Emergency preparedness from a Counterintelligence Agent

5.11 Rush 72 tactical backpack review – the perfect bug out bag?

511 rush 72 tactical backpack bug out bag review5.11 Tactical Rush 72 backpack review – is this the perfect bug out bag?

So I posted a question on a couple of forums, my facebook page and in a couple of facebook groups about which backpack everyone thought was the best bug out bag out there. By a LONG SHOT, the number one answer was the 5.11 3 Day Rush Backpack. I decided to get my grubby little hands on one to see what the fuss is all about, and to let you know what I thought of the bag everyone’s getting.

I’ve been using an old Camelbak BFM on deployments and for traveling for about a decade now. So long that I couldn’t find a good link to the exact model for you but this one is fairly close to it. The one I have has smaller side pockets that that one, which is a big improvement from what I have.

The Camelbak is a nice bag (other than the tiny side pockets of the older version) but I wanted something a bit larger and not so military-looking. My current one is ACU. The reason I got it in the first place is because I was deploying and needed something other than the god-awful rucksack that the Army gives us. They suck.

But, now that I’m home, and hopefully not going to deploy for a while (hopefully), I wanted something that would fit in better in a civilian environment.

Because the Rush 72 was so incredibly popular, I figured I’d give it a try. Luckily, it comes in a Storm Gray version, so I picked up one of those. I’ve done enough surveillance detection in the past to know that gray really helps with blending in. The Gray Man isn’t just a name. I didn’t know how well it would work with all the molle stuff around it but it couldn’t hurt to try it out.

The 5.11 Rush 72 backpack is a great tactical bag

It’s made out of 1000D nylon Cordura, which is hella strong stuff for a backpack.

It’s 2894 cubic inches (or 47.5L depending on which method) of space.

It’s also under (well under) $200.

It has lots of useful pockets and straps, and is covered with Molle straps that make it a very useful bag.

The only real negative to this bag as a downrange bag or one for police or search and rescue operations is that if you have a thick neck like I do, the straps fit a bit too tight to be comfortable, but not so much that it’s a deal-breaker. If you’re one of those guys who has a skinny neck that fits this bag, you need to hit the gym more.

Now, instead of repeating all the details that you’ve read in the first link at the top of this page and trying to explain it all, I figured I’d just show you a video that Black Owl Outdoors did on the bag. Just pretend I wrote all that stuff down and showed you awesome pics. It’s hard to beat a good video though.

Here are some photos I took of it with a few key points that I like. Each of them will open in a new tab/window with a larger view.

The front admin pouch has all sorts of smaller compartments in it to keep your stuff straight. The top front pouch also has more.


511 rush 72 tactical backpack

Admin and top pouch

The side pockets are really big. They each have two inner pockets.

511 rush 72 tactical backpack side pouch

Side pocket showing inner pockets


The top pouch is big enough to hold your quick-grab things like gloves and sunglasses etc. It has a soft lining so it doesn’t scuff up your gear.

511 rush 72 tactical backpack top pouch

Top pouch for sunglasses etc


The inside is pretty spacious and has a draw-string pouch as well as a large zippered mesh pouch.

511 rush 72 tactical backpack main pouch

Inside the main pouch


The front of the inner main pouch has several zippered sections.

511 rush 72 tactical backpack main pouch inside front panel

Inner front of main pouch


I like the Molle on the hip belt straps so you can put a couple of small pouches on it or flashlight/multitool etc.

511 rush 72 tactical backpack shoulder and hip straps

Shoulder and hip straps

As you can see, it has a LOT of pockets and it’s built extremely well. It’s a fantastic tactical bag, and what I’ll be taking with me downrange if I have to head back to Iraq or Afghanistan again (or wherever someone thinks we need to go). I really love this bag for that purpose. It’s much better than my old bag.

With a tactical bag, you can expect that you’ll be carrying a lot of gear, with a lot of add-ons like mag holders or whatnot. You also don’t really care what the thing looks like (as long as it’s cool-looking). You need something that’s rugged, has a lot of pockets, and has a lot of molle things to hang additional gear or pouches on. This bag has all that in spades.

But is it really a great bug out bag?

A bug out bag is kind of a different animal than a tactical bag, however.

With a good bug out bag, you need to be able to carry enough gear to get you from point A to point B in a variety of environments, and not draw attention to yourself as you do it. The last thing you need is to be bugging out of your area due to some kind of hurricane, riots, or whatever and have someone look over to you and think, “That dude looks like he probably has food and ammo on him. I’ma go grab that dude.”

The gray or sandstone versions of this bag aren’t nearly as bad as some kind of camo pattern, but the extremely useful molle that surrounds the bag still just yells out “military and prepared”.

Also, because most people can’t really expect to fit everything they need for a 72-hour bag into 47.5 liters without hanging other pouches and equipment on the outside, some of your bug out gear is going to be visible to the outside, or at least give you away that you have a crapton of useful stuff that some lazy live-on-the-government idiot would like to take from you. There really is no color version of this bag that will help that.

Also, even though this bag only holds 47.5 liters (only in a general sense, as a backpack goes, it’s actually fairly large), it weighs about 4.8 pounds. When you consider that most people would need more room than that to carry all the things you need in a bug out bag – (food, shelter, water purification, fire, signal, clothing, and their backups – and most people don’t have the skills do REALLY survive without extra equipment) – you can see that more pouches will be added to this bag to be able to hold all that stuff. That makes the overall weight of just the stuff carrying your stuff as pretty hefty, and will most likely tip the scales at around 6 pounds.

Considering that you can only carry so much weight in your bug out bag, that doesn’t leave a lot of weight left to carry the gear you really need to survive in some circumstances.

My recommendation

If you’re heading downrange, this is a fantastic bag. If you don’t care about OPSEC and are strong enough to carry a lot of weight, this is a great bag. If you need a tough bag to keep around the house to toss in your car on the way out of town, this bag works really well too.

As a bug out bag, however, it’s better than most but there are better solutions.

I really wanted to like this piece of gear – and I really actually DO like this thing, for a different purpose. But, I knew better and went ahead and got it because SO MANY people have gotten this backpack as their primary bug out bag. It’s just not the bug out bag for me.

Is it a good choice? In the right color, and with enough experience that you don’t have to pack it with stuff outside the bag, it actually is a good choice. I just don’t think it’s a great choice. It costs too much weight and still says “military” even if it doesn’t scream it as much as other bags.

Osprey 65 – a better choice for a bug out bag

But, I wouldn’t leave you with just that. I do think there are better bags out there. Now this is only my opinion, and your particular circumstances may be completely different, but I ended up with an Osprey Packs Atmos 65 Backpack in Graphite Gray. I’ll be writing a review of it as soon as I repack all my stuff in it and completely redo my bug out bag system (which will be a whole other post), similar to what I wrote about what I have in my go bag, but in more detail.

It comes in 3 sizes so each is a little different but the one that fit me was the Large (I’m 5’7″ and 200 lbs). It’s 68 liters in the Large size (20.5 more than the Rush 72), 4,150 cubic inches, and still only weighs a hair over 3.5 pounds, saving you about 1.3 pounds from the Rush 72 even though it holds 1256 cubic inches more (which ends up saving you even more weight when you start adding pouches to the outside of the Rush 72 to fit in everything you need). The small and medium sizes are near that but not quite as large. Which is why they’re called medium and small.

It’s also not tactical-looking. Even as far as typical hippy-freak backpacks go, this one is fairly innocuous. It’s super well-made and has a very respected name in the backpacking community.

No matter what backpack you get, you’re going to draw attention in some circumstances because most people don’t walk around with them on, but this bag is about as gray man as you can get.

But hey, you really need to look at what your priorities are with your bug out bag. If you can live with the things I’ve mentioned, go for it. It’s a very well-made bag that will withstand a LOT of abuse and has enough compartments that living out of it is fairly convenient.

Just at least consider other options before you pull the trigger.

If you want to see what I’ve packed in my new bag, check out How to build the ultimate 25 pound bug out bag.

About graywolfsurvival.com

I am a former federal agent and military veteran who has deployed to combat theaters in Africa, Iraq and Afghanistan and have almost three decades of military and military contracting experience.

My goal is to help families to understand how to intelligently protect their family and their way of life against real threats, without all the end-of-the-world doomsday crap.


  1. I am just learning and beginning to put together bug out bags for my husband and I. I have done some research on bug out bags but i have a question. I am 5’2″ tall and weigh about 104 pounds. I am wondering what pack you might recommend for someone my size. I see light weight tents, etc. but have yet to see a backpack that will hold what I need and be the correct weight. Do you have any suggestions. Thanks. Please email me.

    • You are thinking it through wrong!
      do NOT buy a pack and and try to make things fit it. Look at what you need to carry find out how much volume that is and then buy a pack that size.

      The more durable the pack the heavier it will way. Hunting backpacks are an option as the frame will help carrier heavier loads.

  2. Paul Rumsey says

    All i can say is thank you. Your knowledge advice and guidance are priceless.

  3. Food for thought: Let’s say that the S has HTF and I’m a not-well-prepared bad guy. I look around and see two people with packs. One has a kinda-military-looking Rush 72 and one has a (as you say) large hippy-freak Osprey backpack in non-tactical blue. What’s going through my mind? The first guy is probably a prepper, who may very well be armed; the second guy is a crunchy backpacker, who is probably a pacifist. Who will be easier to separate from their stuff?

    One caveat to the above is how does the guy look? If the first one looks in shape, possibly military trained, then I am definitely looking elsewhere. If he’s a skinny weakling or an over-weight, out of shape slob, I might be more willing to take a shot, since he’s probably got some good gear (including weapons.) Likewise, if the backpacker is one of those guys who is in super-great shape, because he actually has hiked mountain ranges, so he might put up a good fight once the fight instinct takes over, then I might look elsewhere.

    To me, it’s hard to truly be ‘gray man’ with a huge pack. The concept works better when you’re talking about EDC than BOB. Spread your gear out over your whole family and use smaller, less tactical packs, then maybe you can do it. Otherwise, a big bag is a big target.

  4. Who are you going to mess with in a difficult situation, the guy who looks like he’s packing heat and ammo, or the flower power hippy with the osprey? To me the answer is obviously the latter.

  5. Sandy Patterson says

    Graywolf, obviously thanks for all the good reviews and well thought out posts. Your site is one of the ones I come to when I need real info as opposed to the pay-for-play articles on most outdoor sites. Not in anyway to diminish what you’ve said, but I’ll throw this out there. I’ve done a lot of backpacking through different parts of the world and I’ve found that the “bucket” style backpacks serve me best. For them what don’t know “bucket” means they’re top loaders with a drawstring closure, and have a small top pocket. Occasionally some side pockets. I basically prefer them because they have less zippers to fail. Zippers not only add failure points, they add weight and decrease water resistance. I’ve had, and still have some really nice bags from Dana Designs, Mountainsmith, Kelty, etc… The bag I kept coming back to, and which I use now for my 72hr bag, is a (grey) Chinook Phantom 45. They’re cheap (UNDER $50!), pretty well built, and I think also come in a 65L size as well. I’m not affiliated at all. Since your BOB article shows your gear in discrete packages for various applications I think you should mention the difference in pack styles. If you know your packages by feel you can reach right into your bag, grab the package you need, and pull it out. And when things do go sideways it’s a hell of a lot easier to cram a bunch of gear into a bucket style bag in a hurry than it is to do up a bunch of reluctant zippers. Especially in the dark. Pack style might seem kinda picky, but over the years I’ve had some bad ones and it can make a HUGE difference. If you get around to it I know a lot more folks would listen to you than to me on this and I think it needs to be mentioned. Anyway, thanks again for what you did, and do.

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