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ESS Guardian EDC Backpack Review

I continue to be impressed by the quality of Elite Survival Systems products, and I hope to relate why in this ESS Guardian EDC backpack review.

I needed a low-profile backpack to carry all of my gear. I relied on another backpack for many years. While I was happy with its performance, it didn’t exactly blend into most environments.

I needed something new, and I liked the looks of the ESS Guardian. Since I had been impressed by the quality of another pack from the company (see my SBR backpack review here,) I was happy to give this pack a go. I’m glad I did.

Where to Buy the ESS Guardian EDC Backpack

Where to buy the ESS Guardian Backpack

You can purchase this backpack through any of our affiliate links below. I currently recommend buying directly from Elite Survival Systems for the best selection of colors and excellent service. However, all of these companies I willingly do business with.

So, let’s jump in and take a look at the bag.

What Is an EDC Backpack?

An EDC backpack is a bag that can be carried every day in a variety of settings. It holds whatever gear you might need while staying low profile.

A good EDC backpack will be comfortable, blend into many different environments and offer a reasonable amount of storage.

what is an EDC backpack

Many people carry things like a laptop computer, IFAK, pens and paper, a camera and other equipment in an EDC pack. Some people use an EDC bag to replace the old diaper bag while others keep them as a get home bag.

What Makes for a Great EDC Pack?

I felt the eyes on me as I walked through the common area of a budget “resort” hotel. Even though I was in America, I was in a Somali immigrant enclave near Minneapolis. I wasn’t in uniform but my close-cropped hair and desert tan backpack festooned with PALS webbing likely painted a picture in the minds of the young men loitering in the area.

backpack for hiking in florida

I decided right then that I needed a new EDC backpack. While the one I was carrying served me for years, it simply stood out at a time when I wanted to blend in.

The best EDC backpack is one that is tough yet lightweight so you can carry the essentials of life throughout the day.

Importantly, it should blend into the environment through which you move. A pack that stands out can bring unwanted attention. Don’t be me and learn that lesson firsthand. Be wise and learn from the experiences of others.

For my new EDC backpack, I found the ESS Guardian. I love this bag and I happily carry it as my “daily driver.” Let’s talk about why.

ESS Guardian Features

Generally, I need a backpack that will carry my basic camera gear (typically a Canon R6 with a pair of pro lenses), an older MacBook Pro 13″ laptop, basic emergency medical gear and a variety of writing supplies.

mesh backing on ESS EDC backapck

So, I need something that will provide good protection for the laptop and camera while still being somewhat compact. That’s where the ESS Guardian EDC Backpack shines.

General Construction

Elite Survival Systems uses high-quality components in the construction of this bag.

The main material is a 1000 denier nylon. Denier is a measurement of fabric thickness and weight. The larger the number, the thicker – and more durable – the material is.

Many lightweight quality backpacks use 500D or 600D materials. By using 1000D nylon, ESS appears to have built this bag for long-term, heavy use.

YKK zippers with paracord pulls

Zippers can be a failure point on gear like backpacks. ESS uses YKK hardware. The company also uses a chain cover on all the zips to improve resistance to water intrusion. This is a feature I strongly appreciate.

Duraflex buckles

All of the buckles – two side compression straps and a sternum strap – are made by Duraflex. I don’t claim to be an expert on the best buckles, but I’ve had good service out of Duraflex both on this backpack and on some Maxpedition bags.

A mesh-covered back panel has substantial padding. It allows for adequate ventilation when carrying the bag.

Laser Cut MOLLE webbing

On the front of the bag is a laser-cut ladder system that is MOLLE compatible. Although it might not be keeping with the low-profile mission of this pack, you can add pouches and other gear should you have a need.

Colors

Elite Survival Systems offers the Guardian EDC backpack in four colors: black , indigo blue, tan and trifecta. I selected the indigo blue model. To my eye, the other colors have more of a “tactical” look and not what I wanted for EDC.

indigo blue and gray colored backpack

The indigo blue bag has grayish-tanish accents and looks more like a backpack you would see on a college campus than in a patrol car or on a battlefield.

Straps and More

The carry system uses a yoke-style shoulder strap system. It has thick – nearly 3/4″ – padding that is some of. the best I’ve felt on a backpack. It distributes the weight evenly across the back.

Shoulder Strap padding

Included with the shoulder straps is a sternum strap. It’s not fancy, but it seems well made and works.

Sternum strap on backpack

At the top of the yoke system is a carry handle. It is very securely attached to the bag. Like the shoulder straps, the carry handle is thickly padded and comfortable to carry for long periods of time.

Compression Straps on Elite Survival Systems backpack

There are two compression straps: one on each side of the bag. They work as intended.

Storage

ESS designed this bag with multiple storage compartments – some specialized and others generalized.

The main storage compartment on this backpack is ample for most of the gear that people carry around all day. For me, it holds my camera, a pair of professional lenses and a Speedlite with room to spare.

The main compartment opens up completely for easy access to everything stored within. ESS includes PALS webbing for attaching MOLLE pouches to the inside of this compartment. There is also a reasonably large sized zippered mesh pouch for organizing smaller items.

size of main compartment

Sides of the main compartment are padded. While they can be flattened with the compression straps, they normally provide form to the compartment.

Behind the main compartment is the laptop compartment. The laptop compartment is padded and lined with a very soft nylon. It opens only at the top.

laptop compartment on the ESS Guardian EDC backpack

My 13″ MacBook Pro slips in easily. ESS states the compartment is large enough to fit most laptops with screens that are up to 17″ wide (diagonally). This should mean than all but the biggest of gaming laptops will fit.

Forward of the main compartment is a tablet compartment with a lot of organization options. This area is relatively thin as compared to the main compartment. However, it is loaded with possibilities.

tablet pocked on EDC backpack

It has a soft-lined sleeve for a tablet such as an iPad. It also has several pen pockets and two zippered mesh pockets. I do not use a tablet, so I use this compartment to store a large notepad, pens, phone charger and laptop power cord.

The tablet compartment also opens completely.

Forward of the tablet compartment is a zippered storage area on the very front of the pack. This area is about the size of a 6×9 speaker and is handy for anything you might need to have handy.

On the top of the bag is a sunglasses compartment. The compartment is accessible from the exterior and is lined with a soft material that is safe for the lenses on any glasses I’ve encountered.

backpack sunglasses compartment testing

Instead of glasses, I carry extra SD cards and batteries for my camera in this compartment. I often need these items quickly and this compartment makes it easy to grab them in a flash.

There are also side compartments low on each side of the bag. These are where I keep my medical supplies. One pouch has my trauma gear – tourniquet and such – while the other is more mundane.

One final compartment is moderately concealed and designed to store a defensive pistol. This CCW pocket is accessible from both sides of the backpack.

Lined with a hook-and-loop material, you can position the included universal holster for best fit. You can also use your own and affix it with a strip of Velcro.

Real World Use

As I stated above, my intent for this bag is as a daily or EDC backpack. Since I picked it up, I’ve used it nearly every day to transport my gear around.

For kicking around town, heading to the range and a variety of business trips, the backpack proved to be comfortable and ultra-reliable. I thoroughly enjoy using it.

ESS Guardian EDC Backpack Field Evaluation

I’ve also used it as my theme park backpack. My family enjoys theme parks and the Disney and Universal parks in the Orlano area are frequent destinations for us.

As you might guess, everything associated with theme parks is expensive – tickets to food to parking. So, we economize where possible. That’s where the pack comes in.

EDC Backpack at Disney World

When we head out to the parks, I play pack animal and ensure I carry enough water and snacks to limit the number of incidental purchases. We still enjoy the unique dining experiences, but I’d rather not pay $5 for a bottle of water, thanks.

In this situation – carrying water and other supplies in the bag for 10+ hours – the ESS Guardian EDC backpack performed admirably. It was comfortable to carry all day. It also kept everything dry during the random rainshowers that Central Florida can throw at you.

The bag is also well within commercial airline “carry on” bag requirements. I’ve taken it on several flights with no issues at all.

Final Thoughts

At this point, I’ve been using the pack for almost a year and I have no complaints. Zero. None.

The ESS Guardian backpack is comfortable, rugged and shows no signs of failure.

Not only does the backpack perform exactly as I had hoped, it blends in. The Indigo Blue looks more like a school backpack than something you might wear into battle. For me, that’s ideal.

Where to Buy the ESS Guardian EDC Backpack

Where to buy Guardian Backpack

You can purchase the ESS Guardian backpack through any of our affiliate links below. I currently recommend buying directly from Elite Survival Systems for the best selection of colors and excellent service. However, all of these companies I willingly do business with.

Disclosure

As with all of my reviews, I want you to have a full understanding of what influences may impact my recommendations.

I am not employed by Elite Survival Systems nor was I paid to write this article. This is no “sponsored” content.

GunsHolstersAndGear.com is a family business. That means I earn money by providing content you want to read.

I do have an affiliate relationship with ESS. If you use one of the links in this article and subsequently make a purchase from that company, I will earn a small commission on the sale. The links do not change your price, nor do I get to see what any individual purchases.

If you have any observations about this review or experiences with the Guardian EDC backpack, feel free to leave a comment below. I only ask that you keep the comments civil. This is a family-friendly site.

By Richard Johnson

Richard Johnson is a gun writer, amateur historian and - most importantly - a dad. He's done a lot of silly things in his life, but quitting police work to follow his passion of writing about guns was one of the smartest things he ever did. He founded this site and continues to manage its operation.

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