As solid goes, 5.11 Tactical is about as good as it gets. Tested by Viking Tactics for the manifold stresses of modern warfare (no, not the video game), the RUSH 72 will hold up to just about anything you can throw at it, water included. I wouldn’t submerge it, of course, there are drain points in bottom of the hydration compartment as well as the main compartment, but in rain, there’s very little risk of damage if you’ve closed the zippers fully.
The reason I recommend the 72 variant instead of the 24 is simple: there’s more space if you need it, and if you don’t need it, then you don’t have to use it. The compression straps pull tourniquet-tight in a few seconds, and you can loop them into the attached MOLLE webbing to keep them that way. Though the 72 is a bit wider than its smaller cousin, it’s not nearly as noticeable as it seems in the pictures, even when packed. I use my 72 as a Bug-Out-Bag, with the two side pockets functioning as compartments for items that might draw a few questions if packed in more accessible areas. And despite the considerable amount of gear I’ve managed to fit, it’s still about the same as my old SwissGear pack. That is to say, fairly mid-sized, as backpacks go.
The 72 is also perfect because it’s multipurpose, and fulfills various roles without needing any pouches tacked on (although I did find a MOLLE-compatible organizer for pens, an external hard drive, and other such tools; see the previously reviewed Pocket Field Organizer). It has sternum straps and hip pads that take the load significantly off your shoulders, and also features an aluminum hard-plate in the back both for support and so any pointy items in the pack won’t dig into your spine. A recent design update now features underside attachment points, so a rolled sleeping bag or tent can be carried under the pack with the aid of a bit of twine or paracord. Of course, you could also just stuff it into the compression pocket.
Oh. And did I mention pockets? Because there are a lot of those. It doesn’t look like it from the picture above, but there are tons of pockets: a sunglasses pocket, an organizer pocket, a main compartment, a water bladder compartment, two side compartments, and additional mesh and closed-nylon pockets within nearly every one of those. If you’re not the kind of person to use a hydration bladder, you can consider using the hydration pocket as laptop storage. It fits my 15″ Macbook Pro just fine with space to spare, so if you’ve got something like a gaming computer, then it will probably fit. The aluminum hard-plate doubles as extra protection.
I won’t lie, it’s pretty expensive as everyday packs go, especially if you aren’t used to paying for them. I was lucky enough to receive mine as a gift from those who knew which pack I wanted, so I was ecstatic. But every other pack I’ve owned (a lot of SwissGear, some generic brands) has suffered from ripped handles, zippers that catch and come apart, torn outer shells, and other flaws which significantly reduced the quality of the product. The 72 has every indication of being as battle-ready as Viking Tactics claims, and even with the heavy loads I’ve carried on and off for about three months, it has held up superbly and shows no sign of wear.