You Want Me To Carry What!!!??? Part Two
Growing up in the Ranger Regiment, it always seemed like Cherries carried everything. As a SAW gunner, between 1200 rounds for the gun, and the rest of my basic load, plus an M-3 Combat Lifesaver’s bag, plus all the munitions and shit we had to pack, it always seemed like we actually carried more shit than would fit on our LBE and in our ruck. The fact is, a lot of the time…that was true.
I have pictures stored away, of doing patrols, with so much shit hanging off me and my ruck that you’d be lucky to figure out where the Ranger stopped and the ruck ended. It got that special sort of retarded that is lovingly referred to as “Army Stupid.”
Then I got to SF. Now, instead of a platoon worth of guys humping a platoon worth of gear, we had a dozen guys carrying a company worth of gear. The 18D’s (SF Medics) would sub-load medical gear into packets that got cross-loaded between team members. The Charlies (Engineers) would do the same with demo gear. The Echoes (Commo) would pass out batteries for the different commo shit they carried. We Bravos, being the heart, soul, and backbone of the team, of course carried all the weight…(except mortar rounds. I always shared out mortar rounds when I had them…and belt-fed ammunition….but other than that heavy shit…being the heart, soul, and backbone of the ODA…everyone supports the Bravo….I carried all the heavy shit…). Before I even went to Selection, I’d read enough stories about SF, from SOG guys in Vietnam, all the way to Desert Storm, with epic tales of ridiculous loads being carried, and I had my experiences in the Ranger Regiment to give me an idea of what I was getting into. Stories of guys with 120 pound rucksacks, PLUS their fighting load, then carrying two five-gallon Jerry cans of water on top of it into the desert. Recon teams running with 20+ magazines, a couple claymores, and then smoke and frag grenades on top it…before they even loaded dry socks and rations into their rucks. The tales are epic, and to an outside sound either superhuman or simply fictional.
They’re not. Ultimately, that is the difference between the SF, LRS, and other UW worlds and anyone else doing a conventional mission (and make no mistake, the Ranger Regiment IS a conventional force unit…or was anyway, from the rebirth of 1/75 in 1974 until at least the late 1990s, with the change of mission-focus. Whether they are conventional light-infantry now or not is arguable, based on mission parameters). When you’re asshole deep in alligators, and your only hope of effective escape is self-extraction, you’d damned well better be able to carry everything your team needs, or you’re going to end up in a really bad spot.
Ultimately, THIS is the difference between the paradigm of conventional force traditional light-infantry and the SF/LRS/UW paradigm, and why the UW paradigm is so important from the prepper standpoint: whether you’re at the 82nd Airborne Division, the 101st Airborne (AASLT), the 25th Infantry Division, or the 1st MarDiv, while you might be on your own for a little while, you KNOW that at some point, SOMEONE is trying to come get your ass and bring you more shit…and they’re not so far away that it is ever going to seem impossible.
Drop an SF ODA 500 miles behind the Iron Curtain, or a SOG team on the wrong side of the Cambodian border, or dump a few ODAs into Afghanistan before any other US forces are even spooled up to go in-country…if shit gets hinky, they KNOW they are on their own, and for the foreseeable future, anything they need, they’d better be carrying with them, have in a pre-established cache location, or be able to beg, steal, or borrow from the local population.
We’re all light-infantry when we’re on the two-way range. Until we get to the range though, there are entirely different mindsets at work.
A lot of people have emailed me privately asking if Mr. FAG’s description of what he carries is legit or not. I can assure you, it is. In fact, as I was writing this article, he emailed me a series of photographs showing his load-out (not including his ruck), to illustrate how he carries it. You’ll find those appended to the end of the article.
In the meantime, to illustrate why I carry my gear the way I do, and to help illuminate why my shit looks so bulky, I’ve done an item-by-item photo inventory of what is on my person as 1st line gear, what’s on my 2nd line fighting load/RACK, and what is in my rucksack, as my BASIC packing list inventory. While this load may be added to, depending on operational parameters and environmental conditions, in my area, this is my MINIMAL packing list for foot-mobile, light-infantry type security patrolling operations.
1st Line Survival Gear
1) Item number one is my Banshee Plate Carrier from Shellback Tactical. This is a relatively minimalist plate carrier design. It’s got Gamma III+ plates front and back. The only permanent attachment to it is the CAT-T tourniquet holder mounted high on the front, where it sits above my RACK, for easy access with either hand. No matter what else you do with your medical gear/BOK, a minimum of one tourniquet needs to be somewhere that you can get at it with either hand, in a hurry. It should also be readily visible, and the location should be known to everyone on the team, so they can put it on you if needed.
The paint pens and Sharpie marker are tucked into the PALS webbing solely for convenience when teaching. They make it easier to mark targets, and to illustrate concepts when I’m doodling something on the targets, to make a point.
2) Camillus Cutlery version of the Kabar. This is actually out of an Army supply room, the location of which shall remain nameless, lest they decide and try to hit me with a Statement-of-Charges for the cost of it, even at this late date. The kabar, as I’ve mentioned before, is big enough to get most of the shit I need a knife to do done, while also being small enough to not be a pain-in-my-ass. If it had to, I suppose I could stab a fucker in the throat with it. It’s certainly been used for that before (not MY kabar…the design in general). Most importantly, they’re cheap enough that I’m not freaked out by the possibility of breaking it (and yes, I’ve broken kabars before. Generally by greatly exceeding their intended purposes).
3) Safariland drop-leg with a Glock 17. Notice that I’ve greatly modified the drop leg strap, and removed the upper leg strap? If you show up to a class, with the fucking holster dangling around your knee, I’ll let you run it for a little while, to experience the misery, before I show you how to mod it, but I’ll also name you Angelina for the duration of the class.
My leg strap is snug enough to keep the fucking gun from flopping around like a fat chick’s lips at a hot dog stand, but not so tight that it interferes with the circulation in my leg, or my ability to tense the thigh muscles for sprinting and climbing or humping my ruck.
4) DIY leg panel. I’ll admit, I saw Chris Costa running his HSGI version of this and thought, “that’s fucking retarded.” Then, as I fought with the hip belt on my ruck getting in the way of my belt-mounted mag pouches, I started rethinking it. There comes a time, in every man’s life, I believe, when he has to admit, someone came up with something that he can only wish he’d come up with. This is the slickest set-up I’ve found. Mine required a lot of modification, since I used an old Blackhawk drop-leg subload panel. I cut it in half, taped up the bottom seam with 100MPH tape, and shortened the drop leg strap. It fits x3 HSGI kangaroo pouches perfectly. This gives me three rifle mags for speed reloads, during break contacts or the initial mag change of the fight, without having to fuck with flaps, or reach up on my chest. It’s retarded simple and superhero fast.
What’s critical to understand is…I don’t do tactical reloads or reloads with retention from here. These are just my “Oh shit!” emergency reload pouches, when speed of getting my gun back into the fight is the single most important attribute. Similarly, by reserving the use of these magazines, and by making them my first priority for refill during consolidation, if I have to dump my RACK, I’ve got rifle ammunition, even in worst-case scenarios.
Like the holster, the leg strap is set up to not interfere with movement and range-of-motion of the leg.
5) Zippo lighter. If you’re not familiar with Zippo, you need to crawl back into your cave and keep beating your obsidian chunks together. Zippos are the bee’s knees of lighters. Mine are all wrapped with a dozen or so ½ inch wide chunks of bicycle innertube, for use as tinder when starting fires. It burns hot and fierce, even when soaking wet (it’s rubber, after all), and lasts long enough to start even wet kindling more often than not.
6) A WindStorm signal whistle and USGI signal mirror.
7) Streamlight ProTac2L multi-function flashlight. This is my EDC light as well. For $60 at Cabela’s, and considering the abuse I’ve put mine through…you really can’t ask for more in a flashlight.
8) Benchmade folder. Benchmade is the only company whose folders I will carry. They’re expensive, but they’re worth it….and they have a no-shit, no-questions asked 100% lifetime guarantee. Literally.
9) Leatherman WAVE. While I despise the idea of the Leatherman (if I want pliers, I want fucking pliers. If I want a screwdriver, I want a fucking screwdriver. If I want a knife, I want a fucking knife…), I have to admit, it’s a nice change carrying one, versus always asking if someone has a multiplier on them….
10) Wiley X Safety Glasses. While there are definitely times to NOT wear safety glasses, for camouflage and concealment reasons, for the most part, I live in—and preach living in—my safety glasses. They don’t have to be Wiley X or Oakley. They can be the $5.00 ones from the Stop-and-Rob…just have safety glasses. And in bright, sunny weather, have shaded lenses. Although, I hasten to point out…if the cost difference between a $5.00 pair of safety glasses from the 7/11 and the $100 I pay for my Wiley X is more important to you than your eye safety….Well, you’re probably dumber than I think you are (although, if it’s a legit finances thing, I can understand that…)
2nd Line Fighting Load
1) Old-as-fuck three-color desert boonie hat (seriously, I think I kept if from my original CIF issue at the Ranger Regiment when I was 18…it’s been around for a really, really long time…), with a chunk of netting Shoe-Gooed to it, and some burlap garnish added. Notice that there’s very, VERY little garnish added. The problem with most people’s idea of Ghillie suits and garnish like this, is the tendency to add too much. It’s GARNISH!!! Most of your camouflage should be local vegetation.
Putting too much garnish on your shit is—to me—the camouflage equivalent of putting A-1 Steak Sauce on a perfectly seasoned and cooked, medium-rare steak (guess what I cooked for supper tonight?)…it’s as wrong as two boys fucking.
2) The Tactical Tailor MAV/RACK. This one has an extra medium-sized pouch on it that I picked up somewhere, that I put emergency food/snacks in. Otherwise, it came with all the pouches you see, as well as a couple of extra grenade pouches that I don’t use.
3) Ranger Handbook and x2 Rite-in-the-Rain memo book notebooks for planning/commo/note-taking. Wrapped in a Zip-Lock bag.
4) x8 PMAG rifle magazines loaded with 30 rounds each. I’ve got a couple of Lancers running around, at least one steel E-Lander Mag, and probably a half-dozen old aluminum GI mags still hanging around. For my money, PMAG just can’t be beat yet. With metal mags, even the steel feed lips can get deformed and you might not notice it until you’re dealing with malfunction after malfunction. With the PMAG, for the most part, a deformation of the feed lips is easy to notice—the fucking feed lip is broken.
5) AN/PVS-14 Night Observation Device (NOD). Mine is housed in the Blade-Tech hard case. In case any representatives of Blade-Tech happen to read this: I LOVE the level of protection this offers a $4000+ piece of relatively fragile electronic equipment. I HATE how much of a motherfucker it is to get the NOD out. I always feel like I’m going to break the damn NOD getting it out of the case.
On the plus side of the ledger though…hey, it carries two spare AA batteries! (The NOD runs on a single AA battery)
6) Fleece beanie cap for cold weather (not pictured is my polypro neck gaiter).
7) Petzl brand LED headlamp. I don’t remember who, but a student at a class loaned this one to me when we discovered my batteries were dead….and then just let me keep the headlamp. I’m glad to, because I LOVE this particular headlamp, with the flip up red filter.
There are times when you just need a headlamp. A handheld flashlight won’t cut it, and NODs are a pain-in-the-ass (like map reading at night….Yeah, I can do it too, it still sucks. I’d rather throw a poncho and woobie over my head and use a fucking white light. Same-same when doing the medic/TC3 thing…and then you can’t use a red lens flashlight–bonus points for anyone who figures out why medics don’t carry red lens flashlights…..not a lot of bonus points mind you, because it’s stupid simple to figure out….).
8) USGI tritium-illuminated lensatic compass. Best device I’ve yet found for night land-nav…and it can double as a close-range signaling device. Just recognize, to someone wearing NODs, that fucking tritium looks like a goddamned spotlight.
Ideally, this would be attached to my person, not my LBE. The fact is though, accessing it from a pocket, while geared up, is a pain in the ass, and I have other options (like another compass on my watch) for land nav emergencies in E&E situations…
9) Ten feet of flat-rolled 100MPH tape. Infantrymen are like the rednecks of the military. I use 100MPH tape like a redneck uses duct tape. Shit’ll fix anything (Not shown: the 25 feet of 550 cord that is stowed with the 100MPH tape).
10) Protein bars. The ones pictured provide like 350 calories per. I run protein bars instead of more balanced bars, because a) I’m into the whole high-protein Paleo diet thing, and b) the last thing I want to do if I’m down to eating bars out of my LBE is lose any more muscle tissue than I have to…
11) USGI signal mirror (ignore the apparently random order of the numbering. My beloved bride did the photoshop work. I’m too fucking stupid to figure it out).
12) Camouflage face paint.
13) Chicken salad on crackers snack pack. I’m actually going to add like six of the cans of chicken salad to my LBE loadout. They taste good, are relatively Paleo Diet friendly, and are light weight. They don’t pack the caloric punch that the protein bars do, but they’re fuck all easier to eat, and taste light-years better. Morale is important too.
14) Chemlights x3. Red, white, and blue. Why? ‘MURICA! That’s why. No, seriously? Red is for marking myself or another casualty, for evac purposes. It would suck to get back home and realize you left your buddy out on the objective, because he was wounded, unconscious, and somebody forgot about him. The other two are for signaling, and/or last-ditch illumination to see what the fuck you’re doing.
The reality is, these days, most of my chemlights end up getting used by TMO as night lights. The kid LOVES her some chemlights. I figure it means she’ll either grow up and be a bad-ass Viking shield-maiden type female….or spend her college years hanging out at raves….
15) Yaesu FT-60 two-way radio. One of the local HAM geeks did some sort of work on these. I can get FRS/GMRS freqs, MURS, and still pick up SW/HF. Additionally, it has the first 150 out of 1000 channels loaded with local and regional emergency services freqs, ranging from the Sheriff’s Office to DHS tactical channels…it’s handy. HH6 has it’s ugly twin sister on her RACK.
16) Bushnell 10X compact field glasses. I love me some Steiners, but the last pair of Steiners I owned got dropped off a 150 foot cliff in Utah. I didn’t even bother climbing down to look for them. So…If you happen to be wandering around northern Utah and find a pair of Steiner 10X compacts….you know where to send them to…In the meantime, I haven’t been able to convince HH6 that the Bushnells are inadequate for the purpose enough that I just HAVE to have a new pair of Steiners…
17) USGI roll of trip wire (Not shown: Assorted related goodies)
18) Water purification drops. These are the “stabilized oxygen” drops I’ve mentioned in previous articles in the past. There’s some argument over their effectiveness. All I know is this: I’ve used them for well over 15 years. I’ve used them on water with all kinds of creepy-crawlies in it. I’ve used it in water out of cow troughs. I’ve never gotten sick from drinking water I’ve used it on, while I’ve watched others drink the same water, using other methods of purification and filtration get kicked in the ass by the revenge of the Aztec king….They work for me.
19) stainless steel cable locking snares, x3. Honestly? These are mostly a feel-good item for me. I can’t imagine, if I’m down to living out of my RACK, that I’m going to have time to set a trap line. If I did, I know I’m a shitty enough trapper that three snares probably ain’t going to keep me alive. But honestly? I just feel better—more prepared—by having them. They don’t weigh shit, and they roll up nice and compact and out of the way. Fuck it.
20) It’s hard to tell in the photo, but that is a Zip-lock bag with a bunch of AA, CR123, and CR2 batteries stowed in it. My OTAL IR laser runs on AA. My PVS-14 runs on AA. My Streamlight TLR-1HL on my rifle runs on CR123s. My Streamlight TLR-3 on my G17 runs on CR2s. It’s a pain-in-the-ass, but it seems to be working okay for now…and we’ve got a metric shit-ton of each cached away at home and assorted other places. I don’t imagine I’ll run out of batteries for at least an hour after I can’t get them at the Stop-and-Rob anymore.
21) Work gloves. I’ve gotten tired of dropping $30 on Nomex aviator’s gloves every month, as they get torn to shit. Now, I’m running either Mechanix gloves, or whatever other, lightweight, leather-palmed, high-dexterity gloves I can find for less than $15 a pop.
22) BOK/IFAK. Wrapped in Zip-Lock bag. I’m still—after twenty-fucking-years—looking for the perfect BOK pouch. I was using a double-stack rifle magazine pouch for a really long time. Now, I just stuff the BOK in the top of one of my large GP pouches, until I find what I’m looking for. While I’m a pretty good Combat Life-Saver and medic, my BOK is for ME. As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, it doesn’t get used on anyone else…even my wife or kids. They have BOKs. If I die, because I used my BOK gear on them, I can’t do much good taking care of them, now, can I?
3rd Line Sustainment Load
I get asked a lot, why I chose the biggest fucking rucksack I could find. “But John, doesn’t that lead to you over-packing? Don’t you carry more gear than you need?”
Honestly? It’s a legit question. I hear the same thing from backpacker friends when they see the big-ass packs I carry for that too. I’ve seen guys do that too, both in the military, and in the backpacking world (Hell, I’VE done it!). In the end though, it comes down to one of two things:
a) If you’re a section/team/squad leader, it comes down to making sure your guys aren’t doing that. That’s why we do pre-combat inspections, and have a mandated packing list.
b) If you don’t have a section/team/squad leader, or yours is too fucking lazy or stupid to give a shit, it comes down to self-discipline.
The fact is, when I pack all this shit in my ruck, including the items listed below that are not pictured here, I’ve got a metric shit ton of space left in my ruck. Further, if I dropped the sleep system (which I won’t, see the explanation below), all of this shit would fit in an assault pack half as large, and STILL have space left over. That leftover space is critical. You don’t know, until you’re into the planning process, what OTHER equipment you might need to pack. It could range from a medic’s bag, to subloads of demolitions material or radio batteries. The fact is, the items listed here are my MINIMUM packing list, for my general area. Some items could be replaced or removed entirely, if I lived elsewhere. Other items might need to be increased (like water, if I lived in a more arid desert). It’s all…ahem…shall we say….METT-TC dependent?
1) Nikon 45X spotting scope with tripod. This is really a sort of mission-specific item. In our specific area though, with the mountains and timber and desert so closely interspersed, this offers a lot of advantages for E&E patrolling, with my wife and daughter in tow. I can stop and glass an area for a long time before moving into and through that area. If I’m using a spotting scope to do so, I can see into shadows and other positions of cover/concealment a lot better than I can with 10X binoculars. That increases the safety margin for my wife and kid.
In the training context currently, I use it during classes to spot targets and make adjustments to expedite the zero-confirmation/adjustment process during classes. I’ve been doing this long enough, I can usually call out corrections based on what I see in the spotting scope, and get a guy’s POA/POI to coincide faster than walking downrange every time (which is NOT the same thing as saying we don’t ever walk downrange during that process. Seeing is believing is understanding).
2) USGI Poncho liner/”Woobie.” Also affectionately referred to as “The Infantryman’s Best Friend,” “GI Joe’s Security Blanket,” and “The Best Piece of Gear the US Army Ever Issued.” I don’t believe I know an experienced infantryman anywhere, who doesn’t still have at least one of his issue woobies hanging around. My kid LOVES hers, and sleeps with it every night. Hell, I sleep with one every night. My wife uses hers to wrap up in sitting on the couch. The woobie is—generally speaking—my bed and shelter in the field. While weather conditions may require me to use more than just my woobie, given my druthers, it’s my first choice for keeping warm enough to sleep. With dry socks and clothes, and a beanie on my head, wrapping up in just the woobie, or just a woobie and a poncho is more than adequate to keep me survival sleeping warm well into the mid-20s Farenheit (notably different from “comfortable sleeping warm.”)
Mine gets stuffed—inside of a USGI waterproof sack—in the top pocket of my ruck. It’s easy to get in and out, so even if I have to pack up and un-ass a patrol base in a hurry, I don’t have to leave it behind.
3) USGI Therma-Rest brand, self-inflating sleep pad. I’ve used Therma-Rest sleep pads for well over a decade. I’ve also used the old closed-cell foam “iso-mat” sleeping pads. The TR is hands-down better than the iso-mat, and rolls up much tighter, making it easier to pack.
One thing that a lot of people don’t understand about outdoor sleeping: The temperature rating on sleeping bags is determined based on the sleeping bag being on a sleeping pad, inside of a tent. So, consider that when you look longingly at the 20F sleeping bag you’re finger-fucking at Cabela’s next time you’re there. You won’t be conducting patrols and sleeping in a tent. That having been said, just the sleeping pad itself will go a long way towards, a) allowing you to actually get a little sleep, and b) not increasing the arthritis you will confront from humping heavy shit.
I spent my first three years in the Army sleeping on the bare ground. I can still do so if I have to, but I’ll never again do it by choice, Further, in my country, where we can get snow in July and August, it’s stupid to not carry the sleep pad.
4) Gransfor-Bruchs Scandinavian Forest Axe. This is a ridiculously expensive axe. Seriously…$165 for what is basically a high-end Boy Scout Axe. That having been said, it’s worth twice the money, at least. Gransfor-Bruchs axes are forged in Sweden, and the individual smith’s initials are stamped onto the head of the axe. Unless you go the route of a custom blacksmith, these are the best axes money can buy…period.
I was not an axe guy until about fifteen years ago. When I first started spending time in the Rockies, I was introduced to a book called “Bushcraft” by a guy named Mors Kochianksi. He’s a wilderness living instructor out of Canada, specializing in the boreal forest region. All my life, I’d read old time bushcraft books like Horace Kephart’s and Nessmuk’s (George Washington Sears), that extolled the virtues of the axe. It wasn’t until I read Kochianski’s though that the import of what I was reading really sank in. In the kind of country I live in, when it comes to pure survival, the axe is the ultimate survival tool. It’s more important than a knife. It’s damned sure more important than a rifle.
If I lived elsewhere, like the southeastern US, I’d not carry an axe, probably. I’d switch over to a machete, or kukri, or even a big-ass Bolo-type knife like Mr. FAG carries. The reality is though, in this particular environment, I don’t spend a lot of time cutting my way through berry and briar thickets. The most important application for a chopping tool up here is construction of shelters and getting firewood chopped up for staying alive. An axe does that better than any other chopping tool out there.
(I do have to admit though, I also have a really cool fransisca-style hand axe from Allen Foundry, purchased from Ragweed Forge…check out some of their cool Scandi knives too…that I sometimes carry instead of the GB. While I love that little axe, it’s far from ideal. While it will chop, it’s not as handy as the GB, and the head is cast stainless steel, which I hate on both counts. It sure looks bad-ass though!)
5) USGI Three-Bag Sleep System. I’ve heard a lot of guys bitch about these over the years. I don’t know why. I LOVE mine. I run it with just the black intermediate bag and the Gore-Tex bivy, unless I KNOW temperatures are going to drop retarded cold (by which I mean -30F or colder). Anything “warmer” than that, and I know—from experience—that dry clothes, dry socks, and some long johns, with the addition of the woobie and maybe a casualty blanket, will keep me adequately warm. Really, even if it’s retard cold, I can always burrow into a snow cave, or under a snow-covered spruce tree, start a very small fire, or even just light a candle, and stay warm to the point of sweating (the fire thing only works under the spruce tree….in a snow cave, you’ll regret it in a hurry…and I do mean a SMALL fire).
Most other places, especially south of the Mason-Dixon line, I could easily do without the sleeping bag. I’ve slept outside in just a woobie and poncho in December across the South, and been just fine. The fact is though, as I mentioned above…we can—and have—see snow in July and August, as well as the cold-weather conditions that go with it. Dying, because I didn’t want to carry a sleeping bag, just because it was “summer” would be a really stupid way to not survive… Cold weather conditions—with improper or inadequate equipment/preparation will kill you as quickly, or quicker, than enemy rifle fire.
6) Two one-quart Nalgene bottles of water. These are carried in MOLLE pouches on the padded portion of the hip belt of my ruck, tucked tight against the body of the ruck. They’re handy, although not as handy as the Camelback. These typically end up being my cooking water, if I’m afforded the opportunity to brew up some tea (I can’t stand coffee….I know…sacrilege, right?) or soup. Again, looking at environmental specifics, sometimes hot tea or soup….anything hot getting inside your guts…can be the difference between survival and dying in cold-weather environments.
7) Shemagh. Why? Because all the cool kids have shemaghs, right? Actually, you’d be hard-pressed to see me wearing one except in cold-weather, over—or in lieu of—my polypro neck gaiter. The great thing about the shemagh is….they literally have like 500 functional uses, and not all of them are retarded uses…and they keep your neck warm in cold weather….and they look all high-speed “operator,” which is why we really wear them, right? Right?……..right?
8) wool socks. MINIMUM of five pairs (which I think is how many are in my ruck right now). I taught a rifle course in knee deep snow last weekend. I think I changed my socks like four times a day. Fortunately we were inside a very nice house every night, so they had time to dry. Wet feet…especially in cold-weather conditions…will fuck up your internal thermostat AT LEAST as much as a lack of headgear will.
9) Polypro long underwear and clean, dry t-shirts. I keep a minimum of two clean, dry undershirts in my ruck (same thing…dirty, wet underclothes are killers in cold-weather country). I only keep one pair of lightweight polypro long underwear in my ruck. It’s really just for sleeping in. If I KNOW it’s going to be cold, like say, I’m in Montana in January, I’ll add another pair for wear during the day, but trying to hump a ruck, while wearing snivel gear…even in below zero temperatures…is a good way to end up as a heat casualty. You want to feel embarrassed? Be a fucking heat casualty when it’s -10F outside….
10) One pair of clean, dry, utilities. Pictured is a set of my multi-cams. In Arizona, I was rocking three-color deserts. In Mississippi, I’d be pimping some old-school woodland pattern BDUs. In our environment, plain earth tones, or the multi-cam are kind of the shit. Really though, these are for sleeping in. If I have to jump and run in the middle of the day though, interrupting my sleep, I don’t want to do it wearing day-glo fluorescent pink pajamas (before anyone asks…the cool-guy morale patches on the uniform sleeve are: 1) HMFIC—Head Mother Fucker In Charge, 2) “The Chair is Against The Wall,” and 3) “Embrace the Suck.” I can assure you though, I have much more tasteless ones in my collection…The one on the front of my plate carrier, in the first picture, reads “Meat Eating Viking Gun Fighter.” For the record, I don’t think I’ve ever bought a morale patch.)
11) Ranger Hooch Kit. Mine includes x4 12” bungee cords, x6 stainless steel tent pins, a USGI nylon poncho, and a mylar backed, “quilt” style casualty blanket. Normally, the casualty blanket goes down as a ground cloth, but it’s also been used, inside a sleeping bag and/or the woobie, for better body heat retention (someday I will actually get around to doing an article, with photos, on setting up the hooch).
12) 100 oz Camelback bladder. I’ve seen water bladders explode. I’ve seen them burst inside a ruck when somebody dropped a ruck off the back of a five-ton truck. I’ve seen them burst when somebody executed a combat roll over the top of it during IMT.
I’ve never personally had one burst. A big part of that, I attribute to good luck. The other part I attribute to using Camelback bladders, and not whatever knock-off imitation the DoD issues. I love the convenience of them and being able to stay hydrated while moving. I also keep a smaller 70 oz Camelback on my plate carrier normally, but pulled it off a couple weeks ago for something and haven’t put it back on yet. Now, I can’t find the fucking thing, in the 10 different piles of gear laying around our house. As Mr. FAG pointed out…drink the water off your ruck. Leave the water on your 2nd line gear alone. You might need it when your ruck isn’t around.
13) Mountain Safety Research (MSR) XGK multi-fuel stove. This stove is louder than a Thai hooker faking an orgasm. I mean, we’re talking fighter jet punching the after-burners loud. It’s not something you’re going to want to use in a patrol base in thick terrain where you don’t know who’s within ear shot….unless you’re LOOKING for a fight. Sitting on a high, barren ridge, where I can see anyone approaching from a couple hundred meters out though? Or in the snow-insulated confines of a snow-draped spruce tree, it’s handier than a glove for quickly and efficiently brewing hot drinks or soup. I carry one ½ quart bottle of white gas. I choose a multi-fuel stove though, because it will also run off unleaded gasoline, avgas, diesel, or even kerosene (I’ve run the MSR Whisperlight 600 Internationale off all of the above).
14) Cold Steel “Spetznaz” Shovel. I always thought these were pretty gay (I’m deeply prejudiced against pretty much anything labeled “Russian,” which come to think of it, may explain much of my antipathy for the Kalashnikov…Although I do dig the shit out of Sombo/Sambo combatives…and Vodka….I like Vodka too….and hot blondes named shit like Petra….See? I’m not COMPLETELY prejudiced against Mother Russia! I’m kind of prejudiced against Cold Steel products too. I’ve owned a few, and they treated me well, but something about the company just annoys the shit out of me.) A student in a class in Idaho gifted me one at the end of the class (He also gave my wife a RAT-7 knife….I love that guy….you know who you are. Now, email me you fucker). I’ve been in love with this shovel ever since. Sure, for digging catholes—which is really this particular shovel’s most common use—a little garden trowel would be just as effective, and much lighter and more compact. For digging shell scrapes or more advanced fighting positions (fuck that! I joined SF so I wouldn’t have to dig fighting positions like some leg infantry fucker…bwahahahahahahahahahahaha….and I promptly re-learned how to dig them. I KNOW I did more digging in SF than I did in the Ranger Regiment), the e-tool/spade is hell for handier than a garden trowel. It’s also about ten to the hundredth power more convenient than trying to dig with the abortion that is the US Army-issue tri-fold entrenching tool.
So yeah, I love me some Cold Steel “Spetznaz” shovel. Besides….according to Lynn Thompson, I can throw it at the bad guys, and be a real Spetznaz operator! (<–gay)
15) Not pictured: USGI Gen II ECWCS Gore-Tex Hardshell Parka. I’ve got two different soft shell parkas. One is a Coyote Tan one from Condor (which I am loathe to admit, kicks ass), and a Ranger Green one from Propper (it’s brand new. I’ve worn it twice, and neither time was in bad weather. It was chilly, but not cold, and decidedly not snowing or raining). I love the soft shells. I wear them on the range all the time.
The reality though? In extended wet weather, they suck big, fat, juicy, morsels of monkey balls. So, I reverted back to a hard shell, old-school Gore-Tex parka for those conditions. I’ve got both the three-color desert camouflage and the woodland pattern camouflage versions. Which one is in my ruck is entirely dependent on where I’m at, with a strong preference for the woodland pattern one (Seriously….who wants to trust a DESERT camouflage-patterned WET-WEATHER parka? That just doesn’t make sense, now does it?)
16) Not pictured: Food. I’ve got an article, from a reader request, on my thoughts on field rations. In a nutshell, I’m not sure I’d eat MREs anymore, even if it meant starving for two weeks. The last time I tried eating one, as soon as I smelled it, I started puking up breakfast. Besides, the nutritional composition of MREs is retarded. Sure, I’d feed them to my kid if it meant keeping her from starving, but that’d even be a stretch.
17) Not pictured: My MICH helmet, like my boonie hat, has netting tied and Shoe-Gooed to the multi-cam helmet cover, with some burlap garnish attached. It generally stays stowed in or on my ruck, until it’s time to a) put my NODs on, b) do any sort of CQB-type room clearing stuff. Outside of room-clearing, even my clumsy, retarded ass is athletic enough to generally avoid getting knocked the fuck out by running headfirst into shit, and it’s not like the fucking thing will actually stop a 5.56 round…usually. Besides, wearing helmets just sucks.
A Last Minute Appendix
As I was typing this, Mr. FAG (Dude, seriously? Can I PLEASE go back to calling you the Team Sergeant? Team Daddy? ANYTHING other than Mr. FAG? It seems so disrespectful…even though I call myself a FAG in the same vein all the time….pretty please? With sugar….err…honey…on top? Gotta stay Paleo!), emailed me a series of photos of his LBE set-up for your viewing pleasure. He also promised me some more written material in the coming days.
See the photos below. They should be pretty self-explanatory. Before you start looking at them though…a brief anecdote, specifically regarding Mr. FAG’s gear, from my personal experience:
Last summer, during the WV patrolling class, Mr. FAG showed up to volunteer to help out. I, of course, immediately drafted him into a teaching/cadre position (how fucking stupid would I have been not to do so?). During the night patrolling portion of the class, Mr. FAG managed to injure himself. When we got to his position, I volunteered to carry his gear out, because he wasn’t going to be able to (actually, IIRC, I think I volunteered to carry HIM out…he was THAT fucked up…but he wasn’t so fucked up he was going to let me carry him.
While I didn’t get to carry his survival vest, I DID carry his LBE and his ruck. As a point of reference, his LBE weighed more than my LBE, and plate carrier combined. His ruck weighed as much as my ruck, my LBE, and my plate carrier…and I’ve got a solid 60 pounds of size advantage on him…when I say this old fucker (with every ounce of due respect!) is harder than woodpecker lips, I’m not exaggerating, in the slightest. I wish I was 1/8th as hard as Mr. FAG is….