The first rule of gunfighting is to have a gun. I love winter because I can answer that rule in spades. With a sizeable jacket, I can conceal my largest carry pistol (or two) with no chance of printing. Fast forward a few months and summer takes over and options shrink dramatically.
A good portion of carrying concealed is being comfortable with the process. If you aren’t comfortable (physically or mentally) then you fidget and check constantly. Eventually, someone picks up on it. As your wardrobe shrinks so does your comfort. The next link to fail is concealability.
My summer wardrobe used to include cargo shorts and a fine (if I do say so myself) collection of Hawaiian shirts. They were perfect. Lightweight and lose fitting they were comfortable. The visually busy pattern broke up any outline of my firearm. Recent politicization of these has led me to change my selection. It is time to switch things up a little bit.
When going for the ultimate in concealability it is often best to look outside the box. Properly selected and outfitted, a concealed carry backpack is one of the best ways to travel with a firearm. With room to spare backpacks have the ability to hide even the most recognizable firearm outline. At the same time, they do this in comfort. In time, you may even find a backpack becomes your primary carry method.
This is not a bad thing either. Consider the pace and tenor of world events. The ability to carry, or more importantly carry a backup gun, is looking more and more appealing each day. With that sober comment, let’s look at the best concealed carry backpacks on the market today.
What Makes a Good Concealed Carry Backpack?
When considering what is the best, we must first establish the comparison criteria. What is it that makes one bag better than the next? Here are a few key features to consider.
Safe and Accessible
The first two parameters are a tie. Your bag must be safe and accessible.
I define safety as the bag’s capability to hold the firearm securely. The concealment compartment must remain closed until positive action by you opens it. For the firearm itself, safety starts with a quality holster. Bolstered by mounting points within the bag, the gun must never move and the trigger must be protected. Retention should be an option as well
The two most popular options are hook and loop panels and molle.
Hook and loop panels provide a large mounting surface. This Velcro panel requires a mated holster (or mounting straps). The bags with hook and loop usually provide a generic “one size fits most” holster.
They may also sell a holster at an additional cost. Holsters are normally outfitted with extra retention points (e.g. thumb strap, snap, or other devices). This secure combination ensures the pistol stays where you put it.
With the hook and loop option, you can also use a pistol-specific holster. You may have to get creative with the mounts. In my sling-back style bag, I’ve used an 8” x 8” hook panel to cover the entire holster. A little creative cutting around the grip and I manufactured a complete mounting solution.
Bags with molle panels allow you to mount any molle compatible holster within the bag. The advantage here is that you can use a holster specifically made for your pistol. There is satisfaction and reassurance that comes with a familiar system. With molle panels, you can also mount any one of the hundreds of available magazine pouch options in your bag.
Accessibility comes into play when you need to deploy your firearm. You must be able to get to it with ease and without issue. A sticky zipper or pull tab that is too small may be the difference between life and death.
A quality bag will include a sizeable zipper or a hook and loop tab. Be sure to exercise the mechanism at speed to build confidence that it will open every time without issue. Practice, practice, practice. When you’re done, practice some more.
Second, on the accessibility list, is the position of the pouch. If it tucked in the side, you must rotate the bag to your chest. If it is in one of the main compartments, you may need to remove the bag completely for access.
Next, the bag must be gray and I’m not talking about the color. This is not the use case for a military bag that is all ‘molle-d’ out. Add in a unit, blood type, and morale patches and you are asking for attention. Then again, in the right setting, it may fit right in.
You want to blend in with your concealed carry bag. Leave the operator bag for when you need to project a commanding presence to those around you. For now, go gray and adapt to your environment.
Look for the bag to merge with a familiar style. Business, hiking, or school, all make good camouflage for your bag. It’s all well and good to have the internal compartments loaded with molle and tactical goodies. Keep the outside plain.
So, what do you look for when you want a backpack that fits better into the gray man philosophy? What types of features does a person focus on when looking for a gray man backpack? Check out this article for a detailed explanation.
Like a holster, if it isn’t comfortable, you won’t wear it (or carry it)!
The good news is that this pack should be fairly light. You don’t want to treat this bag like your Bug Out Bag (BOB). Don’t stuff it full of everything needed for an extended evacuation. Keep it minimal. Gun. Ammo. Trauma kit/medical kit. Necessities.
First, the bag should fit. Where size options exist, avoid smaller packs that may not suitable for your frame. Look for adjustable shoulder straps and load straps. Load straps connect the straps to the top of the bag. Sternum straps and hip belts are nice, but they will interfere with access in most scenarios.
All straps (shoulder and hip if included) should be padded to help with a load over extended durations. The insides of shoulder pads and the back panel may also be ventilated and moisture-wicking to provide additional comfort. Options include mesh fabric that will reduce hot spots and sweating as well as padded air channels.
Quality and Durability
Quality should be obvious in the bag. It should use high-quality fabrics including Cordura, Kodra, or high-denier nylon (500 or 1000).
Look at the durability of the stitching. Especially for the shoulder straps as they take the most abuse.
Finally, look at the zippers. YKK makes premium zippers that are bound to last a long time! There is nothing more frustrating than a blown or jammed zipper. At the first signs of failure sent the bag back for replacement. Another option is to take it to a seamstress. They should be able to replace it at a minimal charge.
What Concealed Carry Backpacks Did We Compare?
Before we get into the meat of this article, let’s see how these packs compare to one another in terms of specs.
|Maxpedition Entity 21||VERTX Ready Pack||Eberlestock S27 Little Trick||5.11 Tactical COVRT 18||Elite Survival Systems Stealth SBR|
|Weight||2.65 lbs.||3.10 lbs.||3.56 lbs.||3.0 lbs.||2.9 lbs.|
|Material||500-Denier Kodra™ fabric||500 Denier Cordura Nylon||1000 Denier nylon||500D and 420D nylon||500 Denier nylon|
Maxpedition Entity 21
Maxpedition has been known for its quality bags since 2003. With a full line of bags, they provide everything from pocket organizers to 35-liter packs.
The Maxpedition Entity 21 is a school/professional appearing bag. It has none of the traditional military looks or feels usually associated with Maxpedition. The Entity 21 is a smaller member of the Entity line with a capacity of 21 liters. The other Entity bags include capacities of 16, 23, and 27-liters.
Made from 500-Denier Kodra. It is water-resistant with double-stitched shoulder strap attachment points and YKK zippers. There are ample side pockets for accessories and a water bottle. The two main compartments are sizeable and designed to hold a laptop or tablet.
The shoulder pads can be connected with an adjustable sternum strap. There is also an integrated hip belt. Again, I don’t recommend using these as they may interfere with quick access to the firearm.
The back of the pack includes a large pocket lined with large Velcro panels for holster mounting. The dual-access (left and right side) concealment compartment opens via a zipper with a large pull tab.
As stated, a holster mounts inside the concealment compartment to the large hook and loop panels. The large panel provides infinite orientation options. Quick access to the concealment pocket requires pulling the bag forward.
This requires one shoulder strap to be off the shoulder. Therefore, carrying the bag with a single strap is best for quick access to the holster.
The zippered CCW compartment is a little slower to get into due to the extra step of unzipping. This is only an issue if time is of the essence. There is a large panel of loop velcro which provides ample space to mount velcro backed pouches and holsters.
The Entity 21 has an overall smaller profile, which is to be expected due to its advertised size. It does hug tighter to the body and has a smaller overall presence, which I like.
With a laptop, firearm, magazine, multitool, and fire-starting pouch in the top zippered pouch at the back of the pack, I could feel the lump of my fire pouch on my back, which was uncomfortable. However, this was easily remedied by relocating the pouch to a different location.
Overall, I like the subdued look of this pouch and the overall size. It may be a hair small, but it forced me to cut out some unnecessary items. I will say, the shoulder straps were slightly uncomfortable for my size and frame (6’2″, 185 lbs.). I can’t identify the particular reason why, but again, this may not be the case for other users.
VERTX Ready Pack
The Vertex Ready Pack is another well-built pack designed to look like a business or school backpack. To extend the Grey Man look the Vertex Ready Bag is available in a multitude of colors.
The 20-liter capacity is appropriate to fit a 15” laptop as well as all your other EDC needs. For flexibility, the front panel of the bag folds into the bag to expose a series of molle straps for additional external points.
The foam back panel is mesh coated and its design allows for airflow for added comfort. The side pouch is large enough to fit most water bottles. The shoulder straps have an integrated sternum strap. The integrated hip belt tucks away when not in use.
As a bonus, the main compartment of the bag fits a ballistic panel. This beefs up the bag with an additional level of protection.
You access the concealment compartment via an oversized pull strap. A quick yank on the strap opens the large Velcro lined pocket. Holsters and mag pouches can be mounted with a variety of Velcro straps. The pull strap makes access easy in times of stress. It’s easily the length of a hand so no fishing around to find it.
As with the other bags of this style, the bag must either be worn with one strap. Otherwise, you must practice bypassing one strap to be able to spin the bag around forward.
I find the Ready Pack offers a pretty comfortable carry. The straps a little stuff, but they do break in somewhat over time. With the Hardwire Bulletproof insert inside, the pack stiffens up a lot. In that area, you will have to make the decision of whether the tradeoff is worth it or not. For me, I like the extra assurance.
Eberlestock S27 Little Trick
The 18-liter expandable pack is made from 1000 denier waterproof nylon. The result is a hard-wearing water-resistant bag. The appearance is of a small hiking backpack with no overt signs of your defensive contents.
The two main front compartments are large and have ample organizational features. The exterior side compartments are relegated to concealed carry with zippered openings. Like the other bags, swing this one to your front to grab your pistol.
The main ingenuity of the Little Trick is its large main compartment. While you can fit a handgun or several for that matter, it expands to accommodate an AR pistol or possibly an AR with a folding stock. The bottom of the main compartment unzips to expand to fit the length of a larger gun.
I found this pack to be really comfortable. It is small and compact with nice padding and a well ventilated back panel. I like the organization, which is often hit or miss with some packs.
I found it hard to use the holster compartment via pass-through openings on both sides of the pack. They are rather small and it was somewhat hard to get my hand in there to access the handgun with any sort of speed.
There is also no apparent way to mount a holster in the pass-through compartment that will secure the weapon. It basically has a sewn slot on each side where the barrel/slide of the handgun rests.
The velcro in the main compartment is not sufficient enough for my velcro VERTX holster to be held securely. The molle webbing would need to be used for secure holstering, which would be more than adequate, and the route I would take.
The rifle compartment is too short for my 10″ SBR (28″ OAL), but again, an AR pistol or AR with a folding stock would do the “Trick”…see what I did there?
Overall, this would make a pretty awesome EDC pack, but I would not use it for concealed carry applications as a primary function.
5.11 Tactical COVRT 18 Backpack
Almost every person I have ever worked with or know to be into shooting or tactical “gear” has a piece or has had a piece, of 5.11 gear in their closet, car, or on their person. 5.11 has been around for a long time and they put out a lot of equipment for both tactical and daily living. The COVRT 18 concealed carry backpack is one of those offerings.
This sizeable 30-liter pack mimics most college or day packs. Utility is expanded with several external pouches and pockets. Dual mesh side bags hold your water bottle of choice and the main compartment holds a 17” laptop or a water bladder if you so choose.
This pack is made with water-resistant 500-Denier nylon it is available in four colors. The look and appearance of the COVRT 18 would be most at home on a short hike.
While you can secure a pistol in the main compartment, the bag is designed to conceal a pistol in the larger of the two front pockets. With a Velcro panel and several molle attachments, the compartment is sized to hold a medium pistol and possibly a spare magazine.
Being on the front of the pack, access to the Roll-Down Assault Compartment (RAC) is best when the pack is fully off your body. Access is achieved if one shoulder strap is used; however, the compartment is still on the front of the bag rather than on the side with most of the other packs.
This pack carries really well and the organization is top notch. It definitely has a gray man look to it, which helps with the overall presentation.
Accessing a firearm would be somewhat slow, due to the mechanics of everything involved. However, utilizing a pack for carrying a firearm will hardly ever be as fast as a traditional holster and presentation. The zippers are smooth and there were no issues with the zipper movement. I would leave the 2 compression straps unclipped to speed up access a bit.
I like how deep the water bottle pockets are, which was definitely the best out of the bunch. The “lined” sunglass pocket was a nice touch as well. It would be useful for sunglasses, cell phones, or anything else needing a little extra abrasion resistance.
Overall, this is a good pack and works well in most scenarios.
Elite Survival Systems Stealth SBR
Adding a little something extra to the mix is the Elite Survival Systems Stealth SBR bag. This one is different from the rest of the group in that it is explicitly designed to carry a little more firepower than your normal handgun.
Designed to carry a Short-Barreled Rifle (SBR), this bag looks perfectly at home on an urban business commute despite its lethal content. The 500-Denier heather gray fabric looks as far from the military as you can get.
The Stealth SBR comes with an integrated belt and well-padded shoulder straps. The shoulder straps include a sternum strap and the back panel is constructed from moisture-wicking fabric.
The bag can be carried by both the shoulder straps as well as two side handles. The handles allow the bag to be carried like a messenger bag or briefcase.
The upper front pocket is sized as an administrative pouch holding pens, pencils, and a small notebook. The lower pouch fits several rifle magazines.
The main compartment fits a compact rifle or a full-sized carbine broken into an upper and lower. However, in the photo below you can see how it scales against an SBR with an overall length of 28″. There are a lot of options in terms of firearms that would fit just fine, but some SBR’s won’t make the cut.
The back panel of this section is Velcro and the pack comes with a mounting “spine.” The mount has Velcro straps securing any size SBR. The top, bottom, and sides are all padded to break up any potential outline of the concealed firearm.
Keep in mind, this is not a quick access bag. This may be a drawback for someone wanting “quick” access, but what it lacks in accessibility it makes up for in firepower!
This is a well-made pack with a lot of open real estate for you to customize how you see fit. There are tons of loop velcro and strips of molle to aid in customization. It also has a nice subdued look that won’t draw a lot of attention.
However, this model was the least practical as it related to carrying a concealed handgun. Keep in mind, this is not entirely fair, because it is not designed to carry a handgun and is focused on larger firearms. That is part of the dilemma.
As far as larger platforms are concerned, it’s good to go, which is its designed purpose. For those looking for a pack with the features it entails, don’t hesitate to pick it up.
The quality seems to be spot on, the zippers and access point worked without a hitch, and it carried well for it’s size. If it fits what you’re looking for, give it a shot.
How to Use a Concealed Carry Backpack?
So how do you use your new concealed carry backpack? This will be a little more complex than your average OWB holster.
Carrying your firearm off-body comes with a new set of concerns. The first is access. You have probably practiced your holstered draw thousands of times. To be proficient with a bag you must draw from it just as often. Practice with it until you are proficient and then add stress. Lots of stress.
Recognize that you will never out-draw a holstered gun with a bag. Therefore, you need to re-establish your concept of threats. The Tueller drill was not designed around carrying in a backpack.
Finally, we carry backpacks and we put them down. It’s one thing to leave a laptop behind. It’s a whole other thing to leave behind a firearm. Keep it on your person at all times!
Have a gun. If it isn’t on your hip then have it on your shoulder. Trusting a regular backpack to the task is foolhardy at best and dangerous at worst. An unsecured firearm in a bag can be a risk to retrieve in the best of times, forget about in times of stress.
A concealed carry bag designed specifically to protect a firearm is not a nicety, it’s a requirement! It secures your firearm within the bag. Hides your firearm from the outside world. It provides rapid access to your firearm when needed.
The proper use of a concealed carry backpack puts your handgun or carbine right where you want it, right when you need it. Add one of these packs to your collection of methods to satisfy rule number one of gunfighting.
Stay tuned for a detailed review of each of these packs in the future.