The Benefits of Walking With a Weighted Backpack: The “On-Ramp” to the Almighty Ruck?

Last update:

In recent times, you’ve probably seen (or at least heard) a bit about “rucking”.

It certainly looks interesting enough as well as being an activity that is accessible to anyone; you get a big bag and walk around for a bit.

…but what if you don’t have one of those gnarly big bags yet?

Enter the “weighted backpack”!

Today, we’re out to prove that you don’t need a bunch of expensive items and equipment to get started with “loaded walking”…in this case, walking with a weighted backpack.

Consider this your “on-ramp” or…in the words of the late Ben Kenobi:

Walking With Weighted Backpacks: The Overview

Walking with weighted backpacks is commonly known as “being that nerdy/weird kid who takes every single book home from school every night”

(if you know, you know…)

…it is also known as rucking, the name derived from the main equipment in this activity – the rucksack.

It is what the name says: walking with a weighted rucksack on your back.

Soldiers have used this activity since ancient times to prepare for long marches while carrying heavy equipment. 

(They didn’t use backpacks persay, but large, heavy bags, nonetheless)

Although the activity comes from military history and lore, walking with a weighted backpack has become a popular activity for the masses.

Rucking can take many forms: from (intense) rucking workouts to participating in ruck marches such as the (very intense) Norwegian Foot March.

However, for now, we’ll focus on walking with a weighted backpack as a form of exercise, and not as a rucking event.

Compared to “regular walking”, by adding resistance (in the form of added weight) you increase the benefits of walking and add a muscle-strengthening aspect to your workout. 

…and if you’re interested in the almighty caloric burn, well, just check out GORUCK’s “calorie calculator” to see how many calories you can really burn when rucking.

(hint: it’s a lot!)

The Benefits of Walking With a Weighted Backpack…Time to Raid your Kid’s Coat Closet!

There are numerous benefits to walking with a weighted backpack, and we will go through each individually.

Build Muscular Strength

A study compared the effect of loaded and unloaded walking and came to the conclusion that loaded walking increases squat jump maximal force, push-ups, sit-ups, and general physical readiness.

Another study showed that the addition of supplementary weights increases the resistive element of the exercise and has the potential to prevent age-related progressive loss of muscle mass and strength – sarcopenia.

You know what this means, right? Walking with a weighted backpack improves your physical performance and muscular power.

A Great Exercise for Cardiovascular Health

Rucking is considered a challenging cardio workout. It’s not too hard to instantly slip into Zone 2…and things can ramp up to Zone 3 or even 4 pretty quickly.

A study showed that loaded marching provides a higher cardiovascular challenge than unloaded ruck marching. It increases your heart rate and oxygen intake, improving your cardiovascular endurance and health.

Improves Poor Posture

Walking with a weight on your back can strengthen your core muscles. These muscles are responsible for keeping your back straight (and, ultimately alleviating back pain). That way, this activity improves your posture and strengthens your back muscles and abs.

However, you need to keep in mind that it won’t happen on its own. If you walk with bad posture, it won’t improve, quite the contrary. You need to be mindful about improving. 

Engage your core muscles and keep your body upwards at all times. Align your spine and neck, push your shoulders back, and pay attention not to arch your lower back. Finally, don’t overload yourself, especially in the beginning. Carrying too much weight can result not only in bad posture but also in injury.

Throwing a hip belt on your bag or ruck can help to “force” you into better posture, but it’s important to be actively trying to maintain/develop appropriate posture while you’re walking.

Major Caloric Expenditure

As we alluded to above, walking with a weighted backpack burns more calories than regular walking. You gotta move more weight (from your backpack) than you normally would. The result of this? Higher caloric expenditure

Accessible to Beginners and Experienced Enthusiasts

Walking with a weighted backpack is a simple activity that doesn’t require hard-to-develop technique or expensive equipment. Again, think about that nerdy kid with his science book, history book, and his algebra book crowding out his backpack.

walking with a weighted backpack

Additionally, if you need a low-impact workout during recovery, or if you are just starting with a training routine and you need something less demanding, this could be the activity for you.

Easily Adjustable to Your Needs & Preferences

If you want to make your walk more demanding, you can easily add extra weight plates to your backpack. Adjusting the resistance to your needs is easy; just add another textbook!

Also, you can adjust the distance and/or change your pace in order to make your walk more or less challenging.

How to Get Started with Walking with a Weighted Backpack

Starting to walk with weighted backpacks is pretty easy; here’s how:

  1. Get some gear: This can vary regarding the type of weighted walking you’re up to. Casual walking with weighted backpacks doesn’t require much more aside from a proper bag, something to load it, and a good pair of boots or shoes. However, serious rucking gear should include other stuff such as a hydration bladder, appropriate socks, a hip belt, a reflector, a headlamp, and sunglasses.
  2. Pack your backpack: Load backpack with the appropriate weight. If you are a beginner you should start at about 10% of your body weight and slowly increase over time. You can load your bag with almost anything. However, for more precise loading, use dedicated ruck plates. Other things you can use are dumbbells, sandbags, rocks (careful with these, though!), etc. You can also pack things you will need for the road such as water bottles and snacks. Make sure to measure the final weight of the rucksack before starting.
  3. Choose a route. Again, this depends on the type of exercise you want. For more demanding walking, you can tackle routes with tougher and more hilly terrain. The length also depends on your goals. If you are preparing for a dedicated rucking event, you may want to find a route of similar distance and/or terrain. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Last call for walking with weighted backpack questions. Speak now or forever hold your peace!

According to experts, rucking should be limited to a two-time-per week maximum, at least at the beginning.

When you get comfortable with it, though…gotta up your workout frequency!

Yes, running with a rucksack can be a great exercise. However, be mindful that this is a very different activity than “bodyweight” running or walking with weighted backpacks. Start slow and easy as you get accustomed to the activity.

A former Navy SEAL and fitness author Stew Smith recommends a minimum standard of a

15-minute mile pace for “fast walking” and about a 13- to 14-minute pace for “power walking”.

Obviously, adjust as necessary depending on your current fitness level and long-term goals.


If you came into this article expecting a bit of overlap between rucking, weighted vest walking/running, and other “loaded” activities, you’re probably not too surprised with what we’ve had to say.

The thing is, those other activities require at least a little bit of more “specialized” equipment to get started. Don’t get me wrong, there is a lot of awesome rucking gear to “load up” (ha!) on, but this goes to show that all you really need to get started is your kid’s backpack and textbooks.


If you’ve been looking for an excuse not to get walking, sorry I burst your bubble!

If you’ve been looking for a way to get started…you’re welcome!

We’re all about rucking on this site; check out our article highlighting the best ruck cities in America…then move to one of them!

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!

Leave a Comment