Note: this is a guide and thus much longer than most posts. Some gear in here was provided as review items, others were bought with my own money. See individual gear reviews on each to know which is which.
One of the biggest knocks against my firm stance that there exists no better backpack than the GORUCK GR1 is: “but GORUCK bags have no organization at all and it is so terrible that one should not even consider them.” For those who have emailed, DMed, and tweeted me something along those lines, you likely received a very unsatisfactory answer: ’that’s what makes them great, they are a blank canvas for you to make them whatever you want.’ This is unsatifying because I don’t actually give any advice on how to make them what you want.
I’ve spent the last couple of months (and really years) testing all sorts of methods for organizing a GR1 to be an effective EDC in general. Let’s dive in to what I found because this is what truly makes a GORUCK bag really versatile and great: it can become any type of bag you need for any situation, whereas most backpacks are just that one thing. Put a pen slot on a bag, and it’s likely to only ever be good at holding a pen. Or a water bottle pocket for that matter.
The GORUCK Options
You would think that GORUCK would have the best organization options for their bags, but they have a startling lack of options in three: Field Pockets, packing cubes, and Wire Dopp.
In the past GORUCK has sold simple pockets and other items, but since those are not for sale now, we shall only focus on the above.
Field Pockets: these come in three sizes, with the most common being the GR1 Field Pocket. With a MOLLE backing they can be attached inside the bag or outside. They are extremely well made and I doubt you’d ever destroy one. They also lack organization inside of them, much like a GR1 does. The GR2 size is basically too big for everything. The Echo size is fantastic, if a bit narrow. The best uses for Field Pockets is to store or protect bulky things. Many use them for lenses or camera bodies. They work well for bulky chargers and such. But if your items start getting small, they become less effective. Given the high cost, these are likely not the best option for most people. I do use an Echo Field Pocket for my toiletries, and other small kits. So if you are getting one, start small, as it holds a surprising amount. (More on these here.)
Packing Cubes: Recently, GORUCK released two giant packing cubes in 10L and 20L variants. The 20L will take up basically all the space in a GR1 (they are made to work together in the 40L GR2 as well as the GR3). The cubes are nicely made clamshell opening packing cubes. The main issue with these is their depth. While the footprints are nice, you have to leave one half empty otherwise your bag is stuffed. They really only are good for clothes, and really only if you travel with the two bigger of the GORUCK backpacks. (More here.)
Wire Dopp: this is sold in one size (there used to be a mini version, which I have and is amazing) and is for organizing your chargers. It’s quite good too, and is the best organizational option GORUCK sells. It is sized to fit in the front slash pocket, or the internal mesh pocket of the GR1 26L and larger bags. I find it a bit large for my needs, but I still use it regularly. It opens up flat and provides great easy access to all your gear. If you tote a standard amount of electronics, this should be just big enough for you. If you only carry a phone and tablet, or just a phone, it will be overkill. But it does organize well for other goods, as I often use it for general items on day hikes. I love being able to take it out and lay it out as almost a surface to work out of. This is also the least overbuilt item I have from GORUCK, which is refreshing given that it goes inside a GORUCK already. (A touch more here.)
Triple Aught Design
One company that makes a ton of organizing products, also to insanely high standards is Triple Aight Design. I’ve bought and tested quite a few of their products now, so let’s go through them.
Admin Panel: This is a nifty little organizer I wrote about a while back. It fits in the mesh pocket on a 26L GR1 nicely as well. It is primarily designed to hold pens and other office type tools. It’s made to clip to TAD’s system at the top of a bag, but you could modify it to hang from the MOLLE on the inside of a GR1. However, you shouldn’t. Because it’s not a particularly great organizer. The pockets all taper from big at the top to small at the bottom. This forces most items without a very strong clip to pop out of their pockets. It also doesn’t hold very much, while still taking up a lot of space. I can’t recommend this unless carrying flashlights and pens are really all you need to deal with. I’ve really changed my mind on this one. (More here.) OP1: This is perhaps the most popular organizer TAD sells, and is an ‘admin pouch’. It’s also really good, but at $70, pricey. It holds a ton while being relatively svelte in size. I highly recommend it for just about any use, but particularly for carrying outdoor related gear. I keep mine dedicated to a quick outdoor kit — as it has almost everything I need for the basics of camping. Really the best organizer of this style I have found, well worth the price. If you pack heavy, it would work well for EDC and attach to the MOLLE on the GR1. However if you pack light, it’s going to be overkill. (More here.) BC4 and BC8: These are super handy little pouches and at $14-16 they are well worth keeping on hand. What’s great is they work with the MOLLE on a GR1 to hold really small items securely and in a place where you can easily get to them. I like to keep medicine and small lightning cables or AirPods in mine. I always have one of these in my bag. Highly recommended. They flatten to almost nothing, so there’s barely any penalty for keeping them in your bag at all times. (More here.) S1/S2: These are sleeves for flashlights, and they are extremely robust. I like to use my S2 to house my round Anker or Biolite battery backups, but that’s about it. I don’t even like these for flashlights. Even though they are cheap, unless you have a very specific need for these, I don’t think they are worth it at all. If they had a snap enclosure instead of Velcro, I’d be all over it. Velcro is too loud for offices. (More here.) SERE Pouch: I really love this pouch. It folds down to nothing, holds things securely and very organized. The fatal flaw is that it is very small, so anything much bigger than a AA battery is not going to fit very well. However, if you need or want to organize small stuff, this is killer. I take mine with me almost every time I carry my backpack. Really great little kit for holding some band aids, lock picks, flashlight, lightning cable and other odds and ends. I’d say the gear this holds trends towards non-standard for most people. So keep that in mind, it’s smaller than some people’s wallets. (More here.)
Context Organizer: This is a huge organizer, and perhaps among the bigger organizers on this list. It also expands and seems designed to be a quasi-toiletries kit. There’s a ton of features put into this, like a way to hang it from a towel bar. The issue is that it is simply too big and too hard to pack if you travel light at all. I keep mine loaded in my bug out bag, and that works great because I struggled to find any other use for it. If you are a heavy packer who likes to take everything this might work. Or someone who packs a ton of gear in your DOPP kit, then this could be an option, but I think better options exist for both cases, especially at $95. (More here.)
Overall, TAD makes really great products. But they are all highly specialized for their intended uses. That’s good if your use fits what it was designed for, otherwise you are fighting an often losing and uphill battle.
Unlike the two brands above, Tom Bihn doesn’t make organizer gear which looks all tactical. Refreshing. Their gear is still very durable though, so let’s go over the ones I’ve tested.
Aeronaut 30 Packing Cubes: these are hands down my favorite packing cubes, especially in the Aether fabric variant. They are very light weight, take up no space, and I have yet to be able to break or wear one out — and I’ve been using them since before Tom Bihn released them. What’s more, they are nearly perfectly sized to fit in a GR1. I primarily use the “small” size and find that it can fit right along the bottom of a GR1 quite nicely. Highly recommend these. Even if your use it to store gym clothes for your EDC, these are fantastic. Mesh Organizer Pouch: I love these. Both sizes are excellent, but the medium is really stellar. They have a nice clip that is somewhat useful in GORUCK bags, but for the most part they are just very handy. I have a bunch of them and find uses for them all the time, mostly with stuff for the kids. They lay so flat, but still hold a ton. Clear Organizer Pouch: same as the above, but with a heavy clear window instead of mesh. If you are thinking about using these pouches for anything liquid, or for pens/pencils, get the clear instead. The mesh tends to let pen tips poke out, which is annoying. I’ve had toiletries break open in these clear ones and the goop stay contained. I can’t guarantee that will be your case too, but I was happy that it was only that pouch that needed cleaning. Double organizer Pouch: This is a pretty sweet variant of the above two options. Giving you two areas of organization. Actually, I could probably get away with using just this, but it’s just a touch too small to hold everything I need right now (and much too big in the larger sizes). Really close though, I’d start with this one of the above pouch options. 3D Organizer Cube: these are fantastic. I believe these are designed to replace a quart ziploc for TSA rules, but more than that, they are a really killer size. I really like these cubes and think they make great little pouches to store gear in for quickly pulling in and out of bags. I have a variant that seems to not be sold with mesh instead of the clear plastic, and I love it — if you see one that would be my recommendation for non-toiletries use. Freudian Slip: I only have one of these for the Maker bag, and not the Brain Bag size which is more ideal for a GR1. However, it’s very well made and likely what most people would want when they complain of a lack of organization. What’s weird about this is that they are not particularly easy to use when still in a bag, and if you are pulling this out of a bag, then it’s quite large. Overall, interesting design, but you’ll either immediately want it or not based on the pictures alone. Let that be your guide on this one, as I didn’t find it particularly useful for me.
Maxpedition: Search Amazon and you’ll see a ton of organizers from Maxpedition. I’ve tried a handful of them and none of them are stellar and none are terrible. They won’t easily attach to anything without MOLLE sticks or something like that. They are all very tactical minded as well. Overall, I would skip past most of these organizers.
Bond Travel Gear: this gear is like they are building travel products out of the same materials and with the same standards as all the tactical brands. I really like the Tool Roll I tested and really look forward to using more of their gear. It’s bulky, but of high utility for a ‘normal’ person — meaning someone not needing to prepare for zombies. I really recommend that Tool Roll.
Pelican Cases: their micro/mini (1020/1040/1050/1060) cases are great. If you put something in a micro case and then put that in a GR1, you no longer have to worry about that item. I like the 1040 case myself, it’s what I use when I go on a boat to keep my car key and cell phone in. It’ll float and keep everything dry and safe.
Rogue Fitness Roll Up Tool Kit: This is nearly identical to the GORUCK Wire Dopp mini that is now discontinued. I’ve not used it, but that mini Wire Dopp is something great. Worth a look.
Everything is Too Big
What I’ve found so far is that almost every pouch or organizer is too large. Not just in the volume of what it can hold — though there is a distinct lack of small organizers — but in the bulk they create in your bag themselves. GORUCK used to sell Field Pockets which were less bulky called ‘Simple Pockets’. I have a couple and they are fantastic, but no longer sold.
One of the reasons I am adamant about the Tom Bihn Aeronaut packing cubes is because they almost are non-existant in your bag as they add no extra bulk to your kit. I love 1000D and 500D Cordura products, but I don’t need multiple layers of it in order to safely stow my charger. I really want thinner, less bulky, more svelte options — and few exist. Things like SDR Kashmir Travel Folio look amazing, but $199 for an organizer is a bit more than even I am willing to pay.
More like that please. And if you know of some, pass them along.
My Solution and Recommendations
Since I have a ton of these organizers I tend to move between a lot of them. However, I have standardized on a few for some different uses so let me go over those:
- Field Pocket: whenever I need to move camera gear, or optics like binoculars, I use a Field Pocket. They are just really solid and good cases for that stuff.
- Wire Dopp and Mini Wire Dopp: these are my go to when I need to pack a lot of cables, usually for longer trips.
- Bond Tool Roll: my go to for EDC and shorter trips. Has everything I need in it, including notebooks. This is my general kit that moves from bag to bag with me.
- Echo Field Pocket: this is my toiletries kit. Works fantastic.
- Tom Bihn Aether Packing Cubes: if I carry clothes, I carry them in one or two of these. Such a great size and keeps everything neat and tidy.
- TAD OP1: this is my go to for being in the woods, or hiking. It has everything I need in it for being outdoors.
- BC4: I tend to use this to store small odds and ends and my AirPods when I travel. I wish it attached a little better, but otherwise, really like it.
If you are just starting out with bag organization I would start with:
- GORUCK Wire Dopp
- Bond Tool Roll
- Echo Field Pocket
- Tom Bihn Aether Packing Cube
With that you should be able to carry everything you need and then some. Even if all you pack is gym clothes, having the packing cube to separate out and keep everything tidy is awesome. The above should get you through any setup you are likely to need.