GORUCK SK26

SK26label

I mentioned that I’d gotten a GORUCK SK26. I’ve been using it daily for a month and I’m into it. I haven’t carried a backpack on the regular since high school (’89!) and it took a couple of days to find the sweet spot where the straps were snug enough to be comfortable without having to contort myself to get in or out of it.

SK26front SK26back

The bag is almost absurdly overbuilt. The fabric is thick 100D Cordura which feels like it should wear forever. The straps are crazy thick and almost too stiff at first. From what I’ve read, they will break in over time and end up with almost a custom fit for the wearer. We’ll see. The extra thinkness in the straps also helps make heavy loads more comfortable (I can vouch for this).

SK26open The open plan of the bag lets you have access to all 26L in whatever configuration you believe best. I have a couple of standard EDC-dork things hooked to the internal PALS webbing: a couple of velcro straps, some small lights, and some carabiners. I’m a paracord bracelet away from being a doomsday prepper. The “SK” in the name of the bag refers to the “slick” look of not having any of the PALS webbing on the outside of the bag. Since my daily use was going to be carrying to the office I didn’t think the full-on techincal look was a good fit. A backpack is hardly professional office wear but I’m not as far over the line of propriety as I would be with buckles and straps and bungee all over the outside of the bag.

It’s tricky to see in that photo, but there is an elastic pocket there below the PALS webbing. It’ll hold a standard file folder easily. The folded down portion of the bag there has a closed zippered pouch and separate zippered mesh compartment. I haven’t used those much yet but they will end up being useful at some point. Probably. There is also a zippered slash pocket on the front of the bag for quick access if you need something at hand right away.

SK26andSlip SK26withSlip

The SK26 wasn’t 100% office-ready for me. I need a way to carry my coffee mug, pens, notebook, and some more EDC junk (pocket knife, leatherman). I purchased a Tom Bihn Vertical Freudian Slip to fill these gaps. It fits almost as though it was designed for the SK26. This combination results in exactly what I want to carry to the office every day. The other side of the Slip has 4 pockets for carrying papers and folders. I fit a large Moleskine squared notebook in there with no trouble. Like every other piece of Tom Bihn I own, the quality of the manufacture is top-shelf.

SK26withLPs

I was able to justify (to myself and the Household Appropriations Committee) the cost of the bag by it’s versatility as more than just a glorified briefcase. I had occasion to need to haul a dozen LPs I was selling this weekend. I removed the Freudian Slip and the SK2 swallowed them with plenty of room to spare. That photo above is 25 LPs in the bag. I could have probably snugged another 2-3 in there but 25 is a good max. capacity number for rating purposes. FYI, 25LPs make for a heavy load but those straps I was talking about made it almost comfortable to carry.

I didn’t even mention the laptop compartment that lives under the straps of the bag outside of the main compartment but that’s because I don’t carry a laptop every day. I have no idea how effective it is.

After a month of daily use I’m firmly in favor of the SK26 as an every day office carry bag. I have some travel coming up this summer so I will have more points of reference as to the bags versatility. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Bags.

Ever since I got an office job (11/93!) I’ve been trying to find something better to carry my stuff in. I borrowed Ethan‘s 80’s-era Israeli Paratrooper Bag for a while. When he needed that back I moved on to a straight-up briefcase (with the little tumbler locks and everything) but it kept squashing my bagged lunch and it was stupid-heavy so it didn’t last long.

I used a Tom Bihn Large Cafe bag as my daily carry from 2004. It gave me a spot to carry pens/coffee cup/Treo Centro and it was the first “nice” bag I’d owned. Eventually I found that the pad on the Cafe Bag strap was crappy and moved too much. It looks like they’ve changed it since I had mine which is a good thing. I also needed more space for stuff as I would occasionally take files home and I added a notebook to my daily load.

I switched from that to a Tom Bihn Imago in 2007 for more space and a better strap but I gave up the dedicated pen and phone slots. I miss the pen slots more than I thought I would. The Nexus 7 does fit perfectly in the slash pocket under the main flap which means I carry it more often. The Imago is great for daily use but it’s not really great for travel because it doesn’t hold shape well if you carry non-flat things like clothes and it’s kind of small on the inside. I also feel like the asymmetric load distribution of messenger-style bags in general gives me neck or back pain if I’m carrying it for a couple of hours (ComiCon, dayhikes, airport terminals).

I’ve been shopping backpacks for a couple of years for improved ergonomics and to replace my Empire Builder as the bag that I use as an overnight or carry-on bag when I travel. The backpack options from Tom Bihn were either smaller than I wanted for travel or had too much of a mountaineering/overland-trek look for daily use to the office. The zippers and external bungies are probably awesome for more serious hikers and campers but they’re not what I want.

My backpack searching kept bringing me back to bags from GORUCK, specifically the GR1. It’s expensive but so damn sturdy that I feel like I’ll get my money out of it as something I’ll use every day. The GR1 is higher-volume bag than the Imago or the Tom Bihn backpacks I was looking at and a better fit for a man of my, um, proportions. A normal-sized Jansport would look like I’d swiped a bag from a middle-schooler.

After an embarrassing amount of deliberation and review-reading I settled on the GORUCK SK26. It has a clean look that I think lets me get away with carrying a backpack to the office but is overbuilt enough to handle any of the extracurricular work I might sign it up for. I gave the bag a thorough once-over and everything looked like it should. I’d read that some late-model GR1s were being shipped with loose threads or crooked MOLLE webbing or stitches. The SK26 I have is tight on all counts. I will pass along some initial thought shortly.