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Nothing beats a reliable EDC backpack that you can grab on your way out the door for a coffee or a day in your tree stand. But these bags are more than simple backpacks.
The best EDC backpacks are multi-purpose and will keep your items safe in any environment. They can be a day pack for carrying your laptop and essentials to work, preseason scouting, or crossing the land border into Ukraine early into Russia’s illegal invasion—I’ve used mine for all of the above.
An EDC backpack can be a satchel, backpack, or a combination of the two. The style and brand you pick will depend on your specific needs. I tested several from top manufacturers to help you find your next EDC pack.
- Best Large: GoRuck GR2
- Best Medium: Mystery Ranch Catalyst 26
- Best Small: NutSac The Sling
- Best for Concealed Carry: Eberlestock Switchblade
- Best Satchel Style: NutSac Satchel 15
How I Chose the Best EDC Backpacks
I’ve used some of the best and worst backpacks over the course of three decades. I used those experiences while evaluating these bags for sturdiness, water resistance, and practical use. Each EDC backpack is recommended based on how it can be packed, its functionality, and how much bang for your buck you get.
For this gear review, I tested three backpacks, a sling-style bag, and a satchel. Each comes from companies I’ve grown to trust with some of my most sensitive camera gear and survival tools.
Best EDC Backpacks: Reviews and Recommendations
Best Large Backpack: GoRuck GR2
- Price: $425
- Size: 40 liters (26 or 34 liter alternate size options)
- Weight: 4.5 pounds
- Water resistant
- Dust resistant
- Several zippered pockets
- Clamshell outer and middle sections
- Side access to interior mesh zippered pockets
- Mesh pockets allow for easy ID on essentials
- Takes time to break in (this is not necessarily bad, but something to be aware of)
GoRuck’s GR2 was a top performer in my testing. Plus, it is hard to beat that no-questions-asked fix or replace warranty. This pack has the most flexibility for organizational function and straight-up space for all the essentials. Interior Molle webbing allows for additional modifications offered by the company and the pouches you might already have.
There are a lot of cushioned camera gear dividers available if you want to use this EDC backpack as a camera bag, too. I got the most use out of the backpack via hybrid use. I carried my laptop and survival basics up to Mt. Lafayette in New Hampshire. I used it for my camera gear, hydration needs, and audio equipment while on a multimedia assignment in the mountains of Utah.
This pack kept out the dust and water and didn’t cause any hot spots on my back or shoulders while walking trekking through the airport. Even though I tested this pack without additional modifications, I plan to add some small pouches to the Molle webbing to organize chargers and smaller items better. The bigger zippered pockets will continue holding trauma supplies, camera gear, and snacks.
Read Next: Best EDC Knives
Best Medium Backpack: Mystery Ranch Catalyst 26
- Price: $179
- Size: 26 liters
- Weight: 2.6 pounds
- Padded laptop pocket for up to 17-inch laptops
- Organizational pockets
- Easy Access tri-zipper setup
- Meets airplane carry-on parameters
- No padding at the base of the main pocket
- Full pack affects the size of exterior and interior compartments
Made out of 500D cordura, the Catalyst 26 is a hardy and water-resistant backpack that is perfect for any urban adventure but works great for day hikes in the woods. It has a volume capacity of 26 liters and has a sleek black appearance.
The tri zipper allows an almost clam-shell like opening, giving you quick access to anything inside. Three zippered mesh pouches are positioned toward the top of the backpack interior, preventing your headphones, laptop mouse, or other smaller objects from getting lost in the base of the bag.
The two exterior water bottle pockets will help you stay hydrated. An interior cushioned laptop sleeve can fit up to a 17-inch laptop. The padding on the straps and backplate is very comfortable, and on longer hikes, I had zero hotspots on my back or shoulders. My only complaint is that I don’t have as much flexibility with 26 liters as with my 40 liter GR2.
This pack is perfect for my shifts at the fire station, where I like to sneak in some writing work or photography. The pockets and interior loops allow me to keep a selection of books, a stethoscope, trauma sheers, and my Sony A9 camera with lens attached neatly inside the pack.
Best Small Backpack: NutSac The Sling
- Price: $189
- Size: 5.2 liters
- Weight: 1.7 pounds
- Its small size makes it perfect for short trips out
- Interior pocket big enough to hold tablets
- Molle webbing allows for organizational modifications
- Tri-zipper design allows easy access from any side of the sling
- Blends in easily
- Small size doesn’t allow for full-day load-outs
- Modification options are separate purchase
The Sling’s color and size make it a perfect option for keeping a low profile with all the essentials onboard. The exterior zippered pocket is great for holding a passport, wallet, and a variety of other options. The Sling’s core material is 1000D Cordura Fabric, which is water-resistant and rugged. The four-way zipper system allows you to access the interior compartment from any side of the sling.
Inside, the back wall of the bag has Molle loops, giving you another option to further organize with other pouches Nutsac offers as modifications. Interior open pockets will easily fit a variety of iPads or Kindles, are a great spot to clip pens, or just serve as an easy-access pocket for your wallet.
I used mine for trails, concerts, and as a first response bag while responding to 911 emergencies for my fire department. The Molle loops inside enable a concealed carry option but will also fit a small trauma pack and two tourniquets. The Sling isn’t meant for an all-day hike in the mountains, but it will definitely cover you for a day on campus or daily commutes.
Best for Concealed Carry: Eberlestock Switchblade
- Price: $229
- Size: Approximately 17 liters
- Weight: 3.6 pounds
- Low profile, easy access concealed carry pocket
- Concealed carry magnetized pocket
- Clamshell opening
- The zipper system allows side-only or top-only access
- Does not require a break-in
- Organizational zippered pockets
- Hunting/tactical appearance might not blend in with urban environments
Made of the less abrasive 500D cordura material, Eberlestock’s FS Switchblade EDC backpack is a top contender for your concealed carry needs. If you run into issues with your pistol digging into your waist, the Switchblade has a built-in pocket accessible from the side. The concealed carry pocket is sealed with magnets, which enables a quick draw.
The adjustable shoulder straps allow for a comfortable fit for anyone. The top zippered pouch of the pack has slip pockets, two magazine pouches, and a built-in D-link. I love using this pack for scouting and hunting, but it can also go from the field to a coffee shop if you don’t worry about the tactical look.
You can open the pack like a clamshell or partially unzip it for top access. Molle webbing on the interior panel has the loop side for velcro attachments, allowing for different modifications. Two internal slots can fit a short-barreled rifle, laptop, tablet, or gear. There is a large vertical pouch on the inside I fit my 1-liter water bladder into. It isn’t the biggest pack, but its functional design makes it perfect for an all-day adventure.
Read Next: Best Concealed Carry Guns
Best Satchel Style EDC Backpack: NutSac Satchel 15
- Price: $249
- Size: 8.6 liters
- Weight: 2.81 pounds
- Water resistant
- Stylish appearance but hardy design
- Organizational pockets help keep your tech and papers separate
- Size allows for multiple books, audio gear, or even extra clothing for an overnight trip.
- The sling pad does not provide optimal cushion.
Nutsac’s Satchel 15 has stood the test of time. I have used mine for my main work bag for several years. Its wax canvas build repels water and has kept my laptop, hard drives, audio equipment, and notebooks dry through light to moderate rain. The overall build is hardy; not a single stitch on the bag has worn loose or frayed.
My only complaint is that the strap can hurt if I have a full loadout of camera gear, laptop, books, and audio equipment inside, so it makes sense. I can easily add a thicker pad on the strap, but it hasn’t caused me enough issues to need to do that.
The exterior slip pocket on the backside of the satchel is perfect for dropping your wallet into, having a readily accessible notepad, or, in my case, a great spot to drop your airport baggage receipt and paper ticket. Under the top flap of the satchel, there are several different zippered and open pockets great for your everyday tech, documents, or large laptop.
I cannot say enough about the quality build of this satchel. I’ve crossed the land border into Ukraine, walked the woods of New Hampshire, and used it for every flight I’ve been on for the past four years. Anyone who flies often knows how brutal travel can be on your gear—Nutsac’s Satchel 15 can stand up to the abuse and still look good.
How to Choose Your EDC Backpack
Smaller packs work great for common errands, while large EDC backpacks are better for carrying everything you need for a day in the woods.
GoRuck’s GR2 is my favorite EDC backpack. I can take this backpack on any adventure with any load out, and I often have ample space and a pack that won’t fall apart on me. I can safely carry my camera, medic supplies, lenses, batteries, hard drives, SD cards, filters, a camelback of water, and my 17-inch Macbook Pro. The Molle webbing allows me to add a holster or any other modifications inside the pack.
I’ve used this GR2 on a 10-mile hike up the unforgiving, steep terrain around Mt. Washington in New Hampshire. The GR2 performed great while traversing from desert to mountainscapes in Utah, keeping out dust and rain. The mesh, zippered pockets allow for optimal packing and ease of use because you can see what’s in the pocket instead of having to unzip it and dig for your items.
An EDC backpack is a bag that can contain the essentials for a day spent outside of the house.
This question is very subjective, but I believe a laptop, camera plus a lens, headphones, charger cords, concealed carry pistol, pocket knife, and a trauma kit are essential for everyday carry essentials. But each person will have their own list.
Most EDC backpacks will take a hydration pack, but how compatible they are is a different story. Read the best hydration packs review for more info.
Final Thoughts on the Best EDC Backpacks
EDC backpacks are typically something you already have and use. If you want an upgrade, I have assembled these recommended backpacks to suit any need. The packs listed here are water and dust resistant and have enough structure and cushion to keep my camera and laptop safe.
If you’re reading this, you are likely doing your research, but make sure you think outside the box when you purchase. Instead of thinking of it as, ‘Will this work for a day at the office?’ try thinking, ‘Will this work for a day at the office followed by the essentials for a late flight out of town?’
Even though each EDC backpack I recommended isn’t more expensive than what you’d find at Walmart, these will last you for years of work and adventure.