We’ve been amping to get our hands on a 5.11 Tactical for a while now, just look at the image above – what’s not to drool over. The bag looks made for abuse! Fortunately one of our contributors, Taylor Welden, had the opportunity to test one out for a while. Here’s the results of a couple of months of flogging it.
5.11 Tactical‘s handsome RUSH 24 backpack ($139) is easily my number one go-to everyday carry (EDC) backpack. And here’s why. The compartmentalization is perfect for me, my EDC gear, my activities, and my brain. Most people don’t think about their brains (pun intended) when they’re buying a backpack. But I do. Then again, I’m a bit of a fanatic about backpacks.
Think of your backpack like your computer’s hard drive. You have the drive, then the folders, and then subfolders within each of the primary folders, finally down to the individual files. Everyone creates their own unique system that works best for their lifestyle, their thinking patterns, their brains. Simply put, how they organize things. When you’re wearing a backpack on your back, either consciously, or subconsciously, you’ve mapped the locations of every item you’ve put in it. Ideally, you should be able to take off your backpack and grab whatever you need out of it with a blindfold on, knowing exactly which area and which pocket each item is located. With the RUSH 24, I absolutely can and do just that. If I need to find my keys in zero light situations, no problem.
The organization of this pack just makes sense to me. There are an ample amount of pockets, and each one seems to fit my everyday carry gear perfectly, like a glove. It seems to find this balance between a lot of pockets, but not too many. Often military packs can just be overloaded with pockets, which adds weight, cost, complexity, and more. In this case, each pocket and compartment is laid out in a way that is logical.
My favorite two pockets on the 5.11 Tactical RUSH 24 backpack are the top two smaller pockets, dubbed “book end pockets”. We all end up with unexpected items throughout our day, all about the size of your palm. We have either just used this item, or just acquired it, etc. There are so many examples, they’re endless. For me, at several different points during one day I found myself looking for a Bic lighter, moustache wax, a slip piece of paper someone gave me that provides me a free drink at a local bar, small digital camera which needs to be accessible for a quick photo, spare change, and more. These front two pockets are perfect for these items, they’re like bigger and better front jeans pockets, without the bulge.
Then inside those two pockets, additional pockets. So your digital camera will have a snug little spot behind the internal drop pocket (not to mention that little zone is micro fleece lined), and you can put in a fist full off pecans into the zippered mesh pouch on the back of the flap-side of the pocket, so even loose items have their own little zippered spot. Easily my favorite features on the pack, at least organizationally speaking.
Also, not to be forgotten, the upper top zipper pocket, which is located just behind the nylon webbing top grab handle. Why, for what? I wear glasses. I took out the RUSH 24 to Austin City Limits 2011 for some testing and abuse. If you’ve ever been to ACL or a music festival like this one, in 110+ degree heat, with nearly 75,000 people there each day… the event stresses your body, your mind, and your gear. Here in Austin, the sun is the enemy, so we all wear sunglasses as a necessity. I keep mine in a semi-soft case, switching out for my normal seeing glasses when it gets dark. I’ve spent years of tossing cases at the bottom of packs, ending up with broken glasses that cost way too much to replace 2 or 3 times a year. This upper pocket is fits my glasses (and their case if you prefer like I do) just snugly enough to know they’re safe. Oh, and it’s also micro fleece lined. Perfect.
Durability wise, the RUSH 24 is an Abrams tank on steroids. But still relatively lightweight and fits your body comfortably. Utilizing YKK #10 and YKK #6 zippers (if I’m not mistaken), means no broken zippers at that perfect time when you really don’t need a broken zipper. All that tough fabric between each zipper, that’s military-spec 1050D ballistic Cordura nylon with water-repellent PUx2 coating, which the best stuff on the market. I’ve written about my love for Cordura before, and I’ll probably do it again, I’m not ashamed of it. 5.11′s color offerings for the RUSH 24 are also appealing, with Sandstone, TAC OD, and Flat Dark Earth. There is no scientific evidence to support this theory, but I also firmly believe the black color is much tougher. You decide. Buy two packs in different colors, make the two colors fight, or be friends, however you want to do it. Send us an email to let us know what happens when the dust settles.
*The use of Hyaplon fabric patches (the same stuff the NAVY SEALS inflatable boats are made from) on the backpanel. That stuff is tougher than Rhino skin, and pricey.
*The top grab handle is simply made from military grab nylon webbing. Simple, constructed very well. Can’t ask for more than that. The handle also has built in Velcro lift-up panels on both sides (for rightys and leftys) to pull your hydration tube out of. Very trick.
*The minimal branding on the pack. I’ve been known to (and I’m sure there are many other readers out there who do the same thing), remove labels and tags from things I own. Especially when they’re just over the top. Not here.
*The access panel to the rear hydration bladder / laptop compartment. Either or. You won’t be using both at the same time. Hiking = water bladder. Going to a coffee shop = laptop. It is it’s own zippered compartment under the shoulder straps, and opens up nice and big. This way you can refill your water bladder, or pull out your laptop, without having to empty out the entire contents of the main compartment first.
*Shoulder pads and backpanels are nice and cushioned, as expected. 3 days, 7 hours a day, plus 6 two-mile bike rides… filled with gear, my back and shoulders were fine. If that doesn’t say something about comfort, I don’t know what will.
Also, let’s talk price. $139 for this backpack is a steal. For these expensive fabrics, durable hardware, countless hours of design and testing, and overall superior quality construction completed in China, that $139 is an extremely high value. Comparable packs, with the same features (potentially less actually) and relatively same construction, can easily double the cost of this pack. Go on, do some research, I’ll wait here while you check. Seriously, go ahead. …..
See? $200, $250, even $300-$400. Not that they may not be worth that cost, but the RUSH 24 delivers, despite the affordable cost. The bottom line is, don’t think that because it’s priced less, that it is missing something. It isn’t. In fact, in same cases, it may be the other way around.
And if you’re brain is heading towards the current trend of thinking > ”not made in the USA, tsk, tsk”. As a full-time softgoods Industrial Designer with plenty of experience working with Chinese and US manufacturers, let me dis-spell this idea of poor craftsmanship coming from the Far East. Yeah, that’s right, I don’t stray away from these delicate topics. China is a super power of quality well-made bags and packs. Sure, some factories crank out $10 WalMart backpacks that are full of cheap polyester and PVC, but some of the factories focus on serious technical construction. For this example, the latter is true. I’m not saying I don’t love my “made in USA” products, but “made in China” is right up there and should not be discredited.
Is the RUSH 24 (2,000 cu in) right for you? I’d say it is just right for me and my EDC needs. Do you need a little bit bigger pack? Or is the RUSH 24 a bit too big? Check out the rest of 5.11 Tactical’s MOLLE backpacks. They carry a RUSH 12 version which can handle 1,296 cu in of stuff. Perfect for a small EDC daypack. They also have a titan of a technical backpack, aptly named the RUSH 72, designed as a Bug Out Bag for extended trips, whether its 3 days trekking/camping in the woods, or 7+ days overseas. The RUSH 72 can swallow up a mammoth 2,639 cu in of your gear. Pick the right size for you. For me, like I said to open this up, the RUSH 24 size is perfect for me, my EDC gear, my activities, and my brain. Think about it.