Throughout November we’ll be featuring some amazing GRT companies that service the GRT community. This week we have an interview with Scott Southworth who runs Ruck Customs.
Ruck Customs makes mods for GORUCK rucks including Kydex frame sheets and shooter conversion kits. We recently purchased and reviewed one of their shooter conversion kits and must say it’s an incredible piece of gear.
If you enjoyed this episode let us know and we’ll try and get Scott back on to talk about the GORUCK Jedburgh event he took part in!
- GORUCK & Rucking Glossary
- Ruck Customs Website
- Ruck Customs Shooter Conversion Sheet Review
- GORUCK Light Events
- GORUCK Tough Events
Thanks so much for listening! If you missed any of our earlier episodes you can give them a listen right now. Hopefully you enjoyed the podcast and are excited about the next one. This is very new to us so we would appreciate it if you would cut us some slack as we work on perfecting our methodologies. Did you enjoy the podcast? We’d love a review on iTunes or even our Facebook Page! Didn’t enjoy it? Leave a comment here in the show notes and let us know what we can do better!
Brian: I’m here talking with Scott Southworth who runs Ruck Customs. You may know Ruck Customs from the Kydex sheets that they produce and the shooter inserts that they just recently came out with. Scott, how are you doing today?
Scott: I’m doing all right. Beautiful day here in Houston.
Brian: Awesome. That’s better than up here in Seattle. It’s nice and rainy. Scott, let’s start out with your involvement in the GORUCK community. How did you stumble upon GORUCK as a company?
Scott: That was probably back in, I want say, 2012. I was actually looking for a backpack. I was pretty involved in buy it for life forum online, and GORUCK was name that has kept coming up, and so I figured I gave them a look, whatever, the website, and saw all these crazy event things they did and then I saw the backpack I was looking for. I just kind of skipped over the events and bought the pack, but wearing it around town in Houston, I kept getting called out asking who I was, had I done an event yet? I started feeling a little embarrassed that I hadn’t done one. First event was I want to say Halloween 2012, because I just kind of shamed into doing it.
Brian: That’s awesome. That’s usually the case when you run into someone with a GORUCK pack. First question is, “What event did you do?”
Scott: Yeah. When was your flaneur? How many have you done? All the above.
Brian: Yup. I can see how that’d be tough if you hadn’t done an event and had the ruck. Your first events in 2012, it’s the — You say it was a Halloween event.
Brian: You signed up for it, kind of out of guilt. Leading up to the event, what were your thoughts like?
Scott: I have no idea what I was getting into. I have always been a fairly involved athletic person and I thought I wouldn’t be a big a deal leading up to it. 20 miles was pretty reasonable; 40 pounds, pretty reasonable. We’re communicating in our little Facebook group leading it up to it and bought our team costume and we decided on going as Hooters girls, so we’re all wearing orange silkies and light cutoffs. Halloween in Houston, we still get cold water down here, so I was complexly unprepared for 50 degrees in the water, but I had no idea what I was getting into.
Brian: That’s wild, but you figured whatever you got into how to be better than getting continually asked what event have you done.
Scott: Yeah, just point of pride. Just to brag about a little bit. Also, the people that were always just reaching out to me, I figured there’s a community kind of lurking below the surface there, and I was right.
Brian: Yeah, absolutely. Did you end up having a good time at that event?
Scott: Oh, no. It was awful. It was one of the worst experience in my life. Just being completely unprepared, just suffering through it. I was sore, beyond sore for over a week, but once I started to recover, I was pretty proud of myself. I was pretty excited that I did something so far outside my comfort zone.
My first interaction with GORUCK was it was someone’s birthday, that Halloween event, and we had to do pushbacks and eat birthday cake off the ground. We had to drink a gallon of milk as a team and then eat an entire panache cake before we did burpees. That was welcome to GORUCK.
Brian: Were you in the fitness community back when you started your first event in 2013?
Scott: That was when I was just starting my career as a personal trainer. I’ve been doing stuff for about six months, I think.
Brian: What was going through your mind when you’re eating that birthday cake, the sheet cake, doing pushups off the ground? Personally, I would be thinking what is this going to do to my body over the next 12 hours?
Scott: I was more like, “What is it going to do with my stomach in the next 10 minute?” I saw what was happening. I knew exactly what they’re trying to do. Thankfully, I managed to keep it down, but I’d say that two-thirds of our group were puking within minutes. Yeah.
Brian: That’s wild. What a way to start an event.
Scott: Yeah. That was the first time that I’d asked myself what I’ve gotten into.
Brian: Did you have anyone quit that event?
Scott: One, from cold.
Scott: Yeah, they put us in a fountain. Temperature was dropped into the 40s and the guy shivered out.
Brian: No cake related quits?
Scott: Yeah, no. None of those.
Brian: Yeah. That’s just a rough time. You still came back.
Scott: Yeah, because 24 hours later it doesn’t seem that bad. Thinking about pain, thinking about suffering, it goes away eventually. You got to push through.
Brian: Yup, and all that’s left are the good memories, until you get out there again.
Brian: And then it’s pain and suffering.
Scott: Yeah, and then you realize, “Oh, I’ve done this before, and what am I doing it for?”
Brian: When you finish that event, did you want to sign up for another one or did you figured you’d be one and done?
Scott: I went in with the plan of it just being one and done. To just kind of earning the right to wear that GR1, so when people ask me the question, I’d have answer. After about a month, I got this itch, I wanted to do more. There’s definitely a high that comes off of an event like that and there’s no other way to really replicate it.
Brian: It’s so true. After my first event, I said I was never doing another one, and then two or three days later, maybe four days, I was looking online trying to figure out when GORUCK was coming back.
Scott: You’re a bit more eager than I was.
Brian: You’ve done a 2012 event. About a month later you decided to sign up for some other events, or maybe look into it again. What other events that come to mind when you think of your GORUCK experiences have you done?
Scott: I’ve done, I want to say, like seven total. A couple of Toughs, one Light in there. Jedburgh comes to mind for sure. That was one of the best events. Nothing else comes close. It’s a shame that they’re moving on from that model. That was something special. I think it was my third event that really stood out for me in terms of the GORUCK community. It was a scavenger here in Houston and I just remember rolling out of bed just being out and we started drinking at 9:30 and just running around the city doing stupid shit and having a lot of fun. Signed up with a team of six people I didn’t know. By the end of the day, we were pretty good friends and we still keep in touch.
Brian: That’s awesome. That’s the traditional Scavenger formula, at least for me, I found. Maybe sometime we’ll have to do a Jedburgh podcast. I didn’t get some people on who did that, and maybe trying to force GORUCK sand and bring it back, because I’ve not done a Jedburgh, but I hear nothing but amazing things about those events.
Scott: Yeah. It’s something special. There’s something really cool about taking a lot of the components and doing them out in the woods, kind of off-beaten path out of the city, and they’ve been doing it up in the Pack Northwest with some of the — I can’t remember the name of the event, but they did one forest event up there, didn’t they?
Brian: Yeah, we had the Forest Ruck up here.
Scott: Yeah. I think that have a lot of similar elements. Yeah, Jedburgh was totally special.
Brian: Awesome. I’d like to talk about that sometime. When did you decide to start Ruck Customs?
Scott: It just kind of happened, honestly. After a couple of events, I started rucking with sand and I hated how the bag just collapse with sand in the middle. I remember walking away with back pain after pushups and I was struggling to manage overhead presses and stuff. I switched to bricks, and that helped a bit, but I just wanted something that made my bag easier to move around to manage for PT and stuff, and so I started looking to see what was out there and stumbled across — I think it was SH Plates. They were doing kydex at the time. They were charging like 70 bucks a piece and there was no way I was going to pay that. I figured out how to make it myself, and then when my buddies thought it was pretty cool and then offered to pay me to make him one. One of his buddies offered to pay and then all of a sudden I’ve got lists of people signing up for one and just kind of spiraled from there.
Brian: That’s awesome.
Scott: Yeah. I never expected it to grow into a business. I never expected to do it part-time. I thought it was going to be just one or two for some friends of mine, but made somewhere around probably 500 total orders over the past couple of years.
Brian: That’s incredible. Congratulations.
Scott: Thank you.
Brian: I was going to ask how was the GORUCK community reception been, but it sounds like it’s been pretty well if you’re been able to push out 500 orders.
Scott: Yeah. People like it. I have yet to have a complaint as far as the product goes. It’s a pretty simple product. It’s pretty effective and I think that’s part of it. Yeah, people enjoy it.
Brian: That’s great. Have you noticed, if any, how the community response has changed since when you first started, to now that you’re more established, you have more products and you’ve got a website up and running?
Scott: Yeah. Definitely early on, there’s this blowback. I was starting 40 bucks originally, and people were like, “40 bucks for a piece of plastic. That’s crazy. I can buy it on Amazon for like 15,” but they don’t take into account the shipping cost and the labor and then also all the equipment I have to buy to manufacture these. They’re also cut by hand just because the move from hand cut to machine is so expensive. It’s been limiting factor in that. 40 bucks is what I could manage when I was first starting out, because like I mentioned, this is a part-time gig for me. I do I have a full-time job, and so this just cuts into my free time on the weekend.
As I’ve built it, people have come to kind of accepted that’s how things are, except that that’s going to be the cost because of everything involved. As I’ve grown I’ve been able to negotiate better deals on my products, and so I’ve been able to lower that price. That was the biggest kind of pushback I received.
Brian: Yeah, price is always a tough one. I come from the school where if you don’t like the price, then you don’t have to buy it.
Scott: Right. Exactly.
Brian: This isn’t oxygen you’re selling. It’s something to make rucking better.
Scott: Yeah. Beyond that, I went out in my way to help the people that decided to go for themselves. I showed them my how-to videos, give them some tips, told them the tools I used and showed my methods. If you want to go and buy a piece of Amazon and you have the tools yourself, I’m more than willing to help you. What I have here is not something exclusive. Anyone can do it. They’re just paying me for the convenience of having me do it.
Brian: It’s a great convenience, because — I mean the plastic and itself is 15 bucks and I’d probably screw it up at least one or two times, which is, why I decided to buy from you instead.
Brian: Was your first product the kydex sheet?
Scott: Yeah, just for the GR1, because that’s what I had. That’s something I could model after, really. Then I bought myself a GR2 and so I started making GR2 frame sheets and then started getting requests for other stuff. I went out to my Houston GORUCK community and said, “Hey, I need to find myself an echo, a radio, and then a couple of others, so I can make some frame sheets for them.” I’ve paid people on plastic and I borrowed their bags and got some templates and expanded my lineup from there.
Brian: It’s a great idea. GORUCK community is strong in most cities, so you utilize that instead of buying a ton of bags.
Scott: For sure.
Brian: Let’s talk about the recent shooter insert. Is that the newest product you’ve come out with?
Scott: The newest I’d say is the Shooter Mini, the half size shooter. Yeah, the shooter lineup is what I’ve been kind of refining over the past year.
Brian: Where did that idea come from?
Scott: GORUCK put out the shooter inserts, or the shooter ones. I want to say, was it like early last year, maybe late 2015? I thought it was a cool idea, but there’s no way I was spending $300 on another GR1 when I have one sitting my closet right now. Also, my GR2 is my everyday carry, and I wanted some of that functionality for the bag I had. I don’t want it downsized.
I started experimenting with attaching Velcro just inside the GR1, and that didn’t work too well. Just putting some felt strips inside. I just wasn’t a fan of how it moved toward bunched up, and so I looked at my garage, saw the stack of plastic and put two and two together, instead why don’t I attach these and see what happens there? That was the first prototype there. I took just a sheet of felt and glued it to a sheet of kydex with some adhesive I picked up at Home Depot and started just messing around with that.
My first attachment, I just took a couple of extra scrap pieces of plastic, cut them to about MOLLE size and threaded them through the loops, and I had proof of concept. It wasn’t pretty, but it did a much better job of doing what I wanted to than just putting a sheet of felt inside of a GR1. From there, I made improvements on each of the different pieces till we got the product we have today.
Brian: Nice. That’s awesome.
Scott: Yeah. Some of the first pieces were pretty ugly though. We had lots of problems in the process.
Brian: One of the things that I like the most about the shooter insert is that you can use them in your everyday carry GR1 or echo or whatever pack that you’re rolling with, because a lot of GRTs almost find it like a point of pride how many events their bag has been through and it’s still kicking, and this is just a great way to give it even more use to the same bag instead of forcing people to buy a second bag to take advantage of the shooter pouches or Velcro inserts.
Scott: Yeah. That’s been my mentality behind this entire venture. Remember, I got into this because I wanted to buy one bag and never have to buy another for the rest of my life. All of my kind of invention and all my focus has been on taking one bag and making it better rather than getting an entirely new product.
Brian: That’s awesome. Yeah, the buy it for life communities, it’s pretty interesting, and that’s one of the ways that I found GORUCK too. It’s always interesting to hear from other people who are involved in that.
Where did the idea for the mini shooter insert come from? Because that’s a really cool idea how it gives you access to both the document compartment as well as provides that Velcro area on top?
Scott: It actually came from just a resource management standpoint. I have this stack of left over plastics from all the frame sheets, so I’m trying to figure out how to use it. I just hate wasting. I hate just taking resources and throwing them in the trash. I experimented with some random ideas. Some of them were pretty off the wall, like Kydex shoulder pads for log carries just to give you a little extra protection or flash pocket inserts to keep that a little more rigid. A lot of them were awful. Just thoughts I had to get out of my head and try and prove that they were terrible.
Then I was looking at my shooter insert and I was a little frustrated by how big it was. I didn’t need all the space all the time, and I saw it’d be great if I could just replace that MOLLE with Velcro, the MOLLE at the top of the bag. That’s what I did. I cut a shooter sheet short. I had a full piece. I just cut in half and put it in the bag and I was like, “This actually works pretty well if I’ve got just my knife and a set of lockpicks or if I just want to put my gun right near the top there. That’s all I need, is just six inches of Velcro. I don’t need a whole sheet.” I put the two problems — Or the two ideas together and came out with the mini shooter.
Brian: Very nice. Yeah, it definitely looks like a great piece, especially for those use cases. For your everyday carry GR1, do you carry it with a kydex sheet in it?
Scott: GR2, and yes, I do.
Brian: Do you see a GR2 now?
Scott: Yeah, just because I’ve got so much stuff I’m going around with.
Brian: Got you. Do you normally carry a shooter insert in there or do you just use that when necessary?
Scott: The mini. I’ll keep a mini in there and just for the convenience, but not a full shooter sheet. When I’m doing a photoshoot, maybe, I’ll pull the full in, but most of the time I just don’t need that much Velcro.
Brian: Absolutely. What’s the most popular item been that you’ve sold on Ruck Customs?
Scott: The GR1 sheet, for sure, the regular standard kydex sheet. It’s what we built the business on. It’s been our bread and butter since day one.
Brian: Awesome. What, if anything, do you have plan next?
Scott: That’s something I’m sitting back and thinking about. One thing I really enjoyed about this venture is that it allows me some creativity, a place to create and to think and to innovate. I found that my style, that comes from a lot of just passive kind of consideration. Just walking around day by day and whatever thoughts pop into my head, and then I’ll sketch it on paper when I get home and I’ll ask myself, “Is this a good idea or a bad one?” Most of the time it’s a bad one and I’ll go on with my life, and then one day an inspiration will just kind of strike. What happened with the shooter sheet, it took a year to refine, but just one day it popped in my head. I don’t have anything under the schedule at the moment for new products, but it doesn’t mean I’m not working on something.
Brian: Right. You’ve always got to be working on something, getting those ideas out. At least trying to figure to stuff out. That’s awesome. It’s motivating to hear. For you, personally, do you have events that you’re signed up for? Anything that you’re excited for about rucking or the community coming up?
Scott: When is that Nasty happening?
Brian: I know, right? I know you listen to the podcast GORUCK. When is that Nasty happening?
Scott: Yeah. Aside from that, I more moved on to some of the more speciality GORUCK events nowadays. There’s a night FAD happening in Houston next month that I’m on the fence for just because I don’t know if my schedule will allow it. I might be traveling that weekend, but if I can make it, that’d be phenomenal.
Now, I’m keeping my eye on some of the weekend expeditions. When finances are right, I definitely want to pull a trigger on one of those. I’m professionally in the fitness industry right now, and so the wear and tear I realized after doing six Toughs, it’s been a little too much for my body and so I’m trying to stay away from those and more towards the community and the skill-oriented events.
Brian: Yeah, it makes total sense. GORUCK is going to be doing some — You could already see it on the website. They’ve got a ton of new FAD events coming out. They’re definitely pushing in that direction, so there will be plenty of opportunity. It’s going to be a pretty exciting year 2018, I think.
Scott: Yeah. I’m excited to see what kind of new experiences they put out there. That’s what’s all, going out and having fun.
Brian: If people want to learn more about Ruck Customs, buy Kydex sheets or one of the awesome shooter inserts, where should they go?
Scott: The easiest place is ruckcustoms.com, all one word. I do have a Facebook page, but I’m terrible about updating that. If there’s something particularly important, I’ll put it on there. Most of the times, that page kind of sits. The website is the place to go.
Brian: There you have. Ruckcustoms.com. You do have a brand new website too, am I right?
Scott: Yeah. I’ve actually gone through several phases, but this is a new one and I’m a lot happier with it. The last one was just basically pieced together. It looks like Microsoft Paint, but this is a big blow website now.
Brian: Yeah, the new one looks really slick. Congratulations on putting that together, because it looks amazing.
Scott: Thank you.
Brian: Everyone can see your products on ruckcustoms.com. Like I said, great website, easy to view everything. If people have questions or any comments, how should they get in contact with you?
Scott: There’s definitely a form on that website, but I’m also pretty active on Facebook, so reach out. Just shoot me a message off on my Facebook posts or you can message me through the Ruck Customs Facebook page. I’m much more likely to reply really quickly to those things.
Brian: There you have it. Ruck Custom’s Facebook page. Hit him up on Messenger there, or you can always go to Ruck Mall, search for Scott or shooter insert of kydex and he pops up for all of them, then shoot him a message right from there.
Awesome, Scott. Thank you so much for taking the time out of your day and talking to me about your first event, Ruck Customs and everything you’ve got going on. I’ve always been curious about Ruck Customs since you guys first came on the scene, and I bought a kydex sheet a couple of years ago, bought the shooter insert earlier this year and I just loved it, everything I’ve gotten from you guys. Top quality and I don’t regret a thing. It’s been great to talk to you and learn where all these came from.
Scott: Yeah, it’s been a pleasure. It’s always great to hear that feedback. This is a small business, and so we thrive off of community input.
Brian: Awesome. Thank you so much again, man. Take care.
Scott: Of course. You too.