No one is going to mistake me for ex-special services. Not now, not ever.
Well, maybe if…no, probably not then either. Sigh.
OK, I just asked my wife and she snorted her drink out of her nose and rolled around on the ground laughing hysterically. I am going to take that as a “no” as well.
I am nerdy and out of shape, but that doesn’t mean I can’t appreciate gear that is made to exacting military standards. I like a piece of kit that takes a ridiculous amount of wear and abuse and smiles at you as if to say, “That’s it? That’s the best you can do?”
There is also something infinitely interesting about a backpack that is torture tested by a Green Beret group to get the details right. I seldom crawl through mud and the only shots I avoid are allegorical, but there is comfort in knowing your pack could cruise through an assault with aplomb.
The quote from their website kind of sums it up nicely:
BUILT IN THE USA
GORUCK gear is not perfect for anything, it’s perfect for everything. War, open roads, or both.”
First of all, it is no surprise that this is a product that is made with pride in the USA. Hand crafted under the big sky in Bozeman, Montana, the GR-1 is a product that has been developed by a man on a mission. He details some of the long process to getting it just right on his website but it didn’t really sink in until I got my hands on one.
The GR-1 is made from 1000D Cordura nylon so it is light, strong and has great abrasion resistance. The general shape of the pack reminds me of a shuttle craft from a science fiction movie. It is sleek and low profile but at 26 liters of volume it holds a surprising amount.
The GR1 is a single section pack with a padded back slot for a hydration bladder or laptop. The construction is thick and well sewn with lots of bar tacking for strength. The material and the stitching combine to make the pack fairly stiff. They have actually engineered a bit of a curve into the pack so that the portion that goes against your back is more comfortable. Nicely engineered.
The front of the pack has a velcro patch for attaching an insignia. The review unit I received featured a reverse American flag in Gorucks preferred colors of black, black and black. You may feel free to insert a Henry Ford reference here! The GR1 is actually now available in sand and multi-camouflage so you do get a bit of a choice.
There is a single pocket on the front of the GR-1 that covers about two-thirds of the height of the pack. It is sealed with a serious, American made YKK zipper with a wrapped and knotted nylon pull on it. You will not have any trouble operating this zipper in the dark, rain or snow and these zippers will not rattle.
This pocket is fairly flat and if the pack is stuffed tight it can be hard to get things in and out of here but it is great for things you want to get at quickly.
The bottom part of the pack has three rows of loops (called Pouch Attachment Ladder System or PALS) sewn onto the pack to support MOLLE accessories. The military has an acronym for everything including the way you add pouches and pockets and MOLLE (pronounced Molly) is short for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. These loops allow you to add a host of existing accessories or just use them to attach your own creative extensions to the pack. The beauty of the system is that you can suit the GR1 to whatever you need to do with it at the time. There are MOLLE ladders on each side of the GR1 as well.
The straps are solid and tight with additional reinforcement where they are attached at the base of the pack. The straps also feature those ubiquitous loops to add features to the pack. If you wanted to add a sternum strap these give you that option as well as plenty of others. The strap adjustments are via traditional toothed clips and the straps have a thumb loop on them to make it quick to pull the straps tight against your back.
The pack rides comfortably and I found it was best for it to ride high and tight on your shoulders. This is definitely the perfect pack for a cyclist and it will not get in your way no matter how active your day becomes.
The top of the pack features a low profile handle that is surprisingly comfortable. They have done something clever here with a minimum amount of padding to keep it out of the way but useful for lifting a completely filled pack. Right under that handle is a velcro closure that hides the gap that the hose for a hydration bladder would go through. I like the fact that this gap essentially disappears if you are not using it.
The laptop/hydration bladder pouch is along the back side of the pack and is accessed via a zipper that goes along the top and only one side. It also stops about two-thirds of the way down the pack. The beauty of this is that your laptop is incredibly unlikely to fly out of this pack even if you sling it on a shoulder with that zipper all the way open.
The zipper is a single YKK that curves gently through the ninety degree turn and moves smoothly all along its track. The wall of the that pack that rests against your back is well padded but it also has a plastic shield in the wall of this to add a bit more protection if your laptop is riding in that section. You can take the shield out via a velcro sealed flap at the top of the section on the inside. Of course, I can’t figure out why you would want to take it out…
The section is tightly constructed and big enough that even the most monstrous laptop should slide in here with ease. Twelve inches wide and eighteen inches deep. That about covers any laptop I would ever want to carry!
The GR1 does not feature cinch straps but something about the way it is constructed makes the pack shrink down based on the amount of stuff you cram inside. You can see from the picture below that it gets very slim when empty. The pack I reviewed had already been well loved, so it does not seem to lose this capability even with a lot of heavy use.
The main flap of the GR1 zips all the way down to the base of the pack so that you can fold it completely open. This makes it easy to pack up large and oddly shaped equipment inside. The flap has two zippered pockets on its inside. The top one is 4.5 by 10 inches which is perfect for quick grab things and I keep batteries and other small goods stuff in here.
This pocket also features the only real branding on the pack. That’s right, nothing on the outside, just a little 2 by 3 patch on the inside. That says confidence to me!
Below this is a 10 by 10 mesh pocket. Actually, mesh implies something sort of gauze-like and flimsy and this stuff would take a hacksaw to get through. An iPad in a case will fit snugly in here or you could stuff it with a pile of accessories. A notebook or 8.5 by 11 papers also fit nicely in here. Three bricks would also fit nicely here and not cause a bit of problem for the GR1.
The main section of the GR1 is big and pretty simple. It is 12 by 20 inches and goes from 4 inches deep at the top to about 5 inches deep at the bottom. The top of the pack has another ladder of loops for MOLLE equipment. Right below that is an open top pocket that is 11.5 inches deep. This makes it a good place for an iPad or a notebook. It is slightly gusseted so it can expand to hold even a 2 inch notebook.
“Built like a tank” is a usually harmless hyperbole, but in the case of the GR1 it is right down the middle. The pack is incredibly rugged and over engineered so that you never have to worry about the abuse you are applying to it.
It will keep your gear dry and protected in some pretty foul circumstances and continue to look good after doing so. The pack is designed to be simple and straight forward so if you are looking for an organizational panel with loops for pens and small goods pockets you may find yourself shopping the military outlets for a MOLLE pouch that suits your needs.
You do pay for that quality. Hand made in America means that there is somebody personally sweating over every detail in this pack and it shows.
If you are looking for a pack that is American made and built with the bomb squad in mind the GR1 is very tough to beat. Very tough indeed!
Goruck GR1 $295
Made with pride in Bozeman, Montana
Contact them here: