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What Is the Best Backpack for Rucking? 

 February 4, 2023

By  Diane Wuthrich

The right rucking backpack is important for your safety as well as a comfortable and efficient workout. There are dozens of rucking backpacks in the market, but how do you choose the best one?

There are several things to look out for in a good rucking backpack, though durability is the most important. It should be able to carry a heavy weight for long periods of time without breaking at the seams. It should also be comfortable, contain a rucking weight pocket, and supportive. 

Learn more about what you should look for in the best rucking backpack by reading below.

Features of the Best Backpacks for Rucking

Rucking is all about carrying significantly heavy loads while traveling long distances. 

It was originally developed to help soldiers get fit easily without costing much money. Today, the efficiency of this workout is recognized around the world. Rucking is still used by the army and ordinary people alike because it’s an affordable and effective way to achieve optimum fitness.

Given the nature of rucking, a quality backpack is the most important piece of equipment you should have. It's important to invest in a backpack that was specifically designed for the sport because a regular backpack will easily break when used as a rucking backpack. 

Having said that, these are the features you should be looking out for in the best backpack for rucking:

Durability

Rucking backpacks must have ultra-durable construction. Durability is definitely something worth investing in.  

While it’s possible to ruck with light weights of around 10 to 15 pounds using a regular backpack, heavier weights require a pack that’s made to handle the load. Rucking is a sport that will seriously test the durability of a pack, so it’s wise to save your money from the get-go and invest in a tough bag.

The material used in a rucksack can give you a good idea of how durable it is. The best rucking backpack is made with at least 500D Cordura nylon, Ballistic nylon, or ripstop nylon, all of which are resistant to water, tears, and abrasion. These materials can efficiently withstand abuse with little to no damage.

Avoid polyester because nylon is simply much stronger and has better water resistance than polyester.

Fabrics should also have excellent abrasion resistance as well as a strength-to-weight ratio. The stress points, such as those parts of the pack that are exposed to the heaviest load, should be heavily reinforced: these include the shoulder straps, waist belt, frame, and zipper tracks. The shoulder straps are usually the first thing to break in a rucking backpack that lacks reinforced stitching, given the amount of abuse it has to withstand.

Take note that densely stitched fabrics such as those with a Denier rating of 500D do come with a bit of a setback: they tend to be abrasive on delicate clothes, and are less breathable during the hot summer months. Some of the best rucking backpacks use a lower denier rating fabric on the shoulder strap compared to the pack's body in order to reduce abrasion and scratches when worn. 

The side handles and drag handles should also have heavily reinforced stitching. These make the pack more durable when moving it around even with heavy weights inside it. They also allow you to use your knapsack instead of a kettlebell or dumbbell for other workouts, without worrying about a tear or other damage.

On top of that, look for large, tough zippers that are easy to grip. This is particularly important for rucking outdoors, which exposes you to dirt and grime. YKK zippers have always been the gold standard when it comes to high-quality zippers; you can’t go wrong with rucking packs that use YKK zippers.

Comfortable

Rucking while using an uncomfortable backpack can significantly increase the risk of discomfort, pain, and even injury. That’s why the best backpacks for rucking are always built to be as comfortable as possible.

There are several features you can review for the pack’s comfort. For one, it should have thick padding in the shoulder straps, back panels, compression straps, hip belts, and chest straps. Thick padding in the back panel makes it easy for you to use different kinds of ruck weights while staying comfortable even when carrying heavy loads.

Two, it should come with a pair of shoulder straps that are wide and adjustable. Being able to adjust the tightness of the pack anytime you need it makes it more comfortable whether you’re rucking or using the pack for other purposes. Meanwhile, a set of wide straps distributes weight across more of your shoulder area, whereas narrow straps would put pressure in just one spot. 

Three, load lifters are always beneficial for carrying anything heavy in your backpack. These straps let you adjust the weight distribution and position of your bag without having to remove it. Simply pull them tighter to pull the shoulder straps closer to your chest, resulting in a snug fit. 

Four, sternum straps, which don’t just make the bag more comfortable: it improves stability and ensure the shoulder straps stay in place at all times. Adjusting the sternum strap is easy, and within seconds it efficiently displaces weight. 

Take note that hip belts aren’t necessary for all rucking exercises, though they do make a big difference for high-intensity workouts. That’s because they provide extra support for heavy loads by redistributing it to the hips, reducing pressure on your spine.

Framed vs. Frameless 

Rucking backpacks come in one of two styles: framed or frameless. Framed rucking backpacks are always the better choice, given that the nature of rucking involves carrying heavy weights for long periods of time. This is especially true if you are going to carry weights over 40 pounds. 

A frame sheet ensures even weight distribution to protect your lower back and shoulders; they also typically come with other features that support the task, such as breathable and padded back panels. Frames also help maintain the bag’s shape and hold it in place, so it doesn’t sway. 

The frames are typically made of plastic or aluminum and may be contoured or flat. There’s no right or wrong choice – it all depends on which you find more comfortable.

Frames also offer another added benefit: ventilation. When you are rucking in hot weather, frames prevent sweat from accumulating on your back. 

On the other hand, there are frameless rucking backpacks that you can safely use for lighter loads. They contain features similar to an average backpack, but be sure to carry weights under 40 pounds with a frameless pack. Otherwise, you may risk hurting yourself. 

Capacity

Rucking backpacks come in an array of sizes. The right size will depend on how you use it outside of rucking:

  • Daypack: A good rucking backpack that doubles as a daypack should have a capacity between 20 to 30L. This is a great size for an everyday carry as it has lots of room for the stuff you’ll need for the day.
  • Travel: Are you going to use your rucking backpack for a weekend camping trip or a quick jaunt? Opt for a bag with 30 to 40 L of space. A backpack on the larger end of the spectrum will have plenty of storage to keep everything you need for longer trips. It’s also compact enough to be used as a carry-on.

Even if you’re using your rucking backpack during service, it’s always beneficial to have a pack that can be used in other circumstances. 

Rucking Weight Pocket

If rucking is a workout for you, as opposed to rucking for a military exercise, it’s likely that ruck plates will be used. In this case, it’s helpful to have a dedicated compartment for your ruck plate. The pocket will keep the ruck plate securely in place and close to your back while preventing it from moving around as you work out.

Other alternatives to ruck plates, such as bags of cement, bricks, and kettlebells. Either way, having a dedicated pocket to keep the weight is helpful for organization on the trail, especially if you are packing gadgets and other valuables inside the pack. 

Versatility

Are you looking for a rucksack that you can use exclusively for rucking, or are you interested in a backpack that you can take everywhere? Many rucking backpack manufacturers style their packs in a way that they can also be used for travel, hiking, work, and everyday errands. Knowing what other features are non-negotiable will help you decide on the best rucking backpack for you.

For example, if you are looking for a rucking backpack that can double as a work or everyday bag, it should also have a smaller capacity of under 30 liters, a laptop compartment, and other smaller pouches to keep the contents of your bag organized. Frequent travelers will appreciate a backpack with features that are compliant with the TSA. 

On the other hand, removable compartments and D-rings will enable you to use the backpack outdoors. 

Solid Reviews

It can be challenging to understand how durable and functional a rucking backpack can be unless you use it. However, purchasing rucking backpacks with stellar reviews online is a great way to understand how the bag truly performs. When you read that everyone who has used a specific bag is happy, you can confidently make an informed buying decision. 

Hydration Compatible

When you’re out rucking for long periods of time, having to stop in order to drink from your water bottle can disrupt your momentum. A backpack with a hydration bladder enables you to easily sip from a water bladder tube without having to stop. 

If a rucking backpack isn’t compatible with a hydration reservoir, it should at least have dedicated mesh pockets on each of its sides for your water bottles. It is never advisable to go rucking without a hydration system or else you can risk sunstroke, dehydration, and other health problems. 

Other Features To Consider

Each rucker has different priorities in a backpack. Below is a list of a few features you may find important in the best rucking backpack:

  • MOLLE webbing: MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment) refers to a specialized type of webbing often used by the pros, such as the army and military men in tactical rucksacks. Bags with MOLLE are a good option for customizing your backpack: it enables hassle-free attachment of rucking accessories, external pockets, and other items outside the bag. 

These do a fantastic job at ensuring you can access your gear even when you’re in a rush.

  • Laptop compartment: Many ruckers appreciate a versatile rucking backpack, especially given the high price tag that the best backpacks for rucking usually have. If you would like to get more mileage out of your bag by using it to and from work or while traveling, it’s ideal to get one with a laptop compartment. You can use it to keep your computer or your tablet safe while you are on the go.
  • Reflector: A reflective strip or any other reflective feature on the backpack is an important function for safety. These keep you safe as you ruck on roads or cities, especially at night. Being on the roads can be a dangerous situation if vehicles can’t see you. Reflective strips increase your visibility so that vehicle drivers can see you.
  • Lifetime warranty: If you’re investing in a pricey backpack for its superior quality, a brand that provides a lifetime warranty makes the cost more reasonable. This usually means that the backpack company will repair or replace the bag in case you encounter any defects.
  • Pockets: A good number of pockets both in different places around the pack is necessary for keeping your things organized. This is particularly important if you are packing electronics because they are fragile and need to be kept separate from ruck weights. Lots of pockets also improve accessibility, especially for those who are packing small pieces of equipment – this way, you always know where your things are. 

Our Recommendations for the Best Rucking Backpack

There are dozens of excellent rucking backpacks out there at a range of prices and in different designs. Surely, there’s a rucksack for everyone. To make your shopping easier, check out the list of options below.

Click through the link to read more information on each product, what buyers have to say about them, and learn about their pros and cons. 

Dounto Tactical Backpack: Dounto specializes in designing and manufacturing high-quality tactical and military backpacks. The Dounto Tactical Backpack is a great choice for individuals looking for a multi-purpose backpack that can be used for rucking as well as camping, hunting, fishing, and other outdoor activities.

The pack’s interior and exterior have several pockets that you can use for ruck plates and other outdoor equipment. Whether it’s a tablet, water bottles, medical supplies, rucks, food, and more, there’s a pocket within this backpack for it. It comes in a rugged yet elegant design that you can use in various situations.

The Dounto Tactical Backpack includes a MOLLE webbing system for customization. The shoulder straps are generously padded, while the back panel also has mesh padding. Additionally, the bag can be converted into a sling bag for even more versatility. 

Use this bag for traveling and outdoor adventures: the spacious 45L capacity is a lot of room for all your needs. Perhaps best of all, the Dounto Tactical Backpack is extremely affordable. This bag proves that world-class rucking backpacks don’t have to cost so much money.

5.11 Tactical Military Backpack 12: 5.11 is a brand that specializes in world-class tactical gear and backpacks. The Rush 12 is trusted by thousands of ruckers worldwide, and it’s easy to see why.

The Tactical Rush 12 Backpack comes in a compact size, suitable for men and women. It includes a total of 16 separate compartments, including a hydration pocket and a spacious main compartment. Additionally, it includes a multi-slot admin compartment plus a zippered and fleece-lined pocket to protect your eyewear.

This backpack is constructed with tough 1050D nylon and self-repairing zippers. The zippers have glove-friendly pull tabs for easy opening and closing. It’s clearly made to withstand the abuse that comes with rucking. 

Given the many practical features in this bag, the Tactical Rush 12 is a steal for the price tag. 

GORUCK GR1: Brought to you by the brand that popularized rucking, the GORUCK GR1 is the perfect companion for endurance training events. GORUCK is trusted by fitness enthusiasts, veterans, and even the army because they make the most durable rucking gear out there. After all, GORUCK is made in the US and was founded by a former member of the special forces.

The GR1 is considered one of the best rucking backpacks in the world. It has been used by troops, but the pack’s design is versatile enough for use while traveling or as a day pack. This bag is designed to last you for life: all products come with GORUCK’s SCARS Lifetime Guarantee.

One doesn’t have to participate in the GORUCK Challenge to appreciate the dozens of high-performance features in this bag. The backpack’s exterior features three rows of MOLLE attachment webbing and loops so that you can customize the bag whichever way you want. Opening and closing your bag during training is always easy thanks to the YKK zippers that are equipped with glove-friendly zipper pulls made from parachute cords.

The GR1 rucksack also has a bombproof laptop compartment with a false bottom for extra protection, plus three internal compartments, a spacious elastic pocket, one mesh zippered pocket, a small pocket, and another external slant pocket for smaller stuff. The bag is constructed out of ultra-tough 1000D Cordura, and it’s available in black as well as other colors and prints. 

Kelty Redwing 50 Backpack: Kelty is an expert at backpacks and gear for the modern outdoorsman. Whether for backpacking or camping, their bags have been proven to withstand the test of time. The Kelty Redwing is one of the brand’s most famous bags for rucking and the great outdoors.

The Kelty Redwing comes with lots of space. A full fifty liters, which you don’t feel because of their advanced features aimed at comfort even when hiking rough terrain. This new model is equipped with a customized fit and even better ventilation to avoid sweaty backs.

There are a lot of pockets and thoughtful features. These include daisy chains, a hybrid U-zippered top opening, side compression straps, and much more – all of which ensure proper organization at all times. It comes in beautiful colors for men and women, plus a decent price point, considering how long it’s built to last!

For anyone who wants a hiking pack that doubles as a rucking backpack, the Kelty Redwing is highly recommended. This bag is made in the USA, and they have stellar reviews to prove it!

MOLLE II Large Rucksack: The MT MOLLE II Large Rucksack is a heavy-duty rucking backpack that any serious rucker will appreciate. Boasting 4,000 cubic inches of storage, this pack can withstand whatever you throw at it.

This is a framed backpack whose frame sheets have been contoured to fit close to your body. When you are carrying a load as heavy as this, there should be no risk of the pack’s swaying movement on either side, as this is a serious nuisance while rucking. In addition, it comes with a versatile waist pack that can be used in several ways with other MOLLE products. 

The MOLLE II Large Rucksack features two detachable pouches, one on each side. These give you an extra 500 cubic inches of space in each, for a total of 1,000 cubic inches more. This comes in handy for those situations wherein you simply need to pack more tactical gear with you. 

Ruckers can also wear the waist pack in many different ways: on the front, as an assault pack, fighting load carrier (FLC), and many more. Overall, the MOLLE II Large Rucksack is an extremely high-performance bag that will last you a lifetime.

MT Military Rucksack Alice Pack: Alice is a specialized type of tactical backpack that stands for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. Many brands make Alice packs with similar features, and the MT version is among the best and most affordable.

The universal-size pack features five exterior pockets and a drawstring closure. Ruckers can access their gear quickly because of the utility pouch straps that are equipped with straps and buckle adjustments. It’s constructed with tough 1000D fabric, while the interior is lined to provide added protection for your things. 

The MT Military Rucksack Alice Pack also comes with separate attachments and accessories such as the butt pack, and multi-cam with the butt pack. Customize this bag in any way you see fit: it is an excellent, long-lasting rucksack.

SOG Specialty Knives & Tools Ninja Tactical Backpack: Are you looking for a multipurpose rucksack that’s affordable? If your answer is yes, then look no further: the SOG Specialty Ninja Tactical Backpack has you covered.

With thousands of positive ratings on Amazon, you can be sure that this bag is good value for money. It’s made with durable water-repellent fabric to protect your belongings in the event of rain, though it has a less bulky design compared to other tactical bags. This kind of style encourages multipurpose uses, so you can take it with you during hikes, commutes, and while traveling.

The SOG Specialty Knives & Tools Ninja Tactical Backpack is equipped with padded and adjustable backpack straps, a contoured foam back, and an adjustable sternum slider. All these features contribute to maximum comfort while wearing it, even when it’s loaded to full capacity. It also has tactical features such as MOLLE webbing and a hydration bladder.

Don’t let its price fool you – this is the best rucking backpack you can get for under $40! 

Conclusion 

Hopefully, this article has shared important information on how to choose a rucking backpack that’s best for you. There are rucking packs to suit a variety of lifestyles, preferences, and budgets. Choose from one of the recommendations or shop based on the features that are most important to you. 

About the author

Diane is our head writer and researcher for our backpack informational content. Her everyday carry is a Herschel.

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