How to Pack an Army Rucksack

How to Pack an Army Rucksack
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While packing an army rucksack properly isn’t a matter of life and death, doing it wrong can create quite a few problems for soldiers.

In the service, everything is about discipline and therefore packing the rucksack according to SOP, or standard operating procedure, is no exception.

Each military branch may have different standards for different deployments or exercises. Therefore, memorizing the item list and the precaution steps doesn’t always come easy.

Even though there is no set standard for packing the backpack, there are a few general rules to follow whether you’re deploying in the desert, on snowy terrain, or in the jungle. Learning these tips will help you make better sense of the different SOPs you may be tasked to learn.

What Rucksack are You Using?

It’s important to know the difference between tactical backpacks and regular army rucksacks. A tactical pack is mostly used to carry field gadgets like communication devices, ordnance, extra ammo, survival tools, MREs, first-aid kits, and more.

They’re also specially designed to have multiple exterior pockets or MOLLE attachments. For combat situations, tactical backpacks have room for extra bulletproofing.

They also secure to the vest for extra security. Generally, you don’t carry anything else but what you need to accomplish your mission and survive.

A rucksack is what you use during training exercises, hikes, traveling from one base to another. In a rucksack you’ll often carry a spare uniform, toiletries, civilian clothes, paperwork, necessary gadgets, food, and a couple of survival tools.

You will almost always have a sleeping bag attached to it as well as a rain tarp. Now that we’ve got that covered, it’s time to look at some packing tips.

What Rucksack are You Using

Heavy to Light

This is a basic common sense rule when it comes to packing. An army rucksack is to be stuffed with everything you need to survive from food to clothes and anything you need on an extended exercise deployment.

Spare uniforms take up a lot of space so they should always be the first items of clothing you put in the backpack.

Socks, underwear, gloves, masks, and any other smaller accessories should be rolled and tucked in wherever possible to save space; don’t use your side pockets for those.

Although the army rucksack is not a field pack like a tactical backpack, you still want all exterior pockets for storing essential items that you may need on the fly.

Horizontal not Vertical

Always pack your army rucksack horizontally as much as possible. Due to how most of them are designed, this will allow you to save more space and have everything stored nicely.

Every soldier learned on the first day of basic training that it’s not ok to wrinkle the uniform, even if he or she had to pack in a hurry.

Work With the Frame

Army rucksacks come with a metal or plastic frame. This allows for more durability, extra weight capacity, less strain on the back and shoulders of the carrier.

It’s generally a good idea to put the heavy items right against the frame if you want maximum support. This also allows the other items, or softer items, to go against the shell that’s on your back. This will ensure that you don’t have to go on a 70 mile hike with hard edges banging on your spine.


If you want to pack your rucksack as optimally as possible, always do it while it’s standing vertically. Don’t pack it on the side as you will likely waste plenty of space in the process.

Another good trick is to further waterproof your bag. A simple way to do this is by inserting a thick and big enough garbage bag in your rucksack before you start packing your clothes and accessories. You can then seal the bag before you pull the drawstrings.

Make it a camo bag or a dark green bag if that makes you feel more army. While this is mostly used for canvas rucksacks, it’s not a bad idea to use the garbage bag or waterproof tarp trick even in a nylon rucksack.

​Final Thoughts

Developing the discipline to always pack your rucksack as neatly as possible takes time, but don’t worry. Once you join the army, it doesn’t take long until you start to do it a couple of times a day.

All the previously mentioned tips can be applied to any army rucksack SOP, it’s just a matter of judging which items take priority. Depending on the continent and the season you’re using the rucksack, you’ll have specific gear and clothing requirements as well as some important items you always need to keep on hand.

As long as you understand what’s what and memorize the SOPs, you should have no problem leaving the base with all essential items in your pack and passing any inspections with flying colors.

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