Rucking is an all-weather type of activity. This is a Rucker 1.0 in Wolf Grey.
I love Rucking. Put on a heavy backpack, walk outside for a while. Call it a workout. And it is a fantastic workout, a fantastic way to clear your mind, and the only workout which has stuck for me. I’ve been doing it for a little over three years now, and I wanted to share with you what I have learned along the way.
Why I Love Rucking
- More Gear
- Outside: anywhere
- Skill required: walking.
Yeah, that simple. Being outside, even in the sweltering heat of Houston, or the snow days in Washington — it is magic. There is no reason being outside should be as good as it is, but it is. Outside feels better. That I can do this workout outdoors, in almost any weather is a huge plus.
I see a surprising amount of deer while Rucking.
Rucking is as easily done on city sidewalks as it is in the woods. My current routine has me doing sidewalks through the neighborhood during the workweek while my weekends have me walking through a state forest among heavy trees, dirt, grit, horses, deer, and the occasional coyote.
Add to all of this that you get to fiddle with gear. That if you over pack a bag it just means you get a better workout. That you must carry a backpack — one of humanities great inventions — Rucking is ideal.
While people say you should Ruck with others, I find peace in doing it alone — I recharge when left alone. And, as it turns out, you can press some serious calorie burn out of it. I often hit around 700-800 calories burned in about an hour plus of time.
How To Do It
I recommend you start here with GORUCK’s primer on the topic. From there, here’s how:
- Put weight in your bag, 20lbs to start, no more than 30lbs.
- Have a water bladder to drink from.
- Go and walk as fast as you can. Don’t run. That’d be running, and running is not fun.
That’s it. Let’s not overthink it. No shouting “you can do it” needed. The rucking motto is more along the lines of DFQ, Don’t Fucking Quit. That works out easily if you walk 3 miles in one direction away from your house, because you gotta get back home eventually.
For calorie burn there is a simple equation: weight carried + speed of movement + distance moved = burn/workout results. The great thing is that you can vary any one of those items, or any combination of those items, to get a different workout.
For a faster workout, do a shorter distance with a heavier load. Can’t seem to get your pace up? Add a more weight and burn more. Or walk farther, either works. My weekday rucks are about 45 minutes long. 90 minutes for the weekends.
There are some gotchas with Rucking that I do want to talk about:
- Don’t run/jog as that is very dangerous with a lot of weight on.
- Don’t over do the weight. You may see people with extreme loads of weight, but it’s not smart or that beneficial. Stay under 45lbs if you can.
- As with running, you don’t need to go insanely fast, just be pushing yourself — that will mean different things to different people.
- Don’t use a track for your workout. Tracks suck, they are boring and that’s not Rucking. Find a path, sidewalk, road, anything that is not a track.
Now some questions I struggled with at the start:
- How far should I Ruck? I advise sticking around 2 miles your first couple times out. This will help sort out if your bag and gear work well, or if blisters are going to form.
- How fast should I Ruck? Somewhere between 13 – 20 minutes per mile is plenty fine. Most people will state the 15 minute pace as the benchmark, but uneven terrain in the woods, or crosswalks in the city can make it hard for many to obtain that speed. Be aware that the environment impacts your speed as much as your fitness does.
For beginners, if you can stay under 20 minutes per mile you should be happy. The founder of GORUCK says he is consistently around 13 minutes a mile. To keep a sub 16 minute pace, people talk about how you can’t think about anything other than keeping your pace. I find this very true. That’s often not as beneficial to me as being able to think while I Ruck, which is why I really like to settle at 16 minute paces for longer Rucks. I get to think and decompress.
Here’s my closing thought: if you hike already, toss a dumbbell in your daypack and call it Rucking. Boom, there you go. Better workout and you get to keep hiking.
Let’s get into gear, because gear is fun and we all deserve fun this year.
Everything I ruck with, minus the water bladder.
Rucker 2.0, Hunter Green.
Do you need a GORUCK bag to Ruck? No, but the bag you use, will make or break your experience Rucking. So this is the most crucial piece of gear you can have. Here are the top things you need with your bag:
- Ability to carry weight (a lot of hiking bags will top out around 30lbs carry limits which means 20lbs weight will be your max then add water and such).
- Durable: imagine finding out your bag isn’t well made 6 miles from your house with your gear all over the road. Not ideal.
- Comfortable: what’s comfortable around your house will change quickly with weight. Wide straps, fits your body well. This all matters.
- Ability to secure the weight in the bag so it doesn’t move when you walk. Unless you like being tapped by a 30lbs weight every time you take a step.
- Hydration bladder compatibility, because you won’t want to stop to hydrate and if you don’t have a tube you will get dehydrated fast.
If your bag can do that, then you are good to go.
A note about weight in your bag: an unsecured weight could slam into the back of your head if you bend over to tie a shoe. So you need it to stay close to your back, as high as possible and secured in a way it stays put. Even the weight sitting in most laptop compartments will cause it to slap back and forth against your back in a manner that will annoy you over many miles. Secure your stuff.
Add this all up, and you have the reason people end up with GORUCK bags like the GR1 or the Rucker for Rucking. The weight is secured properly and the bag is comfortable. My advice remains to get a Rucker if you can afford to dedicate a bag to your workouts, or to get a GR1 if you want something far more versatile. (See also Rucker vs. GR1)
If you hate GORUCK bags, then look for something with lash points inside the bag. MOLLE being preferred, and Mystery Ranch being the only other brand I would really recommend for comfort.
There is one other product I am going to mention here to aid with weight safety inside bags, and that is Shaddox Tactical’s plate pouch. These are padded pouches that hold a weight plate and secure to MOLLE or other anchor points in your bag.
Generally you can use any weight that you can secure and fit in your bag. Sandbags, kettle bells, bricks — these all work. The gold standard is Ruck Plates — which GORUCK makes as well as a few other brands which are less expensive. If you have a Rucker you should spend the money on the ruck plates so they fit properly in the bag. Here’s a run down on the weight options:
- Ruck Plates: yes, these are the best options. The GORUCK ones are readily available, and well done. Non-GORUCK options are good, way cheaper, but not finished as smoothly/well. (Other options: Titan Fitness, Yes4All — be sure they will fit your bag, the sizes are different.)
- Bricks: before GORUCK sold/made plates, this is what they advised. The benefit here is that these are cheap and readily available. But you need to do some work to make them a good option. Mainly you need to duct tape them together and cover them in duct tape so they don’t destroy your bag. (See more: wrapping bricks, securing bricks.)
- Sand: I guess, but only if it is in another bag. Just filling your bag with sand seems like a bad idea to me. But if sand bags are something you work out with already, they can be used. But securing them is really the difficult part.
- Water/Beer: get a bunch of water bottles, or cans of beer and fill your bag. Always acceptable, but careful not to spring a leak. I believe the beer option is GORUCK approved, historically speaking.
- Kettle Bells: a lot of people have these. They are not ideal. They are large, and hard to secure. I think beer cans is a better option.
The deal with weight is that it is ideally carried between your shoulder blades, nice and tight to the back. That’s easiest done with a Ruck Plate and a Rucker. You’ll spend more time with any other bag, or weight option, trying to achieve that same fit. If you can get the weight in that spot, you’ll be far more comfortable.
Ah yeah, the main way to spend money on Rucking once you drop bank on a GORUCK bag and Plate is to keep buying clothing! This is Under Armour’s entire business model after all. I’ll break this out by category.
- Footwear: GORUCK boots are amazing (see my MACV-1 review) and they are my preferred/primary shoes for Rucking. They look like boots, wear like sneakers. Supportive and comfortable. For non-boot shoes the GORUCK I/Os beat all fitness/trail running shoes I have tried. All GORUCK shoe options are ugly, but they work because they were designed for this. I cannot recommend any other shoes right now.
- Socks: Darn Tough socks are what you want for your feet. The Micro Hiker Light is the line to look at for boots, for shoes the Hiker No Show Light Cushion, amazing stuff. Get some, and take care of your feet.
- Bottoms: This is all weather dependent, as well as rucking location dependent. I wear shorts most of the time here in Houston, but in Washington I almost exclusively wore pants. If I am Rucking somewhere with poorly manage trails, pants it shall be. Of all the items I have tried, GORUCK’s gear gets top nods from me. The Training shorts and Simple Shorts are both great, while the Simple Pants are an item you should own anyways, but are excellent for rucking. Outside of that, I wear the Western Rise Movement shorts a ton and they work out great.
- Tops: I typically wear a long sleeved t-shirt in the cooler days here, or a t-shirt the rest of the year when it is sweltering. For t-shirts I have found the Western Rise Session and the GORUCK Training shirts to be my favorites — no preference between them. For long sleeved shirts the Under Armour Tactical UA Tech Gear has been great for me with subtle colors and a light wear. During cold Rucks in Washington, I would often toss on a half-zip of some sort (GORUCKs are great, as are Beyond Clothing). And sometimes an even warmer layer like the Outdoor Research Ascendant or Grid Fleece — but really any active insulation layer (like a soft shell or fleece) will do to warm you up. I will also toss on a Simple Windbreaker to help with warmth, as I always keep that in my ruck.
- Rain: I actually really love Rucking in the rain. For that I don’t worry about my legs, but a full zip rain jacket is a must if it is cold out. I just wear whatever I have on hand. Nothing special here I am sorry to report.
- Sunglasses: if you are Rucking on the street and not in the woods, you should pack some sunglasses. The glare off the roads can be killer. I prefer polarized. Go with what you got.
- Headwear: I’ve went through an absurd amount of headwear testing for Rucking. I almost always wear a hat, usually because I Ruck well before I have done my hair and vanity is a thing. Here’s a run down of what I like and rotate through:
- GORUCK Performance TacHat. Such a huge fan of this, it breathes well, and is super comfortable. Darn good. The ideal choice for warm weather.
- GORUCK TacHat. This was my go to, but it is warm and something I switch to only in cooler weather. I am not sure if this is discontinued or not.
- All Day Ruckoff NYCO Hat: sits somewhere between the two GORUCK options for warmth, and is a very comfortable hat with a few more color options. Pretty big fan.
- All Day Ruckoff Beanie: Warmest beanie I own, really good stuff for really cold weather.
- Filson Tin Cloth Hat: When it rains, this is what I wear. I love mine, and it keeps water off my face, while just being a pretty badass hat.
- Shemag: In cold weather I wear these as a scarf. I know people like them for sun protection, but I have yet to use it for that while Rucking. But in the cold, it can stop cutting drafts from jumping down your collar to your chest.
- Gloves: In cold weather gloves are a must, I go for ones with Primaloft insulation in them. Very cozy. Outdoor Research also makes a bunch I use. I don’t have a strong preference for anything I currently own, so you are on your own for now.
Source Water Bladder, recommended.
- Something to track Pace & Distance: This could be almost any fitness tracking. I recommend the Garmin Instinct watch (review here), or Gaia GPS on your phone does just fine.
- Injuries Help: For blister prevention, I use Rock Tape, and Combat Ready Tape. For blister treatment I used these BandAid blister things.
- Water Bladder: Water is crucial, the Source bladders are really nice and hold up really well.
- Be Seen: Reflective strips, patches, and blinking shit are needed if you Ruck during dark hours, or on roads. I can’t tell you how many times I have almost been hit by a car even in daylight. Make yourself bright.
- ITW web dominators and grimlock are crucial for helping to route your water bladder hose on most packs. I put a wed dominator on the top most position on the shoulder strap and secure the hose there, then a grimlock near where the mouth piece resides to have quick toggle access to the hose.
You don’t need all this gear at once, so don’t get it all at once. But, you’ll probably want clothes and like the bag, and I guess the weight too. Those seem important.
Now, go enjoy your workouts for a change.
Note: This site makes use of affiliate links, which may earn the site money when you buy using those links.