Check out the video above for a look at some great bags found at a variety of army surplus stores.
The Advantages of Army Surplus Bags
As much as technology seems to change, most of our devices don’t and that makes tech bags concentrate on a few key items: smartphones, tablets, laptops, pens, notebooks, mice, cables, and so on. While it might seem like that does the trick, we move unusual items in and out of our bags on a regular basis. We just don’t always carry the same stuff.
Military bags need that kind of versatility because they support different kinds of people with different carrying needs day-to-day. For that reason, they have a variety of modular features that you won’t find in standard tech bags and backpacks. Furthermore, army bags get used in the field so the need special features and several easy access points without turning into massive packs that decrease mobility. They’re also made to work with each other and other attachments so you can easily create a modular system. This kind of focus also aids the average person looking to port around a fair amount of stuff for whatever reason, but standard bag manufacturers don’t have as much of a reason to think about that. As a result, you get a lot of useful innovation happening with bags designed for military personnel.
But wait, there’s more! Army surplus stores, by nature, sell their gear for less—just like any surplus store. You’re buying the extra stock. For that reason, you won’t pay as much. So not only will you get a better bag, but it’ll costs you significantly less money than the standard options you see everywhere else.
Small Sacrifices You Make with Army Surplus Bags
For the most part, you don’t sacrifice much when you go with an army surplus bag. They come in such a wide variety of form factors that with enough research you can almost always find one that fits your exact needs. That said, the bags do come with some downsides.
First, some people won’t appreciate the aesthetics. Standard bags and backpacks come in a variety of styles but army surplus bags only come in one: military. You can get a few different colors—you’ll find most in black, camel, camouflage, and olive drab—but they all look pretty much the same. Some have waterproof material, others use treated canvas, but the visual aspects of the bag don’t vary much. If style is your main concern and this one look doesn’t work for you, then you won’t want an army surplus bag.
Second, finding your way around some army surplus bags can get a little cumbersome. Even incredibly tiny bags (like this one—see the video above for a closer look) hold a ton of stuff. When you go small, that works pretty well because the laws of nature restrict how much crap you can cram into a small package. When you get larger bags, however, you wind up with so many pockets, spaces, and hooks that you could get lost finding your way around your own backpack. While you can get used to this, if you ever need to remove everything from that bag you have a good chance of forgetting an item or two. When you need an enormous pack, keep this in mind. Not all army surplus bags have endless little pockets, so you can often look at a few and find one that suits your needs.
Other than that, you have little else to complain about. They’re made to last, they’re comfortable, and (in most cases) they can withstand the elements. Newer bags actually have technology compartments, too, so you can find options that can hold anything from tablets to laptops to DSLR cameras.
How to Pick the Right Bag
To pick the right bag you have to try a bunch of them out. If you can, find an army surplus store (or two) near you and get to know the bags. While shoulder bags and backpacks will always have some level of familiarity, the ones you’ll find at an army surplus store operate a little differently. Your expectations will betray you somewhat if you assume you know what you’re getting and just order online.
If you can’t find a nearby store, pick an online one with a good return policy and get a few bags to try out. Return the ones you don’t like and keep the one you do. To get you started, here are a few manufacturers that make good stuff:
Any of those companies will give you a solid options, and you can find many of their products from online army surplus stores or even Amazon. From there you just need to look at the different bags and weigh the size and storage options to figure out what suits you best. Remember: they make a lot of different varieties so don’t settle for something that sort of suits you. If you look hard enough, you can probably find a bag that provides exactly what you want.