Rucking 101

The Interwebs are full of “ruck 101” posts.. why start another one?

Great question. The answer probably lies somewhere between hubris and helpfulness. You be the judge. Anyway, here are my thoughts.

First.. Why?

Why in the world should I do one of these? It sounds awful. 12 hours of being beat-down? No thanks.

It’s not about that. It’s about you, contributing to your team. It’s about the people to your left and right. THIS IS NOT ABOUT YOU. Sound familiar?

Watch the video above and you’ll get some sense of it. Sign up and you’ll understand. You can do it. Your team will help. That’s all the “why” you need. On to the “how.”

The other part of the answer is that you don’t need to go all the way to a Tough (or beyond) to enjoy rucking. Rucking is simply putting some weight on your back and moving. If you hate running, you’ll love rucking. If you like running, you’ll like rucking.

If you want a TL;DR on gear, check out How to Ruck on a Budget. Also my Recommended Rucking Gear wishlist on Amazon.


GORUCK bags are fantastic but pricey. You get what you pay for; they are made in the USA, by a veteran-owned company, and if you shred your ruck, send it in and they’ll repair or replace it. I’m told if your GORUCK bag fails during an event, the Cadre has to give you his. That’s pretty sweet, and it means they hold value well if you ever want to unload it. GORUCK runs sales on major holidays, and sometimes does Christmas in July. Ask your local rucker, they’ve probably got a 10% (or 25%) off coupon code. Vets, first responders, and teachers all get discounts.

GORUCK makes the Rucker, a bag designed for events and training. It’s got an inner sleeve for a ruck plate, hydration bladder loop built-in, and is sized right for what it does. I love mine, though I have an early 26L version – current models are all 21L, so if you need more space, read on.

They also make the GR1, in two sizes: 21L for PAX < 6′ tall, 26L for those taller. The GR1 is the baddest laptop bag in the business. If you want a bag you can use for every-day laptop carry and the occasional event, it’s hard to go wrong. I don’t use my GR1 for training or events, as I prefer keeping it clean and not having to empty out all my work stuff every time I want to ruck. Which is often.

All of that said, you can do an event with anything that’ll survive for 12+ hours. I’m a fan of the 5.11 Rush24 and Rush12. I did my first event with a Rush24, which was a bit big. The Rush12 is probably the right size for training and a Tough. This bag on Amazon gets a thumbs-up from Mettle Forger, who knew his stuff better than anyone. At $40-60 it’s worth a shot. Amazon is awash in cheap ruck options these days.

I have to give a shout to Condor packs, as some of the Churham PAX are big fans. $60 for a ruck that some tough dudes give a thumbs-up to? Why not!

No matter what bag you get, you’ll want a waist strap. Bear crawls with 30 pounds of weight hitting you in the back of the head are no fun.


Ruck plates are sexy. They keep the weight close to your back and can allow you to move it up higher. A no-frills 30-pound hunk of steel will cost about $45 when ordered ~6 at a time if you can find a fabricator. The GORUCK plates are nice with the dual handles. SHplates are works of art. The Titan Fitness plates are popular now too – hard to beat a $45 price point shipped. See this comprehensive article at ADR for a comparison on how they all fit in a Rucker v1 or v2.

You can get some barbell plates at Play It Again or Academy and rig something up as well.

Bricks are cheap and easy. They also help form a “shelf” at the top of your ruck. You may want a ruck with internal MOLLE in order to make this work well (which means an extra $100 for GR1 vs Rucker). Otherwise you’ll have to go to work on a DIY way to secure a hunk of bricks in your bag.

At minimum you’ll want to bubble-wrap the bricks with a few layers. Beveling the corners is a good idea too – there are videos out there on how to do it.


“What shoes should I wear” is a common enough question that it points out the obvious — whatever works for you. Running shoes are fine. You may want something like a Hoka or Hurricane or Kayano with plenty of cushion. I wanted something with more ankle support for events, so I’m in a Merrell Moab Ventilator Mid [update: I was.. now I’m in a similar Vasque boot that doesn’t make my little toe numb]. Get something that drains well. GORE-TEX is great for everything except being submerged. Which you will be. Don’t go for waterproof; go for fast draining.


Cotton = bad. Wool = good. Smartwool, Darn Tough, Injinji, DryMax are all commonly cited. Compression socks or calf sleeves might not be a bad idea. I like wool Injinji’s and then calf sleeves.

If you start rucking enough, you’ll want to read Fixing Your Feet, or check out Jonathan Savage’s pages on taping and blister prevention. Callouses are early signs of problems. Blisters are late signs. Try to fix the underlying shoe/sock fit issues and avoid getting a blister in the first place.


Don’t overthink it. I like long pants for the Tough. Mine are Vertx. They are tough and dry pretty well. You don’t need to spend $120 on the Triple Aught or the GORUCK Challenge pants, but you could.

Layers are good otherwise. It could end up being much colder than you think. Especially if you’re wet. A windbreaker is required if the overnight temp will be under 60F.

Other Gear

Get some reflective bands. Required. A hydration bladder too. The Source ones are great; you can pay more for the FDE version GORUCK and others sell or get this one on Amazon. I see plenty of Camelbak’s too. Get something you KNOW will last. If your bladder bursts mid-event, you’re going to have a bad (and unsafe) time. Enough that a 1L Nalgene has been added to the packing list.

Fact: you can’t finish a GORUCK event without a carabiner on your ruck. Well.. maybe you can. But what’s the harm?

Having 12′ of tubular nylon webbing in your ruck may come in handy. Never know what you’re going to want to rig up. I’ve used a runner or length of webbing in every event I’ve participated in.


Check out for a great program run by Dora out of Charlotte. If you miss the sign-up window you can still see the standards and do some DIY challenges. You don’t get a cool patch unless you sign up. At the end of the day, it is all about the patches.

Locally, The Crick does a ruck at 0615 on Saturday. Phoenix has been doing EC regularly as well. Rolling Stone exists as a traveling ruck workout, visiting different AOs in Carpex every week. Join the Slack #rucking channel for updates on other ruck events that spring up irregularly.



This ended up being a way longer post than I intended. I’m not sure I actually saved anyone any time.. oh well. Enjoy it nonetheless.

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