Can you do the Famous SAS Fan Dance in a weighted rucking backpack?

What is the Fan Dance challenge

The “Fan Dance” is a timed challenge where competitors march 24km over Pen y Fan (the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons in South Wales) - twice. It’s considered to be one of the toughest hiking or climbing challenges in the UK. 

How is the Fan Dance connected to the SAS?

The Fan Dance is used as an official SAS selection test, so you know it’s tough! Coming at the end of the first week of the SAS selection course, it’s an early indicator of a candidate’s physical and mental strength and stamina.  You don’t have to apply for the Special Forces to do the Fan Dance – anyone can do the Fan Dane by entering the official race series which is held in summer and again in winter to match the SAS selection programme as closely as possible. 

Which mountain is in the Fan Dance

 The Fan Dance route goes up and over Pen y Fan (the highest mountain in the Brecon Beacons at 886m), then back over again in reverse. The climb starts immediately, as you go up the west slope of the mountain, then descend down Jacob’s Ladder. You take in a stretch of road before turning around and going back the way you came – up Jacob’s Ladder and down the west side.

 How to do the Fan Dance

The official Fan Dance challenge offers a variety of ways to tackle the Fan Dance, including doing it in the dark. The original challenge is up and over Pen y Fan twice (the second climb going back the way you came). You can choose to do the Fan Dance in the “load bearing” category (carrying a weighted rucksack of 35lbs + your food and water for men, or 25lbs + your food and water for women). The load must be made of mountain safety items like waterproofs and sleeping bag etc.

 You can also do the Fan Dance in the “clean fatigue” category which means you only have to carry a small pack with basic provisions in it, and you can wear trail shoes rather than the boots that the load bearing category have to wear.

SAS applicants are expected to do the Fan Dance in 4 hours, but civilians should expect to do it in 3-7 hours if load bearing, and 2-5 hours if in the clean fatigue category. You’ll need to reach the halfway point in under 3 hours 15 minutes - and don’t forget that conditions can affect your timings a lot.

Is the Fan Dance an official hiking challenge

The Fan Dance is a well known hiking challenge thanks to its historic association with the SAS. Climbers, hikers, and rucking fans earmark the Fan Dance as an epic challenge to achieve once or many times in their outdoor challenge career.

How should I train for Fan Dance?

Although the Fan Dance is tough, it’s definitely doable for anyone who’s into hiking or rucking. If you can walk 20km+ and hike up and down hills, you’ll be able to take on the Fan Dance. There’s no upper age limit (the oldest person to do the Fan Dance was a 71 year old former soldier). 

You don’t need any special navigational skills to do the official Fan Dance, as the route is marshalled and marked all along the way.

Can you do Fan Dance in a weighted rucking pack?

Anyone doing the Fan Dance has to carry a pack, whether you’re doing the clean fatigue category (with minimal carrying requirements) or the load bearing category. The rules state that you can use a Military Bergen pack or civilian rucksacks. You can’t use a plate-loaded weighted ruck pack to do the Fan Dance, simply because all of the weight has to come from “useful” mountain safety items, a list of which you’ll be sent when you enter.

Best weighted ruck pack for hiking

You can’t use a weighted ruck pack for the official Fan Dance, but it would be a great idea to use one for your training. Training with weight on your back will get your legs and lungs used to the experience of climbing and ascending with extra weight. You could use a weighted vest, but this won’t feel the same as having a pack strapped to you. So we think the best training tool to prep for the Fan Dance is a weighted ruck pack like our rucking plate carrier.

Check out our full range of rucking backpacks, weighted vest, and innovative rucking plate carriers to find the best training tools for your next outdoor challenge.

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