I see a lot of comments/tweets/posts about people who get a new GORUCK GR1 bag, and then are not exactly sure what they should do with it from there (other than use it). This post walks you through how I take on a new GORUCK bag and the steps I take to make it mine.
Break It In
The biggest issue with GORUCK bags is that the 1000D Cordura can feel downright hostile when you first get the bag. And, if you were to strap the GR1 on to your back and take it on a hike, or a long commute, chances are you won’t feel that great afterwards. That’s why the first thing you need to do is to break it in a bit. Here’s a few options for that:
- Shower with it: this was advised on Reddit by GORUCK’s founder. The idea being that this nylon breaks in best when it is wet, so if you shower with the bag on you will get the straps broken in quickly. This is not my preferred method, nor one I recommend. It is funny though.
- Wash and scrub it: this is the method I use with almost every new GORUCK bag I get. I soak it in water in our bathtub, then I scrub it with a touch of dish soap and a heavy scrub brush. Rinse it clean, and hang it to dry (if it’s warm/sunny/nice outside that’s the best option, otherwise indoors can take a few days). This breaks the fabric in quite nicely, however doesn’t do anything to help break the bag in to your body.
- Weight and use it: this is the next step I take. I take the bag out on 1-2 rucks with about 20lbs of weight in it. This really helps to quickly form the bag to my body, and breaks the straps in nicely.
- Wear/use and deal with it: if rucking isn’t your thing, or if you really don’t want to deal with any of the above, then wearing it and using it is your best bet. I would advise packing it a bit heavier than you might normally, to help you break in the bag faster. With this method you should expect some sore shoulders for the first few days while the straps form to your body.
Adjust It Correctly
The next step is to learn how to wear the backpack correctly. Most bags have a proper way to wear them, which basically means the bag was designed to be worn at a certain spot on someone’s back. For GORUCK bags, they are all made to ride very high on your back, which is likely not how most people are accustomed to wearing a backpack. The general rule of thumb is to wear the GR1 so that the top of the bag is at the top of your shoulders.
I wear mine about 1” lower than my shoulders most of the time, slightly lower if I am taking the backpack on and off a lot. For Rucking, I cinch the bag down as tight as I can.
I should also note that a sternum (chest) strap is not necessary unless you are carrying a lot of weight. So I would skip putting one on until you are more used the wearing the bag.
This isn’t to say you can’t wear the bag however you want to, but if you find it slightly uncomfortable, you might try adjusting it correctly and seeing if that solves the issue for you.
Now that you have the bag in a wearable state, and you know how to wear it, organizing it is crucial. I’ve found that less is almost always more when it comes to organizing any bag. You’ll likely want at least two organizers for the bag, and both should be small. One should be really small. While highly organized bags look great on Instagram or on blogs, I tend to find that they are more trouble than they are worth.
My advice is to grab some organization items from either Tom Bihn, Bond Travel Gear, or Triple Aught Design. Those three companies offer a wide variety of reasonably priced and very well made items.
Small Triple Aught Design pouch.
As for the items GORUCK sells, most of them are not perfect. Field Pockets are really great for camera gear and overkill for just about anything else. The Wire Dopps are really nice, but you need to have a lot in them to make it worth the time. The Simple Side Pocket is the better of the GORUCK options, but it too is limited in use.
Simple Side Pocket
Lastly, the front exterior pocket needs to be mentioned. Most people see this pocket as a great spot for quick access items, but it is not. It is very difficult to access this pocket when the bag is full, and even when mostly empty it is far from ideal to get stuff out of this pocket. The pocket is too deep, and the weather flap makes it hard to reach into.
A better quick access pocket is the internal top pocket. You can unzip just the top of the bag and then unzip that pocket and easily access its contents without much effort no matter how full the bag is.
Add A Carabiner
Most GORUCK bags are seen with a carabiner attached to the front MOLLE webbing. This can be great for clipping gloves or even small shopping bags to when you need to quickly free up your hands. It also looks objectively cool. There is a right way and a wrong way to do it. Here’s the guide from GORUCK on it, make sure to buy the right sized carabiner too.
I find that attaching the carabiner facing the other way makes it easier to clip in gloves when I ruck.
Another tip on this point is that the Nite Ize S-biners make for great clips to use with the internal MOLLE. You can clip in one end, and use the other to attach smaller items like keys or water bottles. I recommend the smaller size of the s-biner.
Now that your bag is all set, use it.
Get out there.