GORUCK GR1: The 90 Day Review, Pt. I

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Thoughts on fit, function and form after 3 months with the GORUCK GR1.

Two years ago, I ordered a GORUCK Radio Ruck. I’d been nursing a serious case of gear lust for the GR line for awhile, and finally decided to pull the trigger on a pack. I initially decided on the Radio Ruck because, at the time, I was practically carrying all of my work stuff to and from work every day, but feared the GR1 would be overkill.

When the pack arrived I was instantly in love.

I took it to work, on hikes, on fishing trips, and on over night trips. All the while, there were a few things I didn’t really care for: 1) the pack didn’t open all of the way open like the larger models, and 2) it always seemed a bit on the squat size. (Both of these issues have since been remedied by GORUCK with the addition of the full length zipper and a modification to the volume of the bag.) After four months I caved and sold my Radio Ruck.

Over the course of a few years, I tried two other tactical packs, along with a host of hiking oriented packs, and none of them quite covered all of the bases like the Radio Ruck. The two tactical packs, while tough, stuck out in the office and public environments. The hiking packs, while great on the trail, didn’t travel well or lend themselves to what I needed for my EDC. So in July I headed over to Huckberry.com, and sealed the deal on my GR1. In the three months since its arrival, I’ve carried it to work 90 percent of the time, on several long hikes, on two trips on the Trans American Trail, and several short travel trips. It really excels in every role I’ve decided to throw it into to, and I’ve yet to find the GR1‘s weak spot.

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This pack is nearly bombproof. Rarely would I say that a pack breaking-in is a good thing, but the initial rigidness of the Cordura takes several days of carry to break down. Even after this period of “softening up,” the pack still holds its structure very well. The frame sheet and padding pair with the rigid bottom to make a great platform that helps the pack to sit upright.

My pack arrived looking like a work of art in the terms of stitching. After being crammed into 4x4s, thrown around campsites, and spending a few nights as a pillow, it looks no worse for wear.

While not waterproof, the GR1 does maintain a very high level of water resistance. Mine has been soaked on several occasions during this particularly rainy summer, and I’ve never noticed any moisture in the main bag or laptop compartment. Only once did a minute amount of moisture manage to be noticeable inside of the front pocket.

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The GR1 has the ability to stay high on my back despite any load or activity I subject it to. This is due to two distinct features that truly make GORUCK unique among competitors. First, the shoulder straps share the rigid properties of the rest of the pack. This is by no means a negative quality; they quickly form to the user and the thick padding holds the pack bag high on the back without requiring the user to tighten the straps beyond a reasonable level. The straps are connected to the main pack bag with thick webbing pieces that make a single flex point over the shoulders.

The second aspect of the GORUCK’s unique ride is the frame sheet. After my experience with the Radio Ruck, I see that this small addition makes all of the difference. By keeping the back padding rigid it keeps the entire rear panel tight, while totally negating the sags and flops of a normal frameless pack.

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For Pt. II of the review, I’ll cover organization and the duality of the pack in its fulfillment of my two main purposes for it.

photos by David Carney

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    Thanks for the article. How does this pack perform for hiking? I’ve always used traditional backpacking packs (currently have a Osprey Aether 60) when I’m going for overnights. I love the look of the GR1, but would be concerned how it would carry a load over multiple days. Since there is no hip-belt, it looks like all the weight would be on the shoulders. I know the military folks (and the designers of this bag) carry heavy loads without hip-belts, but every time I’ve done that with other packs, the weight kills my shoulders. What are your thoughts?

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      Hey Matt,
      First off sorry about the huge delay in response. We’ve had some issues with comments showing up in an orderly fashion. Better late than never I suppose. As for your question…As much as I appreciate the GR1 for what it does I’d be hesitant to take it on a multi-day hike outside of a ultra-light overnighter, which I’ve done. It’s fine for water, hammock, summer bag, and a bit of food. I know the GR2 was the suggested bag on the GORUCK Ascent event, and it would definitely leave you with more options for your gear. When it comes to dayhikes, travel, or EDC though I find the GR1 is hard to beat, but it does have it limitations.

      Thanks of for the comment, and again sorry for the delayed response.


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    Hey Brandon,
    I made that patch as a quick cover for the velcro. Then it kind of grew on me. It’s just a piece of leather cut to fit with velcro glued to the back. I’m looking to make another version with a pocket between the patch and the velcro.

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    Great review, thank you! Can I ask how tall you are and your thoughts on the overall size of the GR1? I just bought the new GR0 and the GR1 and I’m torn on which one to keep. They say to order the GR0 if you are under 6ft, which I am, but I’m concerned that I may regret not keeping the larger volume GR1.

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      Hey Eric,
      Glad you like the review. As for the GR1 I’m 5’9″ and it fits me fine as far as I’m concerned. I know they suggest the GR0 for people in my size range, but I haven’t noticed any problems. The pack rests high on your back so the extra length is there without getting in the way. I’d stick with which ever you feel will best suit your needs.

      Thanks for the comment.

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      Jason, I appreciate your reply. I do like the bag quite a bit. After re-reading my post, I reailze I probably came across a lot more cynical than I intended. There is no irony in internets.So, snark aside, I think what you’ve done is inspired. In the Challenge, you’ve created a vehicle that: proves your product, adds a heroic dimension to your brand, and turns consumers into (very passionate) advocates. All this by abusing the holy hell out of people who’ve paid you to do so.Ultimately, it’s your product and yours to sell. Part of me just wishes it could be dialed back a bit. The same subtle-loving part that shells out for unbranded, boxy, black Cordura backpacks. Best of luck.

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    I might be one of the few GR1 owners who isn’t over the moon about it.It’s a solid bag and it does elcxtay what it’s reputed to do, namely, carry heavy loads comfortably in a slim silhouette. I also appreciate the overbuilt-but-understated design approach.Where I like it: <1 week travel bag. The GR1 has an impressive ability to always hold just one more thing than I think it will or maybe should. Hauling gear/groceries all over town. Frame sheet and wide straps carry very well. Good construction and materials handle the rest.Where I don't: Carrying a light load. The double-layer 1050 ballistic bottom panel holds a shape that doesn't quite work on days when you've just got bits and pieces (but possibly expect to pick up more along the way). Maybe it's the military heritage but the thing just doesn't slouch very well. It's not a do-all, city-life bag but at three hundred bucks for a nylon backpack, maybe it should be.With regard to the interview, the thing that bothers me most about the brand, ironically, is the marketing. I like that the Goruck Challenge started out as a bizarre, extreme focus group and evolved into a profit center; it's all the relentless elite military, stars-forward messaging that's too much. Copy like "we say it's water resistant because in the military, waterproof means watertight" feels Chuck Norris silly. How about "we say it's water resistant because it's only water resistant"?On the other hand, it's working. I know that waterproof line because, on top of it being there on their website, it cropped up in just about every review I read while deciding whether I should pony up for one. Challenge junkie, IT guy, whomever it seems just about everyone who bought the bag bought the pitch.Which is a little crazy because, at the end of the day, Goruck are a self-avowed "people brand" who put out four sizes of a single design but managed to hitch them to a viscerally powerful, cleverly expansive marketing concept, also enabling them to sell what amount to a lot of expensive accessories for this lifestyle they've implied.Unfortunately, some of us just want the bag. And while you can't argue results (and Cordura hats off to what seem like great results in a terrible economy), I wish I didn't sometimes feel like I spent part of my money on hype. It's a good bag and it does a few things very well but the cultish marketing does make me wonder.On the flip side, I keep a weather eye on the dollar/yen rate, waiting for the day Porter will make my world truly round. There are many flavors of Kool-aid out there, so take my 1.79 yen for what they're worth.JF

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      Interesting, I’ve been researching these. There is a little much hype on the marketing side for my taste. However, I like how they employ veterans. I see a young guy trying to make a living and make a product in the USA as well as help veterans and their families. It does obviously cost more to make stuff in the US. Capitalism working here, though. If the bags weren’t worth the price, people wouldn’t buy them and there would be bad reviews, right? I’m not seeing those, and also there are very few used ones being sold.

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    Great review Rick! Anxiously awaiting part II to see if I’m going to pull the trigger on a GR1 as well.

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