The GORUCK GR1 8+ Years Later

I’ll keep this short, I just want to convince you that no better backpack exists.

On December 24th, 2012 I wrote my first review/post of the The GORUCK GR1. I still have that GR1, which I believe I actually bought at the end of 2011 — but the timing doesn’t make sense and I cannot find a purchase email for it. Oh well, lost to history.

Getting the GR1 was the moment that started me down a deep rabbit hole of GORUCK gear. And if you have read this site long enough, you know I have written not only a lot about GORUCK products (I love most of them) but also about the GR1.

How many times? Many times:

  • The GORUCK GR1(12/24/12). “Personally I am keeping both — I like both far too much to decide. I think the Smart Alec will remain my daily work bag, but the GORUCK will likely be the bag I take almost everywhere else.”
  • The GORUCK GR1 (2/3/15 for Tools and Toys). “The GR1 became my only bag, not because it was the perfect bag, but because it can be any kind of bag I need it to be.”
  • GORUCK GR1: REVISITING THE ULTIMATE BACKPACK (3/8/17). “It is without a doubt the best backpack I have ever used and continue to use.”
  • GORUCK RUCKER VERSUS GORUCK GR1 (12/14/17). “You get a GR1 because you want the best backpack in the world.”
  • GORUCK GR1 26L V 34L GR2 (1/2/18). “Clearly, I was wrong, the best backpack is indeed the 26L GR1.”
  • GORUCK 21L GR1 (1/17/18). “I’ve been extremely happy with mine.”
  • GORUCK GR1 21L V 26L (1/26/18). “The GR1 is a near perfect backpack and the backpack you should get.”
  • IS THE GR1 STILL WORTH ‘IT’? (7/5/19). “The GR1 is much like the Rolex Submariner, there are many like it, but none of them are a Submariner.”
  • Synik vs GR1 vs CPL 24 (8/27/19). “My advice has always been a GR1 because even if you use it for a year and want to move on, you can sell it for about $230 with ease.”

It’s not just me, Kit Dillon for The Wirecutter:

When I needed a backpack for a particularly confusing part of my life, when I wasn’t sure where I’d be from one month to the next, the 26 L GoRuck GR1 was the bag I picked.


8 plus years of use, the straps and back look brand new. It’s not even clean.

Adrienne So for Wired:

After all that, it seems contradictory to say that I really liked the GR1. But I do.

Neil Stevens at YOMP Notes:

For me; at home, at work, at a conference, at the beach or on a speed March for charity this rucksack is understated utility chic, a classic example of being more than it seems and for that – I love it.

Tom Wahlin, Pack Hacker:

However, if you want one pack for the rest of your life, this could be an excellent choice.

I’ll stop there, you get the point. It’s been 8 years plus of me using GR1s. I started off on the fence about them, and quickly changed my mind and fell in love.

A GR1 is easily the best backpack you can spend money on.


Circa 2013

I know a lot of people have asked whether it will last X time, or through Y event. Yes. Just yes. My 8+ year old GR1 still looks brand new. But it feels better than new.

I have no intention on rehashing all the words I spilled on a GR1. Instead I wanted to try and figure out how to reconcile something I have been thinking about a lot. I’ll state this in three points:

  1. The GR1 does the majority of tasks really well. I won’t say it is the best at every task you could toss at it, but I don’t think it is the worst in any one category. For the most part it will be in the top 5 no matter what you try using it for. That is to say, it is usually firmly placed as above average for any use case. I know of no other backpack that can say the same.
  2. The GR1 carries a lot of weight and does that better than any other bag I have tried. I ruck, and I know what 20lbs and 30lbs and 40lbs feels like in a bag. I can tell you that you may think your bag weighs 20lbs loaded out, but I bet it weighs closer to 12lbs. There are no bags I have worn that carry weight as well as GORUCK’s GR series of bags, unless those bags actually transfer the weight using a frame to your hips. That’s all there is to it, and when you try it, you’ll see why people love GORUCK bags for everything. Why people take them hiking when they own many dedicated hiking bags, and despite the fact GR1s are a heavier bags than most hiking specific apps. If the bag carries weight with ease, it makes carrying stuff easier. Or put it another way: a GR1 will carry weight so well, that your normal gear might add up to be heavier in a GR1, but will feel lighter than it would in almost any other bag.
  3. The GR1 has the best non-adjustable harness system on the market, flat out. The harness is how the bag connects itself to your body. In this case it is the straps. But the design of the straps, positioning of them, and how they wrap your body is unmatched for a bag that doesn’t adjust (meaning you can tighten the straps, but not modify other portions with say a torso adjusters or load lifters). The straps on a GR1 are overkill, and because of that they are awesome.

With every other bag I have used, there are serious trade offs to using them. There are caveats to each of them. Specialities they excel at, and areas they fail in.

There is no bag that performs as well, and as highly across every category, as the GR1 — no caveats needed. It’s been a while since GORUCK has made any meaningful changes to the GR1, because they hit perfection with the bag a long time ago.

It’s time you buy one with my lovely affiliate link.

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