We’ve gone over the rucking tips quite a bit and everyone preparing for selection should be very comfortable with a ruck on their back and be humping long distances. It goes without saying that rucking and land navigation is the bread and butter of special operations forces. If you can show the intestinal fortitude needed to keep driving on and keep your head about you, the rest will come with training.
I’ve gotten a few emails about gear. Like I’ve said before, when it comes to personal gear, it is all a matter of taste and what works best for you. However, in one of the emails that I received from a brother from 12th SFG(A), Jeff M. he asked for my opinion on some aftermarket rucksacks and what would work for some training and weekend type hikes.
You’ve come to the right place, Jeff! As my wife would tell you, I collect(ed)…boots and 3-day rucksacks like some guys had trading cards. Just couldn’t get enough of them and would always be testing out another new one. That’s why when it comes to boots, I love Merrell’s because they work for me, and Under Armor workout shoes. Those two brands fit my feet perfectly, why I have eight pairs of Merrell’s and three pairs of UA workout/running shoes. But again, whatever works for you.
I’ve had tons of backpacks/3-day packs and will go over some of the ones I’ve had and still had. Now as a caveat before we go any further if you are heading to a selection course, you’re going to have to use what they issue. And if you can’t stand ALICE packs as Jeff M. and myself or the MOLLE, you’ll have to suck it up during training. There’s no way around it.
I too hated the ALICE, to me it was as my Brit friends call “shite.” I had a couple of them. One courtesy of someone in the 20th Engineers who didn’t attach his lowering line to it on a jump on Holland Drop Zone and I found it in the treeline. I guess someone skipped over that on their JMPI. But I had an aftermarket frame and a few different accessories put on by a guy right outside of Ft. Bragg that made it tolerable. For issue rucks I liked the British Bergen much better. But if you’re doing your own personal training and want comfort while embracing the suck…read on.
These are listed in no particular order but I’ve either owned or tried these out and think you’d be pleased with the results.
5.11 Rush 72 Backpack
This one was my favorite it has so many features we could do an entire piece just on it. It was one of a series of 5.11 tactical packs, the Rush 12, the Rush 24 and the Rush 72. You can pack enough stuff in there to easily get by as a weekend backpacking ruck and it works outstanding in for rucking around during physical training prep.
The internal frame support keeps it rigid and distributes the weight well, there are four areas of padding in the back and ventilation to keep you cool. The contoured yoke for the shoulder straps was comfortable and wide. One feature I really liked for hiking was the chest straps were adjustable so your height was never a problem.
Another great feature was the waist straps that folded up and stowed away when I used it as carry-on luggage when flying. It had a padded pocket at the top that could carry sunglasses or a cell phone. The inside was roomy with plenty of mesh pockets that come in handy finding smaller items.
For rucking or hiking, it comes with a large hydration carrier with a hanger that will accommodate a large bladder. The top of the ruck has ports on either side for hydration hoses and a heavy-duty grab handle.
The one time the airline made me check it because some guy just HAD TO carry a trunk that belonged on the Titanic, it never made it to the baggage carousel. Someone either in JFK or Dakar got themselves a helluva nice backpack. Not to mention a pair of the stretch fabric 5.11s, my favorite running shoes and other stuff including my favorite Patriots hat.
I haven’t owned one of these, but I got to try one out and am sold…this is a great ruck and is a perfect day ruck or for the weekend bugout back. These babies are tough and built to last…no wonder the company is owned and operated by Special Forces vets. They’re constructed out of 1000 denier CORDURA, which is heavy duty and holds up well.
They put on their website that the stress points are sewn to withstand 400 pounds and I believe it. The ruck just has an extremely well-made quality to it. This too can accommodate a good size water bladder with a hanger at the top. It has a pouch that they advertise for their ruck plates which fit in snugly and take up little room.
It is rainproof and the day I test drove it, it showered hard for a few minutes. The water beaded up perfectly and everything stayed bone dry inside. A neat feature is the YKK silent zipper pulls made from 550 cord that are glove friendly when rucking in the colder months…something we can appreciate here in New England.
Extra padded straps and handle, MOLLE Attachments and the fact that it opens nice and flat make this a very attractive, tough customer.
The only drawback is that it is a bit price at $195. And that is without the padded MOLLE Hip belt, and the MOLLE Sternum strap, which for rucking or hiking, I’d add. That being said, the next ruck I buy will be this one or the GR Bullet.
BLACKHAWK! S.T.R.I.K.E. Predator Hydration Pack
Another favorite bug-out bag, hiking bag that grew feet, this one was my own fault. Don’t go to Wal-Mart and leave it in the back seat with the car unlocked…even for a 5-minute shopping trip.
This is an outstanding, comfortable, versatile ruck. It has enough room (830 cubic inches) to cram enough stuff in there for a day hike. Like all Blackhawk products, it is rugged, well-constructed and had several nice features.
It has a nice molded back channel that gives plenty of ventilation with either a shirt or with a light jacket in the fall months. I loved the contoured shoulder straps, that along with the sternum strap makes this a very comfortable fit.
The hydration system works easily although they didn’t come with filters, so clean water has to be introduced. The ruck has a heavy duty reinforced drag handle, YKK zippers with silent glove friendly pulls, and a ton of MOLLE straps for lashing down any extra gear in a tactical situation.
The only drawback for this ruck that I remember is that it didn’t open all the way. But for a smaller day-type ruck it was a small issue.
SPEC-OPS Assault Pack
I’ve had this one for the past 13 years and it has taken a beating and keeps on ticking. At the time I got this, I was working as a contractor on a training job and one of my friends just bought it in ACU and then was heading home and gave it to me.
It is heavy duty, very well constructed and very comfortable. It is made from the same 1000 denier CORDURA that lasts, wears well and is water resistant. The ruck unzips and opens flat with a high visibility yellow lining that makes it easier to find items.
It has two large outside pockets that are easily accessible and a large main compartment that is roomy for plenty of storage for a weekend hike or as a weekend bag to travel in. The ruck has a comfortable shoulder harness with a sternum strap and padded waist belt. SPEC-OPS also has those heavy-duty buckles that secure the pockets.
There is a ton of MOLLE loops for lashing extra gear. Dual ports on the top of the ruck allow for hydration tubes as well as a heavy-duty carrying strap. Compression straps make everything tight when carrying it on a plane or rucking through the woods.
Photo courtesy of DOD