Luggage Archives - foXnoMad

Category: Luggage

GORUCK GR2 Buyer’s Guide

The GORUCK GR2 is a serious backpack with a price to match and given these bags last forever, deciding on one can be a big decision. Although there’s little variation between its two versions, a GR2 isn’t the ideal travel bag for everyone. Here’s what’s so special about the GR2 and how to tell if it’s the right backpack for you.

GR2 Toughness

The GR2 is made by GORUCK, founded by an American Green Beret who wanted to create a consumer backpack that’s military tough. Made with 1000D CORDURA Nylon the laptop compartment is bombproof and the GR2 can carry over 400 pounds (181 kilos) – whether you can though is another story.

goruck gr2

All of this durability through comes with a cost in weight of 4.75lbs (2.15kg); in other words 20% the average carry-on weight allowance for most international flights. Ideally, the GR2 is a backpack you load with mostly clothing (rather than heavier electronics) and use more for ground travel. You can watch my full review of the GR2 in the video here.

Solid Conditions

Travelers who spend  a lot of time outdoors, in the wilderness or exposed to the elements will enjoy never having to worry about the GR2. It’s the rare type of backpack you don’t have to worry about staining, nicking, or tearing at the seams. GORUCK also provides a lifetime guarantee with the GR2, practically daring you to damage this bag with normal use. And normal for this bag can mean carrying a hundred kilos through mud in a downpour.

You can see in my Road Tested! durability test video above after 6 months, the GR2 shows no signs of wear or tear.

Choosing The Size

The GR2 comes in one design at two different sizes: a 34 liter and 40 liter. Since there’s no standard way of measuring backpacks with liter sizes, GORUCK recommends anyone taller than 5″8′ (172cm) to go with the 40L. Shorter than that? 34L. Right at that height? I’d recommend ordering both bags, packing them, and trying to to get a good feel. GORUCK has a liberal 30 day return policy you can use for this very purpose.

To see what both bags looks like in a side-by-side comparison, watch the video here.

GR2 For You?

The GR2 is in a small group that can be considered one of the best one bag travel backpacks. They’re not for everyone, even though the GR2’s ultra-durability is tempting, for frequent air travelers a lighter alternative like the Travel Pack 2 a better match.

Fortunately, you can order most high-end bags like to GR2 to size and handle within the return window to make an informed choice.

Choosing A One Bag Travel Backpack

The more you travel the less you want to pack, especially for shorter trips. Checking luggage can add 30-60 minutes to your airport experience, not to mention baggage fees, there are many other advantages to ditching checked bags altogether. As more people opt for carry-on only, an entire class of one bag travel backpacks has developed. Choosing the right one can be daunting so these are 3 of the best to start your search with.

1. Aer Travel Pack 2

Most one bag travel bags tend to either lean toward carrying clothing or carrying tech. Most of us don’t travel without both as the Aer Travel Pack 2‘s designers have clearly understood. The 34-liter Travel Pack 2 [full review here] has a dedicated shoe compartment in addition to a flat front organizational pocket for electronics. There are compromises made on both sides, tech and clothing, but the Aer Travel Pack 2 will satisfy a large group of people looking for a one bag travel backpack for shorter, city trips.

2. GORUCK GR2

There are two versions of the GR2: a 34L and 40L. The two versions of the GR2 are identical but the 40L is for taller travelers 5’8” / 172 centimeters according to GORUCK. These backpacks are tough – literally with a bombproof laptop compartment – created by an American Green Beret. The 1000D Cordura nylon will last a lifetime but comes with weight; the GR2 is a heavy backpack. Clothing should keep the GR2 under most international airlines’ baggage weight limits however if you’re going to load it up a camera lens, laptop plus other tech, you’ll feel it on your back. For travelers who go hiking or spend a lot of time exploring outdoors however, the GR2 rucksack is good option.

3. Tortuga Setout

Still on the higher-end of one bag travel backpacks, there’s a noticeable drop in the quality of the Tortuga Setout compared to the other two bags listed above. The 900D polyester fabric feels a bit flimsy (though is lighter than nylon) but overall the design is ideal if you want control over how you pack. There is a smaller organizational pocket but really, the Setout is one big main compartment (with a 35 and 45L option). Pockets in a backpack often mean the designer is leading you toward a packing strategy whereas in a bag like the Setout, it’s all up to you. Keep in mind for the Setout especially, packing cubes are probably an accessory you’ll want to add to your gear.

Only The Beginning

Shopping for backpacks can be daunting, fortunately most reputable companies (including all those listed above) have 30 day money back return policies. It’s worth trying out several bags 4-8 weeks before a trip, packing them as you would for your next adventure to see how they fit, feel, and meet your particular travel needs.

To help narrow your search even further, keep in mind the best one bag travel backpacks tend to be 30-40L and start in price at around $200. Some like the McKinnon Camera Pack are well over that price but a bag that protects all of your gear is an investment not worth skimping on.

Is The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L Backpack Worth The Price?

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is a highly anticipated backpack for its features but controversial due to its price. A custom-designed collaboration between vlogger Peter McKinnon and NOMATIC, the Camera Pack aims to solve many problems with one-bag travel… for $599.

Many of you might expect that price puts the McKinnon Camera Pack 35L as a purely luxury item but for many travelers, certain functionality will justify the cost. You can watch the video above to see more or read on.

Unpacking The Price

Before many of us carried full offices on our backs, the primary piece of luggage we paid for was the check-in kind. Over the past 15 years though, laptops, cameras, drones, and other expensive items (with batteries that aren’t allowed to be checked) have made our carry-on more essential.

Interior designing a suitcase or backpack that will primarily hold clothing isn’t very intricate and the reason by hiking backpacks aren’t ideal for most travelers. Clothing requires a large empty space since the contents can get jostled around and won’t be access until you arrive at your destination. Exterior durability on a bag like the Timbuk2 Copilot is where a lot of the cost goes.

mckinnon camera pack

Modern backpacks, often filled with over a thousand of dollars of equipment have a much more difficult task. They need to efficiently keep interior contents in place, allow for easy frequent access, plus have a rugged exterior that’s light. Oh, and be carried on your back comfortably at the same time. Missing those marks is why some backpacks fail.

McKinnon’s Answer

For those of us who travel with a lot of electronic or photographic equipment, a carry-on is vital gear meaning we often have to check-in a bag for less important stuff like underwear. For longer or international trips, the carry and check-in combo isn’t too much of a encumbrance however on a weekend or day trip even, using a single bag is ideal.

For those of you who only travel with a laptop, then it’s likely you already have enough space in your backpack for a weekend’s worth of clothes. Now add in a DSLR like the G85, maybe some lenses or a drone and forget about it. The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is the solution to this issue Peter was facing.

Segmented Spaciousness

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L itself isn’t $599 – that’s the cost with all the accessories specifically designed for this bag. Without those accessories, the backpack is $399, on par with something like a GORUCK GR2. Much less expensive generic versions of the accessories (a battery pouch for example) can be found on Amazon to save money. Of all the accessories, the Camera Cube Pack – a larger organizer that turns into a daypack and can be used with any bag – is the one to take a look at ($129).

Segmented into two sections, one for bulky electronics and the other for clothing, the 35 liter Camera Pack expands to 42 liters. At nearly 3 kilograms (~6 pounds) the Camera Pack 35L is heavy but might meet your needs. You’ll need to evaluate the Camera Pack 35L based on these 3 things in this order:

  1. Materials – The importance of durability increases with frequency of travel.
  2. Design – How are those materials are arranged to organize your specific gear.
  3. Features – Frequent international travel means a quick access passport pocket will be useful, or loading straps for examples. These are the little things that determine the ease of use for you in particular.

camera pack 35l

Where the McKinnon Camera Pack is trying to differentiate itself is in higher level aspects of design and heavily on features and in many ways it will check a lot of those boxes for many travelers. There are though less expensive alternatives, like the Thule Subterra 34L or Aer Travel Pack 2 which have excellent quality with designs applicable to many people.

A bag with a lot of specific features, functions, and pockets means it will have a very specific user base. Given that NOMATIC has a generous 30 day return policy, the McKinnon Camera Pack 35L might be worth testing if it’s within your budget. Remember, your electronics bag is the most important piece of gear you travel with since it protects all of your most valuable belongings.

The McKinnon Camera Pack 35L is a heavy bag that comes loaded with features and might solve one very big problem in one-bag travel – a bag that can actually be that.

What Do You Need To Declare At The Airport?

dublin airport

We’ve all walked under those big green and red banners at airports asking if we have anything to declare. Perhaps you’re undying love for rock ballads? No, that’s not what they mean but if you’re confused about airport declarations understanding what the question means can help.

Specific Disclaimer

Most countries will hand you a declaration form or under those declaration banners, list out specific items you should declare. Essentially customs are looking for things they can tax and prohibited items for the most part. Remember that every country has different rules so remember to brush up on what’s prohibited to avoid any legal trouble.

Governments Love Taxes

Technically, you can list every single item you bought in a foreign country that you’re bringing back home with you. Practically, for stuff under a few hundred dollars, “gifts” is a reasonable description. There’s a set total number (e.g. $1000) for taxable purchases abroad which is why customs often asks how much something cost.

dji mavic drone

Many places will differentiate between unopened boxed items as well so if you are pulled aside to have your bags checked in customs, electronics in plastic will likely get you stuck with a duty (i.e. tax) to be paid. A new set of headphones around your neck however, probably not.

Prohibited Items

Some might be obvious like guns but other prohibited items often include produce, meats, and other organic materials. Invasive species and other non-native seeds can disrupt local ecosystems so most everything that’s not sealed, packaged, or canned will likely need to be declared. A wrapped box of chocolates, highly doubtful.

Cash Money

Currency (for example in the United States) over $10,000 must be declared. Not doing so can lead to customs agents confiscating nearly all of it. The idea behind these laws is to disrupt smuggling and money laundering operations. With modern banking though for most people, it’s probably better just to bring a little cash for the airport ride then use the ATM afterward. Large sums of cash are easy to lose as well so unless absolutely necessary, keep it in the bank.

Pets

Any kind of non-human animal traveling with you (including service pets) need to be declared in many places. Keep this in mind as you walk through customs to have your pet medical information, as well as other documents, handy as you go through customs. Pet microchips will usually need to be scanned as well, plan accordingly and take your time.

I Declare Generalities

As I mentioned above, customs in every country vary (like regulations on drones) but their motivations are pretty much the same. Taxes on stuff you bought abroad, contraband, and live animals are what customs are controlling. The $5 magnet you bought for your mom isn’t on the table, unless that magnet is made of rare diamonds.

How To Travel

new york city

There are a lot of ways to travel smarter but if you want the most straightforward advice on how to get started, this is your guide.

First of all, traveling is not that hard. At least not the basics in general, assuming you’ve got some disposable income, a bit of time, and of course the inclination to go somewhere.

Where To Go

Traveling can mean a lot of things but often the first thing to come to mind is some far off exotic place. Those can be great choices but you’ve probably never gone to the tourist sites in your own town. What about the next town over? Maybe you want to start a travel blog or YouTube channel, you don’t need to go very far to do either.

Since you can’t see the entire world in a lifetime, these places are good choices to start from. If you love street food, definitely go to these cities. Adventure sports? Las Vegas. Want to see how much it costs to fly from where you are to anywhere? Kayak Explore will show you.

Honestly though, most of us have a place we’ve always really wanted to see. Don’t let people talk you out of it. Get suggestions on things to do nearby (more ideas can’t hurt) but if there’s somewhere you’ve always wanted to go, that’s where you should probably be headed. You might love or hate a place and that can change over time so aside from actual dangerous places, all you’re hearing are people’s opinions about a given point in time.

travel memes

And if someone’s never been to a place don’t listen to their advice about a place. It’s probably negative and definitely uninformed.

How To Go

Some places you have to fly. For others, taking a train is more environmentally friendly but also easier on your body than taking an airplane. Remember to add 4 hours at least to any total flight time – that covers getting to an airport on time, checking in, plus going through security. A 30 minute flight is really more like 4 or more hours of travel time.

Obsessing over flight prices isn’t likely to save you much nor is booking on a Wednesday. Check out multi-city flights. Travel savings are much more obtainable through choosing the right accommodation, where you eat, and by simple packing habits like buying a reusable water bottle.

What To Take

Recently I saw this tweet which is mostly true unless you’re a French horn musician. What you use at home is what you’ll use on the road. You shouldn’t pack more than you can use in two weeks and most specialized travel gear isn’t versatile enough to justify the costs (remember what I said about saving above?)

arthurs seat edinburgh

Learn these important phrases of the local language using this powerful tool. Gum or mints are essential. One other thing, it’s usually worth paying a bit more to get durable gear. Cheap fabrics don’t withstand traveling well so it’s better to get one good thing than 3 cheap things over the same period of time. Plus good products usually come with good warranties because the brands can stand behind their products.

Stay Connected

Currency is a helpful app that works offline. WiFox gives you passwords to all the airports in the world, important since getting to your accommodation from the airport is when you’re most vulnerable. Find some good travel blogs, they give good firsthand insights that can help with planning, navigating scams, and learning the local customs.

scottish highlands

Download Google Maps offline to help you get around. Put the phone down and look up when you don’t need it.

faucetsafe app

Go with the flow, try a food you’ve never had, and always eat where the locals do. Long lines of tourists don’t always indicate the best places to eat and TripAdvisor can only get you so far. Ask a local. Try it, you’ll get good advice like this.

Remember The Important Things

There’s certainly more, but this should help get you started. Traveling can be tiring, confusing, or a bit lonely sometimes. Keep in mind that if you can travel for recreation, you’re one of the lucky ones on Earth. Not everyone can travel and for most of human history it was impossible to move like we do now.

Understanding other cultures doesn’t require much footwork far or near – meeting new people can give you an important insight. Getting out of cities and into nature can give you perspective. The one thing to bring on any journey is an open mind, without that, you can visit every country in the world and still have not seen much of anything at all.

GORUCK GR2 34L vs. 40L: Choosing The Right Size For You

Extremely durable, GORUCK’s GR2 series backpacks are appealing choices if you’re looking for a medium-sized travel bag with a tough aesthetic and smart internal organization. The GR2 are popular for many reasons but when deciding to buy one, trying to pick between the 34 liter (L) or the 40L can be tricky.

GORUCK’s website recommends if you’re 5’8” (172 centimeters) or shorter, go with the 34L. Taller people, go with the larger bag. Easy advice to follow for those who are decently away from that common average height. To see what a GR2 34L and 40L look like on someone about 5’8”, you can watch my video above or read on.

The Differences Simplified

Looking at the specs, the GR2 40L is only two inches taller than the 34L, with all the other dimensions the same. The 40L does weigh more though, a noticeable half pound (~250 grams) in the hand. In both cases, neither of these bags look huge because of the black color and smart use of the space. The GR2 doesn’t bulge at the bottom or sides like many bags this size, even if it’s stuffed to capacity.

goruck gr2 34l vs 40l

Let’s begin there. If you already have a larger (30 liter or more) backpack filled to capacity – particularly with electronics – go with the GR2 40L. I say this because even if you’re a lot shorter than 172cm, if you’re maxing out a 30-33 liter bag (like the Aer Travel Pack 2) already, you may as well get the bump up in space. You should probably carry less since one thing most travelers should avoid is a backpack that touches the top of your butt cheeks when you walk.

Cheeky Measurement

Backpacks that touch the top (or lower) of your butt cheeks when walking cause the bag to move with every step. That constant motion causes a continual shift in weight that becomes very uncomfortable quickly, particularly as the load increases. For many people 5’8”, the 40L won’t touch the top of your butt, especially when it is full since the bag tends to “lift” away from your lower back when fully packed. It’s fairly close though, so your individual torso length will make all the difference here.

  • Shirts – Another reason not to get the 40L if it’s going to move across your back with every step – the 1000 Denier nylon used on the GR2 is strong, but also hard on clothing. You’ll go through a lot of shirts if you get a GORUCK GR2 that’s too big.

goruck gr2

15-Inch Laptops

One thing to be aware of is the 2-inch (5 cm) shorter 34L makes it difficult to get a larger laptop in and out of the laptop pocket when the rest of the bag is full. I use an Incase sleeve to protect my laptop when traveling but even without that, it’s a very tight fit requiring some gentle jamming into the GR2. Smashing your laptop in and out of this pocket can’t be good for your expensive Macbook Pro, for example. Personally, the smaller laptop pocket was a deal-breaker on the GR2 34L I was maxing in the front compartments. Some electronics like mirrorless cameras do well with compression, laptops do not.

Still Right In The Middle?

Ultimately, if you’re 5’8”, the 40L may not be too big on you. It’s really the length that’s in question here – at 22 inches (~59 cm) long it’s a close call. I understand GORUCK leaving in some leeway here and the absolute height cutoff is probably closer to 5’7” or 6 (168-170 cm). I’d suggest if you’re around 5’8”, trying to pack or reorganize a bit because the 34L can practically hold everything a 40L can. (I was able to fit all my electronic gear, albeit tightly.) If you’re shorter than 5’7” then the added space of the 40L won’t be worth the discomfort during travel.

In case you still can’t decide, order both bags and try them on (fully loaded) to see how they fit. GORUCK has a generous return 30-day return policy if you decide to return one or both back. Some (much less expensive) backpacks you may also want to look at are The North Face Recon, Thule Subterra 34L, and Swissgear 1900 which are shorter bags but deeper, allowing for larger capacities on smaller frames.

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About Anil Polat

foxnomad aboutHi, I'm Anil. foXnoMad is where I combine travel and tech to help you travel smarter. I'm on a journey to every country in the world and you're invited to join the adventure! Read More

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