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Travel Light, Freeze at Night: Comments and Notes on Packing the Bug-Out Bag/Go-Bag/Patrol Pack

April 5, 2013

Whether you are a potential guerrilla force fighter, living in the hills trying to evade capture and wreak hate and discontent on the enemy, a member of the auxiliary who is smart enough to know that you need to be ready to flee at a moment’s notice, or are simply a guy who wants to be ready to run for a safe retreat area when TSHTF, one aspect of that planning that receives a lot of attention in preparedness circles is the development of the bug-out bag/go-bag/patrol pack/whatever cool name you prefer…..There are dozens of books (actually, I just did a “books” search on Amazon for “bug out bag” and there were 360 hits….). Any forum online that is related to firearms or survival will generally have hundreds of individual threads on what should constitute a good bug-out bag.

Unfortunately, with many of these books, the “tricks” focus on generalist gear that may allow you to perform multiple functions at a mediocre level, but none of them well. I hate to burst any bubbles (well, that’s not true, now is it?), but while aluminum foil is amazing shit, and it CAN work as a signal mirror device, as well as allowing you to wrap a snared rabbit in it to cook on a campfire, it does not work anywhere near as well as a fucking purpose-designed signal mirror. A razor blade in a fucking Altoids can, will cut stuff…but not as well as a Benchmade folder that’s had a good edge put on it. An unlubricated condom will hold a lot of water…but not as well as a 2qt canteen or a Nalgene bottle will.

The second drawback to these books is their focus on comfort items. Folks, if you’re in a survival situation, whether bugging out for your hidey-hole in Idee-ho, or you’re simply trying to move from a secure guerrilla base area to a nearby place to conduct a raid, and your focus is on whether you have an entertaining novel in your ruck to read, or if your fucking IPOD is charged up….you’re as wrong as two boys fucking.

Third, these books are predicated on suburban housewife, soccer moms as the reader. They are seldom, if ever, suitable for the prepared individual who expects to have to fight and kill the enemy, whether to escape a horde of mutant-zombie-outlaw-biker-vampire-werewolf-communists.

Finally, too often, the supposed expertise of the authors of these books has to be questioned, as they recommend shoving all this shit into the tiny ass assault packs that are de riguer in the military and survival industries today. Recognizing the importance of always striving to reduce the mobility-destroying load-bearing requirements of the partisan, it is critical to dispel some long-cherished myths regarding the historical American woodsman-scout. When many Americans consider the mythological archetype of the frontiersman, their visualization typically involves either an eastern long-hunter (think Daniel Boone or Simon Kenton), or a western mountain man (think Kit Carson or Jedidiah Smith), slipping silently and effortlessly through the timber, carrying everything he owns in a shoulder-slung “possibles” pouch, or a small knapsack slung on his back. This, like the cowboy-plainsman with his bedroll strapped across the cantle of his stock saddle, is nothing by Thoreauan fantasy.

This is seen, in the modern context, in the form of small, lightweight, one- or three-day “assault” packs. These are not new to light infantry forces. From the haversacks of pre-industrial armies that lived largely off pack trains of horses and mules and wagons, to the ALICE LCE buttpack, the concept has a great deal of historical precedent.

The contemporary rebirth of the assault pack in the ongoing fight with the Caliphate is due, almost totally, to the prevalence of vehicle-based operations, even for “light infantry” (as I’ve mentioned numerous times on this blog, as well as the old site, calling a fighting force that travels to within 1-3 KM of the objective in motorized vehicles, and then walks the last little bit “light infantry” is, to me, ludicrous). When you expect to perform your mission, after a short one-mile jaunt, then return just as quickly to the trucks, only to be returned to the FOB in time for dinner and a show before bed time, there’s little reason to need to carry more than a simple day-pack. When the guerrilla fighter however, has to literally live out of his rucksack, with his entire sustenance and shelter only what he can carry for the duration of an operations, an assault pack will only suffice is his missions will be raids on the next door neighbors.

The sad reality is, the assault pack concept only works for modern conventional infantry forces because a) they are receiving heli- or truck-borne resupply on an average of every 48-72 hours, and b) the trucks are generally less than two hours of walking away if they do run out of something in the meantime. For the future resistance guerrilla fighter, or the auxiliary member who is concerned about having to go into E&E mode in order to evade capture following compromise, and will need to traverse jungle/swamp environments, alpine areas, or other non-urban areas, a return to the traditional rucksack will be necessary, regardless of how well-supplied you expect to be thanks to well-planned and developed caches, and logistics networks. While we should certainly have pre-planned and pre-positioned, and pre-networked to have access to these, any number of contingencies, from observers in the immediate area, to being on the run for escape-and-evade requirements, could preclude our ability to access either of these resources.

Even the simple amount of gear necessary for successful long-term operations in these non-urban environments is great enough to require a full-size rucksack, despite the best efforts of tactical experts within the military, and ultra-light backpacking gurus like Ray Jardine (you have to know if Ray knew I was citing him on a “militia” website, he’d be fucking appalled!), to reduce the weight of gear to the absolute minimum possible. If, like Mr. Jardine, you can get your basic payload of sustainment gear (not counting food), down to between seven and 12 pounds (a very laudable goal), you’re going to need room in your ruck for mission-essential gear, ranging from extra ammunition, to breaching tools, and aid bags. I keep my “go-to-war” ruck equipped with a basic load ample to sustain me in the field, for two weeks, without having to resort to snaring game or gathering edible plants (who am I fooling? I don’t eat plants anyway….). It still weighs less than 30 pounds (nevertheless, I make it a point to maintain the ability to carry a 65+ pound ruck, so I can add mission-essential gear if necessary).

Prior to World War Two, and the development of realistically practical off-road motorized transport, long-term travel in the backcountry almost always involved the use of livestock for the transportation of personnel and logistics. Guerrilla and irregular forces have historically made widespread use of the local indigenous beast of burden as well, whenever possible, even as recently as the GWOT (SF made rather extensive use of animal transport in the early days of OEF, thanks to the Northern Alliance’s reliance on horses. Both SOF and conventional forces have apparently continued to make use of pack animals, in various degrees, according to some of my sources who are still serving, especially in the more remote, extremely alpine regions of Afghanistan, where it can still be nearly impossible for rotary-wing assets to get to, and completely impossible to get wheeled or tracked vehicles in. Despite this, however, and regardless of the reality that future partisans should certainly be looking long and hard at pack animals as potential assets, for the light-infantry force, the paradigm in large part, remains focused on man-portable sustainment load-bearing equipment in the form of the ancient rucksack.

It is neither necessary nor desirable to pack the “kitchen sink” in the partisan’s sustainment rucksack load. We are not discussing recreational backpacking trips. Focusing the sustainment load packing list on the basic necessary logistics of survival and combat-effectiveness, rather than on creature comforts, makes it possible to minimize the partisan’s load to the barest realistic minimums. To cite a “Mosby Maxim” that HH6 likes to quote me as saying, “Don’t carry more than you have to, but be able to carry what you need to.”

Among the simplest, but certainly the most effective methods of reducing sustainment load weights, is the development and enforcement of “standardized” packing lists within a resistance patrol element. In order to be effective however, these standards must be ruthlessly enforced by key leaders during pre-combat inspections. At it’s simplest level, the light infantry sustainment load should encompass only the basic necessities to ensure human survival: water, food, and adequate shelter for the given environmental conditions. This minimalist approach leaves the partisan a sustainment load far less than the standard of modern conventional forces, while still allowing for the addition of mission-essential equipment without exceeding the ability of the conditioned, fit partisan to move and fight effectively.

The Packs

The selection of a suitable rucksack design for the partisan is most critically dependent on the demands of the immediate operational environment, and the preferences of the individual. A resistance force operating in a largely urban enclave guerrilla base, with ample support from a complex, established subversive underground and extensive auxiliary support network, will have significantly different logistical sustainment requirements than a less well-supported organizational element operating from a swamp/jungle base or in an alpine environment.

Rucksack options, outside of the assault pack paradigm, range from military/military surplus options such as the old ALICE rucksack with frame and the newer MOLLE designs, to the option of civilian recreational packs from companies such as Gregory, Dana Designs, North Face, and Kelty. While these typically lack the modularity or sheer brutal toughness of the military designs, it is important to remember that, despite the sometimes oddball aspects of the mountaineering sub-culture, serious alpinists are extremely physical athletes who demand a lot from their equipment.

Further, the relatively innocuous appearance of this equipment may, in some areas, assist the partisan’s attempts to blend with elements of the local civilian population, in regime-controlled, denied territory, when moving into and through built-up areas (consider the idea of a small guerrilla force infiltrating an urban area to conduct a raid, either solo or in pairs, to rendezvous at an auxiliary-operated safehouse, to conduct final planning and isolation functions prior to the raid, withing the regime-controlled urban area…Have you ever spent any time in downtown Portland, Oregon or Seattle? See where I’m going with that?)

Finally, there is the obvious option of selecting the sustainment load rucksack from the current offerings of companies that are catering to the military and PMC (Private Military Contractor) markets, with non-issue, COTS (Civilian Off The Shelf) rucksacks, such as Kifaru, Eberlestock, Mystery Ranch, and others. While they offer a remarkably attractive blend of the best of both worlds (the robustness of military designs, and the the ergonomics of civilian designs), they do suffer from two potential drawbacks.

One, they are incredibly expensive. Although often no more expensive than comparable civilian sector mountaineering packs, they are seldom found used, in thrift stores and second-hand stores, dirt cheap, the way civilian models often are in resort areas like Jackson Hole or the towns around Yosemite.

Two, since most of them are obviously military in appearance, they may offer little advantage to partisans who will conduct operations in built-up areas that require covert, versus clandestine, infiltration, and need to avoid piquing the curiosity of regime security forces.

Ultimately, the selection of a pack for the sustainment load will depend on the physiognomy of the individual partisan, what is locally available and affordable (although, as long as the internet is available, “local” is a loose term in this case), and the operational/environment constraints of the local environment, and its demands on what “must” be carried.

I’ve gone through a wide range of rucksack options over the last two decades. I started with the ALICE large ruck and frame, as a young Ranger, moved on to a civilian mountaineering rucksack courtesy of Dana Designs, as a SF NCO, while I had a team daddy who let it fly, then tried a couple of different high-end military rucksack systems from the commercial market before reverting to the “big green tick” of my youth. I’m actually back to searching for a suitable civilian market replacement for it however.

The ALICE pack is not ideal for anyone, is far from ideal for most, and is simply unbearable for many. I accept that reality and seldom, if ever, recommend it, unless someone is on a budget, and often not even then. Kelty makes some extremely durable, large-capacity internal frame packs that are not much more expensive than a surplus ALICE ruck, while being far more comfortable for most people to bear. Additionally, the availability of well-cared for, used high-end mountaineering rucks, makes the ALICE far from the “best choice” regardless of the prejudices of those of us that grew up with it.

While our bodies long ago developed the necessary contortions to carry an extremely heavy ALICE ruck and still remain tolerably comfortable doing so (at least as “comfortable” as a “gut-check” can ever be), the truth is, there are far better options available. Denying that fact is hubris at best, and sheer stupidity otherwise.


One issue I’ve always had, when recommending packing lists, or developing them for myself or others, is my well-developed ability to move quickly, cross-country, with inordinate amounts of weight on my back, without complaint. This was beneficial when I was a young Ranger, packing a M249 SAW and a basic load and a half of ammunition for it, as well as when I was a junior SF weapons sergeant, and had a senior Bravo who insisted that I needed to pack a mortar, base plate, and a half-dozen rounds for it, as well as my personal gear.

It has turned into a severe drawback in recent years however, as I still tend to over pack my ruck, unnecessarily burdening myself with gear that is “nice to have” but far from “need to have.” Even here in the Northern Redoubt, where wintertime temperatures and climactic conditions can get pretty demanding, it’s generally not necessary to pack four fleece jackets, three pairs of thermal underwear, and an extreme cold-weather sleep system.

I’m not entirely certain where I first came across it, years ago, but I do know, from a survival standpoint, the military once used the acronym SMOLES to determine the survival equipment requirements for packing (I was actually reminded of this acronym recently on an internet forum dedicated to wilderness survival and preparedness). SMOLES stands for:


Medical Emergencies


Lost and Found

Extreme Weather Conditions


This re-awakening of the fundamentals has led to drastic reductions on my basic payload weight, as I deliberately and mercilessly cull my gear on a regular basis (HH6 claims I re-pack my gear at least weekly. I’m pretty sure it’s not more frequently than once a month). If I’m moving, whether through the timber or across the desert, the heater on my back (the rucksack), keeps me creating more body heat than I need. If I stop, it generally means I’m moving into a hide site, which means I’ll either be crawling into a sleep system/shelter, have the ability to stoke the internal furnace (high caloric value food), or need to stay cool enough, without going hypothermic, to stay awake for essential tasks.

Filling the rucksack load with the METT-TC influenced equipment choices that will fill each of these categories, means that, at the end of the day, you have a pack that has the minimum amount of gear necessary to survive and survive. We will discuss each of these in context, below.


For most partisans, the self-defense aspects are completely irrelevant to the Tier Three, Sustainment load. Self-defense comes from the Tier Two, Fighting Load.

Medical Emergencies

Most survival manuals, whether general wilderness survival or “bug out bag” books, focus on packing a generalist first-aid kit. There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, and in fact, if you’re going to carry a first-aid kit, in addition to your blow-out kit (BOK), it should certainly be in your ruck, rather than on your LBE in the same pouch as your BOK gear (SUT classes include a period of instruction on TC3. Every single class, I end up having to go through guys’ BOKs and throw half the shit in them on the ground, because it’s first-aid gear that doesn’t belong in a BOK). In a partisan organization, rather than a simple “go bag,” the first aid kit should be very minimalist. Your team medic will have a medic’s bag that has ample first-aid gear for most foreseeable injuries that might occur, or he should. Adding a bunch of shit like sutures, abdominal wound dressings, and other “advanced” first-aid and medical gear that you probably don’t fucking know how to use anyway, is a pointless addition of weight to your gear. Leave it to the medic.

In a tactical environment, medical emergencies constitute those occurrences that can occur that will immediately (within 10-30 minutes) kill you dead, without intervention. The gear for remedying these situations should be in your BOK, on your fighting load. The exception to this rule, in my experience, is the recommendation that everyone in an element pack at least one 1000mL bolus of IV fluids, for fluid resuscitation. A handful of extra Israeli Battle Dressings, or an extra CAT-T tourniquet would certainly not be out of place however, if also not necessary.


Observation requirements in combat can range from the obvious use of binocular field glasses and spotting scopes to see the enemy before he sees you, to the application of NODs or FLIR devices. It may also include the carry of a flashlight or headlamp, for use after dark in limited areas, such as locating spoor for tactical tracking, or reading a map.

For visible lights, I’ve always used and recommended the use of red lenses for maintenance of night-vision. I’ve been asked in classes about the use of green filter lenses and always said, “I use red. It works for me. I don’t know of any advantages to green.” A fellow SF veteran recently pointed out to me however, one significant advantage of green lenses over red however….It’s fuck all easier to read a topo map with a green lens filter, since it doesn’t wash out the contour lines like a red lens does….

Headlamps may also be necessary for use when both hands are required for a task, such as securing a detainee, or gathering up materials on an objective for battlefield recovery. In such cases, while a colored lens filter may help with maintenance of night-vision, it may also reduce visual acuity enough that you leave something critical behind on the objective. A far better approach is to have a colored lens filter on a hand-held light (I’m partial to SureFire and StreamLight brands, personally. Despite the costs, they have a far more established track record for robustness than any of the newer brands. I’ll choose quality over cheap any day of the week, and twice on Sundays), and a white lens headlamp for searching personnel or objectives.

With NODs, I’m currently in love with the AN/PVS-14 monocular. It may go in your ruck, or on your fighting load, but for most people, most of the time, it should go in your ruck if you’re not wearing it on your head, and using it. While the AN/PVS-23 offers better depth perception for driving, it also costs better than twice what the 14s do. The AN/PVS-7, while slightly less expensive, suffers from the same lack of depth perception that the 14s do, while also degrading the natural night vision in both eyes, versus only one with the 14.

I often get asked about the applicability of less expensive NODs, such as the older Gen 1 Russian imported stuff, and some of the stuff you can find at hunting retailers like Cabelas. In a word, don’t. I’m sure someone will post a comment on this article about how it’s better than no NODs at all. You’re wrong, and you are doing nothing but demonstrating your ignorance when you do. The only way the cheap stuff is even remotely viable is with the use of the IR illuminator device switched on. Having the illuminator device on is the NOD equivalent of taping a fucking SureFire light to your face. If you’re dumb enough to assume that you’re the only guy in the area smart enough to have NODs, then thank you in advance for contributing to the cleansing of the gene pool.

Cheap, POS NODs are, in fact, far worse than no NODs. One, they breed false confidence, that will result in your dying. Two, NODs are actually not all that hard to hide from. FLIR can be difficult to hide from, but it’s not impossible. NODs are relatively easy to hide from however. Think about it. They magnify the available light. Nothing more, nothing less.

If you are camouflaged and concealed enough to hide from naked eye observation in daylight, then you’re camouflaged and concealed enough to hide from NODs in darkness. Fucking rocket science, isn’t it?

NODs, unless you are in an overwatch, support-by-fire position during a raid, running a precision rifle, or belt-fed weapon, should never be mounted on your rifle. Put them in your ruck for safekeeping, until it’s time to use them, then put them on a helmet or skullcrusher mount, and wear them. If you’re using the NODs to shoot with, drop the extra money on a IR laser.

Lost and Found

A lot of your land navigation and signaling gear will be in your Tier One or Tier Two loads. Signal mirrors and VS-17 panels for ground-to-ground signaling should be in your Tier One gear. Radios should be in your Tier Two gear. Compasses and maps should be in your Tier One gear. Extra batteries for all of this gear will go in your rucksack however.

A lot of guys like to bitch about the battery requirements, and how we should all get primitive, like we’re some sort of paleolithic hunter-gatherers. That’s fine, for what it is, and I can start a fire with a bow-drill or flint-and-steel if I have to. However, from a tactical standpoint, I want to win. I will leverage everything I can to that end, including the use of technology, when available.

I do not however, advocate GPS, for three reasons. One, I grew up with the old shoe-box sized PLUGGER units. The batteries would last about twenty minutes on those things, then you were back to map and compass, while still having to carry around that brick. I know modern GPS are far smaller, more lightweight, and more reliable (my ex-wife had a wrist mounted GPS that she loved, and wore like an extra watch), but……

Two, they create a cookie crumb record of where you’ve been. That only becomes a problem if you are killed or captured, and then it’s not a problem for you, but for your friends and family; nevertheless, it’s something critical to consider. While theoretically you can erase the cookie crumbs, I have my doubts about how difficult it would be for a computer-savvy person to dig them out.

Three, while the young bucks won’t remember this, until 1996, GPS wasn’t available for civilian receivers. In 1996, recognizing the applicability of GPS to civilian users, former President Clinton issued a policy directive that established the Interagency GPS Executive Board and opened the satellite system to civilian recreational receivers. I don’t think for one second that, given the impetus, Uncle Sugar wouldn’t flip the switch back the other way. Then, all you cool guys that either never learned to use a map and compass properly, or have forgotten the details, are fucked….(I got asked recently to do some articles on land nav. They are forthcoming).

Extreme Weather Conditions

At its most fundamental level, Che Guevara’s recommendation of a poncho and a light blanket may be all that is required for the partisan to function in inclement weather (as a young soldier, training throughout the southern USA and many tropical and subtropical environments, we utilized nothing more than a poncho and poncho liner as a “sleep system” even in winter). Even in winter in alpine environments, it is theoretically possible that it may be sufficient. The interior of a snow cave maintains a pretty steady temperature just above or at freezing. I’ve stayed comfortably warm in snow caves with nothing more than a poncho, poncho liner, and casualty-type, quilted “space” blanket. Of course, on the other hand, I’ve also frozen my dick off laying in a tank truck in the mud of an early spring sleet storm, wrapped in a poncho and poncho liner, with MRE heaters shoved under my ass in an attempt to generate heat.

As a result, although I suffered through as a young Ranger, I now refuse to scrimp on sleep comfort (of course, as participants in the last Colorado class witnessed, my definition of sleep comfort can be drastically different than most). I recognize the importance of being able to function for lengthy periods of time without adequate sleep, have done so, and can still do so. However, when the opportunity to sleep does occur, especially under tactical conditions, it is imperative to take full advantage of it, and get the highest quality of sleep/rest possible.

In Colorado, I used a summer weight patrol sleeping bag, inside of the GoreTex bivy, with a casualty blanket wrapped around me inside of the patrol bag. I generated enough heat that my hooch buddy commented on it “Dude, you put out a lot of body heat. Can I snuggle up to you for warmth?” That was fine, right up to the point the diesel motor starting roaring in my ear…

That’s pretty much my current standard for cold-weather sleep gear. I go back and forth between the old closed-cell foam sleep pad and a ThermaRest pad beneath it, but am pretty well stuck on the advantages of the ThermaRest. In the warmer months, I use the standard “Ranger Taco” bivy system. It is a quilted poncho liner (“woobie”) and a poncho, folded and snapped together into a sort of psuedo “sleeping bag,” with the casualty blanket on the inside.

To the average “camper,” neither of these is going to be anywhere near comfortable, or even adequate, as is. The secret, for me (and I know a lot of really expert people who disagree with me on this….), is that I wear dry clothes to bed with me, for an extra layer of insulation to trap my body heat.

I once had a Ranger squad leader who had developed outdoor sleeping in a tactical environment into a highly evolved scientific pursuit, worthy of study in architectural colleges. In addition to the basic “Ranger Taco,” he modified the “Ranger Hooch” into a system that I blatantly and unabashedly stole. While the basic Ranger Hooch concept simply involves stringing the poncho overhead to keep precipitation off, this system allows the hooch to he pitched anywhere, under any conditions, and protect the individual from the vagaries of almost any imaginable ill weather conditions, from snow and rain, to high winds, or any combination of the above.

(My Ranger Hooch, separate from the Ranger Taco, includes a basic USGI ripstop nylon poncho–although you could use any of the civilian type shelter tarps, like Ray Jardine’s of silicon impregnated silk–in woodland BDU camouflage, because let’s face it, UCP sucks as a camouflage pattern, with a loop of about eight inches of 550 cord tied to every eyelet around the exterior, and a 12-inch loop tied to the inside loops where the waistband strings were originally located.

The hood is cinched close as tight as possible, tied off with 550 cord, and has a six-foot long length of 550 cord extending from it. This provides a lot of options for tie-off points for suspending the shelter in vegetated areas.

I include 8-10 stainless steel tent pins–pegs are too heavy and space-consuming, as well as harder to drive into the ground in most terrain–as well as 8-12 one-foot bungee cords, and six sections of the old USGI shelter half poles. These allow me a great deal of flexibility in creating elevated corners and sides of the shelter, to control the ingress of wind and precipitation, while still allowing for maximum visibility to the exterior of the shelter. Combined with the Ranger Taco, or a sleeping bag/bivy system, this provides me a wide range of shelter options for protection from the elements when in a lay-up position or hide site. It provides all of the benefits of a tent, besides the psychological crutch of “solid walls,” with none of the tactical liabilities such as reduced visibility and situational awareness, and reduced egress options.

Finally, a new option I’ve been playing with that is actually a very old one, is the use of a hammock, even in cold-weather climates. The obvious drawback to a hammock of course, is the air flow underneath that steals body heat. What I discovered however, was that putting a ThermaRest pad on the hammock first, then a casualty blanket, before crawling into it with my sleep system, negated that drawback nicely. I actually let someone use it at an SUT class in Idaho last winter, and he even remarked that he was more than adequately warm through the night.

Other issues with extreme weather conditions include clothing to protect you from the elements when you’re not in a shelter. This is where most of us screw up. I prefer cold-weather environments over hot-weather environments, by a wide margin. I can always put more clothes on in the cold weather places, but I can only pull so much off before I’m naked in the hot weather.

Unfortunately, I’m also fond of staying warm. So, like most people, I tend to overpack. Of course, again, my definition of comfortable is far wider than that of many people. The suburban soccer mom or office hive worker will feel it necessary to pack a metric shit-ton of snivel gear to stay warm. They’re not used to being exposed to the elements, and so, regardless of protestations otherwise, they fear the discomfort of it. So, they make themselves even more uncomfortable by carrying far more gear than they actually need.

As we ruthlessly cull our gear each month, we need to look at the realities. You do not need seven outfits for seven days in the woods. You do not need a separate wet-weather parka and a cold-weather parka. Instead, the wet-weather parka, with a layer or two of insulating material beneath, doubles as a cold-weather parka.

For inclement weather protection, a lighweight, but durable wet-weather shell, a medium weight fleece jacket, a fleece or wool stocking cap, warm socks and gloves, and something to cover your neck and face, are generally adequate, unless you’re operating in Minnesota in January, or north of Denali in Alaska. I’ve functioned outdoors, on the Montana Hi-Line, in February, with one pair of thermal underwear, jeans and a Carhartt jacket, and a wool cap on, and stayed comfortably warm.

Think about what you actually need, then test what you think you actually need. My current snivel gear packing list?

1) Four pairs of wool socks. While theoretically, I could wear one and be drying the other, tactical considerations may preclude that, meaning I may need the extra pairs.

2) Silk weight, polypro thermal underwear trousers. I can’t stand wearing heavyweight thermal trousers, and my legs stay pretty warm anyway. These only go on when I’m stationary. Wearing them while humping a ruck will make you a heat casualty, even in cold-weather conditions.

3) medium weight polypro thermal underwear shirt. I finally got one of the newer waffle-pattern USGI ones and fell in love with it. A far, far better product than the old puke brown ones.

4) medium weight fleece jacket. This is one place where the old Gen 1 ECWCS beat the new system hands down. The black jacket is far warmer than the newer sage green ones. I’ve also however, got about two dozen different civilian recreational fleece jackets from Columbia, North Face, and other mountaineering companies. In fact, for about nine months out of the year, I’m generally wearing a fleece of some sort.

5) waterproof, nylon shell jacket. I’ve used a bunch of these over the years. I’m actually not certain what’s in my ruck at the moment, because I’ve got a bad ass softshell that I wear when it’s raining locally.

6) fleece beanie cap.

7) Unless it’s below 0F, I wear nomex aviator’s gloves, and that’s it. If it’s colder than that, I’ll wear Thinsulate lined work gloves, or heavy duty, well-insulated GoreTex shells over fleece glove liners.

8) I keep a dry pair of multi-cam trousers in my ruck, as well as whatever pants I happen to be wearing.

Not much, in other words….


Under the heading of survival, we’re discussing the fundamental requirements the human body needs to stay alive. This includes things like water, food, etc.

For most of us, water should be our first priority. I carry far more water than I need to in my current operating environment. In the area of the northern Redoubt that we’re building SFOB Rifleman’s Ridge, there is ample groundwater, in the form of streams and creeks, year-round springs, lakes, and snow, that even in August, you’d have to try to die of dehydration, as long as you have a way to purify the water. Nevertheless, I spent a lot of years living in the desert, and old habits die hard. Further, I may not be in a tactical situation that permits easy access to those water sources at any given time.

I keep two quarts of water on my fighting load, but I also keep a minimum of two quarts on my sustainment load. While I’m currently running an ALICE ruck, that means it is in a USGI 2qt canteen strapped to the outside of the ruck. When I use a civilian-style ruck, I’ll use a 100 oz Camelback bladder to hold the water.

I also keep water purification in both my fighting load and in my ruck. While there are various methods for this, ranging from high-end water filters to iodine tablets, I was introduced to a product 15 years ago that I use to this day. I’ve used it to purify water out of muddy puddles and out of cow troughs on the desert, and have never suffered Montezuma’s Revenge as a result. I’ve had people question the validity of it, but, while I don’t understand the science behind it, ION Stabilized Oxygen drops work, well.

Between the two tactics, I never seem to hurt for adequate water.

Food is a secondary consideration for survival. While there are those self-proclaimed experts who expect to do nothing but snare rabbits and field mice for food, while gathering wild edibles, they’re delusional. Trapping and gathering food is a viable option, if you’re already an experienced trapper and you have nothing else to concern yourself with.

In a tactical scenario however, the time needed to set and check traps will be restricted by the need to conduct tactical tasks, and the fact that even experienced, expert trappers don’t catch shit every time they set a trap or snare (I run about a 20% success rate when I run traps, and while I’m far from an expert, I’m not a novice either).

The idea that you’re going to live off what you snare with improvised snares and deadfalls, in the long-term however, at least in a tactical context, is ludicrous to me. Guys that have a chance of living off their traplines are not going to be doing much besides running their traplines. and they are going to be using professional tools, not shit they made in the field.

Food must be included in your packing list. Whether it’s freeze-dried mountaineering foods, MREs, canned goods, or staples like rice and flour is irrelevant. You will need food, and a means to prepare it. I can go 48-72 hours with no caloric intake before it really starts affecting me physiologically, even when I’m physically active, but when it does start, it gets rough in a hurry.

I generally pack dried staples and canned foods, despite the weight. I also carry a MSR XGK stove and one bottle of fuel, all in my ruck (I keep easy to eat, no prep snacks in my fighting load, and have a stainless steel nesting cup over one of the Nalgene bottles on my fighting load as well).


While there is a lot to be said for the benefits of looking at some of the options described in the books currently available of packing bug-out bags, the partisan needs to look at his patrol pack/go bag as a third tier in his equipment packing list, and look at it in the context of what he expects to be doing. I have lots of friends who ask my opinion on this author’s book, or that expert’s article, on this as well as other topics.

In a lot of cases, the literature currently available from survivalist or “prepper” authors are fundamentally useless. It seems like lots of people are jumping on the “Doomsday Prepper” bandwagon, looking to make a buck (incidentally, if the folks over in Northern Idaho who advertised that they had “Doomsday Prepper Dogs” for sale in the local paper over there–English Mastiff crosses–are readers, please email me. I want one of your puppies….TMO needs a dog, and I want one that’ll scare the living fuck out of lions and tigers and bears, oh my….and will trade training for part of the cost…). When I tell these friends that I thought the book was fundamentally worthless, or left out some pretty critical information, I tend to get the response, in lots of cases, that “Well, yeah, but you’re a death-dealing Special Forces soldier. For those of us with no experience, it was a pretty good primer, right?”

The answer is still “No!” God is in the details. If an author cannot be bothered to know or include the details, he’s doing his writers a disservice, unless he at least points them to where they can find the details.

Figure out what your needs are, based on your projected functions, and pack accordingly. Travel light, freeze at night, and only carry what you have to, but be able to carry what you need.


John Mosby

SFOB-Rifleman’s Ridge


From → Uncategorized

  1. Disciple of Night permalink

    Good info, as always. I would like to see some elaboration on this system you stole. My AO almost never gets snow, so I can’t try out the cave. However, it does get below freezing routinely during the winter and rains a lot. I have a cold weather sleeping system, but it’s very bulky, perhaps too much for strapping on a rucksack. I’d like to explore the poncho idea.

  2. Disciple of Night permalink

    When I say elaborate, I should have said diagrams. doh

  3. robins111 permalink

    Good article, I’d do things a bit different, as I live in Canada, but 99 % I agree with… My bug out gear includes a small, ice fishing toboggan for winter travel, also, I tend to include magnesium snowshoes..

  4. eman530 permalink

    I really enjoy your compilations… being on the sharp end of the learning curve it’s enough to make my frontal lobes throb by the time I get to the end of your posts. The only discouraging aspect of it all is that although you take the time and effort to share with us, your lack of acronym identification can at times be maddening…
    I’m used to it from being in the medical field but the Ranger/GI stuff is OC for a lot of us SOB’s…

    Thanks again for taking the time to post…

  5. rolf permalink

    To me, one of the factors for the Alice is the frame. Actually LIVING in the field is a BITCH….and the advantages of a frame are numerous.

  6. Can’t argue with anything said here. Cry once, buy once is my motto on gear. Especially stuff that’s supposed to keep you hydrated, warm, and breathing.

  7. david gosnell permalink

    what was with the website, where a page appeared that said it was blocked for americans?

  8. jayson permalink

    informative, thought provoking, and interesting. note on the Doomsday dogs. A friend had a ranch north of Mexicali in CA. Had a family, dogs, horses, etc. and wanted to keep them, so he got an English Mastiff. Some illegals showed up when only one of his kids was home and demanded food, water, and keys to the pickup. Kid said fine, keys are over here. then opened the door to the Mastiffs cage. Dog came out and Illegals didn’t stop running till they hit Mexico. The dog stopped at the property line and looked disappointed.

  9. Desert Scout permalink

    Great write up as usual. I personally use a Kelty Redwing 50 pack in green; concealable but not tactical. Kelty products have proven tough for me and are affordably priced. Another great pack option is the Kelty Map 3500 designed for Amron International and used by SEAL’s.
    I am also a hammock sleeper and prefer it over anything I have ever used before. The compression of insulation will cause your ass to freeze off but one option is to hang your poncho liner ( doubled over) underneath the hammock with paracord (under quilt). With a hammock you can sleep well in areas not possible otherwise… jagged rocks, steep terrain, insects, etc. I personally moved away from a poncho and now use a 9×9 silnylon tarp as shelter, outer sleep system, and have actually tied it into a hammock as well.

    I do have a question that may have a lengthy answer….. Hiding from NODs is relatively easy but what is the best way to hide from FLIR in the open? I never want to be that dude running in circles dodging rounds from the drone circling overhead!

    • Notatieronejedi permalink

      Look at Max Velocities blog. There are 3 (!!) good articles about hiding from FLIR.

  10. JMB1776 permalink

    That waffle top is awesome. Even up in Alaska, in temperatures ranging down to -20, I never went beyond the waffle layer of the Gen III ECWCS. Silkies, waffles, and a soft shell will keep someone ridiculously warm for the weight and dry out fast.

  11. Gotta agree with you on the Kelty. After years of back and forth between the green tick and various aftermarket packs, the Kelty’s have proven to be durable and utilitarian, with a good price point to boot.
    I have ended up replacing most of my fleece wear with light weight merino wool garments and 800 fill goose down jackets. The warmth to weight ratio with the down is unbeatable and you can operate for days on end in the merino without your skin rotting out. Give it a try if you haven’t already….

    • robroysimmons permalink

      How does the down deal with moisture?

      • As you may know, down loses much of it’s insulating properties when it becomes water-logged. Consequently, most of the quality brands will have their jackets treated with a DWR to protect it from all but a dedicated downpour. Goes without saying, but that is when it is time to put on your gore-tex shell. The other option is to look into the synthetic fill jackets like Primaloft. They aim to achieve the same result as their down counterparts, except Primaloft still works when wet. The trade off is, a similar mass of Primaloft insulation will be thermally out performed by down. What this ultimately translates to is, a comparable Primaloft jacket will be heavier and crush down to maybe football size, while the down will be very light and crush to grapefruit size.
        And again, the value of wool as a base layer cannot be overstated. It is durable, keeps you warm even when wet, is naturally anti-microbial and is flame retardant.

      • RobRoySimmons permalink

        I was hoping for a miracle with down, I see it hasn’t quite yet happened. With wool my grandmother was right except she bought me foo foo lama stuff that I wore out. I went to under armor, great for working out but horrific in fire or so I read.

    • Semper Fi, 0321 permalink

      With the exception of not allowing sweat to evaporate from under a down jacket, I’m of the same mindset. Polypro and a polar fleece while hiking and sweating, then put on Merino wool and down jacket as you start to cool off. Now that’s comfy!
      Merino wool socks of different weights all year long, can’t stand plastic on my feet. Wool is the best thing going, you just have to learn when and how to wear it. Polar fleece is great too, but when it gets really cold, nothing beats wool.
      Your geographic location and rainfall will also dictate what works best for you, and some of you no matter what, will never learn how to properly take care of your gear either. Fresh clean clothing every day, wash and dry the other stuff, even if only a rinse in the creek. It will get rid of most of the sweat and dirt, then air dry. If not, you will suffer the consequences of your sloth. Seen way too many guys that just keep wearing dirty gear day after day until it and they begin to rot.

      • Colorado Pete permalink

        Many winter backpacking/hiking and hunting trips have led me to agree on all in your post SF0321.

    • Orenthal permalink

      Down and wool? What is this: the 19th century?

      • MOS permalink

        Hunted for 6 years in the deep Alaskan bush with a family of my friends. They had a ridge named after their dad, he had hunted this area before they finished mapping it with names for the topo features. Used him as a guide. Wool outerwear always. Quiet. Like brown bear quiet. Fished 10 days in the rain late steelhead season on the Sitka. Wore wool fingerless gloves, soaking wet every day. Fingers never got cold. Yeah, 19th century woodsmen knowhow. My high tech gloves would not have lasted two days. Gore-tex isn’t waterproof on day 10.

  12. Reblogged this on The Broken Patriot and commented:
    Bug Out Bag info has saturated the web, however this is the most practical, concise writing I have seen on this matter.

  13. About filtered light:
    Red affects your night vision the least (which I’m sure you knew), because it mostly activates the color receptive but less numerous cones, and using only one color gives your brain a black and white picture.

    Green is used in NODs because it’s the color the human eye is most sensitive to, so it’s of far greater use for picking up detail and better depth perception (like for reading maps and landing aircraft). But it’s brighter than red light, so it burns out your night vision much more.

    But the thing the eye is most keyed into detecting, going back to the lizard brain, is movement. This is true whether it’s full sunlight, or picking out something on monochrome green NODs, or the black and white of thermal imagery. Thus a good sniper stalking in plain issue gear can avoid being spotted better than a sloppy one wearing a full ghillie.

    Loved everything else, and I’m as down on “bargain” POS NOD as you. But there may be one use for it. Working on the southern border, we know the typical cartel Pedro has some access to at least basic NODs, because they’ve picked out (and destroyed) well-camouflaged trail cams that have naked-eye-invisible IR lights, and we’ve set out 9V batts wired to IR LEDs, and they divert around them, thinking they’re sensors, or OPs. (Further investigation has shown that they’re mainly using commercial hand cams with extreme low light capabilities, which pick up active IR like the floodlight it is, and convert it to visible light.) Passive IR they walk right into you.

    So someone stuck having invested penny-wise and pound foolish could use a crappy set of Russian crap stuff as low-cost sacrificial bait WTSHTF, to give someone bad something to investigate.

    Other than that, I suppose it would make a good weight at the bottom edge of a gill net, but I can’t think of much else it’s good for.

    Thanks for another winner lesson.

  14. robroysimmons permalink

    Bought my old school ALICE pack with frame for $40 at a gun show and in good condition, upgraded it with the HSG ALIPAD $100, and this has two pouches for Camelbaks, centered close to the body.

    It goes without saying that the Fudds are a good to great resource for back country knowledge and supplies/stock (mules).

    For cold weather clothing the experts and the Eskimos recommend something with a hood, works for me in my Fudd level experience. Also the sliced hard salami, IMO nitromethane for cold weather outdoorsy stuff.

  15. An ALICE pack frame is uncomfortable for me and as I live on the edge of an urban city, I use a civilian hunter’s pack. It allows me to carry enough gear and food to last 7-10 days. Most of my essential gear is redundant – GPS and compass, water filter and purification tabs, etc. I don’t play with ‘compromise’ gear – I carry 2 knives, not a razor. No freaking novels or playing cards either – I plan on staying busy. My climate is moderate so a poncho liner and poncho suits me well as far as sleeping gear. I carry the best first aid kit that I can. TP. One change of clothing. 5 pair of socks. Freeze dried rations and MREs. Pocket rocket stove and an extra can of fuel. 3 types of fire starting methods. Weapon cleaning kit. 550 cord. A folding e-tool. Small flashlight with a red lense. Concertina cutters. NV monocular. Personal hygiene kit. Binoculars. Small survival radio. Sewing kit. extra batteries. And that all important roll of duct tape. Then there’s 240 rounds of ammo in strippers and bandoleers and 2 collapsible quart canteens.
    Whole kit weighs in at 40 pounds.

    My neighborhood assault kit is much simpler: A poncho, poncho liner, first aid kit, fighting knife, 2 meals, 1 collapsible canteen, cleaning kit, industrial white smoke, compass & area maps, NV monocular and a load of ammo in a Condor assault pack along with another half load of ammo in bandoleers.

    I’ve done several posts on my site about this subject and I’ve always stressed that you need to pack for your personal needs, abilities and climate. Nothing more and nothing less.

    Thanks for this post. It’s nice to read from somebody that has much more experience than myself.

  16. I have a couple of questions that MG and all of you may be able to help me with as far as this subject is concerned.

    1) What ever happened to the “Hooyah” bars? I still have two boxes left.
    2) Since becoming a member of the “Celiac Disease” club, I don’t carry these anymore but they were great when I could. I collect “Aircrew Survival Equipment”, especially from the Vietnam War. The tin cans that contained food (Rice flake, Corn flake, Unknown Flake bars, coffee, creamer, salt, and sugar) were great to stuff in your bag. You had two ways you could open one. One was with the cemented turn key mounted on top, just like a spam can. You could also use the p-38 that was also taped to the can. Either way you opened the can meant you had options for using it as a stove, candle, cup, cooker, etc., etc. The newer ones do not allow this option. But, the ones made in the 1990’s and todays models used in the RSSK use the oatmeal cookies from MRE’s to sustain life. Since, you are wondering where the “question” is in this, there really isn’t one. Just a bunch of info on food you might think twice about. I wouldn’t get the 1960’s cans found in the RSSK’s as they probably are not edible by know. The 1990’s versions are still available in some places. I would reccommend them for your bag as they are still edible and you can still use the can for those aforementioned ideas. By the way, being diabetic, I also carry a couple of roles of Glucose Tablets.
    3) There was a company out there, I believe it may be “Tactical Taylor” that you could send your large ALICE pack to and they would make modifications suited to your specific tastes. My question is this a viable option for the ALICE if you choose this route?

    “Never start a fight that you can’t win with everything you have right now.”
    By SSGT Joe “Gladiator” Walker, 10 of RT California MG, is quote still viable today?

  17. Hillard Foster Jr permalink

    I use a ALICE pack, because they don’t break. I’ve had other stuff wear out, or mess up. That makes for a rough trip. I have just ordered a ILBE, because a good friend said it was a improvement and is tough enough to last.
    For a Stove, I use the stainless one that fits into the canteen from here.
    I get nothing from them, I just think it is good tough light weight equipment.
    I too carry a lot of water, I will have two canteens on my belt and two in the ruck also. I even have a bladder I use with a light weight system I use. I hope the ILBE will allow me to carry it and the four canteens mentioned above.
    I run a ghillie blanket/tarp for shelter, and a poncho/woobie/thermal blanket to sleep in. The only time I have needed more was up north in MI, and Iowa. I have modular systems for extreme cold. I have not used them since moving to KY.
    I use MRE entrees, meal replacement bars, and other food bars for quick meals. That is kept in my battle pack. I use oatmeal, rice, corn meal, and flour and things like that for cooked meals. I suggest you have rasins to add to the oatmeal and rice as it adds flavor and still gives you a snack if you want it. A few canned foods also make the difference of feel good food after a few days. PS Canned Bacon is worth the extra weight after a week of crap food.

    I hope that helps.

  18. Shorty permalink

    “Further, the relatively innocuous appearance of this equipment may, in some areas, assist the partisan’s attempts to blend with elements of the local civilian population, in regime-controlled, denied territory, when moving into and through built-up areas ”

    Appropriate personal appearance adds to the deception as well.

    Case in point, I was in a college library last week and saw a shaggy-headed hipster with a button-up flannel shirt and Chacos walk through with an external-framed backpacking pack. He could have had a sustainment load of water, MREs, and a resupply of ammo and nobody would have given him a second look. Just another hippy studying for an exam, right?

    I could not go out with that same load out, looking like I do day-to-day, and have that same freedom of movement in a denied or highly-surveilled area without specifically changing my wardrobe and physical appearance.

    This goes hand-in-hand with everything JM has written about a properly-developed Auxiliary to advise on an area you may be unfamiliar with and locate proper items (thrift-store hipster clothes, for example) to help you blend in during your initial link-up.

    • Semper Fi, 0321 permalink

      Good point. I’m like that guy, hair down my back, earrings and baggy hiking pants. Easy to look like a dirt bag civilian nobody wants around. Also real easy to break down an AR and slide it inside your pack in case you need it.
      I’ve been using Osprey packs for years now, they come in nice greens and tans too. Picked up a ILBE recently for heavy loads, looks top notch in every way. Have not had a chance to use it, but will give it a try along with a smaller Eberlestock X4 while mapping in May for BLM and finishing Field School in Archaeology.
      The poncho hootch is exactly what I learned almost 40 yrs ago in Okinawa and the Philippines at Jungle Survival School. Today I have a British desert ‘basha’, just a little bigger and awesome for good field gear.
      Found out same thing with polypro long johns, silk weight and medium weight are best, forget the heavyweights, you’ll die in them. Love my new Merino wool lightweights!
      Great article JM!

  19. TimeHasCome permalink

    Great article , I’m too old to hump a 65# pack but the knowledge gained in this article was from someone that had done that . As an old Scoutmaster I still prefer the wool is best . We took plenty of scouts on 50 milers and beyond . My motto was if you can’t eat it or wear it leave it . Kelty products are great, very tough. Try a Kelly Kettle if you get a chance . My stainless one has lasted 40 years and still brings back memories.
    I don’t have a Bug Out Bag I have a Bug out Bin . It’s a heavy duty garbage can with 10 inch tires solid tires . It has about 80# of gear in it .Fits nicely in my SUV and because it’s a garbage can nobody thinks about the contents. Enough for my wife and myself and is a breeze to pull. Not at all sexy or tactical, but since I will foot travel at low light conditions it works for me .
    It’s capacity if 500# in a pinch it could haul a person.

    • Most excellent education here I wish I had this 40 years ago. Bugging out! I am way to old and crippled, but I can lay up caches for others and make it known to them. I realize that when and if SHTF and I pray it does not, I am going to be considered a useless eater and I’m fucked. I do feel it is in my power to try to help my loved ones survive, so I will pass on this blog to others. Thanks for this and for your service. Μολwν Λαβέ

      • T.T permalink

        Start learning stories. Much rather feed a good story teller, than some high speed, low drag. tactical ninja.

      • Funny, I was just writing an article about this EXACT subject. Not really sure how it ties into the article you posted the comment on, but….

  20. 1.9L (1.5L useful boiling capacity) titanium cook pot came in mail today. White gas or propane stove fits inside 4.3″ external height and 6.6″ external diameter. Lid is flat and can be a plate. This is quite a few grams lighter than SS and much sturdier than same-weight aluminum. Cost is same as aluminum 1.5L JetBoil pot.

    Good-used backpacking gear made by all kinds of West Coast or Rocky Mountain small manufacturers is available at every thrift store in Portland Oregon. Near-mint, used once, with some mildew, is the standard condition. Electric blue is the most common color. REI was once a custom gear store on Queen Anne Hill in Seattle, where you could get good gear that made hiking/tent camping dry/warm fun instead of a re-enactment of WWI wet-canvas mud slogging.

    +1 on Therm-a-Rest, both as a product and for their eternal support of the gear. They honored the “lifetime” warrantee on a pad full of leaks that must be 30+ years old with a low serial number. It came back patched 6 places with a new valve. Watching for aerogel model.

    Backpack lightening will happen a few grams at a time, at much cost and trouble. The reward is speed and longevity. Weigh everything. Submerge it in water and weigh it again after 10 seconds of hasty drying. Ask how many jobs it can do, how well, and if those jobs are essential.

    The same kind of innovative thinking that small ocean-going sailboats have applied to their spaces must be applied to the clothing and load of a person expecting to need to walk across various terrain for many days.

  21. I went back to the ALICE days of my youth, with the Down East Industries frame. At 135 bucks, it is a game changer. I can wear the big ruck all day, and I am finally able to wear my tier two trash with a ruck without a fight. It was modded by adding a couple of issue snap buckles to the long straps to attach a CP90 patrol pack to the top. Adds another 1000? cui of packing space for super cheap. If I get some extra bucks (yeah right) The HSGI T.R.A.S.H. Bag Pack may be in the future for an upgrade.

  22. Thanks for the info on ION Oxygen. Never even knew it existed. In the process food industry Ozone, which is a single oxygen molecule, is used to kill all types of bacteria in liquid. Drinking water is stored with either an ozone source bubbled into it or a UV light system in which the water must pass through every 8 hours. Both system work well in destroying the cell walls of bacteria. I have been using the UV light system from SteripPen and have never had a problem. The great part is that there is very little waiting before the water is drinkable, a couple of minutes rather than a half hour when pills are used. Both systems have a finite life however as one consumes batteries and the ION is just used up, drop by drop. I prefer the SteriPen with batteries however because I also have a solar charger that can recharge the batteries, extending the life of the system greatly. Granted, more weight to carry, but water is essential.

    • Has anyone here actually used the lifestraw? I haven’t tried it yet, but a lot of people have pointed me that way. Says it won’t do anything about chemicals though, so, hopefully you can get water far enough away from contaminants.

  23. GKhan permalink

    Jm, how do you feel about goretex Bivy sacks in a bug out bag? I didnt see them mentioned. They provide and extremely light weight and small weatherproof sleep set up. OR research makes some really nice Alpine Bivys suited for all weather. I was burried in 2 feet of wet snow and stayed completely dry.

  24. DAN III permalink

    Myself, I use an medium ALICE with issue frame. The ALICE has has several modifications done to it courtesy Tactical Tailor. The shoulder straps and waist belt have been changed to wider and thicker padding, also by Tactical Tailor. I regularly carry 50# in my ALICE. Getting ready to bulk it up to 60# shortly. Since the modifications carrying 50# is amazingly easy. For my purposes give me the time-tested medium ALICE with the mods by TT.

    Regarding the latest essay by Mountain Guerrilla….it’s a wealth of great information and it’s based on his experience. Extremely practical and tested information. Thanks MG for the latest essay.

  25. robins111 permalink

    I use 2 Alice packs, one set up, pretty much like I had as a Light Infantryman, the second, I’ve filled with weights, up to 65 lbs.. I use the weight pack for daily exercises, such as walking the dog (Jack Russell) and use it as a mall walker… I’m retired now, so I can spend the time wandering around, without looking out of place… PS, in the winter, I drop the pack weight to about 35 lbs… a slip and fall, on ice could break a leg..

  26. Daniel K Day permalink

    I have the opportunity to take a local 2-day class in topographical map reading and using a compass. Is it worth it?
    Topographical maps: When the lines are close together, the slope of the land is steep. Concentric circles show a hill/mountain. V-shapes indicate a valley. Compasses: The needle points to magnetic north, about 10 deg east of true north here. True north is the direction of Polaris, which I can find at night when it’s not cloudy.
    What am I going to learn from a class that I don’t know already?

    • Semper Fi, 0321 permalink

      Know how to do a resection or intersection? Set your magnetic declination? Use your map as a rangefinder? Read a UTM grid coordinate?
      P.S. when doing a resection, re=me.

      • Daniel K Day permalink

        Thanks for the response. No, No, I suppose so, Probably, No. re is me. Maybe I’ll understand that after I take the class.

    • Semper Fi, 0321 permalink

      I just learned something new myself recently.
      In the military we were taught Right and Up to find a grid coordinate. In my civilian archaeology training, the textbook says Up and Right. Takes you to the same point, but, the grid coordinate numbers are reverse of each other.
      Can anyone see a problem with this, or am I just hard to retrain?

      • I think it is imperative that within a network, you develop an SOP, one way or the other….if your group networks with other groups, everyone in the network will need to be on the same sheet of music.

  27. Leatherneck556 permalink

    You talk about your sleep systems involving a poncho liner/woobie and a casualty space blanket. I know these as two different things, but sometimes it seems like you’re referring to the same thing. Are you saying that your more temperate weather Ranger Taco is three pieces? Poncho, poncho liner, and space blanket? Is your cold weather system a bivy, a bag, and then a poncho liner on the inside or a space blanket inside?

    • I use the Ranger Taco down to around freezing, or slightly colder. I use a GoreTex bivy, summerweight sleeping bag, and casualty blanket down to -10 or so. Below that, I go to the whole USGI sleep system.

      • JMB1776 permalink

        In Alaska, we were taught to use the sleep system as a treatment for hypothermia and frostbite when fire was not available. Can you still do that with your set up? Right now I’m carrying the arctic bag and bivy, and I’m starting to think I’m going heavy on sleep gear since I’m no longer in an arctic environment.

  28. Larry Parker permalink

    I had forgotten so much but somethings are coming back. Thanks for sharing all your info and skills MG. You are saving many lives by doing this. Thanks once again

  29. John permalink

    As I have gotten older and the same weight (about 50 lbs including water) to carry has gotten heavier I found that I could not carry as much. So I started using my pull golf cart. I strapped gear (backpack, water, sleeping bag/pad)onto the cart and it was so much easier. The region I live in has rolling hills, sometimes steep and pulling the cart can be difficult.

    I keep a minimum load on me and pull the cart. It’s not the best, but a hand golf cart is cheap, folds up and pretty sturdy. And it works.

  30. VX in the South permalink

    Aerobic Oxygen is a bad joke on the consumer. Look at the ingredients (IF they will tell you) and you find it is sodium hypochlorite (aka bleach) and up to a few buffers (like baking soda). It is fraud level shit imo and the sellers need a good ass whuppin.

    Go to Wallyworld pool section and pay $15 for enough dichlor to treat a very large pool several times over for the same water safety level without the hurt on your wallet. Both clean via free chlorine ions. Personally I use a good filter and keep chlorine tabs (any camping store) as a backup.

    I read your blog avidly. This is the ONLY thing I have ever disagreed with you on. Keep it up, mos.

  31. GoneWithTheWind permalink

    Anyone who has hiked and stayed out there for more then a couple of nights knows the enemy is the weigfht of his gear. Simple as that. This discussion has always been about compromise and function. I don’t doubt there are men who can carry 60 lbs or more for 2 weeks or more and not destroy their physical ability in the process. But most of us cannot and if you doubt it then you haven’t tried it. 30 lbs is my estimate of the upper limit for extended survival on your own while covering some distance. Problem #1 in reaching this goal is the pack. Most “good” or military style packs weigh in around 6 lbs. A pack IS NOT gear it is to carry your gear and reducing your gear weight by that 6 lbs is stupid. Look for a pack weighing about 1 lb. Yes it won’t be bullet proof or suitable for 60 lb loads. Second your sleep and shelter gear. I agree cold nights suck but so does 10 lbs of tent, bag and pad. Find your own solution but shoot for under 6 lbs. Then Cooking gear. I love a good propane stove but it isn’t practical for long term unless someone is resupplying you every week. Keep it simple, i.e. something to cook in and drink out of; 1 lb is a good target. Then a decent water filter, two 1 liter canteens, survival and 1st aid, knife (an ax and folding saw if you are in the north woods or this is going to be an over the winter survival mission). Good wet/cold weather gear (This is problematic because in a cold environment you will need about 12-16 lbs of clothing over and above what you might wear if it was 70 degrees). Then food. It is impossible to carry enough food for a whole season or half a year in the wilderness. Shoot for a weeks worth of compact basic food (not MREs, canned goods, etc.) There you go! Put it all in a pile and get a decent scale and decide what to take and what to leave behind. If it is a winter trip do not count the cold weather clothing as part of the 30 lb limit, you must have adequate clothing. Now go out and carry this for 10-12 hours a day for the next two weeks.

  32. Pat permalink

    I’m glad you looked into the hammock sleep systems, they have come a long way. I have one set up similar to yours, very warm and very lightweight.

  33. Always lots of informative stuff here. Thanks…

  34. Steve permalink

    I’m trying to figure out what would be a good replacement that is comfortable for the LC or ALICE pack? I am trying to find something that works as well and in the same kind of uses as a long term pack. Prefer something with an internal frame. I was looking at the SOC Bugout bag, has internal frame stiffeners.

    There is a lot of info here, just not sure which way to go.


  35. tom k permalink

    Don’t post the same comment in multiple places. If I decide to comment on it, I’ll do it in one place. –John

  36. Iodine user permalink

    I liked your comment on water purification, but if something gets past the canteen, you need to treat it. An old sf medic at chimore told me to use iodine water purification tabs because not only do they purify water outside the body, but if you drink jungle lemonade and talk to montezuma, or get food poisoning, drinkng iodine treated water will purify you inside even better. A severe case of food poisoning or amoebic dysentary that took three days to fix, with iodine only takes 4 to 8 hours to get back on the road. And the surplus iodine tabs 30 years past expiration, still work perfectly. I carry a bottle at all times. Bad Laredo mesican food- iodine it. Bad new england clams- iodine it. Bad kansas catfish- iodine it! Philmont epizoodic- iodine it!

    • Look into the ION drops. I can’t verify the authenticity of the claims, except through personal experience, but they do everything the Iodine does, as described in your post, and don’t taste like ass in the process.

  37. Good article.. Check out lamilite insulation. Wiggy’s makes an upgraded lamilite poncho liner that I’ve used in north central Idaho in December during my blackpowder Elk hunt. Twice as warm and the same weight, tiny bit bulkier. Important to load up your ruck/BOB(or whatever) and get out and walk with it. You might be surprised how far you go with #50 on your back.

  38. Today, I went to the beach front with my children. I
    found a sea shell and gave it to my 4 year old daughter and said “You can hear the ocean if you put this to your ear.” She put the shell to her ear and
    screamed. There was a hermit crab inside and it pinched her ear.
    She never wants to go back! LoL I know this is entirely off topic but I had to tell someone!

  39. GM2011 permalink

    Awesome post, thanks-

    Once you upgrade from ALICE, how will you handle having both a battle belt and civilian style ruck (that no doubt will have a hip belt/waist strap)? Or will you just stick with non- waist strap packs?


  40. S. Belt permalink

    I have the majority of this stuff or my preferd variations. What I don’t have and realy want is an IR laser to run with my NOD. Do you have any suggestions on a particular one? Money is an issue, but I don’t want crap that won’t last or work well enough for the application. Thanks for the great info.

    • I’m currently running the Laser Devices OTAL on one of my guns, and an old PAQ4 on another. I like the Laser Devices products. They’re significantly less expensive than the DBALs as well, although the DBALs are a lot easier to zero….

  41. Good day! Would you mind if I share your blog with my twiter group?
    There’s a lot of folks that I think would really enjoy your content.

    Please let me know. Thank you

  42. collhand permalink

    I walked from sweetwater tx, to colorado city tx, with a #50+ pound load. I shit canned the pack so fast, what a hip destroying, unbearable bastard. I run a Vario military pack now, rides like a caddilac vs. a bicycle with a dildo seat.

  43. coollhand permalink

    the alice pack is a shit system for a great price. They made them industructible for a reason, walk a long way with one and you will want to blow it up/catch it on fire.

  44. Rob permalink

    Does Tier1 = Survival Load, Tier2 = Fighting Load and Tier3 = Sustainment Load?

  45. Pineslayer permalink

    Old thread, but I had to get this out there. I love my Alice packs, hate the frame. Tried the Downeast route, better, but still not good enough. I cannibalized a Jansport external frame from the late 70’s. It has a top shelf and hip wings ( the oval type) and is 33″ tall, they also came in 38″ers.. Put a large Alice on the frame and there was a great light from above, I have found the perfect Alice modification. We call him Frankenpack.

  46. Thanks a lot. Great stuff!

  47. Junior permalink

    I just took his patrol class one thing that you shouldn’t do is pack a bunch of useless stuff that just takes up space. Also get a good ruck sack ALICE packs are horrible

    • In his defense, this kid, at 13 years old, was by far the smallest and youngest in the class, and held his own, as well as taking charge aggressively, more than once. Well done, young man!

  48. Mud Duck permalink

    Thanks for the info. Will pack the best way for the task at hand, and the unexpected. Mud Duck

  49. John Caldwell permalink

    JM, your blog is OUTSTANDING and I hope to take a patrol class soon. Can you give some specifics to help fill in blanks:

    1. Recommended patrol ruck capacity range in cubic inches (using the scenarios of this post)
    2. Range of days of food you’re carrying (5-7 is typical for patrolling as well as serious civilian hiking)
    3. I’m looking at a ULA CDT pack (3370ci) per the ultralight distance hiker blogs. Do you all like these types or is an true internal frame the ticket?

  50. David Bowser permalink

    I’m ex SF as well (18B) ODA-142. I was only on a team for a couple of years during peace time. Had a head injury and some trouble with the law and ended up getting out. Not my proudest moment. Anyway….. The problem I’m running into is that I like to use the old school LBE set up (two one quart canteens, butt pack etc) I’m using a eagle industries H-harness that is way better than the old Alice set up. my problem is that most of the modern rucksacks like my mystery ranch mountain ruck and ILBE pack use a padded waist belt. so it makes using a h-harness set up almost impossible. I can lower the LBE below the padded waist belt but it then it ends up just slopping around…. especially once I take my ruck off. Any suggestions? Using a modern ruck also makes getting at anything on your pants belt difficult i.e, knife, multi tool etc. I also have a mayflower chest rig I’m experimenting with but I just feel like it doesn’t meet me needs as far as a partisan or unconventional warfare environment is concerned. Am I just to old school in my thought process? or should I just go back to a regular alice pack (ugh!)?? it seems to be the only pack that will work with an LBE set up.

    • Hey brother,

      Honestly,for a number of reasons, I think the chest rig is the way to go. This is one of them. You can either run your belt hanging really low, which still doesn’t work particularly well under a pack waistbelt, or really high, which still doesn’t work well.

      I was running an Eberlestock Destroyer until recently when I decided I hated the POS and ditched it for my old civilian mountaineering pack. I manage to run a waistbelt, with a drop leg sustainment panel on my left leg and a drop leg holster on my right leg, with a kabar hanging off the belt as well.

      • David Bowser permalink

        Thanks for your reply. I have been reading other articles on this site. It leads me to experiment more with my chest rig. I have been running around in the woods trying different set ups. I have to admit that I liked the mobile and agile feeling I got with the chest rig. albeit a smaller mayflower rig. It allows me to hang and have access to items on my pants belt as well as use that expensive ass ruck I purchased from mystery ranch LOL! I think I may look into getting a larger chest rig. One of them being the MAV from tactical tailor. I’m going to mess around with this Mayflower rig and see if it will work out. I’m still going to keep the H-Harness. It has its place. I have Mayflower plate carrier as well. I think I will start training with that on as well (due to reading one of your articles) Man that shit is heavy! I have the AR 500 plates. I couldn’t find a place that would sell civilians any of the lighter plates. Thanks again for your input.

      • John Caldwell permalink

        Bowser, look into UHMWPE armor from TargetMan. I’m on a phone so no link, but Google will find easily. Just over 3 lbs per Level III plate.

  51. Jack Branson permalink

    As for a dog… Check out Caucasian Ovcharka dogs. Baddest dudes in any valley.

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