Common Pack Break Points & How to Test for Durability

If you are reading this, chances are you do not carry a briefcase to the office every day, but have a tactical pack that goes everywhere with you. I practically live out of mine and cannot imagine not having it ready to go. Over the years, I have had several different packs. Each time I get a new one, it seems like it is a lot better than the last, offering more versatility and seeming almost indestructible.

Even though many of us use and depend on these packs daily, we also tend to take them for granted. While a modern tactical pack is made to take a certain amount of abuse and require very little routine care (check out this great article on how to take care of your pack!), that does not mean they are immune from faults and problems. Here we will explore some of the more common (and potential) flaws. It is important to take note of these issues and how to address fixing them before they become a real problem.


The “fashion” metal zippers on older pack models were prone to the teeth failing to close properly, tabs breaking free, and a host of similar issues even with light use. Luckily, today’s heavy-duty plastic models rarely experience these problems. What you will find instead, is that the pull tabs will wear and break, or the zipper itself will fail because debris gets caught in the teeth. But both are avoidable problems if you regularly inspect tabs and zippers for fraying, and replace or repair them as soon as damage is noticed. If the zipper does get stuck, avoid yanking as hard as you can. Instead apply a little lip balm to lubricate everything and work it free.


Whether it is used to secure flaps or hold patches, Velcro is another low-maintenance item. Be sure to inspect it every once in a while to make sure that the stitching isn’t fraying, or that there isn’t a build up of fuzz on the surface. If it becomes loose, reattach it with a quick stitch or two. To remove fuzz, apply a piece of duct tape to the material you want to remove, and throw it away once you’re done.

Bungee Cords & Storage Straps

The ability to have expandable, yet secure, storage depends on bungee cords or straps. If they fail, vital gear can be lost. Unfortunately, these cords tend to fail often, which is probably because they are under constant strain. To avoid this:

  • Prior to use, inspect the cords for fraying or for a change in cover material color.
  • Pay attention to where the cord rubs against attachment points or the ends where closures attach.
  • For the end connectors, keep an eye out for loose threads or hardware, and repair as soon as noticed.
  • When not in use, be sure to loosen bungee cords so they are not in a constant “stressed” or taut state.


Most modern buckles are plastic, which is a material that is subject to breakage. When inspecting your pack or even during routine use, look for cracks or white/light colored areas in the plastic, which indicate weakened points. If this is noticed prior to use, replace the buckle. If it happens during use, reinforce with duct tape until you get home.


The straps of a pack take the majority of abuse as they are what carries the weight of the load. Straps will fail at any one of three points: stitched connections to the pack, adjustment straps, or hardware points. Inspect each area frequently and look for loose stitching or tears, straps that are slipping and cracked, or corroded hardware. Loose or torn stitching should be repaired, and worn straps or hardware is best replaced as soon as possible.

Hydration Systems

If your pack is equipped with a hydration system, you need to inspect it frequently as it is probably the most likely failure point. Common problems include cracked or punctured tubes and bladders, loose connections, and dirty components. Most of these problems can be avoided by inspecting the system prior to filling, removing the bladder and drink tube prior to storage, and cleaning the entire system after each use. Follow manufacturer instructions for cleaning, but always avoid using petroleum products on any component as it can cause extensive damage to plastic or rubber pieces. For tips on cleaning your hydro pack, check out this post.


Finally, we have the compartments themselves. Issues here are generally the result of tears. This can happen if they are dragged across rough terrain, or get caught on an obstacle. There is really not much you can do except try not to expose your pack to too much abuse while in the field. However, other damage can be caused by exposure to the elements or even overloading. It is recommended that you purchase a pack that meets your needs rather than making the pack you have carry more weight than intended.

You should also clean your pack as needed, but avoid placing it in the washer or dryer. Instead, wash with clean, warm water and blot it dry with a clean cloth. If a tear is noticed, fix it with a few stitches as soon as possible. If the damage is noticed in the field, some duct tape on both outer and inner surface will help prevent it from getting bigger. Likewise, a little super glue can stop a tear from spreading. Once you are home, stitch it closed and you should be good as new.

Some Other Important Things to Consider

  • NEVER PLACE A PACK IN WASHER OR DRYER: Most packs are specially treated materials that will break down or loose valuable properties (i.e ability to shed water) when exposed to either cleaning system. Most dirt or stains can be removed with a damp cloth and some canvas-safe cleaner. Stubborn stains can be addressed with a little soap, hot water, and elbow grease.
  • AVOID DIRECT SUNLIGHT: Yes, you can carry your pack in even the hottest sun without too much worry. However, leaving it in direct sunlight (such as in a hot automobile) will cause the materials will quickly break down. Instead, store your pack in a clean, dry, and protected area away from direct sunlight or intense heat.

Have you had a pack fail at a critical moment? Share your story in the comments!

Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.

Tom Burrell

Tom enlisted in the US Marine Corps Reserves in 1987. Following service in Desert Storm, he transitioned to active duty with the US Coast Guard. In 1997 he left the USCG to pursue a position in conservation & maritime law enforcement. Tom is currently a Captain and he oversees several programs, including his agency investigation unit. He is also a training instructor in several areas including firearms, defensive tactics and first aid/CPR. In 2006 Tom received his Associate’s Degree in Criminal Justice from Harrisburg Area Community College and in 2010 a Bachelor’s Degree from Penn State University.
Tom Burrell

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