Rucking vest or backpack (Pros, Cons & Differences)

Weighted vests and backpacks are vital in adding an extra workout element to your workout routine. You will most likely develop a higher fitness level using these two, and your body will be better conditioned.

The main difference between these two lies in how each is designed. While a backpack is just that, a weighted vest looks like a tactical vest with pockets to remove and add weight as desired.

There are different vests on the market, and the amount of weight the vest can carry ranges from 5.4-68 kgs.

Many people often find themselves at crosshairs choosing between a rucking vest or a backpack.

In my years in the military, I learned there is a significant difference between these two workout tools.

If you intend to walk or do light workout exercises, a backpack is best suited for you. However, if you want to perform more demanding activities, you want to go for a weighted vest.

A vest keeps you centered and prevents you from leaning forward, preventing back pain and engaging your core.

However, backpacks do not engage your body in such ways. One of the best ways to ruck or hike is using a vest.

Here are some merits of using vests during rucking

For easier understanding, I would like to describe weighted vests as a form of added resistance.

What this means is that the more you push during movement, the more energy your body requires to move and, therefore, the harder your body has to work.

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Here are some other benefits of weighted tests cardiovascular benefits

Since this form of exercise engages the core, the heart rate increases during rucking sessions, which then offers your body cardiovascular benefits, additionally, you should know that weighted vests improve the blood lactate thresholds for participants.

What this means is that you will be able to go at faster speeds and for more extended periods without getting tired.

  • The body is able to metabolize fats more efficiently
    Your body will acquire body mass benefits because you will metabolize fats much better.
  • Weighted vests increase the body’s strength.
    When rucking or even doing pushups, your lower and upper body will gain muscle and thus improve the body’s strength and endurance capabilities.

Additionally, people with low bone mineral density are advised to practice rucking to rectify this condition.

Demerits of weighted vests


Weighted vests are meant to be updated every so often. As you get stronger and put on more muscle, you will realize the original vest you purchased has become too light for you.

You, therefore, have to buy additional weights or buy a new vest entirely.
This can be costly.

  • Potential of sustaining an injury

As you carry around a weighted vest, the weight is felt mainly by your hips and knees.

When performing challenging workouts, you may injure your knees because of the excessive
weight and the type of workout.

  • Temperature

Weighted vests are customarily made from canvas or tough nylon. They cover the entire torso. Typically, you are left sweaty after any workout session and feeling hot. Thus, when you add the weighted vest, this becomes a steamy affair.

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Merits of weighted backpacks

My advice to you would be, when you carry a weighted backpack, only pack enough weight to represent a significant percentage of your body weight.

Be careful not to exceed because you will be placing your health in danger.

  • Assists you to burn calories

If you are determined to lose weight, weighted backpacks are ideal. Weighted backpacks assist you in burning any excess calories. While losing these calories, your body also gains muscle, especially the lower body.

  • Your bones will grow stronger.

Carrying a weighted backpack increases the load on the skeletal system. That is good because when you load the skeletal system, that will stimulate your bones to grow stronger. Consequently, your bone density increases.

  • Helpful for older people

Senior citizens often cannot do other forms of exercise like running or squatting. Therefore, weighted walking helps develop balance in elderly people.
However, older people should only be permitted to carry small weights.

Demerits of weighted backpacks

  • Too much weight can be counterproductive

I have seen many people who are determined to lose or gain weight within a short period tend to overload themselves.

Carrying an overly heavy backpack can cause damage to the hips and knees. All that weight is being felt mostly by the lower body.

  • Back and shoulder pains.

Since the backpack is heavy, the body may not automatically adjust to carrying this heavy load on your back. Therefore, at first, you may experience backaches and shoulder pains.’

  • Joint pains

The added weight from the backpack is supported by the hips, knees, and ankles. Therefore, after a strenuous exercise, you may find yourself experiencing joint pains.

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The main difference between a rucking vest and a backpack lies in how each is designed. A rucking vest is indeed the better option as it has more significant benefits to you.