UPDATE: Since this was posted back in September 2013, and then re-posted again in January of 2015, it remains a favorite according to wordpress stats. It’s apparently a favorite subject around the blogosphere with various authors providing their perspective. So, to add to the post a bit, check out this pic and see if you can figure which guy has an out of balance/poorly loaded pack. Guess who’s going to be tired long before his buds.
An aside: DTG recommends the FILBE system you see in the below pic because of its inherent ability to balance heavy loads along with carrying the 3 day (assault) pack as a lid, of sorts, attached to the pack. While we don’t believe in carrying everything in the world, we do believe in carrying realistic sustainment loads for the NPT security patrolling mission or a ‘GOOD’ situation. For us, that works out to anywhere from 55 to 80 pounds, depending the time of year and the task at hand. We try to condition with our heaviest loads for the longest distances. Makes things seem a lot easier for shorter distances and lighter loads. Your mileage may vary…..literally and figuratively.
As you experiment setting up your pack and then go into the field, you will find that many times your “what if” tendencies (see above graphic) will guide you to over-pack your ruck with many items you don’t really need, with the final result being the pack isn’t properly balanced once it’s loaded. It will end up being an anchor instead of your ticket to continued ability to operate or survive. Especially if you’re not in good physical shape. PT…again.
The following information is provided for your benefit.
Pack Categories: Within most preparedness networks and gorups, there are three primary pack styles used. Some use them separately for different purposes; others sometimes use them in conjunction with each other. No matter the pack type, however, they all have commonality in what should go in them: Necessities. Sure, a few ‘niceties’, but only a few.
Butt – Used for carrying rations/ammo for short duration excursions of 48 hours or less. Should have the ability to attach/secure poncho to exterior. Should easily be removed from LBV/LBE. Should not interfere with the wearing of an Assault or Main Ruck over it when empty. We have found that a traditional butt pack is usually a hindrance and most members have discontinued their use.
Day/Assault – Used for carrying ammo/rations/essential equipment from SOP pack list for excursions of 5 to 7 days or less. Should have “fast release” shoulder straps if possible. Takes the place of discarded Butt Packs.
Main Ruck – The USMC’s FILBE (Improved Load Bearing Equipment) Main Ruck has been shown to be one the most well-designed packs and most durable in Afghanistan by the USMC. Next is the CFP-90 pack (USGI only, not the ‘knock-off’. If you are the MOLLE pack crowd, beware, as your gear will most likely fail when you need it most. You have been warned! There are other civilian brand packs that do just fine; several examples from Tactical Tailor (MALICE pack), Blackhawk (SOF pack) and Eberlestock are great packs, but are costly. If you’ve got the funds and want a high end pack, great! More power to you. Just understand that what you pick as your pack is as important a choice as your rifle and combat knife.
Mindset: It is essential that you understand that your Ruck is for combat and survival, not for “camping”, so load it to make sure you have what you need versus what you want. Everything you require should fit into your ruck or be secured to it without much modification. Think “essential” versus “optional”. For example: You need a utility pot. Your canteen cup works great in this capacity. So that’s what you pack along with possibly a very light titanium ‘spork’. You want a mess kit. Think about it: It’s heavy, takes up a lot of room, and is noisy. Don’t put it in your ruck! Your ruck should be viewed as LOGPACK (logistics pack) so that when/if you get a chance to resupply, your concern is filling it with ammo, water and food (in that order). If there are personal items that you must have with you, carry them in your butt pack or day/assault pack instead of your main ruck. If you use your main ruck to store “home away from home” niceties, your ruck will bog you down with close to 100 pounds or more when you add your LBE/LBV weight. Try humping that much weight for 5 miles…even leisurely. See where it gets you.
1. Basic Survival Kit – Fire making & tools (knife, hawk, hand trowel, water purification/filtration, and hygiene items).
2. Ammo – Basic load & 1 day resupply
3. Water – 64 ounces minimum (DTG recommends at least 100 ounces in a bladder).
4. Food – 7 ‘field stripped’ MRE (or equivalent) minimum with enough calories that your body doesn’t start the ‘starvation cycle’ and you can operate effectively for up to a week with one ration a day. Example: Protein bars with 25 to 30 grams of protein count as one meal. 2 bars count as one day’s rations.
5. Field Living Gear – Weather appropriate Sleeping Bag, Rain Gear (Gortex jacket & pants or other rain gear) poncho liner, and tarp or poncho shelter.
6. Weapon Essential Spare Parts Kit – firing pin, extractor, etc, as necessary/appropriate for your platform.
7. Nice to have low priority items (if room is left) – should be small and light and very few in number.
How to Pack:
1. Modular: Load like items or items needed consecutively (like your change of clothes) into waterproof containers such as the MACS sack. These can be had at various retailers. They have one-way air valves that allow the bag to be compressed once sealed and are reusable. They are true ‘dry bags’ so that whatever is in them will stay dry so long as the bag is not ripped or cut.
2. Marked: Mark the outside of your containers so you know what’s inside. This allows you to go right to what’s needed and exchange them for seasonal modules as necessary.
How to Load:
Remember that the load is carried by frame or pack board, not the fabric bag itself.
1. Ammo Bandoleers (dense/heavy) carrying is first priority, so load it near your hips in the area of the small of the back next to the frame.
2. Food should be packed near the top or close to the outside of the pouches so you can get to it easily without disrupting the remaining contents.
3. Water – If not contained in an internal reservoir (camelback type) inside the pack or a special pocket on the pack designed for it, canteens should be attached to the outside of the pack in such as manner as they do not catch on things while moving. Further, the canteens should be balanced. For example, if you have your ammo on one side of the pack, balance the pack by putting your canteens on the other side.
4. Weapons Essential Spare Parts should be packed in an outside pouch for easy access.
5. Fire making equipment should be in an outside pouch or on your person.
6. Field living gear is either strapped to the bottom of the pack in a waterproof bag or in a pouch/compartment like the FILBE and CFP-90 has where the entire sleep system can be packed and taken out as a roll. Note: Some folks have tried the ‘vacuum sealed’ sleep systems, and they’re great….until you break the seal and the bag expands. Stick to compression sacks or the large waterproof bags that you can compress on your own.
7. Nice to have items should be placed where you can get to them when appropriate. Extra clothes, a small microfiber towel,, etc, should be put in the bottom of the main compartment because you will only access them on occasion.
Packing Your Pack:
You’re going to find that because of the different kinds of packs people choose to use and their specifications, along with the various kinds of equipment, gear, and weapons that make up the “minimum acceptable pack list”, along with the ability to add things that each man wants in addition to that list, that there is no practical way for everyone to pack their rucks the same. Everyone will pack their pack just a little differently based upon the style, storage space available, and items they have to have along with them.
So, rather than try to construct a “Put item “A” in first and in the bottom left corner of the Main Compartment” type method, we can use a more flexible, yet sound method of packing our packs.
It’s called the “Zone Method”. Using zones in your pack eliminates any concerns over pack types, numbers of compartments, whether it’s a MOLLE or an ALICE, or is a custom made “super pack” like the Eberlestock. What is important is where you place your items based upon weight, accessibility frequency, and, of course, balance.
The following graphic demonstrates the zones we will use when packing our packs. You can use these principles no matter what type of pack you are loading.
Mentally divide your ruck into “zones” and pack your ruck according to these guidelines:
Zone 1 – Put light items, like your sleeping bag or shelter components, at the bottom, or lashed to the bottom of the pack.
Zone 2 – Pack heavy items, such as ammo, water, food, closest to your back. Use a poncho or space blanket as a buffer between sharp-cornered items and your spine if necessary.
Zone 3 – Place medium-weight or bulkier items toward the top or down the front of the pack.
Waterproof your pack’s external material. Liberally use “Camp Dry” or other product and allow complete curing before taking into the field.
Line your main compartment with a USGI or other type “waterproof” (rubberized nylon) laundry bag to augment your waterproofing or use the MACS system as described previously.
Spread a poncho or tarp on the ground before packing and place all your items on it. Don’t be afraid to play with it and pre-organize everything before it goes in to the ruck.
Cull your items as much as possible. Don’t take anything you don’t need or doesn’t have a good return on investment (ROI) for the weight carried!
Lash/strap or tie down securely all items carried on the outside of the pack. Machetes, e-tools, tomahawks, canteens, etc.
The end result should be a load, that when worn over your LBV/LBE, is balanced and doesn’t pull back on your so that you must lean excessively forward to keep from falling over backwards. Additionally, if you start to walk with your ruck, and after just a few yards, you feel your arm circulation is cut off, the pack is too heavy. Like it or not, you’re going to have to “cull” your pack’s contents….again! It’s better now, in training, than to have to do that in the “real world” and leave a trail of usable items for someone to follow (as well as possibly re-supply from your discards!
Questions to ponder:
– Can you get from point A to point B with an overloaded ruck?
– How far from A is B?
– How fast can you walk with everything you’re carrying and for how long?
– What can you do when you get there? Are you totally spent?
– Does your ruck jingle and make other kinds of noises with each step you take?
– Did you waterproof your ruck as much as possible?