It's a fact and often repeated that in the U.S. Army, the Infantry and Special Forces live on their feet and under a rucksack. Otherwise known as "the tick." Aptly named because it sucks the life out of the wearer and breaks the body down in only ways that a ruck can. A heavy ruck can humble the fittest cross-fitters and gym rats with just a quick march on the road or a long slow one over a few days under a ruck. Civilian companies and everyday people have caught onto this training method and recognize some of the benefits of doing this activity. Thankfully with the massive appeal of these people to get outdoors and challenge themselves physically outside of the gym, the commercial powerhouses have tried to keep up with demand and continually improve their products. The military too has hired some of the best designers out there and purchased the best equipment to enhance the operator's longevity while using the simple rucksack. These two entities combined have brought modern rucksacks out of the 1960s and into the 21st century.
There is no denying the grinding that happens to the body while under a ruck, but today we will go over some tips to make this slog slightly less painful.
Ten tips to make your rucking adventure significantly more bearable
1. Waterproof your ruck-It doesn't matter if it's the height of summer or the depths of winter, ALWAYS waterproof your internal items in your ruck. There are commercial seal skin type bags, army surplus, or even a couple of heavy mil trash bags will suffice to provide that extra layer of protection to keep your items dry and prevent the added weight from being carried from a wet ruck. Additionally, you can spray camp dry or some other waterproofing on the exterior of your bag, as well as use some sort of bag rainfly and your poncho to protect the contents of your ruck in inclement weather.
2. Balance the items in your ruck-When packing the ruck, make sure the weight is distributed evenly to both sides. The effect of a lopsided ruck will be quickly felt during a movement and with immediately occupy all of the focus in your mind, and the end state being a loss of situational awareness.
3. Pack the heaviest items on the bottom-You should pack the heaviest items on the bottom of the ruck and against the frame. This will reduce the stress on the shoulders and minimize the bouncing of the ruck as a whole during movement. It also helps lower your center of gravity, hopefully preventing the wearer from tipping over if he loses balance.
4. Items needed soonest pack on the top-Pack the items you'll likely need first at a stop or your final destination. Things like extra socks, a rainfly for your person/ruck, quick first aid items, or the morale items like snacks and such all qualify to be at the top of the pack.
5. Tape up what needs to taped up-Any item that could work itself open and spill its contents out into the ruck need an extra layer of tape to secure it or put into a Ziploc bag. Nothing like getting to your campsite after hiking for hours to find out your foot powder spilled out and mixed with the Nalgene that you were carrying filled with water. Now you have baby paste over all your clothes and sleep equipment—bad day.
6. Make space, break everything down to the main components, roll clothing-For camping meals or other items; if you can break it down out of its outer packaging, you should do so. Same for clothing. By rolling the articles of clothing, you can uniformly pack uneven and irregular shaped items.
7. Water Source on top-Ensure your camelback water bladder is at the very top of your ruck. Two reasons why: The first is it is most accessible to refill in this position, and the second is least likely to be crushed by either the person's body weight or the bag weight when lowered to the ground if it is in this position. If additional canteens or bladders are used, they should be on the short sides of the ruck and not on the front or back and try to sit higher up towards the top of the ruck.
8. Secure your ruck and items-The mark of a professional is the person that, at a minimum, projects the perception of being one. When it comes to rucking, having loose straps and equipment that is bouncing and not secured is the mark of an amateur. Furthermore, the items bouncing and making noise will get caught on things and be felt by the operator with every step driving them into the ground.
9. Check it before you move out-Once you've loaded the ruck up with all the essential items you think you'll need and configured it as best you can, don't just take off down the road. Cinch it down, then do a few hops with it, step left and right, ensure the fit is right. Ensure the load is balanced, there isn't a hot spot, and all is secure, nothing flapping or bouncing.
10. Use your kidney belt-Nowadays these ruck systems are more intelligently designed, and the belt is no exception. Its use should be incorporated into every ruck march. This integral piece of the ruck takes part of the load off the shoulders and transfers it to the operator's hips. This will save your back and stave off those lifetime residual effects that the old breed didn't have the luxury of circumventing.
There are many more nuances involved with rucking, but have to be learned firsthand. We will continue to expand on this subject but would like to hear some additional tips from the pros out there that do it all the time. Let us know some of the essential items you would bring out for a long-range overnighter or some other tips to help lessen "the suck."