Rucking has been a tried and true training tactic for the military for decades. It’s simple, useful, and trains both endurance and strength. It’s also ridiculously easy to get started on.
We’ve compiled a list of the three great rucksacks to get you started. Our choice for the best rucksack is the GORUCK Rucker 3.0 Rucksack, which stands out for its superior quality and newest innovations in comfort and support.
What is Rucking?
Rucking is walking with a weighted “rucksack” on, which is military slang for a backpack. It’s a way to amp up your cardio for those who think just walking isn’t intense enough, and running doesn’t do it for them. It burns up to three times the amount of calories as walking without carrying the weight.
People who ruck are “ruckers.” They can range from a simple backpacker to a serious rucking group with heavily weighted plates in their rucksacks. The idea comes in part from military marches, which have recruits push their bodies the distance with their rucksacks and other gear.
It’s simple to do: get a backpack, fill it with weight, walk. Of course, there are some details to iron out, such as what kind of rucksack and weight to use, but otherwise, it’s just that simple. And it’s starting to really catch on.
Rucking is almost no different from urban hiking, but with the intention laid out on the side of exercise. You can choose any weight you’re comfortable with to get started and scale from there.
This makes rucking scalable with whatever amount of resistance works for you. In addition, it trains your back and shoulders along with your glutes and legs due to the weight. Therefore it creates strength gains while doing cardio. If you want a more significant challenge, you can increase the distance, walk faster, or up the weight.
How to Start Rucking
First, you’re going to want to do a test run to see how you like it. Get a backpack you already own and empty it. Now, fill it with about 20 lbs. of weight. You can use textbooks, weights, or anything else you have lying around. Now, get out there and start walking. You can move as fast or slow as you want, but try to aim for 20 minutes per mile.
To make it even easier at the start, bring a friend or walk the dog as you go to keep your mind off the weight. Then, if it’s something you like, you can move on to the next step.
Getting a Rucksack
You can use any backpack as a rucksack, but there are specially made ones you can buy to fill with weighted plates designed to distribute the weight best. In addition, they usually have thick shoulder pads and slots for the weights to make for the most comfortable experience.
Building up weight
Next, you’ll want to place the weighted plates into the weighted rucksack. If you’re using your own weights, you’ll want the rucksack to sit high on the back and remain stable. About 10% of your body weight is a good starting point for most people or 20 lbs.
The final step is simple, just walk. Continue to aim for that 20-minute mile at first, but you can experiment with different speeds, weights, and distances to find the right rucking experience for you.
Why does Rucking work?
The extra weight on your back pushes your body’s endurance while remaining free and flexible. The biggest muscles on your body are in your back and legs, and so the rucksack uses those effectively, pushing your whole body to get in on the action. With your heart rate rising, your number of calories burned will increase while your muscles are also given a workout.
This means rucking can give a similar workout to cross-country hiking, which burns about 500 calories an hour for the average person.
Benefits of Rucking
Rucking can do a lot for your body with such a simple exercise. There’s a reason why almost every military in the world uses it as part of their training drills.
It’s more effective compared to running (and better for your joints).
Running can be horrible for your knees, and there are many more injuries from running than rucking. Nevertheless, many people get into rucking because they want to avoid further damaging their bodies from running.
It can improve your posture.
If you’re like most people can sit at a desk all day, your posture probably needs some help. The weight in the rucksack helps to pull your shoulders back and pull your center of mass upwards, increasing good posture. Since good posture makes for better movement, the cycle helps itself, and over time rucking will improve your posture just as much as your posture will help with rucking.
It burns calories and builds muscle.
One of the main benefits of rucking is the combination of burning calories and building muscle it provides. It’s an active form of resistance training and can be used as a form of interval training.
It’s a compound exercise.
Because rucking is a compound exercise, it stimulates multiple muscle groups at the same time. Used in its low-intensity, steady-state form, it can improve your long-term endurance.
It redistributes your weight.
Due to the combination of calories burned and muscle conditioning rucking provides is also a body recomposition exercise, moving weight directly from your calories burned to your muscles.
It’s easy and social.
Finally, rucking is very easy to start up and allows you the chance to get more social with your exercise routine. You don’t need much to get started with other people, and once you do, you’ll all be able to talk, explore nature, or listen to music together.
Rucking is a great chance to meet new people or catch up with those you already know in a low-intensity environment. There are lots of rucking events already happening if you want to join worldwide.
The Top 3 Best Rucksacks
Made by the most popular rucksack company globally, the Rucker 3.0 is one of GORUCK’s newest additions.
Ergonomically designed with lumbar support padding, the rucksack hugs the spine’s natural curve with a specially designed fabric to allow for wearing the rucksack shirtless without causing friction burns. It is one of the most comfortable rucksacks on the market, with a marked improvement over previous designs. The lumbar support seems to make a difference.
There are four large pockets in the bag with one dedicated pocket for the rucking plate. The dedicated pocket is placed to prevent common injuries while rucking by encouraging proper form.
The rucksack is also highly water-resistant, allowing you to hear it through bad weather. Two drain holes on the bottom of the bag help if you find yourself in a waterlogged situation.
There’s also a subtle black reflective stripe on the bag’s front, a nice safety feature.
All in all, the two significant additions are the lumbar support and new material, both of which are solid improvements. Otherwise, it’s a quality rucksack from the biggest brand in the industry.
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The SOG Ninja Tactical is one of the better-designed versatile backpacks, able to stealth as a regular backpack really easily while still being an excellent bag for rucking. Partly because it’s feature light, it is a budget-friendly bag while still having everything you need to get started.
The side compression straps allow the bag to hold a lot while still keeping the rucksack compact. This is the case even when fully packed. The main compartment takes up the majority of the space with a few default pockets. There is some MOLLE webbing for additional pouches.
The Ninja Tactical also comes with a tubing port for the hydration bladder pocket. The padding is made thick and comfortable, with adjustable shoulder straps. The bag is made of durable polyester, making it water repellent and durable. Comes with two drainage holes at the bottom.
Perhaps the biggest draw of the bag is the combination of durable materials and a budget-friendly price tag. The versatility of easily becoming a good day bag as well is a plus.
High end option
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The RUSH24 is quite simply one of the best tactical military rucksacks available, made to deal with any situation. It can be used as a multipurpose day bag, hiking bag, army backpack, or rucking rucksack, giving it extreme versatility.
It’s water repellent with a spacious main storage pocket that can accommodate up to 37 liters and dual-zipping side pockets. The grab-and-go handle is reinforced for durability. It sports a hydration pocket, a fleece-lined eyewear pocket, and some MOLLE platform around the bag’s exterior.
Like the Rucker 3.0, it has two drainage holes and a side water bottle pocket. Two compression straps help keep the bag compact when loaded. In addition, the RUSH24 is compatible with the whole 5.11 tier system, allowing it to use many additional accessories and features.
Rucking Rucksack Buying Guide
There are a few major things we were looking at when deciding on the best rucksacks for rucking.
The rucksack should be made from durable, water-repellent materials that feel comfortable on the skin. You don’t have to go as far as the Rucker 3.0’s friction burn-less material, but the quality should be high. For example, if made of Cordura, it should have a Denier measure of between 330 and 1,000D.
Comfortable Padding and reinforcement
The padding on the rucksack should be comfortable for both your back and your shoulders, including when there’s lots of weight in the pack. You’re going to be carrying this a lot and over long distances, so it should stay secure and comfortable as you move.
The bag should also be well reinforced for long-term solid durability.
Good pocket design
Finally, there should be a logical structure to the rucksack’s inner storage, with room for all your different items and especially with a smart way to load up your weight. For example, if you are using a plate, it is nice to have a dedicated ruck plate pocket.
Ruck Workout Ideas
Your main choices when it comes to rucking are changing your speed, distance traveling (as well as the type of terrain), and weight.
You should always be walking while rucking and not running or even jogging. To increase speed, you should be moving into a speed walk but not a run. This will preserve your joints, which would be harmful if running with a huge weight on your shoulders.
If you are looking to increase your cardio, go for a lighter-weight, long-distance ruck. This is great for burning calories and entering into that zone of ‘runner’s high,’ where you flow with the passage of time.
Try rucking with friends to take your mind off the weight or even the fact you’re exercising at all – it’s like you’re just taking a walk together to chat.
If you are looking to increase your muscle gains, go for a heavier weight and faster speed. This turns rucking into more of a high-intensity workout focused on overloading the shoulder, back, and leg muscles.
Finally, you can consider adding the elements into the mix. For example, some military training uses obstacle courses with a rucksack to train their recruits, forcing you to walk the bag through mud, rain or crawls to be able to deal with any situation thrown at you.
You can replicate the experience in part with a hike while rucking or going overnight camping.
Frequently Asked Questions about Rucking
How many calories does rucking burn?
Rucking burns on average 3 to 4 times the number of calories as just walking without the weighted rucksack. With an average rucksack weighing 20 lbs, you can burn about 500 calories an hour.
What equipment do I need for Rucking?
All you need is a backpack and weight. You can go as simple as a regular backpack with some heavy objects thrown into a dedicated rucking rucksack with a ruck plate, which is a specially sized and weighted plate to fit into your rucksack optimally for weight distribution.
Is Rucking A Good Workout?
Rucking is an excellent workout that targets the back, glutes, legs, and shoulders. It is a great cardio workout, hitting the heart with its low-intensity steady-state exercise; and a great strength-building exercise for the muscles mentioned. In addition, it’s a compound exercise that is simple to pick up and get started with.
Rucking is simple, easy, and provides a great workout. There’s really not much else to it. It’s already been tried and tested by the world’s military for decades and is now taking off as a movement in its own right. Consider joining a rucking group in your area or trying a rucking event to meet like-minded people.
Our pick for the best rucksack to go on your rucking adventure with is the GORUCK Rucker 3.0 Rucksack. It has all the best features and is an excellent upgrade from the previous model, with game-changing support through its new lumbar padding.
Beyond that, GORUCK has been making some of the most rugged and well-designed rucksacks since the phenomenon began gaining traction.