I’ve been a long time user of the GR2 (my review), and as someone who carried it despite the flaws, who has sold and bought it a few times (regretting the sale each time) I thought I would share why I moved on from the GR2. I found the 3 Day Assault CL from Mystery Ranch (my review) is a better bag than the GR2 in every aspect and is severely underrated/undervalued bag in the market — it’s well worth your time and consideration.
For me, this change in mindset started when I began cataloging some pictures of bags on my back for a member-only section. Here’s my GR2, the smaller 34L model, on my back:
Holy cow, the moment I saw that I could not believe how boxy and crazy it looked on me. For comparison, here’s the 3 Day Assault CL on my back:
They hold about the same amount too… so let’s get to why the 3 Day Assault CL is a better bag than the GR2 (in either size).
First things first, the GR2 comes in three sizes, but the smallest size, the 26L, is not one I am writing about at all. This is all about the 34L and 40L GR2 models. Whether it’s the 34L GR2, 3 Day, or 40L GR2 the sizing differences are very minimal in practice. The 3 Day Assault CL is 33.8L according to Mystery Ranch, and is basically a direct comp to the 34L GR2 — though as I argue in my 34L GR2 review, there is little extra useable space in the 40L GR2 model so it compares well to both bags.
Here’s how they stack up for dimensions:
- GR2 34L Dimensions: 12.5″W x 20.5″H x 9″D, 3.85 LBS
- GR2 40L Dimensions: 12.5″W x 22”H x 9”D, 4.05 LBS
- 3 Day Assault Pack CL: 13.5”W x 22″H x 9.5″D, 4.6lbs
Again, as with the GR1/ASAP post, the dimensions are a little misleading. The GR2s are boxes, as the photo above shows. But the 3 Day is not, it’s more rounded. So while it lists as wider and deeper, it doesn’t feel like it is bigger at all when you are wearing it. That’s not to say it doesn’t feel wide or deep, but not nearly to the extent as the GR2s do. The GR2s have large flat surfaces across you back at the full width whereas the 3 Day has a smaller contact area to your back and then starts moving away from your body in an oval-ish shape. So the dimensions are correct for the 3 Day but also a little misleading in practice.
So here’s my general thoughts on the sizes of these bags:
- The 3 Day is going to feel the smallest, but packs up the same amount of gear if you use all the space.
- Wearing the 3 Day really feels like you are wearing a smaller bag, but when it is stuffed it is not actually that much smaller in practice — basically the rounded corners of the bag make it look a little smaller without it being smaller.
- The GR2s give you full access to the total height, the 3 Day does not. Meaning if you have something long you want to fit into the bag, the 3 Day will offer you substantially less height than even the measurements would indicate.
- The 40L feels much larger than the 34L because of the taller height, while not carrying appreciably more gear. Only get the 40L if you have a specific item which will not fit in the 34L bag, or if you really are heading off with just one bag. Recall you are only getting 1.5” added to the top with the 40 compared to the 34.
- I took everything from my 40L GR2 bug out bag which felt stuffed, and put it in the 34L GR2 without issue, and then put all of that into the 3 Day Assault CL without issue. For all practical purposes they are the same capacity.
- The 3 Day Assault CL comes with compression straps standard and they work well. The GR2s can have them added from GORUCK with added costs and delays/shipping, even then they only work ok. The padded bottom on the GR2s restrict how much you can actually get the bags to compress.
- The 3 Day measures at 22” tall but if you leave the top area empty you can drop that down under 20” depending on how tall you have the yoke set to. Also the width and depth are easy to compress in a bit if you need it to stow in a smaller area. Whereas the GR2s will always be the listed height and width — and to some extent the depth too. I could but a 3 Day at my feet on a plane or run it in my office much easier than I can the GR2. 40L won’t do either.
Like the GR1 versus ASAP, the GR2 will hold boxier items better than the 3 Day, however not to the same extent as the last comparison. The thing with the GR2 is that a large portion of the size is in a second compartment which has a lot of organization in it, and very limited capacity overall. This means that you get something closer to 6.75” in depth for the main compartment in the GR2 to store stuff, and another thinner pocket for more organization. This works well for travel: clothes in the big area, gear in the smaller. Your gear is easy to get to, without showing off your underwear in an airport.
The 3 Day is almost entirely one compartment with a large storage area in the top lid. Large enough to be very useful, but not so large that it takes away too much space like the secondary compartment does on the GR2. And it’s for those reasons that the 3 Day Assault CL holds gear much better than the GR2: the layout works better and the bag looks smaller — while mostly still being able to hold the same amount of stuff.
Winner: 3 Day Assault CL.
The GR2s have very padded and wider straps than the GR1. Which means they carry very heavy loads exceptionally well. The issue is that GR2s are tall, at least the 34/40L models so they don’t fit shorter people as well. On top of that, the way the bag is designed you end up with a lot of weight farthest from your back — as that’s where you end up putting a lot of the smaller, denser, items in the bag (chargers, and stuff like that). This leads to the bag riding up high, and slightly pulling you back.
As you can see in the first picture of this post, a fully loaded GR2 is pretty flat against your back and sticks out quite a bit. You feel that when you wear it too.
The 3 Day Assault CL with the Futura Yoke system does none of this. It contours to your back, it has methods to pull the weight into your body: compression straps, load lifters, a light load bearing hip belt (folds away back into the bag), sternum strap. You can add some of this to the GR2, but each one will cost you extra money (compression straps are a custom add on and are $30 per set plus shipping to GORUCK; sternum strap is $15, hip belts are harder to get from GORUCK).
Where you could argue that the GR2 holds more weight better, I would argue that the 3 Day Assault holds all weights better. A GR2 that doesn’t have much in it isn’t great to carry, and it’s easy to improperly position the weight in a GR2. With the 3 Day Assault you get the bag adjusted just right, and it holds a light load as well as it does a lot of weight (I’ve run mine up to 40lbs).
The only issue with the 3 Day Assault is that it requires time invested in adjusting it properly to fit your body, but once done you are off to the races. This could be done with 10lbs of weight and 20 minutes of time, the GR2 will require miles of break in — just search reddit to see how big the issue is for people. But with that you get a more durable bag with a padded bottom and all that, if you need that the GR2 is hard to beat.
Clear winner here is the 3 Day Assault CL, it’s more comfortable for how almost everyone is going to use these types of bags.
When it comes to the outdoors, the 3 Day Assault is the better bag. While both bags accept and work with hydration bladders, the Mystery Ranch bag comes with not only the sternum strap, but a load bearing integrated hip belt as well.
And then there’s the water bottle pockets. I don’t like water bottles pockets as a general rule, but when I am hiking they can be a huge help (usually to store water for my kids) and that’s where the 3 Day Assault shines. The two water bottle pockets are massive and hold any sized bottle well for fast access. You can attach aftermarket ones to the GR2, but that’s yet another thing you would need to add, and if you add those, then you can’t run the hip belt.
In most cases I can see the arguments in favor of a GR2 if you really wanted to make it work, but not for the outdoors. I’ve never even been tempted to use mine that way. And if Reddit posts are any indication, not many take the GR2s out hiking (though the Bullets and GR1/Ruckers are often taken out) unless they are the smaller 26L models.
One last thing, let’s say you need to get at something small when the bag is off. The GR2: you set the bag down on the back, open it up, best case you try to do it with the bag resting on it’s bottom. The 3 Day: you set the back on the front, and access the two top zippers, or try to set it on the bottom to get at the main area via the top lid. I always getting annoyed with my GORUCK bags because they require getting the back panels covered in shit to get at gear when outdoors. The Mystery Ranch bags handle this slightly better.
Winner: 3 Day Assault CL by a mile.
Things get a little interesting for travel, as both bags have great qualities. The interior ‘field pocket’ on the secondary compartment of the GR2 is a great small item stash location and works really well for travel. But it does mean unzipping a compartment and then unzipping the pouch — the front slant pocket on the GR2 is not useable for most things unless the bag is pretty empty. Both bags offer a lot of options for organization without adding extras, but the GR2 has far more pockets and whatnots.
The 3 Day Assault though has a great top lid that has two quick access pockets, and neither of which are prone to having gear spill out of, nor are they setup in a way where they are hard to access when the bag is full. But when we talk about travel we really want to focus on three points: packing/unpacking clothes; fitting on planes; wearing it through airports.
Here’s how I look at each of these bags for those three attributes:
- Packing/Unpacking Clothing: the GR2 is better for this. You can fully open it and live out of the bag while traveling. It’s very easy to neatly pack your clothing in it — regardless of whether you use packing cubes. The 3 Day Assault CL can hold clothes fine, but it works best with packing cubes and the 3-Zip design means that some items at the bottom can require you to move stuff above that item out of the way to get at. So if you are fine with a top load design, the 3-Zip will only be a nice add. If you are not, then the GR2 will feel much easier to deal with clothing in.
- Fitting in Planes: these bags are basically the same size. While the 3 Day and 34L GR2 can fit at your feet on some planes, they really all are best reserved for the overhead bin. The 40L is a beast and I wouldn’t try to fit it at your feet. The 3 Day will fit a little easier at your feet because of the shape and assuming it’s not stuffed, and the 34L will only have issues if it is stuffed full. Slight edge to the 3 Day, but not much.
- Wearing it in Crowds: these both look tactical, so a wash there. But the 3 Day wears a lot easier in crowds than the GR2. It protrudes from your body less and overall more easily stays in place if you have to make a sudden move to dodge someone. I only give the 3 Day a slight edge here because it’s still a big backpack.
Overall: tie. I think the 3 Day looks less tactical and thus better, and I think it wears much better overall. But part of travel is packing and getting at your stuff, so while the 3 Day allows easier access to small items when on the go, once stationary the GR2 is a better setup — so if I were living out of a bag the GR2 might edge out the 3 Day, might.
EDC & Office
Both of these are not great for everyday carry or office use. They are big bags, and I wouldn’t want to take them into the office. They both do have laptop sleeves, and they both have great laptop sleeves at that. However the sheer size make them a little comical for the office.
I know people take these into the office, or use them for their EDC bags, but I can’t wrap my head around it. Forced to pick between the two, the 3 Day Assault CL works better for EDC simply because the compression straps can push the size of the bag down a lot farther than even compression straps on the GR2 can manage. Thus you can not look like you are killing time before a vacation while in the office — kind of.
For better compression straps alone, the 3 Day Assault CL is the better EDC/Office choice — but I do think either is overkill unless you are packing gym clothes too. In which case, the 3 Day is still better. So…
Overall, the 3 Day Assault CL, works out to be the better bag no matter what you are doing. There are use cases for the GR2, but the thing is the 3 Day Assault doesn’t have the same downsides as the GR2. It’s not rough feeling, it doesn’t require break in, it can compress down easily, it has great pocket systems, and so on.
Pick the GR2 if ($395): – You carry boxy gear and need to hold square shapes. – If you want the style of a GORUCK bag. – If you ruck but only want/can own one bag, the GR2 rucks far better. – If you are going to live out of the bag for extended time/travel.
Pick the 3 Day Assault CL for everything else, but specifically if ($399): – You want to use the bag outdoors/hiking. – You are wanting to travel and know you are going to be wearing the bag a good amount moving around (more than using it stationary in a place). – Need the bag to be able to be a pinch hitter for the office/EDC use. – You want one of the best all around backpacks you can buy to live your life with.
The GR2 is a very good bag especially in the 34L variant, don’t get me wrong. It’s also the case that the 3 Day Assault CL is an even better bag than the GR2.
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