You Want Me To Carry, What!!!???
Any chance you an do a junk on the bunk picture to see how your fighting gear and sustainment gear are set up? –From a reader.
I hate doing articles specifically on how I wear my gear. The fact is, how a certain load-out will work for one person is, in no way, the same as how it will work for someone else. We’ve seen this in two recent articles on LBE, one each from Max Velocity and from JC at Mason-Dixon Tactical. Both guys have a great deal of legitimate, light-infantry patrolling experience, and mounted patrolling experience, including in combat. Neither guy’s set-up is the same, and neither is the same as the way I run my gear.
The fact is, there’s a pretty slim chance that my gear set-up is going to run as well for you as it does for me, because I’ve got two decades of experience running my gear in the way I do (even accounting for changes in the type of gear I’ve run over the years, as well a changes in mission-focus). At the same time though, considering the ways I’ve seen guys show up at classes with gear set up over the last couple years….perhaps ANY guidance is better than no guidance.
All that having been said, I’m writing this article, but I strongly urge you to go read Max’s article and JC’s article as well, to get two different opinions—based on experience, rather than internet hyperbole—about what works for them. Some of what I say will sound—or even be—completely contradicted by their experiences and preferences. That doesn’t mean I’m saying they’re wrong. Their method is just wrong for ME, and vice versa.
The Foundation of Load-Bearing
The foundation of load-bearing is…bearing a load. (Damn, am I working PT into an article again? It’s like it’s important or something!) If you’re belt line is larger in circumference than your chest, there’s not a single type of load-bearing rig in existence that’s going to make humping that shit comfortable, or even bearable. If you can’t walk up a flight of stairs without getting winded, it doesn’t matter what type of LBE you use, you’re not going to be able to carry shit.
A SMOLES Refresher
As a reminder, when it comes to packing a load—of any sort—for tactical purposes, I use the old-school acronym SMOLES. This stands for Self-Defense, Medical Aid, Observation/Optics, Land Navigation, Extreme Weather Conditions, and Survival. Survival is further divided into the fundamentals of human survival: water, food, and shelter/clothing.
I don’t carry the same load in my ruck when I’m in the woods for recreation (like backpacking), as when I’m training for combat patrolling operations, because the missions are different. I still use the same acronym however. I also use the same SMOLES framework for packing my LBE.
To me, for our purposes, self-defense involves 1) not getting killed, and 2) killing anyone who is trying to kill me (which greatly facilitates #1).
1) Not getting shot encompasses the obvious: if you’ve got body armor, and it’s not going to restrict your ability to complete whatever your mission is, wear the fucking armor. I use a Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical, with TAP Gamma III+ stand-alone plates. The total weight of this package is a whopping 13 pounds (all weights were done today, as I was preparing this article). I see and read lots of stories on the internet about guys whining about the weight of their body armor. Granted, if you’re running AR500 steel plates, and soft-armor in a IOTV vest, that shit is probably retarded heavy. If you can’t move around with 13 extra pounds, in the interest of like, you know…staying alive…you need to add more strength training and stamina (strength-endurance) training to your PT program.
Are their times you might have to fight without body armor? Sure. It’s not like I drive around town or even the two-lane blacktops of Montana and Idaho with my fucking plate carrier on. It sits in the back, where I can get to it in a hurry, if I’m given the opportunity to get to it prior to the fight, or following the initial burst of the fight. I don’t wear it around the house and property every day. If I know I’m going to look for a fight though? I’m putting that shit on. If I’m going on a patrol, even if it’s a simple reconnaissance patrol with no intention of getting into a fight, I’m still expecting the possibility of a fight. Otherwise, why would I bother rehearsing my “Hasty Attack” and “Break Contact” battle drills?
Others will complain that by wearing their body armor, they cannot move as fast as they can without body armor on. This is patently obvious to anyone who is not completely fucking retarded. Here’s the catch though…it’s not just about how fast I can move. It’s also about how fast the slowest guy on my team can move. Whether we’re talking patrolling, or buddy-team bounds…if I’m vastly out-pacing my partner, I’m going to die just as dead as if I were moving slower, because he’s not going to be able to protect me with suppressive fire. As long as I can move faster than the slowest guy on my team, my body armor is not—for practical purposes—slowing me down (besides, that gives the slow dude motivation to do more PT…”Damn, he’s wearing body armor and can STILL outrun me! I MUST be a fat piece-of-shit!”). The Truth is…the only reason to NOT wear body armor is because you’re a slow, fat fuck who needs to do PT. If that’s the case, not wearing body armor is NOT the answer. More PT is the answer. If 13 pounds is the defining factor in living or dying…do more fucking PT already.
Beyond Body Armor
Body armor, “chicken plates,” are—of course—a pretty lousy last-ditch choice in the “don’t get shot” equation. For me, the rest of the “don’t get shot” equation involves personal protection of another nature. Camouflage and concealment, and shit like gloves, and protective eye-wear (I damned near put my left eye out at a Colorado patrolling class last year, when I declined to put my clear safety lenses in, and led a night terrain run through some trees. When you FEEL the end of a two-inch thorn punch into the lens of your eyeball, you KNOW you fucked up!). Getting seen by the enemy, before you see him, is a good way to get shot, by being caught in a hasty ambush.
I don’t really wear camouflage clothing as a general practice (although I should admit, I do wear old BDUs or ACUs—in multicam—during classes, simply because I don’t actually give two shits if they get torn up). I’d rather stick with basic earth tones that—in my experience—work much better across different environments and sub-environments than even the best engineered camouflage clothing patterns. I do however, keep a bundled-up old boonie with some netting and a little bit of burlap garnish tucked into my ruck. I also have netting and garnish attached to my MICH helmet, although that is solely used as a mount for my NODs at night. There’s not a LOT of garnish on either one. It’s just enough to break up the silhouette a little bit, and act as depth for natural camouflage materials added during movements.
More importantly perhaps, I keep camouflage face-paint in my fighting load, and I use it. Judging by photographs from Iraq, a LOT of the US military has forgotten that camouflage facepaint even fucking exists. That’s too bad, because it’s actually one of the most important things you can do to strengthen the “don’t get shot” motif.
Doctrinally speaking, the Army says, “darker color goes on the high points, lighter color goes on the shadowed spots.” What they’re trying to do is create a sort of “photo-negative” of the pattern of your face, so it doesn’t look like a face at all. Here’s the thing…think about how many times you look at a human face in the course of a single day…not just how many times you look at different people, but how many times, even during one short conversation, you look at each individual’s face…unless you’re simpering, shy Nancy, or a hermit, living alone on the mountaintop, you look at a LOT of human faces over the course of a day…it’s the single most recognizable image in any human mind.
In my ever-present interest in intellectual honesty, I will admit, I still use the Ranger SOP when I paint my face. But, here’s a rub pointed out to me by a SF Warrant Officer once, as he bemusedly watched me “apply my make-up,” after just kind of smearing a bunch of green on his face. “Sergeant Mosby….if you think about it, the human face is such a small object, in the expanse of the woods, that it really doesn’t matter if you use a pattern…or what pattern you use. Just make it not look like a face.” I’ve seen vertical stripes, half-and-half on the face, like a character out of Braveheart, without the pretty blue, and lots of guys who just smeared their faces with paints. It all worked, just find. If you don’t have the camouflage facepaint though, you’re going to be scrambling for shit to use…maybe literally.
I’ve gone through a bevy of gloves over the years, running from the old standby of Nomex aviator’s gloves, to cool-guy Oakleys and Mechanix gloves, back to aviator’s gloves. Now? I just wear whatever brown leather work gloves I can pick up at the Stop-and-Rob when I realize I need new gloves.
For my boots, I’m pretty well stuck on my Keens now. I’ve worn jungle boots, desert boots, Vasques, Asolos, and pretty much every other type of combat or backpacking boot you can imagine. I’m stuck on Keens because, well, on the one hand, GI boots suck, and I’ve not found another pair of civilian backpacking boots that fit my wide-as-fuck feet quite as well (when I’m backpacking in spring, summer, or fall, I’m as likely to wear sandals—Chacos to be specific—as I am to wear boots, but I don’t think I have the balls to wear them on actual patrols. I’m not that bad ass, apparently.)
Of course, the original query that started this article probably wasn’t interested in what boots and clothes I wear. He wanted to know about LBE. Which goes back to #2 in the self-defense question: “try to kill anyone trying to kill me.”
My weapon of choice is a Stoner platform carbine. For general purposes, a 14.5” to 16” barrel is more than adequate—both for accuracy and for handiness—as most of us are ever going to need for a general purpose carbine. That having been said, I also need to feed the bitch, which means I need a way to carry ammunition.
In a nutshell, here’s Mosby’s philosophy on ammunition carriage: I may die in a gunfight. I might be outnumbered. I might be outclassed. I might just have a (really) shitty day that day. What I refuse to allow to have happen though, is dying in a gunfight because I ran out of fucking ammunition.
How much ammunition? As much as I can carry and still do my job (which means walking as far as I need to walk, and still being able to fight—including sprints and IMT movements for up to a couple hundred meters at a time—when I get where I’m going, while still being able to carry my shit when the fight is over as well). For me currently, that means I’m running 8 loaded mags on my LBE, 3 mags on my hip, and one in my rifle.
Undoubtedly, someone will point out—probably someone whose idea of PT is 12-ounce curls and getting off the couch to change the television channel—that guys like Kyle Lamb and Paul Howe have both publicly stated in classes and in writing that 3-4 mags is all you need on your LBE. I’m not about to argue with Lamb or Howe. Both of them have far better man-killing creds than I do. Here’s the thing though…neither of them, when at SFOD-D, were running the types of missions we’re discussing here, and neither of them had to worry about re-supply if they ran out during the fight. SF guys on most missions in a UW context—just like LRSU guys–don’t have the luxury of speed balls of ammo and water resupply getting dropped from rotary-wing assets on the objective. Hell, we don’t even have the conventional infantryman’s advantage of getting a wheeled-vehicle or rotary-wing re-supply every 48-72 hours, which is the doctrinal standard, even in Afghanistan today.
Further, as far as I know, neither Lamb nor Howe are in the stated business of teaching guys to fight like infantrymen. They’re focused on personal and home defense, and urban rifle fights for LEO (I could be wrong. I’ve actually not had a class from either of them in the civilian sector).
During a properly executed break-contact drill, you’re going to burn through magazines of ammunition like a bad ’80s action movie hero, in an effort to provide suppressive fire for your buddy. One single break-contact—in heavy brush where it might only involve 50-100 meters of fire-and-movement before you begin the actual “run like a raped ape” portion of the drill, can burn through 4, 5, or more magazines. What happens if your pursuers catch up to you before you get all the way back to a resupply point? Are you going to fucking throw rocks at them? Or maybe hurl insults? Oh, I know! You’re going to fight off a M240B crew with your ultra-cool tactical combat knife!
How much ammunition should YOU carry? AS MUCH AS YOU CAN AND STILL DO YOUR FUCKING JOB. Of all the places to look at for reducing weight…ammunition load is NOT one of them.
So, how do I carry my ammunition? The eight magazines on my chest are carried in a Tactical Tailor MAV. JC Dodge mentioned the open-front, or “two-piece” MAV in his article I referenced above. I run a one-piece, like a traditional RACK (Ranger Assault Carrying Kit). It’s a big, bulky fucker, but I’ve never seemed to have the problem with it that a lot of guys (including Max and JC) seem to have.
The generally stated argument against the chest-rig for dismounted operations is that it keeps you from getting your dick in the dirt deep enough when you’re under fire. Perhaps it’s all differences in experience (probably), but I’ve never personally had that problem. For one thing, even at 6′ tall and 210lbs (weighed myself tonight, actually..209.8 pounds.), I’m lean enough that I can get down behind my rifle, in a magazine monopod, and engage targets.
Now, the chances I’m actually going to need to get that low in most fights is pretty slim. In the vast majority of fights we were in, we had plenty of available cover to get behind, from micro-terrain like small gullies just big enough to mask your body, to piled up stones and boulders. I don’t generally make it a habit of dropping and staying in positions in the wide open, flat areas, whether the middle of the street, or an open meadow. When I’ve been forced to, I’ve been more concerned with shooting at the bastards (from the magazine monopod prone, admittedly), than I was in laying there, waiting to get shot. That’s just my experiences though. I know a lot of guys with almost identical backgrounds to me who hate chest rigs.
The other common complaint about chest rigs is the stress they place on your lower back from carrying all that weight on your chest. Again, unless you’re patrolling around without a ruck on, it’s actually not the case. There’s a DoD study floating around (I used to have a copy, but don’t know who I loaned it to) that talks about the medical and physiological impacts of military load-bearing equipment. Among the wealth of other interesting topics it discusses, it actually investigates the benefits of a load on the front of your body to counter the musculoskeletal impacts of humping a ruck around.
In a traditional, dismounted infantry patrolling environment, while carrying a ruck, a chest-rig is actually MORE beneficial to spine health and fatigue prevention than any other LBE system. The preference or impression otherwise is predicated solely on individual preference and comfort—generally based on personal experience. If you’re more used to wearing a battle belt or LC-2/ALICE system, it will FEEL better to you than a chest-rig system.
Of course, for the duration of a fight, when you’ve dropped your ruck (hopefully), there’s certainly going to be an impact on your lumbar spine supporting muscles trying to support that load. Considering however, that you’ll spend more of your time patrolling just walking than you will dumping your ruck and fighting (unless you really suck at patrolling), it’s really a non-issue, in my experience.
In addition to the eight magazines on my chest-rig, I carry three more on my belt. These are carried in HSGI Kangaroo-type “Taco Pouches,” with Glock 17 magazines piggybacked. For quite some time, I was running these on a war belt, but what I consistently found was that they interfered with my ability to use the hip-belt on my rucks. I could just lengthen the suspenders and let the war-belt drop lower, but I’ve never liked that method, for various reasons (mostly personal preference, based on my experiences), despite it being a classic favorite in both LRSU and SF.
As a young hooah, coming up in the Ranger Regiment, I watched (and emulated) my team leaders and squad leaders wearing their ALICE gear like chest-rigs. We wore them up really high, around our chests, over the top of our old RBA (Ranger Body Armor—the precursor to the IOTV…and a markedly better design, I’ve always felt). Whether patrolling under rucks, or kicking in doors; from fast-roping out of CH47s, to performing night mass-tac airborne operations, the system just worked really well for us. (Regular reader and commentator Attack Company 1/75 might have some feedback on this. Ranger K, do your memories mesh with this, or do you remember something different?) Then of course, in the later part of the mid-1990s, the Regiment started switching over the RACK, which was a Godsend, for the simplicity and comfort it provided versus the Erkel look with the ALICE system.
When I got to SF, I tried the low-slung thing on my LBE a few times and—frankly–hated it. It felt awkward to me, and I always felt like I had to fish for magazines during reloads. I went to carrying a RACK system, until we started mounting mag pouches directly on our body armor.
A second reason I don’t use the low-slung LBE method is because of my sidearm. As Max correctly points out, in numerous articles, the chances of needing to use your pistol in a light-infantry patrolling environment are pretty slim. The reality is, a sidearm, in this context, is largely a comfort item. Nevertheless, I don’t know very many guys, regardless of their experience level, who—when given the opportunity—don’t carry a sidearm. The Team Sergeant, who helped teach the WV class last summer, actually carried TWO sidearms (both CZ75s). One was on his LBE, and one was on the aviator’s vest he wore under his LBE (and before you start decrying THAT as ridiculous, keep in mind, this was a guy who was running real-world, no-shit operations in EAST Germany, through the 70s and 80s…unless you can cite better credentials than that, well….you’re full of shit.).
I carry a pistol, and will continue to. I’ve carried my pistols in drop-leg holsters as long as I’ve been allowed to carry a pistol with LBE (which is a relatively long time—over 15 years now), and have never experienced any of the problems with them that I read about guys having. I don’t notice it when I’m humping a ruck (and the pistol actually DOES get carried even when backpacking!). It doesn’t flop around on my leg, because I’m not trying to impersonate Angelina-fucking-Jolie in Tomb Raider. Here’s the deal with pistols as sidearms, in my book. Yes, the chances are, I’m never going to need it in the context of light-infantry patrolling operations. If I do need it though? I’m probably going to need it, RIGHT FUCKING NOW!!!! I don’t want to be trying to figure out where it’s at on my low-slung, flopping around war-belt, and I sure as fuck don’t want to dick around with a bunch of flaps and other retention devices to get the cocksucker out, when I need to shoot some fat fucker who’s huffing and puffing towards me with the bayonet on the end of his SKS.
I run a drop-leg Safariland, with all of the retention devices removed except the thumb break. I’ve never seen one fail, and I’ve had guys literally pick me up by the pistol, trying to get it out when I demonstrate how well the retention device actually works (Hell, during EPW search blocks during classes, I’ve had guys who couldn’t figure out how to work the fucking thumb lever until I showed them!).
All of this together adds up to meaning I needed a different way to carry the magazines on my belt….so I did the unthinkable. Having seen Costa’s drop-leg magazine panel posted on his FB page, I fabricated one for myself out of an old Blackhawk leg panel I had laying around in one of my boxes of discarded gear. Like my pistol, I don’t wear it hanging down around my knees. It’s up high, so the magazines just clear my rucksack hip belt, allowing me to perform speed reloads out of it, even if I haven’t been able to dump my ruck (such as the first reload of a fight, or during a break-contact drill).
Oh, I know….fucking heresy, right? Here’s the rub though…I’ve done a couple of lengthy ruck movements with this set-up now (because you know…we actually TEST our equipment…), and had exactly ZERO problems with it. It doesn’t cause any undue wear on my leg stamina, no raw spots, and it’s hell for convenient. Honestly, despite my own strongly-held reservations surrounding the idea, it’s actually turned out to be handier than a glove.
In addition to firearms, I keep a fixed-blade knife on my belt. While I have a really awesome, custom fixed-blade knife coming, I’m currently just running an old Camillus version of the Kabar that I don’t remember how long I’ve had. (The new knife should be here relatively soon, right? The maker is a reader…hopefully it’ll be here soon.) That Kabar has been used to cut aiming stakes, brush for fires, and parachute cord. While my Kabar never has, the Kabar design has also been used by an awful lot of awfully hard motherfuckers to defend their lives in some awful tight situations. I have every confidence it will do the same for me, should the need arise.
Because of my “point-centric” philosophy of knife combatives, a dagger would seem to make a lot of sense. After all, it’s DESIGNED for stabbing. Here’s the catch though. I don’t make a fetish out of my weapons. They’re tools. I’m far more likely to use my knife for cutting things than I am to use it for stabbing people, so the Kabar is a better choice (that’s actually why I moved away from using a push-dagger for me EDC knife. While I have a couple pocket knives and a–finally!–multiplier, on my EDC, I’m still more likely to need to use the larger fixed blade knife for cutting things than I am to stab someone with it).
Medical aid, in the context of infantry patrolling, needs to focus on the Care-Under-Fire, and the Tactical Field Care phases of TC3. Doctrinally of course, TC3 calls for you to provide self-aid whenever possible and necessary. In our context of extremely small units, defending against probably larger elements, you’d better count on providing self-aid for 99% of your injuries (yet, another reason to WEAR YOUR FUCKING ARMOR!!!). For me, that means I’ve got a CAT-T tourniquet on my plate carrier, and another 100mph taped to the stock of my rifle. In addition, I carry two BOKs. One is on my RACK, in a double-stack magazine pouch. The other is wrapped in plastic, and tucked into a cargo pocket on my trousers. While there is a chance I could catch a round in the hips that a tourniquet isn’t going to help, or to the torso somewhere my plates don’t cover, the reality is, some days you get the bull, and some days, the bull gets you. I can only hope that, if I don’t take a hit to an extremity that a CAT-T will deal with for the immediate short-term, that the shot elsewhere either kills me quickly, or doesn’t kill me before I can pack the wound and get pressure on it, or before a buddy can help me out.
Of course, one of the biggest whining complaints we get (I’ve seen it on Max’s site as well) when we try and discuss TC3 is the lack of follow-on care. Here’s the catch, if you actually do your homework, like reading Keeley’s War Before Civilization, you’d realize that, even in primitive cultures—outside of 19th century battlefield medicine that wanted to bleed and amputate at any opportunity—if you didn’t die from a wound on the battlefield, there is a pretty good chance you’ll survive. (Actually, don’t worry about reading the book if you don’t want to. I’ve got a lengthy series coming up that will be a book report/study of the relevant parts to our concerns. Nevertheless, I DO recommend reading it. In it’s own right, it’s a pretty fascinating fucking book!)
In my ruck, I carry a complete third BOK, as well as a couple bags of IV fluids (currently normal saline. In actual patrolling, I’d switch to Lactated Ringer’s, since I can’t get Hextend).
Observation, in the context of light-infantry patrolling, covers two basic concepts, both of which involve seeing the enemy before he sees you. One is during daylight, the other in low-light.
To most people, the use of binoculars is self-evident, from childhood. They help you see shit that’s far away, right? Well, yes, but they do so much more. At closer distances (I’ve used binos inside of 50 meters actually), they help you see DETAILS much better. In brush, or even in the sagebrush we’ve got out here, they can actually help you see enough detail to tell the difference between the bush/tree foliage, and the camouflaged dude hiding in the middle of that foliage.
This doesn’t require some super-ultra-powered 45x Nautical Binoculars. Even an inexpensive pair of 7-8x birdwatching glasses will help (although, as in all things, you generally get what you pay for). I’ve used a pair of compact 10x Bushnells for years, and they’ve always done the work I needed them to do.
Spotting scopes work for the same thing, as well as being far more useful for studying people and targets at longer ranges. My spotting scope stays in my ruck, unless I need it. It’s a 42x Nikon that I bought used a couple years ago. Literally, nothing fancy about it. The tripod for it I bought used at a yard sale for $5.00.
A lot of people in the world are scared shitless of night-vision technology. Here’s the catch though…It’s easier to hide from passive night-vision like PVS7s and PVS14s than it is to hide from the naked eye during daylight. The trick is simply to remember that you ARE trying to hide, and the darkness does not hide you all by its lonesome. Nevertheless, simply because most people are so ignorant of NODs, I think they’re a pretty fucking useful tool, once you’ve learned to function at night without them. On the night terrain run that Tex wrote about the recent Arizona class, I actually loaned my PVS14s out to students, rather than wearing them myself. I still managed to outrun and elude the group during the run.
That having been said, NOT having and using NODs when appropriate, out of some ignorant idea that “I’m so fucking bad ass in the woods, I don’t need NODs!” is about as stupid as you can get. I use my NODs, when patrolling, when I’m not moving, because they do allow me to see BETTER. When I’m moving, I rely on my other senses, so I have some degree of peripheral vision that keeps me from running into shit like trees and catching branches in the throat (on the other hand, I will point out that, during the aforementioned terrain run, I did walk chest first into a four-strand barbed wire fence. I actually saw it, even in the dark, with no NODs, but misjudged how far away it was. Ain’t nobody perfect).
My -14s ride in a Blade-Tech hard case, nestled inside one of the large, general-purpose utility pouches that ride on my chest harness. Along with a head lamp (visible white light and red lens), and a handful of chemlights.
I don’t run handheld thermals, because—frankly–I can’t afford them. While they offer the same advantages (and a couple others, obviously) that NODs do (most people are either unaware of the threat, or don’t know how to hide from them), hand-held thermals are not particularly hard to hide from—in most contexts—either. As I’ve said repeatedly, I’m not discussing that on an internet blog, but it is something we discuss in classes, and when a student conveniently brings one to a class, we even demonstrate it. While I’d not be heartbroken to have a set of the FLIR handheld thermals, the biggest advantage they would offer me is the training value in teaching people to hide from during infiltrations.
I’ve belabored my hatred of GPS previously on this blog, numerous times. So, I carry a compass and topo maps. I use a standard, tritium illuminated USGI compass, carried in a grenade pouch-turned-utility pouch, on my chest rig. While it seldom comes out (I’m not sure I’ve even worn it during the last several patrolling classes I’ve taught), I normally keep a slim, Silva-brand orienteering compass on a lanyard around my neck, under my shirt and plate carrier, in case I ever have to dump my chest rig in an E&E situation.
While a lot of guys really prefer civilian orienteering compasses, I still love the GI model, despite the additional weight.
Maps get acetated, folded, and either shoved in a cargo pocket, or tucked into the kangaroo pouch on my plate carrier, behind my chest-rig. I also have a set of Ranger beads for pace counts, attached to my plate carrier.
Extreme Weather Conditions
I don’t carry a lot of gear for this on my fighting load. Most of it is in my ruck. I do keep a couple of Zippo lighters in my pockets, and have hurricane lifeboat matches, in a match safe, in my fighting load.
In my environment, cold-weather and wet-cold weather is far more of a concern, even in summer, than extreme heat (although we did see a lot of triple digits last summer…). Nevertheless, the 100oz Camelback bladder on the back of my plate carrier gives me enough to survive hot weather in the short term.
For food, I keep a half dozen protein bars in one of the general purpose pouches, plus tea bags and a cone of pure cane sugar (in the case I have to live out of my RACK, I’m far more concerned about quick, pure energy than I am about staying true to a Paleo diet). I also keep a half-dozen wire snares, although to be honest, the chances of actually using them—let alone my ass actually catching anything—are pretty slim.
For water, as I mentioned above, I keep a 100oz Camelback on my plate carrier. I couldn’t do this when I ran an ALICE pack, because the pack wouldn’t sit well on the bulge formed by the bladder and its pouch. With the Eberlestock and other internal frame rucks though, since the hip belt carries the weight, and the pack frame actually sits a considerable distance from my body, there’s ample room. I also keep the Potable Aqua drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles on my RACK (and truthfully? Pre-sweetened Kool-Aid packets as well. I fucking hate drinking tepid water).
I don’t do any clothing or shelter on my fighting load. Yes, I could add a buttpack or something and carry a woobie and/or poncho, but honestly? That’s what my fucking rucksack is for. If I need to move so fast that I can’t carry a ruck, then I need to move too fast to be stopping and building hooches and sleeping. The other advantage of my system is that even in cold weather, I can get away with less snivel gear, because the load-bearing equipment and body armor do a pretty good job of trapping body heat. On the other hand, obviously, in hot environments, that can be a detriment. Fortunately, even when I wore this shit last summer in triple digits, by staying in the shade, and staying hydrated (and trying to restrict serious movement to hours of darkness), I managed to work it without getting too dangerously miserable. Even in WV during the patrolling class there, not only did I manage to function with this basic gear set-up (actually, I think I was wearing more and heavier gear), I still managed to function, and something that people don’t realize, as cadre, we weren’t just humping a ruck with the students, we were moving back-and-forth through the formation, offering advice and tips, and checking on students (although, I’m pretty sure I whined like a bitch more than a few times about how fucking hot it was there!).
How heavy is all that shit?
In the aforementioned DoD study on the medical and physiological implications of load-bearing, the conclusion is reached that a fighting load should be no more than 1/3 of your total body weight, and the sustainment load total (with fighting load and ruck), should be no more than 45% of your body weight. That’s the cut-off point at which the weight genuinely begins to impact on the individual’s ability to function in a tactical field environment. While every infantryman in history can attest to having carried loads—in training and/or combat—heavier than that (sometimes MUCH heavier than that—the heaviest ruck I ever carried was 125 lbs, at a bodyweight of 215 lbs, and that was just my ruck, not my fighting load), that 1/3 and 45% cut-offs are the ideal we should strive to beat.
So, let’s see where my “way too heavy,” and “way too big” load falls…
Today, while weighing all this gear, I weighed myself first. In my skivvies, I weigh just under 210 lbs. With my jeans, shirt, and Keens on, my total body weight was 212.9 lbs.
Glock 17, loaded: 31.93 oz
Glock 17 magazine, loaded: 9.89 oz (x3= 30 oz)
Streamlight TLR-3: 2.32 oz
Safariland Drop-Leg: < 1 pound (shipping weight is one pound, including packaging)
Drop Leg Panel with HSGI pouches: < 1 pound (my scale wouldn’t register the weight, but it weighs about the same as my holster)
PMAG loaded with 30 rounds: 18 oz (x3= 54 oz….so just under 3.5 lbs)
Sub-Total thus far: < 9.2 lbs (147.92 oz divided by 16 oz per pound)
My plate carrier, with TAP Gamma III+ plates, a CAT-T holder, and assorted markers and paint pens (used for target marking during classes), according to our bathroom scale, weighs exactly 13 pounds.
My RACK, loaded with 8 loaded PMAGs (total weight nine pounds), a PVS-14 (12.4 oz) in a Blade-Tech hard case (can’t find a weight for it, and I’m done looking), my BOK, and assorted other goodies in pockets, including Ranger Handbook, notepad and pens, spare batteries, and more, weighs in at 13.9 pounds.
My rifle, with a Burris MTAC 1.5-6x optic, OTAL IR laser, and Streamlight TLR-1, weighs 11 pounds loaded.
So, my total fighting load weight is 36.9 lbs…which is CONSIDERABLY less than 1/3 of my body weight (at 210lbs, 1/3 of my body weight would be 70 pounds, for the mathematicall challenged).
My rucksack, loaded with a bevy of SMOLES-compliant gear, a 100 oz Camelback (that can be attached to my plate carrier when needed), and two 1-liter Nalgene bottles (all water containers were full when I weighed the load), but missing the 12 loaded PMAGs I would normally carry (total weight 13.5 pounds) and food, which would vary according to duration of the planned operation, weighs in at 54lbs total, according to the scale. That, combined with the 36.9 pounds of my fighting load brings my load to a sustainment load total of 90.9 pounds, although if we add the weight of the missing 12 magazines, the TOTAL load just breaks the 100 pound mark at 104.4 pounds. That total is 49% of my total bodyweight, which just breaks the doctrinal ideal by a couple of percentage points. If I dropped the loaded magazines, the total weight would drop well below the 45% ideal sustainment load total, but the cost is worth the extra ammunition, to me.
The best method to set up a fighting load and sustainment load is an extremely personal matter, within the realm of what will work depending on your personal physiognomy and the particulars of how you handle your weapons and mission. For me, in a gunfight, a couple things are paramount:
1) The ability to effectively engage hostiles at distances from collision range to 500+ meters, with rifle fire.
2) The ability to conduct speed reloads, when necessary, to protect my Ranger Buddy (if I protect my Ranger Buddy, and he protects me, we both survive. That’s a win!)
3) The ability to use camouflage, concealment, and cover, to protect myself from getting killed. As a last resort, I want body armor on, to help increase my odds of surviving, if the other protection methods fail me.
For light-infantry type patrolling operations, surviving gunfights is my number one priority. After that, my priorities are being able to carry all my other survival gear, while still accomplishing the above three tasks.
The load-bearing equipment load-out I use allows me to do all of those things.
With that in mind, whatever you learn from reading one more take on the same thing, learn this…the only way to determine what method of load-bearing is going to work for you is by trying shit out and figuring it out.