Backpacks are essential when it comes to camping. It doesn’t matter whether you’re car camping or backpacking, all the different pockets and crannies allow for you to carry all those small things that make your camping trip flow by.
I love backpacks, and this form of the backpack is no different. Molle is an acronym that stands for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. It is the current generation of a backpack that is used by troops in NATO nations and has been designed to withstand the rigors that come with such a task.
The Molle system is neat because it allows for the attachment of side packs through the use of an interweaved system of straps referred to as “webbing.” This allows the user almost infinite ability to customize, and add load carrying aspects to the backpack.
The harness itself can carry items, and when you add on the large sized rucksack that is also a part of the Molle system, you have the ability to carry large loads in a relatively comfortable manner.
This is exactly what you want when you are going to be out on a hike or backpacking overnight in the great outdoors.
In this article I’ll be looking at how you set up your Molle backpack including;
- How to select the right Molle backpack for you
- The best way to pack your Molle backpack
- Creating your Molle backpack
- Selecting your best Molle backpack
- How to pick the best Molle backpacks for your camping trip
- Packing your Molle backpack
- Creating your Molle style backpack
- Sewing on your Webbing
- Accessories for Molle backpacks
- Molle Backpack Comparison
- 1. Military Tactical Assault Pack
- 2. Military Tactical Assault Pack, Large
- 3. Big Monkey Tactical Military Backpack
- 4. Explorer Tactical Backpack
- 5. Velox 2 Large Tactical Backpack
- 6. Mil-Tec Army Patrol Backpack
- 7. ArcEnCiel 40L Tactical Backpack
- 8. Tactical Gear Sling Shoulder Backpack
- 9. Military Molle Backpack 900D Oxford
- And the winner is….
How to pick the best Molle backpacks for your camping trip
As with any backpack, there are many factors that come into play when you set out to select the right Molle backpack for yourself. Will you be traveling light or loaded to bear?
You will need to make sure that you perform the right adjustments to this highly adaptable backpack to make your trip as smooth as possible.
Here are some things to consider when selecting your Molle pack;
- Appearance – This depends on what you are using the pack for. If you are just a hiker in the woods you may not care if you stand out, but if you are hunting, you will. Camouflage is an option if you need it, just make sure that you pick out the right pack for your situation.
- Storage Capacity – If you are planning on a three-day backpacking trip into the deep wilderness you will need a different pack than someone who is just using it for day hikes. Plan out what you are going to be packing so you can pick the right bag. Go big when you select, but not too big. It will not hurt you to have a little extra space, but it will hurt you not to have enough. Make sure the Molle capabilities of your pack are up to the standard that you require for your outdoors trips.
- Material – Make sure that the material you pick for your pack is going to hold up to the rigors of your travel. If you are expecting a lot of water on your trip, make sure that you select a pack that is well waterproofed and able to keep your stuff dry. Of course, that falls on you as well so make sure that you are bagging up important items in plastic to ensure that they stay dry.
Packing your Molle backpack
This is the great question that confronts any backpack user. How and what to pack? You want to make sure to utilize all space available to you in the most efficient manner, thereby allowing you have everything you need. At the same time, you don’t want to be lugging around 75 lbs. If you don’t have to.
Luckily, Molle backpacks create a situation where you not only start with a large amount of space; you are also able to add components to give yourself more space. I will look at some tips that will make sure you can fit everything you need.
- Create a checklist. This is one of the most important things you can do in any camping endeavor. With a checklist, you can begin to organize your thoughts and items in the most efficient manner possible.
- These packs are designed for modification, so make sure that you modify yours to suit your needs. Are you going to be backpacking overnight? They have an addition that allows for a bedroll holder on the top. There are also additional pouches created as water holders to keep you hydrated while on the move. Whatever cool addition you want to throw on, just make sure you have it before you leave.
- When attaching additional packs to your Molle pack, make sure you are following the proper procedure. You are to weave your attachment straps when you attach them to the pack.
- First, slide the straps from the component you are attaching underneath the webbing on your main pack.
- Second, weave through the strap that should be on the component that you are attaching. This is a strap that is designed to be woven through, not the strap you are weaving with.
- After this is done, proceed to slide the strap back through the webbing on the main pack again.
- Finally, pull taut and finish attachment.
If done properly, this will give a secure attachment with little or no movement, exactly what you want when out in the woods.
- Think in space efficient manner when you are packing. Roll clothes, as this always saves space. Utilize all those lovely nooks and crannies that a pack like this can provide. If it can go in a bag that you can compress, then do that to save space.
- Pack your heaviest items against the frame of your backpack if you can. This will give you the most support to carry these items in the most comfortable manner possible.
Creating your Molle style backpack
Perhaps you have a favorite backpack that you are not ready to part with. You can go through the process of adding Molle type webbing to your bag and give yourself the ability to add on attachments as you please. I will take a look at this process and give some recommendations on how to perform it.
- Decide where you want to add the webbing on your bag. Make sure you select an area that is strong, and you will have to ability to sew onto. If you are going to be adding a longer strip of webbing, then make sure that you are reinforcing it with vertical stitching placed every 2 inches or so.
- Cut the strips for your webbing from a strong material. Molle webbing is made of 25 mm military specification nylon. Usually, this webbing is 1 inch in height and spaced in a such a manner as to create a basketweave pattern.
- Threads come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from Kevlar to braided nylon. Depending on what you are planning on hanging from the webbing, you will want to make sure you have secured the webbing properly. Purchase the right thread to match your weight needs.
Sewing on your Webbing
Depending upon where you are attaching the webbing to your pack, your sewing options will vary. Most likely you will find yourself hand sewing on your webbing, so be prepared for such a task. Have a sewing kit with proper strength needles to puncture the material of your pack.
You can also use a sewing awl for this.
1) Cut your nylon strap to the desired length. Measure it properly, or you will be wasting materials.
2) Get your thread and needle ready and start sewing! You will want to make sure that these straps are very secure, so sew back and forth as many times as needed to get the strength you desire. The last thing you want is to lose vital items on the trail. This will depend upon your thread as well, but I’ve heard that eight times is a good amount to guarantee a solid hold.
3) Test the strength of your strap with some solid tugs and you’ve done it. You don’t have to be a seamstress to be able to pull this off, and you can now modify any favorite pack in a Molle manner. Just remember that if you are creating a longer webbing area, secure the strap every 2 to 3 inches or it will lose its ability to stay taut.
Accessories for Molle backpacks
The great thing about the Molle system is the nearly endless ability to modify it to your needs. I will look at some of the neat items that you can add to your Molle bag to make it your own.
- Knife/Multi-tool sheath – It never hurts to have a knife or survival tool with you in the woods, and this will allow you to carry it with you in an easy to reach location
- Hydration – Molle allows you attach rather sizable hydration pouches to you pack so you can have fresh water with you when out in the woods
- First Aid Pouch – You can create your own or buy a pre-made pack, but utilizing a Molle system means that it will be within easy reach in case of an emergency
Utilizing the method covered above, you can also turn anything into a Molle usable item. If you can sew the proper straps on it, you will be able to attach it to your pack.
With a genuine Molle pack and a large latticework of webbing, you can also weave items right into the webbing. An example of this would be a flashlight, eliminating the need to purchase a sheath.
That being said you would loose the durability and waterproof nature that a sheath or case offers. You can also attach clips to your items, or purchase items with clips already attached.
The beauty of Molle is that you can just attach these items right onto the webbing and keep moving. Most of the Molle backpacks that I look at below also come with D rings to attache clips to.
That completes the run down portion of this article, and by now you should have a good grasp of what Molle is and the adaptability that it provides its user. A couple of key ideas to keep in mind with Molle backpacks;
- Remember to shop for space you will need and when in doubt, buy bigger.
- Attachments are great, just remember to get them before your trip. Making a list of what you will be bringing will allow you to do this more easily.
- Check out the material that your pack is composed of. Always go for waterproof if it is an option. If you are modifying a current pack that doesn’t meet those standards, then keep in mind the great advice that I always love to throw out there, bag it up!
With that being stated, I will now be looking at Molle related items and the pros and cons of these items.
Molle Backpack Comparison
Now the time has come to take a look at some select packs and see which one comes out on top. The great thing about a Molle bag is that is will fit anyone’s needs. It all depends upon what sort of trip you are planning. With the bags below there is a great variety of sizes and additions.
If I say a bag is small, I’m not saying it as a bad thing as that might be just the bag you need. I tend to try and find the right combination of nooks and crannies for storage and proper sizing.
1. Military Tactical Assault Pack
- 18 by 11 by 12 inches
- Side and front load compression system
- 34 Liter volume capacity
By all accounts, this is a great starter Molle bag. It is affordable and durable, though it can sometimes have issues with the main pocket zipper. Made out of a waterproof, high-density nylon fabric, it will keep your items dry. The pack has strong framing that will allow you to hike comfortably without risk of injury. I’ll look at some of the benefits below;
- Durable, waterproof construction
- Good, affordable starter pack
- Rating: 81% 5 star rating
- Small for the serious backpacker
- Main pack zipper issues
2. Military Tactical Assault Pack, Large
- 20 by 13 by 11 inches
- 40 Liter volume capacity
- Ventilated mesh padded back area
This is the big brother to the first pack that was covered. With the same sturdy construction as the previous bag but much more room to pack up your gear, longer trips would be possible. The zipper does not seem to be an issue as the previous pack, and the strong framing will help you with load distribution and balance. Here’s what I came up with for pros and cons;
- Many pockets, crannies for storage
- Good price to quality ratio
- Overall: 80% 5-star rating
- Main pocket zipper, but not frequently
- Strap spacing can be an issue
3. Big Monkey Tactical Military Backpack
- 2.5L hydration pack included
- 20 by 12 by 5.5 inches
- 3 Molle packs included
- 600D Nylon construction
A smaller pack made more for hikes than backcountry expeditions; the Big Monkey tactical backpack doesn’t seem to have what it takes to hold up during strenuous hikes. Though the pack has an overall good score, there are numerous reports of the stitching coming apart.
Pair this with the pack’s relatively small size; it does not seem to be an ideal bag for rugged use. On the flip side, it does come with a built in water bladder and comes with three modular attachments.
I find the fact that modular packs are included exciting as it allows you to get right into using the Molle system. Here’s what I came up with for it’s attributes;
- Comes with a water bladder
- Comes with 3 modular Molle packs
- Overall: 72% 5-star rating
- Small size is not conducive to long trips
- Issues with sewing coming loose
4. Explorer Tactical Backpack
- 20-inch height
- Comes with 4 Molle pouches
- No frame
The storage capacity of the Explorer bag is the main appeal. With the four large modular pockets that are included, you are easily able to utilize this bag for a multi-day camping trip.
The only issue is that the comfort level seems to vary. It does not have a solid metal frame for support, which can be an issue for a larger pack such as this. This is combined with the fact that you can feel the items from the inside.
There also seems to be an issue with the bag coming apart under rugged conditions, specifically the waterproof material located on the interior of the pack.
- Tons of storage room
- Comes with 4 modular pouches
- Overall: 75% 5-star rating
- No metal frame for a big bag
- Waterproofing can flake
5. Velox 2 Large Tactical Backpack
- All told it has 1628 cubic inches of storage
- Hydration bladder ready
- 18 by 12 by 11.5 inches
- Large zippers
This is a sturdy bag with trusty zippers, which is a great combination for the avid outdoors lover. The Velox 2 offers ample room for packing what you need, though it is on the small side for a bag when it comes to a multi-day trip.
This bag does have some framing in it for support on longer treks. There is also a back pad, though you can still feel objects that are in the main pocket.
- Large zippers are designed not to jam
- Well divided internally
- Overall: 70% 5-star rating
- Small for a backpack camping bag
- Durability is questionable
6. Mil-Tec Army Patrol Backpack
- 20.1 by 11.4 by 11.1 inches
- 36 Liter volume capacity
- 600D polyester with PVC coating
- Lateral compression straps
A balanced pack, the Mil-Tec Army Patrol pack, has a lot of space in a nice sized package. It has adequate framing and will help keep you comfortable on longer hikes.
This pack is also quite durable and doesn’t tear easily. On the other hand, the zippers tend to have issues. A lot of the time when zipper issues arise it can be the death of a backpack, as zipper repair is not an easy thing to do. If you are engaging in a lot of dirty activities, keep your zippers clean, and they should last.
- Well sized and balanced bag
- Rugged construction
- Overall: 77% 5-star rating
- Zippers tend to have issues
- Straps can slip
7. ArcEnCiel 40L Tactical Backpack
- 18.5 by 12.2 by 9.1 inches
- 1000D nylon fabric
- Rain cover
- 40 Liter volume capacity
The size of this pack and the fact that the waterproof is suspect might make this bag more ideal for car camping. Durability is not in question and the Tactical Backpack able to take a beating. Structurally, the bag rests well and is comfortable for long hikes into the woods.
- Nice looking bag with good storage capacity
- Overall: 66% 5-star rating
- Not a long trip bag
- Waterproof is suspect
8. Tactical Gear Sling Shoulder Backpack
- 17.5 by 13 by 7 inches
- 2L Hydration bladder ready
- Large bottle holder
- Single sling strap
This bag would be best suited for an overnight bag. Having a small storage capacity, the Tactical Gear Sling backpack is not ideal for long camping and backpacking excursions.
With only a sling strap, I cannot see this bag being something that is going to feel comfortable on long hikes. The bag will be loose on your body and though comfortable initially, would become problematic over the course of hours or days.
- Shoulder sling makes pack easy to get on
- Bottle holder and hydration ready
- Overall: 62% 5-star rating
- Shoulder strap is not reliable
- Not for long camping trips
9. Military Molle Backpack 900D Oxford
- 80 by 34 by 22 inches
- 70 Liter volume capacity
- Mesh padded shoulder and waist straps
- Internal Frame
This is a big bag! The Gonex Military Molle Backpack is composed of 900D Oxford fabric making it durable and waterproof. As I said, this is a big bag, much larger than the others on the list. This is great for multi-night camping bag, though it would be overkill for just an overnight stay. With an internal frame to offer you support as you hike, this bag is a backpacker’s dream.
- Large with a lot of storage space
- Internal frame
- Overall: 77% 5-star rating
- Might be too large for the casual camper
- Suspect waterproofing
And the winner is….
The Mil-Tec Army Patrol Bag!
A large and well-balanced bag, you can take the Mil-Tec Army Patrol Bag on long backpacking trips or around town. It is durable and its only downfall, the zippers, can be mitigated with proper care.
I find that a bag that you can utilize in all aspects of your life is a bag that is the most useful. With a frame to help protect your back and the Molle system to expand it’s storage capacity, this is the bag I would recommend.
I hope that this guide has proven useful in your quest to find the backpack that is right for you. Just remember these key points when you start looking for your Molle backpack:
- What are you going to be using this bag for? If you are just using it around town and for overnight stays, your will not need to worry as much about things like framing or gaining the maximum amount of space. Pick the bag that fits your lifestyle.
- How sloppy will your environment be? Water everywhere will not be a good mixture with a canvas bag that will soak through. If you need it to be water tight, then get the best bag for that situation.
- How many Molle straps do you need? Are you planning on adding a whole assortment of modular attachments? Make sure they bag you get has enough straps for all your cool gear.
Molle bags are awesome! They allow you to adapt your storage capabilities to certain situations, giving you fluidity, which is always a good thing. I hope this helped shed some light on Molle bags and helped you decide the direction you should take when buying one.