So you’ve decided to do some rucking but don’t have the weights for it.
You’ve arrived at an excellent decision. Rucking is a better option than walking if you want to build strength, character, and endurance. It’s the same as walking but with weights added to a backpack that you carry with you while you walk.
Sounds easy, doesn’t it? Maybe not if you ask the fitness enthusiasts carrying an extra 50 pounds on their back.
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The use of backpacks and rucking weights is the most significant difference between rucking and walking. It’s a simple method for increasing the intensity and gains from walking. Rucking is also accessible and versatile since you only need to get a backpack and some weights together to do it. You can adjust the intensity of your exercise by adding or subtracting the weights in your pack and altering the duration of your exercise.
There are many fitness stores where you can buy rucking weights. These weights can come in the form of ruck plates and metal weight plates.
Some rucking weights are designed specifically for popular rucks or backpacks. You can insert and load them in place by utilizing inside pockets and other designated compartments.
The main drawback of buying rucking weights is the additional expense. Though they aren’t too expensive and you can usually get quality rucking weights for a reasonable price, it’s still another purchase you’ll need to make room for in your budget.
If you want to give rucking a try but don’t want to commit by purchasing additional exercise equipment, you can make your own weights. After all, the only requirement for rucking weights is they should be heavy enough for rucking, right? Not quite, but we’ll go over that later.
However, you can easily create and repurpose your own rucking weights with materials and equipment lying around the house. In this article, we give you ideas on how to create your own DIY rucking weights.
You can use one or several at a time depending on the weight that you can carry safely. Here are easy and resourceful ways you can get into rucking without resorting to buying weights off Amazon.
Recommended Reading: If you’re someone that likes to make things yourself then we have lots of great DIY hiking/backpacking articles that you might be interested in.
The ruck pill is basically a sandbag that’s been taped all around to secure the sand inside. Ruck pills are one of the most popular ruck weights because the materials are easy to find and cheap.
Ruck pills were also used by our armed forces for their own rucking exercises.
Using ruck pills is a great way to increase your strength and endurance. You can build up the weight on your back gradually by adding more ruck pills as you go along.
To make the weight adjustable, you’ll need to create at least a few ruck pills. It’s also handy to know how many you can store inside your pack.
For beginners, consider adding ruck pills equivalent to a third of your body weight and going from there.
Ruck pills have a lot of uses. You don’t need to limit yourself to rucking. Another great use for them is for lifting weights and strength training. This DIY weight shifts when carried so they add more resistance as you go for long walks.
How to Make a Ruck Pill
Before purchasing the items on our list, look inside your garage and home — you may already have them on hand. If you do need to purchase them from your local hardware, it should cost you no more than $15.
Here’s what you need to look for:
- 6 plastic see-through sandbags
- 60 pounds of sand
- Non-black duct tape, preferably 100 MPH tape
- Weighing scale
Fun fact: The tape we recommend for securing the sand is used by the military. Its strong and waterproof qualities make it ideal for keeping water out of ammunition cases. It’s also used in race cars. The initials MPH refer to miles per hour and the speeds at which the tape is expected to stay on while racing.
Here are the steps for making your own ruck pill:
- Choose your workspace carefully. Remember, you’ll be working with sand so you need an open space, preferably outdoors, that you can easily vacuum or sweep up after completing your ruck pill.
- Start filling up your sandbags. Weigh them. Each sandbag should contain ten, 15, or more pounds worth of sand. You can fill them up based on how much you think you can carry. A good weight to start with is ten pounds. You can then create more sandbags based on how much weight you want to add to your first ruck pill.
- Once you’re happy with the weight of your sandbags, take note of how much each sandbag weighs. You can create a list that you can revisit later when it’s time to label them.
- Now that your bags are filled with the correct weights, reinforce them by putting duct tape around them. Double or triple the tape in the area where you sealed it. This is important because the last thing you want is for your sandbag to rip and spill sand all over your ruck.
- Label your sandbags with their respective weights using the marker.
Another practical and inexpensive rucking weight can be made with water jugs and water bottles. If you have empty water containers at home, you can fill them up with water and pile them inside your ruck.
You also have the option of buying bottled water or gallons of water for consumption and carrying it in your back. This becomes a practical choice when you know that you’ll be covering great distances. You’ll be hitting two birds with one stone by buying ready-made weights for yourself while ensuring you’re hydrated as you exercise.
Another DIY rucking weight you can use is the traditional medicine ball or fitness ball.
Generally used for rehabilitation and strength training, this is one fitness equipment that can help build your neuromuscular coordination and continuously improve your strength.
It is used in plenty of exercises like lifting and jumps. It is also used for increasing explosive power in ballistic training. Medicine balls come in different weights. Most of them weigh between two to 25 pounds.
If you have access to this fitness tool, you can use it instead of the commercially bought rucking weights. Having a few of them inside your ruck, however, can cause them to bump against each other and shift as you walk due to their circular shape. To minimize the movement inside your pack, you can add other weights like water bottles and small sandbags in between.
Start with four to 15 pounds and gradually add weight after some time.
Sandbells are kettlebells filled with sand. They make great rucking weights.
Many fitness enthusiasts own a sandbell because it can be used for plenty of exercises. Sandbells bring together the features of a kettlebell, dumbbell, slam ball, medicine ball, and sandbag training. It’s the jack of all trades where exercise equipment is concerned. They’re also 100% efficient and flexible.
Most of the time, sandbells engage the hand, forearm, and wrist, but they also make great weights for rucking. Sandbells come in different weights from two to 50 pounds. You can carry it securely in your rucksack and take it out for throws, tosses, and slams when you want to build on your explosive power.
However, you may need more than one sandbell for adequate weight and resistance so you should also look into combining different weights for rucking.
The best thing about sandbells is they’re soft and cool against your back, unlike kettlebells where you’ll need padding to avoid bruising.
Normal Gym Weights
If you have strength training equipment like weights at home, you’ll be glad to know that you can use them for rucking too.
You can use different gym weights every day or combine them. The most common types of gym weights that you can use for rucking are:
- Medicine balls
- Olympic weight plates
- Standard weight plates
Make sure to get a sturdy ruck that’s capable of supporting all that weight you plan on carrying. Otherwise, you may be forced to carry your weights back home in your hands which isn’t wise since your hands, wrists, and arms will tire far quicker.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on the best exercises for hiking uphill that you might be interested in.
In a similar vein to gym weights, if you’re able to get your hand on some chains that are heavy then these can act as a great option for a DIY rucking weight.
As chains are not a single solid block it is possible for you to fit the chain in around other items in your ruck.
While you can get long chains with large links it would be better to get shorter chains of a certain weight, such as 5lbs. This will allow you to increase the amount that you’re rucking with in small increments helping to avoid hurting yourself while rucking.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on whether rucking is bad for your knees or not that you might be interested in.
Every home has a collection of heavy books gathering dust. Why not get some use out of them again by turning them into rucking weights?
You can stack several thick books inside your backpack and carry them around while walking. Don’t choose pocketbooks for rucking. Go for those thick and hardbound encyclopedias and dictionaries.
You can add books of different weights or a weight plate in between if the books are too light for you. You’ll want to make your pack as snug as possible for rucking so it’s a good idea to pile the books as high as possible, add in a towel underneath, and tape them together.
Obviously, these books are likely to get damaged when you’re using them for rucking so don’t go using that first edition you have lying around!
Got a dog in the house? Instead of carrying your dog’s kibble from the supermarket, you can use it as weights if you put it in your rucksack.
Just make sure to put the kibble in a plastic bag first before inserting it into your pack. You wouldn’t want your ruck to smell like dog food and attract pests.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on our favorite dogs to go hiking with that you might be interested in.
Tips for DIY Rucking Weights
These aren’t the only materials you can recycle or repurpose as rucking weights. We’re sure that by now you’ve gotten the idea of what makes ideal rucking weights. Ideally, they should enable you to:
- Fit them in your ruck
- Add and manage the weight that you’re carrying in the desired increments
- Place them in neatly without spilling or overflowing
- Carry them around without too much difficulty
Here are additional important reminders when improvising rucking weights:
High and Close to Spine
Good rucking weights will allow your backpack to settle at your lower back while your shoulders and your entire back support the ruck.
When placing rucking weights inside your pack, don’t put them directly at the bottom. Instead, create a pseudo-foundation at the bottom so when your weights are all inside, you end up supporting the bulk of the weight on your mid-back close to your spine.
Why is this important?
Putting the heaviest load a little higher will allow your backpack to closely follow the curve of your spine. Know that if your bag isn’t designed for rucking, you should also consider putting in a pad or cushion so the weights won’t rub and bruise your back.
This will allow you to avoid strain on your lower back. Remember, your spine has many nerves that affect your entire body.
Recommended Reading: We’ve written a whole article on what rucking does to your body that you might be interested in.
Consider Using Yoga Blocks
Yoga blocks are foam blocks that are used in yoga for holding your body weight up. What makes these of interest is that while they are light they are able to suppose a considerable amount of weight without deforming.
You might be wondering why this would be of any use in rucking, when you’re specifically looking to carry a weighty pack.
You can use yoga blocks to lift the weight higher in your ruck to help avoid the majority of the weight being at the bottom, which can put unnecessary strain on your back.
Choose a Weight That Doesn’t Move Around
Whatever rucking weights you decide to use, you need to make sure that they fit snugly inside your ruck and won’t shift around or rub against each other. Any movement inside your pack will affect your rucking experience.
Securing the weights firmly makes the weight more comfortable to carry around.
It can be irritating to have a weight that’s constantly shifting, jabbing you in the back, or making all sorts of sounds. You’ll want to be in the moment when rucking; extra movement and sounds are a distraction you don’t need.
This is why whenever you have odd-shaped weights like medicine balls or old books, we advise you to fill the spaces in between with articles of clothing, towels, and other similar items. Unnecessary movement from the weights can also make your muscles work harder to keep your balance. If this is the case, you might have noticed that your shoulder and back get sore way too early due to uneven weight distribution.
Maybe you’re trying to cut down on costs or maybe you’re just trying to make the most out of the resources and equipment you already have. Perhaps you’re just beginning to do some rucking and would like to give it a try before making any purchases.
Whatever your reason for using DIY rucking weights, these suggestions should work out fine as long as you remember the important guidelines we outlined in this article.
Featured Image Source: “Airmen honor fallen air advisors through nearly 90-mile ruck march” by North Carolina National Guard is licensed under CC BY-ND 2.0