When I first came across the marketing for GORUCK backpacks, way back when they were just a fledgeling company, I was instantly smitten. As a designer with a functional bent, Ive always particularly appreciated the 'working' side of products, and as a backpack designer specifically, purpose-built carry solutions are one of my absolute passions. The GORUCK GR1, and the accessories made by GORUCK for the backpack (and stand alone use), are bags that meet every expectation one could realistically have for both function and durability. I happen to think they are also pretty stylish, if a bit spartan.
Successfully taking a military design into civilization as directly as GORUCK did with their GR1 proves two things: First, function in backpacks is generally accessible, and whats good for one scenario is likely flexible to others as well. A bag that stores what one needs for military field work turns out to be rather amenable to a day in the office, provided one accessorizes the pack appropriately.
Secondly, a bag can never be too durable. Made of 1000D Cordura body fabric, nylon webbing and threads, paracord zippers with polyolefin tubing, YKK zippers, and very, very nice EVA padding, the GR1's build works wonders when one is relying on a backpack to get them safely through a harrowing military mission. It also works great for a civilian who wants a cool, hard-wearing bag that will last them years.
The strap and backpanel system of the GORUCK GR1 are products of very smart design. Featuring floating strap assemblies secured with 2" nylon webbing to the back panel, the straps work great on almost any body type. What this strap style does is allow a greater range of movement for the straps, while not sacrificing the stability and strength of the connection. In fact, its easier to sew and secure webbing to the bag than the strap construction itself, so not only is this design more comfortable, its also stronger.
The back panel is a stiff and stable affair, featuring EVA foam and two-sided construction of the laptop sleeve. This protects your back and laptop from whats both in the bag and outside of the bag. When loaded with a computer the pack feels comfortable and secure, with or without the use of the optional compression straps. The quilted design on the backpanel keeps everything in place and looks slick, kind of like robot abs. There is a removable plastic stiffening sheet for extra stiffness. I keep mine in because I prefer the stable feeling of structured back panels.
Organizing your stuff in the internal main compartment of the GORUCK is a personal preference situation. Since its an open-plan backpack, its essentially one large compartment with molle attachments at the top and a large slip pocket at the bottom. This means that unless it can hook to the Molle or is flat enough to store in the slip pocket, you will just be putting it in the bag to sort of float around. This works for some people (if you like Jansport or Herschel backpacks, this will not bother you), but not everyone. If you are used to an office style backpack with multiple sections, this type of pack will be tough to conform to, unless you already have storage bags you can use to separate you things
This bag is a perfect, however, for people who already have small kits and bags for their stuff, and organize in a more compartmentalized way. I generally have my things in separate bags already, organized per specific use or even the type of trip Im taking. These little pouches and bags are absolutely perfect for the GORUCK backpack. The structure of the stiff back panel and tough 1000D Cordura material holds everything nice and neatly, just as it was packed. This makes for a very comfortable carrying experience where the bag just feels like a "part of you". Nothing bulging or rattling around inside.
If you use the GORUCK Field Pouch, you'll notice a beautiful element of proper backpack ergonomics in action. The best place to hold your most delicate and important items is at the top and near-side of your back. Think camera, phone, hard drives etc. Typically these items are small and dense, which means they settle on the bottom of the backpack if you just toss them in. With the Field Pouch, these items can stay right at the top of the back, in the most stable and least likely to be impacted part of the backpack. Smart. And when you experience this in a way that makes carrying your stuff easier, well, it can be revelatory.
The construction of the GR1 backpack is simply unimpeachable. With redundant stitching, well done, straight stitch lines made of heavy-duty nylon thread running through 1000D Cordura fabric, the bag looks good right down to the weave. These types of considerations are ones that the bag designer and manufacturer must do despite the fact that most wont notice it. These aspects of the bag, the quality and integrity shown in construction, are what make the bag and brand durable. Few will write blog posts waxing about the intricacies of these minutiae, but everyone who own this bag will marvel at the strength and durability. The two are intrinsically linked.
A good example of this consideration in design FOR construction is the amazing carry handle. In my years as a bag designer, its one of the best and most comfortable Ive seen. Built from stacked nylon webbing and a smart tubular foam insert, the design packs function and insane strength, in a handsome and confidence inspiring handle. This handle was built to carry the whole bag. Whatever the hell is in it, it will not let you down. It will not break. The design tells you that in every layer of webbing in excess of whats actually necessary (probably one).
Organizing is sparse in the stock GR1 (not including accessories), but the face does offer some essential storage in what is the bare minimum for what one needs to keep organized. Bare minimum means its ok, one wont need more, whether they want it is another issue. There is a slip pocket at the top for pens and other immediately needed items, and a mesh pocket below for larger things that need their own area.
I always use the top compartment to its fullest, adding my pens, erasers, wires, chargers etc for quick access. The pocket below I use for notebooks, but a lot of the time its empty. I suppose Id put a shirt or something in there, but most of the time I forget about it.
Theres a lot more to GORUCK's bags than just the bags, as amazing as they are. GORUCK has a strong community of fans and supporters who use their bags in challenges called "Rucking Events", or GORUCK Challenges, that are like military inspired obstacle courses where you trek through using your GORUCK backpack, weighted with special pack weights. These events look incredibly intense and cool. I have yet to take part in one, but have been eyeing them every year in hopes of building up the nerve to take part.
But for the bags they make, we can give them the credit they deserve for not taking the consumer for granted, and giving more than what they need to give in their products to keep the product in service and the customer in good graces. These days, its all too easy for companies and brands to take the easier (cheaper) way out, and pick up the pieces on the other side (broken bags and complaints). The hard way is to over-deliver. thats also how you build a devoted fan base for your stuff.
If you want to learn more about GORUCK's packs and accessories, as well as the GORUCK challenges, click here.