I had a question emailed to me about gear for my courses, and gear in general. I have written about gear on my blog before, check out the link HERE, which in turn has links to the other previous posts. A picture does paint a thousand words, and I am planning on taking some photos of some of my gear and posting them to illustrate what I mean. In the meantime, here are some pointers:
There are multiple makes and brands out there for gear, and multiple budgets. I’m not going to recommend or criticize specific brands here, but give you an idea of the type of gear you want to get. I usually shop for my gear on Amazon.com. I know a lot of people like eBay, but I’ve never got into it. Unless you need something specific that is not on either of these vendors, then both of these will work pretty well for you.
The system that I recommend is based on the following components, primarily referencing 5.56 caliber AR-style rifles but readily adaptable to other calibers:
1) Battle Belt
2) Plate Carrier (PC)
3) Patrol Pack
You need to give some thought to the various elements of your gear, how you will carry them, and how it will all fit together. The idea of this system is that the battle belt is worn pretty much all the time as your basic load. You then add the PC as you feel you need to for the mission/threat. You can wear the patrol pack with or without the PC. It just depends what you are up to.
Battle Belt: This is designed so that it can be worn at all times as your most basic load. It can also be worn if you dump your other gear for a task such as a close target recce, giving you a basic fighting load without all the ancillary weight. It will carry rifle magazines, a dump pouch, perhaps your handgun, perhaps your handgun spare magazines and perhaps your IFAK.
Construction: you will base the battle belt on one of the commercially available padded belts, through which you will route a tactical belt and onto which you will attach your pouches. This allows for greater comfort and also expands the size of the belt so that it can fit more gear on it. It is best to fit suspenders/harness to the belt so that you take some weight onto your shoulders and also stop the belt falling down – you can then hold it up without it being too tight on your waist.
A battle belt should ride on your hips, not up toward your belly button. A little ‘gunslinger–esque.’ Keep the front area clear, so that it does not impede you in the prone position and when crawling. Only perhaps put small pouches in the front area, closed top type like handgun mag pouches, which will not impede you and will also not drop the equipment out if you do crawl.
Equipment pouches should start at your hips. You have to decide at this point if you are going for a light battle belt that can be easily worn in a vehicle (keeping the back largely clear also) or one that will carry a full dismounted infantry load for out in the woods (utilizing the space on the back of the belt). Here are some examples of each type for an AR-15, listed from left to right looking down at the belt laid on the ground with the pouches facing upwards:
Basic Battle Belt:
2 mag pouch, 2 mag pouch, 2 mag pouch – rolled dump pouch – empty space – handgun – handgun mags.
(————-Left Hip——————-) (—left Back—) (Right Hip) (Front)
Notes: mag pouches are accessible on the left hip. You can use 3 x 2 mag pouches or 2 x 3 mag pouches for a total of 6 mags. Handgun is on your right hip. The handgun spare mags are on the right front. Yes, that is a cross draw for a reload, but it balances out the weight better. Your IFAK can be added to this load on the back right if that is where you want it.
Infantryman Battle belt:
3 mag pouch – 3 mag pouch – canteen – utility pouch – utility pouch/IFAK – canteen – handgun – handgun mags.
For the utility pouches, I prefer to have two canteen or IFAK style sized pouches rather than larger butt pack. It keeps the gear better compartmentalized and tighter. I don’t mean the canteen pouches where the canteen neck sticks up, they are pretty useless except for holding the issue canteens (which you can use for the two canteens on your belt). Use the closed lid buckle types, like the issue IFAK pouch. Make sure all the pouches are tied down and attached tight to make the belt a solid load running across your lower back.
The cheapest option to get this done would be to purchase the old style green ALICE belt, suspenders, mag pouches and canteen pouches. You would need to get a padded belt and any additional pouches. The ALICE magazine pouches are very good and fit 3 AR mags, thus reducing real estate on your belt. You can cut off the grenade pouches on the side if you want to. That is a budget way of creating a battle belt that will suit for one of my courses or any infantry style operations. Also a good way of creating additional kits for family and friends.
With a utility pouch plus IFAK pouch, or two utility pouches, this gives you the ability to carry basic items such as emergency rations and similar. Old school: you would have been expected to live in the field off what you had in your web belt for 48 hours, food and water.
CAT Tourniquets: In addition to your IFAK, carry CAT tourniquets where they are accessible, such as on your battle belt and PC.
1) Drop –leg: this is good because it gets the handgun out of the way. It would free up space on a battle belt and it does not interfere with the wearing of body armor. It’s not so good for classic conventional infantry operations. It will flop around on your leg when you run and also get in the mud/dirt if you are crawling/rolling around in it, which you will be doing if someone is shooting at you.
2) Battle belt: this is my preferred method. It uses up some real estate where I could put other pouches on my right hip, but it is secure and a good position so long as it does not interfere with your plate carrier. It also means that I have my handgun with me at all times when wearing the basic battle belt.
3) Plate carrier: yes, very SF to have it mounted on the front of your plate carrier. I personally don’t lie it because it not only takes up real estate but I have never been able to fit it where it will not interfere with the operation of my rifle either while carrying it while patrolling or bringing it up to engage. I find my rifle will bang on it if mounted mid chest. Also, if I take my PC off, I have to find another place to carry my handgun.
Plate Carrier (PC): This is the preference for wear in any sort of kinetic threat. I have mine so that it will fit on over the harness that supports my battle belt. I have four double mag pouches across the bottom allowing for 8 mags when I wear it. You can also add additional equipment to it as you wish, other pouches, such as radios and handgun mags etc. You may also choose to put your IFAK on the side/rear of your PC as you wish. With a PC, it is good to use readily accessible mag pouches, such as the elastic tops, because when you are wearing the PC things are serious and you will need to be doing fast reloads.
You may not be able to afford the plates for the PC. I would highly recommend them if you can spare the cash. Yes, plates are heavy and make you sweaty/tired, but they will mess up your day a lot less than a penetrating high velocity wound to the upper torso. I settle on the PC rather than a full set of body armor (soft armor plus ballistic plates) as the best compromise between protection and weight/mobility/heat dispersion. The ballistic plates are more important than the soft armor.
If you don’t have ballistic plates, you can either adapt a PC for use as a simple tactical vest to carry more ammo, hoping to acquire the plates at some point, of just go for a standard tactical vest or chest rig.
A PC is designed to carry mags across the front and if done correctly will not significantly impair you from taking a prone position or crawling. If you do it wrong, or wear a battle belt with magazines across you r belly area, it will disincline you to taking a prone position,. You will end up always wanting to kneel, which is also the default position for when you don’t want to go prone. This will decrease your chances of survival.
IFAK: This needs to be accessible for self-aid or a buddy giving you aid. It does not want to be in your patrol pack. Put it on your belt or on your PC. Have the additional ready to use CAT tourniquets as already covered.
Water: Canteens on your belt, hydration bladder either fitted to your PC or worn stand alone with its own carry pouch on your back; Additional water in your patrol pack. Carry water purification tablets for your canteens and one of those drinking straws.
Patrol Pack: This is where any equipment that you need for a short patrol will go that will not fit on your belt/PC. Examples such as: night vision gear plus batteries, rations, spare socks, mission equipment, ‘thermal poncho’ plus woobie, additional water, rifle field cleaning gear/oil etc. As covered in my post about Rucks, don’t have a huge patrol solid framed pack, have one that is crushable that will fit on top, either inside the lid or strapped to the top of your ruck, so you can carry both.
Ruck: This is the where the rest or your gear goes. Ammunition, full sleeping gear, rations, basic changes of clothing etc. you can’t go far wrong with a large ALICE pack.
Vietnam Veterans: are you seeing a theme here? ALICE packs, battle belts, ammo pouches? This is training and equipment for an infantry operation. You may be getting older now, but this is your kind of stuff, with some updated tactics!
Camo: on the Vietnam theme, I have been looking at camo options. I am based in the VA/WV area, which primarily means Fighting in Woods and Forests (FIWAF). My British DPM is great. Multi-cam is probably not ideal, but gives you good geographical option which was the whole point of multi-cam in the first place. I am settling on the Vietnam Era Tiger Stripe Camo as the best option. I’m getting some. Prepare to see me in it next training weekend.
I will update this post with photos once I get them done. For now, I’m attaching some cropped photos of me wearing some of my gear. Its not the whole story, but the photos are good examples of what I mean. Oh yes, as numerous people have noted: paint your rifle, use Krylon. The rifle in these photos has since been painted.
Live Hard, Die Free.
2 thoughts on “Gear & Camo”
I went out into my local woods and took a bunch of pictures, and then compared them to samples of camouflage sold to hunters. “Mossy Oak Obsession” came closest so I went with it, and that technique worked real well.
I assumed that Uncle Sam uses camo patterns that will work in the widest number of locations, but the commercially available stuff is made for specific areas of this country, and may work better for that reason.
I use still my old 58 issue British Army camoflage kit as the trousers and flak jacket are lined and made from incredibly resilient fibres, my trousers I have worn weekly for over thirty years in rain and shine and haven’t faded nor torn or worn.
An M65 Parka is a substantial investment as well, being it can become a bivouac, an easily camoflaged shelter, a bed base and being it has button in sections makes it useful for more than just a coat.
UK army 58 issue webbing kit is very good and it can be used for all sorts of things as well as carry kidney pouches, arm holsters etc, its strong enough to tie between two Land Rovers and used as a tow rope, used as an anchor rope, secure lashing, tourniquet or splint.
Underclothes are also important, all in ones and long johns are preferable as they create layers to insulate and also trap in strong odours which can identify tracking and pursuit, many a soldier splashing on a dab of old spice has fallen foul of the 5 “S”‘s of sight, smell, shadow, silohuette and sound, human sweat can be smelt on the wind hence why its important to wear stuff that doesn’t spread it about.
Socks and boots can be a defining decision, many out there go for the macho Hi-Tec SWAT’s which are OK in urban use but utterly useless out there in the field, my preference is a pair of special forces boots used by German troops designed for ground and para use, lightweight, waterproof, go up considerably above the ankle making twists and sprains less likely, good for winter or summer ops. Socks too can be a factor, man made fibres will cause different reactions to wool fibres, the thing is you want your feet to breathe but you want to stop them leeching heat out as well otherwise trenchfoot will set in as they sweat but sweat cold and the moisture collects and starts to attack the feet, socks should be washed when possible and dried thoroughly as should feet, a soldier marches on their feet and sore feet are a real demoraliser.
Backpacks are pretty amazing nowadays, I have a lovely old commercial camo pattern Bergen I bought in the 1980’s and use still today, its a low slung alloy framed job that holds about 100 litres and has a myriad of pockets, the top is in line with my shoulder making its centre of gravity even heavy laden quite manageable, has a goretex panel in the back area and at the bottom to allow moisture to escape.
As for camoflage itself, the Russians were past masters at this and painted their tanks and trucks no less than eight times a year as they recognised that bracken in spring was different to bracken in summer as it was in winter, there is no point in running a dark olive drab base in a lighter environment as you will stick out like a sore thumb sadly.