Urban Packing | 8 Days, One Mean Rucksack

GORUCK GR1 Rucksack

At the end of the week my wife, kids, and I will be heading overseas to England to visit my family. It will be the first time my two small kids have ever been to England and their first time meeting their aunts, uncles, and cousins. It’s going to be exciting.

I’m sharing this because I was suddenly struck by the realization that my approach to packing for this family vacation is almost identical to the method I would use for a lightweight backpacking trip. Pack what I need and nothing more. I can’t help myself, I have packing light mentality and have noticed that my wife and kids have just automatically followed suit – pretty cool.

Obviously there are some major differences between a family vacation (with small kids) and a UL/lightweight backpacking trip, most noticeably the need for more ‘stuff’ for my kids, but the process of pairing down the gear list is striking similar. We are all carefully evaluating each and every piece of gear that we want to take and individually making a determination of whether or not it is a ‘want’ or a ‘need’ – naturally there are some ‘wants’ creeping in, but that’s all good.

GORUCK GR1 Rucksack

I haven’t taught my kids to do this. They’ve observed me getting ready for backpacking trips and learned by themselves, but by providing them with their own backpack for this specific trip (a stroke of genius I have to attribute to my wife) they have had to pick and choose what they can take. The end result will be a single backpack each plus one piece of checked luggage. The checked luggage would normally be completely avoided, but we have quite a few ‘gifts’ to take over with us that definitely won’t fit in our packs.

For this trip I will be using my GORUCK GR1 rucksack to carry all of my personal items. The GR1 has a 26L capacity and despite being a somewhat feature-simple rucksack it has an exceptional track record (I’ll be posting a detailed review after I return). You can follow these links to read more about the amazing story behind the design of the GR1 ruck and GORUCK.

It will be an eight-day trip, but that does not mean we will be taking eight separate changes of clothing. We’ll be taking at most four changes of clothing and will simply wash our clothes halfway through the trip. My wife and I learned this trick several years ago on our travels and it has stayed with us ever since.

GORUCK GR1 Rucksack

Here is my urban packing list for our eight-day trip to England. Note that these may not individually be the lightest weight options for gear (my gram weenie friends will disown me), but it is at least a minimal approach to the amount of gear I’m taking.

  • GORUCK GR1 Rucksack
  • Pants (4) – two pair of Vertx tactical pants, two pair Levi jeans
  • T-shirts (4)
  • Micro Fleece (2)
  • Underwear (4)
  • Socks (4)
  • Beanie Hat – TNF wool/fleece beanie
  • Rain Coat –
  • Sunglasses
  • iPad2 + cable (ebooks, movies, audio)
  • iPhone4 + headphones
  • Lumix GF2 Camera
  • Toiletries (repackaged in 3oz containers)
  • Men’s Shower Gel – for me and Jack to share
  • Toothpaste – whole family
  • Toothbrush + floss
  • Deodorant Stick
  • Disposable Razors (2)
  • Basic First Aid – Band-Aids, ointment, and painkillers

GORUCK GR1 Rucksack

That’s it. This was a spur of the moment blog post after realizing I was scrutinizing every piece of gear as I was pulling it all together to put into my rucksack. I’ll be putting my GR1 through its paces during this trip and taking notes of how well it performs. By all accounts this will be a total breeze for a pack that is military-grade, made in the USA, and comes with a lifetime SCARS guarantee. It will get a real pounding in June when I take part in my first GORUCK Challenge!

How do you pack for urban situations?

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  • Josepdin

    Don’t forget to arrange for your iPhone.  Try to get it unlocked so you can pick up a pre-paid SIM in England.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      I’m actually planning to not use my phone at all in the UK :)

  • Josepdin

    Don’t forget to arrange for your iPhone.  Try to get it unlocked so you can pick up a pre-paid SIM in England.

  • Jeff More

    I got a 3oz squeeze bottle from REI and the mouthwash tastes nasty after a few days, almost like it’s melting the plastic.

    I presume you’re going carry-on only, what razors are you using? I shave with a double-edged safety razor normally but have to switch to disposables for air travel.

    My packing is similar to yours but half the changes of clothes–I usually pack one or two changes, BUT I have to pack a suit, tie and dress shoes, so it ends up being quite a bit heavier. This is mostly for work.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Yup I’ll be carry on-only and so will my wife and kids for the most part. We are checking one medium size suitcase only because it is filled with gifts for my family.

      I’m taking disposable double-edge razors because of the ridiculous TSA restrictions. I also hate that I can’t pack a small EDC knife in my carry one any more.

  • Jeff More

    I got a 3oz squeeze bottle from REI and the mouthwash tastes nasty after a few days, almost like it’s melting the plastic.

    I presume you’re going carry-on only, what razors are you using? I shave with a double-edged safety razor normally but have to switch to disposables for air travel.

    My packing is similar to yours but half the changes of clothes–I usually pack one or two changes, BUT I have to pack a suit, tie and dress shoes, so it ends up being quite a bit heavier. This is mostly for work.

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/18101205595092823244 Basti

    Congratulation for implementing the ultralight principles into everyday life! That’s something not everyone achieves.
    (I would probaply pack only two pairs of trousers. One for “getting well dressed” when going to a restaurant for dinner and one for strolling around in the city)
    Don’t forget that you’re probaply not allowed to take the razors with you in your handluggage.

  • Hans Deseure

    plug adapters

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Always – I have quite a few now :)

  • Hans Deseure

    plug adapters

  • sygyzy

    Though I shouldn’t be, I am surprised you own a GoRuck. All the guys love it over at Carryology but we have different carry focus than you. You’re definitely more of an outdoorsman so it’s interesting to see this pack here. I know it’s perfectly capable of outdoor duty but I really view it as an urban daypack.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      And that’s exactly the purpose I use it for. This is not a UL or even lightweight pack and I am fully aware of that, but for my day-to-day work it’s perfect and I can use it for things like this too. It’s a kickass pack and you get what you pay for, but it’s not cheap.

      I’ll be doing a GORUCK Challenge in June so I’ll be able to put this pack through its paces then :)

      • sygyzy

        Brian, you’re a family man with two kids. Are you sure you are up for the GORUCK Challenge? They make you carry bricks!

        • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

          I’ve already been running a couple of miles each week wearing my GR1 filled with six bricks – so I think I’ll be okay :) I’m actually a pretty active guy, chasing two smal and very active kids, backpacking, doing karate and jiu-jitsu several nights a week, running etc. I’ve dropped ten pounds since I’ve stepped up my training for the GORUCK Challenge. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

          • sygyzy

            I was just messing with you. I know you are in great shape. Report back. Every time I see one of the completed challenges, I want to do it.

          • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

            The hardest part (I’m told) is the mental challenge of signing up and registering. Once you’ve committed you’re all in :) I’ll be sure to report back afterward.

  • sygyzy

    Though I shouldn’t be, I am surprised you own a GoRuck. All the guys love it over at Carryology but we have different carry focus than you. You’re definitely more of an outdoorsman so it’s interesting to see this pack here. I know it’s perfectly capable of outdoor duty but I really view it as an urban daypack.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’m actually planning to not use my phone at all in the UK :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Yup I’ll be carry on-only and so will my wife and kids for the most part. We are checking one medium size suitcase only because it is filled with gifts for my family.

    I’m taking disposable double-edge razors because of the ridiculous TSA restrictions. I also hate that I can’t pack a small EDC knife in my carry one any more.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Always – I have quite a few now :)

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    And that’s exactly the purpose I use it for. This is not a UL or even lightweight pack and I am fully aware of that, but for my day-to-day work it’s perfect and I can use it for things like this too. It’s a kickass pack and you get what you pay for, but it’s not cheap.

    I’ll be doing a GORUCK Challenge in June so I’ll be able to put this pack through its paces then :)

  • sygyzy

    Brian, you’re a family man with two kids. Are you sure you are up for the GORUCk Challenge? They make you carry bricks!

  • shoeless joe

    Looking forward to hearing more… a lot of overlap in the UL and one bag travel worlds

  • Catharine Slover

    When we took our three adolescent daughters to Europe for four weeks the best thing we did was bring an extra duffel just for shoes. All of us put almost all of our shoes in that one duffel and we each only had to bring one rolling carry-on size suitcase. We did laundry a little at a time.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Great tip. I’ve limited all of us to one pair of main walking shoes/sneakers and a lightweight pair of slipper-type shoes (Kigo Drives) – so we are being very conservative with shoes. They tend to be bulky and heavy.

  • Catharine Slover

    When we took our three adolescent daughters to Europe for four weeks the best thing we did was bring an extra duffel just for shoes. All of us put almost all of our shoes in that one duffel and we each only had to bring one rolling carry-on size suitcase. We did laundry a little at a time.

  • Lizw

    I also pack for urban trips the same way I do for backpacking – just what I need, and plan to wash along the way. If possible, I wash things by hand as soon as I take them off and drip-dry them overnight.

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      That’s exactly how I pack and travel too! The only difference is if it’s formal business travel and I have a suite or shirts that need to be pressed – but getting there is the same process :)

      One bag for everything significantly speeds up the boarding and debarking process.

  • Lizw

    I also pack for urban trips the same way I do for backpacking – just what I need, and plan to wash along the way. If possible, I wash things by hand as soon as I take them off and drip-dry them overnight.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    That’s exactly how I pack and travel too! The only difference is if it’s formal business travel and I have a suite or shirts that need to be pressed – but getting there is the same process :)

    One bag for everything significantly speeds up the boarding and debarking process.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Great tip. I’ve limited all of us to one pair of main walking shoes/sneakers and a lightweight pair of slipper-type shoes (Kigo Drives) – so we are being very conservative with shoes. They tend to be bulky and heavy.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    I’ve already been running a couple of miles each week wearing my GR1 filled with six bricks – so I think I’ll be okay :) I’m actually a pretty active guy, chasing two smal and very active kids, backpacking, doing karate and jiu-jitsu several nights a week, running etc. I’ve dropped ten pounds since I’ve stepped up my training for the GORUCK Challenge. Keep your fingers crossed for me!

  • Matt Dewitt

    I see you have a ipad 2 and iphone. Any posts on hiking apps you use with either for packing lists, weight counters, mapping?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Very observant of you. I have been trying to develop my own iOS app based on my gear list and a few other features to make available to all of you (free), but have not been able to get very far with it.

      I do have a growing list of features and requirements to build the app to, just need help to do the coding. If anyone is interested in helping please let me know.

  • Matt Dewitt

    I see you have a ipad 2 and iphone. Any posts on hiking apps you use with either for packing lists, weight counters, mapping?

  • stickyc

    I realize you’ve already left – but was there a particular reason you packed toiletries rather than just buying them when you arrive?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Stickyc – Yes! Firstly the cost. I already had all of the toiletries that I needed for my trip so why have the expense of buying them again? I’d also have to wait until I landed or got settled to go find a shop to buy them. Then I’d quite possibly end up having to buy more than I needed or than I could bring back with me – to me that’s wasteful.

      I’ve also found that even though I can carry 3oz per liquid on the plane, in practice I need far less than that for a week of travel, so I repackaged them to save money and weight.

      So there are lots of reason why this makes sense to me. But I’m not saying everyone HAS to do this, it’s just what I’ve gotten used to doing and it works for me and my family :)

  • stickyc

    I realize you’ve already left – but was there a particular reason you packed toiletries rather than just buying them when you arrive?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Very observant of you. I have been trying to develop my own iOS app based on my gear list and a few other features to make available to all of you (free), but have not been able to get very far with it.

    I do have a growing list of features and requirements to build the app to, just need help to do the coding. If anyone is interested in helping please let me know.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Stickyc – Yes! Firstly the cost. I already had all of the toiletries that I needed for my trip so why have the expense of buying them again? I’d also have to wait until I landed or got settled to go find a shop to buy them. Then I’d quite possibly end up having to buy more than I needed or than I could bring back with me – to me that’s wasteful.

    I’ve also found that even though I can carry 3oz per liquid on the plane, in practice I need far less than that for a week of travel, so I repackaged them to save money and weight.

    So there are lots of reason why this makes sense to me. But I’m not saying everyone HAS to do this, it’s just what I’ve gotten used to doing and it works for me and my family :)

  • sygyzy

    I was just messing with you. I know you are in great shape. Report back. Every time I see one of the completed challenges, I want to do it.

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    The hardest part (I’m told) is the mental challenge of signing up and registering. Once you’ve committed you’re all in :) I’ll be sure to report back afterward.

  • http://listeningtothewinds.blogspot.com/ Brad Neal

    Android would also be a nice platform to have it on as well…. im kinda torn as between android and iOS

  • http://listeningtothewinds.blogspot.com/ Brad Neal

    Android would also be a nice platform to have it on as well…. im kinda torn as between android and iOS

  • http://twitter.com/twgoodwin Tim Goodwin

    Did I miss the post trip bag review?

    • http://www.briangreen.net Brian Green

      Tim, no you didn’t miss a post-trip review, I’ve just been slammed between work and other things to actually get something written up. Rather than a post-trip review I planning to do a detailed review of the GR1 itself – stay tuned and thanks for your patience. ^BG

  • http://twitter.com/twgoodwin Tim Goodwin

    Did I miss the post trip bag review?

  • http://www.briangreen.net/ Brian Green

    Tim, no you didn’t miss a post-trip review, I’ve just been slammed between work and other things to actually get something written up. Rather than a post-trip review I planning to do a detailed review of the GR1 itself – stay tuned and thanks for your patience. ^BG