I recently received a question from a reader and upcoming student for the fieldcraft course that I thought would be of interest to others as well. The following is his question:
Well I wanted to run something past you. I ended up buying a surplus FILBE ruck and followed a winter packing list and purchased GEN III ECWCS levels 1-7 (missing one item). So ya with just my sleeping gear, clothes and other comfort items my bag is about full. I add a separate assault pack bungee-ed to main ruck. Without food, water or ammo my equipment weighs around 52 pounds.
I do like the idea of a separate assault pack and am used to shooting off my pack instead of a bi-pod. But I guess I wanted to at least run this past you as other options are getting out of budget. The context of all this lacks questions as I do not know the right ones to ask, other then; Do I got too much weight or bulk? Or is my setup sound like trash? But I guess I am looking for criticism as I want to succeed when I show up.
I been running and exercising at least 5-6 days a weeks. But how far should I expect to be able to travel with a given weight over a given distance?
Before I give my input on his letter specifically, I’d like to share my thoughts on a concept I learned from Dave Canterbury called “weight versus rate”. It’s basically asking yourself how much use you’re going to get from every piece of gear you’re packing. We should be trying to maximize the amount of use we get from every item we are packing, even if that means using an item in a way that it wasn’t originally meant to be used so that we can avoid having to carry an additional piece of gear.
A good example is the USGI poncho. Of course it works as a shell layer to block wind and rain, it can also be used as a small tarp, a bivy bag to sleep in, a hammock, and a litter to name a few uses. I’m sure there are more experienced guys that can give even more uses. My point being, if it works for all those uses, do I need to carry all those items? Maybe, maybe not.
Another concept I’d like to touch on is METT-T. It’s a military acronym that stands for Mission, Enemy, Troops available, Time available, and Terrain and weather. There’s other versions of this acronym with letters added, but this is the basic one and will work for what we’re talking about.
METT-T is a decision making tool used to analyze different courses of action. You select the best course of action by comparing them to the factors of METT-T. The most critical element being Mission, where we simply compare everything to whether it helps, or hinders, us in accomplishing that mission. A phrase I’m sure my fellow combat arms brothers will recognize is “mission dependent”. This is a general answer given to many questions during training, since we often can only speculate as to what the enemy will do or what conditions or situations we may encounter. Our tactics, techniques, procedures, and equipment are all mission dependent.
The last topic I want to talk about is what priority your gear is actually satisfying. This is especially applicable to our sustainment or line 3 gear. This is another concept I learned from Dave Canterbury. When it comes to our gear, it falls into three categories:
- 1) Crucial for Core Temperature Control. These items are necessary to keep us safe from hypothermia. It has nothing to do with a good nights sleep, it’s merely for survival. These are going to be the clothing you’re wearing as well as the items you will use to stay warm in an emergency. These items are the first five C’s out of the “Ten C’s of survivability”. From the gear list I would say my poncho, poncho liner, Mylar space blanket, stainless bottle, knife, Bic as well as the warming layers I’m wearing.
- 2) Comfort items. These items make getting a good nights sleep easier. They are not essential to survival, but instead help us get more rest than we would with just the core temperature control items, therefore making us more effective. From the gear list, my inflatable mat and pillow are good examples of this. I can definitely sleep good with just a browse bed though if I need to cut some weight.
- 3) Convenience items. These items are luxuries that make life in the field easier. These items are absolutely not essential and if you’re already carrying as much weight as you can manage you need to ditch these items. Most of the items on the gear list with optional are convenience items as far as the class is concerned, although depending on your mission (see what I did there?) one day that may change.
So with these ideas in mind, let’s go back to my friends letter. I’ll add my thoughts in parentheses.
Well I wanted to run something past you. I ended up buying a surplus FILBE ruck and followed a winter packing list and purchased GEN III ECWCS levels 1-7 (missing one item). So ya with just my sleeping gear, clothes and other comfort items my bag is about full. I add a separate assault pack bungee-ed to main ruck. Without food, water or ammo my equipment weighs around 52 pounds. (I’m not sure what you have for sleeping gear and clothing, but even if it’s just a poncho and poncho liner, ECWCS level 1-7 is way too much to be carrying. I’d suggest bringing 1,2,3 and 6 to be well prepared for very wet, cold weather possible this time of year. That will get you a wicking base, thermal base, loft layer and shell layer in addition to your other clothing. Those will protect your core temperature at a minimum the full time you’re at the class. As I stated above, comfort and convenience are optional luxuries, and we can’t weigh ourselves down to the point we are unable to accomplish our mission just so we can be comfortable. Getting comfortable with being uncomfortable is part of the gig, although any fool can be miserable.)
I do like the idea of a separate assault pack and am used to shooting off my pack instead of a bi-pod. But I guess I wanted to at least run this past you as other options are getting out of budget. The context of all this lacks questions as I do not know the right ones to ask, other then; Do I got too much weight or bulk? Or is my setup sound like trash? But I guess I am looking for criticism as I want to succeed when I show up. (So here is where METT-T comes into play. Can you accomplish the mission with what you have? Or do you need to add another piece of equipment? Weight versus rate. The gear list for the Fieldcraft Course is pretty thorough and there really isn’t much need for anything else not on the list. There are a few items that may not be of importance to some all the time, but their weight is typically very low for the benefit they can provide. If you can use a pack to shoot instead of carrying a bipod, you’re already catching on. That is a good example of adding another use to your pack. Bipods are optional at the class for those who want them, but they aren’t essential and we will be going over other ways to work around them. I’ll leave this section with a quote I read quite awhile back on the most excellent DanMorgan76 blog: “Take what you need to accomplish the mission, but no more. Be ruthless in your assessment and leave the nice to have stuff for camping trips.”
I been running and exercising at least 5-6 days a weeks. But how far should I expect to be able to travel with a given weight over a given distance? (Good job staying steady working out, the way of the warrior is in training. For your question I’m going to refer back to METT-T again here, its mission dependent. From the 2017 Ranger Handbook Chapter 6, section 12: “A foot march is successful when troops arrive at the destination at the prescribed time, physically able to execute their tactical mission.” Also from the 2017 Ranger Handbook chapter 7, section 8: “Movement: average of 1 kilometers per hour (kph) during daylight hours in woodland terrain and average limited visibility of 1/2 kph. Add additional time for restrictive or severely restrictive terrain such as mountains, swamps, or thick vegetation.” So there’s two standards for speed during tactical movements, based of course on their mission requirements. I would think their standards and requirements are going to be higher than a typical civilian defending his home, but they are still good data points to compare ourselves to. I’m sure these are referring to platoon sized elements carrying heavy combat loads, so if you are in a smaller element with less gear you should be able to do it at least that fast. For the class, my time hacks for the land nav courses are based on 1MPH with full gear, but these aren’t tactical movements either.)