How to Properly Pack a Tactical Backpack in 5 Steps

Written by

John Cotton


Logan Miller

how to properly pack a tactical backpack

We all probably have our way of organizing our bags for school, work, or other everyday activities. However, going on a long-distance hiking trail, camping trip, military enlistment, or temporary duty assignment is a different story.

You should consider all the essentials you would need to survive for the whole duration of your trip without bringing too much to the point your back hurts.

Proper organization is the key. Worry no more because after reading this guide, you will learn how to properly pack a tactical backpack.

The Best Way to Properly Pack a Tactical Backpack


Step 1: Figure out what you need

The things we need to prepare primarily depend on the purpose of our trip, its duration, and the setting of our destination.

For a typical tactical backpack setup, the basic things you need are:

  • First aid kit
  • Water
  • Food
  • Items for Personal hygiene
  • Tools

In addition, these are the things to have in a survival backpack:

  • Clothing
  • Fire ignition kit
  • Phone or communication devices
  • Bedding or sleeping bag
  • Self-defense kit
  • High-lumen flashlights
  • Tent

As above, you should always create a list of the necessary items to bring so as not to forget them and make sure that the amount is enough to last for the whole span of your trip.

Do not hesitate to leave behind unnecessary items because it will only burden your back in the long run.

Step 2: Pack the bottom of your bag

To keep an even weight distribution, the heaviest goods are placed at the bottom.

Secure the heaviest things, such as your sleeping bag, and the bulkiest equipment, such as entrenching gear, at the bottom of the backpack.

Use the loops and straps available to secure your tent if your backpack has an external frame.

The items you only need access to at the end of the day should also be kept at the bottom of your pack. This includes your bedding, extra clothing, and the majority of your personal hygiene supplies or toiletries.

Step 3: Load the middle section of your backpack

Medium-weight items go in the middle part, such as food and undergarments. Put your water and flashlight if there is still enough space.

Step 4: Fill in the top layer of your bag

The lightest items, such as your match and smartphone, should be placed on top.

In order to quickly access them, also keep self-defense supplies, your compass, and other navigational devices right on the top holders.

You can also keep a thin wind coat, raincoat, and a couple of dry socks and masks on those top pockets.

Snacks for mid-mission, tablets for purifying water, keys, and other small things can be inserted into the top outer compartments as well.

Step 5: Make use of the outside compartment, pockets, and attachments

Get the most out of your military backpack contents especially if it is Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment, commonly referred to as MOLLE compatible.

For a MOLLE backpack setup, you can attach holsters, protective ear gear, goggles, water containers, multifunctional knives, first aid supplies, and other necessities to the functional webbing platform.

What to Pack in Your Tactical Backpack?


Here is a more detailed guide on what to pack in a survival backpack.

  • First-aid kit – Make sure your first-aid kit includes an insect repellent, burn ointment, and hydrogen peroxide in case of bee stings, burns, or other typical incidents. You can also purchase an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit) pouch which has the necessary medical supplies to treat severe trauma rapidly.
  • Water – One liter of water for every two hours of hiking is the general recommendation. You should drink at least two liters of water each day when camping.
  • Food – Bring ready-to-go food like sandwiches, granola bars, and jerky in order to lessen the hassle of cooking. Also, make protein-rich, energy-boosting food choices to replenish your strength faster. Consider carrying dried fruits and nuts instead of fresh fruits since dried ones weigh less and do not spoil quickly.
  • Personal hygiene items – Bring the necessities, such as biodegradable soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste. Females may consider carrying a pee rag.
  • Tools and self-defense kit – To handle various cutting tasks and cook meals, bring a multipurpose knife. You could also carry an ax to clear the bushes if your bag has bottom loops.

Together with pepper sprays and stun guns, these can be employed for self-defense.

As for the survival backpack essentials:

  • Clothing – Bring a pair of pants, a long-sleeved shirt, and two t-shirts. Also, bring a set of shorts with inbuilt underwear to wear when cleaning your pants.
  • Lighting essentials – To start the fire, you’ll need lighters or matches. Bring a flashlight or portable lantern, ideally with solar-powered inputs to have illumination at night.
  • Communication devices – For navigation, several devices come with an integrated magnetic compass. Consider packing spare batteries or a power bank, preferably with solar-powered features.
  • Bedding – Include a sleeping bag or pad to improve your sleep quality.

Helpful Tips/ FAQs

What is an IFAK (Individual First Aid Kit)?

An IFAK contains the necessary medical supplies to immediately attend to severe trauma. These are one of the main things to pack in a military rucksack.

Its contents are designed to treat serious bleeding and breathing obstruction. Basic first aid can also be performed using it.

What are the loops on a tactical bag for?

Any item that you would rather not place within your bag can be carried using tactical backpack loops.

You can utilize them to transport any equipment or supplies you need to access easily. They are also ideal for hauling sharp objects like knives, axes, or ice picks.

Additionally, you may fasten all dirty objects to the loops to keep them from contaminating the clean clothing and goods within the bag.

It is also advised to attach items with strong scents, such as fuel, to the loops.

What is the best color for tactical backpacks?

A tactical backpack’s ideal color depends on its intended usage.

For covert outdoor use, choose a rucksack that will camouflage nicely, like what gamers use tactical pack PUBG style.

A vividly colored backpack would be preferable for leisurely outdoor activities.

Choose a reasonably plain-looking black or gray pack for urban use as a bug-out bag.

What is the difference between hiking and tactical backpacks?

The key features of tactical backpacks include expansion through mission-specific storage capacity, low visibility, and durability.

Meanwhile, hiking backpacks often come in a variety of visually attractive, bright, vivid colors and patterns that prioritizes comfort, carrying capacity, and lightweight features.

What do soldiers carry in their backpacks?

Several sources online provide an army rucksack packing list for reference, which contains a list of items.

For soldiers, the essential items include:

  • Hydration bladder
  • First-aid kits
  • Lightweight food, such as nutrition shakes
  • Gun cleaning tools

Other than that, they also carry a flashlight, night-vision goggles and protection gear, sleeping bags, sunscreen, fire kits, compasses, essential medicine, and more.

You can also view in this video what to include and how to pack a 3 day assault pack.


The most efficient way to set up tactical backpack essentials is thinking of it as similar to building a pyramid.

Arrange the heaviest objects at the bottom of the pile, then the intermediate items in the midsection, and finally the lightweight ones on top.

Moreover, a tactical backpack has exterior pockets made to store smaller things such as flashlights, knives, and first aid supplies.

Now that you know how to properly pack a tactical backpack, you are finally prepared to venture out without the fear of leaving items behind, experiencing a shortage, or worrying about hurting your back.

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