It took GORUCK founder Jason McCarthy nearly two years to design and field-test his GR1 backpack before deciding it was finally worthy of production. A retired Green Beret, McCarthy was sick of burning through civilian-grade packs that failed to meet the Special Forces standards of toughness he needed, yet found military-spec ones were awkward and too clunky for urban environments. So he opted to build his own. The result is a minimalist yet versatile masterpiece of everyday design.
To say that McCarthy and his military brethren put the GR1 through extensive field testing is an understatement. Not only did prototypes endure being loaded with bricks for jaunts through New York City (for the notorious GORUCK Challenge), or worn on hikes through rugged backcountry Montana, they were also actually worn in battle in Afghanistan and Iraq, and on covert missions in Western Africa. The result is a backpack that's as comfortable on a Marine's back in the streets of Baghdad as it is on a bike messenger's shoulders in Brooklyn.
The GR1 is made and assembled completely in the U.S., and is constructed of weatherproof 1000D Cordura, which provides an ideal blend of comfort and ruggedness. Inside and out the GR1 is chock-full of useful, military-inspired extras, such as silent zipper pulls and MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment) webbing, which makes it easy to attach extra pouches and customize the pack to one's particular needs. Every GORUCK pack also comes with a lifetime warranty: If the pack breaks in any way, at any time, GORUCK will fix it or replace it (which is a good thing since it retails for $295).
The thing we like best about the GORUCK GR1 is how easy it is to keep your stuff organized in it. With multiple internal mesh pockets, a laptop (or hydration system) pouch in the padded back panel, and an open-flat design, it's easy to locate and access whatever you're looking for. Unlike other backpacks we've used, where all the contents inevitably end up in shambles at the bottom, everything inside the GR1 stays in its place. Fully loaded with clothes, a pair of shoes, and laptop, the 26-liter pack weighs about 35 pounds, but thanks to wide-padded shoulder straps and a snug, ergonomic fit, it's far less taxing than any other backpack we've lugged. And while we can't say we've taken one into battle, we did drag the GR1 with us on the road for a few months, and we're continually happy to know it's got our back. [$295; goruck.com]