Have you heard about Rucking as a great way to get fit or have you seen people walking with loaded packs and wondered what all of the hype was about?
Rucking is a workout that involves walking with a weighted pack for time or distance and is a fantastic form of cardio.
I’ve spent hundreds of hours training with a weighted hiking pack over the past 7+ years and will break down my recommendation for Best Backpacks for Rucking in 2023.
Most of my background with Rucking has been training for Mountaineering and Ultramarathons. But Rucking isn’t only great for outdoor adventures, I also use my GoRuck pack multiple times a week while taking the dogs for a walk.
The great thing about Rucking is it is super accessible – All you need is a weighted backpack and a space to walk. No need for a bunch of equipment, literally just a pack and a road or trail.
So what is the right rucking backpack for you?
Before we dive into the best rucking backpacks to get fit in 2023, let’s give some background on rucking.
What is Rucking?
Simply put: Rucking is a workout in which the athlete wears a weighted backpack and goes for a hike, walk, or run.
The origins of rucking come from the military – Much of the training and preparation revolves around carrying a weighted rucksack for long distances while completing military objectives. You’ve probably seen this in the movies with bootcamp scenes of team members walking through the rain carrying heavy loads.
For the purpose of this article, we are going to focus on the best rucking backpacks for workout routines and NOT for military specific objectives. The recommendations are for the best Backpacks for Rucking to get fit (not for a tactical rucking backpack used in the military).
When rucking, you load a pack with weight and go for a walk or hike. The pack can be filled with literally anything to create weight (Household objects, rocks, bags of sand, a water bottle etc).
The more advanced backpacks for rucking (like GoRuck packs) have dedicated compartments to hold custom ruck weights made specifically for rucking.
Since you are walking for an extended period of time with weight on your back, rucking is a form of both cardio and strength training.
What are the Best Backpacks for Rucking in 2023?
- Best Backpack for Rucking in 2023: GoRuck Rucker 4.0
- Best for Smaller Athletes: GoRuck Bullet Rucker – 15L
- Best for Adventurers: REI Co-op Ruckpack 40
- Best Value: Kelty 30L Redwing
- Best for Working Out: GoRuck Plate Carrier
1. GoRuck Rucker 4.0 – 25: Best Backpack for Rucking in 2023
GoRuck is the premier name in the rucking fitness space and the Rucker 4.0 is their flagship product.
The supreme quality of GoRuck is reflected on our list, carrying 3 of the 5 best Backpacks for Rucking in 2023.
GoRuck packs come with a lifetime guarantee and 1% of revenue is donated to nonprofits that focus on veteran assistance.
The key distinguisher between GoRuck and other rucking packs on the market is that GoRuck is built to hold specialized rucking plates.
Within the main compartment, there is a dedicated pouch in the pack that perfectly fits the rucking plates (sold separately). The dedicated pouch helps to evenly distribute weight and allow you to carry a heavy load in a decently compact pack.
Key takeaways of the Rucker 4.0:
- The Rucker 4.0 is the best rucking backpack on the market for most people. It is made with supreme quality and comes with GoRuck lifetime guarantee.
- 2 dedicated compartments to store ruck weights. Plates are extremely stable inside pack (no swinging)
- 4 handles to allow pack to double as workout bag (Use handles for squats, overhead press, etc)
- Nice enough to be used as an everyday carry travel bag. There is NOT a dedicated laptop compartment, but the main compartment is large enough to easily hold your computer or extra gear.
- Holds up to 75lbs of ruck weights (sold separately)
- Made of 1000D Cordura Nylon
- 2 compartments & 2 dedicated Ruck Plate Pockets
- Front pocket holds 10lb, 20lb or 30lb weights
- Larger pocket holds 20lb, 30lb, or 45lb weights
- Padded Hip Belt included; This is detachable based on preference (I don’t use the hip belt)
- 4 padded handles: top, bottom, and both sides
- Allows for working out outside of rucking (use it for weights)
- Water Resistant (Rainproof)
- Padded Shoulder Straps; As mentioned above, I don’t use the hip belt and the shoulder straps have enough support for me while rucking
- Dedicated Velcro spot for customized patches
- GoRuck is the premier brand in the rucking space and the Rucker 4.0 is their flagship product. It holds up to 75lbs and has a lifetime guarantee
- The Rucker 4.0 is the best rucking backpack that we have tried.
- Can double as a workout bag with 4 handles to do various exercises with
- Can be used as an EDC (Everyday Carry Bag)
- If you are going to take Rucking seriously, the Rucker 4.0 will last you a lifetime and is #1 on our list making it thebest backpack for rucking.
2. GoRuck Bullet Rucker – 15L: Best for Smaller Athletes:
The Bullet Rucker – 15L is a streamlined version of the Rucker 4.0 and is perfect for smaller athletes. The pack has a taller and more narrow shape in comparison to the Rucker 4.0.
The minimalist design makes this an ideal rucking backpack for people that are new to rucking or have a smaller frame size. It also doubles as a great day hiking pack.
Key Takeaways for the GoRuck Bullet Rucker -15L:
- 15L capacity and has one Ruck Plate compartment
- Great for 20-30lb Rucks
- Minimalist design for Rucking only (a little small for a EDC bag)
- Ideal for smaller athletes
- Differences from Rucker 4.0
- Does not have Sternum strap or Side Handles & has narrower straps
- 20% cheaper
- Made of GoRuck 500D CORDURA Nylon (Military grade durability and abrasion resistive)
- Single Internal Compartment for Ruck plate and 3 interior pockets
- Extra padded straps for comfort
- Compatible with Hydration Bladders (Hydration system sold separately)
- Water Resistant (Rainproof)
- The Bullet Rucker is a streamlined version of the Rucker 4.0, which is the flagship GoRuck pack
- Has 1 compartment and is perfect for 20-30lb rucks
- Narrow straps and size of the pack make it ideal for smaller athletes
- The Bullet Rucker – 15L wins the “Best for Small Athletes” award on our Best Backpacks for Rucking of 2023
3. REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 Recycled Pack: Best for Adventurers
The REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 is a high quality backpack that is meant to be used on multi-day backpacking trips. The 40L capacity is the largest on our list, but the pack itself is not a dedicated Rucking pack.
REI says this pack can comfortably handle up to 25lbs for rucking specifically. It is important to note that this pack does NOT have dedicated plate compartments like the GoRuck packs, but the plate could be placed directly in one of the compartments.
Key Takeaways for the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40:
- 40 Liter Capacity & able to hold ~25 pounds with issue according to REI
- Pack is NOT made specifically for rucking workouts and does not have a compartment for rucking plates
- Made out of durable ripstop nylon material and has heavily padded shoulder straps for comfort while rucking
- Pack has compression straps and load lifters to adjust pack to fit on your body. It also has a sternum strap and mesh padding.
- Back panel is made out of mesh to assist with breathability while rucking outdoors
- Dedicated spot within pack for hydration bladder (sold separately)
- 40 Liter Capacity
- 2,440 cubic inch capacity
- 4 compartments
- Spring Steel frame material
- The REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 is a well designed pack that is designed for multiple day backpacking trips, but can also be used during Rucking workouts
- The pack is not specifically designed for Rucking workouts and does not have a rucking weight pocket.
- This is a extremely versatile rucking backpack, so if you are interested in multiple day backpacking trips and also want to use rucking as a way to improve your fitness, the REI Co-op Ruckpack 40 is a great option for you.
- The REI Co-Op Ruckpack 40 wins the “Best for Adventurers” award on our Best Backpacks for Rucking of 2023 list
4. Kelty 30L Redwing Tactical: Best Value
Kelty is a premier name in the backpack space and has been building durable gear since 1952.
The Kelty 30L Redwing is a tactical backpack that is built to military specifications. The pack was built to be used for both adventures and as a Everyday Carry pack.
This versatile backpack was not built specifically for rucking, however it can be used for your rucking workouts.
There are not dedicated compartments to hold rucking plates, but there is plenty of space to hold a Rucking plate or fill with another weight option. Even though the Kelty 30L Redwing is not designed specifically for rucking, it is an excellent backpack for rucking.
Coming in at the lowest price point for a backpack on the list, the Kelty 30L Redwing is ideal for someone looking for the best value option and who also wants to use the pack for daily use.
Key Takeaways for the Kelty 30L Redwing:
- Cheapest backpack on the list at $119.95 and available on Amazon
- Designed to Military spec as a tactical backpack, so not a dedicated pack for Rucking
- Can double as a Everyday Carry or travel backpack (includes a laptop sleeve) as well as a rucking pack
- 500D Nylon and built to military specifications
- Internal Frame for stability
- Adjustable Military style backpack straps and Side Compression Straps
- Dynamic Air Flow back panel to prevent overheating while rucking
- Hydration Bladder Compatible
- Coming in at $119.95, the Kelty 30L Redwing is a great option for someone looking for the best value backpack for rucking.
- Kelty is a strong brand that has been around for over 70 years and offers a lifetime guarantee.
- The versatile backpack is built to military specifications and is completely adjustable for custom fitting while rucking.
- This is a great option for somebody looking for a EDC bag that has a bombproof laptop compartment.
- The Kelty 30L Redwing wins our “Best Value” award on the Best Backpacks for Rucking of 2023.
5. GoRuck Rucker Plate Carrier: Best for Working Out
If you are looking for a simple and affordable solution to start rucking, the GoRuck Rucker Plate is the most basic option on this list.
Rather than having a full pack setup, the Rucker Plate is a hybrid between a rucking pack and a weighted vest. This is perfect for people that want to ruck and also want to add weight to their workouts.
Key Takeaways for the GoRuck Plate Carrier:
- Coming in at $95, the cheapest and most versatile option on this list
- Dedicated compartment to hold GoRuck Ruck Plates (10lb, 20lb, or 30lbs)
- Ideal for someone that wants to Ruck a few times a week, but will also use added weight for daily workouts
- Thick padding on back, Sternum Strap, and fabric design to minimize irritation or rubbing on skin.
- Made of GoRuck 1000D CORDURA (Military grade durability and abrasion resistive)
- Padded top handle for easy carrying
- Adjustable sternum straps
- Dedicated pocket for Ruck Plates (10lb, 20lb, or 30lb)
- GoRuck Lifetime Guarantee
- The GoRuck Ruck Plate Carrier is the cheapest option on the list and most versatile option for those just testing out Rucking
- The Plate Carrier can double as a piece of daily workout equipment. Anything you would use a weighted vest on would be perfect for the Ruck Plate Carrier
- GoRuck produces the best quality products and offers a lifetime guarantee
- The GoRuck Ruck Plate Carrier 3.0 wins our “Best for Working Out” award on the Best Backpacks for Rucking of 2023.
What Is Rucking? What are the Best Backpacks for rucking?
- Rucking is a form of exercise that involves walking or hiking for distance with a weighted pack.
- Originating from the military, Rucking is also used all over the world by athletes to gain cardiovascular and muscular endurance.
- Rucking can be done with any backpack that is filled with weight, but normal packs will swing with too much weight or cause discomfort on the athlete’s shoulders and lower back.
- People that are serious about rucking should consider a pack that is designed to handle large amounts of weight. The best backpack for rucking will be built specifically for carrying heavier loads and have quality shoulder straps, a good waist belt, and chest straps.
- We share our top 5 recommendations for the Best Rucking Backpacks of 2023 on this page.
- Rucking is a fantastic form of exercise and can be added into the weekly routine of any athlete.
- To make the workout more efficient and comfortable, consider buying a pack that is made to hold weight and designed for rucking. The best backpacks for rucking will not swing or cause shoulder discomfort during the workout.
- A good rucking backpack comes complete with a hip belt, adjustable shoulder straps, compression straps, and quality zippers.
- GoRuck is the premier name in the rucking for fitness space and designs packs with specific compartments for ruck weights. Their rucking backpacks are built to carry heavy loads and are a top of the line heavy duty rucking backpack.
- The GoRuck Rucker 4.0 is the best backpack for rucking in 2023 for most people.