5.11 Tactical’s RUSH100 Carries The Heavy Loads … Or Just The Essentials
I love versatility in my outdoor gear; and I especially value versatility when it comes to how I can carry my gear.
There were times when I loaded up a cavernous backpack for a wilderness hunt. I needed the large capacity to carry the supplies necessary to be self-sufficient on a journey that might last just a day or perhaps stretch out to more than a week. I needed the ability to lash large items—an axe or machete and heavy clothing—to the outside.
Often, I’d place small essential gear in a waist pack and a shoulder sack and place those inside the backpack. It kept my gear organized and allowed me to drop the big pack where I intended to make camp. I could then head off to scout or hunt carrying just the gear in the smaller packs (in fact, that’s not a bad game plan when bugging out either).
Now I don’t have to worry about integrating several different containers. With the 5.11 Tactical RUSH100 backpack, I’ve found the ultimate way to carry all the things I need for everything from a quick jaunt in the woods to a cross-country journey. This backpack is more modular than any other I’ve tried. Yes, it has MOLLE webbing all over it. Lots of packs have that. However, this pack also allows me to detach parts of it and use them independently if I want to drop the heavy load and move on with just the basics.
Of course, we know of 5.11 Tactical from its practical-to-tactical clothing lines, and it’s offered numerous well-designed day packs, sling bags and pouches over the years. But, with the RUSH100 backpack—the company’s first true high-capacity deployment bag—5.11 Tactical has outdone itself.
While it might have been designed with our men and women in uniform in mind, the RUSH100 is an ideal bag for anyone who wants to be ready for any contingency. If you’re evacuating from a natural catastrophe or fleeing urban mob violence, this pack can carry everything you need to be self-reliant, whether the emergency (like my hunts) lasts just a day or stretches out to a week. And, heaven forbid, you might have to consider that you can never go back.
The RUSH100 backpack checks all the boxes for what a pack should be. It’s well-made, offers lots of capacity and is comfortable when carrying heavy loads. You can configure it to suit the situation by adding or removing things; and, when it comes to organizing the equipment you’re carrying, it offers exceptional features.
Let’s take a closer look.
On the Outside
The RUSH100 is available at this time in black or Kangaroo Brown. It’s constructed of 500D nylon with a reinforced, heavy-duty base of 1,050D nylon. It’s strong and tough. It provides 60 liters (3,661 cubic inches) of internal capacity. So, if you’re escaping or evacuating to a wilderness region, taking a weeklong backcountry hunting trip or deciding to hike the Appalachian Trail, this pack can hold everything you’d need.
There are several compartments with zippered access on the outside of the pack. There’s a small top compartment, large main compartment, front compartment, lower compartment and two long side pouches, one on each side. Under each side pouch is a longer, pass-through panel. I found those to be good places to store an axe, trekking poles or shooting sticks. There are two compression straps to keep gear from bouncing around and two straps on the bottom. I use the bottom straps to hold my backpacking tent.
Cache and Carry
As I mentioned earlier, there’s MOLLE webbing all over this pack for attaching additional pouches or lashing gear directly. The most important attachment points on any pack, however, are the ones that attach the pack to your body. On the RUSH100, the shoulder straps are wide and nicely padded, so they won’t dig into you. They’re adjustable, but not just for length: You can raise or lower them for a better fit and to distribute the load a bit higher or lower on your back. Believe me, a proper fit goes a long way in being able to carry heavy loads comfortably over long miles. In addition, an adjustable sternum strap keeps those shoulder straps in place without shifting or feeling as if they’re slipping off your shoulder.
Much of your pack’s weight is carried on your hips. The RUSH100 has a substantial waist belt that’s padded and adjustable. This pack is available with two sizes of waist belts: small/medium for waists up to 36 inches and large/extra-large for waists up to 45 inches. (There have been some complaints that the waist belt’s padding doesn’t extend far enough and that as a result, the buckle digs into your stomach. I didn’t experience this on my hikes with the pack, but such a problem might be easy to remedy by tucking a bandanna or pair of gloves behind the buckle.) Breathable padding that snugs the upper back and lumbar areas also contributes to the pack’s high comfort qualities.
A carry strap at the top allows you to lift the pack to toss it in the back of your vehicle. I found that the strap is also useful to hang the pack from a tree to keep it off the damp ground and out of reach of mice and other critters. I’ve had mice invade my pack before; they love to chew on everything.
The modular features of the RUSH100 are what I like the most. The waist belt can be removed by undoing the hook-and-loop flaps that hold it in place. Pouches and water bottle sleeves can be attached to it, transforming it into a first-rate waist pack. While fanny packs have ridden the ups and downs of fashion trends for urban carry, I’ve always found them especially useful off pavement. They allow me to carry essential gear without having shoulder straps that interfere with properly mounting and firing a shotgun or rifle.
The roomy side pouches of the RUSH100 can also be removed and used separately as shoulder bags. The RUSH100’s two compression straps run through the pouches to hold them on the main pack. Figuring out how to remove the pouches had me puzzled until my wife took on the role of “Captain Obvious” and showed me that you first have to unfasten the small plastic clips that keep the pouches snug to the sides of the pack.
The compression straps—buckles and all—can then be pulled through the sewn loops on the back of the pouches. The compression straps are sewn to the pack on one end, so they stay with the pack. The pack’s bottom straps can be removed and linked to form a shoulder strap to carry either of the side pouches.
Dropping the main pack at camp and moving on with the waist pack and a shoulder pouch still allows you to carry a goodly amount of gear (for instance, survival essentials such as fire starters, map, compass, multi-tool, energy bars, water filter straw, emergency blanket, insect repellent, metal cup, spork, spare ammo and more).
Organize Your Gear
So, with survival essentials in one side pouch and ready to detach at a moment’s notice, how would I organize the gear in the rest of the pack?
The small top compartment is what 5.11 Tactical refers to as a “first-grabs pocket.” Take off the pack, and things you might reach for right away are there on top. Maps, a flashlight, toilet kit and other small items you might want fast access to can be stored here. Within that pocket is a fleece-lined, zippered pocket that’s perfect for storing eye glasses, a cell phone or GPS unit without the risk of scratching them. You don’t want to dig for those things that are lost somewhere in a pack.
In the other side pouch, I might store a first aid kit, paracord and, in these times, the items needed to support my electronics. Here, I might store a battery pack to recharge my cell phone, charge cords, spare batteries for flashlights and a GPS unit.
5.11 Tactical calls the zippered pocket on the back an “admin compartment.” This compartment is sized to hold a tablet or small laptop computer and perhaps a notebook or field guide to edible plants. There are also narrow slip compartments to organize pens, an additional flashlight and such. I filled a couple of these slots with a flat-folding saw and a length of paracord. There are also two other zippered pockets within this compartment.
I stuffed my sleeping bag into the lower compartment. This pocket has extra fabric at the back end to make it an expandable compartment. Keep in mind that it expands into space occupied by the large main compartment. Add to one, and you give up space in the other.
You can’t access gear in the main compartment from the lower zippered pocket, but that’s okay. It serves as one more separate pocket with easy access from the outside without having to dig through all the contents of the main compartment.
The main compartment opens wide (270 degrees) to allow easy packing and access. This is a good space for spare clothing (socks, underwear or a down jacket, for instance) and food, a cook pot and stove. I also found this main compartment a good place to stow my Ruger PC Carbine, taken down into its two main components. Within the main compartment is a sleeve for a water bladder. There’s an attachment strap to keep the bladder from sagging to the bottom. There’s a port to run the bite tube through so you can hydrate as you move.
The main compartment is where you access the RUSH100 frame. This is a grid of flat aluminum strips and fiberglass rods that adds rigidity to the pack. It’s great when carrying heavy loads, but it’s also removable if you want to stuff the pack into a kayak, canoe, float plane or other irregular space.
Ready When You Are
The 5.11 Tactical RUSH100 backpack is something you can use on a regular basis. Sure, it fills the obvious roles for camping, hunting and wilderness travel, but it would be a good one-bag option for road trips as well.
When you’re not on the road, you could keep your RUSH100 backpack loaded and ready. It would make an excellent grab-and-go bag that you could toss into your vehicle if you were forced to leave with only a moment’s warning. And, if you had to abandon your vehicle at some point, the ability to shoulder this pack would be much better than dragging a heavy suitcase over every bump down the road. Additionally, the versatility to detach and run with just a waist pack or shoulder sack could prove invaluable.
5.11 Tactical RUSH100 Backpack
- Construction: 500D nylon (main), 1,050D nylon (base)
- Dimensions: 5 x 11.0 x 10.25 inches
- Total capacity: 3,661 cubic inches (60 liters)
- Rush Tier System compatibility
- Torso heights: 17-21 inches
- Small/Medium belt: 30-36 inches
- Large/XL belt: 35-45 inches
- Weight: 5.73 pounds
Editor’s note: A version of this article first appeared in the MARCH, 2021 print issue of American Survival Guide.