When GORUCK released the first round of Heritage bags, I was skeptical — what and why do these exist? There’s no denying that they were popular, even at the very high price they were/are. More recently, GORUCK seems to have added the “Heritage” line of bags (GR1, Kit Bag) as a staple products of theirs with easy availability to buy most of the colors. They updated the bags with different looks/attributes since that original run, all of which culminates in a compelling EDC backpack.
I wasn’t interested in buying one at all, though. They looked good, but I was happy with the bags I had. And then I tried that Filson Journeyman — I loved the look and feel, but it wasn’t quite there for use. So when a friend on Discord offered to send me his 21L GR1 Heritage to try out, saying that he knew I would like it, I jumped at that chance.
About 15 seconds after unboxing my loaner Heritage GR1, I knew I was buying one of my own. The look in person, and the excellent tactile aspects, make this an amazing bag to handle and use. And, if what you lament is that the ‘OG’ GR1 Cordura was better, and the new ones aren’t quite that — you’ll like this bag.
Let’s take a look at the excellent GORUCK GR1 Heritage.
Materials & Changes
There’s a few changes to this bag from your standard GR1:
- No exterior MOLLE webbing. Just like on the ‘slick’ bags, there’s nothing on the outside, and the straps do not have the daisy chain on them (I have seen some buyers pay GORUCK to add this using a SCARS custom order, looks great).
- The bag is made of waxed canvas. Specifically: 10.10 oz Army Duck Waxed Canvas. It’s a very soft and supple material on your hand. However, it could be a little thicker of a material and I would be happier.
- Leather on the handle, bottom panel, and two accents on the back panel. But not just any leather, it’s: Full grain leather sourced from S.B Foot Tannery in Red Wing, Minnesota. This leather feels amazing in hand.
- On these bags GORUCK added the quick access pocket, which removes the hydration hose passthrough in place of a nice stash pouch at the top of the bag. This is acceptable given that it is unlikely people are choosing this variant of GR1 for hiking, and I’ve yet to see someone commuting with a water bladder and hose — though I still hold out hope to see this one day.
- Style: the original GR1 is overbuilt, cool looking, but not really about fashion. This bag feels like a more fashionable variant of the original GR1. The patch spot has been kept, but the rest of the bag streamlined. It’s like tactical, heritage, fashion. I don’t know, but it looks very good.
The changes on this bag are more than material changes. Because a GR1 is in no small part, a product driven by its material. On the standard GR1s the 1000d is stout, rough, and daring you to test it. The GR1 with a waxed canvas material feels relaxed by comparison. It’s not begging to be abused or challenged. It’s existing as a part of your life — it’s hard to describe, but it’s the same feeling I get from Filson bags, and I’ve yet to see any other bags pull that off like GORUCK has here.
Using The Bag
As I alluded to above, using this GR1 is different from a standard GR1. It is soft, and it molds to the shape your body in the same way that my 10 year old GR1 does. It feels like a well broken in bag.
At first I was worried that the wax might transfer on my shirts with wear, and even after walking around the city in the heat of the day, I cannot detect any hint of transfer. It’s completely possible that it could and will, but for how I am likely to use the bag 99.9% of the time, I am not worried about it.
My biggest issue with slick GR1s is that the shoulder straps are not as comfortable as those with the daisy chain webbing on them. That’s no an issue here, as the waxed material helps to make the straps more pliable, and thus as comfortable as your standard GR1 straps. In a sense, the daisy chain on the 1000D GR1s all the the straps to more readily wrap around your shoulders — something that the slick 1000D models struggle with. The canvas has the same impact, without the need for the daisy chain.
I love using this bag day to day. It is sharp looking, has huge capacity, and very comfortable to carry. The quick access pocket is much larger than expected, and swallows up my sunglasses and AirPods Pro. I love it. The Navy color I chose is stellar (I borrowed a Field Tan, also stellar) — a very deep blue with nice brown accents from the leather. In the sun, this navy has a good vibrancy, but in less bright circumstances it trends deeper navy.
One big complaint people have about the fabric is that the front slash pocket is transparent on the lighter colors. I saw that first hand with the Field Tan bag I borrowed, but it wasn’t enough to bother me. With the Navy, it’s barely an issue and likely to never be a practical one.
I did add a water bottle pocket to the inside of my bag, in order to keep everything from lumping into the bottom of the bag (a common GORUCK issue). That’s worked surprisingly well, and I would recommend everyone do this if they carry a water bottle or coffee mug in their bag.
This is a near perfect office bag for me. As comfortable as the Cordura GR1s, without a distinct tactical style to it. The leather dresses it up, while the nature of the leather and canvas will allow it to patina over time — top notch execution.
Compared to Cordura
I know people are going to ask about this, thus some pointed commentary from me on comparing this to Cordura GR1s:
- It’s about as floppy as the 500D GORUCK bags, as even the broken in ‘OG’ 1000D bags retain a bit more structure.
- The material is less abrasive than even 500D.
- Feels about as thick as 500D.
- Overall the bag doesn’t feel nearly as ’indestructible’ as either 500D or 1000D does. It doesn’t feel weak, but if I saw a rip, or hole forming from wear, I would not be shocked. That said, I don’t think it’s a large issue for travel or EDC generally.
- I look at a 1000D GORUCK bag as a near lifetime bag, but practically maybe a 15-20 year bag depending on use and care before you need a repair or three. But I look at this canvas GR1 as maybe a 5 year bag before you will need something done to it. This is all a guess, but that’s how it seems like it will play out to me.
- The wax will need to be reapplied to the bag, or you can let it fade away.
- When it comes to water resistance you might think the waxed canvas will have an upper hand, but I think practically speaking it will be on par with 1000D, which I is no slouch at all.
If I only wanted to own one backpack, I would get the Heritage. My brain says to get the 1000D, but I much prefer the canvas for my primary uses of this bag: office and travel.
There’s a chance that this is the best EDC Backpack on the market right now — flat out. You get all the benefits of the GR1 platform (comfort, design, etc), with very sharp looks coupled on top of that. The hardest part is finding a good leather patch for it. Once you get that, you are off to the races.
My time going to the office is split 50/50 between this bag and the ASAP SB right now. So if you wanted a Filson Journeyman, but thought it was lacking in features, or comfort — this is a great alternative. And it’s a flat out amazing bag regardless.
It feels and looks amazing in person. Highly recommended, it’s what I will tell people to buy for their first GORUCK bag going forward.