The intent of this post is to tie in the related, practical application concepts of tactical gear, fitness, teamwork, logistics, and tactical loading, in order to present a realistic and logical way to approach the subject. There are a number of related factors at play here.
We often utilize the military terminology of “METT-TC” in order to analyze our mission and thus apply it to the gear that we may carry. Factors such as weather, duration, and the specific mission that you are conducting play into considerations of what to carry. We must be realistic in what we plan and train for now, and thus pack for. Base it around what we think we realistically might be doing in a collapse situation. I put it to you that most people will be engaged in local defense and security patrolling. They may also deal with presence/ground domination activity (GDA). People will be patrolling in and around their homestead and perhaps local community. They will thus not be engaging in multi-day ruck-missions out into the boondocks. This has relevance as we examine the other factors.
However much you pack, you will ultimately need a resupply. Many people with a “prepper” mindset want to pack too much “just in case” they need it. I would advise a different approach. I recommend you plan for that resupply and set up a logistics chain. If it allows you the ability to maneuver under fire, it would be better to have to temporarily make do without something than carry a huge load. Thus, you could consider something along the lines of planning to utilize existing vehicles. Trucks, ATVs/UTVs, and even perhaps horses or mules can support any mission that you plan that you suspect will go beyond one day’s rations. This would be one first line ammunition scale (i.e. what is realistically carried on the person as part of a deployed load-out).
This also ties in very well with casualty evacuation. I tell people at class that the hardest thing they will do is evacuate a casualty under fire. It is so much the case that I propose that with today’s typical weight of person measured against poor levels of physical fitness, factoring in the exhaustion of being under fire, many casualties will not be evacuated. Or, they at least will not be evacuated far. Thus, in a break contact drill, this means they will be left. The team may be forced to strongpoint, in order to call for QRF/casualty evacuation. For this, you need communications, an actual QRF (trained and rehearsed team), and suitable transport for them to deploy to you and extract you.
You should only carry what you can fight in. By this I mean what you can maneuver under fire. Much has been said about 55 pounds being the maximum that a person can carry into combat. However, we must remember that:
- The person must be fit and robust in the first place to manage this, and
- This refers to weight that can be carried in on an approach march, not actually fought in.
In order for the individual to be able to maneuver tactically under fire, this load must be reduced. For example, I would consider 35lbs. as a much more practical load weight that 55lbs. This, however, may not include the weight of the rifle. Your mileage may vary. This goes directly against carrying all that stuff that you want to carry because “two is one and one is none”. And it relates to the concept of logistics. An individual should not be loaded out with, for example, 16 magazines on the person, plus whatever else. They should be loaded with something more like 6-8 mags. Depending on the mission, a support team can move resupply up in an ATV. “No man is an island.” And you cannot fight everyone forever on your own. You can only carry a limited amount and still remain effective, and then you need resupply.
None of these factors mean anything without the physical conditioning to carry your load and maneuver under fire. Given that many suffer from age, obesity, lack of training, injuries, and medical conditions, it really does reap benefits to take a more “light fighter” approach and plan to be without rather than be with too much. You probably do not need all those widgets and extras. There are some things that it is really sensible to carry, and that is detail beyond this article. (See the MVT Forum.) But you cannot carry all that water, ammo, and food. So you need to balance the needs of realistic short-term missions with arranging resupply. The activity of “rucking” is tied to this.
I really do not think that anyone should be planning to do anything while carrying a ruck. Get away from the idea of “bug out rucks” and all that. It is possible that you may have to carry a ruck on an approach march to set up a patrol base, but how likely is that given the missions that you may be conducting? You will also have to drop that ruck at the first contact and may likely never see it again. I posit that you are more likely to have relatively short-term missions, if you go anywhere at all outside of an envelope of more than a mile or so from your home base. Thus, get away from heavy “rucking” as training.
A Reasonable Load Weight
I would advise that you train where possible with your actual tactical load-out gear, weighing around 35lb. The training value of carrying a ruck is more relevant to situations where for profile purposes you cannot, or do not want to, go out wearing tactical gear. So then you pack a ruck to replace that for training purposes. But carry no more than 35lb in that ruck. This is a realistic combat load weight that you can use for training purposes. Alternatively, use a weighted vest, which is ergonomically similar to your plate carrier load weight.
As part of logistics, you need to consider the use of vehicles, such as ATVs. I was recently in Idaho, where I ran classes and we used ATVs as resupply logistics vehicles out on the open range. Rather than plan to carry a large ruck or patrol pack, simply wear the load that you can maneuver and fight in, and put the rest on the ATV. The ATV can actually move with the patrol, particularly in large open spaces, with low engine noise, caused by low revs, and simply stay a terrain feature away from the objective. Then, when called for, the support vehicles(s) move up to the objective and trade ammo and water resupply for any casualties.
This in itself gets into a mobility question with the use of tactically suitable vehicles, such as off-road trucks, ATV/UTV, and other transport to provide tactical mobility. So you can either move transport with dismounts, or mount the dismounts to get them closer to the objective area. Transport stays at the Objective Rally Point (ORP) until called for. (Use Mission Support Site (MSS) for those who want to be really contemporary.)
Though plates add weight, we all realize that although we want to be light, we will never be totally free of carried weight if we are going to carry a combat load. Thus, we plan to be as light as practicable. We have to carry a certain amount of ammo, water, IFAK, basic rations, et cetera. In my opinion, ballistic plates are worth the added weight, in the balance. Reducing the chances of penetrating trauma to the torso or thoracic cavity is important in my mind, particularly given what I said above about casualty evacuation. However, you cannot carry plates if you have not achieved the conditioning to allow you to do so and cannot move tactically with them on.
The flip side is that if you have a logistics plan, you can dump some of those widgets and extra magazines you wanted to carry and allow yourself plates. It is all a balance of firepower, protection, and mobility. The key thing with plates is to buy “Level 3+” ceramic/dyneema hybrids that are light but will stop M855 Green Tip. 3+ is not an official NIJ standard but they are sold. My plates weight 4.6 lb each. That to me is a trade-off that is worth it. If you do not have the conditioning, and if you have super heavy plates, you will not wear them anyway, not beyond 24 hours after the collapse happens.
A Note on Plates
Please get away from steel. More accurately, please get away from the concept of only having plates, such as heavy steel plates, for defensive purposes. You may want to buy heavy, cheap plates, but you do not want to invest in the physical training to be able to maneuver with them on. In fact argumentatively, defensively, you are less likely to need plates if you are using prepared fighting positions. You are more likely to need them if you come under fire while on patrol or in an offensive dynamic operation. Thus, when considering plates, consider ones that you can practically wear and fight in. (Continued tomorrow.)
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).