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0 backpack also made Task & Purpose’s roundup of the best tactical backpacks of the year.
I must admit that I have a love affair with small, EDC-style backpacks. I carry one every day with a first aid kit and a few other odds and ends, and when I first met the Rush 12 2.0, it threatened to kick my trusty Slumberjack to the curb. Just like those little Toyota four-bangers, the Rush 12 2.0 can tackle more than its fair share of small jobs, whether they be tactical or practical, and they hold their value well, just like a Camry.
The Rush 12 2.0 came with its fair share of highly visible, bright orange tags, each advertising a variety of different features and each signalling 5.11’s marketing home run. While it may seem like a stupid little thing, I really appreciated 5.11’s efforts. Neon-colored tags attract attention, making it easier to advertise a product’s unique ins and outs while making it just as easy to spot and remove said tags before use. It really is the little things in life.
Unsurprisingly, 5.11’s attention to detail didn’t hit a dead end in the marketing department, because the Rush 12 2.0 is a well-built bag, just like its bigger brothers. One of the first things I noticed upon handling this pack was just how sturdy it is. The entire body relies on tough, water-resistant 1050D nylon to hold and organize your gear, and boy, can you feel it when you pick up this pack. This new version of the Rush 12 boasts a number of noteworthy features, including 24 liters of cargo space, a hydration reservoir pouch, a CCW compartment, two external zippered pouches, compression straps, hip belt attachment points, a sternum strap, plenty of padding on the back panel and the yoked, breakaway (!) shoulder straps, and loads of MOLLE-compatible webbing. (Did I mention the webbing?)
The larger of the two main compartments measures 18 by 11 by 6.5 inches and includes two zippered mesh pouches as well as a lightly padded laptop pouch capable of hosting units with a screen size up to 15 inches. The smaller compartment measures a healthy 12 by 9 by 1.75 inches and employs six open-top pouches, a zippered pouch, and a keychain lanyard to store all kinds of odds and ends while on the go. Both compartments have a dual-zippered clamshell design which makes access fast and easy.
The 16.5 by 10-inch hydration pouch sits sandwiched between the padded back panel and the main compartment, minimizing water damage or saturation of your gear should your reservoir ever spring a leak. It also houses a thin plastic panel to maintain a stiff, supportive back panel. According to 5.11’s website, the pouch can handle a 1.5-liter hydration reservoir, but my two-liter off-brand reservoir slipped in quite easily at full capacity.
The cavernous CCW pouch sits hidden between the two cargo compartments and handily accommodates even full-sized semi autos. It features a velcro panel which allows attachment of hook-and-loop holsters and accessories. The recessed, velcro-sealed mouth provides plenty of retention for your concealed hand cannon and hides the opening impressively well. (Without the fluorescent orange tags, I might have missed the CCW pouch completely.)
How we tested the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0
To test the Rush 12 2.0, I decided to hit the ground running. Days before receiving the Rush 12 in the mail, I found myself booking a whirlwind trip across the country and back. The night before my departure, I stuffed three days worth of clothes and essentials into the new pack, relishing the convenience of a clamshell backpack.
I try to pack light when I travel, but this pack pushed me to pack even lighter than ever. While I had to leave behind my beloved EDC gear, the Rush 12 managed to hold a couple of pairs of shorts, three t-shirts, a dress shirt, a pair of dress pants, multiple pairs of socks and, er, other items, a pair of flip flops, and a large toiletries bag with relative ease. (It seems I may have earned the childhood nickname “Mr. Clean” for a reason.) All of these items managed to fill the compartment quite full, although not excessively so. That said, I have no doubt the seams and zippers are strong enough to contain a baby elephant had I chosen to fly with one.
The smaller compartment was less crammed, but I really appreciated the variety of organizational pouches inside, which allowed me to keep a handful of flight essentials right where I wanted them. The CCW pouch came in handy for storing a large number of protein bars, and the Velcro closure made them super easy to access during my flights. Usually, fumbling for a zipper underneath the seat in front of me can make grabbing my snack a rather inconvenient proposition, but with my grub stuffed into the Velcro pouch, ending the rumble in my stomach couldn’t have been any easier.
While the Rush 12 may not be intended for air travel, its compact size allowed me to easily shove it under the seat in front of me, giving me the freedom to travel with just a personal item and the clothes on my back. Thankfully, I left my laptop at home, so security was a breeze. If I hadn’t gone tech-free, I would’ve had to unpack half my bag just to access the laptop compartment located against the back panel of the pack.
Of course, full water reservoirs tend to make TSA officers frown, so rather than wrestling with nasty airport water fountains or spending a small fortune on bottled water, I decided to test the hydration reservoir pouch after I got home. Some testing on foot around the neighborhood gave me a good idea of what to expect with a full camel’s hump on my back.
What we like about the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0
Easily the most obvious advantage to the Rush 12 2.0 is its construction; this thing was built to last! It’s 1050D nylon body is both tough and durable, and with less than a month of use, I can easily see this thing enduring years of abuse. Baby this pack, and you’ll turn it into an heirloom. The seams, stitching, and hefty YKK zippers scream quality. Heck, even the length of the various straps show 5.11’s attention to detail. The straps are neither too long nor too short, and the elastic retention bands are also perfectly sized to provide solid retention of the extra strap without compromising on overall adjustability.
The 1050D nylon construction has the added benefit of being water-resistant. I took a 20-minute walk around the neighborhood with almost two liters of water stashed inside, and thanks to the leaky connection between my cheap reservoir and the drinking hose, I had a miniature puddle at the bottom of the reservoir pouch when I got home. While water did start to seep through the outer body on the pack, I would have expected a wet backside from a lesser pack rather than the damp suggestion of a leak the Rush 12 gave me.
During my cross-country trip, I found the abundance of different pockets and pouches to be incredibly helpful in accommodating my various knick knacks, such as a travel multitool, earbud and ear plug cases, hand sanitizer, sunglasses, and more. The impressive padding in the shoulder straps and back panel are impressively thick and luxurious. I especially loved the clamshell design, a feature all of my other backpacks lack, including my EDC Slumberjack pack.
In outdoor and survival settings, the (over?) abundance of webbing provides more than enough space to attach MOLLE attachments, and the bottom webbing loops could easily provide a home for a sleeping mat, sleeping bag, or other similar equipment, provided you have the necessary straps. I also appreciated the rigid plastic panel inside the hydration reservoir pouch, a detail that many manufacturers might overlook or ignore. By adding stiffness to the back panel and placing the reservoir pouch between your back and the roots of the shoulder straps, a sloshing, amorphous water reservoir does little to diminish the necessary support for proper pack weight distribution. The hydration pouch can accommodate some larger reservoirs than the official 1.5-liter rating. With a pack that is bulging at the seams, I probably would recommend sticking with the 1.5-liter option, but with lighter loads, you could get away with something a little bigger.
As far as tactical situations are concerned, the Rush 12 2.0 can handle a good bit. In addition to the outdoor-friendly features above, this pack boasts a large CCW pouch with a full hook-and-loop panel on the inside that will store a Velcro holster for a full-size handgun and one or two Velcro-secured mag pouches. Due to its recessed location between the two main compartments, your hand cannon will literally disappear into your pack without a trace, and thanks to the almost solid strip of Velcro across the opening, retention won’t be an issue. The CCW pouch is perfectly positioned for an armor-toting individual to turn the pack into an improvised plate carrier while simultaneously providing quick and easy access to a concealed handgun. Also, should you ever need to dump the weight on your back in a hurry, this iteration of the Rush 12 includes breakaway shoulder straps which rely on a buckle just below the padded section of each shoulder strap, a pretty slick little feature which also makes access to the hydration reservoir too easy.
What we don’t like about the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0
As amazing as the Rush 12 2.0 is, it’s not quite the ultimate daypack. Like most packs, this pack has its downsides, and the two most obvious negatives have got to be its weight and price tag. At over three pounds, I never forgot I was wearing it, no matter how light my cargo, and the $100 price tag brought a couple of tears to my eyes, especially considering the limited cargo capacity. Of course, the level of toughness, durability, and reliability this pack promises do require a bit of an investment, and in those departments, the new Rush 12 certainly delivers.
For many people, the tactical styling and the layout choice for the CCW pouch probably fall into the “less-than-ideal-but-probably-not-a-dealbreaker” category. Obviously, this pack was built with first responders, law enforcement officers, and similar users in mind. Plenty of MOLLE-compatible webbing and some Velcro panels certainly come in handy, but for the average Joe trying to blend in on a day-to-day basis or in a survival setting, all of those mounting surfaces could draw unwanted attention. It also means that common backpack features, such as water bottle pouches, must be purchased separately. I also find the placement of the CCW pouch somewhat odd for the average CCW permit holder despite its practicality during air travel. For non-tactical users who are constantly moving, the CCW pouch’s placement is about as helpful as a holster on the backside of the moon.
While it may be a more subjective factor, the lack of a hip belt has the feature (or lack thereof) that tripped me up the most. When traveling for any length of time with a heavy pack on my back, I absolutely must use a hip belt. Blame it on too little time at the gym or my less-than-beefy build, but whatever the case, a heavy backpack creates strain in my neck and shoulders. During my trip, I could feel the weight of my pack as I trekked from long-term parking to the far reaches of DIA’s Concourse B. It’s nothing by infantry standards, sure, but more than my body likes these days. When I arrived in Ohio, I spent the rest of the day with plenty of tension throughout my neck and shoulders, prompting me to minimize shoulder carry time on the return trip. Of course, the RUSH12 isn’t intended for long hikes, at least not out of the box. That said, 5.11 does deserve credit for including hip belt attachment points on this bad boy, but the hip belt omission still left me grumbling.
All in all, the Rush 12 2.0 is a solid daypack, especially for first responders who want a small footprint. Obviously, the price and heft work against it, but quality comes at a cost. With its tough construction and 5.11’s attention to detail, this iteration of the Rush 12 takes daypacks to a whole new level. Whether you need a get-home bag, a range bag, a school bag, or any other bag, the RUSH12 2.0 just might be worth the cash.
For this writer, though, it doesn’t really fit my needs for a travel or EDC pack. I prefer something with a bit less of a tactical styling, and the lack of an included hip belt is a dealbreaker for me considering the price point. That said, I might be willing to drop the cash for both bag and belt should I start looking for a compact get-home bag due to the Rush 12 2.0’s undeniable quality and durability.
FAQs about the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0
More questions? Here’s Task & Purpose’s additional brief.
Q. How much does the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 2.0 cost?
A. This pack’s MSRP comes in at around $100, although if you keep your eyes open, you might be able to snag one on sale for a bit less.
Q. Is the Rush 12 2.0 a good bug out bag?
A. Not really. While it certainly has the durability and modularity preppers might like, its cargo capacity limits it to more of a get home bag.
Q. What makes the Rush 12 2.0 different from the original?
A. According to 5.11, the newest version of the RUSH12 includes a handful of upgrades: a padded laptop compartment, a velcro-secured concealed carry compartment, a larger eyewear pouch, a revised external admin panel, and updated organization inside the main compartment.
Q. Is the Rush 12 2.0 a good quality backpack?
A. Absolutely! This puppy is one of the best and is built to last!
Got questions? Comment below & talk with T&P’s editors
For over 25 years, Brian Smyth has been neighbors with the Air Force Academy and the U.S. Army’s Ivy Division. He loves the challenge of crafting words and has written for The Drive, Car Bibles, and other publications. Nothing gets him going quite like the roar of dual Pratt & Whitneys overhead, the smell of cordite, and the stories of the Greatest Generation.
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