Ruck Size PT, and Pack Lists - Part 1

Debates on large vs medium or small ruck sacks will go one as long as caliber and platform debates go on.  No getting around that.  No matter what ruck you choose, so long as it fits you, is well-made, is not 'hunter orange' or some other really LOUD color, and you don't pack it heavier than 1/3 (or less) of your body weight, you should be fine.

The size decision should also be based on your personal fitness level (get more PT in - strength and cardio).  Don't think that you can sit around all day, not exercise, and then when the balloon goes up, grab your trusty ruck and platform and hump out of your AO to a safe area.  Not going to happen.  As far as starting ANY kind of conditioning program, the rationalization (aka excuses) of, “I’m too old, I can’t get in the shape necessary, I’ve got a heart condition, I’ve got Lumbago, I’ve got ______________” to, “that’s retarded, all you need is a couple magazines, a MRE and your rifle and, "Ximbabse tribesmen proved that in ______________ war where they kicked the US military’s ass” with just spears and sandals to “caching is the only way.”  Caching is great, and should be seriously considered, but it begs the questions:  How are you going to GET to your cache, and once there, how are you going to carry your cached supplies out?

Realistically and practically, not everyone can, in fact, carry 90 plus extra pounds on their frame (includes LBE, ruck, water, & rifle).   This fact has never been in contention.  Not everyone is going to be an active member of your NPT, either.  Physical or medical limitations have to be acknowledged and dealt with accordingly.  However, in a great many cases, each person can do as much physically as possible to get into the best shape that their physical and/or medical limitations will allow, and when achieving that, can be of more utility in supporting the active NPT conducting security operations to secure the NPAO (Neighborhood Protection Area of Operations).   Support roles are just as, if not more, important than the role of actively protecting the ‘precious cargo’ within the NPAO.

So, PT, as harped on and harped on and harped on and harped on here and many, many other places, is the cornerstone of being able to perform during a WROL/SHTF scenario.  Being in shape BEFORE it occurs elevates the odds of making it through the first big die off exponentially, when compared to those who will succumb to heart attacks, strokes, and other debilitating medical events at the outset due to stress, anxiety, depression, and the inability to cope with ‘what is.’

That’s one reason why many people recommend a steady, incrementally challenging program for fitness no matter the age of the person involved with the result being the person is in the best physical condition possible for their personal profile.

Full stop.  No other reasoning necessary for PT.

Then, when choosing the ruck, the physical limitations will help in the selection process.  That said, getting the best you can afford is on the menu within the limits of your physical capabilities.  I use and endorse the 2nd Generation USMC FILBE ruck with assault pack (3 day pack) and hydration carrier for several reasons:

·        It’s pretty durable, and is constructed with ease of use in mind.

·        It can hold a load heavier than most can carry (currently, mine – not including the assault pack strapped to the top – weighs in at 63 pounds at peak training.  I go up and down with contents/weight for conditioning.  I carry lighter weight more often and for longer distances, but on some days, I go for broke and carry the full monte for my maximum mile capability, which in 2019 was 10 miles.  I have to train smart, because I’m getting a bit grey, and while I might be able to continue to carry it with more training – I want to keep my knees and joints as supple as I can for as long as I can – my goal is to carry no more than 60 pounds in a ‘real’ world GOOD scenario.  That would be everything I need, including spare ammo, water, and food.  I can give the 3 day to the Missus, and keep it light enough for her to carry if necessary.  (PS - she does PT, too, both cardio and weights, and, based on the 1/3 body weight rule, she could carry a 40 pound cohesive weight total (pack, water, weapon, food, ammo, etc.  Realistically, I'd make sure she was right at about 30 pounds.  It'd be slower, sure, as her walks are 3, maybe 4 miles at about a 20 minute pace, but she'd be able to do it for several hours without a break.)

Not my Missus - Stock photo, but she does this...

·        The ruck blends well into most any environment, including urban, because it’s coyote brown.  Doesn’t look ‘tacticool’ with the latest, greatest .mil camo pattern (even if you have a high end pack, like the Eberlestock or others, don't get the latest/greatest .mil camo pattern.  TOO much attention.)  At most, it looks like an old surplus pack,.  The only attention I get when doing ruck walks through my little AO is kindly people saying hello and offering food and water because they think I’m a homeless person passing through.

·        The FILBE is comfortable, as large packs go.  The shoulder straps are nicely adjustable, the hip belt and sternum straps help distribute the weight of the load, and the frame gives a bit of air on the back, which allows sweat dissipation.

·        It’s very adaptable with any accessory because of the PALS webbing just about all over it.

·        It takes everything in my pack list to include a week’s worth of food with room to spare (a mix between meal replacement bars and freeze dried meals - actually more, as I get the double portion models so I can feed both the Missus and me from one pouch - sometimes 2.

There are other packs out there, some even better, to be sure.  There are a lot worse.  Some folks are really limited by budgets, and that’s why I recommend a modified and original ALICE pack that JC Dodge describes at Mason Dixon Tactical (ask nice and he might re-post).   I was weaned on the ALICE and used it exclusively in both military and civilian applications for over 17 years (along the way, I was issued dual QR straps, woodland shoulder straps, hip belt and pack bag) until I was issued the CFP-90, which I used until a few years ago when I got the FILBE.  All have their good  and bad points.  All require the user to be in good physical condition.  Damn, there I go with PT again….

Now, the pack list.  We don’t recommend a lot of extraneous equipment and accessories; we typically go with the ‘multipurpose’ rule:  ‘Each item should have multiple uses to cut down on the amount of equipment carried.  Wherever possible, carry lighter equipment.’  Only you can determine what makes sense for your pack list.

The most important item from a survival perspective (which includes getting to your BOL or next way point, is the water purification system.  I use and recommend Sawyer products for one reason:  They work.  I supplement that by carrying 4 to  6 ounces of stabilized oxygen to treat any water that might be suspect.  Same reason:  It works.  I always augment the above with a couple bottles of water purification tablets and some sort of sweetener (honey, pre-sweetened non-carbonated drink mix, etc) because the water tastes like fermented horse piss, and that's on a good day!

Next on the list is a good, fixed blade knife.  Nothing over 9 inches in length, and it’s essential that it is full tang.  The best you can get - don't go all Walmart here.  That doesn’t mean a lot of money either.  I recently picked up a new, old stock Camillus ‘USMC combat knife’ with a Blackhawk sheath for $50 on eBay (2014).  This is the same knife I first possessed many years ago and carried until I could afford to buy a REAL Kabar, and then later a Randall #1 (now in the possession of a favored uncle).  I also keep a Morakniv military model in my kit - great edge, great steel, NOT full tang, and not used for primary survival tasks.  Cost me less than $20, shipped.

Boots - Best you can afford, and that should go without saying - do NOT skimp on your boots.  I prefer Lowa and Morel Moab.  The Lowa have 8 inch shafts and the Morels are hikers.  I wear one and the other is in the ruck.

Socks - Same here.  I like the number 6, as in 6 pair in the ruck and 1 pair on.  I use Darntough Vermont socks.  Expensive, sure, but in 'normal' times, they give a full, lifetime, no excuse replacement warranty.  I've used it for minor problems and have always gotten a new pair with free shipping.  Only fly in the ointment is that I have to send the bad socks back on my dime.  But, $4 for a new pair of $24 to $28 dollar socks is a deal in my book.  Buy once, cry once.  PS - DO NOT send back socks that are not freshly laundered - they will void your warranty.  Understandable as nobody likes opening a package with stinky socks in it.

 Continued in Part II


  1. Good info. I bought Darn Tough socks on the recomendation of a Appalachan Trail through hiker buddy. They are good!

  2. Hi,
    I started rucking again in 2013 with my new puppy, who I still have, and a Gregory 80 liter loaded to 50 pounds. At sometime in the years since, I came across They have events of various lengths. They also sell "ruck plates" of several different weights. I bought 2 20 pound plates. They are about the dimensions of a large laptop. I put one in the laptop sleeve of a Swiss Army pack and the other outside it; that way you don't get any annoying clanging. I hike for from 2 to 5 hours. Even if I have been doing plenty of elliptical and lifting free weights and walking or running, rucking with the plates has a way of exercising muscles and joints in a unique way that can give you aches and pains in 48 hours if you're not used to it.

    Thank you for this new rucking article. I remember a two-part instructional article on your ruck load-out a few years ago on this blog. Are you going to add the content from the old site?

  3. I have been carrying 25lb and 10 lb gym style weight plates in my large ALICE.

    I modified that pack to the Hellcat design, with the lighter frame and the newer MOLLE type pack straps and hip belt.

    While rucking with it (and like the last guy, also walking my dog) it occurred to me that I should just lose the weight plates and replace it with the actual contents that I would be carrying if I ever really had to go fully man portable. If I need extra weight to make that a challenge, I can always add in more water.


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