Review: GORUCK Bullet 10L

The following is kindly republished with permission from Pack Config.

GORUCK is not really a brand of rucksack. It is a brand that describes a lifestyle. When I got hold of this 10L Bullet, little did I know, my packing style was about to change.

Brand experience:

10 litres sounded like nothing. I had recently been carrying a 31 litre FAST Pack EDC which had plenty of room for all my ‘just in case’ gear and any unexpected items. If I’m honest I wasn’t sure how useful this ruck would be. Compared to other packs out there the GORUCK range seems minimal on organisational features, and well…everything. But minimal does not mean basic, in fact artistically speaking it’s “characterised by simplicity and lack of adornment or decoration”.

My current running loadout.

                                                                         My current running loadout.

As a designer I know that simple is hard. “Less is more.” But that more means: more possible options, more scrutiny, more time and often more headaches before you reach your goal. GORUCK achieve simple with their rucks and that is what I love about them. I imagine their development process asked “what can we remove?” rather than “what can we add in?”.

This straight-talking simplicity in design is mixed with a very key ingredient during production – “embrace the suck”. Built into the rucks is the very same endurance as the Special Forces teams behind their production.

By way of a short disclaimer, I have not yet undertaken a GORUCK Challenge, but I fully intend to do one (at least!) and write up my experience. I’ve also got tons of photos of this out in the wild, getting beat up, but there are tons of shots of that on the internet, so I decided to go for the cold, scientific feel for a change…

Outside pocket:

The slanted outside pocket is a defining feature of their rucks. There is minimal capacity to it, so if your ruck is full items in here may be silhouetted, but if your ruck is not full these items get absorbed into the main capacity. It is designed for smaller items (anything under 1/1.5″ in depth), so this isn’t much of an issue. The pocket does not reach the full way down the ruck, which perfectly displays the fat-trimming mentality behind GORUCK’s designing. Due to the pocket’s limited capacity, and with a fuller load in the main compartment, retrieving items is made easier. They could have extended it right down to the bottom of the ruck, but they didn’t. Decisions like this set it apart.

GORUCK Bullet

I often keep a Triple 7 Gear Micro Kit in here containing my Leatherman Wave and Bit Kit. I store snacks in here too as it’s the pocket that is accessible without taking off your ruck. On a hike I’ll slide my wallet in here so it’s easy to reach when we arrive at the pub!

GORUCK Bullet

Top zipper pocket:

This is probably my favourite pocket of the whole ruck. Its full 500D Cordura construction is tough and can handle pretty much anything you can fit in. When full, the pocket bulges inwards rather than outwards, which is great as the top of the pack is usually the last part to be filled (due to a little thing called gravity!) so you don’t notice it until the ruck is at maximum capacity.

GORUCK Bullet

When you sit the ruck down on the ground this pocket is easily accessible after pulling the main zipper open. This is great for those items you want to access quickly, but don’t need while on the move. I keep things like a USB drive, backup torch and a lighter in here while using it everyday. If I’m hiking I use it for some paracord, keys, hand sanitiser and occasionally my (uncased!) iPhone. I’m currently testing out the Bellroy Elements Phone Pocket that is seen in here, but essentially I use this pocket for small items I want to have easy access to.

GORUCK Bullet

It is also this pocket that features the only logo of any kind and I like that modesty. It means the features can stand out without being judged by its brand. Unless you’ve seen a GORUCK before and know what it’s capable of.

GORUCK Bullet

Bottom zipper pocket:

I was initially a bit wary of this pocket. Having had mesh pockets snag or stretch out on me I wasn’t sure how this one would hold up. But, true to the ruck’s toughness, the fibres have remained strong for well over a year. While there is no pleat in the design, the flex in the material is accommodating. The texture of this mesh is not silky, which is great as shiny fabrics tend to catch on my rough hands.

GORUCK Bullet

Main Compartment:

I go backwards and forwards on whether I like this main compartment. There are two reasons for this and they are as follows:

The full clamshell opening.

Being able to unzip your ruck, lay it entirely flat, arrange your gear how you want it and zip it back up again with everything still in place means you’ll find any pack that doesn’t do this lacking. It is a great feature, especially if you love order and organisation.

GORUCK Bullet

The issue I’ve had with this feature (in any pack) is that to allow the full opening, the zips taper in on the bottom and zipping it back up usually requires two hands and a little wiggling. GORUCK use beautifully smooth zips and they help make this less cumbersome than it could be. However, on a personal level, the initial bit of zipping still irks me, especially when everything else on the ruck is seriously slick.

The shallowness sucks.

Many times I’ve arranged everything perfectly, gone to zip up and realised it’s simply not going to happen. Using this ruck for all manner of tasks means its load can vary massively. It’s only occasionally that I have to carry something by hand or fix it to the outside webbing, but it does make me wish I’d got the 15L size.

GORUCK Bullet

But the shallowness demands discipline. It’s how the ruck began to change my packing lifestyle, the restricted space forcing me to carefully consider each item I carry. I found that choosing the right kind of storage pockets was crucial. I’ve been through a number of different options over the time of having the Bullet, but I keep coming back to my Triple 7 Gear MK-7’s and Micro Kit. They have simple elastic closures and don’t have the extra bulk of a MOLLE attachment system so they’re not adding unnecessary weight or bulk to your loadout. I’ve yet to try out GORUCK’s own Field Pockets which I’d love to do. I see a lot of people using them successfully as internal storage (see one of our recent Guest Configs for an example).

 I must confess that I am often surprised what I can fit in. Some of the other 10L packs on the market look completely impractical, but the Bullet’s dimensions are well thought out and make every litre useable.

Their larger rucks have PALS webbing on the top back panel which I wish this one had. However, the goal of this pack is to be fast and light – it’s predominantly a hydration pack. Any weight fixed on the top of the tall, 500D Cordura body would definitely cause sagging, so I can see why it’s not there. I’ve accepted not having this feature, knowing they would have considered it and decided against it for a good reason.

GORUCK Bullet

                    My highly capable Center Zip Cargo Hanger by Dunamis Gear and Micro Kit

Bladder pocket:

Carrying a 3L hydration bladder is arguably the primary intended use for the ruck and there is no doubt it can achieve that. The semi-circled opening is sufficient for easy insertion and removal of a full water bladder. The inclusive internal attachment options consist of a gutted paracord loop with a rubber heat-sealed sheath and another paracord loop with a robust button attached. This combination accommodates bladders with either a hook or a hole and can even be operated with one hand.

GORUCK Bullet

With a full hydration bladder attached there is sometimes a small crease at the top of the ruck. This is due to the lack of frame sheet in the back panel, which is obviously unnecessary in a pack of this size. You can feel this fold on your back a little, but it quickly goes away as you drink.

GORUCK Bullet

But this pocket brings some extra dimension to the table. It can basically disappear. When it is left completely empty the panel of Cordura that divides these two compartments lies flat against the back of the ruck. This means that the full 10L capacity can be used by the main compartment. The flip side of this is that if you overfill the bladder compartment it can affect the main area, so pack wisely.

When I’ve not used it for hydration, this pocket has accommodated an extra base, mid or outer layer with ease. Using this compartment means items are easily accessible and retrieving them doesn’t require disturbing your well-organised ruck. By folding them to the proportion of the ruck they can also act as an additional layer of padding.

For daily use I place a folded-up shemagh in here, creating a slightly raised area in the main compartment that keeps my bottle in place. I loop a small storage pouch onto the bladder hanger, as well as various attachment devices for lashing stuff to the outside webbing. The access port for your bladder tube is made up of two overlapping strips of elastic. The overlap amount is perfect and the elastic wraps around the tube well.

GORUCK Bullet

I did find that while running with the ruck clinched right up to my back, I could feel the bladder hose on my lower neck. I haven’t found a good way of guiding the hose away from my skin yet, but I’ve seen guys using Web Dominators, so I think I’ll try that next.

Back panel:

The back panel is not the most padded that I’ve experienced. It is stitched into three columns of foam in a no nonsense way. I sometimes find that the fancy mesh, super-cushioned back panels can snag, or attract dirt and sand. This ruck does away with those issues with its solid, straightforward approach.

GORUCK Bullet

I have rucked with the Bullet for nine hours straight and it was never uncomfortable. If you do pack it to the limits of its 10L you will encounter ‘bulbing’ where the central strip of the back panel raises up and becomes the only part touching your pack. This can be overcome by smarter arrangement of the contents, but often it’s a hint at your lack of compliance to the “less is more” philosophy it is trying to promote.

GORUCK Bullet

Handle:

The handles of the original GORUCK range look both robust and comfortable. But this feature is probably the single part of the Bullet ruck that I’m really not impressed with. The single 3/4″ width webbing, which is stitched in between the back panel and the body, is not particularly easy to grab and the lack of reinforcement makes it much less comfortable than other handles out there. It is functional. But to me it feels like a bit of an afterthought (although knowing the guys at GORUCK I’m sure it was not) but I guess extra padding here came under the unnecessary column for this intentionally light ruck.

Straps:

I hear a lot of complains about GORUCK straps. Too thick. Firm. Uncomfortable. I’ve heard of people trying out a ruck, only to send it back because of the straps. At first I was fully in this camp too, but I’d also heard from GORUCK that they were designed to ‘break in’. After a few weeks, mine did just that and now they are form-fitted completely to me.

GORUCK Bullet

One of the great things about the thickness of them, which does compress a little as it moulds to your shape, is that any attachments to the webbing down their length are barely noticeable. On a thinner strap Web Dominators or D-ring Grimlocs attached to the straps can start to dig in over time, but this is not the case here.

GORUCK Bullet

As I’ve said, the foremost focus of this ruck is hydration. 3/4″ webbing runs horizontally across the straps to act as tube keepers, which they do well. The 2 and 3/4″ gaps between the vertical webbing make attaching another ‘keeper’ or even a sternum strap quick and easy.

GORUCK Bullet

The straps are stitched in on both sides to the absolute max. They’re secure. During their events I understand that there is often (always?) a group carry of a large tree trunk, telephone pole or similar. I’ve heard stories of the participants’ rucks being used to stretcher carry whatever beastly weight the Cadre (the Special Operations instructors who run the Challenges) have found, which should be enough of a testament to their strength for most people.

GORUCK Bullet

The webbing that attaches the bottom of the straps to the ruck is long, but not excessive. The ends of the webbing are stitched into good size loops, so when your hands are frozen, shaking or wearing gloves you can find a sufficient grip.

GORUCK Bullet

Zips:

The YKK zippers are quiet. The gutted paracord pulls sit inside shrink-wrap rubber tubes that offer a solid, yet soft, surface to grab. They are easy to operate and make the smallest, most discreet sound I’ve encountered in a pack.

GORUCK Bullet

Webbing Panel:

The 10L Bullet has three rows of webbing that are designed for attaching additional items to the ruck. I read a discussion recently that debated the intended usage of this webbing. The patented PALS system, commonly used by many military organisations, is defined by the webbing being stitched into the back material at 1.5 in intervals, however the outside webbing on a GORUCK is closer to 2 in. I find it a blessing to have extra width when attaching carabiners or any unexpected items that might not fit to the ‘standard size’. I also, personally, have had no spacing issues attaching a variety of pouches.

The fact that it is not fully covered in military webbing means the ruck blends into the background very well. The simple design doesn’t stand out unnecessarily and I’ve felt comfortable using it at weddings, parties and business meetings.

GORUCK Bullet

Drainage hole:

Being designed with a GORUCK Challenge (GRC) in mind means that this pack is not waterproof. It holds up in the face of light showers, but it won’t stop heavy rain, or a bucket of water. Challenges seem to always involve water, and usually a full submersion. The drainage hole enables water to run through freely and not become extra weight. Most packs are not waterproof anyway and I see a lot of rain covers in the loadouts posted. The Bullet embraces getting soaked and moves on. You just have to pack accordingly.

GORUCK Bullet

Loop panel:

One consistent feature of almost all GORUCK nylon gear is the 2 in x 3 in panel of loop for attaching a morale patch. The only physical thing you are awarded at the end of a GRC (except maybe a world of physical pain) is a patch relevant to the event you’ve just completed. These patches are NEVER sold, only earned. I’ve attached a number of different-sized patches to this panel, including patches up to 3 in tall. It is a one-patch-at-a-time kind of pack and that forced focus fits with the rest of this cleverly designed ruck.

Purchase this Pack Config designed Team Rubicon Fundraising Patch here.

                        Purchase this Pack Config designed Team Rubicon Fundraising Patch here.

Duration:

I’ve had this ruck for 18 months and it has proven its worth in countless ways. It’s been rucking, running, hiking, carried daily and used as an anchor for a dog’s leash. It’s been dragged through dirt, dust, mud, sand and water. It’s been overstuffed, then overstuffed some more and it has even been used as a changing mat for my son. The only sign of any of this is that the black Cordura is slightly faded. This ruck doesn’t wear over time, it gains character and looks even cooler.

Summary:

It feels like the Bullet has been honed and refined, right down to the core essence of what you’d want a ruck to do. All bulk and excess weight didn’t make the cut and you’re left with a product that gives you a refreshing experience. Even since I received it (from RealWorld EDC – thank you!) I’ve struggled to carry anything else for everyday carry, rucking, running or that grab-and-go situation. It will always be a go-to ruck in my collection and I highly recommend picking one up.

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