GORUCK SD20 Review

Unfortunately GORUCK have discontinued the SD20 however they do make a similar bag called the Rucker 20

This is a review of my main pack the GORUCK SD20. SD stands for Shadow Ruck. 20 stands for 20 litres of capacity. I asked GORUCK as to whether they would return and it seems unlikely. GORUCK did also make a stripped down version of their original bag however the closest thing available at the moment is the GORUCK GR1. The GR1 is a great bag and I would also recommend it now that the SD20 isn’t available. However one of the main reasons I favoured the SD20 over the GR1 is the weight difference. The GR1 weighs 3.20 lbs (1.45 kg) while empty vs. the SD20 that weighs only 1.71lbs (780g) while empty. Another difference between the two bags is that the GR1 has molle straps which are handy for adding extra attachments to the bag.

My SD20 has been a very nice bag so far though. Very tough and durable and so far I’ve had no problems with it. One thing that did annoy me though was how the loose ends of the bags straps would hang down and flap around. I decided the best solution was some double sided velcro.

Double sided velcro in action

So far the velcro has worked quite well. When I initially attached it to the bag the spiky part of the velcro was facing outwards and it caught on some of my clothes. I got around this by attaching the velcro in a way so that the spiky part faced away from my clothes and so far it hasn’t caught again. Someone on reddit recently recommend the Maxpedition Web Dominator clips to achieve the same result. They said that the clips did the job just as well as velcro without catching on clothes.

Reflective patch without flash (left), with flash (right).

One cool thing about the GORUCK bags is that they all have a soft-sided velcro attachment where you can use any standard sized (2″x3″) patch. The particular patch that I use is a red reflective patch. I figure that it will act like a rear light of a bicycle if ever I’m walking on the road in the dark hours. I also do have an Infrared Patch, but it’s a shiny black material so it doesn’t look as interesting. There so many kinds of patches available out there that you have really a limitless amount of customisations possible.

The bag opens completely

The bag opens completely

Something I look for in any new bag I consider is that they are “panel loading” as opposed to “top loading”. A top loading back is probably the most common type of bag. It has usually 2 zips that open anywhere from 1/3 to 1/2 of the bags top section. A panel loading bag is one that opens at at least all 3 corners revealing the contents of the bag. Panel loading is more similar to a larger suitcase in the way it opens. This is great when packing with modules like I do and for organising things on the go.

Panel loading (left), top loading (right)

Panel loading (left), top loading (right)

The SD20 is minimal but has 4 simple compartments. The top quarter pocket then mesh half underneath it. The front of the bag has a diagonal pocket and inside is a single sleeve with which to put a laptop or documents. This allows me to use ‘packing cubes’ to fully organise the bag in a modular way that can be changed and rearranged depending on the weight and when I need those particular items. For example I’ll put the electronics nearest the top of the bag so I can quickly reach in and grab out the charger for when I’m at the airport. I also like to put my passport in the top quarter pocket for quick and easy access. You can see more about how and what I pack in a previous article.

Overall I am very pleased with the quality and design of this bag. The YKK zips are very smooth and never jam. The material feels and looks very tough. The customisable patch is a great touch and it has just the right amount of features without overdoing it. Many other bags I looked at were ugly colours or has far too many extra zipped pockets or unnecessary additions. Finally the SD20 was also quite cheap at around $99 when GORUCK was stocking it. I truly hope that they will bring it back because to me its the ultimate backpack for travelling light.

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