Gear System: Philosophy, Set Up, Use, Fitness & Mindset- Part 2, by Max

Today, we are concluding this article, which is a follow-up to the recent “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations”. Part 1 disclosed the basics of the gear system and began detailing them. We are continuing with the details, and then covering the practical use of our gear and the importance of physical conditioning.

THE DETAIL (continued)

Chest Rig / Plate Carrier:

You must avoid the temptation to “go large” with this item. With the available huge admin pouches and the like, this is particularly something you want to avoid below your armpits or right on the front. However, you will need sufficient ammunition, which is why light and fast is never really light and fast unless you can balance it with light enough, and sufficient PT ability to be fast.

In the photo at top, there are three mags on the PC. (It has room to go up to five or seven, if you feel so inclined.) There can be two in the Lite Belt, one on the rifle, and two on the back of the Lite Hydration carrier. I use the figure of six to eight mags as a good basic rifle load-out, with a possible resupply for a potential contact situation on your back or in your vehicle. See the recent article “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations” for more on that.

Other than the magazines, keep the amount of admin gear and huge pouches that you put on your CR/PC to the minimum. The rest go in a Lite Hydration Pack / Daypack. You want the CR/PC to be relatively close to the body and comfortable. You also want to be able to wear it in any number of profile / posture relevant situations.

Test Your Ability to Move in Your Rig / Plates

You need to be able to move and fight in your Lite BB / CR/PC combination. It will have weight, due to the plates and the ammo load, but you can limit it as required. You should train in the gear and do PT to ensure that the load is something you can handle and that it is comfortable, with no hidden chaffing or surprises. If you can’t wear the plates and move, then you either need to do more PT or ditch the plates. Ditch ammo if you have to, because it is not good to be unable to move.

Assault/Day/3-Day Packs:

This is really very much overlooked. It is, again, a balance. Stop throwing stuff in there because “two is one and one is none.” How about instead considering “My gear weighs so much I am too exhausted to patrol professionally and effectively.”?

You need a light Daypack or Hydration Pack that will be worn in conjunction with your Lite BB and CR/PC combination. A Daypack is comfortable and versatile; thus, this is where excess gear should go. It will also work as your vehicle grab-bag. You must still work very hard not to put excess gear in this. This is what is worn for any type of patrol away from your base or vehicles. It still has to be, overall, a combination that you can move and fight in.

The Patrol Pack is what is worn if you are ever planning on going out overnight, or for any extended (short) period of time where you may have to sleep out in the bush. Avoid this unless mission essential. Stay light. Avoid the massive ruck scenario like the plague! You may plan to do it, but you probably don’t have the fitness in reality to remain alert and agile enough and not give in to the temptations of complacency, and even if you do have the fitness level, if you come under contact you will have to dump the whole load, never to be seen again.

What goes in the Daypack (or light Patrol Pack, if you will)? Some suggestions follow (but keep it light):

  • Spare mags – maybe x 4.
  • Hydration bladder 3L This is why we don’t attach a bladder to the back of our CR/PC.
  • Energy- Something in terms of a “packed lunch” plus emergency energy rations.
  • Night vision gear/batteries.
  • Means to purify water – puri-tabs, a straw, or a ***pump.
  • Small IFAK.
  • Wet/cold weather clothing – limited.
  • Miscellaneous items, such as basic rifle kit/rod.
  • Kitchen sink x 2 because one is none and two is….STOP! Be ruthless.

As you can see you have to carefully balance an effective load with what can be carried by you “light and fast”. You have to be ruthless and stop putting things in “just in case”, because everything is a calculated risk and the most important thing is your effectiveness on the ground. If you can only carry four mags and remain effective, then that is your solution.


Your gear is designed to support your tactical operations, and thus it should support you defeating the enemy and staying alive. If your gear is a hindrance, then it will not support your effective conduct of operations.

You will not be able to move around effectively, alert, and without falling into complacency and exhaustion, unless you have the basic PT level to do so. You will not be able to fight if your gear is too heavy for your PT level. Factors:

  • Your gear is too heavy.
  • Your gear is badly rigged / put together / organized.
  • You lack fitness.

Testing Your Gear And Fitness

This is what you need to do with your gear:

Once you have put it together, you need to train in it. This is everything from shooting on the range in various positions to moving in it.

This is what I do with my gear, which is separate from any specific rucking or other PT training. I have some backwoods behind my house that I have a number of hilly trails on. I put on my:

  • Lite BB.
  • Plate Carrier with full magazine load.
  • Daypack.
  • (No rifle required at this point)

I suggest you go out there at a fast walk for 30-45 minutes. Drive hard up the hills and walk down, at a fast walk but there is no need to run. As you do this more and improve, you can add shuffle running if you wish on the downhill.

Making Adjustments

If this is too much for you, then you know your gear plan was not right for you at that point. So you can work up to it. Consider re-rigging or purchasing better gear if the issue is one of comfort and how the gear works with you on the move. Mags bumping into the plate carrier/rig are all things you will discover. Consider temporarily or permanently reducing the weight of the gear. If temporary, you can drop items like the number of magazines you carry and add them back in as your fitness increases. If you realize this is all a step too far, you may take decisions such as deciding not to wear plates.

I realize that some may have difficulty finding a suitable area for this. A hilly area is best, because you can use the hills to get the heart rate up without having to run. If you have to do this in public, you may have an issue with what you look like. This is partially why rucking with just a pack is a useful activity. However, if you replace the PC with a weight vest, that may be viable, but it does not give you the opportunity to actually test the PC itself.

I suggest the above because it is an easy activity that can be progressed as hard and far as you want. It is not a PT program. Rather, it is designed to both test your gear and your ability to move in that specific gear. It will also inoculate you to the sweatiness of working out in gear, such as a PC. At the most simple, I am saying that you have to get out and move about in whatever gear you plan on wearing. You have to use it, test it, see what works and does not work. You also need to improve your fitness.

A Note On Ballistic Plates

I am referring to investing in ceramic / dyneema hybrid standalone plates that are usually designated “Level 3+” and will stop M855 Green Tip. These plates can weigh as little as 4.6 lbs and are an investment in mobility and protection. I do not advocate the use of steel plates for a number of reasons.

Gauging Physical Preparedness

I post the following on my website as a gauge for people to use to see if they are physically prepared for tactical training. You can use it also to give you some idea if you are ready for maneuver while in contact with the enemy:

In order to be ready for class, you need to be able to do a minimum level of fitness. Part of this is a basic cardio level, and then there is the ability to get up and down from both kneeling and prone positions. That is, while holding your rifle safely muzzle down to the front, and without using excessive force or leverage to push yourself up from kneeling, perhaps by pushing on a knee while unsafely waving your muzzle around. You also need to be mentally alert. This is not an age thing, because we have had spry 67 year olds run the classes, better than not-so-spry 30-somethings. It’s about the individual, not the age. The better your physical and mental fitness and alertness, the better able you will be to maintain the rigorous safety standards we set on the ranges and to learn more from the training experience.

The Standard

So here is a simple standard. It’s not a training plan to get you to it but a simple standard to gauge if you are ready for a class:

  • Find a 100 yard stretch of ground. “Enemy” is beyond the 100 yard line.
  • Carry a rifle, or something to simulate one.
  • Carry the rifle in  the “patrol ready” position to your front, butt stock between mid-chest and the pocket of your shoulder, muzzle straight down to your front.
  • Begin:
  • Dash 5-7 yards, kneel, bring the “weapon” up to the firing position, wait 5 seconds.
  • Dash 5-7 yards, go prone, wait 5 seconds.
  • Repeat, alternating kneeling and prone, to 100 yards.
  • Come back from 100 yards to the start, same deal as going forwards, but running to the rear (not running backwards) and each time you kneel or go prone, face back to the original enemy direction.
  • Wait 30 seconds.
  • Repeat.
  • Note: The “dash” needs to be a rush, perhaps adding a zig-zag.

Can you do that without excessive fatigue? Then you are ready for class. You can’t? Do some PT.

You want to consider the need to get up from prone to kneeling, and from kneeling to standing. This incorporates upper body strength (push-ups) with thigh strength (squats/lunges). This is not an exhaustive list, but it is simply a guide to help you determine your practical fitness level. It is a bare minimum.

For specific gear questions, I recommend the MVT Forum. Also, a number of potential questions may have been addressed in the previous article: “The Practical Application of Tactical Gear, Load, and Weight Considerations”.

See Also:

About The Author

Max Alexander is a tactical trainer and author. He is a lifelong professional soldier with extensive military experience. He served with British Special Operations Forces, both enlisted and as a commissioned officer; a graduate of the Royal Military Academy Sandhurst. Max served on numerous operational deployments, and also served as a recruit instructor. Max spent five years serving as a paramilitary contractor in both Iraq and Afghanistan. This included working on contract for the U.S. Government in Iraq, a year of which was based out of Fallujah, and also two years working for the British Government in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He operates Max Velocity Tactical (MVT).


  1. Great article, thanks!

    Best way to figure this stuff out is not endless “research” but to get out with your gear regularly and see how it works in field conditions. Max gave you some great ideas for testing it. Then be willing to change and adapt it as need be. My field gear has been constantly changing for the 30 years I’ve been going out training. There is rarely a “do it once and forever” solution with this sort of thing.

    Most people figure out after attending class what needs to change with their gear setup.

  2. Depending on the weather you anticipate encountering, a camo poncho and poncho liner make a lightweight sleeping bag/shelter for your Day/Patrol pack. Back in the 70s, before Gore-Tex, we used that combination regularly.

  3. Thanks for your service and expertise. However, not to practical for today’s threats. Yes, if there is a 2nd Amendment military action to quell tyranny or defending your private property, then extremely practical.

    I carry a .380 handgun as it conceals nicely. I wear mine in my inside pants holster and wear it everywhere legal (even in the Board of Director meetings as a CPA), my wife fits hers in her purse. I have two extra magazines on the other side of my hip inside my pants to supplement my 6 rounds in the gun magazine (that’s 18 rounds total). I do not recommend a 7th round by chambering a round in the gun as every bullet fired either by mistake or intent comes with an attorney. From time to time I do wear a police bulletproof vest and fits nicely under a dress shirt and tie (noticeable only by close colleagues who know my weight – then I say it is a weight vest used for cardio vascular – as it could be). So I’m all geared up at work, public, church, and government areas were permitted –without drawing attention. Had I worn camouflage and body armor to the grocery store you had bet your bottom line I would be answering to law enforcement.

    Lastly, for those of us that travel for work, sometimes airplanes, I drive to clients within an 8 hour driving radius (you figure with a connecting flight and TSA groping that is 8 hours off your watch). By driving, I can now carry an AR-15 with 5 fully loaded 30 round magazines plus one suppressor and another 30 round magazine with subsonic ammunition (this is the highest caliber I’ve seen used where the only noise you hear is the clicking mechanism of the trigger coupled with the suppressor—however it doesn’t recycle to the next round and you must cock each time)—you decide what you need at the time of need (I have both needs covered). This rifle and ammo is stored in and outside gun vault welded on my vehicle’s chassis. This allows you to say “No” in traffic stops when the Office asks, “Do you have any weapons inside the vehicle.” [They are outside the vehicle].

    We must be vigilant and ready for a reasonable response to a [current] public threat. I believe I would encounter a terrorist or gunman in the public square before being called upon by my peers in a military action against tyranny. You decide! But be ready!

    Hope this helps!

  4. How do you plan to carry those magazines and use that ar-15 when you have to use that rifle to defend you and yours? Why would you wear camo and body armor to a grocery? Obviously it depends on the situation and Max is not advocating going around dressed like a militia colonel. If you carry a rifle with you, you should certainly be training to use it and the support gear necessary to fight with it.

  5. “His class is geared towards being anti .Gov and fighting forces like the Guard/Reserve…”

    That is like saying James Wesley, Rawles Patriots series is geared towards the anti-government crowd because they depict a collapse and resistance to tyranny.

    1. “I’m speaking of his service…”

      It is unclear to me what you are saying.

      You wrote: “He should know what he’s fighting because he was it.”

      I wasn’t aware of any fighting in CONUS at this time, perhaps you could elaborate?

  6. These steel plates are only $90 cheaper than a reputable hybrid plate that weighs 2.2 pounds less. When you sacrifice your mobility by being overloaded and slow you will likely need that multishot capability. Sounds like you are just shilling for the company that sells those plates.

    Judging by your comments obviously haven’t trained with Max. Small unit tactics are extremely well suited towards SHTF situations. A lot of his curriculum is geared toward being prepared to defend your loved ones in the event of a collapse.

  7. There is an important theme in this two part series about realistic expectations regarding weight carried and your tested level of fitness.

    You need to base this on your own current ability, not what you did 15 years ago.

    Think you can run around with a full ruck over your steel plates with every conceivable gizmo playing “Batman in the boondocks?”

    I challenge you to test that theory out and let us know the results. Learn this know while it doesn’t matter.

    “…to remain alert and agile enough and not give in to the temptations of complacency…”

    Do not underestimate this warning!

    Many have died due to poor judgment brought on by fatigue.

    1. I am glad to hear you are so active at a young 52.

      However my comments were directed to the general readership on the dire consequences to ones judgment when overburdened with too much weight.

  8. When I turned 60 I put on my BOB ( 38 lb backpack ) and wanted to see if I could hump it 10 miles without even stopping or sitting down. I did it, took 3 hrs 20 minutes. It was on roads but some inclines and slopes, not all level ground. I have to say those last 2 miles were a killer. Running at that point would have been pretty difficult, if not impossible. For weapons I had a KelTec PF-9 pistol and a folding stock AK stashed in the bag with 2 loaded mags. Test out your stuff. I dearly hope I never have to bug out with a pack.

  9. When you live in SW Texas where daytime highs are consistently over 100 and there is no such thing, in the boonies, such as real shade, every ounce you can shave off is worth several ounces (if not more) of water. You WILL have to carry, or access, more water than in other areas just to survive, never mind actually fight.

  10. The Law Enforcement Problem
    Posted: 08 Feb 2013 08:42 AM PST
    There is a lot going back and forth on the ‘interweb’ lately about where law enforcement personnel may or may not stand on issues of encroaching tyranny, the Second Amendment and related issues. Everyone knows someone who is a cop and a ‘real stand up guy’ who maybe has stated that he will not enforce any unconstitutional laws.

    That’s not the point.

    The point is the way law enforcement has evolved in this country and where we are with it today. Yes, I’m going to generalize and make assumptions. No, I’m not going to produce statistics or witness testimony. This is my opinion, as an observer.

    We have reached a point where we don’t really have any rights. By the time we get to exercise them, maybe if we get to court, it’s too late. There is such an amount of law out there (separate from justice) that any one of us will be doing something unlawful on any given day, and if law enforcement wants to put pressure on you there is not doubt they will find a way. We have reached a point also where it is not so much that we may be acting unlawfully, but that law enforcement will take unlawful actions themselves, in a sort of ‘possession (i.e. arrest/confiscation) is nine tenths of the law’ approach where even though in the end of it we may be found innocent and subsequently released, our lives are ruined and we have an arrest record.

    Often, prosecution is driven by policy or ideology and not the pursuit of Justice The courts system is a corrupt game and the average ‘Joe’ has no chance without sufficient financial resources to hire the lawyers to protect himself.

    So where does law enforcement fit in? At the Federal and local level, these guys are the enforcers These are the guys who will arrest or kill you. These are the guys who are trained to follow ‘departmental procedures’ and are atavistic about ‘officer safety’. The bottom line is that they are not there to ‘serve and protect’ but rather to ensure their own safety while looking for ways to arrest, coerce, wound, humiliate or kill you and screw up your life.

    A ‘contact’ between law enforcement personnel and the public, at perhaps at traffic stop or elsewhere, is like an encounter with a boa constrictor. The cop may be a nice guy, I’ve experienced that, there is no black and white to this post. It happens, for example I’ve been let off after being stopped for speeding. But back to the point: its not about the individual, but about the organization as a whole and how they operate.

    The cop is not looking to help you out, to ‘serve’ or ‘protect’ you. He stopped you because he had a reason whether or not he had ‘reasonable suspicion’ or ‘probable cause’. Once you are detained, you are being looked at, your ID run, while the cop looks for other reasons to ruin your day. If you argue or in any way confront his ego, he will start to constrict This is when you realize that you have no rights. The cop will begin to squeeze and escalate through the non-lethal to lethal force continuum. If he over-steps it, beats you down or shoots you, he will get together with his buddies and lie about it so he gets away with it, so long as ‘department procedures’ are followed and ‘officer safety’ was the primary concern. What happened to public or Citizen safety? Aren’t these guys supposed to be putting it on the line for us, like firefighters or soldiers?

    But I know all about this. Cops are trained to focus in, bite down like an attack dog, and not be deterred Once they are on you, that’s it. I’ve never been a cop, but I have been in similar situations where I have had to employ the force continuum, either in military deployed situations, as a security contractor, or even part timing doing bar security. In such situations you will always have some variation of a ‘rules for the use of force’ continuum and you act on it, not really caring about the individual you encounter but only that they comply This leads to the “step away from the cookie jar/you have five seconds to comply” school of law enforcement. The vital thing to remember when carrying out security duties within a community, even if you are bouncing at a bar, or the cop on the street outside, is to behave reasonably and try to defuse situations and build relationships. Not just blindly follow down a force continuum: “He was not complying, so I pepper sprayed him, tazered him, beat him, knelt on his neck, and then he finally struggled free (in fear of his life and in massive pain!) so I shot him as he was escaping. He threatened my officer safety.”

    Well, that’s the retard school of cop behavior, which we see so much of in today’s ‘merica. pew, pew, pew, pew.

    So we have arrived at a point where we have a paramilitary police force, many of whom are not too bright, blindly following procedures that are designed to coerce citizens and leave them little or no avenue once the path is started down. How dare you argue with a cop! I saw a video about NYPD shake-downs with the cops calling the guy a ‘mutt’ and trying to start a fight. Guaranteed, I would be rolling around with that retard, trying to punch the crap out of him before his partner manages to tazer me. I always joke that given the disrespect shown by cops to the public, and the willingness to use force to coerce, it’s only a matter of time before I end up tazered with a fat guy kneeling on my neck!

    So, Cops: Cut the crap! You are either part of the problem or part of the solution. If your department is behaving like this to the public, and enforcing unconstitutional laws and practices, even simply degrading citizens with your everyday activities, then you are either with the bad guys or you quit. There is no middle ground Don’t expect to play both sides. For all the good guys who are cops, stand up and be counted. Don’t allow your department to behave in this way. If its a problem, get out, quit. You can’t have your cake and eat it!

    I’ve got news for you: You may be in uniform, and you may have an unassailable ego, and you may well be an alpha male. But there are many more alpha males out there who don’t tolerate the bullying. We may put up with it temporarily ‘for the greater good’ so we can be on our way, but there will come a point where enough is enough.

    We The People are free Citizens protected by the Constitution, which is the last light of liberty in the civilized world and we will not tolerate a police bully state. If the police will not enforce the Constitution that they are oath bound to protect, then it will be up to the People to do so, and Cops will be sidelined as a bullying irrelevance.

    It was once put to me that cops and criminals are very similar psychologically, they just choose the side they want to be on. That may explain the tribe like behavior and the corruption exhibited by police departments, at direct odds with the interests of the public.

    And here’s another thing! One final thing! Retired cops running tactical training schools. I call Bullsh*t. Some cops may be experts on firearms and they may even be in a tactical SWAT team. But they are not soldiers, and their experiences are in law enforcement. They may have been in gunfights, and there is a limited utility to what they teach if it’s basic firearms stuff, limited CQB. However, don’t go to them for tactics. Don’t go to them for the kind of tactics that will be useful to you post-collapse, or in a civil war. Too much of what I see on these type of ranges will just get you killed I see a lot coming from SWAT CQB. I see square ranges with people standing up and walking towards the targets stood up. It looks cool and Hollywood, but has limited utility. You know the bit in the movies when the heroes all stand up in a line and advance towards the enemy firing as they go? Looks cool. Usually happens after the enemy started running away. It’s not Fire and Movement! No movement without a point of fire, period.

    If you take one thing away from this post, take the need to “TAKE COVER!” as soon as you come under fire. Get on your belly and crawl. Learn light infantry tactics, not cop tactics.

    Finally: despite the increasing unconstitutionality of what we see in the country today, the Regime would like nothing more than for people to take up an armed resistance. Don’t do it! You will be isolated, killed and simply written off as ‘right wing patriot constitutionalist gun-nut crazy domestic terrorists.’ DHS, have fun when the software picks those keywords up! Keep your powder dry, prepare, train, resist by standing up for Constitutional rights in any and all encounters with Regime guards. At some point, the idiots running this show will be forced to make a move, and then you will be ready when they come for you. At that point, the line will have been crossed and it will be ‘weapons free’, with you simply acting in self-defense.

    RESTORE! (my version of RESIST!)

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