We’ve been getting more messages and questions about rucking and as a result, I have got out on the trail with a 45-pound rucksack myself a lot more than usual which has been fun.
We’ve posted some tips based on our experience that we feel will be of good value to you. I don’t claim to know it all, but after many years in SF, these tips and techniques worked for me and hopefully, they’ll work for you as well.
Your weight should be packed up high between the shoulder blades. If your ruck has radio pouch up high, that is where the sandbag or weight plates belongs. I prefer sandbags because it will mold to your pack and back and doesn’t have any sharp edges that can rub you on a ruck.
On this particular practical exercise I used the waist strap on my rucksack, that way, the weight rides on your hips and you can loosen your shoulder straps a tad so that the weight isn’t all on them.
While saying that, I got some emails about using bricks…yes, of course, you can use them, and for the purposes of my last few rucks, I put a load of bricks in my ruck that should get you up to weight. Most of the bricks in ruck weighed between 5-6 pounds so they do take up quite a bit of room.
We covered boots in a couple of our earlier articles. I have several pairs that I take on hikes depending upon the conditions. For the purposes of this practical exercise, I wore my heavier duty Merrell Sawtooth boots. This course has quite a few rocks and rocky outcrops at the top and bottom of the loop so those boots are a perfect fit.
Part of the trail I used goes near or next to a road that is heavily traveled, especially on the weekend. A word to the wise, walk facing traffic, it is much safer and if you’re carrying a green rucksack next to a wooded area, a driver may not see you. Be safe.
The closed loop trail in “Purgatory” gives plenty of varied terrain so it was up and down some steep hills. I took my SFAS Cadre walking stick (The staff of Ra) on the course. But unlike Mr. Jones’ medallion, mine has a large snapping turtle skull attached. It makes for good conversation on the trail.
It does help with your balance, takes a bit of stress off your knees and hips on the upside of slopes as well as crossing scree. If you take a break to enjoy the view, (not recommended for Selection candidates) it will serve as a leaning post. And last but not least, it makes a heckuva deterrent for that one angry dog that seems to always show up when you are in the middle of the woods.
I’ve had this one for a long time, and I fashioned a 40mm practice grenade cap on the bottom to keep it from wearing out. However, it did get stuck between two rocks at the very end of the trail and I had to back over a boulder to retrieve it. And you can see it on the video. So much for being cool…
Again when it comes to increasing speed, I don’t recommend that you run with a rucksack on your back while in training. It puts way too much stress on your knees. There will be times on steep downhill, you can pick up a shuffle for a few steps but as for running a distance with a rucksack while prepping for selection…DON’T.
From our last article on rucking, “They’ll be times in your selection course or the qualification course that you’ll have to make up time or want to pick your pace, especially on the downhill slopes. At those times, you’re going to have to do what you must,” Learn to increase your speed without running. Running with a ruck will hurt your knees and back…take it from the guy with two arthritic knees and an arthritic back to boot.
Lengthen out your stride and generate power with your legs and your speed will come naturally without resorting to running. But in the course…do what you must, to pass.
The standard is a 15-minute mile pace to pass the courses, you should be aiming to go lower than that. Our pace was a bit slower due to the rocky terrain out there and the steeper hills, many of which you won’t find during the selection courses in the US.
Water and hydration are very important as we keep harping on in every piece. On this morning, it was cool to start, but by the time we were beginning our third loop on the trail, it had warmed up significantly and right after the final video segment, I peeled off my light jacket and was pretty sweaty. I drank quite a bit on the trail, more than I thought by the time I was done. Stay hydrated and stay the course.
One questioner asked if you can incorporate rucking with land navigation practice…Absolutely! In your training for selection, getting used to rucking where ever you go is great practice. It will build up your endurance while getting you used to carrying your ruck everywhere.
Photo courtesy of US Army