6 Rules of the Rucksack

Posted: September 13, 2014 in Bugging Out
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Anyone who has spent any time at all under a military “rucksack” aka backpack, will tell you that there are certain facts which cannot be denied. I, myself have spent several years under a ruck, living out of a ruck and cussing the weight of a ruck and have come to the realization that there are rules to a rucksack that transfers to the world of backpacking. Most are really simple and are easily understood by anyone who spends anytime trying to get from point A to points B with any amount of weight on your back.


Let’s put to rest some misunderstandings about traveling on foot with a rucksack/backpack. Think about the advertisements you have seen of people backpacking with a smile on their face.

  1. They are models. No one looks that good backpacking, period.
  2. Anyone one who travels more than 50 feet with a backpack with any weight will not be smiling.
  3. If you are not sweeting, you are not doing it right, and they are not.
  4. New equipment (They always have new equipment, it’s to clean and pretty) hurts, rubs and chafes. And yet they are smiling.

A lot of people who have never put a pack on, might believe the advertisements, but take it from someone how has spent the better put of years living under a rucksack, the advertisements are wrong. From the time I put the ruck on my back until the time I took it off a smile was the last thing that would cross my lips. However, there were a certain realizations that one comes to. Rules so to speak, that accompanies the weight of the ruck.

Much like Murphy’s Laws of Combat, these rules have been learned by many people over a long period of time during times of great hardship and misery. These rules have served many people well and though they may not have saved any lives, these rule certainly have made those lives a little more comfortable to say the least.

Rule 1. 400 pounds of high speed light weight gear is still 400 pounds of gear.

Every year, every trip some company or outfit comes up with a new piece of equipment that is the end all for outdoor survival that you just have to have. From the latest sleeping bag to the news electronic gizmo to assist your navigation skills, each item adds weight to your pack. Before you know it your pack is weighing more than you do. Ounces lead to pounds and pounds lead to pain.


The Point: Choose your equipment wisely and try to keep the overall weight of the pack down if possible. The equipment you choose to pack must have a purpose. There is no need to pack dead weight. It is human nature to want to carry everything under the sun that you might need. But if you are in a situation where you have to use your pack, only pack what you know you will need, not what you want.


Rule 2. Travel light, freeze at night.

Remember to pack according to the weather you will be traveling in. If it’s the middle of summer, traveling light is not a problem. A light weight sleeping bag, poncho liner or just a tarp may be all you need, but if it’s the middle a winter, you most defiantly need something more than a tarp.

The Point: Pack the equipment that you will need. Again weight is an important issue, but having what you need is also important. Being safe, comfortable and minimally effective are three things that are extremely important. If you derogated to the point where you are no longer affective you do no one any good.

Rule 3. Being wet sucks, being cold sucks, being wet and cold really sucks.

There is nothing worse than being wet and cold and having to sleep on the cold wet ground. If you don’t believe me, try it. Enough said.

Rule 4. Rucksacks/Backpacks hurt.

Any time you put 1/3 of your body weight on your back and try walk any distance at all, it will hurt. Again, those ads that show people smiling while walking down the trail, their packs are filled with hot air, literally. If you place all the items that some list say you should have in your pack while “bugging-out”, your back will be in knots before you make it a mile down the road.

Bug-Out bag

The Point: Both Rucksacks and Backpacks hurt. No matter what gear you have after a while it will hurt. Just use to the idea and learn to live with it. The only way to counter-act the pain is to workout with your pack and some weight. Start light and slow and work your way up to a heavy pack and long distance. However, take time to get a full medical exam before you start a workout regiment.

Rule 5. Weight, speed and distance: Too much of one effects the other, a bunch.

Pack to much weight and your speed and distance will suffer. Try to go to fast and you take a greater chance to injurer yorself. Try to go too far, cover too much distance and again you either take a chance on injuring yourself or comprise your security.

The Point: To gain speed you will have to lose weight from your pack. To gain distance, again lose some weight from your pack. The weight of your pack has a direct effect upon your speed and the distance you can cover. Remember, plan accordingly. Plan your movements based upon the weakest member of your party.

Rule 6. If today was bad, tomorrow will worse.

If you are trying to cover any distance at all with your rucksack/backpack the day will be bad. Your feet will hurt, your back will hurt, if it’s a hot day, you will be hotter, if it’s cold, you will be sweeting and then get colder. Any day you are doing a forced march (That’s what we use to call it) will be a bad day. However, you can take comfort in the fact that tomorrow will be worse.

The next day you will be hurting all over, your moral will start to fall and a general funk from not be able to relax and take care of yourself will begin to creep up on your. So again, if today was bad, tomorrow will be worse. Even the day you arrive successfully to your “Point B”, the next day will be worse. You will be in pain, your muscles will be used to the constant movement of the road. You mind will be on guard for any type of threats.

The Point: Your body will be trying to recover both mentally and physically from your experience. Remember, there are several things that you can do on the other end of your trip to make your transition between your forced march to your “Bug-out” location.

  1. Stretch – Stretching will help keep your muscles from crapping
  2. Replace your vitamins – Try to eat more vegetables than usual.
  3. Drink water – You will be dehydrated.

Let’s face it. There are a lot more rules of a rucksack than I have covered here. In my years living under a 130 pound beast (yes, it was more than 1/3 of mine body weight), these are the things that have stuck with me the most. Also, I’m still paying for each step I made with my beast on my back in the form of bulging and collapsed disk, damaged nerves and with arthritis. However, still have a Large Alice Pack ready to go at the drop of a hat, knowing that if push comes to shove that I can and will make it to my “Point B” if needed.

Be smart, make good choices and remember the rules of the rucksack.

  1. geekprepper says:

    Great write up about carrying what you need to survive…on your back. People need to wear their backpack and carry their gear to learn how it feels and how it all works, before its too late and they HAVE to do it for real.

    Great post!


  2. Steve says:

    Great article. I started carrying my BOB around my 5 acres and about died before I made it back to the house. It has since gotten much more manageable. That, and getting in better shape has made a great difference in the distance and amount I can effectively carry.


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