Challenge Packing & What Makes a GORUCK Ruck Better


I know I’m one of the newer Cadre at GORUCK, but I’m sure as hell not new to hauling a load on my back! I’ve been at this kind of thing for a long time and would like to think that I’ve refined my skills to a professional level through the years. I know this may sound silly, but I swear that I’ve seen some stupid things both during Challenges and on actual missions over the years! Last year, at GORUCK Light 001, I watched a dude slowly lose a battle with his North Face pack. It affected his performance, which in turn, led to mass punishment for the entire class! I’ve also seen “Gucci gear” fail over and over downrange!

Gear made in a sweatshop will not rise to the occasion when you need it the most. When you read the history behind the GR1, you’ll learn the “why” behind its design. From where I stand, the mission was accomplished. Yes, I’m an employee with GORUCK so I’m a bit biased. But like I said, I’ve been doing this for a while and I can say that these packs are truly some of the best I’ve seen for a military application.

I use a GORUCK Echo as a bug out bag in my civilian car, when conducting mobile training, and during actual operations. I also have a GR1 and have used it during several training exercises to include small boat and swimmer operations, Joint Terminal Attack Controller training, Direct Action raid, and urban patrolling and reconnaissance.

Anyway, back to the Challenge. Dude, do yourself a favor. Buy a GORUCK pack. Period. There are plenty of cheaper alternatives on the market, but the Challenge was designed to showcase the gear!  I personally enjoy seeing you nerds fall in for inspection, with all these brands that GRHQ said I shouldn’t badmouth here – and I think to myself “I’m going to enjoy watching you lose your mind when that thing explodes off your back! There is not enough duct tape in the world to help you now!”

So what do I bring in my ruck when I’m leading a Challenge? Well I’ve hauled the load and logged the miles and know what I need (and don’t need!) for a nice, long, cold, wet walk.

The Cadre will blaze into your hometown for a day or two. We get a hotel and sometimes a rental car.  We may only be there for however long it takes to get the job done because we have to move on to the next mission. Most of us like to travel light, hate to check bags, and hate to bring things we don’t need. So here is a list of everything I bring to a Challenge and for a Challenge (meaning some of this stuff I bring for the trip, but do not bring to the actual event). Everything fits into my GR1 with no issues.


  • Laptop with power cord – If I get downtime in my hotel or before a flight, I like to watch a movie, check emails, and listen to music.
  • Mp3 Player with wall and car charger – This is a no brainer.
  • Smart Phone with charger– Key for verifying my Challenge route.
  • Kindle with Charger – Right now I’m reading “The Battle of Bunker Hill” by the Charles River.


  1. Clothes to resist wind and rain: that means outer shell jacket, pants, and inner jacket.
  2. Poly pro top/bottom – Light long underwear for cold climates and temperatures.  Keep it against your skin and dry using outer and hard shells and you’ll have no issues.
  3. Wool Knit, Fleece Lined Cap – My wife knitted me a great wool cap that’s also fleece lined.  Perfect because wool retains heat even when wet, and the fleece protects against wind chill.
  4. Glove Liners – A good base layer for the hands in cold weather.  Not great in the rain so keep them dry or covered with another glove.
  5. Mechanix gloves – An essential piece of gear.  Enough protection from the elements and protection for your hands.
  6. Sunglasses – I have a pair of Oakley Half Jackets
  7. TAC Hat – of course!
  8. GORUCK t-shirt, zip off pants, wool socks, USMC Bates boots, quick-dry, collared shirt. All these garments are durable, quick drying and fold up nice and tight for travel.
  9. Running shorts, extra t-shirt, flip flops – for post-Challenge travel or bumming around in the hotel.


  • Notebook – For final planning, taking notes for AAR, etc.
  • Headlamp – Small, bright light providing hands-free illumination of nerd faces doing flutter kicks!
  • Flashlight – You can’t beat 3 million lumens of light in the palm of your hand!
  • GPS Watch – I like to let the class know how far they went, how long it took and what their average speed was after completing the Challenge.  This helps me share their victories.
  • Wrist Compass – Dude, drop me in any foreign country and I’ll find my way. Drop me in your hometown, I’m lost. Just ask Class 400!
  • Pocket Knife – I was a Boy Scout, be prepared.
  • Stainless Steel Water bottle – No horrible stench coming out of this baby!
  • GRT Patches – Well, no duh, earned never sold!

Travel Hygiene Kit: You never know when you’ll need to be presentable.  I carry the travel size stuff because they’re great for saving space and getting the job done.

  • Body Powder
  • Deodorant
  • Toothbrush
  • Toothpaste
  • Floss
  • Chap Stick
  • Baby Wipes

Travel Medical Kit: Injuries occur, be ready to handle them and continue mission.

  • Plastic Flex Tape
  • Ibuproffen NSAID
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Zeosorb Foot Powder – This is hands-down the best foot powder.  Absorbs 8 times its size in moisture!
  • Tiger Balm – Sort of a holistic muscle rub.  What!?  I’m old, leave me alone!
  • Bag Balm – Like Vaseline on steroids!  I slab this on my heels, balls of my feet to prevent blisters/sores.
  • Tourniquet
  • Battle Dressing Bandage
  • Cravat – Literally a thousand uses and counting!

Travel Blister Kit 1

  • Tweezers
  • Nail Clippers
  • Folding Scissors
  • Safety Pin
  • Lighter
  • Mole Skin
  • Athletic Tape
  • Neosporin

Travel Blister Kit 2

  • 2nd Skin Pad
  • Blister Patches x3
  • Water Resistant Bandages  (3 x L, 3 x M, 3 x S)
  • Gauze Pads x 3
  • Alcohol Pads x 3
  • Butterfly Closures x 8

I hope this helps, you nerds!

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