The GORUCK GR1 is a “buy it once and never again” kind of backpack. I’ve had mine for 5 years as of writing this, and I still use it every day. Here’s the too long, didn’t read of my GORUCK GR1 review: buy the bag (if you can afford the high price tag) because you’ll never want another.
I’ve used other bags, but the GR1 is always the most comfortable. It’s too heavy for multiday, backcountry adventures (and wouldn’t hold enough for more than a day or two in the forest), but it’s versatility for travel, everyday use, and fitness give the rucksack plenty of jobs to do. (For multiday hiking and backpacking trips, I’ve used a Kelty Redwing 50 for 6 years–same bag, no replacement needed yet).
I became a fan of GORUCK in 2015 when I did a GORUCK ‘Tough’ Challenge. And while I used my Kelty Redwing 50 for that 12 hour event, I knew I should give one of their bags–built for 12 hour workouts and world travel (from NYC to Baghdad, as GORUCK says)–a shot.
Enter the 26L GR1.
It’s GORUCK’s flagship rucksack, existing somewhere between daypack and travel bag. It’s a bit heavy for 26L, but has unmatched durability as far as I can tell. GORUCK says the GR1 is bombproof, and I believe it. The pack can haul heavy weight and protect a laptop. It’s also perfect to carry-on a plane.
I used my GR1 often enough that I bought my wife the same bag. Her ruck sat around for a couple weeks, unsure of its place in her daily carry, travel, and adventure bag lineup. Then she took it to yoga a few times, and never looked back. Like me, she often doesn’t go a day without using it.
Let’s check out the bag…
Everywhere we’ve taken our GORUCK GR1 rucksacks
If you’re going to pay top dollar for a backpack, you’ll want to get good use out of it. I’m never afraid to play rough with my GR1, and GORUCK’s impressive lifetime guarantee gave me some peace about spending so much on one bag. Also, the bag has almost 2,000 positive reviews.
Here’s everywhere we’ve taken our favorite backpacks, our GORUCK GR1s…
My wife wearing her GR1 on a flight out of Morelia, Mexico and me wearing mine in Grayson Highlands State Park, Virginia. We take our favorite travel / hiking / workout pack everywhere we go.
- Every day hike for the last 5 years. Rainy, wet, windy, or hot as can be…the GR1 is on my back comfortably hauling all the essentials.
- Daily carry: yoga, jiu jitsu, dog park, running around town.
- Walking and biking to work for 2 years when I went without a car. Rain or shine, my GR1 was on my back. I even ran 8.5 miles to work one day, very comfortably, while wearing my GR1.
- Ultra marathon start lines and finish lines–my go-to drop bag on race day.
- As an author and writer, I bounce around town a lot finding different spots to write. My laptop and Kindle are always safe in the GR1.
- Visiting family in Charleston, SC and Cleveland, OH over the years.
- Visiting family in Guanajuato, Mexico. My wife used her bag as a carry-on to transport all clothes and necessities for a week-long trip. It fit all of her needs, minus souvenirs. Imagine that: everything you need for a week abroad in one bag.
- In Austin, TX, my GR1 was my only travel bag. I flew to Austin in 2019 to run a marathon, staying in a hostel and ‘roughing it’ for four days. Turns out traveling with such a reliable pack isn’t really ‘roughing it’ at all.
- Crushing stair climber workouts in our apartment complex gym, one of my favorite workouts. If you want to get into rucking (walking with weight for fitness), check out GORUCK’s beginner’s guide.
GORUCK GR1 Pros and Cons
The GR1 is a durable and versatile bag that’s super popular among fitness & travel enthusiasts, the military community, and adventure-seekers.
While my wife and I aren’t members of the military community, we’re definitely fitness, travel, and adventure enthusiasts. Here are the pros and cons of our favorite backpack…
GR1 Pros: Durable, Versatile, Comfortable
- Durability: The GR1 is widely hailed for its exceptional durability. I’ve had people stop me and ask if I’m wearing a GR1 and then enviously run their hand along the tough 1000D CORDURA® fabric. That fabric is highly resistant to abrasions and tears. After 5 years, my pack sits a bit more relaxed, but you wouldn’t know how hard I’ve abused it. Truly built to Special Forces standards, as GORUCk boasts.
- Versatility: The bag is practical and useful in basically any situation, for any activity. We use our bags for travel, everyday carry, tough workouts, and lots of hiking. It’s got a “bombproof” laptop sleeve and a few secure compartments for organization. Internal and external MOLLE webbing gives further options for organization and attachment of additional gear or pockets.
- Comfortable to wear: It seems a little silly and “duh it should be comfortable!” but if you’ve tried different packs for backpacking, travel, or everyday use, I promise the GR1 will exceed the standard. It’s got a padded back panel and ergonomic shoulder straps, making it comfortable to carry even when fully loaded. Of course, the straps are adjustable, so you can personalize the fit. Finally, you can purchase padded hip belts and a chest strap for long days wearing your pack.
- Water-resistant: While not completely waterproof, the GR1 has water-resistant qualities due to its CORDURA® fabric and coated zippers. I’ve used mine in pouring rain walking, hiking, and biking. The only issue I ever had was the bottom of the bag getting wet from my rear bike tire kicking up water. A little soggy on bottom, that’s it. I’ve been pretty impressed with how well the GR1 does in water, so much so that after one particularly rainy bike ride to work I went on GORUCK’s website to see what they were advertising their water-resistance as. GORUCK calls it “rainproof.” In my experience the pack is much better than “rainproof.” For extra protection, GORUCK sells a compatible ruck rain cover. Pair your new GR1 with Lowa Renegade boots for a truly waterproof hiking fit.
- Streamlined and minimal design: The GR1 has a sleek and minimal design, perfect for those who value efficiency. It’s great for both urban and outdoor environments and doesn’t draw attention.
- Sustainable: While the GR1 is not crafted with recycled materials or sustainability at the forefront, you really will never need another bag once you’ve bought one. Everything I buy, I try to make it last forever. That’s why I love GORUCK: their gear is meant to last a lifetime. Consume less by buying higher quality travel and adventure gear like the GR1.
- Expensive price tag: The GORUCK GR1 is pretty pricey compared to many other backpacks. You can buy something as comfortable, or as durable, or as versatile for much less money, but I’m not sure you can get all the benefits of GORUCK’s most popular bag in any other single bag. High-quality materials and American craftsmanship contribute to its price, but it may be a drawback for budget-conscious or more frugal shoppers.
- Limited pockets and space: The GR1 comes in 21L and 26L options, which are a decent amount of space, but some may find the size lacking. It has one main compartment, a laptop compartment, and a small internal pocket, but additional internal organization may require separate pouches or accessories. I’ve used mine for week-long travel (the only thing I couldn’t fit were souvenirs), but anything over that (or if I needed more gear for the trip), I’d need a bigger bag, like my GR2.
- Heavy for the size: GR1’s durability and quality materials make it sturdy, but they also make it pretty heavy for 21L or 26L. That being said, I’ve run 5+ miles with my GR1 comfortably, so the weight never really bothered me. If you’re an ultralight traveler or hiker, this may not be the best option for you.
- No water bottle pockets: This is a pretty specific con, but I like carrying water bottles when I travel and hike. It’d be nice if the GR1 had some external pockets for easy water access. This would, however, take away from how streamlined the bag is.
- Limited ventilation: The GR1’s back panel lacks ventilation channels, so my back gets pretty sweaty if I wear it hiking or outside in the North Carolina summer.
GR1 Cons: Price, Space, Weight
My GORUCK GR1 Review: Buy the bag, it’s worth it
If you like to travel, hike, commute by foot or bike, get great workouts, and generally let adventure guide you, the GR1 is the pack for you. If you’re worried about size or want more space for extended travel (or bringing back souvenirs), you may upgrade to the roomier GR2, which I also have and use only a bit less than my GR1.
It’s my go-to, do-everything pack. It might just be yours, too.
Using my GR1 as a daily carry for soccer practice and taking advantage of the protective laptop sleeve to get some work done at the dog park.