February 28, 2020

Hiking Backpacks vs Tactical Backpacks: The Easy to Understand Guide

Not all backpacks are created equal.

In fact, there are many important differences among the various styles.

Two types in particular are of special interest to people wishing to navigate around outdoor environments: hiking and tactical packs.

Once you learn about what distinguishes them from each other, you will be able to decide which style best suits your needs.


Hiking can range from a trek of a few hours in the woods near your house all the way to an expedition lasting several days in the most rugged of wildernesses.

Of course, the backpack you choose for your hike must accommodate the length of your trip and the amount of gear you will be taking with you.

For short jaunts, you can get away with what is known as an ultralight pack.

Designed for easy carrying, this pack is great for your back and does not weigh you down. At the same time, its greatest strength is also its greatest weakness.

Since it is built for ease of carrying, it possesses fewer pockets, pouches and compartments.

Instead, manufacturers often tend to construct a pack that has one large place into which you can throw almost everything, which sacrifices your ability to organize your possessions and can make retrieving what you need very frustrating.

Traditional hiking packs are much more durable than their ultralight cousins.

Although they weigh more, their capacity is greater, and they are much more durable. This is a huge plus if you are tramping through the deep woods and catching yourself on undergrowth.

There are three basic types of traditional hiking packs:

  • Frameless backpacks. Although these are the lightest, they are not the most comfortable to carry because their construction does not allow them to easily transfer weight from your shoulders to your hips.
  • Internal-frame backpacks. These bags are equipped with flat aluminum rods or plastic frame sheets to give them extra stability. This type of backpack particularly lends itself to uphill climbs since weight is transferred with relative ease from your shoulders to your hips.
  • External-frame backpacks. As the name implies, the frames are on the outside of these packs, which are not often seen on today’s hiking scene. Nevertheless, some hiking purists still swear by this method of construction, claiming that they are best at helping you carry very heavy loads with minimal discomfort.


Think of a military mission, and images of long hauls through difficult conditions probably come to mind.

The armed forces have become expert at designing backpacks that answer the needs of the difficult assignments their personnel are given.

To that end, tactical or military backpacks are designed for the long, difficult expedition.

Although they are not particularly light, tactical backpacks have some distinct advantages over hiking gear when it comes to their emphasis on organization.

One feature that you will often see on tactical packs is an attachment system that enables you to clip magazine pouches, utility packs and other accessories directly to the bag with the use of a Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) system.

These packs use the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS), which is a grid of webbing to which you can attach gear such as pouches, knives, radios, holsters and slings.

If you have a lot of gear to carry and need a durable solution that is replete with organizational features, look no further than a tactical or military-style backpack.

However, people with back issues or who have lower stamina might do better to invest in a hiking pack, which is significantly lighter and easier to transport for long distances.


Whether you decide on a lighter hiking pack or a more durable, heavier military-style bag, one fact remains true: You need to choose a product manufactured by a company for whom the highest quality and customer satisfaction are constant priorities.

For over three decades, Magforce has embodied these principles, proudly constructing sports, outdoor and military-grade products for the consumer and military markets.

Two of our marquee offerings are of special note as you select your premium-quality hard-use hiking or tactical bag:

  • The Magforce urban day pack tactical backpack is ideal for short expeditions and hikes. It contains several internal zippered compartments and pockets, breathable padding for comfortable carrying, a side pouch to accommodate a water bottle, a hydration bladder loop hanger made from ¾” webbing, two rows of two-channel webbing PALS, attachment loops for additional gear and is made from non-slip material that is abrasion-resistant and durable.
  • The Magforce Origin Pack tactical backpack is ideal for those longer, tougher expeditions and is specially designed for consumers with military/tactical priorities in mind.Constructed of durable nylon 1050-denier water and abrasion-resistant materials, this ergonomic pack is designed for maximum comfort while also allowing for a high level of organization for those extended trips.In fact, it has more pockets, pouches and compartments than most tactical backpacks twice its size. It contains 14 compartments with a 30L capacity.

    Its padding, buckles and zippers are designed for heavy, extended use, and you are sure to have sufficient space for any survival gear that you need to take on your expedition.

The bottom line is that it is vital to understand your needs and the nature of the trips you plan on taking before you invest in a backpack.

In other words, less is not always better, but extra can sometimes add more weight and features than you actually need. In addition, you will also want to take the appearance of your backpack into consideration.

If you do not want to draw attention to yourself, for example, you will probably want to avoid going out in public with a full-on military-style tactical bag. In the world of hiking, there are no right or wrong answers.

Your job is to balance the comfort and appearance of your hiking or tactical backpack against the weight and extent of the loads you plan on carrying.

When all is said and done, choose the pack that is made of the best materials by a company you can trust. By doing so, you will ensure that you will be able to take your backpack on many memorable trips with ease and comfort.