Civilians Going Military: GORUCK GR1 21L Review (My Favorite Ruck Sack)

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Written by Toki Tover 

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Remember High School?

I remember rocking a Jansport backpack then that was always stuffed with textbooks and notebooks.

It definitely weighed about 50 pounds.

I also remember the day that the shoulder strap snapped, and I had to lug that backpack around like a baby attached to my belly all day.

Not cool.  

Little did I know, lugging around heavy backpacks is actually a physical exercise that people like to do, and there are actual backpacks designed for the purpose of carrying weight for long distances (where was this information when I was in high school?).

It’s called rucking, and based off of my history... it was perfect for me.

Getting back to the point:

But I needed security, I couldn’t have my shoulder strap ripping on me again, which is why I went with military grade for my rucking adventures and purchased a GORUCK GR1 rucksack.

A post shared by GORUCK (@goruck) on

It may look like any other backpack, but this one won’t betray me like my Jansport did (I seriously wish I had had something of this quality back then--carrying school bags is basically urban rucking!).

The GR1 is the brain-baby of Jason McCarthy, a former member of the 10th Special Forces Group.

This was the result of McCarthy’s desire to create an exceptional pack that could withstand everything from combat to frequent travel while maintaining the best elements of standard and Army packs.

The GR1 combines the strength and simplicity of the military and delivers it to the civilian world.

This is a rucksack that is tough enough to last for a lifetime of adventures (and 50 lbs of school supplies).

GORUCK love on a stone
image credit to: Micah Drushal Flickr

Basic Design:

From a distance (or even up close) the GR-1 doesn't look like much.

It takes a minimalist approach to design, featuring only one big compartment and a smaller flatter compartment in the back.

But this American-made rucksack doesn’t need the frills that other backpacks have, it’s got everything you need.

And if you desire more, there’s PALS webbing where extra compartments can be made.

Have a look at my personal GR1 below:

Looking into GORUCK GR1

Just imagine:

In support of this minimalist design, the pack only comes in a select few standard Army colors (black, green, gray or brown).

Designed to function as a high-grade MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment) backpack, the GORUCK GR1 comes in two sizes, the 21L, and the 26L.

Regardless of your preference for volume, these packs are both designed to uphold their strength, even with heavy loads.

Front of rucksack with black patch

Geek mode: Here is a great deep dive into this ballistic grade CORDURA these packs are made from.

And if you are really feeling the inner geek :

Here is the Wikipedia page on CORDURA.

Worth your time? Yes.

When you pick up the rucksack, it feels heavier than your standard pack, which points to its high-grade craftsmanship:

  • Ballistic-grade, double-layered 1000D CORDURA - which lends to it truly feeling as "bombproof" as its marketing states.

Combined with double stitching and ample shoulder padding, you know this rucksack will withstand your adventures for life. (even those times when your 2 year old decides to "drop it like it's hot")

And you know what?

While the GR-1 is versatile in its use, the design is optimized for rucking adventures and traveling (as long as you’re not staying for years on end unless you're truly that into minimalism!).

The large compartment has enough room for your essentials, but with the 21L size, you will still need to pack it thoughtfully.

On the inside, there are two zipping pouches, so you can easily find important things.

The inside view of the GR1

Just want to throw this out there for moms... I USE this as a diaper bag!

The thin compartment provides exactly enough room for a hydration pack, ruck weight, or a 15" laptop to fit snugly without rattling around.

If you’re traveling around, this compartment is safely tucked next to your back, so it’s a great place to stash valuables (there will be no chance a thief can get to them there!)

Now:

If you’re traveling, be sure to encase your technology, because this compartment isn’t cush-lined for a laptop (because it is designed for the most carrying capacity).

However, there is a false bottom, ensuring that your laptop will never touch the ground, so set your bag down without worry!

The GR-1 is meant to be packed in a way so that it can be zipped up flat, and then you can easily slide whatever you'd like in and out of the small compartment on the back.

As is the bane of packing for travel, if you pack too much into one compartment, it often cuts into the space of other compartments.

Just know...

This can happen in the GR1 if the large compartment is packed to the point of bulging, as that can limit the amount of space you have to work with in the small compartment in the back.

Get this:

To ensure you get the most usage out of both compartments, you get to practice your tetris skills (remember that game?).

One foolproof technique is to pack the small compartment first, and then fill up the larger one.

Boom.

All the space utilized, and all the gear you want! (or need, or can fit...)

How Comfortable Is The GORUCK GR1?

Weighing in at just over three pounds when empty, the GR1 is heavier than your standard rucksack because it's built to last.

However, when you have a bag that is built tough like this, it will take some time to break in.

Think I'm exaggerating?

The straps are heavily padded and stiff at first (there will be no snapping here!), but once you’ve taken your rucksack on a few adventures, expeditions or family outings, they should be nice and comfy.

That being said, depending on the amount of weight in your pack, the straps could become more of an irritant.

When your pack is heavily loaded, with ruck weights in tow, the straps will be a great boon.

But if you pack light, you may find that they rub a little more until they are broken in.

For me, when I travelled with my 2 and 3 year old on a plane, I used this rucksack as a diaper bag.

NOW:

It was heavy!

So I opted for the Sternum Strap from GORUCK to help with keeping comfort and stability.

GORUCK Sternum Strap

While the laptop compartment is located in the back of the bag for safety, it also lends to the comfortability of the bag on your back.

The back padding pushes the bulk of the object toward the bag, not toward your back (no one likes to be stabbed while adventuring), which makes for some very comfortable trekking.

The GR1 was fairly comfy when I had my laptop in the back slot and using it for a diaper bag. 

It didn't dig into my shoulders like I though. Nor did it feel hard on my back.

My Jaw Dropping Final Verdict For This Rare GR1

Wow, that's a mad hyped heading 🙂

Anyway, lets rewind:

The GORUCK GR1 is the perfect combination of minimalist design that maximizes space and comfort.

If you like to travel, this no-fuss design will carry your essentials wherever you go (and you’ll breeze through TSA).

Although it takes some time to break in for maximum comfort, the GR1 is worth that investment, as it will likely outlive you (so you can pass it down through your generation of little ruckers!).

Bottom line:

If you’re looking to buy gear that is designed to last and withstand the adventures of travel and rucking...

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