Setting Up Your Rucksack Correctly is EVERYTHING
It doesn't matter if your a weekend-warrior hitting the trails for a good workout, or a well-seasoned Special Forces Soldier who's humped it out a thousand times, you'll want to make sure you rucksack is packed correctly. Why? Because it will save you pain, suffering, and injuries in the long run. Here are the three main things you should absolutely implement when packing your ruck in order to get it right:
1. How Much Weight Should I Be Rucking?
A general rule of thumb when considering how much weight you should be carrying in your rucksack, regardless of distance or speed you intend to travel, is 20% your bodyweight. If you go more than that, you begin to risk injury and unnecessary strain on the body, especially if you are newer to ruck marching. Its important to remember, its more about the miles than the weight. And if you are a Soldier training to ace your required 12-mile ruck march, training up to try out at Special Forces Assessment and Selection (SFAS), or you're going all in to attempt to earn the coveted Ranger Tab at Ranger School, you do not need to train heavy! Training too heavy will only break your body down and most likely lead to an injury before you even get a chance to accomplish your goals.
2. How Should I Pack My Rucksack?
Having a rucksack that's uneven and lop-sided will, without a doubt, lead to pain... Think about it, if you had to walk 6 miles and carry a barbell the entire way, you wouldn't just throw it over just one shoulder. You'd throw it over both, behind the neck, dispersing the weight evenly. The same concept goes for the ruck, only there's even more to consider. Pack the lightest materials at the bottom of the ruck, with the heaviest items at the top and closest to the shoulders. This will ensure that the ruck doesn't drag on your shoulders, and will stay maintained at your body's center of gravity for the entirety of your march. Make sure everything is packed tight, evenly and that the items will NOT SHIFT as you walk. A tight, properly-packed ruck will save you a lot of pain.
3. Do I Need to Adjust My Rucksack?
Short answer... hell yes you do! It is completely nonsensical (and frankly irresponsible) to think you can just throw on a brand new rucksack, go on a stroll and not pay the price for it. As with packing your ruck, the distribution of weight also plays into the adjustment and fitting of your rucksack. Adjust the shoulder straps so that they feel snug, but not too tight to be cutting off blood circulation. The chest strap should also fit snuggly, but not enough to limit your breathing. The hip-pads and/or waist band should fit over the belly-button, situated across your actual waistline (above where you normally wear your pants). And the pack itself, should sit high on the shoulders, but not too high. You'll know if your ruck is sitting too high if you feel like you're having to stabilize the weight at the lower back and not at the core. And, if its too low, your shoulders will absolutely feel the drag.
It was shown above already, but definitely check out this video for a more further in-depth demonstration of how to pack and adjust your ruck correctly. Soldiers and other servicemembers, I advise you check this video out as well. Its easy to be lazy about setting up and packing your ruck correctly. But, I can't stress enough the importance of getting it right. Pay attention to these guidelines, limit your chances of pain and injury, and get after you goals the right way, whatever they may be.
Author: CPT Dan Fahey
~Exceed the Standard