Rucks, Gear & Field Administration

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    • #104502

        Posted by Max Velocity

        I did promise early in the week to get a post out about rucks, gear, and field administration. I’m about to head up to the training site for the upcoming CRCD class, so I’m going to throw something out there right now.

        I get a lot of questions about this, usually related to rucks and specifically to the relationship between a battle belt and a ruck. For example, I got the following email today:

        “You may have covered this but my google fu is weak at the moment. After taking your advice I’ve moved my fighting load from a chest rig to a battle belt setup and after running some drills I’ve been very happy, but found a quandry. When I add a pack to the setup the waist belt on the pack gets in the way what am I doing wrong. I’m currently using an Eberlestock Skycrane II. I can separate it down to just the “little brother” pack which doesn’t have a waist belt, but would like to keep my options open. What would you suggest?”

        Before I launch into this, I need to set the conditions. In the following photos my gear is packed and set up for light infantry operations. I’ll talk a little bit about options if you are going to be vehicle mounted, which is probably unlikely. I also wrote a post titled ‘Gear Philosophy Update‘ some time ago. In that post I talk about the concept of trying to go lighter, of looking at perhaps three day operations, and not trying to carry everything on your back. I also talk about gear in my ‘Combat Patrol – Initial Report‘ post.

        The bottom line is a you have to get smart. There is a limit to what you carry, and even if you can carry it, it isn’t going to last forever. Therefore you’re going to need resupply, so to a certain extent I’m advocating getting away from the mindset of heading into the woods with everything you can carry. Rather, if you desire to conduct operations in a certain area, I would advocate two approaches 1) simply going in light, packed for a three-day operation, travel light freeze at night, or 2) moving in gear to a cache at or near to a semi-permanent patrol base(s) in the intended AO. For that, consider your options. Hump in the gear using deer carts, mules, ATVs, or some other means you can dream up. There will be a halfway house between these two options, but simply put, if you are going to carry more than three days of gear, you need the PT to be able to achieve it.

        Above: my gear. Large ALICE Pack, left. Patrol Pack, right. Battle Belt, foreground.

        In the photo above, my gear is laid out, packed for the winter combat patrol class. My ruck is a large ALICE pack. It is packed for cold weather operations and contains gear, food, ammunition for three or four days. On the right is my patrol pack. It is actually a Berghaus Munro daypack. It has no frame and can be rolled down and packed away. My battle belt has a full ammunition load and 24 hours worth of emergency rations. It also has a bunch of other gear including a solo stove, an IFAK, and my FLIR, plus a canteen. If you’re conducting operations post-collapse, your battle belt is not only a fighting load but it is also a sustainment and survival load. You’re not parachuting in behind enemy lines, you are simply behind enemy lines!

        Above: my gear including an assault/sustainment vest

        In the photo above, I include my gear plus my assault vest. It doesn’t have anything in it, so it’s not the best photo. The assault vest is not as ideal as a battle belt for dismounted operations, however, I keep it around in case I knew I was going to be vehicle mounted. The gear in my battle belt will simply transfer to the assault vest. Both the battle belt and assault vest will go on over a slick plate carrier, not pictured.

        Above: assault vest and battle belt

        So let’s talk patrol pack and ruck integration. In the picture the patrol pack is full, but that’s just extra gear, I don’t have to get all that in the ALICE pack. It’s just my gear for the weekend. There are two ways you can play the patrol pack/ruck combo. You can roll down and pack away the patrol pack, taking it out and readying it once you are in your patrol base. The second method is to pack the patrol pack and carry it on top of the ruck. You don’t want it hanging off the back of the ruck, but on top. With the ALICE pack, the long straps make this easily accomplished. The advantage of this is that you can have your essentials in your patrol pack, and in case of enemy contact and the need to dump the ruck, you can release or cut the straps, and run off with your battle belt and patrol pack. It becomes a grab bag.

        Another way of viewing this is to use the medium sized ALICE pack. With the frame it’s not going to go into ruck, but if you know you are going out on three or four day short-term operations without your full ruck, the medium ALICE is a pretty ideal patrol pack.

        When using a battle belt, a patrol pack will sit nicely on top of the rear pouches. You don’t need to use any sort of waist belt. It’s a pretty good combo.

        OK, let’s get into the ruck conundrum. The simple answer to this is that when using a battle belt you want a ruck that will sit on top of the rear pouches. You wear your battle belt kind of low, down over your hips. You simply do not use a waist belt with your ruck. With the ruck sitting on top of the rear pouches on the battle belt, the battle belt itself acts as a kind of waist belt for the ruck. This is the hardest thing that I think people have to get their head round. Because of this, you don’t want the long thin Alpine style rucks. You want the short fat type. The British Army PLCE rucks would come in both regular and short back versions. The short back version was shorter and fatter. Guess what, there was a whole bunch of regular long back rucks left on the shelves in the stores.

        Above: I am stood up, you can see where my battle belt sits.

        Prior to the PLCE system, we had the metal frame SAS/PARA rucks. These were pretty much similar to the ALICE rucks. The bottom line here is that the ALICE is perfect. It is an awesome infantryman’s ruck. Why so many people complain about it I simply don’t know. It may not be as comfortable as some people want, but I love it.

        I think part of the problem here, or maybe all of it, is a combination of a lack of PT and a lack of intestinal fortitude. The bottom line is that if you cannot carry a 50 lb. packed ALICE ruck, as well as your battle belt and your rifle, then you’re in the wrong game. You are not going to be able to conduct operations in that manner. It isn’t about buying the most comfortable ruck on the market, but about Rangering Up and doing your PT. My answer is this: if you cannot carry a ruck, then fix the PT and /or adjust how you conduct operations. I refer you back to my point above about the three day patrol pack. Or, sit on your ATV like that fat ass on Doomsday Preppers! ;-)

        When you are packing your ruck, you want to put the light and bulky stuff at the bottom, and the heavy stuff at the top. One of the great things about the ALICE pack, is the external pouches. When you’re living in the field you want to get to the stuff you need to get to, and having it readily available in the external pouches minimizes the time you have to mess about in the main compartment. Although you have gear in a battle belt, you don’t want to be pulling from this if you can avoid it, because if you do you have to replen from your ruck. Better to live from the ruck.

        One step I am going to take is to buy the MALICE pack version 2 from Tactical Tailor. The reason for this is that it has all the additional pouches on the outside, which facilitates what I talked about above. It also has more user-friendly straps and pouch clips. Beware however, don’t use the extra pouches as excuse to fill the ruck to excess. Don’t buy the MALICE version 3, because you don’t need that huge sleeping bag pouch on the bottom, and it won’t work with your battle belt anyway. Down that route lies madness and huge ruck weights!

        MALICE 2 by Tactical Tailor

        Without getting too much into the intricacies of patrol bases, you’re supposed to keep your gear packed at all times. This means that when you go on sentry, if you were sleeping, you pack your sleeping gear away: sleeping bag, bivvy bag, roll matt. I didn’t put my students through this on Combat Patrol. It was enough for many to simply be sleeping out like that. However, I don’t use the stuff sack for my sleeping bag. I keep the sleeping bag inside the bivvy bag and simply stuff it into my ruck. It fills the available space and can be crushed down. Although I have a waterproof liner to my ruck, I then keep any other clothing in a separate waterproof bag so that it keeps it together. Thus if I’m going to get my sleeping bag out I can pull out the other bag and stuff it back in again. It just depends what’s going on. Remember, that at night you have to do this without the use of white light, or any light, so you have to be able to feel around in the dark and take your gear in and out of your ruck. This is why gear has to be packed away, pouches done up, so that you don’t lose stuff.

        This is actually one of the reasons to have a pretty big ruck like the ALICE. If you have something a little bigger that can be compressed down, it allows you leeway when stuffing things in and out of it. If you pack your gear in the house, all nicely put away in little stuff sacks, it’ll soon explode once you get into the field. Of course, much of the topic of this current conversation is to do with cold weather. When the weather gets warmer you can ditch a lot of the snivel gear. This reduces the load you need to carry to survive. However, other priorities come to the fore, such as the need to carry a lot more water. Even sleeping on the ground brings a whole new bunch of challenges in the summer months when there are bugs crawling everywhere. Even though you may be using a jungle sleeping bag in the heat, you may want to consider a bug net; perhaps one of those pop-up bivvy types that you can sleep in at the Patrol Base. Your summer packing list will be somewhat different from your winter one.

        To me, this all seems so simple. People’s gear melodramas are so easily fixable. Fix up your battle belt and get yourself a large ALICE ruck. If you are determined to sit in vehicles, use an assault vest. Keep the loads light as possible and use a good patrol pack. (BTW: the waist belt on the ALICE just gets clipped up behind the frame, leaving the pad sitting in your lower back).

        Now, just to get the blood boiling, I am going to give you an anonymous quote that has relevance to all this, when people start tying in this gear philosophy with some of the thinking on long range marksmanship and how/where they will operate. I am talking about conducting light infantry operations on difficult, compartmentalized terrain. I have mentioned this often. Swamp, woods, hills, mountains, maybe even some urban when it fits. I wrote these posts on it: ‘The Strategy: Rural/Urban‘ and ‘The Ingredients for your Victory: Tactics Gear.‘

        “Now to the guy out west who’s probably from WY and thinks that every guy in his squad is going to be able to call a 52″ correction in wind to hit something at 600yds dead on every shot. He’s the guy that has a .300 win mag shooting a 150 gr bullet at some ridiculous speed (burning his barrel out in far less than 2000 rounds, what kind of proficiency do you even build with that many rounds?) and believes that that’s a 1000 yard gun and him and his buddies will be wearing out bad guys all day on the open prairie. Well he hasn’t been introduced to armor and their capabilities. The mountain war is fought on foot, the open spaces with armor. It’s not going to turn out well for him. My humble beginnings were in Anti-Armor and Heavy Guns it’s a different type of employment(but still needs good field craft to be successful). Can long range shooters have an effect? Yes but its limited and typically close to where the enemy is based out of or around population centers where they have to dismount to patrol. Compartmentalized terrain is the focus, bringing the bad guys onto your turf fighting on your terms with what resources you have at that time. We can split hairs all day long with this stuff but we have been living SUT for the last 10 years the arm chair quarterbacks will have their time to be tested let’s just hope that at least they show up with a sharp pencil.”


        Till Valhalla!


      • #104503

          It also has a bunch of other gear including a solo stove, an IFAK, and my FLIR, plus a canteen.

          Max, how did you decide on this stove instead of the more traditional hexamine cooker? Do you nest the Stove in the Solo Stove cup or the issue cup for your bottle? What else do you jam in the GP pouch?

        • #104504

            I like the solo stove because it is designed to burn twigs/wood. It can also be used with alcohol, and I do carry some blocks of hexamine for convenience. This gives me a way to purify/boil water if needed. I have the stove itself in my BB, stuffed with the makings of tea! I have an emergency MRE entree or two,m and some CLIF bars in that pouch also. I carry the solo pot in my ruck/patrol pack. I also carry a canteen nested in a metal mug in my BB, so with all that I can boil water/cook off gear that I have in my BB.

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