GORUCK GR1The GORUCK GR1 is an incredibly durable, yet surprisingly sleek, backpack that's just as well suited to mountainsides and cities as it is to warzones. The various compartments, pockets, and attachment points ensure that you can always find what you need when you need it - whether that's a laptop, a rain jacket, or a first aid kit. Built to last, and covered by a fantastic warranty, there really is no reason why this bag shouldn't last you a lifetime. View Latest Deal
After spending some time in the Special Forces, GORUCK founder Jason McCarthy returned to civilian life. His knowledge of what would make the perfect backpack for warzones as well as daily life led to the creation of the GR1 backpack.
Here, we take an in-depth look at the GR1 so that you can decide if it’s the bag for you, enjoy!
There are tonnes of poorly made backpacks available on the highstreet that might look cool but they won’t last you very long, especially if you’ll be carrying around a lot of gear. The GORUCK GR1, however, is no ordinary highstreet backpack – it was designed by a Special Forces veteran and is based on a medic pack used in the field.
But what exactly is it that makes the GR1 so special?
The main body of the bag is constructed from 1000D CORDURA Nylon. Nylon in general is a popular choice for outdoor gear thanks to its resistance to abrasions and general durability. It comes in a range of ‘deniers’ (D), which is the term we use to refer to how thick individual fibers are – the greater the denier the tougher the fabric.
Robust outdoor backpacks are frequently made of 600D nylon, so the GR1 excels in this department. Furthermore, CORDURA nylon is particularly high-quality nylon that provides excellent resistance to tears and abrasions.
Strictly speaking, the GR1 isn’t technically waterproof – if you dropped it in a river the contents would eventually get wet. However, as well as being super durable, nylon is intrinsically water-resistant, particularly at high deniers. The main body of the GR1 is highly water-resistant by military standards, and it can handle a significant amount of rain before you need to worry about your gear. Plus, the channels for the zippers have their own double-layered rain flaps to stop any water entering via these areas that are notorious for leaking.
Finally, there’s nothing worse than having a zipper fail on you, particularly in high-stress environments. That’s why the GR1 has YKK zippers and heavy-duty zipper pulls that won’t let you down. Furthermore, the zippers are silent for those times when stealth mode is necessary, and the pulls are operable even while wearing gloves.
The shoulder straps on the GR1 are made of the same 1000D nylon as the main body, but they’re also incredibly padded so that they won’t dig in, even when you’re carrying heavy loads. In fact, they’re so padded that, at first, they can seem a little rigid, but don’t worry, after a few wears they’ll loosen up. If you’re planning on using your bag for this first time in the great outdoors, it might be worth earing it around the house for a few days first so you don’t have to break into the straps on the trail.
They also have a strip of MOLLE webbing down the center, which you can use to clip on small bits of gear for ease of access or you can use to attach accessories, such as the compatible sternum strap sold separately by GORUCK. Similarly, padded hip belts are also sold separately and can be attached via webbing on the side of the bag. Although we like that the sternum strap and hip belts are optional (after all, they can be overkill sometimes), given the hefty price tag of this bag, we’d like to see them included.
For us, the back panel was one of the worst features of the GR1. Made of 1000D nylon and well padded, it certainly isn’t uncomfortable. The issue for us, however, was the lack of ventilation. It would have been nice to see some substantial gaps in the padding covered with mesh to allow for some airflow. After all, whether you’re halfway up a mountain or arriving at the office, sweaty backs are no fun.
We can’t complain about the carry handle on the top of the bag – it’s more than sturdy and comfortable enough. However, there aren’t any side handles on this bag, although for a bag this size this isn’t a ‘must-have’ feature, but we’d like to have the option anyway.
Whether it’s a train ticket, a first aid kit, or a compass you’re looking for, there’s nothing worse than having to empty your bag to find a single item. All good rucksacks should have various compartments and pockets to keep your gear in order and provide rapid access to essential items. So, how well does the GR1 perform in this department?
With a 26L capacity, the GR1 is a mid-sized backpack perfect for day trips and overnight adventures, but if you find it a little larger than needed, a 21L model is also available. The laptop compartment is located at the back of the main compartment, and it’s one of the best-protected laptop sleeves we’ve encountered. Not only is it incredibly well padded around the sides, but there’s also a false bottom so you can throw your pack down without worrying about your laptop feeling anything.
We found the access point for the laptop compartment a little odd – there’s a zipper on the back of the pack under the shoulder straps – but we can deal with it in exchange for a bomb-proof laptop section. Plus, we love the U-shaped zipper on the main compartment that lets you open it flat so you can see exactly what is packed where.
The GR1 pack has three internal pockets plus an external slant pocket on its exterior. The outer pocket is great for quick-grab items, like train tickets, but it can’t hold anything bulky when the interior is full. Inside, on the front panel, there’s a zippered, covered pocket spanning one-third of the panel and a zippered mesh pocket that cover the remaining area. On the back panel, there’s a sleeve section for tablets or other gear, with a velcro section on its exterior.
Overall, there are enough pockets to keep your gear in line, but not as many as you often see in high-end tactical backpacks.
A couple of things we were sad to see missing from this bag are exterior water bottle holders and a hydration reservoir. We also thought there could have been a tad more interior organization.
Having said that, one of the defining features of this bag is how much MOLLE webbing it has, both inside and out, and this lets you customize the bag how you want – for instance, you can easily use the velcro pocket on the inside for a water pouch, and use the MOLLE to attach a clip for the hose that can escape via the exit port underneath the handle. There are also tonnes of compatible extra features you can purchase separately and attach to MOLLE on the exterior or interior, such as extra pouches and organizational sections.
Although we like that you can essentially design your own backpack, all these add-ons will increase the cost of this, already expensive, backpack.
The GR1 is a pretty expensive rucksack, but is it worth it?
For the price, you get incredibly durable materials that can literally survive a warzone. Plus, the bag is covered by the Scars Lifetime Guarantee, which means that if something goes wrong or you somehow wear out your bag, it will be fixed or replaced free of charge.
It’s super resistant to abrasions and as close to waterproof as you can get without technically being waterproof… so this makes a great bag for on the trail as well as in the city.
It skimps a little on extra features, but the array of MOLLE webbing means that you can build up the bag how you like, which we guess is pretty cool, but it does add to the cost. Similarly, the bag is fairly average in terms of comfort, but you can purchase straps and belts to help ease the load if you need them.
Overall, if you have the cash to splash not only on the bag but also on the accessories, then you’ll have a bag for life that you can use for multiple activities. In this sense, it offers good value for money, but we appreciate that it will fall outside of some people’s price range, and we wish that there were a few freebies thrown in.
With an overall rating of 90, the GR1 has performed well. It dropped a few marks for the lack of ventilation in the back panel and initial comfort levels, and for the lack of included organizational and extra features. However, seeing as additional features can easily be incorporated into this bag, and it’s made of incredibly durable material, it still scored high overall.
So, would we recommend the GR1? If you have the cash to spend, then yes.
It’s a solid investment that probably won’t need replacing within your lifetime (but if it does, the warranty has you covered). You can take it pretty much anywhere with you too, so you won’t need to invest in other bags. Plus, you can always build-up your accessory collection over time to spread out the cost.
The laptop compartment is especially impressive and makes this bag a great choice for commuters as well as people who need their laptops in the field.
If you want a bag that does it all, and you’re prepared to pay for it, then this is an excellent option!