Tactical Backpack Review: 5.11 vs First Tactical


Single soldier walking in the woods with a backpack

Let’s switch gears for a moment. My last review was on large three day tactical backpacks. This review will center on smaller backpacks to carry your laptop, or use as your everyday bag. There are a lot of different gadgets and components with these backpacks, so I will on focus on my top two bags. This post concentrates and juxtaposes the 5.11 Rush12 Tactical Backpack with the First Tactical Specialist Half Day Backpack.

In my last review I talked about what makes a good tactical backpack and how to choose the right tactical backpack, so I will not go into those elements on this post. However, if you wish to read my last review, click here. That said, when choosing a true tactical backpack, one for life and death tactical missions, you need to ask yourself one very important question. More on that later.

5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack

The 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack has tons of organized storage pockets for most people with the durability of what’s expected from a tactical backpack (without the bulky look you see in most backpacks). 5.11 is a very reputable brand and has garnered the respect from the tactical community because it takes pride in its products.

I have used this backpack in class and at work and no one really noticed it stand out aside from “cool backpack” type of comments. If I were to bring the typical type of tactical backpack to class or work, I’m sure I would have gotten other type of looks or stares like, “this guy thinks he’s still at war.”

The 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack is truly a multi-purpose bag, you don’t have to dig-it-out to go on a hike and throw it back in your closet after your done.

What I most like about the backpack is the look of the bag. Getting past the aesthetics, the backpack feels great, is very durable, has multi-purpose use, and is made by the must respected brands in the industry.

First Tactical Specialist Half Day Backpack

Let’s welcome First Tactical to the tactical community. I was pleasantly surprised by this product, for many reasons. Storage, ease of use, and comfort were some of the main standouts that really pushed this backpack above all the others.

The backpack has a great amount of storage space for its size. You are able to put small items such as cell phone, gps, flashlights and binos, while still having room for larger items like your laptop, food and survival gear.

Every bag has storage space but what really makes this bag standout is the compartments within the storage area. You don’t have to fish around the bottom of your bag to find something, there’s organized compartments that take you right to an item.

Another feature is the repositionable/replaceable compression straps. This is great because sometimes those straps get in your way, or needs to be repositioned to support other survival gear. This is great engineering and First Tactical should be applauded for their efforts.

First Tactical has also come-up with the Hook and Hang Thru system that unzips at the top and bottom of the backpack allowing specialized items like the First Tactical rifle sleeve or other survival gear to slide through and securely hook and hang in place.

Finally, the removable internal backboard can be used as a survival tool such as a shovel, splint, or paddle. This is an amazing feature that adds more credibility that the engineering and product development done at First Tactical is top-notch.


5.11 Tactical Rush12
Main Compartment: 18″ L x 11″ W x 6.5″ D
Front Pocket: 12″ L x 9″ W x 1.75″D
Hydration Pocket: 17″ x 11″
Total Capacity: 1,476 cubic inches / 24 liters
Price: $99.99
Website: https://www.511tactical.com/
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

First Tactical Specialist Half Day
Main Compartment: 17″ L x 11″ W x 6.5″ D
Front Pocket: 8.5″ L x 4″ W x 1″ D
Hydration Pocket: N/A
Total Capacity: 1,525 cubic inches / 25 liters
Price: $99.99
Website: https://www.firsttactical.com/
Overall Rating: 4.5 out of 5

The Good and Bad

5.11 Tactical Rush12 – Pro

  1. Durable and water repellent
  2. Lots of pockets and storage room
  3. Can be used as an everyday bag or emergency
  4. Made from high quality material

5.11 Tactical Rush12 – Cons

  1. The backpack doesn’t have a padded sleeve for the laptop

To purchase the 5.11 Tactical Rush12 Backpack, click the image below

First Tactical Specialist Half Day – Pro

  1. Oversized velcro
  2. Removable/replaceable compression straps
  3. Compatible Molle system platform
  4. Multi-use internal backboard
  5. 4 Loops at the bottom of the bag for carrying additional equipment
  6. Uses YKK zippers Duraflex Stealth plastic buckles
  7. Adjustable sternum strap

First Tactical Specialist Half Day – Con

  1. No pocket for hydration bladder

To purchase the First Tactical Specialist Half Day Backpack, click the image below

My Final Opinion

As you know, I am very fond of the 5.11 Tactical Rush Backpacks. However, First Tactical has got a product that is very comparable, if not slightly better, than the 5.11 Tactical Rush 12 Backpack. Both backpacks make a great every day carry (EDC) bag for the daily commute, and has enough space for the weekend trips, hikes, or bug-out bag. Since both backpacks are priced the same, it shouldn’t be a factor when making your decision.

Both backpacks have more than enough compartments to work with to organize your gadgets well. The built-in pockets are made of a lighter material so it doesn’t add up to the weight of the bag. But it does give you enough vertical room to keep your things organized. Therefore, because both backpacks are comparable in storage compartments, it shouldn’t be a factor when making your decision.

That leaves durability as the deciding factor. Since 5.11 has a reputable brand name, and because they have a proven durable product, they are still my backpack of choice. However, because the First Tactical Specialist Half Day backpack is made of the same material, there is no doubt the durability factor will be similar to the 5.11 That said, because the durability factor has not been proven by me, I cannot recommend the First Tactical Specialist Half Day backpack. After a solid six-month use, I will update this post and give my final recommendation.

A tactical backpack is your constant companion on trips. You need one that is durable, comfortable, flexible, and capable of carrying all your gear without any problems. Backpacks with high-end accessories, such as these two backpacks, may come off as expensive but if your mission is life or death, you need to ask yourself one important question. How much would you pay for a dependable and durable tactical backpack?

If you used First Tactical and can confirm its durability, please leave a comment below and let me know.  Also, if you had any issues with your First Tactical Specialist Half Day Backpack, please describe your issue below.

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