The Definitive Ruck Gear Checklist

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It’s Day 1 of your new rucking hobby and you’re looking for any excuse not to get started.

“What if I get too tired on the road?”

“What if it’s too hot?”

“What if one of these idiot Georgia drivers hit me?

“What do I bring?”

We’re not here today to talk about the first two (and the third one I can’t really help you with…sorry, they suck), but after we finish up, you won’t be able to use that final question as an excuse. 

In the spirit of keeping things as simple as possible, the only ruck gear you really need to get started are a comfortable pair of sneakers and a backpack capable of holding at least 15 pounds.

If this is what you have, use it. You’re good to go.

However, as soon as you get home from your ruck outing, start stocking up on these items which constitute the essential ruck gear list.

ruck gear

Let’s jump in!

Mandatory Ruck Gear

No screwing around, you need this rucking gear if you’re going to get serious about it. You can do without any of the other ruck equipment, but without a proper ruck, weights, and shoes, you’re likely going to have a much less-than-ideal experience…and may possibly hinder your long-term ability to participate in the venture.


A real shocker here, right? 

The ruck is the reason why we’re all here and represents the “centerpiece” of any ruck gear list. In most cases, the ruck will be the most expensive ruck gear item (although boots or shoes might be more expensive if you opt for a less expensive ruck), but it is arguably the most pivotal.

Sure, you can cheap out on a cheap ruck (hell, I’ve been known to throw this oldie on from time to time), but I can assure you that every step feels better when you’re working with a bag specifically engineered for the task.

ruck gear

(a less-than-stellar ruck is also more likely to leave you sore and unrecovered in the hours and days following your workouts, as well!)

Thankfully, GORUCK’s “introductory” line of bags don’t run too steep and are perfect for those getting acclimated to rucking. For more experienced ruckers, their top-of-the line rucks have the social proof of being used by those completing Selection and even competing at the GORUCK Games, championships.

Ruck Plates

Truth be told, you can always stick your kid’s Social Studies, Chemistry and Algebra books in your ruck to give it some weight (do they even teach math in school anymore?), but that is going to create an awkward-feeling ~10 pounds. 

I’ve been known to stick small barbell plates, light dumbbells, and even a kettlebell (never again!) into my ruck on occasion. However, the odd shapes of these make these only slightly less awkward for the task.

Specially-designed ruck plates will fit your beautiful new ruck like a glove. They won’t bounce around, dig into your back, or serve as an excuse for your kid not to do their homework.

Thankfully, you don’t really have to go with name brand ruck plates to get a quality product. Yes4All ships out literal tons of ruck plates every month to satisfied customers and, if you compare the specs, most of their plates fit perfectly in any dedicated ruck. Just make sure you compare specs/sizes before pulling the trigger on a ruck plate(s).

Ruck Shoes/Ruck Boots

As important as your ruck is, your ruck gear list must include appropriate footwear for the job.

This can certainly be an “either/or” type of deal:

 If you prefer boots, just get boots. If you like shoes, just get shoes.

However, I’ve been out in relatively light, even terrain on disgustingly hot and humid days where I lamented wearing my Tactical… I’ve also felt like a buffoon in my GORUCK Mackalls trudging through high weeds, overgrown grass, and mud (…lots of mud).

Regardless of whether you opt for boots, shoes, or both, make sure to focus on footwear that has hard rubber outsoles, is constructed of durable (leather!) material, have adequate ventilation. Consider that your journeys will often involve variable terrain and harsh weather conditions (and will always involve walking under load). Also, if you ever become interested in more “dynamic” rucking workouts, a shoe engineered to handle this unique blend of activities (like the classic GORUCK Ballistic Trainer) is all-but-necessary for the task.

We’ve compiled lists of the best rucking boots and the best rucking shoes (22 entries in total to choose from) that should get you more excited about footwear than you should ever be!

Highly Recommended Ruck Gear

To a degree, the following ruck gear is situational. A hydration bladder may not be necessary on a short ruck march and you might not need a hip belt with lighter loads. However, it doesn’t hurt to have a bladder, belt, and a perfectly-suited pair of ruck socks (or 10!) in your personal armory.

Hydration Bladder

Thinking about embarking on a GORUCK Star Course, 50-mile trek.

I can assure you that you’re probably gonna get a little thirst along the way.

However, how does your giant, 2-gallon water jug fit into your perfectly proportioned ruck between the perfectly fitting ruck plate?

You do want to take that patch home to stick on your depressingly “naked” ruck…right?

Have no fear! Hydration bladders have been popular amongst ruckers, hikers, and outdoor enthusiasts for decades. You can chance a slightly less expensive “general use” bladder, but Camelback’s offering ensures the lowest possibility of your water supply ending up soaking you.

Ruck Socks

Man, oh man have I been through a multitude of different styles of socks in my time.  I’m still searching for that elusive mixture of “grip” and “barely there” feeling for those I wear for my CrossFit/Olympic weightlifting ventures, but thankfully, I have my ruck socks selection on lock.

What’s in a “ruck sock”? Think of the thickness and durability of a traditional hiking stocking with ventilation to reduce moisture and heat buildup all wrapped up into a sock that feels more like a leisure slipper. Other socks might provide one or two of these qualities, but when you’re on Mile 11 for the day, your feet will demand all four of them.

MudGear’s ruck socks not only possess all four of these qualities, but also come in the “no show” style (which I have pretty much exclusively preferred since ~2002). If you’re in the (shudder) “long sock” camp, don’t fret; they have up to knee-length options, too.

Hip Belt

You know what gets really old, really fast? The constant thu-thud, thu-thud, thu-thud, of a slightly less-than-perfectly fitting ruck slamming against your back with every step you take.

You know what else sucks? Feeling like you’re Atlas, carrying the world on your shoulders for the duration of your rucking venture.

Enter the hip belt, a highly recommended addition to any ruck gear collection!

A relatively simple mechanism, the hip belt redistributes the weight of much of your ruck from your shoulders to your lower back/hip region by literally pulling the weight down. By doing this, it also brings the ruck itself closer to the body and keeps it better “locked” in place to ensure less swaying and…thu-thudding.

You can go pretty “big” on these (~$50) or pretty cheap (~$20). GORUCK’s offering lies in between these two price points and is a more than capable option.

Optional…but Recommended Ruck Gear


Reflectors are cheap pieces of insurance to keep you safe during non-daylight hours activity.

You might tell yourself that your rucking outings are going to be confined to the daylight hours and the thought of getting around outside in the dark may not sound too appealing…

…at the moment, at least.

Of course, unless you’re Count Dracula (and I guess he’d probably just fly, anyways), you’re going to be rucking during the day…a lot. However, there is just something intriguing and rush-inducing about getting up and at it in the early morning, late evening, or even overnight.

I still can’t do anything about those awful drivers, but if you make a small investment in a reflector (vest, headband, whatever), I can assure you that they’ll at least be able to see something resembling you on the night-darkened road.

Also useful for participating in an impromptu French protest

Head Lamp

For many of the same reasons that you might think you don’t need a reflector, you might think you can forgo purchasing a head lamp.

…and as we’ve seen above, there is a really good chance that you’re going to want to get a “night ruck” in at some point. 

Imagine holding your hand up for 2-3 hours, rapidly dying phone or flashlight in front of you, wishing there was a way to illuminate the path in front of you…some better way.

Enter the head lamp!

Another very affordable piece of equipment, a head lamp of even modest quality not only efficiently provides a constant light source, but does so at eye level (ya know…where you actually are looking most of the time). This is a vital piece of ruck gear for all events that take place in the dark.

Worst case, you give up rucking and become a miner!


Obviously, if you have the reverse rucking schedule than those questioning the need for reflectors and headlamps have, you might wonder why you need sunglasses.

I can’t imagine there are too many people who fall into this camp and those holding out purchasing dedicated rucking sunglasses are probably just stubborn like I am (I really dislike wearing sunglasses unless they are absolutely necessary).

I don’t really have any specific recommendations here (other than that they be UV400, either wraparound or with large lenses, and are impact-resistant), but I do recommend that you actually invest in (and actually wear) rucking sunglasses.

You think anyone wants to take a roundhouse kick to the face while I’m wearing these bad boys? Forgetaboutit….

Those beautiful, brilliant, morning rucks in some glorious, mountainous terrain on a crisp winter morning…are gonna do a number on your long-term vision prospects without proper eye protection. Your eyes can barely take that abuse for a few seconds…just think about what an hours-long ruck in these conditions will do to them.

Save your eyes; get some sunglasses!

Get Equipped and Get Going

The bad part about buying ruck gear? It never ends!

Pro tip: Don’t buy the wooden staff

The good thing about buying ruck gear? It never ends!

I mean, of course actually rucking is more important than loading up on a bunch of rucking equipment…but picking up a new piece of rucking gear is always fun.

My advice? Start with the rucking gear from the list above before you delve into new ruck patches or “challenge pants” or other more superfluous rucking equipment. However, if you’re pretty well set on the “divine nine” ruck gear above…go nuts! After all, it’s only “however many days it is until Christmas” days until Christmas!

…and just in case you mixed the plug above, check out our list of the top boots for rucking on the market. They are “mandatory” items…remember?

Photo of author


Tom, CrossFit Level 1 Trainer, ISSA-CPT, PN1-NC, DPA, CAPM has been CrossFitting for over 10 years. He has participated in a number of team and individual CrossFit competitions across Europe and the United States. He was the 2012 Chick-fil-A Race Series champion (North Georgia Circuit) and has put together a few gnarly garage and basement gyms in his time!

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