product photo of a rucking backpack from Hyperwear called the fit ruck

Best Rucking Gear for Beginners

Rucking Gear: The best features and options

When it comes to rucking, having the right features and rucking weights can make all the difference in your comfort, performance, and workout results. For anyone starting out, selecting the right gear is key. In this guide, we will explore the best options from features to cost. For all options carefully evaluate the padding on the shoulder straps and against your back. There are also many options for weights. Finally, we look at cost so you can pick gear that best fits your budget.

Ruck Hip Belts

Rucks with hip belts are the number one feature to look for. By distributing some of the weight to your hips you reduce strain on your shoulders and back. This allows you to go longer and with heavier weight as you progress. As backpackers have known for decades, the hip belt also reduces bounce. Some models have shock cords to reduce bounce. Adjustable hip belts ensure a comfortable and secure fit. 

Hydrate with Water Bladders

Staying hydrated during any exercise is important, especially for longer hikes in hot conditions. Opt for packs that offer integrated water bladders or have compartments specifically designed to hold hydration systems. A rucksack with molle webbing or water bottle holders works and may be less expensive. You can also keep extra water bottles inside for more weight and hydration.

Compartments for Rucking Weights

The point of working out with a ruck is to add strength training intensity to your hikes and runs. The higher the load the more fat torching weight loss too. Consider ones that have compartments designed to hold specially designed weight plates. These compartments keep solid iron weights stable and secure during your workout. Many offer padding to help reduce the impact of a metal ruck plate hitting your back. Look for models with durable stitching and reinforced compartments. The size of the weight compartment can limit your choices and cost more. Choose carefully. A wide variety of packs are available without weights so you have a lot of options and can save money.

Best Rucking Weights

When it comes to weight you have options depending on your ruck. Specialized rucks have compartments that are designed to fit custom designed ruck weight plates. Plates often have handles for convenience. The weight increments are limited and large making it difficult and expensive to progressively load your ruck for strength training. Iron is iron so shop for the best price on a ruck plate that fits your ruck. Do not try using metal plates in a ruck without compartments. The load will bounce and hurt.

Starting out with an all purpose ruck or back pack? Other types of weights include water bottles, sand filled milk jugs, or anything that has weight and fits. Excellent alternative weights are SandBell or SteelBell workout sandbags - soft neoprene free weights that also can be used for many other exercise. At twice the density of sand, the SteelBell gives you the challenge of solid metal plates with comfort and safety. In 2015 endurance athlete Junyong Pak set a world record time for a marathon carrying a 40lb ruck with a Hyperwear SteelBell in New Orleans. If you have a ruck with weight plate compartments the Hyperwear adjustable flexible weight vest plates offer flexible comfort and the ability to adjust your weight load quickly in 1/2 pound increments.

Adjustable Weighted Vests

Using adjustable weighted vests for exercise and hiking offers several advantages. They provide a balanced load distribution, superior to rucks, and allow you to adjust the weight precisely. Weighted vests also offer greater freedom of movement, making them better for running or more dynamic workouts. Consider options like the Hyper Vest TAC with up to 40lbs of adjustable weight evenly distributed from front to back with double padded shoulder straps.

Conclusion

As a beginner, investing in the right gear is essential for a comfortable and effective experience. Opt for models with good shoulder and back padding, hip belts, water bladders, and padded compartments for iron ruck weights, adjustable weight vest plates, or space for SandBells and SteelBells to enhance your experience. Alternatively, adjustable weighted vests offer convenience, balanced loading and versatility. Finally, for those on a budget, consider affordable options. Try starting with a budget friendly backpack and SandBell weights before investing in more robust rucks for heavier loads.  With the right gear, you'll be well on your way to the calorie burning benefits of working out and hiking with a ruck.

Resources

Implementing Ruck Training (Loaded Walking) with the Aging Adult, NSCA, Robert Linkul, MS, CSCS,*D, NSCA-CPT,*D, FNSCA (2022)


The Surprising Benefits of Rucking (and Why Your Clients Might Love It), American Council on Exercise (ACE), Pete McCall, MS, CSCS (2023) 

Are you ready to ruck? ACE Youtube video by Pete McCall