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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Performance- Cold Weather Bug Out Rucking

WHAT: 11 mile cold weather ruck

WHY:- To test optimal load out and layering system for thermal regulation (prevent overheating) while rucking in cold weather


Bug out.  72 hours, get from point A to point B.  Sounds simple enough, right?  Well, maybe, but I don’t know, and I’m not the type of guy to leave things to chance.  While planning a 72 hour bug out exercise would be great (stand by for the announcement if you want to participate!!) a more practical method is to break down portions of it into smaller digestible chunks.  With that in mind, the actual movement is always something that I’m trying to improve.  There are things that will be variables, like overall circumstances (natural disaster, car broke down in the back country, terrain, etc.) some things will be consistent, like my ability to carry 30-40 lbs across flat ground.  That is my baseline.  The variable that I was fortunate enough to include was weather.  My friend and I, both with 30-40 pound packs, decided to do a flat ground movement in reasonably cold weather.  The starting temperature was right around 30 degrees, and our ending temperature was around 38 degrees.  While not EXTREMELY cold, it was a good temperature to see how well we could regulate temperature while moving at a reasonable pace for a distance of about 11 miles.  We kept a pace of about 15 minute miles, the standard for infantry ruck marching.

On several other movements over the last few months I’ve found that proper layering while exerting effort (moving quickly over varied terrain) caused me to overheat, sweat, and then have a hard time warming back up once I stopped moving.  The short answer is I was dressing too warm for the temperature and effort I was expending.  For this movement I didn’t wear any base layer on my bottom half, and only 2 layers on top.  I prescribe to the 3 W’s (wicking, warmth, weather) and with no chance of precipitation, I dressed light enough that if I were standing still I’d be cold, but moving would keep me comfortable.  My layers consisted of Smartwool PHD medium weight socks with Salomon Comet boots, Kuhl Raptr pants, an Icebreaker GT 200 performance top, Westcomb Ozone hoodie, Patagonia capilene beanie, Outdoor Research gloves, and the pack was a Gregory Savant 48.  The gloves and hood over my head were not used after about 2 miles.

The last time I did the same move (fall of last year) I was completely drenched in sweat, including my boots.  After this move I stripped off the Icebreaker top, put on a Tshirt, and walked into work.  I was able to keep my core temperature to a reasonable level, establish a baseline for moving a certain distance over a certain time, and give myself confidence in my ability to move over a reasonable distance and still be able to perform any task I might need to do.  I felt like I did a much better job of regulating my body temperature, allowing me to keep functioning throughout the day, as well as avoid risk of hypothermia.  The last thing I want to do is find myself in a very cold environment, with minimal gear and equipment, soaking wet from perspiration, and have to bed down or stay static.
While most everyone reading this will have some level of physical and equipment preparation, I encourage all of you to test yourself and your gear, know what you can and can’t do.  Life’s emergencies are unforgiving to those that only speculate and assume.


  • B-rad
    • Layering- For upper layers I wore an Arc Teryx Ether Crew (long sleeve) for my base layer, with a synthetic Mountain Hardware T-shirt (short sleeve) over top for a 2nd layer.  On top of that I started out with an Arc Teryx Atom LT (lightweight insulated jacket).  For pants I wore Arc Teryx soft shell tactical pants (Bravo) with no base layer. 
    • Feet- XA Pro 3D ultra/ mid-weight Smartwool PhD socks
    • Head- Arc Teryx RHO lightweight beanie
    • Hands- Arc Teryx Venta LT gloves
    • Pack- Osprey Kestrel 48 with 38 lbs. (including water)

  • Josh
    • Layering- Josh wore an Ice Breaker GT 200 performance top (base layer) with a Westcomb Ozone Hoodie (lightweight performance fleece top made with Polartec Power stretch pro).  His pants were Kuhl Raptr (performance stretch nylon pant) and he also wore no base layer.
    • Feet- Salomon comets/ Smartwool PhD socks
    • Head- Patagonia Capilene Beanie
    • Hands- OR storm sensor gloves
    • Pack- Gregory Savant 48 with 38 lbs. (including water)


Friday January 18, 2014
Moyock, NC
0603- 31 Degrees (F), Clear, Winds- Calm, 94% humidity

0703- 32 Degrees (F), Clear, Winds- Calm, 96% humidity

0805- 33 Degrees (F), Sunny, Winds- 5mph, 95% humidity

0904- 39 Degrees (F), Sunny, Winds- Calm, 94% humidity


For those of you not currently serving in a combat arms or SOF unit, or working as a professional outdoor guide, it may be safe to assume that you don't regularly throw a pack on and walk 11 miles at high performance pace.  Most people reading this however, may routinely find themselves somewhere, doing something that will either require moving with a pack or having to walk out if things don't go as planned (hunting, hiking, back country travel, ETC)  

If you've ever wondered about the basics of cold weather movement like how to layer, how much weight should you plan for or how fast to move, the standards described above are a good goal to achieve.  I've done a substantial amount of rucking, with heavy and light loads, moving fast, in virtually every environment on the planet, and consider the above weight, layer and pace combination to be near optimal for cold weather movement.