Editor’s Note: Reflects an in-depth review taken place during a three-week journey through Cuba
On my first night with the GORUCK GR2 ($395) we slept together in a bus station — and we’ve been going steady since. Specifically, after a flight from Cancun to Havana and midnight bus from Havana to Santa Clara, in the geographical center of Cuba, I looped a carabiner through the side webbing of the GR2, clipped it to my jacket’s pit vents, rested my head gently against her rugged 1000D cordura, and knocked off for six hours in a metal row chair.
At daybreak the custodian woke me up told me to remove my bag from the seat. It turns out that communist countries are pretty good about making sure everyone gets a fair shake at sitting. That’s fine by me. I ate a roll of vanilla cookies, slugged back a Clif Shot Turbo Gel — I always pack a few endurance snacks juiced with caffeine to get me through airports and bus stations — and walked to the town square, the first few kilometers of my three-week trip in Cuba.
The GR2 is the only bag I brought: no additional laptop case, no camera bag, no k’tan, no fanny pack, no tote and above all no checked luggage. What I did bring: clean clothes for roughly a week, my Canon Rebel with two lenses, one Asus VivoTab, running shoes and a variety of small electronics and miscellany.
This is a large pack. Its 40 liters of space is divided into two main compartments, one laptop/hydration bladder compartment, and several smaller pockets, the most useful of which are the two (one volume, one flat) directly inside the outermost compartment and thus immediately accessible. The bag is designed to be integrated with other GORUCK products. I used the GR2 Field Pocket ($90) to house all of my electronics and cables and the Brick Bag ($75) for my camera gear; both accessories can be attached to the exterior of the GR2 if space is tight. I had plenty of room inside, but then I’m comfortable wearing a single pair of briefs for several days.
We’ve written elsewhere on these pages about the GORUCK ethos and commitment to manufacturing in the U.S.A., so I won’t go into great detail here, but it suffices to say that these bags are built by a Special Forces vet, for Special Forces, and they’re rugged as hell. They’re also thoughtful. What stood out most over the course of three weeks was how the pack’s design forced me to stay organized, like carrying around an obsessive-compulsive personal assistant on your back — but without the hourly rate and feckless chatter. The appropriate place for all my gear became obvious when I laid the bag flat; the weight naturally distributes high and close to the spine, which meant a more comfortable day riding horses through the mogotes of Viñales or chasing down a coconut vendor on the beach at Rancho Luna. Me and the GR2, we even go to Trader Joe’s together now. It’s the real deal.
P.S. I’d apologize for throwing you 15 yards down the street in Havana that time when I was pissed off about having a fever and diarrhea, GR2, but I know you’re into it.
Methodology: Bring bag on a three-week road trip in Cuba with best friends; use it to carry all equipment (clean clothes for roughly a week, my Canon Rebel with two lenses, one Asus VivoTab, running shoes and a variety of small electronics and miscellany), and for day hikes, cycling and lots of wandering in search of churros.