In this paper, updated for 2023, I am going to give a review of the best bushcraft backpacks, guide you through the pros and cons of the top ones I have chosen for this paper, show pictures and videos to help those who are interested make an informed choice, and answer the most frequently asked questions in the end.
Since this paper is devoted to the best bushcraft backpacks, I assume that most readers know what bushcrafting is or might even be experts in it. For readers who are not yet familiar with the concept, I will provide a brief explanation.
Bushcrafting means using practical skills to survive in the natural environment and thrive in it. Such skills include, for example, purifying water, trapping food, foraging.
This activity is also sometimes called “wilderness skills” or “woodcraft”.
TOP 6 Best Bushcraft Backpacks
Below I provide photos of the best bushcraft backpacks I can recommend with confidence to an experienced bushcrafter or someone who is just beginning and is looking for the right bushcraft backpack. I will begin with the bottom of my list.
This bushcraft backpack was originally designed for the US Military as the successor of the ALICE backpack, which I will review later in this paper. Though Marine Corp ILBE Main Rucksack Backpacks are not produced by the original manufacturer anymore, they are still widely used and popular. You can purchase a used item without any hesitations: they are truly durable.
Just like the ALICE backpack I mentioned, which I will review later as I promised, ILBE features a modular system, which can be modified to meet the needs of a specific application. I describe this one with utter confidence since I have been using it since 2010, and I am still perfectly satisfied.
To support my praise with evidence, let’s move to the military specifications:
- The volume of its main compartment is 75L: reasonable space to keep your gear. It comes with an internal divider, so you can have a separate sleeping bag compartment.
- Its designed carrying capacity is 120 lbs.
- It is provided with a PALS exterior attachment system to ensure more storage space for extra gear.
- It is made of 725D Cordura material: a highly durable material with a water-resistant coating.
- This backpack is hydration compatible: water bladders can be inserted between the pack’s frame and fabric.
- This is an internal frame backpack.
- The backpack is provided with an adjustable harness, a padded waist belt, and shoulder straps.
- It is a versatile bag owing to its modular design.
- Despite that it is no longer produced for the military, the remaining used ones have proven to be a great outdoor solution. Popularity among citizens has inspired manufacturers to produce new backpacks to the same specifications.
Are there any downsides?
This sounds like good news; the only problem is that new ones are relatively expensive. I think that finding a fairly good used ILBE system is a good alternative, though be careful: make sure that it is indeed good before you buy it.
The main disadvantage of this pack, which otherwise appears one of the best bushcraft packs, is its huge carrying capacity by far exceeding the expected and reasonable. With this one, it is easy to load more than you can carry. Though if you are looking for one of the bigger bushcraft backpacks with a higher carrying capacity, go for it.
As I promised, here’s the visual aid:
To summarize what was said before:
- It is durable and water-resistant.
- It has a truly high loading capacity: extra gear will not be a problem.
- Proper loading and adjustments ensure reasonable comfort.
- As good as other truly bushcraft backpacks on the market
- It lets in water. Though it is not a canvas bushcraft backpack, it is made of Denier Cordura; there are many openings in this backpack that can let water in.
- Because of multiple straps, you get too many things hanging around, which can get caught on something.
- If you buy a new one, it can be expensive.
- If you are buying a used one, check carefully if it is still fit.
First of all, about the ALICE system. ALICE stands for All-purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. It was initially designed for the US military and has serviced them well for many years. The ALICE bag was designed as a modular system with many components, which a user could choose and mix to create a custom system according to one’s needs.
If we look at it closely, the ALICE field pack is not exactly a backpack. Without an external metal frame and certain other components, it meets the definition of a rucksack; I can call it the best bushcraft rucksack. But I included it into my list of top bushcraft backpacks for a reason. It has a high carrying capacity and is made of truly durable material.
To be more specific:
- It is a heavy-duty rucksack with a multi-specification construction
- The volume of its main compartment is 3200 cubic inches (54L)
- It has multiple outside pockets to ensure quick access to your possessions
- It is provided with adjustable straps
Is it a tactical backpack?
All things considered, ALICE meets the definition of a tactical backpack. It is very good for several or one-day trips, for example, if you want to spend your weekend walking through rugged terrain. If you are thinking of a longer trip, you might want more comfort offered by smart design, waist or hip belt, etc. I will introduce the best of those later in this paper.
Talking about ALICE, these systems, just like the previous ones I introduced, are no longer produced by the original manufacturer. And just like in the previous case, some producers now make them for civilian purposes to the same specifications.
And just like in the previous case, many used ones can be found online along with components, including an external frame. You can also buy a kit bundle for the ALICE rucksack, which contains an external frame, additional attachment gear, and a padded waist belt.
As always, pros and cons:
- A versatile bag with a high carrying capacity
- High-quality design and materials ensure added durability
- Spacious: will easily accommodate enough gear inside
- Some might find it inconvenient not having a separate compartment for your sleeping bag or a roll mat
- Not the highest comfort backpack
- While shopping for ALICE, you can sometimes come across a cheap copy which does not meet the initial specifications
- The Best All-Rounded Bushcraft Backpack – ALPS OutdoorZ Bushcraft Backpack opening link
- opening picture
First, a few words about the producer. ALPS is a reputable US-based company (Utah) that manufactures all kinds of quality gear for outdoor sports. I am sure those of you who take outdoor recreation seriously know at least some of ALPS products.
ALPS Outdoors Commander Bushcraft Backpack takes a special place in my list. Besides meeting all the indispensable criteria of a proper bushcraft backpack (otherwise, it would not have been on my list), it is also one of the best-looking bushcraft backpacks. When you look at it, it appears sleek and simple – it has fewer things to be caught on, which means less damage as you walk through an overgrown terrain.
Let’s look at its characteristics:
- It is made of 1680D ballistic nylon and robin nylon – a water-resistant fabric, which ensures excellent durability.
- The volume of its main compartment is 4000 cubic inches (66L) / its total weight with frame equals 9 lbs, 10 oz.
- External frame design. When the frame is loaded, the pack itself is attached to the frame with zippers or compression straps.
- Besides, the main compartment has a removable front pocket and side pockets for a water bottle and other minor necessities, and even a pocket on the waist belt.
- Padded shoulder straps
- Internal divider pocket, a drop-down rifle pocket (would be good for a bow too)
- An integrated rain cover
- A hydration pocket
More survival features
Some of you have perhaps noticed that this bushcraft backpack has an external frame, while most of them nowadays are designed with an internal one. At least as long as bushcrafting is concerned, the external one offers an additional advantage. You can remove the frame from the pack and use it to carry firewood, your catch, etc.
The pros and cons:
- It is a high-quality bushcraft backpack made in the USA
- It has a truly high carrying capacity
- Its external frame can be detached, which makes it multifunctional
- The external design makes it snag-proof
Here I should provide some explanations. This is not a budget bushcraft backpack, though not one of the most expensive ones either, as you will see later. In my mind, the price is well-justified by its durability, functionality, and thought-through design. It’s an ideal backpack for its price.
Let’s look at it closely. Teton Sports is a well-trusted manufacturer which provides quality outdoor soft gear well-favored by the outdoor sports community. This Teton Sports Explorer 4000 encompasses everything bushcrafters, campers, and hikers look for in a backpack.
- This bushcraft backpack has an internal frame design.
- Its volume is 3400 cubic inches (65L)
- Besides the main compartment, this bushcraft backpack is provided with a large sleeping bag compartment, other smaller compartments, and side pockets specially designed for tent poles.
- Multi-directional compression straps and a padded waist belt
- Foam lumbar-support ventilated padding ensures maximum comfort, which is particularly important in hot weather.
- A rain cover is provided
- This bushcraft backpack has a hydration pocket – the choice of water bladders is yours.
- The size of this best bushcraft backpack makes it appropriate for smaller individuals, including youth. All straps are adjustable – Teton Sports have made sure this great product fits almost anyone.
More backpack’s benefits
The total volume of 65L is sufficient to keep your gear even if you have a lot; different compartments enable you to organize it wisely and ensure quick access. The fabric is water-resistant, zippers are watertight.
All things considered, it is a perfect backpack that ensures you feel great outdoors miles from home. Though it is reasonably durable, if you use it in a truly rough environment, you might see signs of wear and tear sooner than you would have with other similar backpacks.
To summarize what was said before, its pros and cons are:
- Different compartments help you keep your possessions organized and find them easily.
- Various padded straps and lumbar support ensure that you feel comfortable, even carrying a heavy load.
- Straps can be adjusted to fit almost anyone.
- A reasonable price for what I can call the best bushcraft backpack
- If you intend to use it a lot in really harsh conditions, you might want to choose one of the more durable ones.
First of all, here are a few words about the producer. Eberlestock is the leader in the outdoor gear industry. Its products, some of which can be called state-of-the-art without exaggeration, are a result of careful research and development. Quality and attention to detail that you will see as we go is the signature of Eberlestock.
Let’s take a closer look:
- It is made of durable and water-resistant nylon.
- Its volume is 6050 cubic inches (100 L) – you can easily take all the gear you need for several or one-day trips, including a sleeping bag.
- It is quite lightweight for its size – 453.59 grams, so it would be appropriate for smaller individuals.
- It has an internal frame design; the frame is adjustable.
- The rain cover is designed as a fold-out one.
- A pouch attachment ladder system (PALS) is provided for external storage pouches.
- This bushcraft backpack features a heavily padded waist belt, padded shoulder straps, hip straps, and chest straps. All of the straps are adjustable.
- The design includes two side pockets for two water bottles or bladders, if you prefer.
I have to admit it; this bushcraft backpack is huge. Just like the tactical backpack I mentioned earlier, it is easy to load too much into it. With a separate sleeping bag compartment, despite its size, you can organize your possessions in an orderly manner. Compression straps ensure the convenience of carrying your load.
The Eberlestock V90 Battleship backpack is the most expensive one on my list. It could have topped my list, but for the price.
As usual, the pros and cons:
- An adjustable internal frame
- The load can be easily adjusted for any individual using the harness, which ensures the comfort
- Can carry a lot of weight
- Durable and reliable
As you see, there is only one cons, the only one reason why it is not the best bushcraft backpack available. I am ready to recommend it to anyone whose price does not stop.
Finally, the top one on my list. This bushcraft backpack embodies the perfect balance of price, quality, functionality, and looks. That’s why I called it the best bushcraft backpack. Evatac Combat Bag is the multifunctional bushcraft pack that can be used both for bushcraft or other several or one-day trips and simply as a go-bag.
This bushcraft pack is made of 600D highly durable polyester – a true heavy-duty material. If you plan to use your bushcraft backpack a lot in harsh conditions, pick this one – a tough tactical backpack.
For more convenience, its straps are designed so that they can be adjusted on the go; a quick-lock chest strap prevents the backpack from bouncing when you move fast.
It is good when the inner space of your bushcraft backpack is divided into separate compartments – this helps organize your possessions and make them easily accessible. Evatac takes it further – Evatac Combat Bag has ten compartments, all of which are waterproof, including a padded laptop section.
Evatac Combat Bag is equipped with the MOLLE system, which was initially designed for the US army. MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. The backpack weighs 2.4 pounds.
As usual, the pros and cons:
- Highly durable, waterproof, and lightweight
- Its volume equals 10.6 gallons (40L); for maximum convenience, this space is divided into ten sections
- Comfortable adjustable straps ensure the ultimate comfort, including padded shoulder straps and a sternum strap
- Oversize ykk zippers ensure easy access to your possessions
As to the cons, there is one, but it is a total value for money.
Bushcrafting VS Backpacking
Bushcrafting is sometimes used as a synonym for hiking and backpacking. Though these activities indeed have a lot in common, namely, taking walks in the countryside, they have many differences.
I will begin with the most common term: hiking. Hiking means taking long-distance walks, usually on trails or paths. In most cases, hiking takes the form of one or several days’ trips and can be undertaken individually or in groups. The goal of hiking is active recreation and seeing new places.
Backpacking is a form of low-cost, independent travel. In order to make their traveling cheaper, backpackers choose inexpensive lodgings and take only the most necessary items, which they carry in a backpack. As distinct from hiking and bushcraft, backpacking is not focused on the countryside and varying terrain and can equally involve cities, towns, and places of interest in the countryside.
Though just like the first two, bushcraft also involves walking (a lot of walking) and seeing new places; bushcraft is focused on survival in the wild, the survival skills and techniques are the core of this activity.
As to the former two, survival skills would be welcome but are not a must.
Why the right backpack is so important
We could say that a bushcraft backpack is one of the crucial bushcraft gear items, though when it comes to bushcraft, there is no non-crucial gear. When you intend to survive in the wilderness for a week, a month, or longer using only the items you take along, every item is crucial, and your bushcraft backpack is where you carry all or at least most of them. It should keep your survival gear safe and readily accessible.
Characteristics of a bushcraft backpack
Here I want to be concise. The characteristics bushcrafters look for in a bushcraft backpack ensue upon peculiarities of the activity. I am sure experienced bushcrafters will keep nodding as they read. Novices can learn something important.
- A bushcraft backpack should be durable and water-resistant. Bushcrafters prefer places that have not been trodden by many other bushcrafters and are far from cities and towns. This might involve walking through rough and densely overgrown areas, climbing some hills, etc. Bushcraft backpacks often contain heavy loads: after all, they contain everything a bushcrafter is going to use for days or maybe weeks. This means that a backpack will be exposed to rough treatment, so a bushcrafter wants to make sure the backpack survives and causes zero troubles.
- A bushcraft backpack should fit. Since bushcrafters spend most of their day walking through rugged terrain with that backpack on their backs, besides ensuring enough storage space for all the camping gear and other necessities, it should also be comfortable, distribute the load evenly, etc. Speaking simply, it should not be just a large bag: it should be designed smartly to ensure comfort. Modern backpacks have many features which serve this purpose: waist straps, hip belts, padded shoulder straps, metal fasteners, etc.
- A bushcraft backpack should not be heavy. Since bushcrafting involves carrying heavy loads as you walk, you want the backpack itself to add as little weight as possible. Sounds logical, though it is not all that simple. High-quality, durable materials and smart design ensure comfort and easy access often come with somewhat greater weight. And though opinions differ, many bushcrafters are ready to take on some more weight if it makes their bushcraft pack failproof.
- A bushcraft backpack should be the right size. The right size, I want to emphasize it. If a pack is too small, you might be too careful when you decide what to take and might find yourself in the wilderness in need of something you have left behind. If a package is too big, its size might tempt you to take too much, and it will be too heavy. Both mentioned scenarios are undesirable: when you are miles away from the nearest populated place, you want to have enough gear. So take it seriously: just the right size.
Frequently Asked Questions – FAQ
What is the best bushcraft backpack?
You can find many reviews online where people express their opinion about what bushcraft backpacks are good and pick the best one. However, in order to decide which bushcraft backpack is the best for you, think of what you are looking for in a backpack. What kind of trips are you going to take? How long? How much gear are you going to take? Do you take a laptop along, or do you prefer a total bushcraft experience? How much are you ready to invest into it? When you know exactly what you want, you can easily find an appropriate one on the market.
Is the internal frame backpack better?
Most contemporary bushcraft backpacks have an internal frame. Its main advantage is that the backpack is flexible, stays tight to your back, and keeps your center of gravity in a natural position. To put it simply, it feels more comfortable. What’s good about an external frame is that it can often be removed from the backpack and used separately to carry something, for example, your catch if you hunt. Some find it useful.
What is lumbar support in a backpack?
Modern backpacks have many features which protect your back, even when you carry a heavy load, which you do when you bushcraft. These features include shoulder straps with padding: if you tighten them properly, it helps distribute the load evenly. Then comes a waist or hip belt with padding as well. Finally, there is the padding on the back of your bushcraft backpack, which stays close to your back and helps maintain the natural position.
What is a tactical backpack?
This term originally comes from military utilities. A backpack of this kind has many features which were originally designed for the military. Such features include a hydration pack, modular lightweight load-carrying equipment (MOLLE), ammunition pouches, etc. Many bushcrafters find these features useful because their trips target similar settings.