Radio Ruck Explained

I’ve thrown a significant amount of abuse at my Radio Ruck. This is an explanation of what I’ve learned in that process and the back story on its design and construction.

We stick to military-grade materials in our gear: 1000D Cordura, silent parachute 550 cord zipper pulls, made in USA YKK zippers, and a 2″x3″ Velcro for you to affix the patch of your choice. All are in line with the best of the assault packs I used in Special Forces. Better materials always cost more, and tougher materials (such as ballistic nylon) are more difficult to work with in a ruck’s construction, meaning that it takes more labor. But our aim is superior quality, so we pick the best and figure out how to make it work from there.

Made in USA YKK zippers are critical. Zippers are the weak link on any ruck, simply because they have a lot of moving parts and, to put it gently, zippers don’t play well with others. They dislike fabric threads, dirt, sand, mud…you name it. But YKK makes the best on the market, so we use them. Those who have taken a GORUCK Challenge involving sandy beaches will attest to the fact that the zippers hold up in the harshest of environments.

In the prototyping process, the straps took us forever to get right.  The thickness, the amount and type of hard/soft padding is meant to provide comfort to the wearer even when Radio Ruck is weighted down fully. Softer padding feels better when the ruck is empty, harder padding works better when the ruck is weighed down. I didn’t cut the straps open to show you, but we have a combination of both types of padding, glued together and then encased with 1000D Cordura.

The angle of exit for the straps was also a process of trial and error. The goal is for the ruck to ride high on your back, so we constructed the straps with that end state in mind. The way that the human spine is, the higher the ruck rides, the more you use your shoulders and upper back to bear the weight. These are big muscles that have evolved for just this kind of thing, as opposed to your lower back, which has not. The straps come out at an angle so that they will ride over the tops of your shoulders but won’t rub your neck when you cinch the ruck down.

The MOLLE webbing that runs down the straps serves two purposes. The first is that it allows for small accessories, such as hydration bladder hose retainers or carabiners. But perhaps more importantly, it allows the straps to bend to your body more easily, in a more structurally sound way. The straps adapt to the wearer’s back and shoulders. This is one of the reasons we say our rucks get better with time.

The stitching on the underside of the straps aids in this conforming process, too, as it allows the straps to bend more naturally.

We use military-grade buckles and military grade-webbing, always.

The purpose of sewing the small loop at the bottom is so that you have something to grab onto and can cinch the ruck down more easily. If this doesn’t exist, the bottom of the strap can easily get caught in the buckle, and you’re left to try to pry it out with two fingers. I hate doing that, so you’ll never have to do that with ours. Cinching is made easy.

The batwing. This is a new, small feature on our rucks. Initially, I thought them totally unnecessary, and I like to remove anything that’s not vital. In our old rucks, the straps are sewn directly into the seam without the batwing and can withstand over 400 lbs of pressure or weight. My beloved GR1 (the first one made), for instance, does not have them, and it’s still thriving years later, so it’s not vital to their durability. The reason we added them now is because batwings allow for a more consistent angle of departure across all the rucks, which are assembled by a lot of different sewers across hundreds of different steps. Setting the angle of departure via a batwing is easier (=more consistently correct with a lower margin for error) than from eye-balling it directly out of the seam. In this process, we made the batwings as small as possible. Bigger would not help in function or durability, and a smaller size leaves a smaller visible footprint. In our thought process, less is more and more is lazy.

Silent zipper pulls. I hate the sound of two metal zipper pulls banging against each, so ours are silent: parachute 500 cord covered with rubber shrink tubing. My aversion to zipper sounds, which are unnecessary and totally preventable, probably dates back to my assaulter days, when the last thing you would want is for someone else to hear you coming because of your zippers. The length of the pulls allows the user to easily grab them, even with reduced dexterity due to cold fingers or when wearing gloves.

When you have to grab a heavy ruck by the carrying handle, it takes a toll on your hands. Our carrying handles are padded, making this process more comfortable, with less strain on your hands. You don’t notice this with a new, empty ruck, but when you’re going through airport security or you’re taking a GORUCK Challenge and you lose strap privileges, you’ll notice it in a big way.

The simplicity and functionality of the back panel are in line with the rest of the ruck. There is a reason for everything, and it all goes to make sure that the ruck conforms to the wearer’s back for a comfortable fit. The compartments in the back of the ruck serve a couple different purposes. Sewn seams separate each compartment and allow each compartment to mold to your back over time. The seams also allow for air to pass through them even when the ruck is on the wearer’s back.

For sizing reference or something like that, a 6 pack — which by this time in the post has about 3 left in it. I am a lover of local things, and I took all these pics in and around Tokyo, so I went with a local brew. With regards to this photo stuff, I love telling the back story on our gear. We put a lot of time, effort, and energy into getting it right, and my goal is to tell that tale. But a ‘photo shoot’ is not really my speed, so I always take pics outside and turn it into a good time, one way or another. So thanks to the city of Tokyo for hosting my outdoor drinking, and to the people for the looks of wonder. Smiles are a good thing, and always appreciated.

Two rows of MOLLE on the sides and the front. Use them to attach carabiners or accessory pockets.

You get used to ‘working’ out of the top of our rucks. The slant pocket in front and the top interior pocket are easily accessible from above. Shown here is the top pocket, open. I use it to store quick grab stuff, like keys, maps, and gum.

The top pocket has a coyote zipper pull. People are visual, and this separates this go-to pocket from the others, and subtly helps you remember what is where. It is also a consistent feature on our rucks, one that comes to full fruition with GR2 and its multiple panels, each with different colored pulls.

The Radio Ruck label is the only label on the ruck, and it’s in the interior. You won’t find the name ‘GORUCK’ anywhere on the exterior.

The Radio Ruck opens completely flat. The version 1 Radio Ruck did not, and we got a lot of requests for it to open flat like GR1. So we made the change, and now it does. This feature allows for a better packing experience. More compartmentalization, more organization of your stuff, easier.

The open interior pocket is made with military-grade mesh. I like to put electronic stuff like hard drives, cords and wires in there so they have an organized place to stay. Otherwise they end up everywhere and the inside of the ruck turns into a gypsy camp. And gypsy camps are bad when they’re inside your ruck, so stay organized.

Two rows of webbing on the top of the interior provide options. You can leave it empty, attach pens and pencils, a padlock so you have it for a public locker, or our RR Field pocket.

There is a sleeve in the interior as well, ideal for holding a notepad and/or magazines. In version 1 of our rucks, this was made of mesh, but making it out of Cordura provides a little extra durability, necessary since the Challenge requires people to stuff bricks inside their rucks.

Shown with RR Field Pocket attached to the interior. This provides the ability for additional compartmentalization and a more organized interior. If you travel with a lot of smaller things, this is a good option.

The sleeve itself is held down by an elastic band. The elastic is housed within a Cordura sheath because Cordura is infinitely stronger than elastic, so we’d rather have as little of the elastic exposed as possible.

There is significant give to the sleeve, and you can fit a lot of stuff in there if you want to.

Even with RR Field attached, it’s possible to get magazines in and out of the sleeve.

The laptop/hydration bladder compartment is next to the wearer’s back, segregated from the main compartment of the ruck.

As mentioned above, you get used to ‘working’ out of the top of the ruck. You also get used to folding the shoulder strap back to access your laptop. Over time, it becomes second nature.

Radio Ruck houses a 15″ Macbook Pro. We got a lot of requests for it to accommodate this laptop, and now it does. Any and all changes we make to the rucks are a laborious process, and I’m sorry we cannot make them faster. (We’ll get there, in time). But we’re grateful for all the tips we get, with all the recommendations from everyone. Just because we don’t, and can’t do them overnight doesn’t mean we’re not listening. We are, so please keep your suggestions and requests coming.

Here is the biggest difference from GR1. This panel in the Radio Ruck does not have a framesheet, so it can practically bend back on itself. A framesheet is a very hard piece of plastic that provides extra rigidity and makes carrying heavier loads more comfortable because the ruck maintains its shape and disperses the weight better. Having a laptop in the laptop compartment also provides a little bit of structure to the ruck while carrying it. The downside to a framesheet is that it weighs 0.4 lbs. The upside is that it makes awkward or really heavy loads a little more comfortable. Radio Ruck is lighter than GR1 (2.4 lbs. for RR vs. 3.2 lbs. for GR1), and the framesheet is a big reason why. It matters if you’re a really heavy packer. Otherwise, you likely won’t notice that it’s not there.

Further clarification. Between my fingers on a Radio Ruck: no framesheet. In a GR1, there is a framesheet.

If you want to carry a hydration bladder, this cut out is the preferred exit port for the hydration tube. You have two options for the bladder itself, either in the laptop/hydration compartment, or in the main compartment. You’ll have to decide based on how it feels on your body. Either way, the tube should be fed through this hole and out the top. See below.

The hydration tube seen fed through the exit port and out the top of the ruck.

The first picture comes last. I’m pleased to report that Super Dry did not survive, and that I enjoyed that process. In doing Radio Ruck Explained and thinking about the people I’ve met in the past few years because of GORUCK, I’m more optimistic than ever about everything. I’ve seen US manufacturing in the early stages of a renaissance and I’ve seen more strength in more people via the GORUCK Challenge than I ever imagined. People are good, and are capable of great things, so don’t believe the rumors about the decline of this or that. All not true. At GORUCK, we don’t take anything for granted, especially your support. I continue to strive for GORUCK to be one of the most respected brands in the world, and to do it with good ol’ fashioned US manufacturing and a focus on uniting people and treating them right: military and civilian, urban and rural, boys and girls, young and old, etc. We are where we are because of you all out there, and we cannot do this without you. So thank you for all you’ve done for us. As always, I’m happy to answer any of your questions in the Comments section, and I hope to see you around, at a Challenge or in your favorite local bar.


  1. Neil says:

    Awesome stuff. Especially the last part. I’ve got a GR1; now I think I need a Radio and Field to go with…

  2. Uri says:

    Jason, as always these are the kind of things that set GORUCK appart from the rest and make it one of the best brands out there: an explanation of the key features of your products. Together with the quality US manufacturing and a customer support that has no rivals, the people working at hq and Montana, GORUCK is a company to follow and to trust for is great gear.

  3. MattBH says:

    Really great explanation as always Jason. Now I just need an excuse to expand beyond my GR1, which is really too awesome a ruck for me to seriously consider not using it for my daily needs (and ruck runs…and travel…).

  4. jason says:

    If you got a system and it works, roll with it, Matt. Thanks for your kind words on GR1. As for the term ‘batwing’ — I’m not sure, we just kinda started calling it that and that’s what we call it now. This naming system is a common one for us, but I’ll have to ask around to see if someone imported it from somewhere else or not. Either way, though, high five back atcha, dp. And Uri, thanks for the kind words on behalf of everyone at GRHQ.

  5. Angel says:

    I own both the Radio Ruck and the Echo. I was just wandering why the bottom of the rucks is slanted, which makes them topple over and don’t stand up right. I’m sure you must have had a good reason for making them the way they are since the rucks are evidently thoroughly designed. For me however, it’s a small annoyance that I put up with because the rest of the benefits outweigh this -in my humble opinion- small flaw.


  6. Worth mentioning, I have the old RR and a 15″ Macbook Pro, it won’t fit in the bladder compartment but it does fit (barely) in the main compartment. Keep up the good work Jason.

  7. Kit says:

    Awesome post Jason. It’s people like you and companies like yours that really mean a lot to me. It’s so great to see how the company has grown. Seeing the attention to detail is exactly why I am such a big GORUCK fan. I love the GORUCK family and the the GORUCK company. Keep up the great work!

  8. Michele says:

    For all you ladies out there considering what ruck to purchase, I love my RR. I got it the night of my Chicago challenge. I was worried that it would still be too big for me bc I’m only 5’3″ish. It’s perfect. My husband has the GR1 and its just a bit too big, hits me on the hips…not good with bricks! The RR was perfect during my challenge.

  9. jason says:

    Angel — I was going to address your question regarding the slight slant at the bottom of the rucks here, but I’ll address it in full detail in Echo Explained, which will post next week. Pictures will make it easier to tell the tale. Thanks for the question, and for your support — and stay tuned.

  10. BC says:

    How is the RR with a 15″ laptop in it? I’m wondering if you can really feel it against your back. Is it comfy?

  11. jason says:

    BC – I bike and race around town with a 15″ Macbook. All I feel is the padding against my back. So, yeah, it’s comfy for me.

  12. BobL says:

    Yo Jason…I must admit, I carry both the RR and GR1…the RR is my “go-to” bag when I travel on business…whether its on overnight or 4 days on the road, the RR has me covered…of course, it’s all about fooling the clients…easy to do when you’re in a different city each day of the week…4 shirts/boxers makes the RR more than enough for a full week on the road…nice work on the Gear and new site…Bob

  13. Ben says:

    Quick question: will the radio ruck work with the GR1 field pocket?
    Thanks and keep up the outstanding work.

  14. jason says:

    Thanks Ben. Yes, GR1 Field will work with the Radio Ruck’s MOLLE webbing, but it won’t be fully attached down because there is one extra row of MOLLE webbing on the GR1 Field. It will be secure, it’s just not perfectly sized.

  15. Noah says:

    Hey Jason, found you through SOFREP-I’m a lurker there…I designed bags for Adidas for three years-after reading one of your “explained” sections I feel like you gathered up all the “design w/integrity” ideas I struggled with in my past jobs-and simply pulled the trigger. These bags are beautiful…I’ve been trying to explain the “real costs” of quality products to people for years-your stuff embodies value-for-money perfectly. Keep up the great work.

  16. Yolanda Paskovich says:

    Hi all, I am doing my first goRuck in a month and all the ladies suggested the radio ruck. I like the lighter beige color, but afraid it won’t come clean after the ruck. Should I get it in black?

  17. jason says:

    Yolanda – if you clean it right after your Challenge, it’ll mostly come clean, but over time dirt and mud will probably make the sand color a little bit darker. There’s no real way to know exactly, but I’d say you should get whatever color you like better. If it’s sand, go for it.

  18. John says:

    I just bought my first GoRuck pack. Got the radio ruck and I’m pretty anxious to get it! On a majority of the packs I have ever owned, I have always had a pouch on the outside that holds a water bottle just for quick easy access. versus having to unzip and pull out my nalgene. Is there by chance in the works or a water bottle pouch that could be made to attach to the side molle system when you need it and removable when you don’t? I have researched some online but none of the ones I have seen, seem to measure up to the construction of the pack. Just some food for thought.

  19. jason says:

    John, thanks a million for picking up a Radio Ruck. I hear ya on the water bottle pouch. My dad has been bothering me for exactly that for over a year now. And yeah, it’s in the works, but it’ll take us a little bit of time to complete. You’d be surprised how much time you can spend on the last 5% of a product to make sure it meets the standard.

  20. Tim says:

    Are your bags only available on line or can they be purchased by other methods and do you ship to the United Kingdom?

  21. Louis says:

    I’m trying to decide on which to get. The Echo or the RR. Is there a major size difference between the two? Would the Echo be able to comfortably house a 13′ MacBook Pro?

  22. T says:

    I’d love a RR – in fact I have wanted to buy it many times but have been thrown off by the shipping cost from the US. Unfortunately there is no way round that but is essentially 17% of the rucksack. Surely there should be different options for oversea buyers like me in Hong Kong???

  23. jason says:

    Hey Louis – yeah, the difference between the two is pretty large, but yeah, the Echo will hold a 13′ MacBook Pro in the laptop/hydration compartment. If you’re a minimalist, go with the Echo, if you prefer a little extra room (like me), go with the Radio Ruck.

  24. David says:

    Jason- I am torn between the RR and the GR1… I carry ~15Inch HP laptop and various work binders and such for my accounting job.. But I am also completely addicted to high intensity circuit training with a pack. I am really excited to pull the trigger on either one but I am trying to figure out which one will suit my needs the best. My only concern really is the GR1 may be too big? I am roughly 160lbs 5’10. Any advice is welcome.

  25. John says:

    David – go with the GR1. I just recently bought the radio ruck and exchanged it for the GR1. I am absolutely glad I did. Not that the radio ruck was bad but the GR1 just seems to be a better fit. I am 5’7 165lbs and the pack fits great. Also my 15 inch MacBook fits perfectly inside. You will also like the weight distribution with the GR1 and the plastic frame it has in the back vs no frame in the radio ruck.

  26. Mike says:

    Jason, I’m in the market for a pack that i can use while cycling that will carry a variety of things. A change of clothes, shoes, misc small bits. Will the RR be stable on my back on a bike?

  27. jason says:

    Mike – all our rucks ride high on the wearer’s back. This was intentional because it allows the volume, and the weight, of the ruck to ride closer to the entire length of your back. The point is that when you cinch it down and you’re on a bike, it’s not going anywhere. I do it all the time, no complaints on my end as far as stability goes — though for my frame (I’m 6’4″), a GR1 is a better fit.

  28. Sam Ho says:

    Hi all, contempting between gr1 or radioruck. Use mainly for edc, at times putting stuff I buy when shopping. Otherwise, sop items like shades, stationary. Water bottle iPad, magazine and a jacket or urban lifestyle.

    Which is more suitable, I am 5″7. 130lbs. Just afraid the gr1 will be too long for my torso.

  29. Josh says:

    @Sam Ho
    I can’t speak for on the GR1, but I use my RR for exactly what you’re talking about (Plus GRC 261 last weekend!) and it works great. I’m 5’7″ and 154 lbs. The length is great and it fits perfectly.
    I can fit my work laptop, iPad, lunch tupperware, etc. without an issue.
    I often stop at the store on my way home and can still manage to stuff a bottle of wine and some other small items in it.
    Good livin’.

  30. Nicole says:

    RR or Echo for the Challenge? I purchased the GR1 but it’s way to big. I’m 5’3 and I would like to be able to fit a hydration bladder in with my bricks. I have seen pics of the bladder rigged to the outside as well

    Any suggestions are greatly appreciated. Thanks!

  31. jason says:

    Nicole, the Echo will barely hold what you need for the Challenge. Meaning, it will hold 4 wrapped bricks and a hydration bladder, but only barely. The RR is only slightly smaller than the GR1, so the Echo may be your best bet.

  32. SW says:

    Hi everyone, I’m trying to decide on a GR1 or a RR, I’ve got a GR2 and I love it, but it’s big for everyday usage. I’ve got a 15″ macbook, and I don’t carry too much other stuff, what do you recommend?

    I’m 6′ 1″, 185 with a long torso.

  33. Andy says:

    Jason, could you share what type of shrink tubing you use for the zipper pulls? I wanted to give the same treatment to some of my other gear, but the shrink tubing I bought the from my local hardware is pretty thin. The tubing you guys use is a lot thicker and tougher.

    Thank you!

  34. Chris Gonzalez says:

    I am debating on either getting the Echo or Radio Ruck, which one would you prefer for an everyday bag? I currently own a Gr0. Thanks!

  35. heavyduti says:

    Jason, please bring back the R-squared. This ruck absolutely hits the sweet spot for an EDC and the lack of a frame sheet is a boon. I have a GR1 and I love it but this has become my go-to bag for carry-on as well as long-range coffee-patrols.

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