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Packing List: The GORUCK Tough Event
GORUCK make some of the toughest carry gear around. But they also offer grueling events, ideal places to put your gear and yourself to the test. Think a lot of pain, but a lot of gain too. GORUCK events are a challenge, but they’re also an opportunity to make new friends and push yourself beyond your previous limits. Having the right gear though is crucial to help you successfully complete the events. So we reached out to Brian Lohr, founder of All Day Ruckoff, to share his packing list for a GORUCK Tough event…
When I graduated college in 2011, I wanted to find something to train for so I wouldn’t get out of shape. While in school I had the luxury of a newly renovated gym at my disposal and would find myself there once or twice a day. When I graduated that privilege disappeared and I didn’t want that, along with starting a new job, to get me out of shape.
I searched the Internet for months and stumbled upon something called the GORUCK Challenge. I registered for the event, bought a GORUCK GR1, and started training for what I thought would be my “summer event” and that would be it. Was I ever wrong.
Six years later I have completed dozens of GORUCK events and never would have guessed that this is where I would be. I run All Day Ruckoff which is one of the largest websites dedicated to rucking and have the All Day Ruckoff Podcast which is the only podcast (as of writing this) on the topic of rucking.
The first event I ever completed was GORUCK Challenge Class 053 in Seattle so it seems only fair that this article is how to pack for a GORUCK Challenge aka the GORUCK Tough. There may be some lingo specific to the rucking community, so I recommend checking out the All Day Ruckoff GORUCK & Rucking Glossary if there are any words you aren’t familiar with.
The GORUCK Tough Event
The GORUCK Tough event is a 10 to 12-hour team endurance challenge. Everyone who registers (and shows up) is on the same team and the GORUCK Cadre (the person or persons leading the event) provide you with challenges. Most GORUCK Tough events involve a lot of PT, 15 to 20 miles of rucking, and you’ll probably end up in the water at some point. These events are not easy which is one of its draws…it’s not often you get to truly push yourself and this is a great way to do that.
Because of the style and intensity of the event it’s important to square your gear away well in advance. You will have a hard enough time with the physical aspects alone…you don’t need your gear working against you too. With that in mind I’ve put together this GORUCK Tough packing list so that if you do decide to take the plunge and register you can show up prepared with at least the right gear.
Before we get going I want to mention that I bought all of this gear at retail pricing. None of this was given to me to promote in any way which hopefully says something about my recommendations.
There are two types of gear lists here: Required and Recommended. Required is gear that you need to show up to the event with or your team will get so smoked with PT (exercises) that it will only be funny for those watching…which won’t be you. The following is the required gear and it is of the utmost importance that you bring it all.
You need a backpack to participate in a GORUCK event and you want one that will not fail. There’s (almost) nothing more difficult to watch than someone with a backpack falling apart halfway through an event and you don’t want that person to be you.
The best way for me to relate how important a good backpack is for these events is to compare it to running. Let’s say you sign up for a marathon, train for 3 to 4 months, then race day comes and you toe the line wearing crocs. If you’re a runner then this will sound absurd to you…which is the level of absurdity I feel when people show up to a GORUCK event with an inadequate backpack. Does that mean you need a GORUCK pack? Absolutely not. But it does mean you should not bring a $10 Walmart special.
The GORUCK Rucker is built for these events and is fairly affordable when looking at the competition. The Rucker in the above picture has seen hundreds of miles of rucking and a solid number of GORUCK Light and GORUCK Tough events. It’s still living a happy life and I have no concerns using it at events. It’s a little dirty because I use it solely for rucking and don’t clean it anymore but if I had spent five minutes cleaning it I guarantee you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between it and a brand new one. You’ll have enough things to worry about during the event…you don’t need your gear breaking to be one of them.
You need to bring weight to carry in your backpack which is why I recommended a high-quality backpack above. If you’re under 150 lbs you bring 20 lbs and if you’re over 150 lbs you bring 30 lbs. If you’re equal to 150 pounds then go use the restroom and weigh yourself again. There’s a few options for meeting the weight requirement: a plate, bricks, or sand. I don’t recommend sand because when it gets wet it gets heavier. Bricks were the original requirement when GORUCK first started off so they’re “fun” to use but they do take up a bit of space. Ruck Plates are great because they meet the requirement and don’t take up much space at all.
The GORUCK Tough is a 10 to 12-hour long event and you will need to drink water during it. I’ve used the same 3L Source Hydration Bladder for four years and it has held up wonderfully. It’s what GORUCK recommends and it is what has worked for me.
New to the “Required Gear List” is a 1L water bottle. Nalgene makes a tough lightweight water bottle called the Tritan so it was the easy choice here. Everything you bring you will need to carry with you so consider that before you reach for a metal water bottle. The one in the picture has a PACElid on it. They’re cool but not necessary to the event.
You need reflective bands on your ruck. These became required gear after the GORUCK community tragically lost Jeff Proietti back in 2014 at an event when he was struck by a car. It was a horrible accident and one that the community will never forget…there’s even a yearly memorial event for it. Grab either the HVS-V from All Day Ruckoff or the Ruck Bands. You can’t go wrong with either.
99% of GORUCK Tough events start at night and end in the morning which means you’re out all night. The headlamp is essential gear because you need to see where you’re going. There’s a chance the Cadre will lead you through the woods, to parks, or through parts of town with no street lamps. You need to be able to see and you need to be able to use your hands at all times and a headlamp makes that possible. I bring my NiteRider Adventure Headlamp but have had great success with $15 headlamps on Amazon. Don’t splurge here…I used that Streamlight for numerous events and it’s a fine headlamp.
Pro Tip: Get one that has a red filter on it so you don’t blind your team looking around.
You need to bring photo identification with you to the event.
This is routinely called “quitters cash” and is necessary in case you decide to quit and need to take a cab home. This is one of those items that Cadre hope you forget so they can beat you down with PT. Don’t forget to bring $20 in cash please…for the love of your team.
You will want to bring a windbreaker no matter what because there’s a great chance that you will end up in the water during your GORUCK Tough event. The windbreaker will do its job and block that wind so you don’t freeze when you get out of whatever body of water you were unlucky enough to end up in at 4 in the morning. Grab a packable windbreaker like mine so you can store it nicely in your ruck. The brand doesn’t really matter…you’re going to sweat like crazy in it and it will never stop smelling like grass if you end up in a park during your event.
* The windbreaker is only required if temps will drop below 60 degrees Fahrenheit.
Recommended gear is not required but it is stuff that I definitely bring to every single GORUCK event I participate in. To me this is required gear but GORUCK won’t smoke you if you don’t bring it so it falls under recommended gear.
Bring gloves. If you bring nothing else in the “Recommended Gear” section please make sure you bring gloves. You will be doing push-ups on concrete, bear crawls down steps, crab walks in a park, your hands will see countless horrors and you will want to protect them. You also use your hands to put food in your mouth so keeping them as protected as possible to prevent yourself from accidentally eating whatever you crawled through during that last park. I have used Mechanix Gloves for all but one of my events and they’ve been great.
“Bladder hose retention system” is a fancy way of saying something that will prevent your bladder hose from flopping all over the place. A GrimLoc only costs a few bucks and it will save you a ton of frustration by securing your bladder hose.
The secondary handles are great for overhead presses and using if you lose strap privileges. I sell the handles on my website so I won’t say too much about these. If you’re interested in what others think you can check out the reviews. The handle in the above picture has been in use for years, is still going strong, and never leaves my pack.
Food isn’t on the required packing list but your class is not stopping for dinner or breakfast anywhere until the event ends. That means 10 to 12 hours where you will need to provide yourself with enough food to keep going. I find that six protein bars is more than enough to get myself through an event. Usually I’ll only eat four of them and either save or give the last two away in the event someone else needs food. I don’t have a strong recommendation here except to say that I bring Costco protein bars which are a near clone of the Quest bars. Every stomach is different so figure out what works for you (eat a bar then do a workout or go for a run) and make sure it doesn’t upset your stomach.
You’re bringing food, a windbreaker, and maybe a spare pair of gloves to the event. There’s a great chance you’ll end up at some point in the water. You need that stuff to stay dry until it’s time to use it. Don’t eat lake water protein bars and get sick. Bring a dry bag and put your essentials in it so that they’ll stay dry. I love my USMC Dry Bag because it keeps water out and also lets air out so it stores nicely. It’s fairly cheap and mine has been through a dozen events and still works perfectly.
I bring my 1120 Pelican Case with me to every event and keep my phone and my watch in there. I like to have my phone with me so that at the end of the event I can tell my wife everything is okay and I like to have my Garmin Fenix 5X so that it can track our route for the event. Watches are not permitted to be worn at GORUCK events so keeping it stashed in there is a safe move.
I often get the question why not the plastic Pelican cases? Short answer: they are water resistant, not waterproof. I have taken those through GORUCK events and they let water in. I could always toss them in a dry bag but that’s just another item…the 1120 case is nearly indestructible and I just don’t have to worry about it.
Last on the list is a second mouthpiece for your hydration system. If for some reason you lose the one on your hose it’s nice to have a spare. I know this because I lost one once and it sucked. Now I carry a spare so I can laugh at fate if it ever decides to take one of my mouthpieces again.
The GORUCK Tough event can honestly be tough but you shouldn’t make it harder on yourself by bringing subpar gear or not bringing the right equipment. Trust me…when you are six hours into an event you will be hating yourself for skimping on your gear. Thanks for reading and I hope this list helps you prepare for your GORUCK Tough event.