League of Wildness -
I’ve been Rucking long before I knew I was rucking.
Chances are - you have been Rucking, too.
My first memory of Rucking as a fitness pursuit (distinguished from hiking or backpacking with a heavy backpack) is from June of 2008. It was my first season as a Wildland Firefighter and as a part of the qualification to be fit-for-duty we had to do a 3-mile pack test wearing a 45-pound vest. I was 22 years old and had just finished a season of college athletics. I thought I was in good shape - and according to certain standards - I was. However, when I put on the load and walked it was way harder than I thought it should have been. This struck me.
On subsequent ‘heavy hikes’ we would do as a part of our morning PT (Physical Training) regimen I struggled to keep up with members of the fire crew which as mentioned above - according to certain standards - I was much fitter than they were. However, as Erl, Wildman of the North recently said to me, “You can’t argue with time”. The difference was that many of the more seasoned firefighters simply had more time carrying load. I became a seeker of time.
I remember on some early date-hikes with my now-wife putting a dumbbell in my backpack to get in an extra workout during our leisurely stroll. She wondered why I was so slow…
When we moved to Colorado I would unknowingly Ruck my groceries back from the store that was only ½ mile away from our first apartment. The cashiers always gave me strange looks and made a range of comments varying from benevolently comical to borderline aggressive. For me - it was just an ‘opportunity for fitness’. Apparently, it’s called, “Rucking”.
Becoming a Dad thrust Rucking into the mainstream of my life. When our first daughter was born we went on a lot of hikes in the mountains just above Boulder. I Rucked with her on my back for hundreds of miles and loved every second of it. I would even add weight to our kid carrier back to get full value from every step. I couldn’t go as far as I used to be able to, but the added weight gave me the same feeling of satisfaction.
When she started to walk I would alternate between carrying her in the pack until she wanted to get out and walk. At that point, I’d release her into the wild and then pick up the closest rock to replace the load (which was often several times her bodyweight). When she wanted back in I would place the rock in its new home and return her to her now moderately dirt laden seat. She never seemed to mind.
I ran my first ‘ultramarathon’ in 2015 and have done several since that time. One big objective on my list was the infamous Grand Canyon Rim-to-Rim-to-Rim, 50+ miles and over 10,000 feet of vertical gain. The challenge was my timing for a goal that was definitely in the realm of Misogi - we had a baby daughter and putting in the time and miles just wasn’t an option. Instead of giving up on the dream - I got creative. I would take her on at least one, but oftentimes two, 3-mile strolls around our neighborhood pretty much everyday. Strolls is a misnomer as these were Rucks. I would wear 60 pounds on my back with the theory that it would build the strength and durability my legs would require for the Grand Canyon. The strategy worked brilliantly and the “R3” went smoothly. To be honest, I wasn’t even that sore the day afterwards (I was, however, quite exhausted…).
Being a parent has brought out an instinctual desire to be a provider for my family. One manifestation of that instinct has been Bowhunting. I want to provide my kids with an opportunity to have a deeply intimate relationship with their food. I believe that this will ultimately lead to a deeper connection to - and understanding of - the wild world in which we live. There’s no way to sugarcoat it - hunting is violent and at times brutal. However, it also makes our place in the universe crystal clear - even if only for a brief moment in time. What I mean specifically is that when you approach an animal whose life you just took, you cannot escape the reality that one day you will be in their place. Ashes to ashes dust to dust. It’s a solemn, and even sad experience - but aside from the birth of my children - these moments have brought about a deeply ingrained reverence and respect for life.
In order to perform my best in the rugged terrain where I hunt - I train like an athlete. In Bowhunting culture there is a high standard of responsibility to be an ethical hunter and being physically fit carries extreme gravity. For the month leading up to bow season I will Ruck most days for 2-5 miles with up to 80 pounds on my back. This is on top of shooting my bow and other workouts.
What I’ve always found unique about Rucking is that you can do a lot of it and then still do more. As a Ranger I would regularly hike 10 miles or more during a patrol and then workout afterwards. It’s as if the hiking/Rucking was simply an integral part of life from which more intense forms of training could be built upon. I would even dare to hypothesize that the vast majority of people could Ruck 5-10 miles every day with 10-30 pounds on their back with an extremely low, almost non-existent rate of injury. Contrast this to running which is estimated to have an injury rate of 50% or higher for regular runners. I’m a runner and I love running. I’m also very familiar with the potential for injury.
One strategy I’ve been experimenting with is alternating between Rucking and running. I want to also point out that I approach these forms of locomotion as a mandatory part of life and not training. They are exercise in the sense that I’m exercising my body, but I’m Rucking and running because I believe that’s what people do. The self-propulsion of your body through time and space is part of what makes us human.
The strategy is simple - I alternate between a Rucking day and a running day. I’ve noticed I’m more excited to do each form of bipedal travel and my desire to train has gone up. More data is needed to understand the practice on a longer timeframe, but the initial results look promising.
Kim and I cannot wait for the launch of our Ruck Backpack next Tuesday, February 21st @ 8am Mountain time on Kickstarter. This will be our 8th Kickstarter and an opportunity to maintain the momentum from the neon buffalo campaign. Our manufacturing partner in Vietnam is the same factory that produced neon buffalo and their quality and delivery timeline are the best in our Kickstarter career. I’m even more excited to visit the manufacturer in Vietnam during the first week of March to check all the boxes before we head into production. There might even be a few surprises…stay tuned…
The Ruck Backpack campaign is more personal to me in that I’ve been Rucking for years, I currently Ruck, and I plan to continue to Ruck well into the future. It’s also my attempt to make the outdoors more accessible and perhaps even more relatable. I’ve said this before - I used to think that to ‘be wild’ you had to run up a mountain and do pullups on a tree branch. This is absolutely wild - but how relatable is it really? As life continues to steal more of my daily time I am learning to find moments of peace, joy, and most importantly - wildness - close to home. Wildness is on the sidewalks, yards, bike paths, parks, and local trails that are right outside our front door. It’s right there.
I offer my humblest thanks and gratitude for your support during the previous 9 wild-years. Many of you have backed multiple Kickstarter campaigns and wild gym would not exist without you.
I’m beyond excited to get outside and Ruck - wild gym style. I hope you are too.
We’ll see you out there,
-Dan, Founder of wild gym