- Buyer's Guide
Drive By :: GORUCK Echo
EJ Teo gets behind the wheel for our latest drive by featuring the Goruck Echo. EJ loves nature and the great outdoors and tries to get as much as she can in the meagre breaks from the rat race. She endeavours to maintain a sense of wonder and hope through the eyes of her daughter. When the real world gets too much, she turns to chocolate. If that fails, she buys a bag.
Us girls have a lot of bag choices in countless forms, materials, colours, and price ranges, each catering to different occasions, outfits, functions.
If I am allowed to be frivolous, the list can be endless.
A military-grade bag with only two colour choices does not really fit into any girl’s lust list, so it may be puzzling as to why the Goruck Echo is my carry choice from the office to my workouts to mummy duties.
Here are my specs:
– 5 feet 4 inches short, torso length 16.5 inches, US size 5 feet.
– Monday to Friday commute to the office
– Twice weekly runs from office back home
– Gym class once a week
– Mummy of a 6-year-old girl at all times
What this means is a variety of tech requirements, including my 11” MacBook Air, an iPhone 5s, a power charger. Workout gear including shoes, and when my daughter’s around, a change of clothes for her too.
Who it suits and doesn’t suit
The Goruck Echo at measurements of 11.5″ by 16.5″ by 4.25″ is petite and suitable only if you either carry very little in your rucksack, or have things so small that you can fit all your requirements in it.
It has the capacity to fit in both tech and sports needs, plus even your MacBook Air, all at the same time. However, this balance is a precarious one. So if you like your MacBook Pro 13″, insisted on a brick-sized girl purse, a face paint bag the size of a kitten, thick workout gear, plus a work jacket, you will find that the Echo will not fit your needs.
It’s really about decision-making with the Echo – if you are willing to be prudent in what you want to carry, you will find that this is a pragmatic, well-made piece of carry.
My shoes are kid-sized, plus I use a pair of (well-worn) barefoot run shoes. There is still space for larger shoes, and even a gym towel, but it all makes for a snug fit. In this picture, I fit these in: hydration bladder to the back, run top and shorts, MacBook Air 11″, shoes, iPhone 5s in the front, girl purse, headphones and cosmetics in the internal compartment.
The Echo has a number of compartments that help when you need to be organized. The laptop compartment that faces your back can also store a hydration bladder and the Velcro on the top allows you to put the tubing for the hydration bladder through. If you are in a situation where you are carrying both your laptop and a filled hydration bladder, you can move your laptop to the regular compartment which again has a separation between the laptop fold and the main storage.
The main storage itself has very modest space. Being only a little over 4 inches in depth, it is not going to store your cold weather type gear. There are two smaller internal compartments on the “opening” side of the bag, well suited for toiletries and unmentionables.
When the weekend comes about and mummy duties take over, it’s really about packing as many practical options as possible to get through the day e.g. spare clothes, sun hat, sunglasses and sunscreen, polaroid camera and spare film for memories, pencil case for drawing, storybook for spare commuting, tissues and snacks and an insulated Klean Kanteen (16 oz).
I do not like to pack much tech into the weekends so the iPad Mini stays at home during the weekends. when it’s time for the beach and the sun, everything else can wait. The backpack format ensures that my hands stay free for holding her hand or for an ice-cream cone.
Regular girly bags come in a wide variety of materials, from PVC, to canvas to leather. All these materials are well and good for purposes that range from aesthetic to representing some sort of status symbol.
Goruck on the other hand is made of Ballistic Cordura – this ain’t a bag that’s made for the mall. This makes it tough enough so that even when on full load, the bag does not sag. It will go from the office to the outdoors in a seamless way most girly bags are not able to do.
YKK zippers ensure that even with wear and tear, you won’t be in a situation of having the zippers not working when you need them to. Goruck bags do not claim to be waterproof, but I’ve found that even in rain the contents remain dry. I have not tried submerging myself with the bag though.
The back is moulded to fit your back, with the straps shaped to support and fit a girl on the run. This makes it easy when you are transitioning from the office to the run home.
For females, weight seems to matter. At close to 1 kg, this is not a light bag in comparison with non-leather bags in the market. I would say that since it is on your back you will not feel the weight, but I recognize that it’s never going to be able to compare with a lightweight basic backpack or a casual tote.
It is too small for men – if you wanted to carry everything that I carry in this bag, let’s face it, anyone approaching 6 feet is not going to find this sufficient by any means. The official capacity is 16 litres. It will not fit your shoes, it will not fit your man jeans. You will look like a Ninja Turtle. Man up and get the GR0/GR1 instead. As a pair, it has a corny cute factor, if that is your thing.
Easy access when commuting is an issue in crowded trains. You will have to manoeuvre your bag to the front of you to reach for your travel card, and this can be an issue when you are constricted by space. Some backpacks have easy-access pockets for your valuables, this does not. The Echo has Molle webbing at the front and also on the shoulder straps so there are ways to attach items which you do need easy access to. I do not usually use that option as I find it finicky, but it is an option nonetheless.
At $225, this is not a cheap bag. It touts itself to be a good office and training bag. And it is. It is also versatile, and the fit for my back is comfortable and allows me the versatility I need for the different roles I play.
Two colour choices of black and camo also means that there is no room for personalization. Unless you count changing the patches which do come in a range of colours. But really, it doesn’t look anywhere near as pretty as some of the backpack options out there.
Other bags to consider
If a good-looking, functional backpack is what you are looking for, there are other options such as the Herschel Supply Co’s backpacks, the classic Fjällräven Kånken and even Topo Designs’ Backpack Tote.
The Herschel backpack works if you are not particular about the cotton-poly fabric. This will not be suitable for runs or the outdoors. It’s really a leisure-type bag, with just OKish build quality, which I am not sure will suit a corporate image. It also looks like a bag your teenage niece would carry on her movie dates.
Fjällräven’s Kånken is an alluring classic in more colours than your child’s art pieces. At 16 litres, and a friendlier price point, it’s made of Vinylon-F and at 300g is an easy carry. While it’s a classic shape and design, it’s not suitable for the gym or for running. The back isn’t moulded and the straps are not going to stay in place as you bounce back home.
Topo Designs works well as a tote and a backpack, has handy compartments with the 1000D Cordura material. Its capacity however is 14 litres, which means it’s even smaller than the Echo. It works well for the office, and even weekend mummy activities. It is a more grown-up looking bag that has outdoor cred plus allows for a tote-carry option. But it’s not a run bag by any means.
On the face of it, the Echo might seem pricey given its seemingly basic concept and layout. The options for a small backpack are wide, besides those that I’ve shown above. Brands such as Trakke and Cote & Ciel offer a level of choice if you are willing to fork out enough moolah for your carry.
However, a bag that can fit all three functions of office + sport + mummying in a single bag is a less common permutation, and if you consistently perform all three activities and have body proportions of a munchkin, then you will find that the Echo is a buy that will represent both quality and function. And maybe it will come in less sombre colours. Soon.
Back to the office now.