Ruck Review: Getting Ready for a Long Distance Hike

When I was preparing to hike the Pacific Crest Trail last year, I was looking for any information that I could get. It was my first long distance hike and I had never met a long distance hiker before. As I started my preparations, I began to meet thru-hikers and each time I did, a part of me squealed with excitement and I attentively listened to any information they shared. At that time I had never heard of the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West and I had no guess as to what a RUCK was.

Now, a year later I was invited to attend a RUCK with the company I work for, Last Minute Gear, and I wish I had known about this resource a year earlier. So for those who don’t know what a RUCK is and why you might want to go, I thought I would share my experience.


What is a RUCK?

A RUCK is an event put on by the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West for hikers to learn about long trails, preparations and general hiking information.  Perhaps RUCK stands for rucksack or maybe it is just the name for the event no one seems quite sure.  In either case, it is a series of panels, talks, workshops and break out sessions that help you connect with the community, learn and get prepared.

What is American Long Distance Hiking Association- West (ALDHA-West)?

They are an organization that strives to connect hikers from all experience levels, ages and locations to share their knowledge of the trail, protect the trails and learn more.  To do this they hold events and publish a quarterly online newsletter.  They are also the organization that gives out the Triple Crown Award (the award for completing the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and Continental Divide trail)!

What happens at a RUCK?

-A gear shakedown
-Breakout sessions on specific trails
-Panels on things like Gear, Resupply, First Aid and Emergency
-Opportunities to buy gear from vendors
-A raffle

What will I learn?

You will have a chance to learn about Leave No Trace specifically for long distance hikers, lightening your base weight, different methods of resupply, and how to support long distance hiking politically.  Experienced hikers will also share their methods for making decisions in emergency situations, basic first aid tips, cooking suggestions and resupply strategies.

What hikes are discussed?

There will be people there able to discuss the triple crown hikes: the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail and the Continental Divide Trail.  Other hikes will also be discussed, but it is a bit more dependent on what hikes people have done.  It also seems to be a bit focused on location, i.e. the NorCal RUCK will cover disproportionately more California hikes.  Even if there doesn’t end up being a formal break out session for the hike you want to do, there is a good chance you can find people there who have done it and are more than willing to offer advice.

How much food is there/was it yummy?

The event is prepared  to feed thru-hikers!  At the NorCal RUCK this year there even was a little bit left over.  The food was delicious hiker food with cookies, veggies, chips and in the case of this year NorCal RUCK Tacos.

How does the raffle work?

To enter the raffle you have to buy tickets, which helps support ALDHA-West.  The raffle prizes vary from bug spray to ultralight backpacks and all sorts of prizes in bewteen.  You might win something useful or that gear upgrade you’ve always dreamed of!



Who goes?

About 50-100 people in the long distance hiking community.  Some people are thinking about their first  long hike, while others have experience on long trails across the world.  The ages of attendees varies drastically from high schoolers to retirees and all those in between.  Most people come from near by, but some people travel to be able attend the event.

What vendors go?

Vendors are a mix of local companies, ultra light and cottage companies as well as a few bigger named mainstream gear companies.  What vendors go depends a bit on the RUCK.

Who gives the presentations, sits on the panels and leads the break out sessions?

Presentations, panels, shake downs and break out sessions are conducted by ALDHA-West members, board members and experienced hikers in the community.

Is it geared towards beginners?

This event is perfect for beginners, as it will introduce you to all sorts of experienced hikers.  Beginners should keep in mind that the information at a RUCK is not sufficient for preparing for a hike it does not cover first aid, navigation, pitching your shelter or getting in shape.  Depending on when your hike is with relation to the RUCKs it is likely essential that you begin your planning before attending one of these events.

As an experienced hiker, why should I go?

You will be able to network, share your knowledge, hang out with hiker trash and learn new things.  It is a great opportunity to meet people who have done trails you have not done yet or in seasons or directions you have yet to tackle.  The event also allows you to see how people do things differently and helps you continue fine tuning your own methods.

How can I get involved?

You can get involved by getting an ALDHA-West membership.  After a RUCK there are also ways to indicate your desire to get involved either through talking to people or filling out the survey after the event.


Should I go:

Is it worth going to?

Are you a hiker who likes talking about hiking, trails and gear?  Do you like hanging out with other hikers?  Then yes!  I know for many finances are a very important part of planning for a hike.  If your pre-trail budget still allows you to go to a bar or a restaurant with your friends then you can afford to attend a RUCK and it is worth it.  You will get a chance to network, learn new things, eat food and in some locations drink beers.  If you are on an extremely tight budget before your trip then maybe going to a RUCK would be better to do after your hike.

Is it worth going to as a vendor?

From what I have heard and observed, going to a RUCK as a vendor is most helpful for publicity and networking.  You will get to meet potentially future customers, people who are deeply involved in the outdoor scene and other vendors who are in the same industry.  Sale depend to a large extent on how ready attendees are for their hikes.  If everyone already has their gear, there will be fewer sales on the spot.



How much does it cost?

It costs $20-35 to attend depending on if you are a member of the American Long Distance Hiking Association- West, various trail organizations or not.

Where is it?

In 2018 there were RUCKs in Idaho, Oregon, California, Colorado and Washington.  For more information check out their website.

When is it? What time?

It is an all day event!  For details on dates check their website.  The last RUCK of 2018 is coming up on March 31st!


Happy trails and happy hiking season!

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