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The State of GORUCK 2019: Elite, not Elitist

The State of GORUCK 2019: Elite, not Elitist

The first time I visited Normandy I was 23 years old and knew nothing of warfare or the sacrifice it entails. I was drawn to visit because the war in Afghanistan was new, and my generation’s call, and I was too scared to figure out the fastest way to get there. I was hoping our first guys in would end the war so fast that I could go back to my normally scheduled life, and I wanted to be there fighting beside them, and I knew I needed to find some way to answer a call promising a lifetime of regret if I turned it down. All those thoughts and more.

I went to the museums at Normandy and read the history as you might a textbook. I tried and failed to process the idea that our guys were sent by the boatful to storm beaches with perfectly interlocking German machine guns staring down at them. Hitler had poured 11 million tons of concrete to fortify his Atlantic Wall, and our boys’ job was to storm it. And as they fell, the plan was to send more bodies. And then more, and then more. Until what, I thought, the Germans run out of ammo? 

The sacrifice was too great for me to comprehend when reduced to words and statistics. And then I went to the American Cemetery on the high ground above Omaha Beach. All my confusion died in a heartbeat and staring out at that sea of white sacrifice, walking around with my stomach a clenched fist in the back of my throat — and then they started playing taps and I leaned up against the chapel right in the middle of the grounds, put my head in my hands, and wept.

No matter how you find your inspiration, it’s not worth very much if you do nothing with it. 

I needed to go home to America, where my journey will always begin, and before too long I found myself in the Army with a lot of other great Americans of my generation.

Unfortunately, the rest is not history. I was lucky and the guys I served with kept me alive, and then my time was up and I drove off Fort Carson toward the next chapter. Meanwhile, two of the guys I went to war with in 2007 as part of Alpha Company, 2nd Battalion, 10th Special Forces Group died in Afghanistan this year, 2019, Will Lindsay and Ryan Sartor. So many memories come rushing back. Both were family men, Will had four daughters and a wife and Ryan had three kids and a wife. At my worst, I feel guilty because they stayed in and continued to serve, and I moved on, and their service cost them their lives and created a hole that their families and our community will feel forever. But thoughts like that don’t really get us anywhere and if you’re looking to make sense of why them and not me, you’ll be wiser to wait till you get your audience with God himself. Life goes on and I am better for having known them, and knowing that such people exist in this world.

Returning to Normandy this year for the 75th Anniversary, I felt ties to that greatest generation of warriors that several of us got to meet. We even drank beers with them this go round, and it was a fuller picture than I had seventeen years ago, a full lifetime for many who never left Normandy. Warfare is not universal, but sacrifice is, and so many of us have an American Cemetery we walk through, and it’s hard, and it’s important to visit and pay our respects. Not just for them, but for us. It makes the rest of our lives deeper, and richer, and inspires us to give more to others and to fight for the causes we hold dear with all the time that we have. I will always be drawn to Normandy, that great muse of sacrifice that is the most American place on planet Earth. Hopefully someday Emily and I will get to bring our kids and let them make of it what they need to, in their lives. What we owe them and what we all owe our next generation are not the answers. We owe no less than what we were given, to keep it going, our dream that is America. And the more we give, the more we sacrifice, the stronger it grows.

Normandy was the most meaningful trip I’ve taken in a long time. A reminder of what matters most and what that can cost — that who we share our lives with matters most of all, no matter how much time we have.

ELITE, BUT NOT ELITIST

That’s what Special Forces is all about, it’s certainly a hallmark of the Greatest Generation, and that’s been a northern star, the ideal for me my entire life. It’s not about titles or accolades, it’s about doing the job at hand and earning the trust of the people to your left and the people to your right. Your reputation is everything, it’s even more important than rank. Money is not the currency for what you can do in that world, your reputation is.

In business, though, dollars are like oxygen and have to be part of the scorecard. We’ll spend a fair amount talking about the GORUCK brand in here (which I enjoy more, personally). But let’s start with GORUCK’s revenue through 2018:

Year Total Revenue Growth
2008 $0
2009 $0
2010 $52,356
2011 $1,307,048 2396%
2012 $4,191,950 221%
2013 $8,406,253 101%
2014 $10,828,596 29%
2015 $11,894,628 10%
2016 $12,785,752 7%
2017 $14,960,532 17%
2018 $19,529,753 31%
Total $83,956,868

31% growth in 2018 is a good year, the story of that of course requires some explanation as there were two main drivers that fueled year over year growth. The first was the introduction of the MACV-1, our jungle rucking boot and first ever footwear. This was good for over $1MM in revenue in 2018 and it gave us a lot to talk about, which leads to brand awareness and therefore sales of other products, like GR1. The second was our price increase. Yes, because of a price increase we were able to grow more, though this happened through strategic discounting to walk that pricing strategy forward. Let’s use GR1 as the example. We launched the increase in price from $295 to $395 in August, but kept it at $295 while we forecasted a future price increase. Don’t be surprised if you see other companies use this strategy in the future, it worked really well and gave our core community of people the opportunity to purchase at that day’s pricing, before the increase. It seemed like the right way to go about it (Lead with Transparency), it proved hugely successful and we were able to pull about $1MM forward in August alone above what we had forecasted. So, after a so-so first half of the year, Christmas in July was huge, August was huge, and Q4 was huge for us as well. All things considered, great year for the bean counters. If only it were as simple as ensuring 31% growth every year by doing more of the same.

I had zero misgivings about the need for the price increase in 2018, because it was absolutely 100% necessary. The unit costs had become too high, there was no middleman to cut out, and the price to the market had to go up. Let me illustrate this a little bit specifically. We paid various prices for various pieces of gear in 2010. Same with 2019. Here’s how that evolved over time, counter to how it should have evolved according to the laws of economics. In 2010, we ordered ~1,000 units of various products (3 rucks and a hat). In 2019, we ordered ~39,000 units. In that time, we saw a 38% cost increase from our various vendors. That means if we paid $100 for something in 2010, now we pay $138, averaged out. Given the increase in scale, this is the opposite of what should happen. In Economics 101 you learn that with greater volume of production come efficiencies of scale that will drive the cost down. If you make a million of something, the per unit cost should be a lot less than if you make one. What we saw instead was a 38% price increase and a 3,800% unit growth. This is madness. What will happen in another nine years? Another 38% cost increase? That would mean $190 cost to us, averaged out. If you don’t like a $395 GR1 or a $495 GR2, how would you feel about a $495 GR1? $595 GR1? A $795 GR2? I don’t feel that great about it at all. Elite, but not elitist is the goal. At some point, the cost is too high, the price tag is too high, and price alone removes accessibility for people who don’t make a million bucks a year to join us, to join the community and this movement that we’re a part of. We enjoy our working class roots and our inclusiveness. At some price point, too many good people won’t even want to join because it appears elitist, like we’re some sort of fashion brand, which I will fight till my dying day not to be, and that fight is going really well and I’d like it to continue.

Here’s the announcement you won’t want to miss:

  • We’ll continue to build limited edition GR1’s in the USA; Black GR1’s and a couple other colorways will be built overseas (specifically in Saigon) moving forward. Rucker and GR2: same deal. The price on rucks built overseas will be less, so this is in essence an announcement of some (but not all) overseas manufacturing and a price decrease to our core rucksacks.
  • For example, GR1’s Built in the USA version has been at $395. The models built in Saigon will be at $295.
  • The model for us, USA vs overseas is this: where we can provide more value through customization and limited edition colorways and features, we’ll build those in the USA. We’ll build classic versions to scale, at quality, overseas.

In terms of scale rucks, GR1 Black and GR2 Black and the Rucker and a couple other colors have moved to overseas production. The black Built in USA options currently on our site are all that remain from domestic production. When they’re gone, built in Saigon versions will be for sale at a reduced price of $295 for GR1. The Limited Edition GR1 Built in USA options will cost a premium above that. A lot of Limited Editions moving forward will run through GORUCK Workshop, where you pre-order a colorway or a style that will not see mass production. Timeline to deliver will be something in the neighborhood of three months, and you’ll have to put your money down at the outset and we’ll have a better gauge for demand before we move to production, therefore reducing overall inventory holding costs of our USA Built Limited Edition GR1’s. Time will tell what the blend of GR1’s that we build becomes. What styles, where we build them, etc. That will be a question only our community can decide. We’re now positioned to scale up to whatever you want, which allows us to provide the most value, to you.

There are plenty of benefits to American manufacturing: communication with vendors is easier, quality oversight is easier because they’re closer, there are low minimum order quantities (~75 units vs. 1,000 units), moving to market is quicker, and there’s the support of American jobs, which has always been important to me. We intend to continue to support and utilize our American vendors (we have four), but not for the items that represent real scale for us.

We already have a lot of experience with ‘Limited Edition’ GR1’s, built in the USA. Last year we did a Workshop where you all got to choose specific features you wanted on your GR1: more Velcro or less, side handles or bottom handles or none, MOLLE or none. This is in our wheelhouse to do in America, and over time I would love to see us build this program out even more with many different color varieties. This year has seen a large introduction of new colors to GR1. Perhaps in time we’ll offer GR1 in new fabrics, new colors, and let you choose the features you want.

Nothing we offer is at low prices because we’ve chosen quality and value over price, but we will also not see the kind of price inflation we were forecasting for current and future American production. We are happy to continue to build best in class rucksacks in America and charge a premium on them. This is what American manufacturing does really well, and we have ten years of experience doing it, and we’ll continue to do it.

QUALITY – WORTHY OF THE GORUCK BRAND

We have long since said that quality is life or death to us, and that Green Berets are judge and jury of GORUCK quality. That statement remains true, now and forever, no matter where we build our stuff. Specific to Saigon, Christian, our quality control manager, is overseeing the production and has built our own quality control ecosystem at our factory there. He’s been sending samples back for us to test, use and abuse for the last year. The rucks are consistently flawless and worthy of the GORUCK brand. In our factory in Saigon, the infrastructure for scalability is world class and significantly more advanced than it is in America. This is a fact, not a feeling or a judgment. Their incentive to scale efficiently is on full display with the amount of automation, the enormous capital resources in machinery that they have on hand, and the excellent working conditions. You can’t get high quality out of a sweatshop, not now not ever. That’s where you get low cost items, and we don’t do that. So, no sweatshops. Not now, not ever. We want the best and nothing less, and that involves and requires a world-class operation. There is no such thing as a rucksack that will have patterns cut by hand coming out of Saigon. Laser cutters ensure that the patterns are perfect, every single time. That’s just one example. That said, I’m not here to compare quality potential based on country of origin. It’s possible to build anything in America that’s best in class. USA Built GR1’s are proof, and will continue to be proof. But the cost in time, labor, and oversight is prohibitive at any kind of scale (which limits the scalability of our community). You have to hire more quality control managers, do more line inspections, and as you scale up, the vendors have a hard time finding labor to scale up with you. So they charge more to offset their step up costs. Very few Americans who were born here want to choose sewing as a profession. This is a fact, not a feeling. Virtually all of the work is done by immigrants chasing the American dream for themselves and their family. And on the inside of that, and being a part of their success is and will continue to be very rewarding and important to us. There is no America without the American Dream.

In terms of rucksack quality, we stand behind everything we build with our Scars Lifetime Guarantee. If the rucks coming out of Saigon were not consistently 5/5 stars for us, we would not be doing this. I’m simply not willing to take GORUCK in a direction that involves reduced quality. We are only willing to increase quality, and to do it whenever possible. Too many of my buddies use our gear in war and in their daily lives and I won’t be getting calls from them in this lifetime about how our stuff sucks. That’s not gonna happen. We are and will remain best and toughest in class. The negative reviews that I’m willing to accept, that I love in fact, are when people say that our gear is too tough. My buddies don’t ever send me those notes, by the way, and probably wouldn’t unless we built rucks out of steel, so we’re good.

TL;DR NOTES ON DECISION TO MOVE SOME MANUFACTURING OVERSEAS

  1. Elite, not Elitist. That’s our goal as a brand and our way of life. Limiting ourselves to domestic production is to limit our scalability, including our goals to grow our community into the tens of millions (and beyond) of active ruckers, all over America and the world.
  2. Quality is and remains life or death to us, and all rucksacks come with our Scars Lifetime Guarantee, no matter what. 
  3. American manufacturing is not going away for GORUCK. We will focus on limited edition colorways, fabrics, and feature sets on our American built manufacturing. If you want a USA Built GR1, you will have a lot of options to do so, and we have no plans of changing that.

THE BACKSTORY

This diversification of manufacturing happened more by accident than according to plan. In 2019, on the back of the price increase, our rucksack sales have flatlined, albeit with greater profit because of the price increase. And while growth is our goal and we would like to not charge $395 for GR1 anymore (we aren’t), that’s not really how this came about. I didn’t sit back at HQ and analyze costing sheets to determine that this was unsustainable moving forward, though it was relatively easy to connect those dots once we got into the details.

This story started in Tokyo, by accident and not design. There is an Official GORUCK Club there with about 300 members, and it’s managed by a couple (Jess and Becks) who have become good friends of ours. It’s not uncommon for events we run in Tokyo to have 500 participants show up, and their Ruck Club get togethers resemble a rucking parade party on the sidewalks of Tokyo. For some time now, their members have also been buying our gear despite the high costs to begin with, and on top of that duties and shipping. When we started building boots in Saigon, we did a large direct shipment to Tokyo for their members, which saved them a lot of money and allowed us to move the boots there faster. Saigon to Tokyo is a lot faster than routing through the USA. And I also found my flights home from Saigon routing through Tokyo, so I would frequently stop and spend time with them and their Ruck Club. They’re a great group of people and if you’re in the neighborhood, stop by sometime. At other Japanese events outside of Tokyo, we’ve shipped pallets full of gear. So we started exploring options of distribution inside Japan, and building that out. And a part of that was to build GR1’s in Saigon or elsewhere closer by, and ship them directly to Japan for their market at a lower price point than what we currently have. Well, that posed all sorts of logistical problems because nothing was as simple as a turnkey operation (if you’re out there and you know of one involving a Japanese website with Japanese distribution with Japanese representation in stores, please comment or send me a note), and the minimums for rucks were 1,000 units but that was nowhere close to where we needed demand curves to be. Could we sustain that just in the Japanese market? We weren’t sure. We decided to go through the vetting process for the factories in Saigon that were referred to us by, among other places, the leadership team at our footwear factory, and we were upfront that we wanted to slowly build out our international presence in Asia and Europe and that that had to be done with overseas manufacturing. They were receptive enough to go through the process with us. As we started understanding the quality potential at scale (aka the rucks they built for us were flawless on first counter samples, which is almost unheard of) with one factory in particular, we grew to trust that the quality was in line with our Special Forces life or death quality standards. We still plan to increase our presence in Japan, and in Europe (though Brexit has cooled those waters a bit because we don’t understand distribution center implications yet), but the first step became to build and create a process to scale efficiently with best and toughest in class quality out of Saigon. Then distribute to America and to the world from America. And eventually to establish international distribution outside of America.

That’s the plan, that’s what we’re executing, and we’re not looking back. American manufacturing remains our reality, so does overseas manufacturing. And people remain the focus of our brand, as they always have been.

BRAND IMPLICATIONS

Of course we considered the brand implications of moving some of our production overseas. We started out in 2010 exclusively with American manufacturing (three rucks and a hat). I did not consider overseas production, which is good because they would not have considered me or us to be a very good partner and they would have been right. We hustled our way forward one year, one purchase order at a time, and yet our roots are in American manufacturing and I believe in those roots and it’s to our benefit to maintain them as a business and as a brand. Lower order quantities allow us to provide greater value to many, and on the apparel side, American manufacturing allows us to develop new styles and move them to market sooner and at reduced volumes than what we would see if we had to debut every new product with 10,000 units. You’ve seen this most recently with The American Waterproof Jacket, a best in class rain jacket built in the USA at a significantly higher cost than if built overseas. But we got to control the development, and the testing, and we got to micro-manage the quality control, which is vital when you’re developing both a new process and a new product at the same time and they’ve never been tested on a production line. There’s a lot that can go wrong, so you surge to it to make sure that doesn’t happen. We’re still breaking a lot of rules on how things should be done, and we’re doing it one day one year one product at a time, keeping quality (and not cost) as the absolute non-negotiable in everything we build. Then, to make it feasible, we are only building 500 units. This will get enough of the product out into the market and let word of mouth aid our own marketing efforts as we continue to build a reputation for quality in absolutely everything we do. Once you debut something and reviews are good, it’s a lot easier to scale.

The boots are another example. We simply could not get these boots built to the same quality in America, which is not set up to scale performance footwear production to the quality that we have seen out of Saigon. America has less automation and tons of additional costs. MACV-1 is the most expensive shoe our factory builds, primarily because our quality standards are higher. Mind you, they do 4 million pairs a month, have 25,000 employees, and world class automation. I’ve toured Danner’s factory, I’ve toured ours in Saigon. The scale of the operation is not in the same league, which is probably one of the reasons Danner (who has been in the work boot market forever) started doing so much offshore production. It’s really expensive to do premier quality goods, and ~prohibitive in America. When we debuted the boots, there was some trepidation that the market (aka you all) would have an enormous backlash because they weren’t built in the USA. Instead, the conversation centered around whether GORUCK was more than just a rucksack company. There was no trust yet in the product, though there was trust in the brand. This is a great motivator for us to continue to never accept anything but the best. Many have trusted us with their dollars and their feet so far, and it’s working out well. The only real backlash we got centered around the price of the boots, not where they were built. $195 is expensive for a pair of performance boots. Less so perhaps when you consider that every pair comes with our Scars Lifetime Guarantee, and that reviews have consistently shown them to be great for getting the job done in Baghdad and NYC, just as we intended. It was, of course, risky to enter the footwear market, but time has begun to prove us right that we could build a premium boot and grow from there. From the community, there was barely a mention of the fact that the boots were built in Saigon. It came down to the quality and the performance. The explanation of why we were building them in Saigon seemed to satisfy the questions out there. Worse boots made in America for double the price didn’t seem like a good slogan, so we didn’t go with that one, or do that. The more Google becomes a thing that everyone is around all the time, the more consumers demand to know the story before voting with their wallets. I don’t blame you because I do, too. So it seems like the right answer to Lead with Transparency and provide the backstory on why we do what we do.

I understand that some people, and particularly those who found us specifically because of our American manufacturing, will be disappointed. So am I. I long ago had the vision of us being some sort of Henry Ford of rucksack producers, and doing everything in America. We tried that, we failed at it. It wasn’t close to success, either. Our vendors consistently raise prices on us and display great stubbornness at sharpening their pencils. Maybe with wages continuing to increase, and a shortage of workers, it’s simply not possible. I get that, too. If I had to forecast out into the future, the vision that people have, that I had for bringing tons of jobs back to America through American manufacturing will simply not come true. There will be and is a large push to automation, with more robots and more machines, and a human will walk around with a clipboard while robots are building and assembling wares of all kinds. T-shirts are the easiest and would be a good first place to start. At that stage, the location of the robots would ideally be closer to the market where you’re going to sell, so American manufacturing will thrive again in big ways. Tons of stuff will be made in the USA. Perhaps, many moons after that, just as the computer evolved from mainframes to personal computers, everyone will have a futuristic “3D Printer” or, even more exciting, a “3D Builder” that can build you anything, right in your home. When I think about the future, I’m very, very excited. Yes, we’ll have to evolve as a nation, and we will.

MARKETING

Counter to business school doctrine, I believe that the branding department is more important than the marketing department. It’s a minor, but important point. Your brand has values, these are non-negotiable. Life or death quality standards is one of ours. If you let marketers make up values to sell more in a particular season, to choose the brand, you lose the identity you’ve worked hard to create, as a brand. So the brand dictates what we’re doing, then it’s on the marketing department to communicate that. I believe that American manufacturing is an important part of the GORUCK brand, but I also believe that it’s about a lot more than just American manufacturing.

We’re focused on training, and traveling, and rucking. On our events as highly aspirational ways to prove your training, to join a great community, to be more active. And speaking of which, we’re doubling down on our community in every way through the growth in Official GORUCK Clubs (276 and counting) and a community-centric rucking app. Our community has been overwhelmingly built through rucking and fitness and training, not because we talk about stitch counts and manufacturing. Rare is the manufacturing company that has a community of people who stop each other in airports to talk about the ruck on someone else’s back, which patch they’re sporting, what their next adventure is. But for us, it’s the norm. Just as it’s the norm for someone to post a pic of their ruck at an airport bar in Terminal A of Airport Y and say next one’s on me if you’re around. Or, I’m meeting at public Park Z at 5pm, come and join for a ruck if you’re around. Fight Club anyone? I’m really proud that so many people have found this community and get so much value out of the people in it. Pushing and inspiring each other to be more active is a recipe for a great and meaningful life and you have to choose wisely the communities, the people you spend your time with. I choose our community and I do so proudly. 

On the business front, we have a lot of competition in the training space, and we’re cool with that. More people should ruck than run, that’s just a fact, for their goals in life: weight loss, cardiovascular health, caloric burn, strength gains, sustainability, reduced rate of injury. Leading people in the direction they want to go is a winning strategy. Rucking should be bigger than running, and that’s our goal (yes, it’s a big one). The only problem to date is that people just don’t know about it, and it’s our aim to fix that.

As a brand, the fork in the road was pretty simple. Either focus on training, rucking, and community — or focus on American manufacturing. Doing and owning both is too confusing for us and for everyone. One way is about showing people and testimonials and supporting Ruck Clubs and creating a Rucking Revolution, the other way is about showing factories and sewing needles and talking about stitch counts. Behind the scenes, both matter hugely to us. We cannot and will not grow in the training and community space without the highest quality gear we can possibly build. But we can’t grow as an organization in accordance with our highest, most important values if we focus on sewing needles as the first message people see of the GORUCK brand. Humans are more important than hardware and we choose people and an active lifestyle that in every way is buttressed by our community. And we choose to build some rucks in America, and others overseas. The world is not burning down, people. It’s going to be OK.

This has not been an easy decision, though it is 100% the right decision. I hope you’ll support us now and moving forward. You have been integral to how we’ve gotten to where we are today, and we owe you an enormous amount of gratitude.

And now, we have a lot more to discuss.

THE RUCKING COMPANY

We have doubled down on GORUCK as The Rucking Company, to help create a more active world through rucking. I believe that rucking is today where running was in 1967. Only the weirdos do it, most don’t even understand what it is. All that is going to change as more people out there, your friends and mine, are exposed to it. In time, there will be hundreds of millions of people rucking, it will be a billion dollar activity, and it should be bigger than running because more people should ruck than run based on body types, current activity levels (which are decreasing), and fitness goals. But let me be clear: rucking is a strategic growth driver for us that doesn’t fuel any real growth, right now. People don’t know what it is yet, so it’s an education campaign. Meanwhile, we have to explain our products, too, which is a double challenge. That takes time, dollars, and more importantly people’s attention, which is the hardest thing to come by these days.

 

TRAVEL // TRAINING

Here’s what you’re going to see from us as a brand. There will be a separation of the products we sell between travel and training, with rucking as the foundation for both. The campaign around rucking is a strategic priority, but not a tactical one in the short term. Rich, Dan, and I have written a book, but it’s gotta go through the publishing channels. Agents and publishing houses and editors and that takes time. Rucking needs a large scale PR campaign, not just a grassroots one. To do that, we have to build a bigger network and reach potential, which we are. At the same time that that’s going on in the background, there is more focus on merchandising better, which basically means better communication of our products and how you (and new people) should use them. Here’s the simplest example to demonstrate this.

We’ll explain GR1 as the perfect travel and EDC (every day carry ruck), and the Rucker will be for training, rucking, and the GORUCK Challenge. GR1 for Travel, the Rucker for Training. Since forever we’ve said GR1 is one ruck to rule them all. And it is. It’s the most versatile, toughest everyday carry (EDC) on the planet, and if you’re gonna have one ruck for the rest of your life, it’s GR1. If you’re gonna do 100 GORUCK Events, GR1 will hold up and thrive. But the Rucker is specifically built for GORUCK Events, and rucking with stable weight high on your back, and the GORUCK Challenge, and it’s the best tool for that job and for training and Ruck PT. We see GORUCK at the intersection of Travel and Training, but it’s important to have some separation for people to more fully understand how to use something and assess its value to them, in their daily lives.

Product differentiation is its own form of education, of making communication more effective. The GORUCK brand will thrive in both environments, travel and training, with rucking as the foundation. Don’t expect us to start promoting roll bags any time soon, or ever. There is a list a mile long about how if you want to be more active, get stronger, be safer (rucks are a lot quieter), and have more fun, you should abandon the roll bag mentality and travel with a ruck on. If you’re into fitness and want to be healthier, roll bags are the enemy. We’ll get into that over the coming months and years. Travel is an underdeveloped “segment” for us, mainly because we have not talked about it in a concerted way, and we haven’t done enough explaining of our gear and how and why it’s best in class for travel. All that is coming.

Here’s a sample list of travel gear: GR1, GR2, GR3, Kit Bags, Field Pockets, MACV-1 Boots. And training gear: Rucker, Ruck Plates, Sandbags, Gym Bags, LowTop Shoes (coming soon).

It doesn’t mean there isn’t crossover: of course there is. I travel with a GR1 (and a Sandbag) to train on the road because I also travel with a laptop. Kit Bags are actually substitutes for Gym Bags, you can train and do events in your MACV-1 boots. There’s an inherent versatility to our gear that has existed from the foundation. But giving people a relevant starting point that doesn’t require ten hours of research is the goal.

This will extend to apparel as well, though it gets even a little messier there because foundationally it was designed and built to adapt to both travel and training. Let’s talk about GORUCK Pants, as one example. These are the flagship item to date, and they have plenty of applicability to travel and to GORUCK Events. Not either, both. But it’s confusing to lead with both stories. If you own a pair, do you usually wear them for training or travel? Probably travel or everyday wear, like I do. And an occasional event. Are they great for rucking? They’re the best. Do you train in them at the gym or in a field? Probably not. I personally hate wearing shorts when I’m going to get muddy, it’s the old Army training mentality in me where there was no such thing as shorts, but I’m probably in the minority. A normal day is I’ll bike to work, ruck during a meeting or two and when Monster needs to go out, and on Wednesdays I’ll join in our Ruck Club’s fun, then either bike or ride home. All in Simple Pants because they’re really versatile. But, bottom line: you can expect to see more of a travel angle on the pants, both Simple and Challenge Pants. With a nod to how extreme you can push them, how active you can be, and here’s the proof (pictures from the Challenge etc.). We even talked about making Simple Pants for travel and Challenge Pants for training, but is that the reality? Lots of people just want to travel with more pockets, and that’s cool by us. Ruck up and go see the world like that, I’ll have my Simple Pants on. Lead with something people can understand better on a product by product basis, then sell them on the story and the versatility.

There is specific apparel out there that will fall more directly into the Training category, like the American Training Shorts, which sold out in all the relevant sizes in a couple days. I get the sense (it’s not hard when people vote with their wallets) that the universe expects more of us in the fitness realm, and that the travel/EDC part of our universe just needs better explanation. In terms of gear R&D, the training world will get more of our R&D focus because we already have so much stuff that is perfect for traveling.

EVENTS

One GORUCK. That’s been the deal and is the deal. What continues to happen, and more so every year is that the gear drives the business and the events drive our hearts. Is that a problem? No, it’s the reality.

Numbers-wise, participation remains flat despite healthy growth at the company level. If we could figure out a way to grow events every year, that would be awesome. But that’s just not our reality. Our reality is that Events are a vital component to our brand, they’re hugely aspirational, and they very directly turn GORUCK into an experience company, not just a things company. We’ve talked about this already.

Within the GORUCK Events world, we’re also seeing the need to better communicate what we do, who they’re for, how to train — all that good stuff that you ask yourself when you see something new for the first time. What’s this? And you have a short attention span and if they don’t get you, poof you’re gone.

Events are in the process of getting their own website, separate from GORUCK.com, which will be about better communication of our gear. There are a ton of technical reasons why this is happening, the first and most important is that our ecommerce platform is not an events registration platform and we’ve forced it in there to the detriment of both the merchandise and the events. Separating it out will make everything easier to manage and run.

But that’s not a good enough of a reason unto itself. I wonder, we all wonder, if Events have been hamstrung because it’s so attached to the gear. Is it confusing? There are very few to no companies out there who do both, who manufacture gear and produce events. It’s a long and difficult story to tell succinctly. So perhaps a better question for you is, would it be confusing to you if you didn’t already know us? When new people come to our site, do they leave with answers and clarity or do they leave with confusion? We believe too many leave with confusion. That’s bad for business and the brand.

Confusion is the enemy. It costs you time and creates a lot of missed opportunities. If you’re looking for an event, is it crazy to assume you would be OK if the website were exclusively focused on events and training? If you want gear, here’s a link out to that part of the universe. Most people come to our site through Google search anyway. If you search GORUCK events or GORUCK Challenge, you’ll get a link to where to find events. If you search GORUCK, you’ll get a link to both gear and events on Page 1. Ads can segment people out better according to interests. If someone is only interested in a GR1, we should not be serving them ads for the GORUCK Challenge. To do that, we’ll have to wait a while after they’ve got the gear — grin. We have to get more sophisticated, we have to evolve, and that means the people on our team here have to be given the tools to be more successful. Separating out the events website is a vital part of that.

The 2020 Schedule. We’ve questioned a lot of assumptions this year in an attempt to double down on you, our community. Instead of just sitting at HQ figuring out what events will happen when, we’ve taken it grassroots style to the Ruck Club Leaders all over the world. Yes, we have a baseline schedule, but it’s a fraction of what the 2019 number of events were. The Leaders are currently talking with their communities to figure out when they want events, and which patch they want. We’ve even opened back up the classic GORUCK Tough patch with a focus on Teamwork, Leadership, and Communication through shared good livin’. We’re significantly cutting the number, the sheer volume of our longer events like the Heavy (24+ hours) and the HTL (~48 hours) in an attempt to do fewer, with bigger classes, and to make them more fun. Yes, GORUCK style. We want to bring more energy to every class with more Cadre and more participants. None of us know how this will turn out, but initial reaction has been strong on the feedback front, and to paraphrase G.I. Joe, knowing what your reaction is, is half the battle. I suspect that this process will get more dialed in every year, there will be more annual weekends in specific towns all across the country and the world, sort of how marathons happen annually on the same date, and I definitely expect there to be a lot more Star Courses, which we’re doubling down on. Ultimately, it’s up to you all to vote and to show up.

In terms of the Rucking & Endurance events that we offer, the Star Course is the most basic and accessible with the distance being the most obvious form of differentiation. A 50 Miler is a lot different than a 12 Miler, for instance, and people understand that, no confusion there. It’s a straightforward event. Ruck the miles to train for the event and you’ll be ready. There’s no Ruck PT, it’s just walking with weight on your back, on a team, seeing some of the best sites your city has to offer. When you’ve checked all the points off your list, come find us and the other finishers at the finish line for a cold beer.

At a personal level, the 50 Miler is my favorite GORUCK event to do as a participant. I did the first one in DC and I did the 75K in Normandy this year. The scenery was great, but the time with the team is what made it so special. I’ll look to do one or two a year (I have a couple 26.2’s under my belt this year, too) — but I have no interest in doing it solo. Not to say that will never be an option at the Star Course, but just to say that the time with Emily in Normandy was really special, rucking from Pointe du Hoc to Omaha Beach along those cliffs is one of the best rucks on planet Earth because it’s one of the most meaningful. And as with all that’s best in life, it’s better when shared. 

We’re going to be offering more distance of the Star Course in 2020. In addition to 50/26.2/12 Miler events (Star Course Endurance Series), look for us to scale up a separate event entirely that is the Star Course Sprint Series: 5K/10K/15K with a 3 hour time cap, primarily on Sundays. There are a lot of reasons for this:

  • Different distances creates greater accessibility, and for our community to grow we need to create events where people can learn what we’re all about, and what our community is all about. We’ve seen a lot of new people come into the community through the Star Course, and we want that to continue, only more so. These will be three hours in duration. Community on the front end, community on the back end, some miles in the middle, with the community too.
  • Sundays are typically the best day for us because we will already have a Cadre in town, which lets us spread the overhead of travel, per diem, hotel costs out over another event. The other events (Challenges or the Star Course Endurance Series 50/26.2/12) will be over on a Saturday night, and this Sprint Series will happen on a Sunday morning. Our goals are to maximize the time in any city that our Cadre can spend leading/managing/running events, and to draw as much of the community in that city out as possible.
  • The Star Course is absolutely the future for us in terms of how we’re going to enter foreign markets. Special Forces led GORUCK Challenges have done great in America where there is absolute love of our military and our SF guys. Overseas it’s less of a draw. But the Star Course has done great and will continue to do great. Countless Europeans were willing to sign up for the 75K Star Course in Normandy, but had no interest in the Challenge. 75K is no joke, it was about 49 miles. Anyone who can complete that, I want them on my team. We’re going to be looking for Event Directors who live abroad to get trained up and start managing these for us in Europe and Asia first and foremost. The first place we’re starting is with our international Ruck Club Leaders, who are already leading and organizing events on a weekly basis for their members. Bottom line: expect a lot of growth of these all over the world. And if you’re on the fence about giving one of our events a try, this is the best place for you to start.

There is a lot of change, and a lot more focus on leading events that you, our community wants to do and will show up for. Our Cadre quality scores are through the roof high (4.9/5 on average over all events), but no matter what we work for you and you vote by showing up. In sum, we’re engaging the community first in order to build out the best schedule possible, we’re reducing the number of our longest events that we’re running in 2020, and we’re doubling down on the Star Course with a lot more events, all over the world.

CONCLUSION

The manufacturing announcement will garner all the headlines in this year’s State of GORUCK. I’m cool with that, it is a big deal and we aren’t taking it lightly. Some corners of the Internet will blow up, I’ll be accused of selling out and so much more. This all comes with the territory — I can take it, even the baseless stuff. You can’t have a community if you’re only willing to tolerate agreement, and for me, the more active the community, the better. Iron sharpens iron and that’s the environment I come from, it’s the environment our team of 100+ Cadre and 35 employees operate in, and frankly, that’s the environment where I thrive. So I welcome the feedback, the questions, and even the criticism. Life is boring without it. But what I really love is seeing and hearing your individual stories of what this community has meant and means to you. From increased confidence, to finding a place where you belong, to preventing suicide, to weight loss, to getting stronger, to a healthier body image, to appreciating that the finest moments in life are the simplest ones, to prioritizing people over things, to understanding that you are capable of so much more than you thought possible, to a desire to serve something greater than yourself.

I spent a lot of time thinking about this State of GORUCK, same as always. But what was different this time, what kept nagging at me was why Normandy was so important. It felt almost out of place somehow at the beginning, and then anywhere, as if maybe it’s so important it can only exist on its own. But yet I didn’t dare move it, or any of the pictures that spoke most to me. And why was it so important for me to talk of Will and Ryan and their families and their sacrifice, to connect it all together with the other parts of this year’s goings on. I’m still making sense of Normandy, and Will, and Ryan. I stare at pictures and a flood of emotions come racing back. I suspect I’ll never be able to comprehend or understand how or why the universe bent the way it did. Those are the thoughts that keep me up at night, that I think about most of all because they’re impossible to ignore. And when I don’t have the answers, which I never will, those answers that I don’t have inspire me to keep fighting for the way of life that they best represent. I need my reminders and my inspiration just as you need yours. The Greatest Generation, and Will, and Ryan, and so many more represent the highest ideals of who we are all supposed to be, no matter the cost. To separate their impact on me from my vantage point of what we’re doing at GORUCK would be impossible, and an incomplete story to not mention them in this context. To walk the beaches of Normandy, to see your friends buried too soon, to know the sacrifice their families are enduring. Do we make them proud? Do we honor the values they sacrificed their lives to serve? When you ask yourself the most important questions in your life, it’s not your head that gives you the best answers, it’s your heart. And I’m at peace with the answers I have to those most important questions.

I can imagine my kids reading these words someday far off into the future, and having their own questions or wondering this or that. Maybe I’ll even still be around and they can just ask, and I hope they do. The nuts and bolts of our way forward are pretty straightforward. Do right by people, do what we think is right and keep going. But it’s the personal side to all of this that will pique their curiosity the most. When is it the head, and when is it the heart? How do we find the right answers? Or more importantly, how do we ask the right questions? Visiting Normandy is hard and it makes me sad because I keep thinking of what their sacrifice cost, all of those thousands of brave, young men. It wasn’t just their too young lives cut short, it’s far graver than that. They never got to return home to America to live out the rest of their days in peace. They never got to start a family or to fall in love and watch that grow with time. They were all too young to experience the best, simplest moments in life that mean so much more with age, and perspective. They missed out on the opportunity to continue to serve America, and our communities, and the families they didn’t have. The totality of loss to them and to all of us is staggering and losing Will and Ryan binds our American generations together through sacrifice, and it increases my sense of loss exponentially because I knew them both personally and in my mind I’m staring at their faces, into their eyes, right this second. No matter how noble, sacrifice is always hard to deal with, at a deeply personal level, and it’s even harder when it feels so at odds with how you feel the universe should go. A 33 year old father of four daughters with a loving wife who dedicated his entire professional life in service to America coming home in a flag draped coffin feels pretty off to me, and it’s pretty hard to make peace with.

But sadness is not the lingering cost of sacrifice. Life does, eventually, go on. Sometimes because of their sacrifice. And we do remember the glory of their spirit. I want my kids to take away how grateful I am for the opportunities we have in life, what reminders to that look like for me, and I want them to know where the energy comes from, deep inside of me, to fight until my dying breath for a future and a way of life I believe in.

So wherever they find the inspiration, wherever we all find the inspiration to serve something greater than ourselves, that call speaks to our hearts and it’s that call that I hope never dies. And as long as we keep answering it, it never will.

Thanks for the support this past decade and then some. I’m happy to answer any questions you might have, in the comments section.

108 comments

  1. Cody says:

    Thanks for the introspective questions, and your own struggles to accept them. It makes me really think deeply about sacrifice, honor, friends I’ve lost. Makes me really want to go back and be at Normandy again, and do more events there this next year, try to remember and honor all those you mentioned.

  2. John Tackett says:

    Thanks for the updates across the board. Understand the need to sometimes go across the oceans to get the products we want at prices we can afford.

    Excited to hear about the 5k/10k/15k Star courses. I do many Veteran related races each year in which I ruck the course and coming across the finish line, waving an american flag while carrying 20-30lbs of weight in my Rucker is an awesome feeling. And I think it is a great introduction to many to the world of rucking.

    Looking forward to taking a day trip to GRHQ and seeing Bomber, Lee and Kit and the other amazing GR employees. One day I might even meet you Jason (and Monster too.)

    • Konsta says:

      I appreciate the detailed post and transparency. I understand that if you’re not making six figures, your products do start to be out of reach for many. However, they are not disposable items: a GR1/2 can last ten years if not more. Even if the price was $500, breaking it down to $50/year is not bad for the quality and supporting American manufacturing.

      My biggest issue with this announcement is that your rationale seemed to be that this way more Americans can afford your product. But the reason a lot of Americans can’t is exactly because good paying manufacturing jobs have been outsourced and people who haven’t been able to retrain now work sh*tty jobs with sh*tty pay. Now you are just fueling this cycle. It is not a law of nature that things have to be this way. I understand you have customers outside the country, heck, I used to be one of them but to me Made in USA was a selling point, not a detractor.

      • jason says:

        I think it’s even more nuanced than that, far beyond my ability to comment here, in detail. We will continue to do USA manufacturing. Next year we’ll build more than we did in the first ~3-5 years of our company’s history. I think that the mixed manufacturing is the only sustainable model to continue to grow, the costs here are simply too high for business owners (job creators) to justify more investment in manufacturing, so the cycle has another axis on it that doesn’t allow us to see economies of scale.

        • Jeff says:

          Quality is my biggest concern. Made in the USA does not inherently mean quality. There’s no more reason to be concerned about manufacturing jobs going overseas now than the disappearance of carriage drivers and horse shoe makers with the mass production of cars. People make stupid amounts of money posting on Instagram and making phone apps in 2019. A lack of manufacturing jobs is not holding people back. And from what I can see, Go Ruck products being manufactured in Saigon is not holding the quality of the product back, quite the opposite. Thank you, Jason. I loved rucking in the Army and still do. Now I’m sporting MACV-1’s for duty as a police officer. I need another pair just for adventuring around. Keep up the awesome work.

  3. Jay says:

    Jason, I’ve done 2 50 mile Star Courses. I know you’ve only done the DC specific shirt, but I’d love for you to do a general 50 mile shirt. I’d buy two!

  4. Mike Sweeting says:

    Thanks Jason. You don’t get such a candid and transparent look at a company like you give. I’ve never questioned where the money goes as a consumer, but it helps understanding the ‘why.’
    Since you’ve mentioned separate platform for events, have you given any thought to creating regional GR ‘cells’ (if you will) to help host events, possibly coordinated thru the local Ruck Club?

  5. John says:

    Doubling down on ruck clubs and what gear is best used for traveling vs training or both is awesome. I think that with the transparency used here the conversation about moving production out of the US will fall to the wayside. You guys have always lived the motto ‘honesty is the best policy’ and personally this is as big of a factor as anything for me and I would assume many other people. Well done as per usual!

    • Nir says:

      Please please keep the 5.5 simple pants – we need those. Nothing like it in the market!

      Thanks for everting
      A fan from Israel

      • jason says:

        For what it’s worth, our Ops Director (Robert) loves them and since he controls the PO process, you’re very unlikely to see them go anywhere. Thanks for the support all the way over in Israel. I can’t wait to get there someday with Emily!

    • WCW says:

      This makes a lot of sense in regards to changes we’ve scene as GoRuck consumer’s across the board. I’ve, personally, been carrying around a Java Echo almost everyday for 5 years. It’s my EDC as well as my training and event Ruck – it get’s more miles and usage than any other piece of EDC, fitness or travel gear I own. What you have said here makes me feel even more proud of my involvement with GoRuck from a consumer and participant perspective. This is why, as a strength trainer, I implement the monthly workouts at my gym, this is why I am not afraid to recommend GoRuck gear to my friends and students, this is why I GoRuck. New Orleans is looking forward to the opportunity to participate in 2020 – Bring it on!

  6. Scott says:

    Awesome update! Can’t wait to see what the future holds for you.

    Any plans on bringing the rifle case back into production with this shift to overseas manufacturing? I missed out on one and would love the opportunity to pick one up.

    • jason says:

      Firearms Gear may come back someday, but not that soon. We’d have to build out an entire segmented marketing plan around that before it happens.

  7. Hal says:

    Hey Jason, Any chance of bringing back either the 57L or 84L Kit bags? They great for lugging stuff to large events. Also any plans to release a messenger or shoulder strap style bag with internal organization? Similar to a larger version of the laptop bags from way back?

    • jason says:

      57L Kit Bag is likely, the 84L probably not so much. Look for it next year. No plans for a messenger bag, rucks are better than those anyway 🙂

  8. Mike says:

    Jason,

    This is the first of these that I’ve read and it’s outstanding.

    What’s the overall status on partnered events? I’d like to ruck a Travis Manion event next year. Is that still a thing?

    —Mike

    • jason says:

      Thanks, Mike. Partnership with the TMF is stronger than ever, go find a 9/11 Heroes Run, errrrr RUCK, sign up and show up. If you do the one in Jax Beach, I’ll be there with you, shoulder to shoulder.

  9. Brian says:

    Having invested heavily into GORUCK, probably a lot more than most, I truly do appreciate the transparency and review of the brand on an annual basis. With that being said, and with the latest release, I will definitely remain brand loyal and look forward to the future vs. much of the same. Change is good – for the right reasons, even though there is no such thing in life as the right or wrong decision.

  10. Thomas Hill says:

    I know next to nothing about Goruck. My son is a very active participant, admirer and devotee. From him I have learned the little I know, but have spent some time worrying about his participation in some of the strenuous events of Goruck. Because I love, trust and admire him I have listened to him sing the praises of your organization. He is deeply committed to Goruck ideals in every aspect of his life. He is a Marine Corps veteran of the war in Iraqi and I of Vietnam. Your opening remarks clearly come from your soul and it was a privilege to read those words. Thank you for articulating, so clearly, what I wish could be heard by the nation we have loved and sacrificed for. Bless you and thank you.

    • jason says:

      Thanks Thomas, and thanks for your service. Would love for you to join us for an event (Star Course 12 Miler?) with your son if you’d like – take your pick. It’s on the house, just send us a note to team@goruck.com and God Bless.

  11. Pete Keady says:

    Excellent communication! Thank you Jason. Business exist to help people and to make money. Congrats on doing that!!!
    LOVE my GR2. Use it for work 7 days a week and it is the only back I take when traveling. Buying the GR1, pants and boots next. Thank you.
    Semper Fi.

  12. Jeff says:

    Hi Jason, I think the best way to honor you fallen comrades is to continue doing what you’re doing. I’m reminded of the last words spoken by CPT John Miller to PVT Ryan at the end of Saving Private Ryan: “Earn this”. I feel that what you have built and are continuing to build with the GORUCK family is earning the respect and honor of those who have served in the military, especially those who have made the ultimate sacrifice. Thanks for all you do.

    • jason says:

      Thanks, Jeff. Em and I talked specifically about the end of that movie, as we watched it with tears in our eyes and running down our cheeks, on the way home from Normandy. It’s a really impactful way to look at the gift we have, if we earn it and keep earning it every day.

  13. Rick Rocco says:

    I get it. You will have detractors come out of the shadows but this makes sense on many levels.

    I’m relatively new to the consumer side of GoRuck (less than a year) having learned about your products and rucking after collaborating on bringing the GoRuck training section to a law enforcement academy I run in Florida.

    I have to say that I find your products to be excellent! This summer I traveled with the GR2, MACV’s, challenge pants, and shorts to Europe and found them to perfect for that.

    I also carry the Bullet as my EDC and use the Rucker for challenges and fitness. I really appreciate the community that is building around rucking and am enthusiastic about the direction you have outlined for GoRuck. The balance between the use of your products for fitness/rucking, everyday life, and hard use in extreme conditions is not easy but you do it exceptionally well.

    Mostly though I admire your dedication to service and your forthright honesty. GoRuck is much more than a brand and I will continue to support, participate, and purchase gear as needed.

  14. Graig Corveleyn says:

    I hear you on the travel aspect. This summer alone my rucks have been to summer camps, Borneo by way of Kuala Lumpur and the Bahamas, sadly not on my back but on the backs of my family members. They love these things as much as I do (well, almost as much). Always enjoy reading your annual commentary. Keep up the good work all the way around.

  15. WCW says:

    (left this in the wrong place before, let me try again) This makes a lot of sense in regards to changes we’ve scene as GoRuck consumer’s across the board. I’ve, personally, been carrying around a Java Echo almost everyday for 5 years. It’s my EDC as well as my training and event Ruck – it get’s more miles and usage than any other piece of EDC, fitness or travel gear I own. What you have said here makes me feel even more proud of my involvement with GoRuck from a consumer and participant perspective. This is why, as a strength trainer, I implement the monthly workouts at my gym, this is why I am not afraid to recommend GoRuck gear to my friends and students, this is why I GoRuck. New Orleans is looking forward to the opportunity to participate in 2020 – Bring it on!

  16. Wilfrido Mateo says:

    Thank you for your honesty and the amazing information you shared. I am new to Rucking and it has been hard to make a choice on which product and manufacture is right. This has cleared things up for me in many ways. I will be placing my order soon.

  17. Thomas says:

    Keep leading the way, whichever way you choose!
    “We” will be succesfull in showing people that Rucking is improving peoples lives, and then let’s get the ball rolling at warp speed for Europe to “get it”! The feedback and interrest from others, simply because I carry a ruck and call it a workout! is continuously evolving!
    Looking forward to the London 50′ and hopefully a slew of events all over the world for the future!

  18. Marcus Yee says:

    Hi John,

    I appreciate all the work and effort put into explaining every detail and how you guys intend to move forward.

    As someone living in Asia, the price increase was not welcomed news. The shipping is already a huge cost factor and with the increases in price by around 100 (USD, and it increases upon conversion), you can imagine how much it will cost those buying it from the other side of the pacific.

    If I maybe respectfully frank, as a person who loves your brand, what you guys stand for, and make, it was a huge disappointment for me. There was a time when I would gladly recommend your brand first above many other such tactical/military themed Brand’s, because while the price was still high, it was still reasonable for the quality and work out into it. But after the price increase, and as much as I know there are reasons behind it, I just felt that maybe those of us who ain’t in the USA (being spared from the shipping cost and downward currency conversion) are being left behind; And to me, as a former military man and my father being formerly in the special forces who always taught me about code, honour, loyalty and watching out for each other, that is a disappointment; especially since you have always put forth GORUCK as a brand by military men who understood about standing up for people of all kinds, to serve and protect, honour and comradery. So forgive me if I ain’t exactly being one of those who are hopping onto the band wagon and being compliant.

    But I do understand your difficulties, wanting keeping production in America and all. And I am all for you guys bringing some of the production over to Saigon where it would be closer to home for me. That move is a sign that you guys have the thoughts and buying ability of others at heart. While making it in Saigon may not beat the ‘Made in America’ tab, but GORUCK is more than that, for it is about the spirit which drives the brand that matters. And that will be what pushes the brand forward more than any amount of ‘Made in America’ tabs/labels you slap onto those bags.

    You may move some production to Saigon but with your desire to hold true to the quality and brand, I am sure the bag will still come out awesome.

    Good luck and keep up the good work.

    From a passionate and dedicated fan,
    Marcus
    10C4I Signal battalion,
    Singapore Armed Forces

  19. Chris Kelley says:

    Always exploring and expanding. Thanks for laying out your thought process for the up coming changes. Revamping the voucher change shows you guys do listen. I’m hoping for more classic Rucks, plain old Arrow heads.

  20. Aaron Swerdlow says:

    This is amazing and very admirable! I remember working together in a b-school class while I was in law school. You were just beginning this journey. Best of luck on future chapters and challenges!

  21. Bob Bates says:

    Hey Jason, Thanks for all the great information. Very impressive and inspiring. Was good to meet you, albeit briefly, at the SF Star Course event this weekend. Getting attacked by mosquitos in the middle of our discussion was not helpful. My first Go-Ruck with my friends and we had a great time and survived the 26 miler. I think we got the award for the oldest team and we definitely did not come in last – so f those youngsters. Hopefully we’ve got another one or more in us. Keep it going.

  22. Jason – always love these, and this year’s takes the cake.

    Thanks for all the insights and words of wisdom you provide in the transparency in all the decision making. Keep up the good work and we’ll keep rucking.

  23. Ray Patch says:

    Jason,

    It’s hard to know who’s legit, who’s honest, who’s real. I don’t know you, but I believe that you are those things. I believe that you genuinely care for and love America. You raised your right hand for her, which is more than most can say, myself included. Using foreign manufacturing for the bulk of ruck production is tough, but I get it. I would love for everything I bought to be made here but it’s just not possible. If another company told me they were moving their manufacturing overseas and claimed they would maintain the same quality and it was all so that I, the consumer, could purchase the goods at a lower price, I would probably raise an eyebrow and say “yeah, I bet it is.” But from you, I believe that is exactly your goal, and I appreciate it. I will personally vouch for the durability of MACV-1. I work for a subcontractor for FPL, and I pound pavement (and grass) every day in my MACV-1’s, surveying power poles, and I love these boots. If that’s the kind of quality we can expect out of Saigon, then I think we will all be pleasantly surprised. Also I am so looking forward to the low tops. I will be all over that. Additionally, what do you think about some merino wool socks for all three heights of MACV-1? MACV-SOC anyone? See what I did there ;-). I love GORUCK’s values and goals, and I think you are a genuine and awesome person/American, Jason. I will continue to wear my boots and my ruck with pride. Thank you GORUCK

  24. Rudy says:

    Hi Jason, I searched for ‘Made in USA’ products several years ago and that was how I came across Goruck. Great company and I truly enjoy the products. It came as a disappointment to me when I read about moving a large portion of production out of the USA. I’ll probably just buy more selective since I plan on continuing to buy only ‘Made in USA’ products whenever possible. It sounds like you will continue to make the Bullet ruck in the USA, is that correct? Thank you, Rudy

  25. Audrey says:

    I am excited to see Goruck moving forward internationally. I enjoy reading the whys and reasons. Sprint series sounds super fun! Larger class sized Heavies is a great idea. I need a Rucker for training.

  26. Andy Smothers says:

    I have a lot of concerns, but greatly appreciate the transparency and business acumen that Jason and the HQ team brings to the table. Revenue is up but unit count, inventory SKUs and fixed price modeling can affect net profitability greatly. Looks like that is why the plan is to relocate manufacturing on some costly items (potentially with much lower margins) and drop the cost of landed goods. Let’s hope the quality stays true to mission. Would like to see a breakdown of CAR modeling along with ROI and profitability on the events side of the house. That is where things can go awry for other “event companies”. The real saving grace of GR versus Spartan, Savage and other OCR events (cue up the failed ones) is obviously the tremendously limited expense of event construction, personnel overhead, travel/shipping, site location and risk liabilities. Not to mention how most of those organizations don’t facilitate nor have such strong integration points with their events. So much cheaper to send a Cadre or two and a box of patches and have the GRTs provide everything else for events. Wonder what the revenue and breakeven point is for each event (operational expense and OH have to be quite low) and how that factors into cancellations with proper fiduciary justification. (And who makes this determination that a less than 1/2 full flight isn’t worth flying) The idea to separate events from gear on websites makes total sense and something that may drastically increase both verticals by providing some much needed delineation. I have plenty more questions and ideas mainly because this is part of what I do for a living for much larger companies than GR, but no reason to share unless requested. All in all, it is a good business run by inspirational, intelligent and damn fine Americans…..just looking to share some good livin. Proud of Jason, Emily and the entire GR family… Thanks for all you do every single day to represent the brand, the purpose and the mission of what Goruck truly is.

    .

  27. Bradley Beck says:

    Thanks for the update! It’s great to hear what is going on and the thought process behind decisions–I don’t think you’ll ever see this kind of transparency with any other company. I’m fine with the overseas production as long as the quality remains the same–it’s the sole reason why I have the rucks. I don’t want to have to buy new ones every couple of years so I’m willing to pay for the quality. A question on future Workshop rucks…any chance we can get an option for the Kryptek patterns? Please?

  28. Michael says:

    GORUCK Team/Family,

    What an absolute honor to have been a part of this family during its grass roots phase of development (2011-2015). As always, the level of leadership, inspiration, and sincerity that emulates from the entire community is surreal. I have continued to watch GORUCK from a distance over the past four years and while it has certainly changed, it still has a gravity about it that I do not wish to escape.

    Every year I read the State of GORUCK report that Jason so thoughtfully and generously puts forth to the community as part of my view from the cheap seats. I look at photos of events. I still speak with some of the OG GORUCK members and Cadre about the wily and organic good ‘ol days. I still have a tub somewhere of my event patches, gear, and articles and I use my GORUCK gear every single day in a variety of applications. This year’s evolution of GORUCK and Jason’s State of GORUCK is the going to be the catalyst for me to call up some OG GORUCK members and see about dipping both feet in the water, with purpose, most likely in the form of hydro-burpees or bottom samples at a future GORUCK event.

    Thank you Jason and team at GR HQ for remaining ever consistent and committed to the core tenets that GORUCK was built upon. Like a lighthouse, it has been a constant point of reference for so many Americans and like minded people who each may have their own reasons, but are all looking for something bigger than themselves to be a part of.

    P.S. What is the sitrep on the Coyote 8-in boots (pre-ordered, but haven’t heard anything) and the simple pants in common sizes?

  29. Todd says:

    Can you please do a product breakdown of what items are shifting to overseas production? I’m specifically wondering about the GR3, the KR1, and the bullet. Thanks!

  30. Joe Merritt says:

    Jason,

    First let me say thank you for the transparency, and willingness to share. That is one thing that truly sets the GORUCK brand apart. I’ve never seen a CEO go so deep and so raw with their own thoughts as well as to share future plans.

    GORUCK for me was and always will be my personal connection with the military life that I miss so much. Meeting cadre and getting to know them has been inspiring and for me emotional. Looking forward I can see GORUCK exploding and becoming more mainstream and as you said, annual events in the same places. As long as my body let’s me I will be around 0ushing through the miles, the challenges, and loving being in this community. GORUCK challenge pants and shorts have essentially replaced all of my clothes. I can ruck in them, train in them, go out w my family, and even hunt w them. They are hands down my favorites and most comfortable pants/shorts that I’ve ever worn. The choice of the challenge line for me was the bigger seat and thighs, but more importantly the pockets. I drop my phone in and off I go. The Hulk line could use some cargos also.

    On a more personal note in the last year I have been more active than I can remember, I’ve lost 30 lbs, and at 48 I am more healthy over all than ih could have ever hoped to achieve slinging weights in the gym. Used to I would do 300 reps on the bench and then a hundred reps w dumbells. Those days are over. GORUCK has made me focus more on mobility and being healthier over all. And not just in body but also in mind.

    Your vision for the direction of this community is amazing, and one day I hope to shake your hand, give you a bro hug and ruck w you in God’s country because that’s just the fair thing. I can tell you that I was a little ass hurt w the policy change for vouchers, but I held out hope, and it paid off. I was disappointed but still loyal to the brand and community. After the events of this past week, my loyalty and respect for this company and community has only gotten stronger.

    Take care fellow warrior and thank you for all you do as well as the whole GORUCK staff. I cant imagine life without GORUCK in it. Its not just a brand anymore, it’s a lifestyle.

    Semper Fi,

    Joe Merritt

    • jason says:

      Semper Fi, Joe. VERY happy to read about all your health gains and becoming more active. That is hugely motivating for me personally and for all of us here at GORUCK. Keep up the great work!

  31. James W says:

    I look forward to this update every year. Obviously disappointed to see manufacturing moving overseas but totally understand the need. I’m one of the guys who’s been on the bench, use the gear for travel but not events. I agree, the star course, and I’ll add the constellation, events are the easiest entry and something I’ve been eyeing to do in the coming year. Thanks for your transparency and heart, it’s those things that brought me to this brand and will keep me here.

  32. Shawn O'Donnell says:

    Hello Jason, yes like another poster I have been here since the early days ( Tough 215), yes I am a dire hard fan and supporter( I have about 12 different SKUs) yes a veteran and yes I am disappointed, but the way you explained it, I get it. I think after reading this update and I have read most of them, i finally got it, what it is that really brings me to GORUCK, made in the USA was a big part of that, as is Scars. But what really does it is the relationship, you and I and this company have a relationship, can Nike or North Face say that? I thought, well he owes us this explanataion, because we the loyal customer really did build this company. As obtuse as that sounds I mean that in a positive and frankly the CEO of Under Armour is not going to give me an explanation for anything thus, I buy GORUCK and really no one else’s apparel. The Company GORUCK most reminds me of is Patagonia, the other gold standard and I don’t say that lightly. I think one positive that you did not mention is this move will reduce the eco-foot print of production. Not sure if that is intentional or not, but politics and debate aside, carbon is bad, so good on you. Ok, question and I think I know the answer, 2011, a 2000 % increase? How? P.S. PLEEEEEASE make zip off pants, I ask every year and I will BUY THEM!

    • jason says:

      Thanks, I love Patagonia’s brand as well, most of all because they stand for something they believe in (and yeah, we don’t get into the environmentalism all that much, but I believe that buying fewer better things is a great way to support our way of life and be better for the planet, too). I’m glad to see more people go that route.

  33. Nima N. says:

    “American manufacturing remains our reality, so does overseas manufacturing”…as someone that works for a large industrial company that manufactures in the USA and overseas, this is so important for people to understand. In a perfect world every US company would manufacture only in the USA, however in a competitive global economy this just is not the reality. It would have been so easy for you to just use the typical corporate jargon to convince us on all the “synergies” and “leveraging the supply chain footprint ecosystem abroad”, but you make it clear that it was not an easy decision but ultimately the right decision for your company at this time. I can appreciate you being so honest and showing empathy towards what your customers might say.
    I truly believe as long as you stay true to the values that really drive your brand, customers will continue to support you through price increases & manufacturing decisions. Posts like this and your connection to your community will are more meaningful than any corporate style marketing campaign. Its amazing to see the organic growth of the community and this company. The transparency and candor required to discuss making tough decisions like the ones you mentioned are another reason I will continue to support this company. Looking forward to the next update and to another amazing year!

  34. f3swabbie says:

    Thanks for the insight, good idea on dividing the website, it was confusing to me when I started and appreciate the result. Overall, as long as challeges are a thing and the gear is good, I’m in. As a side note, more feedback on pre-orders would be appreciated, perhaps a cleaner interface with expected arrival dates in my ‘account menu’ on your site?

  35. John Wannen says:

    I think this is harder on you than on any of us. Appreciate the transparency and values as always. American manufacturing is great, but it’s not the only thing. Keep going, keep working hard, keep doing right by as many people as you can (including those new skilled laborers you have offshore) and I’ll keep clicking on your site, doing the events and adding to my collection of GoRuck gear.

  36. Brian says:

    An American company, leveraging the very best the world has to offer, to give the best products to Americans, at a price more Americans can afford. What’s not to like?

    I travel a lot, specifically in the context of overseas missions as a medic on disaster teams and medical outreach teams. I use GR gear on every single one (GR2, Bullet Ruck, Field Pockets, etc). Here’s what I’d love to see:

    1) GR2 (best medic bag ever, and I’ve tried most) and Kit Bag (roll bags suck) with no MOLLE or velcro. All the toughness with a double dose of discrete. Even a GR2 Rucker version without the extra expense of a laptop compartment would be killer.

    2) Simple Pants with a hidden zipper passport pocket. Emphasis on the simple.

    3) MACV1 lows (on the way I know). Again, simple, tough and discrete.

    4) T-Shirts made with the same material and sizing as polos.

    5) Field pockets with no MOLLE. Added, unnecessary weight/cost when they get thrown in a Ruck or Pelican case as a Dopp kit / med diagnostic tools / electronics pouch. Keep the Velcro, helps with organizing.

    Build any of these and I’ll PAY to put em to the test.

  37. Daniel Smethurst says:

    my wife both been through business school and after all of it, were disgusted with the ‘realities’ of how a successful business operates. You have somehow found a way to be ethical, moral, and financially sustainable. you are changing the rules and you really should reach out to educators to show them how to instruct new students on the RIGHT way of doing things and how it looks. You’re an inspiration to me sir. Thank you.

    • jason says:

      Thanks, Daniel. I, too, learned the rules first so I could know how to break them. 🙂 I think that more and more, over time business leaders holding their cards close to their chests will not serve them well.

  38. Mike Harbison says:

    Jason,

    Thanks for the updates and I appreciate your honesty.

    So, if I get what your saying it can’t be done in the US? That’s kind of hard to accept, but I suppose I get it.

    About the events. I might be salty on this, but I remember when Goruck was just Goruck-Challenge (no Tough, Light etc.). I have done my fair share of challenges starting in 08. I have also done some of the newer events and while I enjoy them they don’t compare to the old Goruck challenges. Just something missing.

    I wish you much success and I have plenty of GoRuck gear!

    • jason says:

      Thanks, Mike. Manufacturing can be done in the USA, but there are very distinct trade-offs. Everyone wants made in USA but ultimately not enough people want to (1) understand what that actually means in terms of cost and process and (2) 99% of the universe complains about the prices associated with Made in USA. I’m cool to take the complaints, but at some cost it sort of feels very elitist to me, which with our working class roots is not the goal.

  39. Ryan says:

    Goruck is a great company BUT buying products which support jobs in the US is just as important to me. I’ll continue to support and buy from Goruck but only the products with the label “Made in USA”.

    Goruck is awesome – please continue to try and make as much products in the US.

  40. Mike says:

    Please specify which products are actually 100% made in the USA. Even the t-shirts now say “printed in the USA.” I am not smart enough to really know what that means. Do we really need to get everything we order online in less than a week; in any color we like?? I remember back in the days of “building better Americans….” This all comes down to your goals for the business; which I trust you when you say Quality, but Quantity is a very close 2nd in this model that may eventually outpace. Simplicity will be key here for me going forward; like back when a Goruck Challenge could qualify as a Heavy just because it needed to be longer. Gear was the best, very simple, guaranteed, American, and if it was out of stock- you wait until it’s back in. I appreciate the honesty and great service.

    • jason says:

      Thanks Mike. The hardest thing to do is to simplify your life. And that simplicity comes in waves (mostly because it has to if you’re really pressing forward at full steam).

    • jason says:

      That means that after American Apparel became ~the least reliable t-shirt company on the planet, we shifted to Next Level Triblend T’s, which are made in Central America. They’re shipped to us and screen printed in the States. We’ll identify (already have) the products that are sewn and built in the States, on the site. And for the record, with a smile on my face I’ll tell you that we are still very much pursuing the mission of Building Better Americans. 🙂 Thanks, Mike!

    • jason says:

      Depends on what you want to do. GR1 is great for EDC (Every Day Carry) and very minimalist travel. GR2 is great for traveling the world with one ruck.

    • jason says:

      The price points are significantly higher than the stuff you’ll find in AAFES. Sort of the same reason we don’t sell in Walmart 🙂 But more seriously, selling through 3rd party shops requires an infrastructure we don’t have. We’re not opposed to pursuing options in time, but not right now. We don’t have the bandwidth/focus to manage that process.

  41. Ryan,
    Thank you for being so transparent about the state of your company, the decisions, the nuts and bolts, and the business. As a product manager at a similarly quirky company called Red Hat, which sells free, community based software (and recently sold for $34B to IBM), I “get it” and appreciate it.

    I was also in Normandy the week before the 75th anniversary, riding a motorcycle around from beach to beach and met a lot of amazing veterans. I had a similar reaction to you, and it’s hard for me to explain how much I felt walking those beaching, and imagining 16, 17, and 18 year Americans storming up them. Words cannot do justice in explaining the gravitas of emotion I have connected to that.

    I only recently, like last two weeks, got deep into understanding GoRuck is. I signed up for the Tough Challenge in Cleveland, and have started tailoring my training for it. I had a friend mention it several years ago, and I just didn’t quite understand what it was. Heck, even now after TONS of reading, I am just starting to get it. In fact, it has renewed a patriotism in me that I haven’t had since I was 14 and with all of my heart thought I was going to be a Navy SEAL. It’s a pure feeling, not some feeling of being better than anyone, just believing in what you believe in. I love that about the GoRuck brand.

    One thing, as a Product Manager who deeply pays attention to things like customer acquisition and retention. Do not underestimate how loyal your customer base likely is. I suspect, if you could measure you business in “renewals” the renewal rate would be off the charts. Don’t underestimate that. It might take a long, expensive route to acquire customers, but that leads to slow, stead growth forever. The company I work for Red Hat, has grown around 15% for 60+ quarters. I think this is the kind of growth you can achieve with the brand you are building.

    Well, I am getting too deep, but I love what you are doing. Keep it up. You have a new, loyal customer. And, we probably share some herritage somewhere back in County Cork.

    Best Regards
    Scott McCarty

  42. Ethan says:

    Using a Goruck rucksac ‘Made in Saigon’ will be like driving a Lincoln ‘Made in China’. There is something about it which does not feel right.

    I’ll stick to buying ONLY US made goods – I’ll rather pay $395 for a GR1 Made in USA than paying $295 for a GR1 Made in Saigon.

    *** Here’s the thing which are very important to me… buying US made products helps making US better and stronger. I know that every time I purchase a US made product I’ll be giving somebody in the US an opportunity to get up in the morning and go to a job and help somebody here to have a good life ***

  43. Daniel says:

    This news is a very mixed bag for me (pun intended)…
    as a long time gorruck bag owner (I have and had several) I have ^rather mixed feelings about this.
    let me elaborate a bit. I maybe need to add this: I am not american, I’ve never lived in the USA…
    When I bought my first GR1 (21ltr) years ago I already was like, wow, this thing is expensive. I’m no stranger to quality gear and I know that quality has it’s price. Even at its original price back then it was the most expensive backpack I’ve ever bought.
    But I admired the fact that unlike many it was a bag built in a western country and came with an extensive warranty. I run my own business and I of course understood that making something like this at a high quality, in the west, without outsoucing it to – even a high end – manufacturing facility in Asia does of course call for a much higher price. The made in the USA – despite myself not being from that country – made the ORIGINAL price point reasonable, sort of. I still have my original GR1 – and it has been to many places and still looks and works great… it has been complemented by it’s bigger brother (26ltr) which is now my main travel bag… again I bought the GR1 26 Ltr. just briefly before they ramped up the price to 395.00
    (I also had a GR2 – which proved to be too big for my needs so I sold it on)….
    After goruck increased the prices to a whopping almost 400$ for the same GR1 that I already thought was on the upper end of the price range I’d be willing to pay for a backpack – I knew I wouldn’t sensibly be buying another Goruck bag – or frankly even further recommend it to any of my friends or colleagues or generally to anyone who asked about it.
    I had read Jason’s explanation on WHY Goruck needed to do the price increase, and yes, economically I understood it – I just felt, that suddenly the bag which I already thought to be at a rather high price (and frankly many of my friends thought 295$ is absolutely crazy for a backpack) was featuring a VERY elitist and extraorbitant price tag. I could no longer realistically justify it’s price tag… I admired that the bag would still be made in the USA – but frankly from a business point of view, I couldn’t helpt but wonder if the price increase could have been significantly lower and maybe accompanied by strategic manufacturing changes that didn’t involve outsourcing. But hey, it’s not my business .

    Then the latest anouncement – and I have to admit, I like the candour, I like the openness of it – leaves a sort of weird taste with me.

    The Rucksacks are now predominantely being made in Saigon….
    And before anyone jumps to conclusions, I’ve spent a LOT of time all over SE-Asia, and hope to spend more time ;)… I have absolutely NOTHING against anyone manufacturing overseas as long as it’s done under good conditions (unlike bad sweatshop work for some major sports braynds profit hungry managers…). Again zero gripe with this as a business consideration as long as quality isn’t sacrificed and labour is well paid.
    But here’s the thing…. it’s nice that goruck decided to drop the prices. But back to the same price they asked for a made in the US bag?
    to me this is literally worse than asking 395.00 for the very same bag..

    There’s a few really top quality bag makers out there who either manufature in Asia or are actualy located in for example Malaysia…
    Using top grade certified materials, etc… delivering sometimes even customisable products…
    At well, lets face it – prices often far lower than what Goruck is now charging for a Saigon-Made GR1.
    and this is where I have to ask myself why pay so much. The very – bona fide – reason for a GR1 to cost as much as it does has now been completely erradicated from logic reasoning. at least from my point of view.

    and even made in the US bags… you can find a number of made in the US bags, that feature high end materials, good designs… etc.. at the same price point (or even less) than the GR1 Saigon now sells for.

    I mean on the upside the “value” of my GR1 21 / 26 has increased… but it’s not like I’m about to sell them.
    I find it just slightly sad, and sort of annoying that a company I used to highly recommend first increased prices beyond what’s “reasonable” then lowers the prices by outsourcing to a SE-Asia country to a point where the “new” price is comparatively a lot more expensive than the increased price before.

    Or to bring an analogy up here…

    it’s like you used to buy your vegetables from a local family run organic farm… at prices well above what your “usual non organic mass produced” Vegetables in your average store would cost…
    You justified the extra cost easily by saying you support a good local business, you get a much better quality…
    You tell your friends and family to support them, to buy theere…
    then the same farm tells you they need to raise prices to be more profitable, as cost of production has steadily increased…
    the purchase now is over your budget but you say, ok… I understand.
    You might still be able to afford it sort of, but you know a lot of your friends or family might no longer sanely do so… so you sort of start to look for alternatives.
    then the same farm drops prices back to the original pricing, but tells you that they’re now no longer delivering organic vegetables from their own farm but have outsourced production to a much cheaper country… at that point I definitely look elsewhere, as just about every reason for paying premium and supporting a local business have been taken out of the equation.

    I feel like this is what happens with the GR-Packs to some degree…. and this after years of Goruck proclaiming how important it is to be “made in the USA”. again, I can understand the move financially… I really do. I just think lowering the prices back to the original pricing isn’t justified anymore if the product is now made in a factory in SE-Asia, just like good packs from other brands, top quality but lower priced.
    it sort of lost the one thing that actually made it “competitive”.

    • jason says:

      As I mentioned, I had mixed feelings as well. A few direct points re: price, which is always an emotional subject. (1) Costs in Vietnam have recently increased significantly as major brands are flooding the market as they leave China. This was a scalability of quality play, not simply a desire to reduce costs. However, the cost reduction is good for any business, assuming quality remains the same. (2) $295 built in the USA GR1’s as the flagship were not sustainable on a margin basis and had to go up to $395. (3) Built in Saigon GR1’s at $295 — the margins probably aren’t what you think, and if I were new to manufacturing, I would be shocked that it costs as much as it does, and I mean direct costs, to build them. That doesn’t count overhead/quality control costs etc. Our margins are better now than they were when we first announced GR1 at $295, but not by that much. That said, it’s enough for us to not have to mess with the price for a while, we hope. And that was the goal, so we chose not to go do $285 or $275, but just to leave it at $295. Some or most of the other rucks saw a greater price reduction (Rucker, GR2, GR3 will as well), and also don’t have quite as much visibility as GR1. But we’d like to leave them at their existing prices, too. Thanks for the note.

      • Daniel says:

        Jason,
        Thanks for the reply – this is indeed appreciated.

        this might be odd – I don’t know – I do indeed understand your reasoning, and frankly You & GoRuck have always been one of the more open companies about prices and how things get done behind the scenes, so I don’t have reason to doubt what you’re saying.
        I hope this doesn’t come over as that.

        It is probably more of an “emotional” than a “pragmatic” notion about the price.
        having bought my GR0 at a time when it was made in the USA and had that same price tag on … then seeing the price hike made me sort of “cringe” in the first place, because if I’m honest the bag’s new pricing has sort of crossed a certain threshold for myself and even more so for a number of mates I had initially highly recommended the bags to.
        bordering on the 400$ mark and addind a not insignificant shipping cost (Ok, really not GORUCK’s “problem”, but still) – meant the bags were, once import taxes were applied solidly above 450$… so half a Grand for a backpack.
        But I understood exactly why you had to do it – it still though was too much for my taste, but again, I understood the reasons from a business perspective 100%…. I’m no stranger to high quality goods and they have a price – but looking around and looking at the “competition” is where I thought, ok, at that price point, there’s a different “game”, and one I wasn’t too keen to play.

        Then the price drop with the saigon manufakturing… There’s just something that feels, emotionally, “off” with it.
        going back to the original price was good news, but again at what cost was a bit of a question.
        and at that point I have to wonder how other USA bag manufacturers pull it off, to stay profitable, manufacturing in the USA, at the same price range as the Saigon made GR-packs.
        take Tom Bihn, The Brown Buffalo, ILE, Kifaru (ok, they’ve got some super expensive packs… but usually a far more elaborate frame and such), North St. … all examples of quality craftsmanship, made in the USA… prices within the original GR-Range…
        and this is what I find a bit “off-putting” essentially, that it doesn’t seem impossible, improbable to offer a great bag, with amazing features and top-shelve craftsmanship & materials, at the “original” price range (about three or less benjamins.)…
        So naturally, I have to assume, that no matter how high end you get with QC etc… a production in Saigon, even with – as you mention increased cost over the years – should by some logic be cheaper than made in the USA (or western EU, or Australia or Canada etc…).
        As cost of production is usually what’s appealing about going SE-Asia.

        I’d be “Oh, OK, Cool” – if there would be no great examples of “made in the USA” bags at similar price points – and I know that the GR1-2etc. are deceivingly compelx bags to make with the tiny little details.
        I also know how good they are… that’s not the question.

        again though, thanks for elaborating… and I hope business goes well.

        • jason says:

          I completely get it, pricing is an emotional response. Like Uma in Pulp Fiction, it’s not something you can promise to not get offended by. American manufacturing is possible here, in America. I know those brands you mention, but I have no idea anything about their businesses. Is it a lifestyle business, do they want to scale, do they try to scale? If you deal with fixed supply (or ~fixed labor output) and you charge a certain amount, you can dial your business in pretty well. We’ve never taken that approach. Not to say this brand or that has, I’m just saying there are all sorts of trade-offs to consider that make it very complex to explain with an apples to apples comparison.

          • Daniel says:

            Jason, thanks for the Pulp Fiction reference 😉 I honestly don’t know how many times I’ve seen that movie 😉

            The fact alone, that you actually choose to reply and interact here says a lot about the company you’ve founded. (in a good sense, that is).

            The companies I’ve mentioned, well frankly I haven’t been inside their compounds or seen how they work, maybe with the exception of Tom Bihn… what I think enables them to keep manufacturing in the USA, is that they do have their own production facilities, from cutting, die cutting, sewing, etc…
            I think this is something that GoRuck sort of have “missed” – by outsouring (to the US or anywhere else) you loose some amount of operational freedom, as of course there’s now another “link in the process chain”…
            having your own factory makes up a very high initial investment, and well yes, this can break the back of a startup quicker than anything else… but in the long run it’s probably the only “realistic” way of keeping the manufacturing of such items in the US and keep quality up, and prices sort of stable (with a bit of normal increase over the years)…
            but I get that setting this up is immensly complex and rather expensive with only a marginal room for error.
            Outsourcing has its merits, it can add some degree of flexibility, but it can be difficult to “control” over time.

            I might add this: I don’t doubt for a minute, that GORUCK is willing to sacrifice the quality of their bags.
            my GR1 for example has even survived a semi-nasty motorcycle accident (and the macbook in the compartment didn’t even suffer damage… ), it has been rained on for hours, dragged up and down mountains and, well it still looks pristine… I could sell it – it still looks like new (not that I’m planning on selling it).
            I think this sums it up, say the cost of ownership on a 295$ bag has been lower over the years – because the thing is built like a tank.
            295$ seemed a bit much, it’s proven to be worth it… I guess the “new made in saigon” bags will need to proof that they’re worth that price tag too over time.

            Well what can I say, it’s been a pleasure chatting with you and I hope your business prospers! and give some treats to monster.

  44. Jeremy Allyn says:

    As a supporter of what this company had been doing and own a lot of gear I just want to say that although I see all these points, it is disappointing to hear. I think saving your money and getting the highest quality and elite gear is a symbol of pride and hard work. Being elitist only comes about in my mind by how a company carries itself or the message it sends. Made in America means something very special, to me anyway and that’s what initially brought me to Goruck. I seek out as much as I can to find Made in America and have zero issues spending the money for it. It is something that will last forever and ever, it becomes a part of your life. When I was a young kid and had no money, I mean no money, I saved every penny to buy a pair of Doc Martens. When I got them it meant something special, I earned it!! I still have them over 27 years later! That’s what it’s about to me. Nothing great comes without sacrifice and nothing of real value comes without hard work. To me that’s what Goruck said, values and hard work. Dedication to something greater than ourselves more than quicker affordability. I truly understand how you are trying to reach more people and the difficulties in that, however, when you raised the prices and kept it in America I was truly even more honored to own and buy even more when I could. We need less instant gratification in this country and more thoughtful, meaningful acts. Just my thoughts and I will still support the American Made items.

    Thank you for your time and openness

    Jeremy

    • jason says:

      Thanks Jeremy. I completely understand your perspective. And I wish I had had some Doc Martens, I used all my cash up on Air Jordans which didn’t last as long as I’d like, but I did get some great use out of them.

  45. Matt says:

    Looks like you are doing well and quite profitable. Responsible growth that everyone talks about is a balance. Moving any manufacturing overseas is a sign of greed and weakness. $395 is expensive but we were paying for USA labor and supporting you. $295 is a rip off for a Chinese made product.

    Good luck with your business, my friends and family will not be buying any more of your products.

    • jason says:

      Not sure how you define quite profitable, but we are doing OK and still in business a decade later and enjoying what we do. Most importantly, we’re enjoying what we do, so thanks. Quick note that Saigon is not China, it’s Vietnam. Your computer or your iPhone is what came from China.

  46. Former Customer says:

    Here’s the post summarized:

    Our grandparents fought against overwhelming odds with incredible courage so that one day I would have the opportunity to send their children’s jobs to another country with a trash currency that results in average wages of $148 USD a month and then sell them backpacks at $295.

    [youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T-j5XWo1fPI&w=560&h=315%5D

    We could probably argue all day about the market demand for a backpack made in Vietnam that still manages to cost $295, but that’s not really the point. Your company constantly uses (some might say “exploits”) emotional appeals to patriotism to sell its products, and yet you just decided to move the bulk of production of your flagship product to Vietnam. That’s a heck of a way to treat your countrymen, sir.

    And one other thing: get over yourself. Your customers create jobs. You just respond to demand.

  47. What a wonderful, detailed post, honest and you can hear the heart wrenching thought process that led up to this. I’m not going to second guess you from my armchair. I try to buy American as much as possible. I am frequently in an outfit that is mostly American made–Redwing boots, Gustin jeans, Goruck or an American made computer bag, and sometimes a Tuckerman dress shirt. But there are always compromises and more often, my shirt is Hong Kong or Vietnam, I’m running in Vietnam Nikes, my Apple products are from China and my watch is made in Japan. Although I try to buy local, I believe in globalism, not nationalism. It’s an imperfect world and we have to all chart the best path. As long as a brand does it with integrity and grit, I’ll buy in–and Goruck embodies that spirit. To me, that is the best of America, and if you can carry that spirit forward out into the world do it. Just make sure you do right by your new people overseas.

    I once heard a talk by an entrepreneur who has perhaps 1000 employees in the U.S. making stuff (electronics), but more than that number overseas. He was asked what his greatest challenge is. He said it was to engage his Chinese employees in the spirit and culture of the company and make them part of the family, not just hired labor. I hope you can see this move as exporting values, not outsourcing manufacturing.

    • jason says:

      Really interesting perspective, thanks for sharing. It’s a really complex world of manufacturing out there, it’s basically impossible to be a purist about American manufacturing across the board. My take is that in time, the robots will build everything close to home, we’re just not there yet, and the challenges will be much different when we are.

  48. Stuart Davidson says:

    Thanks, Jason. Too many thoughts on this to say here, so…my Bullet 15L arrives in a few days (can’t wait) and I’m already looking into a challenge this fall. Stay the course; you’re doing it the right way. Bravo.

  49. Ed Kosenick. says:

    Damn! And I was just going to buy a Kit Bag. But I can’t and won’t support the decision to move most manufacturing offshore. Guess I’ll have to get something from Tom Bihn. They still make make things here.

    Too bad. I do love my Rucker and ruck plates. And I’ll miss Goruck. But you gotta’ do what you gotta’ do, and so do I. See ya!

    • jason says:

      To be clear, we still make tons of stuff here. (Next year we’ll build more in the USA than we did in our first five years — combined). All that said, you can do a lot worse than Tom Bihn from everything I’ve heard — I’m sure you’ll be in good hands. Hope to see ya around.

        • jason says:

          You’ll go through 100 or more North Face backpacks, all of which will end up in a landfill, before anything happens to your GR1. If you want the USA version, get the USA version — I don’t think North Face will make you such an offer, or offer a Lifetime Guarantee.

    • Michele Knight says:

      Please don’t move to Vietnam! It is going under water! Within two years or sooner, Nibiru/Planet X will be causing a catastrophic Pole Shift! During the Pole Shift, Vietnam will be going under the water!
      And within two years after the Pole Shift, the ice at the Poles will have already melted, making the water rise another 675 feet. Vietnam will then be totally submerged under the water and will stay there until the next Pole Shift in 3600 years!
      To research a safe/safer place to be – before, during and after the Pole Shift –
      Google:
      ZetaTalk and Safe Locations
      Then click on:
      Safe Locations and ZetaTalk

      Please take heed of this warning!
      Thank you!

    • Cory Williams says:

      You are a stand up guy Jason, for writing this piece. Like many I appreciate “badass American construction” and am willing to pay for it. But I also realize that most of the reason I am paying extra for a USA made product is not for higher quality (where production standards can be replicated in other nations) it is due to the US being a higher tax, higher overhead, more regulated, higher minimum wage country. None of those alone or together, positively impact quality. They just raise costs.
      You are right that no American dreams of being a seamstress. Nor should we. We specialize as a nation in other pursuits (among them, entrepreneurship, intellectual capital, and war making, being a few). As a nation we cannot be all things. Specialization is healthy. Competitive advantage based on comparative advantage is smart. Should Jamaica really strive to have the best bobsled team? Should Arizona perfect the art of Igloo making? Its not necessary or efficient to try to be the best at everything. Shorter guys will have an easier time squat more weight and taller swimmers with longer arms will have an easier time swimming faster.
      I consider myself quite privileged to be able to buy a $395 ruck and nearly everything GoRuck makes, but even I, like many I suppose, wait for your big sales and Christmas in July because every dollar does count.
      You are right lowering your price will help your reach. You are right that you can manufacture the same or higher quality for less overseas. The whole time I was reading your statement I was bracing for the news if you were going to keep or remove the Scars lifetime guarantee. For me, more than any other aspect of the GoRuck brand, the Scars warrantee shows you stand behind what you make. By having the Scars warranty, If you make crap, people will call you on it. So you are highly motivated and economically motivated not to make crap. As long as you keep Scars, I will keep buying from you because that program very simply proves to me that you back what you make.
      The US doesnt specialize in growing mangos. We dont specialize in making wooden furniture. We dont specialize in having the best and most economical telephone call centers. And thats fine. We are a stronger country because of it.
      Keep up the good work. Keep focusing on quality above all else. And please keep your Scars Lifetime Warranty because that alone saves me from having to worry about where you manufacture your product.

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thought process with us. It shows you are a stand up guy and GoRuck is a stand up company.

  50. Vince McIsaac says:

    Sorry if this has already been asked – I did not sift through all the comments. Your company is awesome – congrats. I have started up businesses myself, and I know the grind. SF life is a grind, but as you know, business startup is a grind in itself – just a different one. 2% of startups succeed, so congrats. I’m at about that number on my trials.

    With that said, i appreciate your uniqueness and business model, so I am not comparing you to anyone or saying ‘be like them.’ I am merely asking: do you have any plans to make rucks or products out of recycled plastics? You mentioned future rucks, colors, fabrics and materials. I was not sure if you had those plans. Again, I’m not comparing you to anyone or saying ‘be like the,’ I’m just asking. As a culture and business market, more and more people are loving (hence a demand) brands that are made of recycled materials from all the selfish assholes that must use plastic 24-7 and cannot have the discipline to get reusable drink containers.

    I was not sure if you guys were going to get into that market. Like dogs, kids, and other very specific markets of things, us tree-huggers will buy almost anything just because it took some plastic out of the oceans. We have proven it by buying some very stupid crap – let alone something of high quality and value like your products.

    Well done and congrats on the company. I love seeing small businesses thrive and turn from startup into yours which is becoming an empire. I’ll spend my hard-earned dollars on these companies all day. Sorry this was so long. I have a lot of positive things to say about startups that make it big.

    • jason says:

      Vince – we’d love to do whatever we can that’s the most environmentally friendly possible, with one condition. We have to use the toughest materials possible. It doesn’t do the environment any good to build great stuff that then fails due to reduced toughness. We’re happy to look at new fabrics, and very happy to use the most eco-friendly versions out there — I am confident the industry will figure out how to deliver even greater value on this (fabrics wise) as more people like you demand it. Keep up the passion.

  51. TD says:

    I would still not be able to afford any of Your packs even being made over seas. I mean even at $297 over seas price it’s still way to much for me. I mean if You really want the regular person to. Be able to have these packs as well. There going to have to go down much less then even $297. I really think these packs are very nice. I am just saying what You said you really wanted to get the regular working person. To be able to afford these. I really do not know what to tell You. I mean there is going to be a time were the price is just going to be to much on anything great made. For any comen person to afford. The USA is not run by the Government anymore it’s run by the richest 1%. They have bought our government. I mean look at how they got rid of Net Neutrality Law. The FCC Pie lyed though his teeth and then they fluded there servers with millions of fake Anti-Net Neutrality emails. Then then our so called Cout system Let the FCCs Net Neutrality stand. When it’s all basted on fakery and lyes. I am really not going to get into our for profit Healthcare system.

  52. Jay Shi says:

    If GoRuck wants to beat 5.11 and the likes then he has no choice but to sacrifice a little fan base in exchange for growth, seeing their growth i’m sure GoRuck understand it will justify the risk and cost to setup a production in Vietnam. A business might start small with a niche or a base but, once it gain momentum and becomes big it will often have to abandon what got them there. It’s no longer about the founder anymore, profit, employee, investors … are all on the line. As China’s wage and cost keeps climbing, combining with current political issues it can only be a backup choice. The irony of Vietnam and the advantages over China makes it a top choice.

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