- Buyer's Guide
There’s only a few things in this world that can shape you as a human, like really shape you and make you better, and stronger. And one of the things that do it so damn well is travel. Breaking out of your regular and comfortable and normal and slingshotting into the new, the undiscovered, the raw, and the real. There’s nothing quite like it.
So when Jason messaged me minutes after Guerrilla X sold out with an expletive followed by a ‘WOW’ I knew we had to work on a GR2 next. Indisputably one of team Carryology and our community’s favorite travel packs to ever exist. A pack that can carry to the ends of the earth, and take a beating in the process.
We’d start with that, and then we’d go deeper. Build an entire capsule. And pull inspiration from my heroes, ancient stories, and vintage sports cars.
Introducing the GORUCK x Carryology Kaidan capsule collection. A 3-piece travel combination built for a life of adventure.
THE ICON THAT IS THE GR2
To look to the future, we often refer to the past Carry Awards winners for inspiration. And this one was easy. One of our favorite and one of the most iconic travel packs of all time, the GORUCK GR2. Like its little brother, the GR1, they both have a cult-like following. For great reason. Back in 2013, the GR2 won 1st place in The Carry Awards for “Best Carry On” for its perfect balance of utility and ruggedness, and has been carried and loved by our team all over the world.
The GR2, a One Bagger’s dream. This pack would act as the driving inspiration for this project – a bag made for travel and adventure. After our extensive testing over several thousands of miles using the 34L and the 40L size, unanimously we found the 34L to be the perfect size (for an overhead bin) and weight (once filled) for travel. It would be the heart of this travel collaboration.
BULLET AND 2-BAG TRAVEL
Now, this term “One Bag” doesn’t necessarily mean ONLY one bag. One Bag travel is a practice, a philosophy, a challenge.
And sometimes it actually can mean more than one bag.
Give me a moment to explain the concept. After you’ve deplaned, the immigration officer has stamped your passport, and you’ve checked into your sleeping quarters, the first thing you want to do is put down your 34L travel backpack. It’s too cumbersome to carry on daily missions.
You don’t want to walk through the tightly crowded streets of Tokyo with the volume of 34 liters on your back or walk up snowy mountain inclines of Zermatt with the weight of 34 liters worth of gear on your back.
The solution? Drop your large One Bag backpack onto your bed. Then, like a Matryoshka doll, pull out your 10-15L “walk around bag” that was packed flat inside your GR2 among your other gear. Toss in just your essentials and you’re off to explore with a whole lot less on your shoulders.
So to build upon the famous GR2, we selected a finalist in the Carry Awards IV (“Active Backpack” category) and another cult classic from the GORUCK brand, the Bullet 15L. Slim, agile, rugged – the perfect day trip pack.
THE FINAL PIECE – THE FIELD POCKET
The third necessary component for a proper travel capsule is an organizer pouch. For tech, for toiletries, and all your little essentials. A favorite among Carryology readers as well as the Carryology team, the GORUCK GR2 Field Pocket. It’s padded, it’s simple, it’s complex, it’s perfect. We selected the larger GR2 size to make it more versatile for changing setups and uses.
There we had it, the ultimate travel capsule: GR2 34L, Bullet 15L, and GR2 Field Pocket. And then the real work began… how to make it special.
FINDING THAT SPARK, THANKS TO A HERO
Whenever we create these special projects, we look for inspiration, a storyline. A spark to ignite the project. And so I asked myself, what does “travel” mean to me? How has it shaped me? And what or who has inspired me most to try and do it right?
And the answer was simple. One of my personal heroes, and an inspiration to many – the late and great Anthony Bourdain. A man who helped teach me the difference between how to be a traveler and not to be a tourist, how to be curious about new cultures, and how to explore them properly and with respect. And, of course, how travel can change you, for the better.
“Travel isn’t always pretty.
It isn’t always comfortable. Sometimes it hurts, it even breaks your heart.
But that’s okay. The journey changes you; it should change you.
It leaves marks on your memory, on your consciousness, on your heart, and on your body.
You take something with you.
Hopefully, you leave something good behind.”
– Anthony Bourdain
So Anthony was that spark, the starting point for me to dig deeper.
And deeper I went, through his TV shows and non-fiction works, and deeper still until I rediscovered his graphic novels. I dove in, with “Get Jiro!” and “Get Jiro: Blood and Sushi”.
Then … I found it. “Hungry Ghosts”.
TRADING OF STORIES, OF KAIDAN
“Hungry Ghosts” is a comic based on the Japanese Edo-period game called “Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai”. The quickest explanation of this game is traveling samurai from all corners of the country would cross paths on their adventures and share a small rural shelter along the road before continuing on their quests. Once the sun was fully set and darkness controlled the evening, they would light dozens of candles in the small structure. These candles would provide the only light in the quiet shack. In order, each samurai would tell their own unique “kaidan” (unbelievable, mysterious, horrific, scary, rare, and/or supernatural orally recited story) while the other samurai sat and listened quietly. After the story, the orator would walk over to the candles and extinguish one. Now, there is one less candle’s worth of light in the room. The next samurai begins telling their story and after they finish, they blow out another candle. This process repeats until there are fewer and fewer candles, the darkness creeping in. Legend has it, after having just heard dozens and dozens of incredible stories, these brave samurai would be too afraid to blow out the final candle.
And this was the inspiring “aha” moment for me. The “kaidan”. Generally, it means “ghost story” or “rare exciting story”. But it’s the origins of these kaidan that are the important part. These were not written down. They were only acquired by word of mouth, during incredibly adventurous travels.
Ultimately, when we travel… we’re all out there searching for kaidan. We want to connect with people and learn their stories, experience our own adventures, and share all these stories with other travelers and loved ones back home. Kaidan are earned, gifted from human to human. And they’re earned when you’re out there on your journey, not in the safety of your living room.
The Carryology x GORUCK travel collection would be named “Kaidan”.
Designed to help you to find your own kaidan.
And to help you leave your own kaidan behind.
NOW TO THE UPGRADES…
We normally opt for the "Slick" versions when it comes to our favorite GORUCK products. But for this particular collaboration, we wanted to provide the user with some functional lash points on the face and shoulder straps for their travels. A favorite move is tossing on a Heroclip or carabiner for those "just in case" moments that present themselves so frequently out on your travels.
VX – IN TWO VARIANTS
When studying the options for the GR2, our priorities were ruggedness and durability. This is a GORUCK after all, and its superpower had to be its bomber build to allow us to carry it anywhere.
But waterproofness and technical innovation were important too.
And so we chose the futuristic instant-classic: the Dimension Polyant X-Pac VX42. The face is made from 420D nylon fabric with a DWR top coat.
It might be 80D “less than” 500D, but DP laminates the X-grid to the backside via science and magic. This makes it tougher than 500D and it converts the standard Cordura from “water-resistant” to “waterproof”. Strong and lightweight, perfect for travel. Additionally, we elimianted the mesh pocket in the main compartment on the GR2 to reduce weight, complexity, and redundancy.
For the Bullet 15L, we wanted it to be even more lightweight and packable, so we opted for VX42’s lighter cousin, DP’s VX21. Tough, light, waterproof, and takes up minimal volume in your GR2. We also carefully reduced excess foam in the Bullet to make it pack even flatter. Being an internal accessory pocket, the GR2 Field Pocket would get the same VX21 fabric treatment.
Arguably the second most important part of a pack is the zippers/hardware. Since we’re using waterproof X-Pac fabric, we swapped the zippers to YKK’s AquaGuard water-resistant zippers, in #10 and #8 sizes. While standard YKK coil zippers handle moisture just fine, this AquaGuard zipper upgrade allowed us to remove the fabric zipper rain flaps, giving you even easier access to your contents while keeping out the wet.
Additionally, we removed the drainage ports at the bottom of the Bullet 15L. In a rucking scenario, crawling through mud and dragging your pack through streams, you want water to drain out. But here, in a travel scenario, you want water to never get inside in the first place. A complete system sealed away from nature’s elements.
High-vis interior. This is something we always do, as it’s a functional feature used to make your life easier. Bright-colored interiors make it easier to spot bag contents in low-light conditions, such as the backseat of a sketchy taxi somewhere in the outskirts of Moscow. Now, you can quickly identify what you’re looking for. And since we care about materials, we chose 420D nylon fabric for toughness and internal structure.
Now, we clearly love X-Pac fabrics. But they can easily take on a “tech” aesthetic if not balanced out with some other elements to even it out. I had been watching an episode of Tony’s where he travels to Rome and he’s “driving” a 1966 Alfa Romeo Spider in front of a green screen. In 1966, this vehicle was the pinnacle of performance and tech, yet it was balanced with luxury and class, and timelessness via the beautiful leather interior. To luxe it up, we borrowed elements from the Alfa Romeo as well as the GR1 Heritage… adding full-grain leather to the GR2's grab handle. This buttery leather is sourced from S.B. Foot Tanning Company up in Red Wing, Minnesota. We hear this tannery provides leather to some other famous USA-made boot company in the area, but we’ll let you guess who that might be.
Oh, by the way, did I say “handle” as in singular? We meant “handles”, plural. This is a travel capsule, after all. When you’re traveling in trains, planes, boats, and automobiles, your bag gets shoved in all kinds of weird tight spaces. And pulling your bag out of these areas isn’t always the easiest. The obvious example is an overhead bin on a passenger jet. Once it’s up there, you need a handle on the bottom to pull it out of there. So we added one. And we made it leather like on the top grab handle. Because every time you grab this pack, it should be an enjoyable experience.
To keep the Bullet 15L ultra packable and lightweight, we opted for ultra heavy duty nylon webbing construction in the place of leather.
One small but absolutely awesome upgrade we included with the GRXC1 Guerrilla X collaboration was the trick quick-access pocket up near the grab handle. When you’re traveling, having an easy and fast pocket for “the thing in your hand” is critical. The GR2 is filled with plenty of organization already, so we didn't want to add too much complication to perfection. We landed on adding the same GRXC1 quick-access pocket onto the Bullet 15L to give that extra dimension of storage when you're out exploring.
It wouldn't be a GORUCK collab without patches.
For a travel collection, we wanted subdued designs for these morale panels. But they had to tell a story, and inspire morale. So we went back to the inspiration, the thing that guides the process. In this case, the Kaidan.
We'd find the illustrator of Anthony Bourdain's 'Hungry Ghosts' and commission special artwork. Artwork that spoke to the story. Artwork expertly done by an artist with a clear line to our travel hero.
But wait, there are two different backpacks. So there wouldn’t be one comic book artist. No, we commisioned TWO highly decorated, experienced, and well-published comic book artists to bring our concept to life.
MORALE PATCH ARTISTS
Celia Calle. Based in New York City, Artist/Illustrator Celia Calle (Instagram: @CeliaCalle) is ever reshaping the grounds where the lines are drawn. Calle’s artistic creations are “ominous, commanding, sometimes warped, but always spiced with a generous injection of humor, in keeping with the artist’s effervescent personality.” The New York Parsons School of Design graduate is known for her works from Penthouse Magazine, ESPN Sports, Adidas Ads, to Cover Art for DC/Vertigo Comics, and more. Working also in traditional mediums, for example, oil painting and sculpting, Calle endlessly endeavors to explore the boundaries of her creative expression in order to bring the characters and images in her mind to life. Two decades of her art can be found in the 224-page collection, “Cool Rider. The Art of Celia Calle.”
Celia created the patch artwork for the Bullet 15L. This artwork depicts a menacing Hannya face (Japanese demon mask) in the center. There is a lit candle on the top of the mask, with two extinguished candles on the left and right, these representing the “Hyakumonogatari Kaidankai” game.
Sebastián Cabrol. Based in Paraná, Argentina. Illustrator and Comic Book Artist (Instagram: Sebastián Cabrol). He has worked with Marvel (Falcon: Takes Flight), Dark Horse (Thief, Hungry Ghosts), and several independent publishers such as Avatar Press, Behemoth, Red 5 Comics, etc. He has also worked with Wizards Of The Coast making Magic: The Gathering cards and book covers for several publishing houses. And Sebastián, of course, was one of the illustrators of Anthony’s graphic novel, “Hungry Ghosts”. He worked directly with Tony on this comic, so we wanted the artwork to be deeply connected to the concept. You can check out more of his work on his Artstation portfolio.
The inspiration for Sebastián’s GR2 patch comes directly from a famous Edo-period woodblock print, “Takiyasha the Witch and the Skeleton Specter” (shown above in the article) created by Utagawa Kuniyoshi, circa 1843 to 1847. Sebastian recreated this image via ink and paintbrush on paper in simple bold lines for our patch design.
To keep things subdued and aesthetically luxe, we went with black leather patches. The same thick full-grain leather as the two GR2 grab handles. The designs were converted from 2D into 3D milled metal stamps, which then are used to deboss the 2D images into the surface of the leather via pressure and time.
Each tells a different story, a different kaidan.
MINIMAL INTERIOR LABEL
A minor addition, but totally necessary. Each product will have its very own unique collab-specific label.
MADE IN THE USA
All three products in the GORUCK x Carryology Kaidan capsule collection are proudly Made in USA.
TIMES AND DATES
The GORUCK x Carryology Kaidan releases on 6th December, 4PM ET (New York Time).
The 'Exclusive Release Article' will be published to Carryology.com, and will include the shop link to purchase.
This is a one-time only release, in limited edition.
Once they're sold out, they're gone forever.
GORUCK will ship internationally.