Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Goruck Echo Mods and Setup Field Testing

When I was a wildland firefighter, I spent quite a bit of time either working or hiking while wearing my 35 lb. pack. Therefore, I spent a good deal of my down time customizing and tweaking my pack and it's contents to make it as comfortable and streamlined as possible. My goal was to carry everything that I needed, but only what I needed. So naturally after completing the GORUCK Challenge, one of the first things my mind wandered to was how to best customize this little pack for future challenges.

I had been playing around with a few mods when one of my GRC 036 classmates presented me with an excellent opportunity to test my pack. Nick Cioni had just signed up to do the Down n' Dirty Half Dozen and was of course planning on doing it while wearing his GR1 full of bricks.

This event has a 3.1 mile dirt trail loop where participants complete as many laps as they can in 6 hours. During the GRC I just shoved my bricks in the pack and stuffed my dry bag on top of them. I did have mole skin over my lower back, but the brick placement did cause my low back muscles to become quite sore during the latter hours of the challenge. This time around I looped a few cinch straps through the internal molle webbing to keep the bricks higher on my back and the weight more evenly distributed across my shoulders and torso. Other challenge takers have used extra long zip ties to accomplish this. Initially I didn't think that this would matter that much since the bricks were already pretty snug in the pack. Surprisingly, this worked much better than before. I didn't apply any moleskin this time, which was fine since the pack did not rub my lower back at all. My left collar bone had the beginnings of a hot spot from the straps, but other than that, no other chafing. For the next time, I plan on adding two more cinch straps and placing the dry bag with socks, shirt, etc below the bricks for added support. I never touched the contents of my dry bag during the last GRC, so I don't see accessibility being a big issue here.

The second modification I made was to attach 5.11 tactical pouches to the molle webbing on the exterior. I chose 5.11 because I had planned on ordering from their 9.11 collection anyways. During the GRC, it became quite evident that if my snacks were not easily accessible, I wasn't going to get to them. I attached two GPS pouches and a medium drop pouch to the outside. I stuffed hammer gels and other snacks in the GPS pouches, not using the drop pouch this time. While this did work better than having to dig around inside of the pack, I would have preferred to have the pouches on the sides of the pack. This way, I wouldn't have had to slide the pack off of a shoulder in order to reach them.

After a few laps, Nick mentioned that he put his hydration bladder inside the main compartment. This allowed the bag to sit flatter against his back. Once I did this my pack instantly felt more stable and did not shift from side to side as much as it had before. Nick also mentioned that he placed a foam knee mat in the zippered portion of the bag normally used for the hydration reservoir. I picked on of these mats up yesterday and plan on cutting it down to size and testing it out shortly.

Here are a few pics from the event.

the bricks wrapped in bubble wrap and duct tape, secured by the cinch straps.

The molle pouches attached to the exterior

Comparison shot showing my Echo next to Nick's GR1

Representing Class 036


  1. I'll remember this for when I get around to doing a GRC. Cinching the bricks up high on the internal MOLLE was brilliant! What all did you end up carrying with you in your ruck on your GRC? Was there anything you didn't bring that you wish you had?

  2. Thanks Mark,

    I'm glad you found this helpful. Be sure and let me know how your challenge goes, how these tips work out for you, and any tips you'll have for future challenge takers.

    I wish I could take credit for the strapping the bricks up high idea, but that is GRC wisdom passed down through the classes. Several of my 036 classmates used industrial strength zip ties to secure their bricks. I'm merely playing around with that idea to find out what works best with my set up.

    If you click on the link to my GORUCK Tough post on th right side of this page, or go to this web address

    you can find a more detailed version of my packing list for the challenge.

    The only thing that I can think of that I might bring next time would be more water/electrolyte mix. One drawback to the echo is the size of the hydration bladder that can fit inside it. Luckily, my GRC was in an urban environment where we could duck into stores and restock our supplies. If the challenge is more remote, I'd get two MOLLE nalgene bottle pouches for the outside as long as the weather wasn't so cold that the bottles would freeze. Other than that, I can't think of anything else I would've brought. In fact, I didn't use half the stuff I did bring.

  3. Thanks for all the great GRC posts. Regarding using the MOLLE, I tried using the cinch straps with my 4 bricks, but noticed that it's really stressing the top MOLLE straps in my GR1. I'm worried that the stitching will rip. Has anyone had issues with this?

  4. Glad you found the posts helpful. I did notice that with two straps it was tugging on the MOLLE webbing. I got two more straps in an effort to more evenly distribute the weight. I've also heard of people using yoga bricks or empty water bottles to help support the bricks. I've got a radio ruck on the way that I'm going to play around with before the next GRC.

  5. Check out the link on the right for "Radio Ruck 6 Brick Field Test" to see the updated strapping methods.

  6. I finished GRC Class 433 last weekend. I used an Echo with a 5.11 pouch like you did, and stored my bladder in the main compartment. Thanks for the useful tips. Here's my write-up in case you're interested: .

  7. hi what are the molle pouches you put in front of your pack? do you have the link? im finding ig difficult looking for pouches for the front of my pack. Thanks!