For the past couple of years I have travelled frequently for work, back and forth from Manchester to Hamburg, spending a week or two in either location before switching.
When I first travelled across to Hamburg, I took two suitcases and a duffel bag with me, totalling around 100 litres of capacity (stuff).
Now, when I travel, I can comfortably do so with fewer than 40 litres.
My reflection in the MRT window. I've got 2 bags, admittedly, but one just has my jacket in it.
So, after doing a good few months with just an EastPak Padded Pakr (24L, ish), I decided I needed a little more room, and spent a lot of time looking into onebag solutions that would meet the IATA cabin regulations for carry-on size but provide the space I needed for things like my gym clothes that I couldn't fit into the EastPak.
My first stop was a CabinMax Malaga, which I ordered from Amazon, and which was surprisingly good for its price tag. Admittedly, the price tag was only £20, the same amount as a single checked-in bag on an EasyJet flight, so even if the bag fell apart after a single use I could justify the purchase. While the bag got me and my gear back and forth to Europe a few times, it quickly became apparent that bag was lacking in some key areas.
Firstly, it lacked structure, leading it to be a drooping mass of soft grey fabric when fully-loaded. Secondly, it really does look fairly ridiculous, having a large, floppy, grey suitcase attached to your shoulders (even worse when carrying it like a normal suitcase).
My further adventures into the various onebag forums and articles lead me to the point where I was set on one of three options:
In an odd coincidence, I actually saw a Minaal one time while I was traipsing through the airport, where a man in a suit was carrying a black leather briefcase in one hand, and the Minaal in the other. It was immediately clear that this was not the bag for me, since it didn't really look as Professional as I had hoped, and it was tiny, barely larger than my EastPak.
This left the Aer, and the GORUCK. The things that finally clinched the GORUCK to be the winner were seeing a video review of the Aer on Carryology, and seeing the GORUCK video about the GR2. On the one hand, the Aer is an extremely nice looking bag, but it was obvious that I would be trailing around straps like a hipster-Medusa if I were to try and pack this bag light. On the other hand, the GORUCK team were literally telling me the GR2 is for very tall people, and I'm 6'3" (190cm).
I ended up ordering a GR2, the padded hip straps, the sternum strap, and a GR2 field pocket. I'll try and post a more in-depth review, and perhaps a packing list, once I have some more free time, but for now here are a few thoughts:
- The bag is very understated, considering it's a mil-spec-lite bag. It only really stands out in a crowd based on its size
- The bag is very bulky-looking. Those guys were serious, I don't think someone under 6' would have a chance of wearing this thing.
- The bag is incredibly heavy. If you're trying to travel with hand-luggage only, you are pretty much out of luck in areas like Asia or Australasia where the limit is around 7kg.
- The fabric used to make the GR2 picks up dust and hair and fluff extremely easily. If you're aesthetically obsessed with things looking new or clean, look elsewhere.
- The quality of the bag is genuinely impressive. You can feel it in the rigidity of the fabric, the heft of the shoulder strap padding, and the satisfying sound of the zippers. Mine is 100% defect-free, although for some reason I have the camel coloured zips on two of the inside pockets (which I don't mind at all).
- Packing the GR2 is very easy: dump packing cubes and things you'll only need at the destination in the large back pocket, and things that need to be more accessible can go in the front.
- Even when fully loaded with 20kg+ of stuff, I've yet to feel the need for the hip or sternum straps. I'm not sure I'll use them, really, but if I end up using this bag for hiking as well as travelling I'm sure they'll come in handy at some point.
In other news, it has fit just fine into the overhead compartment on every flight I've been on so far.
Overall, this bag is a big recommend from me right now, even given the price tag. If it can last me 5 years I'll be happy with the investment, so only time will tell.