As I wrote about, my GR1 started to smell terrible from all the working out with it, so I decided it would be worthwhile to get a dedicated workout GORUCK. Naturally, I went with a Rucker as this is specifically what they are designed for.
A Rucker is essentially a GR1 without the laptop compartment, without the internal MOLLE, but added strap to secure a ruck plate as well as a hydration bladder retention strap. Basically, this is the bag you want to get if you intend to never carry a laptop, you ruck, or you want to hike.
Ruckers have previously come in two sizes, but currently only sell in the 20L size, which is basically the 21L GR1. Oh, there’s one more noticeable difference, the signature way the GR1 straps are attached to the bag is missing on the Rucker.
On the left, 21l GR1, and on the right a Rucker.
Importantly the construction and quality is the same. Which brings us the the difference people notice first: price. It’s $100 cheaper most days to get a Rucker than a GR1, and often you can find sales or bundle deals on Ruckers. Something you never find on a GR1. Lastly, as with the Bullet Rucks, the Ruckers have a spearhead logo embroidered to the front of the bag. Older Ruckers have this above the MOLLE, whereas newer Ruckers have this on the MOLLE webbing itself (the latter looks way better). The frame sheet is also more rigid on the Rucker, which is great when carrying weight.
I opted for Wolf Grey, as it is all one color — despite the fact it has the worse spearhead placement on it.
I am a huge fan of the GR1, it is the best backpack you can buy for anything.
However, a lot of people ask me if they will be happy with a Rucker — I never had a reason to own one until now, but I can finally answer this. For travel, for EDC, and for most things in life, the GR1 is hands down the better bag. The Rucker is only better if you are rucking with it — even if you are hiking with a bag, I’d get a GR1 instead. The Rucker is the bag you need when you need something to hold ruck plates and there’s little other reason to own this instead of the GR1 — even accounting for the price difference. Aside from that surprisingly long list, they are the same bag.
Lack of Internal MOLLE
The first issue is the lack of the internal MOLLE. This is actually a big issue if you travel or hike with the bag. That MOLLE is a great place to clip, or otherwise secure, a great many things so you can get to them at the top of the bag. It’s a fantastic way to keep a GR1 organized.
On the Rucker this is missing and you notice it. It’s done for good reason — you don’t need it when Rucking — but that’s the only time you don’t really need it. I didn’t realize how much I use that internal MOLLE until I had a Rucker, and I’m bummed GORUCK removed it from the Rucker. I’ve adapted, but I wouldn’t want to travel like that.
When you Ruck with a GR1, unless you are doing a challenge, you can drop your ruck plate in the laptop compartment and it works just fine. It’s also a secure and easy to access place to carry a laptop or tablet. I carry my iPads in it when I travel. It takes up no noticeable space in the bag, and yet (for as sparse as it feels) provides a very secure and protected space for your laptop.
You’d have to be iPhone-only before it would make sense to not need a laptop compartment on your backpack. Yes, you can put a laptop in the internal pocket in the Rucker, it would probably even be safe there. Probably. But it won’t be easy to get to and it’s less than ideal.
The Rucker is almost a GR1 in looks, but it’s not. I don’t like the missing detail on the strap attachment (even if it is only ornamental these days) and I don’t care for the embroidered spearheads that GORUCK puts on Ruckers and Bullet Rucks (even if they are on the MOLLE). Further, the color options for the Rucker are not as good as the color options for the GR1s — you’ll be picking bags with contrasting colors on them for the most part. It’s almost a GR1, but at the same time it’s not. And you can tell (and GORUCK wants it that way).
Part of You
One thing I talk often about on the GR1 is how it becomes a part of you. Over time the bag molds to your body, both in the straps but in the frame sheet too. The Rucker will do the same with the straps, but not with the back of the bag. The frame sheet on the GR1 is moldable enough that over time it molds to your body/use. The Rucker is meant to carry ruck plates and the beefed up framesheet is not going to mold like that over time.
That’s great when you are carrying weight — it’s far more comfortable — but it’s not great when you are carrying no weight (I’ve tried).
GR1 Can Be a Rucker…
I was reading another comparison review a few years back, I can’t remember what it was for or where I read it, but a phrase stuck with me. The reviewer said “this can always be that, but that can never be this”. They used the product name, but I forget that product now. And this sentiment holds true here, the GR1 can always become a Rucker, but a Rucker can never become a GR1. And it’s not just the design details I am talking about.
You can swap the GR1 framesheet (you can’t in the Rucker) and get a beefy Kydex sheet. You can head over to All Day Ruckoff and learn how to secure a ruck plate in the GR1. You can get MOLLE bladder retention straps (I have them, they work great). There’s nothing about the Rucker that the GR1 is incapable of.
You get a Rucker because you Ruck. You get a GR1 because you want the best backpack in the world. That said, if you do ruck, the Rucker is one hell of a good bag for it.
Update: It’s been pointed out to me that the aesthetic difference on the straps actually causes them to wear differently. I don’t notice it myself when wearing, but they certainly are a bigger difference than I originally noted. I’ll have to test this more.