Read my original nature poems right here!

Read my original nature poems right here!

The Best Rucking Backpack of 2024: GORUCK GR1 vs Rucker

It’s no secret that GORUCK makes the best rucking backpack (and also the most expensive). But no, I’m not talking about their popular Rucker rucksack. Yes, the Rucker is GORUCK’s preferred pack for rucking, fitness events, and GORUCK events. Anywhere people are Crossfitting, doing Hero WODs, or just rucking, you’ll see Ruckers in the mix. It’s a top-tier fitness rucksack.

If you can afford GORUCK’s high price tags (very much worth it, in my opinion–these bags are fantastic), you’ll be shopping between a few options: the Rucker, a Ruck Plate Carrier, and the original GR1. I want to break down why I’m still rucking with a GR1, even with more condensed, rucking-minded options available.

For me, GORUCK’s flagship rucksack is still their best rucking backpack. The GR1 is my go-to for daily use, light travel (or as a carry on bag), and fitness. My wife uses her GR1 as her one-bag-travel pack, taking nothing else for trips over a week long. But you can read my GR1 review if you want to read everything I like and don’t like about the rucksack.

We’re here to talk about rucking.

Why the GR1 is still the best rucking backpack

The GR1 is still the best rucking backpack in 2024 because it’s GORUCK’s original rucksack. Why does that matter? Is the first product to market always the best? Certainly not. You’d expect good companies to keep improving their product and serving their customers with improvements and updates.

Well, the GR1 hasn’t been updated much, or undergone any serious changes over the years. It’s the same bag GORUCK started with because it’s the only bag you really need. GR1 has enough space for light travel and EDC; it’s comfortable, sturdy, and durable enough for hardcore rucking and hiking; and it’s made with buy it for life quality and construction. You’ll never need another backpack!

GORUCK made the GR1 to meet the demands of Army Special Forces training and operations. The goal was an indestructible backpack that could go anywhere (in any conditions) for average people. GORUCK succeeded. Just look at how many thousands of positive reviews GR1 has. It’s impressive!

But I get it, Rucker is the smaller, lighter, more compact rucking bag. I have nothing against the Rucker. It’s a sleek pack that performs awesome for fitness challenges. Like all of GORUCK’s bags, it’s supremely comfortable. Here’s where the Rucker beats the GR1…

GORUCK GR1 vs Rucker

The GR1 and Rucker are both compact, comfortable backpacks that can carry a lot of weight. Let me be clear, if you’re only rucking, the Rucker is the better backpack. But I’d like to imagine you want some more versatility in your expensive, buy-it-for-life gear.

What makes the Rucker better for rucking? It almost sounds silly to ask. It’s called the Rucker after all. In short, the Rucker is built to be “the gym on your back.” However, from a versatility standpoint, GR1 is the winner. With one simple modification, you can make your GR1 perfect for rucking. Let’s take a look…

1. Price

As of right now, the Rucker costs $245-265, depending on the best size for you. GR1 will set you back $335 for the 21L and $345 for the 26L option. That’s a big jump that has everything to do with extra storage and security. The GR1 is just a more complete backpack, where the Rucker is built to ruck.

2. Size, weight, and volume

In short, Rucker has smaller, more compact options. That might be a good thing for you, if you’re only rucking. Rucker comes in 3 sizes: 15L, 20L, and 25L. You can purchase GR1 in two sizes: 21L or 26L. Aside from the Rucker’s 15L, these numbers aren’t too different, right? True! But these two backpacks diverge more in other areas (like storage and price), which relate to the size.

3. Storage and organization

Here’s the biggest different between the GORUCK Rucker and GR1: the GR1 has much more storage and organization pockets. Sure, the Rucker has a couple interior mesh pockets, but GR1 has an external pocket on the front (like most backpacks do) and an extremely safe laptop compartment. This is a huge deal for me because I use my bag as my EDC and work bag: my laptop is always in it.

Both packs have external MOLLE for customizing the outside of the bag with water bottle pockets, side pockets, or field pockets (great for traveling), but GR1 also has internal MOLLE webbing for adding extra internal pockets or accessories.

4. Details

There are details to consider when you’re selecting the best backpack for rucking. To start, Rucker has nice straps around the bag for hauling and carrying the weight, making it more versatile for fitness. It also has a nice reflective strip across the front, so you’ll always be visible to cars and other ruckers. This feature is mandatory for GORUCK events, so you’ll need to purchase reflective straps if you’ll do a GORUCK event with a GR1.

Additionally, the Rucker has drain holes on the bottom (you’re likely to get wet at a GORUCK event). If you want straps, drain holes, or extra MOLLE added to your GR1 (or Rucker), GORUCK offers customization through their Scars lifetime guarantee program.

5. Ruck Plate Sleeve

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, Rucker has a secure Ruck Plate sleeve on the inside that is positioned high up, toward your shoulders so the bag carries comfortably and doesn’t sag. This pouch has a Velcro cover for a secure, perfect fit. The GR1 has no such sleeve for Ruck Plates. It only has an unsecure sleeve (doesn’t close, only covers about 3/4 of a Ruck Plate) and a rear laptop compartment.

Historically, you could ruck with your weight in the GR1’s internal sleeve and switch it to laptop compartment for some more security during PT like bear crawls and burpees. But in the laptop compartment, the weight might dig into your back. Unsecured in the bag’s main compartment, the weight shifted around during PT. Rucker solved this issue with the high, secure Ruck Plate sleeve.

I was always a little bothered shoving weight into the laptop compartment or internal sleeve of the GR1. It just didn’t feel like a perfect fit. This was the Rucker’s biggest advantage, but there is an easy solution to give your GR1 the same awesome Ruck Plate sleeve…

Easy Custom GR1 Ruck Plate Sleeve

This customization requires very little work on your part, because a guy in Oregon sews and sells the perfect, simple solution to turn your GR1 functionally into a Rucker (with all the GR1’s extra storage, of course). This padded weight plate pocket paired with MALICE Clips from Shaddox Tactical are easily installed to give your GR1 (or even your larger GR2) an extra pocket that sits high on your shoulders and holds a GORUCK Ruck Plate.

This configuration is highly comfortable and secure, and it’s how I ruck with my GR1. When I’m not rucking, I’ll drop my Kindle and Rite in the Rain notebook in the free extra pocket.

I’m highly impressed with the quality of construction in Shaddox gear, and I love my GR1 even more with the pocket in there.

So if you want the best rucking backpack out there, you might just buy GORUCK’s flagship, Special Forces-inspired, versatile pack and add a little extra pocket handmade in Oregon. Shaddox pouches are made with the same material GORUCK uses to make their rucksacks indestructible, and they’re very affordable.

Ready to start rucking with a GORUCK GR1? Here’s how you install the Shaddox pouch using the GR1’s internal MOLLE webbing…

My 30lbs Ruck Plate, 26L GR1, and Shaddox pocket. These and a cool patch from Wicked Trail are all you need to start rucking comfortably.

What exactly do I need to ruck comfortably with a GR1?

Obviously you’ll need a large GORUCK rucksack with internal MOLLE webbing, like the GR1 or GR2. Then, decide how much weight you’ll want to carry in your rucksack. For me, 30lbs is enough. I use rucking to train for backpacking, hiking, and travel, so 30lbs gives me all the strength gains I need.

Alternatively, you can get Ruck Plates in 10 lbs or 20 lbs and use a standard Shaddox pocket. If you want to go to 45 lbs, you’d need a “long” GORUCK Ruck Plate (this one) and a “large” Shaddox padded pocket (this one).

If you’re new to rucking, 30 lbs is plenty for a good workout. However, if you’re training for a hard backpacking trip or want some bigger muscle gains, get the “long” Ruck Plate.

Do I need a Ruck Plate to start rucking?

No way! You can start rucking with any weights you have, or books and bricks, if needed. I started with bricks wrapped duct tape and pool noodles, myself. I’ve also used circle barbell plates and kettlebells. But you know what my favorite it? Duh. A Ruck Plate. There’s no digging into your back, sagging of the backpack, or clunky configuration. They’re pricey, but Ruck Plates are well worth the cost. Honestly, after rucking with a kettlebell for awhile, owning a Ruck Plate makes me much more excited to get out the door.

Check around on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace to find a used one before you shop with GORUCK.

1. A backpack with internal MOLLE webbing, like a GR1 or GR2

If you’re like me and want a more versatile bag than GORUCK’s Rucker, get yourself a GR1 or GR2. I actually have both bags, but I ruck with my GR1, saving my GR2 for one bag travel.

Whether you choose one of these two backpacks or something else, rucking comfortably with a larger pack requires internal MOLLE webbing. You can’t add a Shaddox plate pocket without the webbing, and without a plate pocket you’ll be much less comfortable on long rucks. Trust me, I’ve wrapped a 35lbs kettlebell in towels and I’ve used bricks before: there is nothing as seamless and comfortable as a GORUCK Ruck Plate. It doesn’t make rucking easy, necessarily. But it distributes the weight nicely for longevity in your rucking fitness.

Alright, you got your bag. What’s next?

2. GORUCK Ruck Plate

You don’t need a Ruck Plate to start rucking. Even GORUCK recommends just getting started with some weights and any old backpack. That’s how I got started, too. In fact, when I did a GORUCK Tough event in 2016, I used a Kelty Redwing 50L hiking backpack and bricks wrapped in tape and pool noodles!

But Ruck Plates distribute the weight evenly in the bag and fit seamlessly into GORUCK packs, like the Rucker. But since we’re rucking with a GR1, your Ruck Plate will fit perfectly and securely into the Shaddox pouch.

3. Shaddox Tactical Padded Weight Plate Pocket

Alright, you’ve got a GR1 rucksack and a Ruck Plate. Maybe you found these used on Craigslist or Facebook Marketplace, or maybe you bought some shiny new gear straight from GORUCK. Either way, you’re going to own these things forever, the quality is simply superb. Buy-it-for-life approved!

Next, you’ll need to purchase a Shaddox Tactical Padded Weight Plate Pocket, handsewn in Oregon, USA, by a friendly guy named Clay. These durable pockets attach to the inside of your GR1 backpack, essentially turning it into a larger Rucker–the weight will sit high on your shoulders for a more comfortable ruck. This way, too, you won’t have to jam your Ruck Plate into the GR1’s laptop compartment or internal sleeve.

There you have it! A dedicated pocket in your GR1 (or GR2) for Ruck Plates!

Oh yeah, you’ll also need…

4. MALICE Clips

MALICE Clips are used to attach things to MOLLE webbing. So these heavy-duty clips attach your new Shaddox pocket to the inside of your GR1. Fear not! They’re very inexpensive and easy to use. You can buy them right here, with Shaddox again.

Purchase 4 long MALICE Clips to attach a pocket to your rucksack.

How to attach your Shaddox Pocket to your GR1

Alright, you’ve got everything you need (or maybe you skipped all this and just bought a Rucker, instead–no shame! I just like the bigger bag with more organization). Attaching your plate pocket with the MALICE Clips is easy, and Clay with Shaddox Tactical will send a short instructional. I also found the following video helpful. It’s very easy. It only took me about 5-10 minutes.

1. Push MALICE Clips through plate pocket webbing

Start by sending the open end of the long MALICE Clips up through your Shaddox plate pocket, as seen in the following photos. By “open end,” I mean the end with an open square in the center. Those ends should be pushed through the webbing to the top of the pocket, without any extra weaving them through the MOLLE webbing.

As seen in the photos below, I used 4 rows of MOLLE on the plate pouch. Can you count 4 black rows of MOLLE under which I fed the MALICE Clips?

Send the open end of your MALICE Clips through the back of the plate pocket, letting them stick out at the top.

2. Start the bottom end of the MALICE Clips through your rucksack

Pass the bottom end of the MALICE Clips (the end with the actual clip on it) through the lowest row of MOLLE webbing on your backpack. Every time you pass through one row of rucksack MOLLE, you’ll pass it through the plate pocket again. Does that make sense? In other words, while the top end of the clips simply went through the back of the plate pocket, this end will do lots of weaving. See the first photo below.

Step 2 (first image) is to send the MALICE Clip bottoms into the first row of MOLLE webbing on the pack. Then, step 3 (second image) is to come back and thread the clips through the plate pouch again, skipping one row–the third row of plate pouch MOLLE is where you’ll begin threading it.

3. Weave the clips through the third row of plate pouch MOLLE

Here you’ll feel how durable and rugged these MALICE Clips are. They’re a bit hard to feed through the MOLLE! Turn all four clips back toward the plate pouch and feed them through the third row (from the top) of MOLLE, as seen in the second photo above.

You go to the third row so the clips wrap around the MOLLE. You’ll start to feel the rucksack and plate pocket tighten together as you feed the clips through.

4. Keep weaving!

In the first image below, you’ll see I went back under the rucksack webbing again. Then, complete your weave and line up the clips at the very top. See how nicely the Shaddox pocket fits inside a GR1?

Keep weaving your MALICE Clips through the plate pocket and rucksack, alternating as you go up. You’ll really feel the two begin to come together tightly until the clips are lined up and ready to be closed.

4. Close the clips and put your Ruck Plate in. You’re ready!

Finally, close the clips at the top, put your Ruck Plate in, and put your bag on to feel the magic of a proper rucking setup. Feels good, doesn’t it? Basically you’ve now got a Rucker with some more space and storage!

Off you go! Rucking with a GR1

The GR1 is GORUCK’s flagship, iconic backpack, and it’s my favorite EDC, carry-on, and rucking pack. Even without the Shaddox modification, it’s a comfortable rucking backpack. I like for my weight to be secure and distributed evenly, though, so I opt for the addition of the plate pocket. Could I use a Rucker? Sure! But then I’d need three GORUCK bags, and I’m pretty happy with the two I’ve got (GR1 and GR2).

Rucking is an excellent way to cross train for running, it’s the best workout for hiking and backpacking, and it makes travel easier by strengthening your back, shoulders, and legs. In other words, rucking is the best training tool for adventurous people who want to stay in shape for life’s adventures. It’s cardio and strength all at once, and once you have your pack and weights, it’s free of charge.

When I ruck, I like to take my dog with me, listen to my favorite language learning apps, and daydream about adventures.

I’ll keep my Rite in the Rain notebook with me, too, in case any new poems strike me along the way.

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.

Leave a Reply!

Adventure Poems

Latest Articles