A forever backpack? A GORUCK GR1 21L Review.

It’s my intent for this review to help you better understand the size of the two GORUCK GR1s available, what I think is the most bang-up awesome stuff about them as well as some concerns and ultimately wether or not I think its worth the rather steep asking price. Hello, my name is Thomas and these my post purchase insights on the unbreakable GORUCK GR1 backpack.

I chose the smaller 21L version of the GR1 for a few reasons. I carefully considered the 26L because I’m precisely 6 foot tall which puts me right on the cusp between the two models, and according to GORUCK’s ideal sizes reference chart you should size up. I knew I was only ever going to use it as a daily carry for the key items I take to and from work and I didn’t want my bag to be saggy and sad when I had it packed with my gear.

So; the 21L seemed like it might be the right size to carry my essentials; laptop, headphones, mouse, sunglasses, water bottle, pack jacket and a few additional smaller bits and pieces. My hope was that it would fit all of those things easy enough and still offer a little bit of extra room for something like a change of gym clothes. It holds all of that just fine without being overly bulky, and offers some good stuff-ability should I find myself in a last minute I-don’t-have-enough-hands-to-carry-all-these-things pickle. So, for me it did indeed turn out that the 21L is the ideal size for the work run. Tick.

As already mentioned, the comfort on my back is excellent, no complaints. The straps feel robust, connect to the bag solidly and attach directly to the top of the backpack, allowing it to sit super close to the tops of my shoulders. The width of the straps is generous, as is how wide set they are. Overall it’s a fantastic fit; I dig it.

Others have pointed out that there’s not really any ventilation channels on the back panel. All I can say is; don’t hope to wear a light grey shirt in the heat of summer and expect it to still be dry without any sweat marks when you take off the bag at your destination. The cordura is a tough and water resistant fabric but not a sweat wicking super thread. Honestly though, all backpacks I’ve tried give me some stellar back sweat; it just comes with the territory.

The thickness of the bag is right on — not too thick, not too thin — even if you load it up the weight is never pulling you backwards — it sits high and tight against your back. There’s no cancerous cantilever compartment stitched on the front to draw the weight away from your body. It’s just an excellent design and means no matter how you stuff in..it’s packed cleverly.

GORUCK describe the laptop compartment as ‘bombproof’ but I’m not so sure. The 21L sacrifices the false bottom present in the 26L version to bring down the literage by reducing the height of the backpack while still offering the 15” laptop compartment. This means the laptop sits directly along the bottom of the bag which is less than ideal if you frequently drop your laptop loaded bag on the ground from your waist … so don’t.

Also, other GORUCK owners have reported cracked screens after they had their bag loaded up heavy and then bent down and forward so their back arched and I then I guess the laptop bent as it took the weight..? It’s not really a concern for me because usually the heaviest thing in my backpack is the laptop itself. You could probably remedy this by replacing the internal hard plastic piece with a drilled aluminium sheet.

A barebones GR1 gives you 1 large elastic slip compartment, 2 internal and 1 external pocket for organisation. It’s a nice start but there’s no doubt adding the GR1 padded field pocket is a superb addition. Being able to safely pack away and retrieve those few vital pieces immediately unlocks another level in my OCD game, and is a must-buy in my opinion. The MOLLE webbing inside the bag is also a nice place to throw in a few of the everyday carry essentials. I keep an A4 sized memo-bottle filled and stashed in the slip compartment so I don’t need to buy water bottles — doing my bit for the environment and my wallet.

It costs a seemingly extortionate $295-USD for the backpack alone (that’s both the 21L and 26L sizes), an additional $45-USD for the GR1 padded field pocket (which you can see attached inside) and $12-USD per carabiner. You probably thinking; why might anyone choose to pay that much for a backpack? That’s a valid question even before you’ve considered converting to AUD and adding shipping to our remote island.

Well, this review should either help you understand why I took the plunge or at least help you better understand why you aren’t quite (or perhaps never will be) ready to make such a purchase. Don’t get me wrong it’s a lot — so much that I pondered the purchase for at least a year, and I’m not even kidding about that. I had a spreadsheet which I updated throughout the year with GORUCK’s deals as I saw them, exchange rates, different configs etc.

I bit the bullet, closed my eyes and shut off the conversion part of my brain and hit the ‘Buy Now’ button while GORUCK had a sale running which granted 20% off for a referral. Later I’d discover this would bring my total down to $364-AUD. Of course, a key benefit of going with GORUCK is their SCARS lifetime warranty, thats huge and essentially means any fault from their side or a section wearing out will see that you get a free repair or a replacement bag — and that’s pretty neat.

There is something cool in accepting and appreciating that it will probably be the last daily carry backpack I ever purchase — it greatly appeals to my inner minimalist, consumer concerns and environmental ethos. The GR1 is the most premium, put together, versatile, cleanly styled and functional backpack that I could find for my needs. If any of this rings true with you as well I highly suggest you take the plunge … or at least be indecisive for a year and then pounce on a sale because despite the few minor flaws I’ve not once regretted buying it.

Thanks for reading and I hope it’s helpful. Read you in the comments.