GORUCK Ascent Loadout: 100 Hours in the Rocky Mountains - ITS Tactical

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GORUCK Ascent Loadout: 100 Hours in the Rocky Mountains

By Mike Petrucci

GORUCK Ascent ITS Tactical Patch

If you’ve been following our progression as we get closer to the GORUCK Ascent, you’re probably wondering what gear we’ve decided to take.

When Bryan and I first committed to the Ascent, we knew almost nothing other than everything we’d be taking would have to be carried in or on a GORUCK GR2 and that we’d be climbing 14’ers. We didn’t receive the packing list until about a month after signing up.

Though the packing list set in place by GORUCK is strict, we have the freedom to choose exactly what pieces of gear we will be taking. Everything from what base layers to a tent (if you even want a tent). They were also adamant that if it wasn’t on the list, we wouldn’t need it; including food other than lickies and chewies.

Before getting too far in this article we’d like to extend a HUGE thank you to Todd and Julie at Tactical Distributors for working with us as a liaison between many of the companies you’ll read about that are providing gear for our adventure to allow us to tell you all about how it performs for us.

Not your Average Pack

GORUCK GR2I heard that most hikers will recommend a pack with 2,500 to 3,000 cubic inches of space for a day hike, the GR2 holds roughly 2,900 cubic inches. This isn’t to show how much we plan to do without and “rough it,” or that we’ll be ill equipped. Instead it caused us to ask ourselves, what’s truly necessary? If it’s necessary, how can it be made lighter? Is there an alternative? All of these are excellent questions when you are trying to simplify your life and especially useful when attempting to lighten your load for backpacking.

Another feature of this bag people will ask about is why doesn’t there appear to be a sternum strap or waist belt. To quote Jason, the founder of GORUCK and designer of their bags:

“A couple questions we’ve consistently gotten deal with both the sternum strap and the waist belt. Or, in our case, the lack thereof. We approach our design with the philosophy that simpler is better, less is more. Whenever possible, we like to let people add on as they see fit. … A bag should not look like a gypsy camp, not ever. I prefer cleaner, simpler, and more functional, so that was our focus.”

The entire Ascent is planned to last 100 hours and we need to be self-sufficient with no planned resupply. Since details aren’t forthcoming, we don’t know how much time we will be spending actually reaching summits, moving between cities, or learning land navigation and survival skills. This means we need to pack so that we’re as fast and light as possible.

Bryan and I both believe that two is one and one is none, but in this case, we’re having to do with just one or even none. What can we really do without? Do I ‘need’ a six inch survival knife or will my Benchmade Mini Griptilian do well enough?

While an endless supply of money would help to better answer the question of what gear is best. Before we get into what’s in our personal loadouts, here’s the packing list we were working with from GORUCK.

GORUCK Ascent Packing List [opens in new window]

Mike’s Gear List

GORUCK Ascent Loadout

Maximum Pack Weight at Start: 28.62 lbs.

  • Waterproof Shell
  • Insulating Layer Top
  • Synthetic/Dry Fit T-Shirt
  • Cold Weather Base Layer
  • Underwear
  • Knit Cap
    • Outdoor Research Winter Trek Hat
    • 53 g / 1.9 oz
  • Hiking Boots
    • Lowa Renegade II GTX
    • 1110 g / 39.15 oz
    • I checked these boots out based on a recommendation from our Managing Editor and I couldn’t be more happy with them. Flexible but tough, these boots feel very capable and during my test on Old Rag mountain, they performed extremely well. I opted for the GoreTex variant.
  • Socks
    • SmartWool PhD (2 pair total)
    • 252 g / 8.80 oz
    • I plan on alternating the same pairs of sock for the duration of the Ascent. One pair will be worn while the other dry out.
  • Lightweight Pants
  • Lightweight, Durable Gloves
    • Louis Garneau Ergo Air (mountain biking gloves)
    • 78 g / 2.80 oz
  • Sleeping Pad
  • Camera
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Survival Kit
  • Tent
    • NEMO Meta 1P
    • 878 g / 31.00 oz
    • This tent is fast and lightweight. It uses no poles for support except one trekking pole to form a sort of teepee design. It only sleeps one but has a decent amount of room as well as decent ventilation and a vestibule.
  • Personalize GR2
    • UCP Camoform on top handle of bag and various morale patches.
  • Hydration Bladder
    • Source WXP 3L Helix
    • 381 g / 13.40 oz
    • Constant hydration is key at altitude and having three liters is a good start.
  • Water Purification
  • Headlamp
    • SureFire Saint Minimus
    • 93.6 g / 3.3 oz
    • Small, bright, waterproof… this is just about everything I was looking for in a headlamp. It offers a truly variable beam and enables you to go anywhere from 0 lumens to 100 with a simple twist. Also, I used this in my GORUCK Challenge and it passed with flying colors.
  • Flashlight
    • SureFire G2X Pro
    • 125 g / 4.4 oz
    • While I’ll probably have the Saint Minimus on most of the time, this light could easily be the primary light source due to it’s size, weight and light output. It’s variable and outputs 15 or 200 lumens.
  • Batteries
  • Pocket Knife
  • Compass
    • Suunto
  • Sunglasses
    • Suncloud Polarized Wrap Around Sunglasses
    • 35 g / 1.20 oz
    • Semi lightweight and I don’t really mind if they get lost or broken.
  • Medication / Medical
    • Bayer Asprin, Ginkgo Biloba, Ibuprofen (repackaged)
    • 31 g / 1.10 oz
  • Water Bottle
    • 32 oz. wide mouth Nalgene
    • 186 g / 6.60 oz
    • Can fill with hot water and place in my sleeping bag at night if it gets cold.
  • Pens/Pencils
    • Fisher AG7 and mini pencil
  • Notebook
  • Sunscreen / Insect Repellent
    • Small one time use SPF 30+ packets / Repel micro squirt
  • Lickies and Chewies (2 lb. Limit)
    • Trail Mix, Clif Bars, Sport Beans, GU Gel
  • Personal Hygiene
  • Fire Makers
    • REI Storm Matches, Spark-Lite Flint, Tinder-quiks
  • Bungee Cords
  • Sleeping Bag / Compression Sack
    • Marmot Plasma 15 / Sea to Summit Ultra Sil Compression Sack
    • 906 g / 31.96 oz / 66 g / 2.3 oz
    • Outside magazines Gear of the Year award winner. This bag is rated to 15 degrees, weighs under 2 pounds, and can be packed down to almost the size of a standard Nalgene. This was an early Christmas gift from my parents and I’m super stoked to test it out during the Ascent.
  • 550 Cord
    • 50 ft. OD
    • 122 g / 4.30 oz
  • Waterproofing
  • Duct Tape
    • A few feet wrapped around Nalgene and more in survival kit.
  • Misc. Equipment
    • Snow Peak Ti spork, Snow Peak 600 Ti single wall mug, Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork trekking poles, Suunto Core Extreme Edition Everest, HeadSweats Race Hat, Gossamer Gear Polycryo Ground Cloth.

Note: While focusing on the main items, some ‘odds & ends’ were excluded from the above list. If you’re interested in viewing a full breakdown of every item with notes, check out this Google Doc. I’d like to thank Brian Green for the idea and template.

Bryan’s GR2 Gear List

GORUCK Ascent Gear 03

Maximum Pack Weight at Start: 31.65 lbs.


By the time you read this we’ll be heading out to Colorado to start our acclimating and getting ready to shake the heavens with GORUCK and our Ascent teammates!

We’d like to again thank Tactical Distributors, Arc’Teryx, Outdoor Research, Under Armor, NEMO, Jetboil, Smart Wool, Princeton Tec and Contour for getting us some great gear to evaluate on the Ascent!

Stay tuned for our after action report with details on all of the gear we’ll be carrying and our honest evaluation of how it performed.

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  • Have fun guys!!

  • Good luck, I’ll be tracking your progress. Go Ruck!

  • Brad Carvalho

    Awesome, Good Luck Gents!! Bryan, why did you ditch your “EDC Pen” the parker jotter for the fisher?

  • Razor

    Mike, stop by an REI and pick up at least some full-finger thermal glove liners. The weather can get pretty brisk at the top of a 14er, even if the temps at the base are 80F +, and with your pack shoulder straps cutting off some of the circulation to your hands, you’ll be very happy to have something on them to keep your fingertips from aching. Or, you can do what my son’s buddy did on a recent 14er summit and wear your extra socks on your hands if you want to go the minimalist route.

  • Looks good! I’m looking forward to your gear reports.

  • David Liles

    Enjoy the experience… push on!

  • Paolo Scuri

    Good Luck!

  • John Galt

    Nice, you’ll have fun. I was just in the rockies (sangre de cristo range) for 22 days (tested several TAD gear items). Climbed two 14ers while I was there. Its a blast but START EARLY! Right before I went up a pass I watched a S&R team removing a man who died when, the night before, he got disoriented and fell 20 or so feet when he was caught in a thunderstorm. I would also recommend just bringing a tarp and not a tent of any sort, the bugs aren’t very bad there (I have a spinnUL tarp–just 5.3oz!). One last thing, check out Klymit Inertia X-Frame sleeping pads, they are just 9.6oz and they are amazingly comfortable–seriously amazing–they roll up to the size of about a coke can (little bigger maybe, depends how hard you try). Blow up in seconds (3-5 breaths for me) and no sagging in your head, shoulder or hip areas!

    Also, never heard of toothpaste dots, thanks for putting that on there–ill have to try that.

    Best of luck,

  • D. Hide

    All the best to you up in those mountains. I understand packing light is essential for high altitudes, but 100 hours with just that? I’ll definitely have to follow-up on the AAR to see how that works out!

  • Jeff Baird

    Good Luck guys !

  • Wish I was going with you guys! Have fun and, “break a leg” as they say.

  • You guys enjoy the fun. We just climbed Mt. Elbert, 14,433 feet last weekend. Tallest mountain in the Rockies. Embrace the suck!!!!! RLTW

  • By the way if your in the Leadville area I would love to buy my fellow ITS members a drink! Cheers!

  • Cory Heimark

    So Bryan and Mike, I am way late on this and I promise I’ll roll up an ITS article while you are trekking. High Altitude is 12,000 to 18,000 feet, and High Altitude Illness is a direct result of the reduced barometric pressure and concentration of oxygen. Low pressure makes air less dense so you get fewer oxygen molecules with each breath. I am sure you both know this already. Day trips to higher altitude and returning to lower altitude for sleep helps aid acclimatization. Eat foods high in carbs and low in fat and stay well hydrated.
    Quick Way to recognize altitude illness progression from mild to severe is loss of coordination. Acetazolamide (Diamox) is a prescription med used along with a graded ascent. Ginkgo Biloba will help mitigate the effects. Dose is 100mg twice a day starting 2 to 3 days before and while at altitude. (Glad to see you both were packing some) This has been proven to reduce AMS (acute mountain sickness otherwise known as altitude illness) from 35% to 100% so it is a great little tool in your kit bag as you are packing light.
    Typical signs and symptoms are headache, loss of appetite, difficulty sleeping, and nausea. Tylenol or motrin will help with the headache, if you get one. When 2 friends of mine and I climbed pikes peak they both got headaches as we started our decent. I did not, not sure how I lucked out other then i had spent some time around 9000ft conducting some training for Soldiers. I won’t mention too much of the treatment aspect as you’ll have some trained professionals with you and being that it is going to be up and down several 14’rs you’ll probably be ok. (treatment that you will most likely not be using is minimize exertion, do not ascend higher till symptoms disappear
    Golden Rule is above 8000ft treat headache, nausea, shortness of breath and vomiting as altitude illness until proven otherwise.
    Lastly HAPE (high altitude pulmonary edema) begins first 2 to 4 days, usually the second night. Signs and symptoms are marked breathlessness with minimal exertion, and dry, hacking cough. Shortness of breath while resting and cough that produces frothy sputum. Must immediately descend atleast 3000ft, administer oxygen if available.Nifedipine (procardia) becomes the drug of choice here. Be safe, smart and look out for each other. If it wasn’t for recovering from my knee scope I’d have been there with you both.

    Now by no means am I an altitude junky or expert. I have lived in Colorado Springs for 2plus years and I do teach wilderness and tactical medicine on the side of my real job. I have experienced the goods and bads of altitude indeed. So be safe, god speed and have an amazing experience.


    May the force be with you!

  • Joshua Pinson

    What I would like to know is, what is the retail value of each of your gear lists? And how might those load-outs change if required to fit within a 3000 cubic inch pack AND a $1000 dollar budget?

    • The retail value of each… the gear items were a mix of our personal items and others for testing but I don’t think either of us have a price on it. I believe the GORUCK GR2 is just about 3000 cubic inches (the site says 48 liters) but keeping on a $1,000 budget, that may be tricky.

      Certain gear is just so much better if you buy the best but it’s not always necessary. I might make some personal choices you wouldn’t like sacrificing quality of an insulation layer (I like the cold, haha). I also am pretty good at finding deals which would really help.

      Another thing is finding a friend to let you borrow some of this gear so you don’t have to buy it. Get creative! But then again, if you’re pretty strict on the $1,000 limit and buying the gear yourself, this won’t work. I know how to get creative when I need to!

  • Erik

    Hey Mike I see you used the SureFire Saint Minimus as your headlamp and you said you used it on the GRC too. What do you think about the battery life? I really like the headlamp but I’m not in love with having to carry back up batteries everywhere I go. Thanks!

  • xpedition

    @Cory Heimark  Do you have a source to cite for the Ginkgo Balboa recommendation? Most of the Randomized Controlled Trials on Ginkgo for AMS suggest no benefit over placebo. For example: http://www.bmj.com/content/328/7443/797

  • Sean

    Hey Guys, I realize you may not look at this post too often since it is 3+ yrs old, but hopefully you will see my question and be able to provide some helpful insight. This was an excellent write up on the gear you chose for your ascent. My first question is whether anyone used a bivy sack. This is my go-to and I am comfortable with it, so I would prefer to go without a tent if possible. My other questions are regarding the 23lb ruck weight limit. I assume/hope that this was measured with only your extra clothes and did not include what you were wearing. Also, was the 23lb limit measured with your water bottles and hydration bladders empty or full? (big difference). Lastly, did that weight include things you may be carrying on your person, such as an EDC knife, headlamp, camera, etc? Any answers you can provide for these questions will be a huge help and I will greatly appreciate any advice you can provide, as I am signed up for the 2015 Ascent and want to boost my chances of success as much as possible. Thanks!

  • weston

    I know this is really old, but why the Ginko Bilboa?

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