I recently reached out to the community to get their insight into the nuggets of knowledge and experience that have helped them through their GORUCK Challenges. Drawing on the experience of a dozen or so GRT’s, I’ve compiled a list of key items to be mindful of when preparing for your Challenge
Pack all of what you need and none of what you don’t
After his 1st GORUCK Challenge Calund Llaguno learned to travel light:
“The downside of having a big ruck (GR2) is it’s tempting to overpack. … I quickly learned that packing lite and going fast is happy times for me. Here, I negated my chance to go lite by packing too much food. I could’ve packed half of what I did and would have been fine and better off. What I could’ve used was an extra shirt to change into near sunrise. (I nearly went hypothermic after getting dunked during the welcome party.)”
Be mindful of the accessibility of your supplies
I hit on this in my post about making supply choices. Michelle Paquette expands on this a bit: “The problem with packing stuff in your ruck is that you don’t have very many opportunities to dig into your ruck. I packed a few essentials in my pockets: ibuprofen, kleenex, and a protein bar, all double ziploc bagged. The pocket ibuprofen was a godsend and helped a lot of people out when pain struck (headache, foot ache, hip ache, etc.) and they did not have time to get into their own rucks.”
Vince Pavone experienced this during his 1st Challenge and, much as I did, used that experience to refine his approach the 2nd time around:
“Michelle hit it on the head. I packed a lot more than I could get my hands on. Going into my second event more snacks, salt blocks, energy gels, and ibuprofen will go in small pocket outside and bricks, water go in main compartment.”
Arrange your ruck in a way that focuses on balance and manageability
This is also a topic I hit on in a previous post. Phillip Glorioso takes a similar approach to me when packing his ruck, but his approach is a bit different in a few key ways. This approach may work better for some of you. Phillip expanded on it:
“I run a 2nd generation coyote GR1 for challenges- it’s a little wider than the 1st Generation bag. First, let’s discuss the brick stack. I always use pavers purchased at Home Depot, they are cheap and “legit” (no holes, not too small). I have tried orienting them in all sorts of ways, but ultimately, stacking them directly on top of each other creates the most compact and manageable “lump”. I then wrap them as a unit with duct tape, you can see I put a little design on there- these bricks have gone through a few challenges, and training rucks, I’ve grown attached to them.
To secure the bricks I use 1” webbing and plastic clips which I bought at an Army Surplus store, they came in packages one web strip, and a buckle in each. I paid about $2 per. The particular clips have survived 3 challenges, and probably 15 training rucks. Even though they are dirt cheap, they get the job done. I run the webbing under the Molle in the GR1set the brick lump on top, then thread in the buckle. Clip the buckle, and then pull the webbing tight.
I then place the foam yoga block under the brick stack- the yoga block weighs virtually nothing, but provides a structure support between the bricks harnessed at the top of the bag, and the floor of the bag, this is so the Molle doesn’t take the full weight of the brick load. In reality, the webbing and clips only serve to stabilize the bricks which sit on top of the yoga block for support. I do not have a shot of my source bladder installed, but I usually put it in the main compartment on top of the bricks. I’ve attached it to the molle inside the bag using a small wire closure carabiner and a loop of 550 cord.”
“On the exterior of the bag- I run 2 Omega carabiners clipped to the side molle, and a pear shapped locking carabiner clipped to the top carry handle- the locking biner on the top helps route the source hydration tube over my left shoulder. On the left shoulder strap I have attached 2 web dominator fasteners- these secure my hydration tube to the shoulder strap. The valve is fixed to the shoulder strap molle with a Source Magnetic Clip.”
Philip has a good system here in my opinion. Balance and manageability. I also pack my bladder in the main compartment for Challenges. The hydration pack pocket on the GR1 is great for everyday use and dayhikes, but not for a Challenge when you’ll often have mere seconds to access it and fill it up. Having a simple system to secure your hydration bladder hose to you ruck straps is surprisingly important as well. I simply fish a reusable gear tie through the MOLLE on my straps, but Philip’s system is also a great approach. Whatever works for you.
Jeremy Tom shared his own approach, which has some parallels to mine and Philip’s:
“Here’s the picture of the loadout that I used for my 1st (April/San Diego, CA), 2nd (November/Venice Beach, CA) and 3rd challenges (June/Anaheim,CA). Weather can play a factor in what you need in the ruck. I find the windbreaker more valuable than carrying dry clothes. The windbreaker helps retain heat when zipped, sheds water and is easier to doff on/off. Bricks went in the main compartment. Bladder in the laptop/hydration compartment. Food in the external zip pocket. Windbreaker on top of the bricks and provides a little cushion and is easy to get to without unzipping the ruck fully. I also took a cut pool noodle and made a U-shape around the bricks to help with shifting side to side and used the bottom of the “U” to cushion where they would potentially hit my head during bear crawls. The Werther’s candy (for Cadre Lou) and first aid kit went in the top zip pocket inside the ruck.”
Bring durable, easy-to-pack, calorically dense foods
Phillip hit on this as well. As great as a PB&J might taste at hour eight, your ruck is going to take a beating… and so will everything in it. Something soft in a sandwich bag will be a pulverized baggie of goo by the time you get to eat it (or TRY to).
You also don’t want a lot of volume to be consumed by your food choices. In Philip’s words: “I keep foodstuffs in the exterior pocket. Typical Challenge foodstuffs: 2 snickers bars, ziplock freezer bag loaded with peanut M&Ms.”
I have relied on GU Gels, Clif bars and trail mix. Others have brought beef jerky, soaked chia seeds, and many other supplements. You get the idea: think quick, calorically rich, and packaged to get beat up in your pack.
Miscellaneous tips from the community
Here are a few other ideas from GRT’s that might help you in your Challenges:
I’m not sure how serious to take that last one… all in all, I think there’s a lot of good stuff here, and this could help many of you in your forays into GORUCK Good Livin’ events. It’s all about preparedness, and in that vein, I guess Mark Williams provided the best advice of all: