Prepping for Ruck Events: What You Need (& What You DON'T)

Prepping for Ruck Events: What You Need (& What You DON'T)

If you are prepping for a ruck event this year or just curious what's all involved in a "pack out" or "load out," read on. 👊

Gear (what i brought and what you’ll need)

  • 30lb Ruck Paincake (if you are > 150lbs). American-made, multi-function ruck plate that keeps on dishing out the pain.
  • Solid rucksack. GoRuck makes great bags. I brought my GR1 with some mods, but I saw some people with the Rucker 3.0 and that looked like a winner. Alternative rucksacks are entering the market and more are likely on their way. Consider having a handle on the bottom of your ruck because you will likely be doing overhead squats. One event I did involved ~400 and some people struggled just holding the bag without a handle on both ends. 
  • Water bladder. You NEED this. On events I've done, we usually don't stop for water breaks very often. In one event, we stopped for water ONCE and for the last hour I had no water left after drinking 3 liters and a nalgene (32oz). It’s an absolute must to be able to drink water during a workout or during a ruck and have a lot of it. Just make sure to put ONLY water in the bladder as any kind of electrolytes will clog it up. 
  • Nalgene (32oz minimum). I filled my nalgene with 2 scoops of G1M sport by BPN and it was a lot of good nutrients, energy and electrolytes. For you, maybe you dump in a pedialyte pack or some rehydration salts. Just something other than straight water in the nalgene. I brought mine empty and was able to fill it up at our one water stop. Nalgene is made in the USA and notorious for holding up to any beatdown you can throw at it.
  • Food. You need some kind of “lickies and chewies.” In the past, I've brought energy jelly beans, jerky, small clif bars, bbq chips, veggie bars you name it and most stuff seems to take the edge off. You will not be very hungry and you will not be able to replenish all the calories you are losing. But it is an important energy and morale boost to eat something when you have a second to catch your breath. I've seen some people waayyyy overpack food and they just ended up rucking their bags of cookies and large bags of jerky with them (extra weight they didn’t eat). 
  • Medical (KT tape or compression sleeves for your limbs that are prone to injury). As a great example, one event I wore a compression sleeve on my right elbow because that one is prone to get hurt in awkward positions. It worked great. The problem? I didn’t wear one on my left, and I could barely use my left elbow the next day. Must’ve been rucking the log. :/
  • Your license and ‘quitter cash.’ Nuff said.
  • GREAT socks. I wore injinji toe socks as layer 1 and Darn tough socks as layer 2. Ryan at recommends this. They work together to absorb a lot of the friction so your skin isn’t. This combo is a winner. 
  • GREAT blister prevention cream and anti-abrasive/anti-chafe stuff. I bought HikeGoo and it was awesome. Morning of all the events I do, I put half a packet on each foot and get it all over the place, putting extra on the inside of my socks. Zero blisters (barring something >30 miles). It works to create almost a glue-like cover that is actually mostly water-resistant. I also put some bodyglide on ‘all the bits and bobs’ as a friend encouraged me to do (shout out to Woz), and didn’t have any chafing anywhere. Good combo. I bring an extra HikeGoo in case I need it, and it takes up almost zero weight. Likely good to have on hand or share if needed. 
  • Tac hat. Throw a morale patch on there and everyone will comment on it lol. I usually wear a black tac hat with a green ichthus patch and a bunch of people usually come over and share their faith. Also an opportunity just to have a healthy, respectful disagreement. This is America after all and I'm proud to live in a place where we can still believe whatever we want.
  • Dry bag! Must have. Your bag WILL get wet. Waterproofs everything in it. I usually have my cash, license, extra socks, headlamp, blister kit, med kit, etc etc… in there. 
  • Gloves. Mechanix are the standard. I like a lot of different gloves. Mudgear makes good ones. Leather if it's colder. Mittens if it's SUPER cold.
  • Breathable shirts. No cotton, period. Mine are part polyester part spandex (thanks Mudgear). Works just fine.
  • Neck gaiter. Works as a ‘mask’ and keeps the sun off my neck when it peaks through the clouds. 
  • Waterproof-ish Pants or Shorts. People with shorts used to look ill-prepared to me so I'd wear the GoRuck simple pants and they worked OK. The last couple years, however, I've turned over to the dark side and now usually ruck (in almost any condition) with long-john merino wool and tactical shorts (from Ten Thousand). I love it.
  • Good (broken-in) shoes or boots. Again, used to wear boots (e.g. Garmont, hiking, waterproof, etc.) because I thought they kept my ankles stable. After rolling my ankles in my boots tight tightly, I've realized they are heavy for no reason and now I ruck ONLY in Hoka Speedgoat Wides. They are incredible. Light, tready, and I add a soft ankle brace around both on top of my layered socks and I could ruck for days pretty much non-stop with no blisters. I know it cause I have :)
  • Tylenol. I take at least 3 during the events because my knee and hip flexor usually scream at me from past injuries. However, I'm doing more PT than ever now and trying to wean off pain-killers. Either way, you’re probably going to want some kind of pain-killer if you have anything at all on your body that is likely to be prone to over-use. 
  • A blister kit. I’m torn on this one because I usually don't need it. But I guess it’s nice to have if you’re really hurting. The problem is you barely have time to use this, typically, so you’d have to use a quick bathroom break to somehow do foot maintenance. When I did a 75+ miler, we stopped around mile 30 and I had an opportunity to do this and was glad I did. Mileage varies. 
  • Med kit. Another thing I don't really use, other than the tylenol. But I want it in case someone really needs it. In one event I did, we had 3 paramedics in our class with full med kits, so my little one with band-aids is probably unnecessary. But alas...
  • Headlamp and an American Ruck glow patch (rechargeable). Great overnight tandem.

What you DON’t need

  • You don’t need extra gloves. You just don’t.
  • You don’t need  an extra shirt or shorts. Unless you are rucking >40 miles, you are highly unlikely to change unless you're talking about just a zip-up jacket or something.
  • Speaking of jackets, you don’t need a jacket unless it’s terrible weather and likely to be very cold. Even on one ruck event, when we jumped in the river, I wasn't cold. Usually you wanted to start a ruck event chilly and you will unlikely be cold again until the very end. 
  • You don’t need a towel or anything like it. You don’t have time to dry off. And the rucks will dry you off anyways. 
  • You don’t really need hand sanitizer, wet wipes or anything. I had them, but never used them. I guess if you had a major case of the runs you might be glad you did. I do occasionally pack combat wipes in case.
  • You may or may not need your phone. Use cases vary. In most cases, leave it in your glovebox or something. Some people bring little pelican cases for theirs, but you never really use your phone except at the very end to take pictures. Up to you.
  • You don’t need a watch. Although you may want some kind of smart device to track performance. If it's GoRuck it can be a no-no. But for other ruck events, it can actually be fairly useful. You just don't NEED it. 
  • You MAY need extra socks. I’m torn on this one as I sometimes have an extra pair of Darn tough socks and Injinji toe socks in a ziploc bag with some powder in case my feet are wet. But I typically never use them. And I honestly can’t imagine getting enough time to pull my boots off and change them unless you have an easy cadre. So, this one’s optional, but they’re unlikely to be used. 

What I Recommend as Extras

  • An extra water bladder mouthpiece (In one event, I thought mine broke at one point and I had no backup, it started leaking everywhere. I was able to put mine back on and make it work, but scary moment.) Two is one, one is none.
  • Mustard. Little packets. Magic when you start to cramp up. IYKYK.

Couple things

  • Don’t let your bag touch the ground out of principal unless it's a dedicated and intentional stop. The ruck flop at the end will be worth the pain anyway. If you have a hip belt, you can alternate between carrying the load on your shoulders to your hips fairly quickly and this will get you through an entire day's work without having to drop it and pick it up again.
  • Take Epsom salt baths before and after an event. Usually cuts down on soreness. Ice baths are a nice pre-epsom bath luxury that will help with swelling.
  • When your mind starts to wander during an event, just look around you. Admire the beauty of a landscape or cityscape or muddy hillside. Take a deep breath and admire the flocks of birds flying in V overhead or the noises (or lack thereof). Look at a tree and how it moves, or watch the rain as it falls and really feel it. Be alive. Breathe! You are working hard and not a comfortable sad clown just sitting on your ass at home. Find ways to reset your mind and keep going, even if you need to count your steps But honestly, if you’re just following orders the whole time, you’re not really thinking about much. It’s just the next step and motivating the team with a good word or an extra jelly bean. Work hard but love every second of it. Suffering produces a kind of trauma-bonding that you're just going to have to experience and not just take my word for it :)
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