Where do we even begin with the GORUCK GR2? There’s so much info about GORUCK on the internet, people go crazy over this brand. From reddit, to gear review sites, to our very own, long conversations in the TPP Facebook Group—GORUCK has built a brand around high quality USA-made goods and a great community surrounding their Rucking events (which basically involves putting a bunch of heavy sh*t in your backpack and going on military-esque training escapades).
If you’re familiar with The Perfect Pack, then you’ve probably heard of GORUCK. I’ll offer some of my unique experiences and perspectives with this pack (I lived out of it exclusively for 1.5 years), and I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.
A little background on GORUCK
Jason McCarthy—a former Green Beret—had a crazy idea to build a backpack in 2008. That idea became the GORUCK GR1. Made in the USA, built like a tank, and graded to military specifications, this thing was a beast. There was only one problem: no one wanted to shell out 300 bucks for a backpack from an unknown brand, and it didn’t really sell at first.
Jason knew he had a great product, but just needed to get it out there. He went back to his special forces roots and dug deep, taking a chance on an idea that would offer civilians a small slice of what military training is like. Enter the GORUCK Challenge. Although the Challenge centers around putting a sh*tload of weight into your backpack, trekking through mud, wading in open water, and hiking across miles of rough terrain, it’s really about teamwork, bonding with your buds, and accomplishing something together. These events allowed GORUCK to to create a tight-knit community of product testers & pack users around their brand. Over time, with feedback and suggestions from community members, GORUCK developed the truly “bombproof” lineup of bags we see today, including the GR2.
The thing I love about GORUCK as a brand is that you can spot one on the street, walk up to someone and be like, “Hey dude, that’s a nice bag” and most people are super excited and eager to have a chat. I’ve had tons of conversations with GORUCK enthusiasts during my travels. Everywhere from crowded airports to hiking trails, to the crowded New York City subway—people love the brand.
First impressions of the GR2
I was a bit of a backpack newbie before I found the GR2. I’m a digital designer and front-end engineer by trade, so before I decided to embark on a 1.5 year journey abroad, backpacks were never really on my radar. In the process of researching gear for my trip, however, I found myself drawn to the one bag style of travel. I could see the appeal in fitting all my gear into a single piece of carry-on luggage and all the freedom that brings. I wanted my bag to be durable and weatherproof for outdoor use, but I also wanted to be able to blend in when working in the city, so those blaze orange hiking backpacks some “backpackers” use were never in the cards for me.
I stumbled across the GR2 in my search and was immediately drawn in by the clean aesthetic. I’m a minimalist, usually wearing either black, grey or blue clothing. The GR2 fits in with that look well. It’s a tad boxy in shape, but still has a low profile and fits pretty close to the back despite being 40L. It does have a bit of the tacticool look with the row of MOLLE, but just the right amount for me.
So, how does one design such a great pack? Let’s hop into the details for a closer look.
Walking through the GR2
The GR2 uses high quality build materials: YKK zippers with 550 heatshrunk paracord, 1000D weatherproof CORDURA®, and a tasteful dose of MOLLE. Plus, it all fits under the airplane seat in front of you (on many airlines—I’ve tested it).
On the front side of the pack, we’ve got a handy slant pocket (which is my favorite for stashing quick grabs, or jamming everything from my pocket in there pre-security checkpoint). And below, we’re looking at 4 rows of MOLLE. I haven’t used this much to be honest.
I have, however, used the side rows of MOLLE for a hip belt attachment. I usually strap this thing in when I’m walking a mile or more with the pack & all my stuff in it. I’ve found it works pretty well at distributing the weight, but I’m a taller dude (6’2”) and I’ve had to attach it to the lowest portion of MOLLE, and the hip belt still sits a little high.
On the top of the pack, there’s a pretty badass handle going on that’s attached in a way that makes it feel like it’d never come off. I’d be curious to see how much tension the handle could take before detaching. Probably a lot. There’s also a “bombproof” laptop compartment on the back side. This is super padded, and can hold either a water bladder or laptop.
Potential improvement point: The frame sheet that comes with the GR2 is a bit weak, and I replaced it with a kydex version. I was mainly concerned about uneven pressure on my laptop—which is sort of unavoidable in any fully-packed backpack—but I wanted to mitigate some risk after noticing some pressure marks developing on the screen. The kydex frame sheet is a lot more sturdy, and I think it helps distribute pressure on the laptop more evenly. Hopefully this didn’t void the SCARS warranty—which is amazing by the way—GORUCK really holds up their end of the bargain when it comes to warranty and stands behind their products with pride.
Moving onto the straps – I’ve added a sternum strap, that when paired with the hip belt, further lightens the load. We’ve got a row of MOLLE going on here so it’s easy to customize everything as you see fit. The straps themselves are a tad thick for my taste. Thicker padding doesn’t necessarily equate to more comfort, but hey, I’m not really doing any hardcore rucking with the thing so the padded straps are probably nice to have for that use case.
There’s also a false bottom which will help protect your laptop from a nasty fall.
The main compartment of the pack opens clamshell and we’re greeted with 4 rows of MOLLE on the top. I’ve attached a GR2 field pocket here that helps with organizing the pack, but I usually just use free floating, non-padded Eagle Creek Specter Cubes—the padding on the field pocket is overkill for what I’m carrying and takes up precious space. The bottom half of the backside of the clamshell has an elastic clamshell which is good for … I dunno … documents? I keep a first aid kit in there, which proved to be useful at the beach when some dude thought it would be smart to grab a sea urchin … I personally don’t grab black, spiky things in the ocean, but your mileage may vary.
The top flap of the main clamshell contains 2 mesh pockets—one taking up ⅔ of the space, and another taking up ⅓ on the top. I love the little details GORUCK thinks of with the zipper pulls. Most of the outside pockets have black paracord, 2 mesh pockets pictured above use green paracord, and the secondary compartment (which we’ll get to in a minute, just hold on a sec) uses gold paracord. Great for creating mental models in your head about which color holds what type of gear.
The secondary compartment opens up clamshell as well. This gives you a ton of space to maneuver everything around. On the back side of the clamshell, we’ve got another ⅔ mesh pocket and ⅓ pocket with some depth to it that gives you some space for bulkier gear. The mesh dividers inside are nice to have—a passport in a case fits perfectly in the larger one—but I have found that these have stretched out a bit over time. I view that as normal wear & tear though, and it’s pretty minor.
On the front side of the clamshell, there’s another … you guessed it … ⅔ zip mesh pocket! With all these pockets going on, it’s hard to put bulkier stuff in the flatter mesh pockets. If you think about it, we’re 3 pockets deep at this point if you pull in the ⅓ zip from the main clamshell. I find myself either not utilizing these pockets at all or putting more flat items inside. It’s just easier to use packing cubes to keep everything “flat”. Especially when it’s jammed to the brim with gear.
Lastly, there’s a pocket at the top of the pack which is good for flatter items. I find this pocket to be pretty easy for storing quick grabs that you want to keep secure – meaning, a wallet, headphones, etc. Being that it’s inside the clamshell, it’s an extra layer of “zip” security, and your stuff is less likely to be jacked by a quick thief in comparison to the outer, diagonal zip.
Lastly, my wishlist for this pack includes compression straps so it can be a little more low in profile and used as a daypack after unpacking everything at the Airbnb or hotel. That – and some handles on the sides. We’re getting all that with the upcoming GR3 though, which is solid news for those who also want these features.
At the end of the day, all these materials and features are just … things. Basically, a heaping pile of materials & marketing jargon. It’s how GORUCK weaves it all together that makes the experience of this pack so special. It feels solid, you can tell it’s super well constructed, and it just looks damn good. The pack is military grade, but it still fits well into an urban environment.
Final thoughts on the GR2
Today, I’ve semi-retired my GR2 for a bit—figured it could use a break after all that hard work. Plus, I’ve been busy working with my team at Pack Hacker reviewing a bunch of other travel gear and one bag travel packs. Every so often, though, I’ll dig through my pile of packs and come across the trusty GR2. Seeing it always gives me a blast of nostalgia. This bag has been with me through it all, and it’s held up well to everything I’ve thrown at it. It’s weird to be emotionally attached to a piece of gear, but this backpack was basically my home for 1.5 years, so it’ll always have a place in my heart. Ok—I gotta stop—I’m tearing up a bit.
Great pack. #RuckYeah.