The GORUCK GR1 is a new type of travel backpack. Designed to hold up in the most challenging environments, it provides a highly comfortable journey with all your essentials at hand. This review will explore whether this tough-as-nails luxury product lives up to its hype while being practical and affordable enough for general use—a simple, long-lasting, epic-warranty-covered, and pricey backpack.
The GORUCK GR1 blurs the border between daypack and travel bag. We believe it’s a perfect weekend bag at 26 liters, while certain ultra-minimalists may be able to utilize it as a one-bag travel pack. It has many features we’ve come to know and appreciate from the GR2 and GR3, and we’ve had a lot of fun trying it out. And, as you’ve probably guessed by now, we’ll be talking about the backpack in this review.
For those who are unfamiliar, GORUCK is a backpack company with a fascinating history. A former Green Beret founded the firm, and they have a long military history (which you can tell just by looking at the bags). They also organize “rucking” competitions around the United States, in which participants train by running up mountains while carrying startlingly huge weights in their backpacks. Yes, I’m serious.
While we haven’t participated in any of these rucking events (we like our coffee shops and computers), we’re confident that any backpack capable of regularly pulling hundreds of pounds up mountains would be a solid long-term travel choice.
Aesthetics & Materials
Starting with the colors, the GR1 is available in grays, greens, and camouflage patterns. We mention it comes in a “variety” of colors because GORUCK’s colorways are continuously changing, so depending on when you’re reading this review, you could see some different colors on their website. However, it is only available in Black and Ranger Green at this review. Of course, the black will always be a mainstay—our personal favorite—but the other hues are usually a mix of those mentioned above.
The three rows of MOLLE on the bottom and sides of this pack give it a subtle “tactical” aspect. However, it still has a streamlined vibe, which we like. You don’t have a considerable quantity of straps and MOLLE on the outside.
Like we usually do, we polled our Instagram followers to see what they thought of the bag’s design, and the results were a resounding 77 percent in favor and 23 percent against. It seems that the majority of people—or, at the very least, the majority of our audience—like the aesthetic of this pack. We tend to agree with the majority of you. This is a sleek device.
This pack does not have any exterior marking; however, it does include a tiny velcro square on the top that you may use to brand it with a patch of your choice. (Of course, we’ve had a Pack Hacker patch on ours!) Keep in mind that the velcro has a little rectangular cut out to symbolize the American flag, which will show up if you don’t have a patch on there. The flag outline comes from all GORUCK goods made in the United States.
GORUCK is renowned for employing very tough materials in all of its backpacks, and this one is no exception. There is 1000D CORDURA® nylon throughout the pack and oversized YKK zippers. Although the zippers aren’t AquaGuard—there may be a bit more weather resistance there—they are reverse coil, which will keep dirt and filth out. This is particularly crucial if you plan on utilizing it for one of their rucking activities!
To conclude, the contents included in this collection are among the finest available. The material is exceptionally ripped, tear, and abrasion-resistant and the zippers are among the finest on the market. However, the main drawback is that it isn’t very weather-resistant.
Components on the Outside
We’ll start with the top handle while looking at the bag’s outside. This handle may seem small, yet it has just the right amount of cushioning for a secure grip. It’s a simple handle with no frills, which is a good metaphor for this pack… Whoa.
Let’s discuss MOLLE now. Three rows and six loops of MOLLE are located at the bottom of the pack. In addition, there are three rows and two loops on each side. This is ideal for attaching any MOLLE-based attachments to the outside of the package, such as hip belts, water bottle pockets, or extra outside pouches. While GORUCK produces many MOLLE-based extensions, you are not restricted to their offerings. This pack will work with almost any MOLLE product.
After that, we’ll move on to the harness system. The shoulder straps are quite strong and feature a lot of strength. However, you should be aware that they take some time to break in. Our testing discovered that it takes a few weeks of consistent usage for them to become more pliable and “natural.” We’ve read that these more oversized straps may chafe against T-shirts, causing pilling and tears, but we haven’t had that experience. (And this is after two years of trying the GR2, which is heavier but has the same degree of strap abrasion.)
We also have to remark that putting on a GORUCK bag feels slightly different from putting on other backpacks. Compared to some of the thinner EVA foam straps we’ve tried, these straps have a distinct feel, and they feel extremely “firm” on your back. It’s difficult to explain, but you’ll understand what we’re talking about once you put one on. The whole bag has a terrific carry, but the straps are where it all begins.
There is an extra row of MOLLE on the shoulder straps that may be used to attach a sternum strap. (On our GR2, we have one of them.) Because this bag is smaller than the GR2, whether you want one or not is purely a matter of personal taste. We haven’t yet discovered a need for one.)
When you take this pack out of the package, you won’t find a hip belt, but you may purchase one separately and connect it with the MOLLE on the sides if you’re searching for one. It’s worth noting that the 26-liter version, which we’re testing, sits two inches lower than the 21-liter version. So, if you truly want a hip belt, the bigger size could be a better choice since it sits a little lower. Especially if you have a longer torso.
And while we’re on the subject of not having stuff, this pack lacks load-lifter straps. However, there is some substantially reinforced stitching where the strap joins to the pack (where the load-lifters would typically be found). We’ve found that this is quite acceptable; load-lifter straps are unnecessary on a pack of this size. Plus, because of the way the bag is made, it already sits rather tight to your back.
The only thing missing from this backpack is a thickly cushioned back panel—all its 1000D CORDURA®, divided into nine pieces. Unfortunately, you’ll have to accept the steamy back with this one, albeit the way they are divided allows for a smidgeon of ventilation.
Why is it divided into nine parts? Well, it looks nice—but more importantly, those portions provide the rear panel some flexibility. (Which we’ll get to in a minute!)
Inside the Bundle
We’ll start with the reinforced laptop compartment on the interior of the bag. This is a half-zipper compartment located in the backpack’s usual “laptop compartment area”—basically, right up against the back panel.
This compartment is designed in such a manner that you can simply put your laptop inside. It also features a fake bottom, which means your laptop won’t fall all the way to the bottom of the pack if you drop it, and your laptop will be protected from the impact. This is something we love to see, and it’s becoming relatively typical in most travel bags.
The frame sheet is rather flexible and provides enough support; however, if you want something a little more robust, the Kydex mod is recommended. Yes, we’ve started altering backpacks. Keep your headgear on.
Basically, we’re going to use a thicker frame sheet than the one that comes with the box. You can purchase a sheet of Kydex on your own and cut it to size if you’re a #DIY’er. If that doesn’t seem like a fun afternoon project, you may alternatively purchase a custom-sized frame sheet from Ruck Customs. They manufacture frame sheets for all of the various GORUCK pack sizes, and they’re quite cool. They’re essentially simply stiffer sheets with a little more structure to help your pack carry better. If this is something you’re interested in, we suggest checking them out.
In terms of function, we believe the stronger Kydex frame sheet works better for this pack—but it’s ultimately a matter of personal opinion. If it’s starting to feel fragile, you may want to consider upgrading. However, even without it, it’s not too bad.
It’s also worth noting that, although this is a laptop compartment, it’s also designed to fit GORUCK’s Ruck Plates. This pocket is intended for carrying those weight plates if you’re participating in any of their rucking events—or if you simply like hauling around an insanely hefty pack.
There’s a slash pocket on the front that runs the full length of the pack. This is useful for smaller, flatter things, although it might be difficult to use if the main compartment is totally packed. It’s also not a fantastic quick-grab pocket since it goes so deep down. When tiny things get trapped at the bottom, it might be difficult to pull them out. This pocket might have been a little shallower so it could be used as a quick-grab pocket, but your mileage may vary.
Before we get into the main compartment, let’s take a moment to talk about the GORUCK quiet zipper pulls. These are constructed of heat-shrunk paracord, so there’s no jangling metal as you may get with other packs’ zippers. This is a great plus for us, and we’ve had a lot of fun with them on the previous GORUCK packs we’ve tried. When you’re coming into a hostel late at night or strolling through a library, it’s simply great to know you’re making as little noise as possible. (Some of those librarians are serious about their work.) Plus, the zipper pulls are rather lovely. They’re enjoyable to hold.
The main chamber resembles a large bucket. There’s plenty of room for pouches or other organizing methods, and you can personalize this section as you want—which we appreciate. On the interior, there are three rows of six MOLLE loops, and it’s worth noting that the side loops of this MOLLE are a little shorter to cater to the limited area.
A 2/3 stretch pocket on the inside, in addition to the MOLLE, is perfect for flatter/longer objects, extra ruck plate, or even a second laptop if you’re a badass coder who can’t live without one. There’s a flat compartment underneath that can contain a water bladder, as well as a velcro pocket on top where you can thread the hose through.
It’s also worth noting that there’s no top attachment for your water bladder hose, but since it’s lined with MOLLE, you can simply rig one up with a carabiner or anything else. After all, that’s the beauty of MOLLE: it’s incredibly adaptable, and you can do anything you want with it depending on your requirements.
A 1/3 pocket is lined with 1000D CORDURA® on the opposite side of the main compartment (the inside of the flap). This is also where you’ll discover some of the pack’s only branding—a little patch with the words GORUCK GR1 on it. You’ll know you’ve got a GORUCK that way. Also, a word of advice: most GORUCK backpack owners are pretty enthusiastic about their purchases. If you notice someone wearing a GORUCK backpack, give them a yell since they’re likely excited to talk about it. (Actually, don’t yell at them; say hi.) (At a reasonable volume.)
A 2/3 mesh pocket sits underneath that pocket, which is helpful since it lets you see what’s going on within. These are slightly gusseted on the side, so there is a little give in the space, but they are perfect for flattering stuff.
Overall, GORUCK packs are designed for folks who like using pouches and personalizing the inside of their backpacks. However, there are a few excellent Facebook groups that might assist you in getting some ideas on how to achieve that. To begin, there’s The Perfect Pack Carryology Classified. There are a lot of GORUCK load-outs and a lot of inspiration to be found there.
Testing & Durability
We’ve been trying the GORUCK GR1 for approximately a week at this review. However, after almost two years of continuous travel with the GR2, we believe this bag will follow in its footsteps. It’s held up well except for a few loose threads and some fading to the black color.
Furthermore, GORUCK provides a comprehensive warranty and repair service that truly works if anything goes wrong. It’s called GORUCK SCARS, and as long as you don’t set fire to your backpack or drive it over with a huge dump truck on purpose, GORUCK will virtually fix whatever they build with little to no questions asked. (For the record, it may even survive the dump truck.)However, there is one condition. This quality, durability, and support level come at a high cost. At this review, the GR1 costs a little under $400. We seldom include prices in our evaluations because we believe that quality usually outweighs the price. However, GORUCK just raised the merits of many of their goods, and we felt compelled to mention it. These bags are generally the most costly items we evaluate.
This isn’t the bag for you if all you want is a streamlined bag that you’ll probably replace in a year or two for a change of pace. On the other hand, if you wish to one pack for the rest of your life, this may be a good option. GORUCK items are unquestionably high-quality.
Frequently Asked Questions
Is the GORUCK GR2 worth it?
A: This isn’t easy to answer because it depends on what you want out of your backpack. Suppose you are looking for an extremely lightweight and highly durable pack that seems like it would take anything and everything. It may be worth buying to get all of these features, but if not, then this isn’t necessarily something someone should purchase right away.
Is the GR1 suitable for rucking?
A: The GR1 is an excellent backpack for rucking activities. It has plenty of storage, and it can accommodate up to 55 pounds without feeling too heavy on your back, making the load distribution comfortable and stable.
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