Over the last few months I’ve been asked about my packing strategy and often gave an aloof answer that it doesn’t matter. That said, the more I thought about it the more I realized that the way I packed had evolved over time and actually fulfils a lot of different criteria.
This post talks about my packing strategy for a GORUCK Heavy. Packing for a Light or a Death Race are very different animals and I will likely expand on those in a future post.
A shopping list is listed at the end with links to items I use for every GORUCK event.
Lets start with the main criteria
- Make Weight
- For a Heavy a pack needs to be 35lbs minimum not including food or water.
- Weight can be anything – bricks aren’t needed anymore
- Stay hydrated
- Ideally you will want a quality hydration bladder that can be refilled quickly, and perhaps supplement this with a Nalgene as well.
- Be Comfortable
- Packing should be done so its comfortable when wearing on your back, but also when front loaded, when held above the head or for the person you are buddy carrying
- Be Convenient
- Hydration should be both readily available to drink, and super easy to refill.
- Items needed often should be more accessible than items needed rarely
- Be Complete
- You have all the items you might need, and omit those you probably don’t
Okay, with all that out of the way lets get to the nitty-gritty.
First off, I need to secure my weight. The bulk of my weight is a lead weight (20lbs) and is the size of a small priority mail shipping box (shown here in the orange dry bag). This isn’t cheap but fits perfectly in the inside pouch of my GR0 so was worth the investment for me. Additionally I add 10lbs in the form of 2lb weights into a GR1 Field Pocket secured to the MOLLE inside the GR0.
A few things to note about the weight. It is distributed evenly along the ruck top to bottom and close to the back. It is often recommended to keep weight as high as possible, but this configuration is so close to the back that its vertical location makes no difference in your center of gravity. What the distribution DOES give you, though, is an even weight distribution for those occasions you are holding the ruck above your head.
Note those weights have been through a bunch of events and are starting to rust – its probably time I cleaned them up and applied a protective lacquer.
An excellent alternative to make weight are the amazing and great value custom inscribed steel plates from SHPlates.com, This is veteran owned, a quality product, and they do a lot to support veteran charities.
I always pack a spare pair of gloves, a merino wool layer (in winter), and spare socks. That said I rarely use them, and even if I did need access it might only be once or twice in the Heavy. Therefore these go to the bottom of the ruck out of the way of everything else.
I have had mixed luck with dry bags of every make, and I’ve found the best way of keeping items dry is to “double bag” with the thin and light Sea To Summit bags. Almost every time water gets into the outer bag but rarely into the one inside.
Below you will see the clothes and dry bags laid out, clothes placed inside the inner bag, double bagging, and finally placement at the bottom of the ruck.
The single most important item for a GR event is hydration. I personally use the Source brand bladders because
- The feed tube quickly unclips so I can remove the bladder for refills without needing to move the tube
- The top of the bladder quickly slides off so you can refill easily and quickly.
Here you see the bladder unclipped from the tube, clipped on, and firmly tucked into the ruck.
When I need to refill during a challenge I simply need to unzip a little, pull out and unclip the bladder from the tube, refill, and reverse to repack. In later pictures you will see that I have very little to keep control of.
In order to keep the hydration tube secure and always available I use a product called the Web Dominator on the MOLLE of one strap. These come in a variety of colors to match the ruck color and I have these permanently attacked to every ruck I own.
Second in terms of priority is footcare and medication. My kit consists of a GORUCK foot care kit, new skin, foot powder, Trail Toes, knife, athletic tape, wisp toothbrush, body glide and ibuprofen. I almost always use everything in the kit (except the athletic tape) and rarely need anything else. I usually keep my headlamp in here too.
These are collected in ziploc bags to separate items based on usage, and then placed inside another drybag.
Finally closest to the top I put food. This is done for two reasons. First so it can be quickly retrieved when cadre require you give it up (happens in pretty much every heavy), and second so you can eat on the go if you still have the food. Handy if you suddenly bonk, and also so you can concentrate on other things such as foot-care, refilling hydration, or helping others during a break.
That pretty much covers it. The only additional items I carry are a Pelican case (to hold my phone, cab fare, ID and an ATM card), two carabiners (I often don’t use them, but they don’t hurt or add much weight when attached to the MOLLE) and two 48” climbing runners (I use these a LOT – mostly to help keep hold of weight balanced on the top of my ruck without stressing my shoulders, and most recently used to get more people on a log in GRH031 so we could deadlift the top section up some stairs).
Everything else is superfluous. I haven’t included windbreakers etc because I assume those are weather dependent and probably worn anyway.
One last thing to note. In the first of the two pictures above, notice where I placed the zippers. Moving them to the bottom of one side and opening about a half to one inch allows for water to more easily exit the ruck after being submersed. Very handy for getting excess water out quickly without having to lean over.
- GORUCK GR0 or GORUCK GR1
- Lead Weight (20lb total)
- 2lb weights x 5
- GORUCK GR1 field pocket
- Source hydration bladder
- Sea to Summit drybags
- Pelican Case
- Web Dominator clips
- Climbing Runners (I use 120cm/48”)
For my foot care items, refer to my post on foot care.
To reiterate, it is required for a Heavy that the weight (not including food and water) is over 35lbs. This load out is weighted as follows
Lead + Steel + Ruck + Clothes + Meds
20lb + 10lb + 4lb + 3lb + 1lb = 38lbs
So that is it! I’ve also heard that this is also a comfortable setup for the person I am buddy carrying. Adding some padding around the Pelican case might make it more comfortable still, but this approach works for me. I am almost always the first person to be able to access the gear I need, the first person to be packed up and I ALWAYS know exactly where everything is.
I hope some of this helps.
I like your idea of double bagging the Sea to Summit drybags. Im also using a GR0 for a Heavy. What size drybags do you use and do you just double bag your clothes and single bag your foot care/med iteems?
I have bags of different sizes and usually select the smallest one I have that fits everything I want to take. The 8L and 13L are pretty flexible. If you look at the pictures, you will see that the foot care items are in either dry bags, ziplock or their own packaging within the dry bag. In other words, I always like to have a redundant layer of protection.
Mark, thanks for the site info.
I’ve got a question about Selection requirements. The Packing list says that all items on the left column ( https://content.goruck.com/fliers/Selection%20Packing%20List.pdf ) are all “recommended”.
1) Do I necessarily NEED a GoRuck Ruck? I have a Condor Assault Pack ( http://www.condoroutdoor.com/Condor-125-008.aspx ) which I train with and love. It has handles on either side as well as side pouches for easy access.
2) If items are “recommended” then why is everyone wearing PT belts? brown shirts? head lamps? etc? They don’t appear to be “recommended”.
1) Absolutely not/ If you have a ruck with waist belt then go for it. Note that you won’t have a need to get things on the fly too much, and food will be banned except for a couple of very specific food breaks (usually 24 and 36 hours in)
2) PT belts and brown shirts are now required.
Check with firstname.lastname@example.org for confirmation as always.
Im going to do a HCL in the next few months and I was toying around with the idea of a waist strap. Do you use anything like that and if so how do you set it up with a GR0?
Thanks in advance for the advice!
I haven’t used them, personally I find them more intrusive than useful
First of all great post, thank you! It seems in your opinion the GR0 is fully capable of a Heavy? I was considering adding a GR1 specifically for this even, but if my GR0 is enough I would be really happy about that. Thanks again!
Ruck size depends on what you use for a weight. Steel plates for example provide plenty of space for other items needed. Sand or bricks take up much more space.
What’s your experience with getting the lead through the airport?
I usually check it just to save potential hassle or ship in a “if it fits it ships” box ahead of time
I messed up in Seattle by not having multiple dry bags. Good call. Didn’t change my socks except after the ruck march because it would only get wet again in ten minutes. The only thing about Seattle was they let us keep the food as part of the weigh-in (not allowed to eat it until later though).
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