When out in the wild, there are always unpredictable moments where you are forced to adapt. There are two things that help you get through challenging circumstances and that is skill and gear. Having the right skill to get you through those times is equally important as having the right gear. Being stuck out in the forest while it’s snowing in winter without a jacket, even with the right skills (of being able to build a shelter and get some insulation) might not be enough to survive.
Be Prepared, Just like the Boy Scout motto says, is the single most important thing you can do when it comes to outdoor survival. Preparation often involves some form of knowledge of what you should and shouldn’t bring with you when you go out into the wilderness.
It is important you get an idea of what your essential bushcrafting gear is before deciding on a pack. Once you have an idea what your needs are and what gear you’ll be taking with you then you’ll be properly ready for choosing a backpack that will suit what you are looking for.
Above all, like with all of our bushcrafting and survival gear recommendations, we recommend robustness and durability above all else. The issue you’ll commonly see in the bushcrafting space however is a lot of the “best backpacks”, specifically built to be robust enough to handle the carrying of heavy-duty gear, are often specialist-built and come at a hefty cost.
Turns out that through sifting through some of the crap – there are many, highly qualified packs. We have come up with a list of packs to provide you with a list of the best budget backpacks for bushcrafting.
Best Cheap Bushcraft Backpacks
- Maxpedition Condor-II Backpack – Best Cheap Bushcraft Backpack
- Rothco GI Heavyweight Alice Pack – Best Budget Option Day Pack
- German Army Mountain Rucksack – Best Pack for under $100
- Mountaintop 40L Internal Frame Pack – Cheapest 48 hour bushcraft backpack
- J.Carp Tactical MOLLE Backpack – Best Bushcraft Bag w/ Hydration Bladder
- US Military Surplus MOLLE II Rucksack Backpack – Best Tactical Bag
- Mardingtop 65L Molle Internal Fram – Good For Extra Gear
- 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 55L – Most Durable Bushcraft Bag
1. Maxpedition Condor-II Backpack
Best Cheap Bushcraft Backpack
Size: 23L 14.5 x 9.5 x 16″
Features: 3D breathable mesh, Mesh webbing, hydration system
Pros: Fits a 100oz/3L hydration bladder, Gun storage compartment, Designed w/ more PALS webbing than any other Maxpedition bag
Cons: Not a huge amount of storage compartments inside the bag
Description: What’s the number one advice you’ll hear when getting into bushcrafting? Don’t worry about fancy gear until you know what you need, get some military surplus for cheap and get out there. With this backpack model you can tick this off your list and rest assured you’ll be in good hands.
Khombu’s Condor-II backpack is a versatile, durable and stylish bag that combines the best elements of both tactical and outdoors backpacks. It has three main compartments: the top compartment for storage of smaller items like keys, wallet, sunglasses, etc., a middle compartment for larger items such as books or laptop computer and a bottom compartment for food or clothing.
The exterior features two large zipper pockets on each side with PALS webbing to hold additional pouches or accessories. The front pocket includes an organizer panel with multiple internal pockets to keep small pieces of gear
Why we like it? We chose this as our top listed hear of choice as it’s a perfect mix between every day carry and expedition tactical use. It’s rugged and has toughed material yet it feels like you could use it for just about any outdoor outing without feeling that it would be out of place.
Best 12 hr Day Bushcraft Packs under $100
There are times when you’re yearning to get out but are limited on time to make an overnight excursion. This is where heading to your favourite spot and just going out to bash some logs together for the day is a great option.
These day excursions are also part of what bushcrafting is about and can make for great introductions into bushcraft. Camping gear can be left behind meaning you can get by with a smaller pack, prioritising your tools.
This is where a trusty daypack comes in, getting you and your tools to that space, time and time again without needing to lug the extra bulk of a bigger bag.
2. Rothco GI Heavyweight Alice Pack
Best Budget Option Day Pack
Size: 23.85 ltr
Features: Drawstring, three pockets, adjustable
Pros: Incredible price, Thick canvas, Great design fits a lot, Impressive overall build quality
Cons: Thin shoulder straps with minimal padding, Lack of frame will make it sag with larger loads
Description: The Alice style packs used to be the standard for the USGI for many years. Despite not being known as the comfiest, they had a clever design, great space distribution, and great quality to price ratio.
This Rothco GI pack ticks all the above boxes for a price that simply cannot be beaten. It’s hard to imagine a pack this cheap standing up to the demands of a bushcrafter and yet it does. Let us make this clear that this pack is incredibly well built, reinforced stitching, thick canvas that can be weatherproofed, and buckles used in the US Military.
As expected, there is no internal frame and sadly the pack is not compatible with any existing Alice frames. This is due to it being a mini-sized Alice pack, coming in at roughly 24L. Another thing we wished for was longer straps to allow for a rolled-up pad or blanket, which isn’t possible when the pack is full. The outside pockets snugly fit 1L (1 quart) bottles.
Why we like it? Overall, if you’re in need for a budget day pack, look no further. With a few alterations, bushcraft style, this pack will keep handling all your needs time and time again.
3. German Army Mountain Rucksack
Best Pack for under $100
Size: 25L 44x40x22cm
Features: PVC coated, reinforced bottom, heavy canvas, drawcord
Pros: High water resistance, Durable canvas, Reinforced stitching, Good build quality, Can carry an axe, hatchet, machete externally, Square base which stands upright when loaded
Cons: No frame and sags a bit with larger loads, Side pockets only just fit a 1L water bottle, Shoulder cushioning is a bit basic and can come short on taller people
Description: Another contender for the ~25L daypacks is this fine piece of work from the German Army. You will be paying a slightly higher price than some of the other models we recommended, yet this one yields you with a better design and build quality.
This classic style pack is made from very thick canvas secured with reinforced stitching. What’s more the canvas is PVC coated to give increased water resistance which we found worked well even in heavy rain.
The D rings are well positioned on the top allowing you to secure something like a blanket to the top if in need of space. Our favourite feature however was the tunneled side pockets, meaning we were able to slip an axe in between the side pockets and main compartment.
The pack, despite not having a frame, had a square enough base to stand up by itself when placed on the ground. The vinyl base means you can put it on the wet ground with no water problems inside.
The cushioning on the straps is a bit short and we would have ideally liked to have longer straps that go all the way around the base allowing for further extension. The side pockets are also very snug but can fit a 1L bottle.
Why we like it? Overall, this is a top-tier day pack coming at an excellent price for the value you get. We like the style and love canvas bags, so for the “budget variety” its solid option.
Best 48hr Bushcraft Backpacks
These are the budget packs we’d recommend for the more substantial 1 or 2 nights out in the wild. For this you’re going to carry all your essential gear but can still sacrifice a few things needed for longer excursions (like food).
A good 48h backpack should give you ample space, perhaps with a frame and as usual, easy ways of carrying your tools.
4. Mountaintop 40L Internal Frame Pack
Cheapest 48 hour bushcraft backpack
Features: 25 colors, water-resistant, inside pockets, mesh sides
Pros: Very attractive price, Very lightweight, Lots of varied storage space, Great extendable strap design on top and bottom, Nice structural build quality, Comfortable and adjustable hip and shoulder support, Rain cover when needed
Cons: Made from a polyester of unknown durability, Some issues with internal, non-essential, stitching
Description: This MountainTop pack is one of those hiking packs that we feel can be used perfectly for bushcrafting. Made with quality materials, great structural stitching, quick access pockets and a nice strap design means it is ideal for onver nighters.
Our axe fit nicely down the side of the bag thanks to the side strap but I do question how long that would last. The top and bottom straps offer lots of extra hanging room for extension.
On the mobility side of things it comes with an internal frame that was very sturdy and combined with the adjustable hip pad did a great job of distributing the weight. Not only that but it weighs only 2lbs (<1kg) so won’t be much of a hassle to double up as a day pack too.
Whe we like it? Overall we found it hard to fault this pack for what you get, its not exactly a typical “bushcraft bag” if you had to define it, but we like it as it comfortable, has several storage spaces, and light!
5. J.Carp Tactical MOLLE Backpack
Best Bushcraft Bag w/ Hydration Bladder
Size: 40L 33×50.5x28cm
Material: 900D Oxford
Features: free 2L bladder, ventilated mesh back, molly webbing
Pros: Very attractive price, Lots of space with many different organisation solutions, Pretty lightweight, Breathable mesh does a good job, Can tie a sleeping bag on the bottom, MOLLE attachments are well-positioned and hold up well
Cons: Unknown durability Polyester, No external pouch for bottle, Non reinforced stitching on the buckles, Lacks a frame, Build quality has had some shortcuts taken in some models
Description: For those bushcrafters who enjoy budget tactical gear we have just the pack for you. This MOLLE design pack comes with a ton of storage space split among many well positioned pockets allowing for really nice organisation. For the water bladder types, for a bit extra there is the option of a decent, but not amazing, water bladder.
Overall build quality is bushcraft worthy. Even without an internal frame or hip pads, it was able to handle 50lb (~25kg) loads quite comfortably. We did notice that some of the stitching for the internal pockets was a bit rushed and was likely to wear. The bag itself doesn’t hold it’s form very well, so clever packing is a must unless you like a protruding corner of your cooking gear stabbing you in the back as you walk.
Why we like it? What we really liked was of course the tactical design and how easy it was to extend. The bottom straps allow for the carrying of even a bulky winter sleeping bag. While there aren’t any side pockets or inbuilt ways to secure an axe or gourd, with the sturdier-than-most-budget-packs MOLLE and some carabiners or paracord this is quickly solved.
Best 72+ hour Bushraft Backpacks under $200
The next set of packs are for your multi-day treks and bushcraft excursions. With packs this size you should be able to sustain yourself indefinitely provided certain natural resources are available and food can be acquired.
6. US Military Surplus MOLLE II Rucksack Backpack
Best Tactical Bag
Size: 4,000 cubic inch capacity, pouches add 500
Material: Durable polymer gen-iv frame
Features: customizable modular molle system
Pros: Very affordable, Reliable build quality, even second hand, 1000D Nylon, Good MOLLE distribution, Expandable on top and bottom thanks to sturdy straps, Huge capacity that can be adapted well
Cons: It’s surplus so hard to find in pristine condition, Needs a frame for heavy loads, Waterproofing isn’t great, no rain cover, will need to be treated
Description: When it comes to getting any bushcrafting gear for cheap you can’t go wrong with Military Surplus, whatever the country. As an upgrade to the ALICE packs, this pack is the standard tactical bag that was issued in the army most likely within the last 10 years. This means that it will have signs of wear (some more than others) but the pack will be structurally sound, ready to be carried deep into the wild for many years to come.
Simple. Effective. Reliable. These things are built to last. Made of water-resistant, but not waterproof, heavy duty 1000D Nylon. Reinforced stitching all over and large, cushioned pads makes this pack ready to handle the heaviest of loads. T
This model comes with 2 sustainment pouches that, thanks to the rugged MOLLE design, can be placed wherever you see fit giving an extra 8L capacity each. As to be expected from military equipment, the strap system is basic but gives what is needed for bushcrafting – expandability, reliability and place to put an axe.
One thing you’ll notice is the USGI used this pack with an external frame and this model did not come with one. We noticed that for our 6 night load this wasn’t much of an issue as we had roughly 40lbs of gear but it’s easy to see how the pack would benefit from a frame for heavier, bulkier loads.
Why we like it? Overall, we loved this pack. We didn’t end up using all the space, and naturally our food supplies diminished over time, but the pack compressed very nicely so it never felt bulky despite it’s huge capacity. This is a champion of a bag for heavy-duty tactical bushcrafters.
7. Mardingtop 65L Molle Internal Frame
Good For Extra Gear
Size: 65L, 11 x 8″ x 33
Material: 600D polyester
Features: Molle webbing, hydration pocket, quick access pocket
Pros: Top tier comfort and adjustability, Durable build quality, 600D water resistant polyester, Removable side pockets, Highly compressible, Good MOLLE coverage, Great weight distribution, Huge capacity with simple, Handles heavy loads.
Cons: The model with side pockets has issues with attaching the pockets, Side pockets therefore must be bought separately, Doesn’t stand upright by itself when on the floor.
Description: A lesser-known brand, Mardingtop, has provided us with a quality pack for an attractive price. I know what you’re thinking, 65L capacity is huge, and you’re not wrong. If you ever need this much gear for bushcrafting it’s a sign something is wrong. Yet, the capacity is not why we recommend this bag, it’s the standard at which they’ve built this bag.
While not perfect and perhaps not quite mil-spec we couldn’t find any build faults. Made with durable reinforced stitching, decent 600D water-resistant polyester, and a sturdy internal frame capable of handling huge loads with ease. All this and the pack still remains lightweight at only 5.2lbs (2.4kg), that’s impressive.
In terms of features relevant to bushcrafting: there is good MOLLE coverage, easy axe carrying on the side, a nice compression strap system and simple no-thrills 2 compartment layout great for those bulky bits of kit. Thanks to the straps the pack can be shrunk considerably cutting off a lot of the bulk. Do note that due to issues with the side pockets, it’s best to go for the base 65L model and buy some sustainment pouches yourself.
Why we like it? The one thing we liked above all else is, with some fine adjusting, this pack is incredibly comfortable.
8. 5.11 Tactical RUSH72 55L
Most Durable Bushcraft Bag
Material: 1050D Nylon
Features: Dual compartment, water repellant, organizational pockets, internal hydration system
Pros: Top end 1050D Nylon, Great MOLLE on all sides, Clever organisational pockets and space distribution, Fully adjustable to suit all comfortably, Padded hip belt that takes a lot of the weight off the shoulders, Ideal bushcrafting capacity (55L)
Cons: The side pockets lose capacity when fully packed, No easy way to attach axe without using MOLLE, Bottom Straps sold separately, Attention to weight distribution is needed
Description: We couldn’t do a bushcraft gear review without seeing what 5.11 Tactical has to offer. As expected, this semi-budget 72 hour pack performed greatly.
The 55 Litre capacity, cleverly distributed, provides ample space for multi-day outings and can adapt to those needing more capacity thanks to its generous MOLLE coverage on all sides. For a 5 night excursion with all our essentials inside, sleeping bag on the base, axe on the side (by attachment), the pack felt very snug after a bit of hip and shoulder adjustment. If packed correctly the weight distribution is excellent considering there’s no internal frame, there is a sturdy back plate though.
For bushcrafting this robust pack will provide you with what you need and more. Made from water-resistant 1050D Nylon giving it incredible puncture resistance, reinforced stitching all over, big comfy shoulder straps and reasonable hip straps, means that this beast can handle huge loads with ease.
You could spend hours organising your stuff with the pocket system while still having quick access to it all. One thing we noticed however, was because of how deep the pack can get it can kind of throw you off balance if you don’t pack your heavy items close to your core.
Why we like it? Bottom line is if you’re looking for something highly moddable, extremely durable and with excellent design for all things practical and outdoors, this pack will serve you well.
What Makes a Backpack Great for Bushcraft?
There are a few things that you can look out for when trying to find a bushcraft bag:
Bushcrafters generally like to venture deep off the beaten track so to speak. This means traversing pretty challenging terrain and having gear that can handle that challenge with ease.
Not only do bushcrafting backpacks get put to the test from the outside but also from the inside. The gear we carry has often jagged edges and sharper bits then your average hikers gear, think axes & saws for example. There are many factors that make a pack durable, these include:
It’s a real pain when your pack gets a snag or a tear which just keeps on getting worse over time. Having strong materials like ripstop, Cordura or other top-end Nylons will not only resist damage but make it easier to fix these when punctures do occur. We won’t really recommend leather in the budget range as there’s often many problems with corners cut.
In our experience, the number one weak point of any backpack is inadequate stitching. Keep a look out for reinforced or cross-stitched seams to help prevent premature failure.
A good backpack will have some form of an internal frame or back plating to give it structure and help with its ability to hold capacity effectively. This is often not available on some of the smaller and cheaper packs and can sometimes be more of a gimmick than a benefit.
Having a bag that is designed for storing specific equipment and heavy-duty use will naturally make it better suited than one that isn’t. There are lots of clever designs that are ideal for bushcraft, hunting or tactical needs. An example of this is side straps for an axe. Another really nice plus, is when a pack doesn’t roll when you put it down on the ground making packing and unpacking easier.
The general ethos of bushcrafting is “less is more”. Putting this in practice, we recommend having a few packs that suit different duration of outings but it’s rare that you’d need more than 55L, even for a multi-day excursion. This isn’t to say that with clever design you can’t fit more into less however. Some things to look out for:
Pockets and space distribution
This is one factor outside of build quality that can really help make a backpack ideal for bushcrafting. There are too many pocket variations to list here but generally a good pack will have a large main compartment big enough to store an axe, saw and cooking equipment, one or more side pockets for easy fire and water access, and another smaller top compartment for gadgets.
A lot of tactical military style packs will have MOLLE attachments that can bring a lot of extra functionality and space to a pack, a nice plus when you have lots of extra gear.
Because a good bushcraft pack will prioritise durability and robustness over lightness & breathability, they will often come weighing a few more ounces than hiking packs with similar capacities. Many will say it’s a worthy price to pay.
The way the bag distributes the load across your shoulders and hips is an incredibly important factor in how much you feel you’re carrying. We’ve tried packs carrying 30kgs (66lbs) which felt like we were carrying 20kgs (44lbs) or less.
This is largely due to the quality of the frame and how well it fits. The secret to this is offloading the weight off of your shoulders and on to your hips. A good, high capacity bushcraft pack will be adjustable in it’s hip strap placement allowing it to adapt to different users.
While the above point has a big influence on comfort, comfort isn’t just to do with the perception of the weight. Straps can be in awkward places, can have limited padding, can be limited in how much they are adjustable and cause tugging, rubbing and the like.
How restricted you feel while you wear will have a big influence on this. To counter this, look for bags that are highly adjustable with overall good padding.
A nice plus when wearing for long hours yet not essential on the smaller, less than 48 hour packs. This normally comes as some kind of padded mesh with holes to allow sweat and humidity to pass out, even if the pack is squished tight against your back. Because you’ll likely be spending more time at camp rather than finding the camp, breathability isn’t as essential as it for a trekker.
Out of the many different features a pack can give we recommend to keep your eye out for the following: water resistance, in-built rain cover, straps that extend underneath (allowing you to attach a bedroll, tent, blanket to the bottom of your pack), D rings on shoulder straps and some form of extending or contracting the bag as the resources in your possession go up or down.
For more Gear check outour list of best survival bug out bags
Zipping it up
We admit, a backpack isn’t what’s going to keep you alive in the wild, but it is going to carry the things that are. A pack is your portable home, it holds your tools, your food, your shelter, your every need that isn’t the nature around you.
There are tons of great budget backpack models out there, and we hope this guide helped you find one that works for you. No matter what your level is, what your budget is and how much gear you need to take with you, there’s a backpack to tick those boxes.