I was recently asked a question in an email, from a guy who has bought a full set of Patriot Plates and is looking for a decent, modestly priced, plate carrier,. He says:
Not awesome, but I am coming up on sixty, but I think I am still fit enough to reach this goal. I am getting there. But I am still hesitating on an a PC purchase. My eye seems to be settling on the xxxxx xxxxxx xxxxx*. But the best YouTube reviews I have seen indicate it does not accommodate the mag load out you recommend (and carry yourself).”
* Gear specifics deleted to prevent you gear nerds really getting into it! 😉
I have put up multiple gear posts in the past with suggestions and also information on how I have done it and how I recommend doing it. Just scroll the previous articles to read some of them. I have been running my training courses for a little while now and I have been watching numerous people go up and down the ranges with all sort of gear set-ups. It has set me to thinking.
It is a balance of fitness and sustainability. The more you can carry, the more sustainable you are before resupply, whether that be with the number of magazines you carry into a firefight or the amount of days rations you can carry in a ruck. But again, that is a balance – you can increase the load you carry with greater strength and fitness, but there will always become a point when you are carrying too much, which will negatively impact on your performance, and ability to move, while in combat.
There is the old balance between firepower – protection – mobility. The more ammo you carry, the greater firepower that you can project, and for longer. The more armor you wear, the better protected you are. But weight of firepower and weight of protection will negatively affect your mobility. If you are not mobile, you will either be ineffective in closing with the enemy, either in close combat or on approach or withdrawal marches, or you will just die, because you were unable to ‘keep low, move fast.’
You also have to look upon this in the light of a realistic scenario. You cannot go out and stay in the woods forever. You can’t carry enough in your ruck to last for weeks. You have to be resupplied. This means that you will have to run missions from a base that is provisioned with supplies, like a retreat, or if you are elsewhere in a patrol base you may be resupplied by a logistics chain or by the auxiliary network. You are not going to lug your 100 lb ruck everywhere and live out of it forever. This does not preclude moving patrol base locations, but it means that you have to have a way to be resupplied. Logistics.
This ties in closely with my posts on tactical mobility. It may be that you don’t move out to that patrol base with a 100 lb ruck, but more like a 60 lb one and the rest of the gear is brought in by mule or ATV, or whatever, and brought to you or to a cache nearby. Or you do a heavy load carry in, or a couple of them, and then cache the stuff at a patrol base and operate light from there. Your ‘G’ Base may be receiving resupply drops either directly to it or via a cache system. If you are going out on short term patrols, then you carry what you need and ‘travel light, freeze at night.’
This does not take away from the need to be as physically fit as possible. But you have to be realistic Don’t depend on carrying 150 lbs of gear and then find out you can’t. Particularly when you find yourself malnourished and half starved out there in the boonies post-SHTF running a guerrilla campaign. Think about a potential tempo of one operation every thirty days, with the rest of the time given over to admin, preparation, survival and recovery.
I propose that a more realistic philosophy for gear carriage is a modification of the ‘3 day pack’ concept. This means that you will plan to carry a medium sized ruck as a patrol pack, something just a little bigger than an assault pack. It won’t have everything in it that you need. You will ‘travel light, freeze at night’ – your main comfort gear will be back in a ‘G’ or patrol base somewhere and may even get moved by vehicle or ATV, or pack mule.
You will be carrying rations for maybe three days (one MRE or equivalent per day), emergency/E&E rations, water/water purification, ammo, batteries, night vison/FLIR, IFAK/medical kit, spare socks, a little bit of snivel gear, and something to sleep in, such as a woobie or light bag, plus bivvy sack. Carry a thermal poncho. Carry all the little ancillary stuff like lighters and bug repellent and all that.
You want to be able to carry this with you and fight in it. You may potentially cache your patrol/assault packs at the ORP with a security party prior to moving onto the objective, but if you do you may never see them again. Leaving gear anywhere not on your person is a serious risk SHTF, because you may never see it again and you may not be able to replace it. So keep it as practical and light as possible, so you can move with it and are not tempted to dump it.
This leads me on to a slight red herring – that of the tiers of gear to be worn on you – tier one on your person, tier two in your load-out, tier three in your ruck etc. That is all very well and good advice. But if you are operating out there in the boonies as a resistance fighter, dumping your gear may mean you cannot survive anyway, or you may become ineffective as a fighter because it cannot be replaced. It just depends on the situation. My philosophy is to be prepared to potentially dump some gear, like useless snivel gear. But in the main, if you can dump it why were you carrying it? If you find yourself breaking contact and trying to exfil, then your worst case is a sustained follow up by Regime hunter-killer forces. That is precisely when you need all your gear. If there is no urban center to fade away into, then you are out there in the boonies. If you can’t get away, that is the time to set a hasty ambush, get close, and fight close. Like a cornered bear.
Prepare for the worst, hope for the best. You never know, if you get close they cannot hit you with indirect assets, and you may get out in the confusion, if you fight hard. Otherwise, you did what you could A time to live, a time to fight, a time to die. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not advocating throwing your life away in order to keep clutching your collection of gucci tacticool gear – my point is more to ask why you are out there in the first place, what your mission is, and if you are going to strip naked and run, or turn and fight. This is precisely why you should be operating with a load that you can effectively carry and that you can shuffle-run with if necessary.
In previous gear posts I have shown photos of myself wearing a full battle belt, PC, and patrol pack. There are alternate set-ups and I will cover some of that here.
Battle belts work, particularity for dismounted light infantry style operations., They are a pain when trying to sit in vehicles, Going with the battle belt set-up is entirely legitimate and you can carry a good amount of gear around your belt, particularly if you use suspenders/harness with it. If you wear a battle belt, you can throw your PC on and have additional ammo and ancillary pouches attached to that. You can then wear a patrol pack.
Which reminds me, someone asked in a blog comment how to make the battle belt work. If you don’t have a full battle belt with a padded belt and suspenders, and you want to wear additional canteens with something like the chest rig that I am wearing in the photo, then you want to use a belt only, no pad. Otherwise, you will have to tighten it so much that it is uncomfortable in order to stop the pad falling down off your hips. With a chest rig, you can use a simple web belt with a few pouches that sit on your butt, so they do not get in the way of your chest rig in the hip area. This is a way of carrying additional canteens. You can fit two canteens divided by an admin pouch on a web belt and wear it so that it does not interfere with the chest rig. You may not be able to MOLLE the pouches in place on a simple web belt but you can tie or tape them and when it is tight on your waist the canteens/pouches will not move anyway, they will sit on your lower back.
You can also wear such a set-up with a ruck, particular an ALICE pack. Where you have problems is with rucks which come down low over your butt and have waist belts. Such rucks with waist belts will still work well with a chest rig, but less well with battle belts. An ALICE ruck will sit nicely on a battle belt, with the battle belt holding some of the weight like a waist belt. If you want to spend money on something ‘gucci’ like a nice Kifaru medium sized ruck/assault/patrol pack, then you may have to give up on the battle belt. You can then attach canteens or bladders to the sides of the ruck, which also means it is even more important not to dump the ruck. In which case, don’t carry too much in it, so you can keep it on when exfiltrating!
“But what about your Plates?” I hear you ask. Well, here is the beauty in the flexibility. Just have a slick PC with your plates in. This can be worn under your chest rig. This gives you the option of wearing a PC, or not. Also, in the event that you have to do physical labor, like dig a foxhole, while under threat of enemy fire but you don’t want to wear all your gear, you can wear your PC. Set your chest rig and rifle down next to the hole, ready to throw on if necessary, but you are still protected with your plates on. If it is all attached to your PC then you have no choice – its either your PC and all your gear, or nothing.
On the protection vs. mobility debate, you need to consider, if you have something heavy like Patriot Plates, if you are going to wear them all. Side Plates? Personally, I don’t own side plates. None of this is a silver bullet to not getting killed. Not to say that side plates are a bad thing, but in all of this it is a balance. If you are wearing so much gear that you can’t move, then you are carrying too much weight and you are combat ineffective.
It’s not whether we are going to die that is in question – just how much it’s going to hurt!
You may consider patrolling covertly without wearing your PC, just wear your chest rig. Or wear front and back plates, no side plates. If you have to fight a defensive battle, or assault a place, in a raid, then maybe wear them all. But not if you can’t “keep low, move fast” when wearing it all.
So to conclude this: there are various options to go for in terms of systems when setting up your gear. You have to plan for a system that will allow the components to work together (i.e. ruck, PC, belt, chest rig etc.) and allow you to operate how you want to. Don’t plan to carry too much gear or wear too much weight. You need to go with what fits your strength and physical fitness, allowing you to balance firepower, mobility and protection. You can’t plan to carry it all, and you can’t live out there forever without resupply. So have a plan to resupply using alternate means, such as humping gear into a base, using vehicles and animals to carry it or resupply you.
No man is an island, and no more so than when conducting resistance operations. All the more reason to work on tribe, network and team.
Live hard, Die Free.