“Bushcraft” is a term for wilderness skills and is the practice of surviving”― Dave Canterbury
Contrary to popular belief, what leads to wise decisions on our gear is not comfort but experience. This applies to bushcraft backpacks, fire starters, water filters, etc.
In fact, only once we are experienced can we gain comfort. For bushcraft preppers, that derives from how much time we spend off-grid, far from any comfortable seat, without a roof, with no familiar walls.
To me, bushcraft is my home outside my home. The wilderness, and my backpack is my ally, my companion, my house on my back, part of my clothing and, obviously, a place to store and carry all of my bushcraft tools.
I am sure you know what I am talking about. Personally speaking, I have purchased and tested more than twenty different backpacks during my time in the wilderness and in the field as a professional tracker.
My favorite bushcraft backpacks may not be your favorite, and that’s okay. I am one of few women in bushcraft and survival and I live in Europe. So, for what works for me may not work for American men – as an example. For that matter, the packs I enjoy may not even be available in your country. Still, the information presented here can be a guide for making your own choices.
All About… Our Body
“You must master a unique skill set that includes firecraft, navigation, trapping, creating shelter, tracking, and the use of tools, both modern and primitive.”― Dave Canterbury
Our body is in constant change. As a teenager who spent most weekends off in the woods with my parents, I can say that my very first backpack was a colorful, lightweight Invicta. I still remember that pack, colored in orange and blue. It was a real cult classic back in the 90s!
The Invicta, made in my homeland of Italy, isn’t going to work well in the field carrying survival gear, but I remember it fondly nonetheless.
- Dimensions: 28 x 35 x 20 cm; Capacity: 18 L
- Back: padded and covered in fabric; Shoulder straps: Ergonomic padded
In those years, I used to pack only a waterproof jacket, a small bottle of water, and a couple of snacks. It was my inseparable companion.
Later on, my passion for the great outdoors led me into the selection of more structured backpacks, similar to the bug out backpacks Derrick highlights.
But I always used to be very skinny with a weak back. So, throughout the years, I opted for backpacks which were a good compromise between efficiency and weight. I let my body decided what was the best to look for. But later on I realized that was a huge mistake.
Instead of choosing comfort, I needed to work on myself… and on my health too. I think many of you out there could share my story.
For this reason I started to opt out for different gear, as I will soon explain.
All About… Our Time in the Field
It goes without saying that our mindset plays a huge role into the selection of our gear.
Depending on how much time we will spend in the great outdoors, we pick up gear accordingly. One day or one week, we calibrate our decisions on the requirements given by circumstances.
In fact, it is pretty common inside the bushcraft community to have just more than one single backpack.
I make no exceptions. I consider the overnights, the distances I want to cover, and the particular equipment I need to pack. If I’m tracking, I may skip a traditional backpack entirely for my Recon Kit Bag. Pack selection depends entirely on the task at hand, and that’s why I have several.
All About… Our Knowledge
The more we know, the less we carry.
I reckon that probably everyone of us did the very opposite at the beginning of our journey into bushcraft and backpacking!
We used to carry a lot of extra stuff we really didn’t need to. Sometimes we might pack multiple pieces of the same gear, in case… well, you never know!
Later on, thanks to courses attended and an expansion of my knowledge, I was able to reduce the amount of my equipment. Less is more in some cases, and bushcraft is all about surviving with less.
Some items have just more than one single purpose and for this precious reason we learned how to compact our gear, and even how to better pack each single piece inside packs.
All About… Bushcraft Backpacks
Again, this is my personal selection. What meets my expectations may not meat yours, but I have always had a thing for the tactical side of gear because of its durability and reliability.
Personally speaking, I carry everything I need inside my backpack or in external pouches fixed throughout the packs MOLLE system. Due to my physical stature (5’6″ tall and117lbs), I always found it very uncomfortable to wear a belt with pouches attached.
My bushcraft backpacks contain the following items:
- Survival Kit (with purification systems and navigation devices)
- Medical Kit
- Fire Kit
- Tracking Kit
- Repairing Kit
- Light system
- Sleeping system
- Cooking set
- Additional clothes
It goes without saying that the survival kit and the medical kit are placed at very easy reach due to their importance.
In my opinion, a good bushcraft backpack should 100% fit your body as well as your gear needs, but always be:
6 Bushcraft Backpacks I Enjoy
1. Ferrino “Tuscania”
Ferrino packs are made in Italy. It has been a guilty dream of mine for a long time to own one of these. I held them in stores and tried them on several times, passing each time until I could eventually afford one.
This backpack adjusts for height, and it fits my back and shoulders perfectly. It has a main compartment that you can reach from a top entrance or from an external zip. It also features a roomy bottom space where I usually place my sleeping system.
My back remains able to breathe and the shoulder straps are comfortable. A large belt allows me to better distribute and hold the weight I am carrying.
The top part of the backpack is layered into two different compartments, secured by a solid zipper. It has been designed to attach several side pouches thanks to a well-structured MOLLE system.
Unfortunately, for those outside of Europe, this bag may be hard to find unless you’re willing to pay a premium on shipping.
- Tough, roomy, breathable back and shoulder straps.
- Expensive, thin belt, off size for carryon luggage when travel by airplanes.
- The pouches need to be purchased separately
2. Berghaus “Vulcan II”
Berghaus packs are made in the United Kingdom. The Vulcan II features a traditional alpine design with two roomy side pouches for canteens or medical and survival kits. More bulky and squat than the Tuscania, it has a central main area closed by the largest top pouch I have ever seen.
The shoulder straps are, according to my personal opinion, too thin for this kind of backpack. I usually resort to this when I need to carry my bivy tent to accommodate the extra space I need.
No MOLLE system provided this one. It just a really big carry pack designed for carrying equipment of size.
- Tough, roomy, solid zip, breathable back and good belt.
- Plenty of storage space.
- Thin shoulder straps.
- The pouches need to be purchased separately
3. Defcon 5 “Bushcraft Backpack”
Defcon 5 is another brand of tactical gear made in Italy. The mid-size of this pack is a good compromise between gear with tactical features and a good overall pack design.
It features three internal fishnet pouches than you can also easily remove with six plastic carabiners. The back and the shoulder straps are comfortable and so is the belt, which has also a tiny zip pouch.
I tested it in different climates and it has never let me down.
- Compat, roomy, breathable back, shoulder straps and good belt.
- Tiny pouch on the belt, closure at Y (it can open if stuffed too much).
4. Helikon-Tex “Ratel MK2”
Helikon-Tex is based in Poland. The Ratel MK2 pack, featured in the image at the top of this article, is compact and comes with a quick release. It features two big rectangular external pouches and a main compartment which make this backpack reliable and very comfortable if you don’t have to carry so much weight.
It’s weakest point is the belt, which could be quite useless in case you need to discharge the whole weight on your belly. I use this pack in outdoor endeavors, but I prefer a thicker belt that will lift the weight off my shoulders and onto my hips.
- Capacity: approx. 25L (1525 cu in). Overall dimensions: approx. 20”x11.5”x6” (51x29x15cm). All compartments with two-way zipper openings, storm flaps and pull tabs for easy opening. Hydration-compatible main compartment
- Spacious utility compartment on the upper front. Admin compartment on the lower front. Reinforced and stiffened grab handle. Genuine YKK zippers. Side quick release compression straps
- Tough, compact, breathable back .
- Good zipper
- Thin belt.
5. Tasmanian Tiger “Range Pack MKII”
A bit bulky for a thin girl like me, the Range Pack MKII is an old-style backpack. I appreciate the classic design and look.
However, unless you are a big guy, it doesn’t allow you to raise the neck on steep slopes.
- Construct a customized storage solution with the extensive MOLLE system on the backpack front and sides; equipped with attachment points for hiking poles and ice axes
- Features the V2 Plus Carrying System with adjustable back length, removable load-distributing aluminum rods, concave ventilated back padding, and slip resistant hip strap
The poor visibility is exacerbated by the difficult to reach side pockets. You have to drop the backpack on the ground in order to reach what you need.
Despite these cons, it is a super solid backpack with a very big main compartment. Side pouches can be purchased separately, but I highly suggest to test it as it is before rushing to buy extra space.
- Tough, big, solid, breathable shoulder straps and back.
- Good belt and zippers.
- Definitely bulky on skinny people.
6. Tasmanian Tiger “Essential Pack MKII”
This 9 liters is the ideal back up backpack for most of my outdoor activities. Most of the time I want to move fast and carry only the very essentials I need. Nonetheless, its MOLLE system allows you to custom it according to your needs.
- This daypack features a lightweight design with a large center pocket plus MOLLE system on the front and sides of the pack for customizable storage
- Travel fast and in comfort while carrying everything you need with breathable mesh backing, shoulder strap padding and an adjustable height chest belt
- Thin, resistant, versatile. Good shoulder straps and back.
- MOLLE pouches easily attach.
- Lack of any belt.