goruck gr1 is a bad bag

My EDC, for illustration, and because I can. Is it so much to ask of a bag to hold this stuff?

So, a couple weeks ago, a friend was looking for backpack recommendations. I told him about a company I’d heard good things about, GoRuck. One of my former bosses had one, and it looked really substantial. That led me to their web site, and I noticed they were having a sale on the GR1 in red, which is a pretty good looking bag. They talk the talk, too. The founder/CEO is ex-special forces, talking about toughness and blah blah blah. I ignored the blah blah blah, since the guy who recommended them was on the level, and picked one up.

It came, ant he first thing I noticed about it was that the zipper wasn’t as smooth as it was supposed to be. They brag about the laptop zipper being open/closed 100 times to look for snags, but I guess the main compartment didn’t get that treatment even once. The second thing that stood out about this bag: it has a lot of seams. The seams are the most common failure point, so the more there are, the more likely there will be a failure. Thirdly: the straps that came on it were too short for me. I’m 6’2” and broad shouldered, so this may not be entirely their fault, but do they never wear winter coats?

I was willing to forgive all that and give it a try, anyway. The straps aren’t molded, so they kind of feel like they’re falling off all the time, and there’s no chest strap, either. That may improve with break-in, but it’s not leather, so there’s not a ton of change you can expect to see. I took my seam ripper to the flag velcro, because I don’t like brands, and that branding is particularly strong in the wrong way.

So, I wore it for about two weeks, including weekends. I wanted to see if it could really be an every day bag. It was too big, really, for the weekend, but fine on the bart and walk to work. When there was a laptop in the compartment, it rode well, as did my camera in the bottom, and the load of groceries I stuck in it. I cut 6” off the straps and sewed on another foot of webbing I had lying around, and that was pretty well solved.

A word about good bag design: Good bags usually have two layers, for many reasons. The outer can be tough, and the inside softer, and the added layers mean that any small hole or tear in one doesn’t mean you’ll automatically lose things. Also, the inner liner is usually where good bags do some water proofing. The Rickshaw I’m switching back to is a prime example. It’s a nylon herringbone with scotchlite stripes out, and ripstop sailcloth in.

The GR1 does not have a liner, so there’s only a single layer of cloth between your stuff and the elements. And while two layers of cordura is usually enough to keep out the rain, one is not. Today, it was raining steadily during my commute. Not, I should say, a torrential downpour, but wet enough that my pants were soaked but the time I reached BART. Not a hard slog through jungles or fording a river or crawling through mud like they hint you can do with their bag. Just a walk to the train, 20 minutes in steady rain. I got to work, and the things inside the bag were wet. When I got home, the things were wetter, probably from a puddle somewhere.

So, that tears it. I got mad, wrote this review, and now I’m not mad. Hopefully someone will read this and avoid wasting the money. In summary: construction is good but overly complex, and likely to fail. Bag lacks basic ergonomic features that would make it much more wearable; design is too boxy, ill fitting. Not water resistant. Most of the stuff they brag about is marketing bullshit.

In case you were worried about my stuff that got a bit wet: most of it is fairly water resistant, and there were some clothes in the bag that absorbed most of the moisture.

Posted by Matt on 2016-01-19 22:53:28 -0800