Rucking, Part 2: What do You Need? What to Carry and Wear?
Updated: Apr 29
If you want to ruck in this article we cover the basics of what to pack and wear.
Please take note: You are strongly encouraged to exercise discretion when embarking on higher intensity physical activities. Always train within your limits. If you have an existing heart condition or any other illness and/or injury, please consult a doctor prior to starting.
Now, that being said, what are the basic items of kit that we need to ruck? This is based my experience as an occasional rucker and from my own, limited experience in the army.
Rucksack (aka Backpack aka Daysack aka Bergen)
If you are planning a trekking or hiking vacation use the same pack for training as you will for the trek. The pack doesn't have to be a military style pack, as you see here, but it should fit well and be up to the task.
A useful rucksack size (measured by volume) is 32ltr (1952 cubic inches) to 36ltr and rated to carry at least 10kg / 22lb.
You don't have to use expensive and ultralight materials, but you can if you want. You should get a pack that can withstand some beating especially if your main purpose is rucking for health and fitness.
If possible try on a pack before purchasing as you need a pack that fits your torso. Many manufacturer websites provide sizing advice.
Be visible. On the exterior add a safety light for training at dusk or at night. Use a light on both front and rear of the pack. Remember, a military style pack is designed not to be seen and on the street in the dark this can be a problem!
If you are by yourself or in the wild an emergency whistle is easy to carry and to mount outside the pack.
What to Carry
You will be walking, maybe a distance away from home. You might be on the city streets, a park or in the countryside. Carry clothing and items appropriate to the weather and terrain, bring items or equipment that you might need. Ziploc bags are great for keeping loose items organised and waterproof.
Water, or, a flask with a hot drink
First aid or anti-blister kit
If you are training for a trek, pack items that you will take on the trek. It is legitimate weight (i.e. as you will be using) and getting a feel for how the weighted pack sits on your back, adjusting how you pack the load, is important. If you are rucking purely to get fitter then you need to find items to make up the weight. Consider using:
Bags of rice. They often come in useful sizes e.g. 5kg (11lbs) bags
Large water bottles. 2ltrs = 2.0kg / 4.4lbs
Metal gym weights / plates
Some people use cast iron plates specifically designed for rucking, these can be expensive.
Items should not be loose and jostling around. Masking or duct tape can come in handy to tape items together. You might need need additional padding: foam rubber or towels work well.
Pro-Tip: Carry weight as high up and as close to your back as you can, this is more efficient and comfortable than having it low in the rucksack.
It is very likely that you may need to pack the bottom of your pack with items, a spacer, to raise the load. In my small pack I use taped-up foam rubber and carboard. It is lightweight and does the job. Consider a sleeping bag, clothing or old towels stuffed into a bag.
During a ruck you should be able to maintain good posture at all times. If you cannot, you are carrying too much weight and should lighten the load.
Footwear depends on terrain and climate. I am mainly in the city and in the heat, I prefer lightweight boots with ankle support. A decent pair of insoles for comfort. Ankle support is useful (safer) when carrying weight
Socks Wool socks work well in the heat or the cold. They are more comfortable and more hygienic than cotton or artificial fibers.
For the Legs Whatever is comfortable and avoids chafing at the top of the thighs. Leggings, sports shorts or long pants / trousers. Consider training in what you might need to wear for your trek or any event that you might participate in.
For the Torso I prefer a properly fitting lightweight, synthetic fiber t-shirt. You need a sleeved top (short or long) to stop the pack's straps from rubbing.
Pro-Tip: Chafing, caused by the skin rubbing against skin or clothing, can be a problem. Areas around the crotch, inside thighs and the nipples are prone to chafing. Prior to starting your ruck apply petroleum jelly (aka Vaseline) or an anti-chafing gel to sensitive areas.
I hope these recommendations are of use, let me know what works for you. Remember, it takes time to get fit and to grow strong. Consistency of effort is important. Also consider hydration, nutrition, sleep and recovery.
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