This is the final article in my 3-piece series about my kit. First I showed you my current belt setup, with all the barebones rifleman essentials necessary to get me into the fight. Second, I covered my chest rig, with extra ammunition and tactical tools to get me through the fight. Today, we take a look at my pack, which contains everything necessary to sustain me in the field for up to a week or more.
You may already be speculating on what kind of large rucksack I’ve selected for this purpose. Is it a USMC surplus FILBE main pack? The classic ALICE? A large internal frame pack? Or some other fancy new ruck? My answer will probably surprise you; I use a USMC surplus assault pack.
Left: A simple USMC assault pack. Right: The same pack with my modifications.
I know what you’re thinking. “How on earth can he get by for a week out of such a small pack? Don’t you need a lot more than that?” The answer is no, at least not for my area. If I lived further north, I would need a larger pack to account for warming layers, a better sleeping bag, and more calories worth of food. However, I live in North Carolina, and that means that I can get away with carrying significantly less gear. Additionally, years of going to the field as a Marine taught me what I actually needed to get by and what was a luxury.
My requirements for my pack are that I can use it to survive in the field for at least a week in warm weather (4 days in cold weather), carry additional ammunition and tactical tools to accomplish my mission, and weigh less than 45 pounds dry (i.e. no water) when combined with the rest of my kit. As spoiled, domesticated Americans, we are accustomed to being comfortable. This means that most people tend to overpack when going to the field (or just camping in general). I have discovered that you can save a lot of weight in your pack once you get comfortable being uncomfortable. In reality, there is a very short list of things that we actually need to get by, and we can break it down into 3 categories: Water, food, and shelter.
Water is the most obvious; without it we will die in just a few days. However, water is heavy, and it is not realistic to carry enough water to last me a week. The balance I have found is to combine a 2-liter camelback with two USGI canteens. This is, for me, about 2 days worth of water if I’m not hiking a lot (in which case it would be 1 day’s worth). Fortunately for me, there are a lot of natural sources of water in my area such as streams, so I can resupply water in the field. This is why I have a Sawyer Mini water filter in my buttpack. It’s not the best filter out there by far, but it’s super compact and lightweight. I am also about to buy some water purification tablets to supplement my filter, in case I need to pull water from a pond or other questionable body of water.
Food is necessary to give us the energy to accomplish daily tasks. I use field-stripped MREs for my field rations, as they’re self-contained and have a lot of calories. I plan to eat 2 a day when I am being very active, 1 a day when I can get away with it to make them stretch. There are plenty of other options for field rations (freeze dried, canned soups/chilis, or even just dried rice and beans), but this is what I currently use. Bear in mind that you don’t need your food to be hot, you just need to be able to swallow it. I see small field stoves as luxury items. Even if you don’t have access to MREs, you can eat canned chili cold and you’ll be fine. Dry goods, however, may require boiling to be eaten regularly.
You need some shelter, but this is where people tend to over-pack. You need shelter to protect you from 4 things: heat, cold, wind, and precipitation. Do you really need a fully enclosed tent to accomplish these things? No, a tarp or USGI poncho will do all of this just fine, and it takes up significantly less space and weight. In my area, there are so many trees around that I can get away without even carrying poles or stakes.
All right, now that we’ve covered what we actually need to survive, let’s look at what’s in my pack.
Let’s break it down into sections.
First, the main pouch of the pack. On the left side is my field rations (field stripped MREs) I keep five in there normally, but I have space to add more if the mission requires. Underneath the MREs is some mesh camouflage netting that I can use to camouflage my pack, or drape over myself when I’m in a firing position.
On the right side, from top to bottom, are my sleeping bag (Snugpak Jungle Bag), warming layers, and one skivvy roll (t-shirt, underwear, and socks). You’ll notice that I use a couple of small waterproofing sacks for my gear, rather than one large waterproof sack. This keeps my pack organized, and it’s easier to find what I need in the dark without a light.
Next, we have the front pouch of the pack. I keep items in here that are either too small for the main pouch or are used too frequently. From left to right: Duct tape, 100% deet bug spray, hand warmers and Bible, hygiene kit (toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, and deodorant), matches, field sewing kit, and a survival fishing kit. On the bottom is my fix-it kit, 30 feet of paracord wrapped around a pack of zip ties. You can fix a lot of problems in the field with these two items. I once zip tied a Marine’s boot back on his foot after his laces broke beyond repair. Trust me, you need zip ties.
Finally, we have gear that I keep on the outside of the pack (except for the canteens, they go in the main pouch). From left to right: Bump helmet (for use with night vision only), chem lights (2 green, 1 red, 1 IR), USGI entrenching tool (E-tool), 2x extra smoke grenades, 2x rifle magazines, and a GI casualty blanket camouflaged with mossy oak netting.
I use the bump helmet solely for mounting my night vision. It has a special counterweight on the back that was designed and 3D printed by a buddy of mine. It holds 8x AAs 3x CR123s, and 1x Baofeng UV-9R battery. Not only does this balance out the helmet, it is an excellent way of holding my extra batteries for all my gear. The helmet is held onto the outside of the pack with a custom helmet pouch that my wife made.
My GI casualty blanket is what I use for my shelter. Not only will it protect me from the elements, it masks my thermal signature from above if I set it up correctly. I consider this a mandatory piece of kit for anyone who expects to be operating under hostile UAS. I touched up mine with some cheap camo mesh and it works very well.
The right side of my pack. 2x rifle magazines and an E-tool.
You will notice that I keep consumable items like ammo and smoke grenades on the outside of my pack. This is so that, when working in the context of a squad or a small team, we can quickly redistribute ammunition and grenades after a fight to get back up to maximum readiness faster. You will notice that 240 rounds (8 mags total; 1 in the gun, 2 on the belt, 3 on the chest rig, and 2 on the pack) is not a lot of ammunition for over a week of operations. Fortunately, light infantry tactics don’t rely on heavy firepower, as I discussed in my article on the history of the Jägers and light infantry units.
I have a fair amount of extra room in the pack for additional rations, ammo, and other mission-specific equipment if I’m planning on a longer (2 week) field stay. Any longer than that and we will have to plan to supplement our rations with what we can scrounge, gather, fish, or hunt in the field. Alternatively, a light infantry unit may be able to coordinate a covert resupply in the field using civilian vehicles, but that’s a whole ‘nother article. As far as batteries go, I have a compact solar-powered means of recharging radio batteries and AAs in the field. I have it ready to throw in my pack if I’ll be out for a long time, but for short-term operations of a week or less it takes less weight to just carry enough extra batteries.
There you have it gentlemen, my current pack set up for light infantry operations. The gear that you see here and in the previous two articles is enough to sustain me for up to a week in the field without resupply. I must mention that this is a science, and thus by no means settled as the “one true way” to set up a pack. Despite the experience and thought that went into this setup, I am fully confident that in another year or so, I will have changed something significant about my pack. I am always learning and adapting my doctrine and my gear.
You should be doing the same. Don’t just copy my kit, or anybody else’s. Identify your requirements for your pack, ask yourself “What do I need this pack to do for me?”, and only put stuff in your pack that fills those requirements. Above all, don’t ever be satisfied with where you are, be constantly testing yourself and your equipment. It is far better to find out what doesn’t work now than when your life depends on it.
That’s all I have for you gentlemen. Let me know if anything here piqued your interest and you’d like me to write more about it. If you’d like an opportunity to test yourself and your gear, I still have plenty of space in the Force-on-Force class on March 26-27. I look forward to training with you!
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