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GORUCK GR2 Review (Best Backpack for Travel)

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Price
Value
Durability
Packing & Organization
Comfort
Versatility
Sustainability
Water Resistance
The GR2 is a "buy it for life" travel backpack, which GORUCK advertises as the only rucksack you need to travel the world. It's worth the steep price tag, as long as it lines up with your priorities. You'll love the 7 internal pockets split between two compartments, and how the pack opens flat. These bags are also incredibly durable and don't sag under weight. For one bag travel, or as a carry-on, you'll feel the all-day comfort of quality construction.

The GORUCK GR2 is a “travel the world with one ruck” kind of backpack. That’s how GORUCK advertises it, anyway. I’m out to prove that right. Why? Well, I think the GR2 is fantastic, and the best backpack for travel. I’ve had my 34L GR2 for ~5 years as of writing this, and I still use it all the time, especially for one bag travel. Most recently, my GORUCK GR2 spent 8 days with me in the US Virgin Islands. No other bags needed, no waiting for luggage at the airport, no hauling suitcases. My wife even uses her smaller GR1 for one bag travel, too!

Here’s the too long, didn’t read of my GORUCK GR2 review: buy the backpack (if you can afford the high price tag) because you’ll never want another. For travel, hiking, and as a carry-on backpack, the GR2 will never let you down. It protects your belongings, it’s easy to organize, and it can take some serious abuse (AKA it’s a buy it for life pack).

Why the GORUCK GR2?

Asking why you should purchase any GORUCK backpack usually leads to the same answers. My wife and I both have a GR1 (and I have a workout sandbag, too) along with my larger GR2. We could probably get by with our GR1’s (they’re basically the size of normal backpacks–read my review here), but the larger GR2 gives us a bit more versatility while traveling.

Anyway, simply put, GORUCK rucksacks are widely known as the most durable backpacks for working out, traveling, and every day utility. They can handle some serious abuse, hold their shape well over time, and are designed for easy packing and organizing. Because the quality of GORUCK backpacks is so superior, they come with a higher price tag.

This is the reason most people will steer away from GORUCK packs: they’re expensive. In my experience (owning four bags between my wife and I), they are well worth the hefty price tag. In fact, I’m not likely to buy another backpack again! I like to read on the go, I’m an author, and I love taking pictures, so protecting my laptop, Kindle, and other electronics is important, and GORUCK’s construction gives me peace of mind.

GORUCK’s GR2 is what you’ll want if you need a mid-to-large sized backpack that is compact and sleek enough to be carried on a plane, can handle serious abuse while protecting a laptop and electronics, and opens flat for easy access and organization.

Does that sum it up well?

Knowing the quality and durability of GORUCK’s gear, let’s look at some pros and cons of their highly-rated (1,000+ reviews!) GR2…

GORUCK GR2 Pros and Cons

Simply put, the GR2 is the best backpack for travel, and it’s got a lot of other great uses. That being said, no backpack can do it all, and they’ve all got some weaknesses. I’m a hiker, traveler, backpacker, and writer, so I use my backpacks for all sorts of activities, including daily use for work. With that in mind, here are my pros and cons which form the backbone of my GORUCK GR2 review…

GR2 Pros: Durability, Versatility, Organization, Comfort, Accessorizing

  1. Durability: GORUCK bags are all loved for their exceptional durability. The couple who founded the company are former Special Forces (him) and CIA (her), and they wanted their bags to be useful everywhere from “Baghdad to NYC.” The 1000D CORDURA® fabric seems immune to abrasions and tears, though on the GORUCK bags I’ve had for 5+ years, the stitching has frayed slightly in heavy use areas–just adds some character. If you want a travel bag that will last forever, look no further than GORUCK’s GR2.
  2. Versatility: The GR2 is practical and useful in most situations (I’ll cover when I won’t use the bag later). I use my GR2 as a beach bag while traveling, for work, and long hikes. It’s easy to clean (partly because of the fabric and because it opens flat), too!
  3. Organization: The sleek GR2 opens flat. If you know, you know. Travel bags that open flat make organizing and accessing clothes, gear, and necessities much easier. Imagine yourself sprawled at the airport, ripping everything out of your backpack looking for your passport, wallet, or favorite seashell you found at the beach. Not so with a GORUCK bag. You can lay the GR2 down and unzip it all the way for a nice and neat layout of your gear. Furthermore, GR2 has a “bombproof” laptop sleeve and plenty of secure, zippered compartments for expert organization. Internal and external MOLLE webbing gives further options for organization and attachment of accessories like extra pockets and water bottle holders.
  4. TSA carry-on compliant: This is big! Even the largest GR2 (40L) is carry-on compliant. If you’re traveling with one bag (or want more space in your carry-on for long flights), you won’t have to worry about people side-eyeing your oversized bag. It’s just a backpack, after all. You’ll blend in well at the airport but have everything you need within arm’s reach. When I visited the US Virgin Islands, I had everything I needed in my GR2 and didn’t have to pay extra luggage fees while ferrying between islands.
  5. Comfortable to wear: The best travel backpack better be comfortable! GORUCK packs are padded in all the right places, are well balanced, and don’t sag under weight. Plus, for extended wear, you can add a padded hip belt and sternum strap–backpackers will know how much these features can help with comfort. But honestly, the packs are great up to 40lbs without these additions. I’ve worn my Kelty Redwing 50 backpacking bag for 12 hours straight (taking it off just two times during a GORUCK Tough Challenge), and it was good. Having tons of experience with GORUCK rucksacks now, I’d choose their bags for extended wear every time.
  6. Water-resistant: CORDURA® fabric and coated zippers make GR2 highly water-resistant. I once floated my GR2 across a river in Puerto Rico and nothing inside got wet! There may have been a little luck involved there, but I chalk it up to excellent construction and materials. I’ve used my GORUCK packs in pouring rain, too, without issue. GORUCK calls their bags “rainproof.” In my experience, the GR2 is much better than “rainproof.” For extra protection, GORUCK sells compatible ruck rain covers. For rainy/cold hikes and travel, pair your GR2 with Lowa Renegade boots for a truly waterproof hiking fit that looks quite stylish.
  7. Streamlined design: The GR2 has a sleek design. I’ve never wondered why they included certain pockets, I usually use them all. Externally, GR2 doesn’t stand out much (especially in black) in urban or outdoor environments.
  8. Sustainable: While GORUCK rucksacks are not built with recycled materials or sustainability at the forefront, you really will never need another travel backpack once you’ve bought a GR2. 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 this dependable rucksack.
  9. GR2 Cons: Price & Weight

    1. Expensive price tag: The GORUCK GR2 is pricey compared to many other travel backpacks. I believe you can buy something as comfortable, or as durable, or as versatile for less money, but I’m not sure you can get all three in any other single bag–that’s not to mention organization and accessorizing! High-quality materials and American craftsmanship contribute to its price, but it may be a drawback for budget-conscious and frugal shoppers. If you travel often and light, you might use your GR2 as your only bag, saving some luggage fees. Remember, it’s carry-on compliant!
    2. GR2 is heavy compared to similar packs: GR2’s 1000D CORDURA® make the bags comfy, sturdy, tear-proof, and resistant to sagging, but it’s not an ultralight material by any means. Other bags that are 34L or 40L won’t weigh as much as a GR2. For ultralight travelers and hikers, the GR2 may tip the scales too far at 3.9 to 4.5 lbs, depending on the size. While I don’t use GORUCK bags for backcountry hiking & camping (when weight makes a huge difference over multiple days of hiking), I use them for day hiking (even super long hikes) and travel. The durability is just fantastic. Go ahead, slam your bag around overhead compartments on planes and drop it on the pavement after a hike. Just kidding! Take care of your gear. But the GR2 can take it. If you’re lucky enough to purchase a limited edition GR2 DYNEEMA, those packs are over a pound lighter, but the durability isn’t the same as 1000D CORDURA®.
    3. No water bottle pockets: I list this con on my GR1 review, too, but you can add this water bottle pocket designed by GORUCK for their rucksacks. Carrying a reusable water bottles when I travel and hike is important. If you’re ever going to use a hip belt, you’ll need the side MOLLE attachments, so add your water bottle holder to the rear MOLLE.
    4. Limited ventilation: The GR2’s back panel (while comfortable) lacks the ventilation channels some backpacking bags have, so my back can get sweaty in hot environments. I’ve yet to find a travel backpack that doesn’t make my back sweat, though.

    My GORUCK GR2 and my wife’s GR1 on the ferry from St. John to St. Thomas in the USVI. These were the only two pieces of luggage we brought for 8 days of Caribbean adventure.

    Everywhere my GR2 has traveled

    There’s few places a GR2 can’t go. Planes, trains, trails, beaches, adventures all over…when you’re paying this much for one backpack, you want it to be versatile and functional. I use my GR2 for one bag travel, as a carry-on, and for road trips and long hikes, when I want to carry a few more things than my smaller GR1 can fit.

    1. When I ran my first trail marathon in Austin, TX, my GR2 was my only travel backpack. I spent five days in Texas, running a marathon and working a bit while staying in a hostel. I had no complaints ‘roughing it’ with one bag for my whole trip. Turns out traveling with such a reliable pack isn’t really ‘roughing it’ at all.
    2. Visiting my wife’s family in Mexico, my GR2 was my carry-on bag. We brought a suitcase on that trip to transport some gifts and to and fro, but I could’ve easily done the week long trip with just my GR2.
    3. We weren’t quite ready for one bag travel when we visited Puerto Rico for two weeks in 2023, but we realized on that trip that we didn’t really need a suitcase! My GR2 was our beach and hiking backpack on that trip (in places like El Yunque), as well as my carry-on.
    4. Finally, in 2024, we embraced one bag travel with our GORUCK packs. Me, with my GR2, and my wife with her GR1. It was a huge success! We spent 8 days in the Caribbean hiking, snorkeling, and hanging on the beach, with all of our needs met by just our two rucksacks. I even brought a huge towel that took up lots of space in my bag.
    5. In the summer of 2024, I have a month booked in Central Asia. Stay tuned! I’ll just be bringing my GR2 on that trip. This upcoming trip will be a serious test of the GR2’s traveling capabilties.

    I’ve used other bags for traveling, but I think the GR2 will forever be my favorite. The dependability it’s shown as a great travel backpack makes the GR2 a backpack for almost everything.

    Everything, you say?

    Yep, I think so. Sure, the GR2 isn’t ultralight. It’s also a little tactical looking, which isn’t everyone’s style. I might not take it to the top of Earth’s tallest mountains or on ultralight backpacking trips, but just about everywhere else, it makes the cut.

    GORUCK GR2 Alternatives: Comparing Backpacks

    Here are the rucksacks and backpacks I’m using for some other activities, when I might not choose my GR2. Particularly, I use my GR1 (review right here) more often than my GR2. I was gifted my GR1 long before I purchased a GR2, but I knew I wanted a GORUCK rucksack that could go a little farther and had more organization.

    1. GORUCK GR1 when you need less space

    Don’t need so much organization and space? Maybe you’re heading out for a day hike or a solo beach trip. Maybe your just need a good laptop backpack that travels well. You get the point. The GORUCK GR1 is your better bet when you don’t need so much room. Remember, though, that the GR2 does come in a sleek 26L that might be a nice compromise with a bit more storage than GR1.

    GR1 is better than GR2 when…

    • You always bring a suitcase while traveling and just need a sleek backpack for your laptop, electronics, or other essentials.
    • You’re looking for a good EDC (every day carry) bag for work, the gym, and recreation. Just hauling some shoes, snacks, water, and electronics? A GR1 might be the better rucksack.

    GORUCK GR1 vs GR2

    Let’s compare the larger sizes of GORUCK’s two most popular travel rucksacks. The GR1 tops out at 26L, weighing 3.1 lbs. The GR2’s largest size is 40L, weighing a hefty 4.5 lbs. The GR1’s volume (26L) gives you 12″ wide, 20″ tall, and 6.75″ deep. Jumping to the GR2, you get an extra bit of space in each direction: 12.5″ wide, 22” high, and 9” deep.

    Not much wider, but the height and depth are significant, especially with all the extra storage pockets on the inside of the GR2.

    I use a 34L GR2, and I can fit much more in that bag than my 26L GR1. It’s not even close. You can find other reviews that attest to the same: the GR2 holds a lot. Maybe it’s the extra compartment: the GR2 has two main compartments that open flat. I don’t even need the 40L for one bag travel!

    With the GR1 you get three internal pockets in the main compartment, one external slant pocket, and a very safe laptop compartment. GR2 offers 7 total internal pockets in two main compartments, one external slant pocket, and the same laptop compartment.

    Those are the main differences in the GR1 vs GR2 conversation: space and organization. For me, purchasing a GR1 vs GR2 comes down to whether you need day pack & carry-on (GR1) or a real travel backpack that can simply hold more stuff (GR2).

    Ask a question

    Want a recommendation on what backpack to get based on your specific needs? Drop a comment at the bottom and I’ll let you know my thoughts.

    How GR1 and GR2 are similar

    Here are the similarities between the GR1 and GR2. Don’t make your decision based on these things (durability, dependability, and versatility). Focus more on size and organizational needs.

    1. Built with supremely durable 1000D CORDURA®. Abrasion-resistant and seemingly tear-proof. The back panels and shoulder straps are a softer–yet still durable–210D CORDURA®. This material is quite comfortable, even without a shirt on.
    2. Both rucks have a laptop compartment, a must-have for me.
    3. External and internal MOLLE webbing for customizing with extra storage pockets and accessories.
    4. Both backpacks open flat for easy packing.
    5. High quality zippers with paracord pulls so they don’t jangle. I don’t know anything about zippers, but in 5+ years of owning two GORUCK backpacks, I’ve never had a single issue.
    6. External slant pockets (like most backpacks) for easy access to snacks, chargers, and travel documents. These are just your standard front pockets.
    7. Rainproof. I think they’re a little better than rainproof, but not quite waterproof. I’m pretty impressed with how dry they keep things when it’s raining. Buy a pack rain cover if you haul electronics regularly.
    8. TSA compliant. The best backpacks for travel!

    2. Dedicated hiking bag for trail junkies

    Hiking and backcountry enthusiasts will roll their eyes at the weight of GORUCK bags, and I admittedly wouldn’t take a GR2 on multiday hiking trips. I’ve got a 50L hiking bag for that (I use the Kelty Redwing 50). However, there’s no denying GORUCK packs are amazing for organization, particularly the travel-friendly GR2. If you’re hiking up mountains day after day, I’d look for something lighter with a bit more space, like a dedicated backpacking pack.

    REI is a great place to try on higher-volume packs like these.

    3. Rucker for rucking

    Rucking is the best kind of workout for travel, hiking, and adventure. It’s the root of military training (long hours on your feet and functional strength) and the central theme of GORUCK’s company. While the GR1 is actually my favorite rucking backpack (here’s why), they do make a rucking-specific backpack: the Rucker. And while the GR2 isn’t designed just for rucking, you can turn it into a larger Rucker with one inexpensive modification. Read about turning a GR1 or GR2 into an oversized Rucker here.

    One Bag Travel with the GORUCK GR2

    Let’s get into all the activities you can do with your GR2. I’m starting with one bag travel, because that’s my primary use for the GR2. For me, it’s the best backpack for travel because of everything I’ve discussed above.

    I really have no complaints about packing all my needs into a GR2 for travel. It’s comfortable, customizable with accessories, easily packed and unpacked, and incredibly durable–for the bag itself and its contents.

    My GORUCK GR2 surrounded by its contents for 8 days on the island of St. John in the US Virgin Islands. The towel beneath the spread took up the most space in the pack, but it all fit well.

    My wife and I like one bag travel, a lot. It’s streamlined, simple, and there’s no chance of losing luggage at the airport. There’s no hauling cumbersome suitcases around either, which is the quickest way to announce yourself as a tourist. Hey, nothing wrong with being a tourist, but we just like to try and look cool. One bag travel makes you look cool, in my opinion.

    While she uses her 26L GR1 for one bag travel (packing even less than me, usually), I opt for the larger 34L GR2.

    What fits in the 34L GR2? My packing list.

    Here’s a quick rundown of my travel packing list for trips of 7+ days. Beyond 7 days, the packing list doesn’t change much, because I’ll look to do laundry.

      Clothes

      Headwear

      • A sunhat, like this one from Columbia
      • A cotton ball cap
      • A headlamp, if needed
      • Sunglasses

      Footwear

      • I wear my Brooks Cascadia trail shoes to the airport and keep them handy for hiking, but…
      • My wife and I mostly wear our Teva Universal sandals when we travel
      • Essentials

        • An oversized beach towel that can work for picnics, showers, and any other times I need a blanket or towel
        • Toiletries, of course. I don’t bring any liquids over 3oz or razors, I usually buy things like this (if needed) when I reach my destination, taking care not to buy too much that I waste any
        • Earth Breeze laundry sheets for doing laundry on the go
        • A tote bag for grocery shopping on the go
        • A mesh bag for storing dirty clothes
        • A Nalgene water bottle
        • A small dry bag for keeping small things safe during wet activities
        • Headphones for music, podcasts, and language learning
        • My COROS Vertix GPS watch for tracking hikes and other activities without needing much charging

        Extras and fun stuff

        You don’t need much more than that for extended travel, or shorter vacations. The downsides, of course, are not having everything you might want: razors, larger liquid toiletries, extra shoes. But we wouldn’t have it any other way, us and our GORUCK bags packed out with all our needs. It works well for us, and it can work for you, too.

        Simplicity is a beautiful thing!

        Casual Travel with the GORUCK GR2

        Casual travel (road trips, day trips, traveling with suitcases, etc) is a cinch with the GR2. For all the reasons above (and there are a lot!), the GR2 is the best backpack for travel. When your bag is basically indestructible, super comfortable, and easy to pack and organize, you’ll experience a little extra peace of mind. Plus, the GR2 is compact enough to be TSA carry-on compliant, while holding a heck of a lot of gear.

        However, if you only need a day pack or smaller carry-on, the GR1 might be your go-to. It just depends how much space you need. I compare the two backpacks here.

        Rucking and Fitness

        Is the GR2 good for rucking and fitness? Yep! While GORUCK sells a fitness-dedicated Rucker rucksack, I actually prefer the larger GR1. Why? Well, it’s more versatile for every day use and travel. If you need a great travel backpack, but also want to ruck for fitness, look no further than the GR2. You’ll just want to add a Shaddox pouch. I go over that simple accessory addition for the GR1 here, and the same process works for the larger GR2.

        If you’re a hiker who wants a good trail & travel backpack that can carry some serious weight for rucking & fitness, you’ll be happy with the volume and organization of the GR2. It’s all about picking the right pack for your favorite activities, but the GR2 will be able to handle most of them easily.

        No matter which GORUCK bag you choose (and maybe the smaller Rucker is indeed for you), you can be really rough with them. Load them with Ruck Plates or sandbags and go get your sweat on. They’re not afraid of pavement, rain, and sunshine.

        Hiking, camping, and backpacking

        The GORUCK GR2 is great for both hiking and camping, I think we’ve covered that pretty well. Durability? Check. Easy to pack and comfortable? Check and check. Capable of carrying some serious weight? Yep. If you’re doing shorter hikes, visiting a campground, or just hanging outdoors, everything you need will easily fit in a GR2. And your back, shoulders, and legs will be glad you chose such a quality pack.

        However, I still don’t take my GR2 for multiday hikes over rough terrain, up mountains and such. Why not? Well, it’s kind of heavy and lacks the space you’ll get with a backpacking pack. If I need to carry sleeping gear, cooking supplies, lots of food, and water for a couple days and nights, I opt for packs that have more volume than the 34-40L GR2.

        For me, the Kelty Redwing 50 is my go-to for backpacking.

        Every day carry

        You can use the GR2 for EDC (work, gym, commuting, etc), but it’s a little bulkier than you might want. If EDC is your primary concern for your GORUCK sack, the GR1 is less cumbersome and lighter weight (and still has a secure laptop compartment). GORUCK also makes the stylish M23 rucksack for more casual use.

        Final thought: I’ll be using my GR2 for years to come

        I wouldn’t feel comfortable boarding a flight without my GR2, especially if it’s the only bag I’m bringing on vacation. It just feels like home. I know where to put my electronics and snacks, how to arrange a change of clothes for quick retrieval, and I feel confident that my laptop is safe and secure.

        Plus, I don’t draw the attention of airline agents when they’re looking for bags to check on full flights. It’s lowkey and comfortable enough to wear everywhere, but it still holds whatever you need it to.

        I think it’s the best backpack for travel, and I’m out here proving it!

Price
Value
Durability
Packing & Organization
Comfort
Versatility
Sustainability
Water Resistance
The GR2 is a "buy it for life" travel backpack, which GORUCK advertises as the only rucksack you need to travel the world. It's worth the steep price tag, as long as it lines up with your priorities. You'll love the 7 internal pockets split between two compartments, and how the pack opens flat. These bags are also incredibly durable and don't sag under weight. For one bag travel, or as a carry-on, you'll feel the all-day comfort of quality construction.
The GR2 is a "buy it for life" travel backpack, which GORUCK advertises as the only rucksack you need to travel the world. It's worth the steep price tag, as long as it lines up with your priorities. You'll love the 7 internal pockets split between two compartments, and how the pack opens flat. These bags are also incredibly durable and don't sag under weight. For one bag travel, or as a carry-on, you'll feel the all-day comfort of quality construction.
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George
Georgehttps://georgecallahan.com
George Callahan is the creator of Pine Tree Poet. He is an author of fantasy stories and an adventure poet. He prefers mountains and pine trees to most other things, and usually takes his dog Cowboy along for the ride.

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SUMMARY

The GR2 is a "buy it for life" travel backpack, which GORUCK advertises as the only rucksack you need to travel the world. It's worth the steep price tag, as long as it lines up with your priorities. You'll love the 7 internal pockets split between two compartments, and how the pack opens flat. These bags are also incredibly durable and don't sag under weight. For one bag travel, or as a carry-on, you'll feel the all-day comfort of quality construction.
Price
Value
Durability
Packing & Organization
Comfort
Versatility
Sustainability
Water Resistance

More Gear Reviews

The GR2 is a "buy it for life" travel backpack, which GORUCK advertises as the only rucksack you need to travel the world. It's worth the steep price tag, as long as it lines up with your priorities. You'll love the 7 internal pockets split between two compartments, and how the pack opens flat. These bags are also incredibly durable and don't sag under weight. For one bag travel, or as a carry-on, you'll feel the all-day comfort of quality construction.GORUCK GR2 Review (Best Backpack for Travel)