Four Reasons Why Civilian Backpacks Beat Military Surplus


Four Reasons Why Civilian Backpacks Beat Military Surplus

In a couple of recent articles we talked about four military surplus backpacks, and three reasons why military is better than civilian backpacks. After looking at the articles, maybe I have ignored the virtues of the civilian backpack. Or rather, maybe civilian backpacks were got given the credit they deserve.

Let’s take a few minutes and talk about why civilian backpacks are better than military surplus.


Unless someone relishes in self-harm, typically, civilian backpacks beat military everyday of the week and twice on Sundays.

Troops have no choice. They are handed a backpack and told to wear it.

Civilians do have a choice. If a backpack is not comfortable, few people are going to wear it. Better yet, they are going to go to sites like Amazon, YouTube, and Facebook, and leaving reviews warning other customers.

Before long people stop buying the pack. What happens when customers do not buy a product? The company stops making it. The company is suppose to learn from their mistakes, improves the product, and gives the consumer what they want.

For example, the shoulder straps and waist belt on civilian backpacks usually beat military surplus hands down. Let’s use the waist belt on two of my backpacks as examples.

Kelty Big Bend – Belt measures 5 inches wide and 1 1/4 inch thick..

Medium MOLLE – Belt measures 3 1/2 inches wide and 1/2 inch thick.

The Kelty has a lot more padding on the waist belt than the military surplus medium MOLLE. What does the padding do? It helps provide comfort.


There is a old saying, “Ounces equals pounds, and pounds equals pain.” Every ounce shaved off the pack weight can help make the trip more enjoyable.

What have military backpacks failed to do over the decades? If the reader guessed “weight,” they are probably correct. Who usually, but not always, joins the military? Young men in the physical prime of their life.

Civilian backpack companies look for ways to shave whatever weight they can off their packs, without sacrificing quality. For example, one way companies save a few ounces is with carbon fiber stiffener rods instead of aluminum.


With the innovation of space age materials, why not use them? Civilian backpacks offer a range of lightweight materials which should fit a range of needs.

Something these materials have done is provided a way for people to make their own backpacks. In the backpacking community dedicated hikers will sew their own packs, then show them off to the community.

Why buy a rubber stamp backpack when someone can make their own at home, and to their own specifications?

These new materials are much lighter than what the military packs are made from.


Go somewhere like REI, Academy Sports and Outdoors, or Amazon and look at the backpacks. Retail stores should have dozens of packs on display, and online stores may have hundreds, if not thousands of packs. A search of Amazon for “hiking backpack” brings back 30,000 results.

Go to Ebay and look for military surplus backpacks, and there will be a limited selection. The selection is defined by what the military has used. Typically, when the military picks something they are going to use it for a long time. Take the ALICE pack for example, it was used for decades before being phased out.

When it comes to civilian backpacks, there is a mind blowing selection of everything imaginable.

Regardless if someone is hiking the Amazon, or going on a day hike, chances are there is a civilian backpack for it.

Final Thoughts on Civilian Backpacks

When writing an article on something like backpacks, I try to write for a targeted audience. Military type backpacks are a favorite with preppers/survivalist types, and I use a range of military surplus. Thus I tend to favor military surplus. After all, I have been using a medium ALICE since around 1992 or 1993.

With that being said, civilian backpacks beat military surplus in certain ways, such as comfort, weight materials and selection.

In the end, it is up the consumer to pick with type of pack is best for them.


Avatar Author ID 58 - 199266588

Founder and owner of My blog - Hobbies include fishing, hiking, hunting, blogging, sharing his politically incorrect opinion, video blogging on youtube, survivalism and spending time with his family.

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