Pack marching (aka. stomping, yomping or rucking), is any kind of traverse movement with a loaded backpack. Pack marching is a key component of SF Selection where loads tend to vary from 8kg to 80kg depending on the task or phase. Prior to starting any pack training activity, it's important to ensure that you have the correct gear and that it is set-up correctly.
Setting-up your pack then packing your pack will become an important skill to have in the military not least because you will have to carry the equipment, but you will also have to survive and fight out of your pack. It is an art to identify exactly what you will and will-not need, then pack the essentials in a way which will suit the task or mission because it is important to have critical equipment placed where it is easily accessible yet secure. This will come with experience and trial-and-error.
One catch phrase you will need to live by is to 'test-and-adjust'. This is a continuous process, especially as your environment, roles and tasks change. It means that you must always cast a critical eye over your equipment; what it comprises of; its utility to you and the task; its weight and size; and its purpose and function. You must always be testing your equipment (and yourself, theories, processes, tactics and strategies), to see if it is still relevant, functional and viable within your environment. If not, then see if you can amend, modify, replace or repair it. Once this review is completed, then you will need to re-test the equipment before being subject to a 'live' mission.
The test-and-adjust process starts now. Ensure that your backpack is fit-for-purpose. I.e. designed for military rucking and able to be modified or tailored to your needs. The key components to be aware of are: capacity (litres), comfort, functionality (pouch placement), weight, frame-size and waist-band.
For training purposes, obviously you need to train with the equipment, which you will be using on Selection. You will need to research this depending on the course you are undertaking. This test is about pace, not weight, so the primary focus is on your pace.
Key things to consider:
- For carrying heavy loads the waistband or hip-straps are a must. To protect your back, the weight of your pack must be distributed between your shoulder straps and your hips by the waistband. This will go a long way towards enabling you to carry heavier and for longer. If you are working with an Alice pack then you can retrofit a waistband if it wasn't supplied with one otherwise most new packs are fitted with a waist band.
- Ensure that your boots and your pack are worn-in or broken-in. Always ensure that you have 2-sets of your key items (i.e. '2 is 1; 1 is none') like packs and boots. It is better to have a spare of each which are already broken-in and ready for immediate use.
- Barefoot running. This will assist to toughen the skin on your feet and minimise the occurrence of blisters.
- Sand dune running is imperative. It helps to strengthen your feet and lower-leg.
- Start light. Do not go too heavy, or too far, too early. Progressively increase the distance and weight according to your program. I know too many SF candidates who have ruined their career before they started due to chronic back injuries caused by heavy pack marching.
- Don't run before you walk! Once you've worked through your program and achieved the benchmark distance and weight, then start to increase the speed of your pacing to a shuffle - don't run. Not only is there a hazard of tripping on uneven surfaces, but running increases the potential for injury due to the constant jolting impact on the spine as your pack bounces up-and-down.