Ruck plates for GORUCK or rucking, what are the options?
After using bricks, sand or whatever cheaper options for our ruck weights, maybe we finally want to invest in a more compact option: ruck plates. In short, these are the most common options:
- Buy ruck plates from companies (e.g., GORUCK, Titan Fitness,
SHplates, Sprouse Metal Craft).
- Buy/obtain a piece of steel that fits in a ruck (e.g., OnlineMetal.com, Synergy Steel Design on ebay [thanks mts49 for suggesting this in comments]).
Ruck plates are not cheap. 10lb can easily set you back $40 (after shipping), when there are probably ways to make a ruck weight up to 30lb with objections we already own without running out of space. Previously, I placed several dumbbell plates into a tall cardboard box, duck-taped it, and it became the weight for my first Light Challenge. It worked, but it is not a lasting solution if I want to still use my dumbbells. I like how compact steel plates are compare to brick or sandbags, and decided to take the plunge and get me some steel plates during Thanksgiving 😀
*Update: as of Dec 2015, GORUCK has introduced a “long” version of their ruck plates (which is now the Standard Ruck Plate), I don’t have it though, so I couldn’t compare. It is designed to fit all the way to the top of the ruck, distributing weight more evenly along the back.
*Update: as of Jun 2018, there are variation/copy of GORUCK’s plates made available by Titan Fitness. All Day Ruck Off (an awesome blog if you are interested in rucking) has posted a preview of their plates, which shows that they are (1) significantly less pricey than Goruck, (2) decent finishes, (3) comes slightly under weight for some plate (29.3lb instead of 30lb). I may try to get one soon to make an updated comparison.
*Update: as of July 2019, Yes4All is an alternate option like Titan Fitness, but with the text engraved instead of being raised. This helps the plates not snatch onto anything.
Aren’t ruck plates just pieces of metal?
What is the differences between a ruck plate and a piece of metal? In essence, it is a piece of metal plate optimized for rucking.
Good candidate pieces of metal for rucking are:
- A rectangular shaped metal plate is a good start (the more fitted to the shape of your ruck the better).
- Surface treated or coated to prevent rusting (rucking can involve lots of water)
- Rounded corners to keep the plates from damaging the ruck.
- Nice but not must-have features:
- Handles either cutout from the plate or attached to the plate enables the plate for other exercises (i.e., make-shift kettle bell), and easier to handle/carry in general.
- Personal customization such as etching that is ideal for teams, gifts, or just personal indulging (I ordered a plate with science-penguin etching…)
Who needs a ruck plate?
No one needs a ruck plate (unless you are doing Goruck Selection)…we can always use bricks, sand, or other heavy objects around us to fulfill the role of ruck-weight. It makes packing for rucking easier, especially for longer distance when more space is needed for water and food. If it is a handled-plate, it could also double as a kettlebell. But really, most of us don’t need it, but we would love to have some 🙂
Where to get ruck plates?
1. Common ruck plates maker:
SHplates (no longer in operation) are two more known companies that make metal plates designed for rucking. There are other folks who also make awesome-looking plates, but these are the 2 main ones that (1) have a website, (2) takes streamlined internet orders (e.g., Sprouse Metal require you to email him instead of having a click and pay on a website), and (3) have a strong following in the community already.
- GORUCK, the organizer of GORUCK events and the creator of GORUCK gears. They offer a selection of 10lb, 20lb, 30lb, and 45lb powder-coated ruck plates made of cast iron, and comes with two convenient handles. They began offering ruck plates around mid-year 2015, and introduced a long-version of their ruck plates in late Dec 2015.
- SHplates (no longer in operation): Beginning in 2014, SHplates was one of the original ruck plates maker that focuses on customization through etching, coating, and dimension of ruck plates. It is a veteran owned company with good price for their economy plates (a.k.e. Option 1), which is slightly more economical than the official Goruck plates (taking into account the additional S&H cost). However, if you want plates with handles on your ruck plates, you’ll need to go for their Option 2 plates, which are actually more pricey than the Goruck plates.
- (Updated Jun 2018): SHplates’ website is no longer available. They have an amazon listing, but doesn’t look like it is active.
2. The “craft”-ruck plates maker:
- (Updated Jun 2018): Local metal-work folks could probably make some awesome looking ruck plates (get some ideas from pinterest). The maker below no longer has a website.
- [ No longer available ] Sprouse Metal Craft: Like SHplates, Sprouse Metal Craft can customize ruck plates, and have a no-handle vs. handled version for their plates. Their handles are welded on instead of cutouts from the metal plates, which provides nice rounded handles for their handled-plates. Their design looks more slick compared to the more “vintage” look that SHplates has. I actually dig the design from both of these companies. Sprouse can make plates with emblems and metal cutouts, which looks AWESOME! However, these awesome looking plates can easily cost $150-$250 (price of plate + price of emblem/cutout). Want a one-of-a-kind craft ruck plate? Give them a shot.
3. Making your own ruck plate
The cheapest way to obtain a piece of metal plate sized optimally for rucking is to order a piece of steel plate/bar from steel companies (e.g., OnlineMetals.com). It costed me $20 to order a piece of hot-roll steel plate at the exact dimension I wanted (no shipping since I could pick up locally).
To have this kind of customization through an official ruck-plate maker, it will cost way more than that. The downside is that the edges are not rounded, and the surfaces are not treated (more prone to rusting). Using this option, I just duck-taped the edges and corner and expect it to rust more easily over time (not a big deal).
[updated Jun 2018, thanks to mts49 for comments]: SynergySteelDesigns on ebay seems to provide good value for getting plates that will fit the weight and size requirement. See comments below for more details.
Ruck Plates Comparison of 10lb and 20lb plates
Sorry heavy plate folks, I don’t have 30 or 45lb plates here. I usually ruck 20lb, and when I do go 30lb, I just do 20+10. However, the general feature comparisons listed below are definitely transferable to heavier plates. Just keep in mind that the dimension of plates changes depending on the weight and ruck plates-maker.
10lb Ruck Plates: SHplates vs. DIY
I didn’t go with the Goruck version because it was just too short. I wanted the plate to be thinner and taller so it will fit snuggly in my Bullet Ruck, and with the help of some pool-noodles, it will also fit well in the GR1 or GR2 sleeve pocket.
SHplates 10lb plate ($35 shipped w/out etching)
- Pros: Nice smooth edges and corners. Finishes are rust-resistant. Awesome
Science Penguin etching 😀 (The etching was free since I also ordered one for my 20lb plate)
- Cons: the length of the plate is 10″, making it not a snug fit by itself. I use pool-noodle or other objects to secure it for now. A great add-on to position ruck plates higher on the ruck is the Padded Weight Plate Pocket by Shaddox Tactical, which has molle at the back and velcro-ed molle at the front to add attachments..
- Pros: Nice smooth edges and corners. Finishes are rust-resistant. Awesome
DIY hot-roll steel plate ($21, local pick up)
- Pros: Cheapest option out there. The exact dimension I wanted it. Fits the height of my bullet ruck and GR-0.
- Cons: Sharper edges and corner. Untreated surfaces will be more prone to rusting. Duck-tape to the rescue for the edges and corner. As for the surfaces, I will just let it be for now.
20lb Ruck Plates: SHplates vs. Goruck
- Finishes: The finishes of the GORUCK plate feels thicker and more heavy-duty for sure. However, the SHplate looks good, and as long as it can keep the rust away, it does the job.
- Dimension: The standard 20lb plate for GORUCK is (11.5 x 9 x 0.92″), vs. the SHplate at (10 x 7 x 1″). I like the length of the plate to be longer so it will be as close to the top of the ruck as possible (without needing a yoga block or something to lift it from the bottom). So for dimension of the 20lb plate, GORUCK > SHplate (no handle plate). However, the with-handle SHplate has a longer length, so that could help equalizes the equation here. And as stated in the beginning, GORUCK has began making “longer version” of their plates that is 15″ in length.
- Price: If we compare the price of the plates with handles from SHplates ($75) to GORUCK ($67), GORUCK is actually cheaper.
- If you want handles and don’t want any customization, GORUCK ($67 shipped; $55 + $12 S&H; [price has gone up since then, price as of Jun 2018 would $84 shipped; $69 + $15 S&H).
- If you want the absolute cheapest 20lb ruck plate? DIY (~$35).
- If you want customization such as etching or different color coating,
SHplates have you covered: Plate prices: $60 without handles, $75 with handles + $30 etching single side or $55 double sides.look for a local metal craftsman. Basically, $90-105 for an awesome looking etched 20lb plate.
This is not the best comparison as not all combination at all weights were compared. However, these are what I gathered from this pseudo-systematic review:
- Surface finishes quality: GORUCK > SHplates > DIY
- Customizability: SHplates > DIY > GORUCK
- If you are a handy person with metal working tools and skills, then DIY > SHplates > GORUCK
- Cheapest way to get a great plate for rucking: DIY > GORUCK/SHplate
- Price/Quality Ratio for a plain plate with handles: GORUCK > SHplate
- Price/Quality Ratio given discounts and coupons: SHplates > Goruck (no coupon for DIY)
- For the record, I got my 20lb AND 10lb etched (both of them) plates for $63 shipped. GORUCK couldn’t beat that price (when on discount). Even DIY-ing a ‘plain’ plate barely wins by $10. At the price I got it for, SHplates is more than worth it.
In sum, GORUCK plates are functional, durable, and probably the best bang for your buck if you want a long-lasting ruck plate that needs minimal maintenance (rust-proofed).
SHplates was great for those who want custom etching. They made great gifts for fellow ruckers. I love my Science Penguin plates…its nerdy, and its one of a kind. It just makes me smile when I see them. If I ever stop rucking, one would be on my desk at home, and one would be on my desk at the office. I doubt I would stop rucking though, so I guess they will just sit side-by-side waiting to be used during my morning and weekend rucks.
Lastly, the DIY plate is now my go-to 10lb (~11lb) plate for the bullet ruck. It fits like a glove, and it was damn cheap. To ask Rich (from SHplates) to make a customize plate like this would take much more than $20, and honestly, as I said, I’ll save Rich for making those cool-looking etched plates 🙂