I’ve been asked to document how I pack for The Fieldcraft Course. When I’m heading out for a class I don’t pack my personal gear any different than I would if I were a student. I also don’t pack any different than if I were heading out for real either. I train as I know how to fight and live in the field, and the gear list for the class is designed on that concept. I bring all the same gear students bring. I sleep in the field right next to them. I get rained on when they get rained on; I freeze when they freeze. No going back to a motel or a camper for me. So there’s no reason why my packing method shouldn’t work for a student either.
I divide my equipment into three “lines”. Line 1 is my survival, navigation, and emergency signal equipment. Line 2 is my scouting and fighting load. Line 3 is my patrol and sustainment load. This gives me a system to use to guide the placement of the items in my equipment based on their planned use.
There are a few items in this list that aren’t on the actual class list to keep students costs down as best I can, but they are items I’ve found very useful to have none the less.
Line 1 is the survival, emergency signal, and navigation equipment layer. It’s purpose, combined with the skills and knowledge I possess, is to help me survive and get rescued should I get separated from all my other equipment. It is intended to be on my person at all times. One element to consider is that these items are placed in the same location on my body all year round. I don’t put line 1 equipment in unique pockets that only exist on some of my clothing. I also need to be able to protect and regulate my bodies core temperature with the equipment in my line 1 gear. This means appropriate clothing choices prior to heading out. My line 1 items and their consistent locations are:
- Improved Bic lighter with weatherproof bag (right hip pocket)
- Wet weather flame extender in weatherproof container (attached to Bic, right hip pocket)
- Chapstick (right hip pocket)
- Belt knife (strong side hip)
- Multi-tool, dummy corded (right hip pocket)
- Beanie (right cargo pocket)
- Gloves (right cargo pocket)
- MC2 compass, dummy corded (left hip pocket)
- 6’ hank of 550 cord. Loop on one end, stop knot on the other. (Left hip pocket)
- Map (left cargo pocket)
- Protractors (left cargo pocket)
- Watch with watch band compass, worn face in.
- Boonie hat with signal panel (color SOI dependent)
- 3×5 Rite in the Rain tablet, pencil, permanent marker (left chest pocket)
- Small red lens flashlight, dummy corded (lower right shirt pocket)
- Folded Mylar blanket (lower right shirt pocket)
- Thermal glove liners (lower left shirt pocket )
- Not shown – appropriate base or shell layers for the weather
Line 2 is my scouting and fighting load. It only consists of items directly related to scouting or fighting. Whereas line 1 is to help with longer term survival, rescue and navigation, line 2 is essentially to help me survive a short firefight or scout an area. I keep my equipment to only those things necessary to conduct those two jobs. I keep the equipment to a minimum so I can be as light and unencumbered as possible so I can move quickly and quietly.
I prefer a chest rig for my line 2 gear so if I have to drop my ruck I have my fighting gear on me and ready to go. The chest rig is also great because it keeps my equipment up high. This allows me to wear my pack hip belt properly, keeps my profile narrow to avoid snagging on branches and tall grass, and it keeps my equipment handy so I can reach it in the prone. My line 2 items are:
- Split front chest rig
- Rifle magazines
- Communications pouch, dummy cord radio
- Trauma shears, dummy corded
- CAT tourniquet, accessible by both hands
- 8x monocular
- Cammenga 3H Tritium compass, dummy corded
- Rifle with sling and optic
- Mission dependent shooting equipment. Suppressor, white light, IR laser, tripod, bipod, etc.
Line 3 is the sustainment and patrol load and I actually like to split it into two parts; 3A and 3B. 3A is the patrol load, with mission essential gear and a small amount of sustainment equipment that I would utilize for a short patrol. In other words, I plan on being back in the next 12-18 hours, but if something were to go sideways, I have bare essentials with to ensure my core temperature is protected should I get delayed for some reason. I’m not camping, or even sleeping most likely, I’m just making sure I don’t go hypothermic or get dehydrated.
It also has basic mission essential items that don’t fit well onto my chest rig, such as my night vision or sniper veil, my bipod when I’m not using it, or additional signaling equipment. I also store a few more basic emergency signal and survival items on there in case I get into a situation where this is all I have. Since I primarily use stainless bottles for my water, they are attached as are my Iodine tablets and a bandana for a prefilter.
I store my 3A kit together in its own bag and easily accessible, so if I need to abandon my large ruck (3B) then I still am good to go with a basic load out. I’ve played around with different methods from small backpacks, to Camelbak’s and even a haversack and my current method seems to work the best for me. My line 3A items are:
- Red lens headlamp with spare batteries
- 30’ #36 bank line
- Engineers tape (color based off SOI)
- Iodine and Chlorine Dioxide tablets
- Earth tone cotton bandana
- Signal mirror
- Cup lid
- Camo face paint
- 32 ounce stainless bottle
- 3A bag. This one is a Helikon-Tex Foxtrot
- Sniper veil, attached to lid of bag
- USGI poncho, attached to straps under bag
- Night vision kit
- Small roll of 2” Gorilla tape
- 12” zip ties
- 1/2” x 6” ferrocerrium rod
- Lifeboat ration
- Colored bandana for signaling (color based off SOI)
- 32 ounce stainless bottle with cup and stove
3B is the equipment I take when I’m planning on staying out for multiple days. I bring this in addition to 3A. This contains dedicated sleep, shelter, and chow items as well as hygiene and spare clothing items. I’ll base this next layout on the 3B equipment I used during my April Fieldcraft Course. It rained and snowed during this class, with the lowest overnight temp being 19F.
I try to pack my pack with a few things in mind. First I want to pack so that items I need regularly are towards the top so they are easier to get to. Second I want to pack in a manner that places weight higher. The old adage is “heavy high, light low”. This helps balance the pack on my back better. Next I want to pack as symmetrical as possible so that my pack is balanced left and right. My line 3B items and their locations:
- Hygiene gear and PFAK (in waterproof kit bag, on top of main pack compartment)
- Goretex top and gaiters (on top of main pack compartment, under hygiene gear)
- Ranger Handbook (in waterproof bag, in pack lid compartment)
- Team leader book with protractors, map pens and alcohol wipes (in pack lid compartment)
- 3A bag and equipment (stored under 3B pack lid)
- Fold up 3/4 insulation mat (stored folded against frame inside pack)
- Klymit static-V insulation pad (stored in bottom of pack)
- Swagman roll (stored in waterproof stuff sack, in bottom of pack)
- Camouflage thermal tarp (stored in pack against foldable pad)
- Shelter equipment. 30’ Rapid deploy ridgeline and 5 stakes (stored in waterproof kit bag, in pack next to tarp)
- Mill banks bag water filter (stored in upper half of pack)
- Grayl water filter (stored in upper half of pack)
- Jet boil flash stove (stored in upper half of pack)
- Leather work gloves (stored in waterproof bag in outer right side pocket)
- Folding saw (stored in outer right side pocket)
- Entrenching tool (stored in outer right side pocket)
- Mylar blanket (stored in Swagman Roll stuff sack)
- Tool and fire kit. (Stored in waterproof kit bag in upper half of pack) Includes the following:
- Fish jaw spreader (for handling hot stainless bottle)
- Eating utensil
- Extra 6’ hanks of 550 cord
- 30’ #36 bank line
- Early warning trip alarm
- Matches, spare lighter, small candle, blow tube
- Rifle cleaning gear with rods
- Canvas repair needle
- Spare buckles for gear
- Waterproof bag with tinder (stored in upper half of pack)
- Waterproof bag with spare clothing (towards bottom of pack)
- Waterproof bag with extra warming layers (towards bottom of pack)
- Inflatable pillow (stored in Swagman Roll stuff sack)
- Viper hood and cape (stored in waterproof stuff sack in upper half of pack)
A major reason that The Fieldcraft Course is 4 days long is to give students a good amount of experience living out of their rucks, and what is, and isn’t, necessary to do that. In the two classes I’ve ran so far I’ve seen numerous instances where people realize what they thought would work great actually didn’t work at all. I think this is a trap we all fall in, sometimes we just don’t know what we don’t know. That’s why training is so important, to develop your skills and create experience to learn from. I’ve changed my own outlook on gear as I’ve trained and continued to improve, and I will continue to seek ways to improve on what I’ve presented here.
One improvement I’m always trying to make is to lighten the total amount of weight by substituting lighter items, learning a skill that allows me to carry less or do more with what I am carrying, or by finding multiple uses for an item so I can carry less stuff. The complete “wet” weight of all this equipment seen here is 70 pounds. That includes 210 rounds of ammo, 2L water and 4 days food. My pack is also only about 1/2 full. I like this since it makes it easy to organize internally as well as leave room for any other critical gear or extra food and water I may need to bring with. With a plan for resupply, I don’t see any reason why the equipment here couldn’t last a properly trained person almost indefinitely.