GoRuck is a US-based, everything made in America company with a special forces background. That is definitely visible in the companies products. They are the definition of tactical and, as the website boasts, feature “BadAss American Construction.” That said, the special forces rated features come with a hefty price tag. So what earned our 1b pick as the best edc backpack? Let’s get into it.
Dimensions and Appearance
The GoRuck GR1 (21l) measures 11.5″x18.0″x5.5″ and weighs in at 3.5lb. A 21-liter pack, this makes it average sized, but the heaviest edc backpack that we reviewed. Meanwhile, the GR1 (26l) measures 12″x20x6.75″.
As for the look of the pack, it screams tactical, like all GoRuck packs, so if you go in for that look you will love it, and the same goes if you hate it. However, the all black version could probably slide without too many glances in the office meeting room. Personally, I am partial to the climbing inspired aesthetic of the Patagonia Black Hole. Still, I like the look exponentially more than that of the Synapse 25.
Features and Workmanship
As far as quality goes, I think this bag sits head and shoulders at the top of the list. In fact, its durability is overkill for almost any use you could possibly have for an edc backpack.
The features are the blessing and the curse of the GR1. Based on a special forces medical pack, made of 1,000D CORDURA fabric that is extremely water resistant, and covered with MOLLE webbing, the GR1 looks about as badass as an edc backpack possible could. They also make the pack extremely versatile. Even the zippers are monstrous, silent YKKs, with rubber covered rope dongles to make them easy to pull while wearing gloves. However, all of those same features are part of what makes the pack weigh in at 3.5lb and come with such a hefty price tag.
All of that said, the pack really is bomb proof and will last a lifetime. And if it doesn’t, no worries. It is backed by a lifetime guarantee. If you wanted to carry 400lb of gear around in your pack, you totally could. Seriously, it is rated for it.
Organization and Accessibility
While lay flat clamshell openings are not a must have for edc backpacks, I personally think they make a huge difference. And this is the entry method that the GR1 uses for its main compartment.
If you are a modular packer, you will love the inside of this pack. It has very little in the way of organizational features in the main compartment, allowing you to organize your packing cubes and/or electronics cases however you would like. Furthermore, if you happen to have packing cubes with any type of clip, or purchase GoRuck’s “field pocket” you can attach them to the MOLLE webbing inside of the main compartment, ensuring that the weight of the pack stays evenly distributed.
It does have one mesh zippered pocket which is great for electronics, cords, or other small items that might not have a place in your packing cubes. It also has a vertical slide in sleeve, great for storing a journal and/or tablet. Finally, the GR1 features a small zippered pocket just inside the top of the pack, perfect for small odds and ends that you don’t want getting lost in the larger mesh pocket.
The pack has only one, diagonal, external zipper pocket, located on the back of the pack. This is a great place to throw anything you have in your pockets, earbuds, phone, etc, when going through security. Interestingly, it has no 3d external pockets. This makes the pack look much slimmer than other packs on the list. And frankly, I think it is a great tradeoff, especially because its one external pocket is surprisingly spacious.
Finally, the GR1 has no water bottle holder. What it does have is more MOLLE webbing on the side of the pack, so you can attach the GoRuck “full panel water bottle pocket,” but it will run you another $40.
In fact, if you are made of money, there is an infinite number of GoRuck accessories to spend it on.
I am a big fan of the GR1’s modular, lay flat main compartment. It would be my favorite part of the pack, if they hadn’t outdone it with the laptop compartment. Most edc backpacks are, at best, extremely basic or, at worst, completely lacking when it comes to laptop storage.
Such is not the case for the GR1’s “bomb proof” laptop compartment. Laptops up to 15 inches will fit in their own zippered compartment, located between your back and the main compartment. The laptop compartment features a false bottom, which means that the GR1 provides great protection against vertical drops, which are usually the most dangerous for laptops.
The GoRuck GR1 also features a removable, hard plastic “frame sheet,” which slides into the laptop compartment between your laptop and your back. This provides still further protection for your laptop and ensures that the pack keeps its shape with or without a laptop, even when the straps are cinched to their tightest. Speaking of the straps…
Straps and comfort
Like everything else about this pack, the straps are complete overkill. That said, they are probably the bit of overkill that you will be happiest about. The padding in the straps ensures that they remain comfortable, even if you have the heaviest edc backpack loadout in history. Furthermore, they offer two strap options. The standard, straight straps, and a curved strap option for women and men with large chests. Finally, the shoulder straps make the pack ride much higher on your back than most on the list, which greatly reduces strain on your shoulders after long periods of use.
Additionally, the top carry handle is wonderfully padded as well, which is doubly important if plan to use the GR1 as your personal item backpack for travel. This is an often overlooked detail, but one you will be thankful for if you are carrying it through the airport as a personal item while wearing your carry on backpack.
What did we really think?
This is an incredibly rugged pack. If you want an edc backpack that doubles as your personal item for travel and a daypack for hikes, then it is almost impossible to beat. That durability definitely extends to the laptop compartment, which is vital for those of us who travel and work from our laptops. This is the only pack on the list that you could literally just throw around and feel confident that your laptop would survive.
The only real negative about this pack is its weight. However, a pack this small is not going to be too heavy, so it’s not a dealbreaker for use as a hiking daypack or edc backpack. And fortunately, most airlines only weigh your main carry on backpack, not your personal item.
Okay, so weight is actually the second negative about this pack. It costs $395. And a great deal of that money is spent on things that are completely over the top, such as the 1000D CORDURA fabric and copious amount of MOLLE webbing, and the fact that GoRuck has a loyal fanbase that will buy their products however expensive they are. On the other hand, it should last forever and is even backed by a lifetime warranty. And if you are traveling with a $1,000+ laptop, then a $300 pack with a “bombproof” laptop compartment might be well worth it. Furthermore, GoRuck offers a very generous 25% “earned service discount” for students, teachers, first responders and a wide range of other government employees and retirees. This helps to bring the price of the GR1 down into the range of other premium edc backpacks.
I am extremely budget minded, so it killed me to put a $300 backpack at the top of this list. In the end, though, it really is just that good.
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