[Editor's Introductory Note: I sometimes receive quite lengthy articles that are mix of great practical information and extended political narratives. In such cases I sometimes opt to edit out the particularly ranty sections. Where I have done so, you will see: "[Some deleted, for brevity]". My apologies, but to make an article of this length readable, editorial discretion is a must. Furthermore, I have to recognize that all politics are local. Since SurvivalBlog is a publication with an international readership, I feel obliged to chop out political discourses that would be of little or no interest to my readers in places like England, Germany, or India.]
My family and I have received so much benefit from all of the information from SurvivalBlog as fellow blog readers, that we wanted to give something back. Hence we decided we would submit this entry into your writing contest. Hopefully it will help other readers, who like us, struggle with both, not seeing as clearly as we may think what lies in store for us, nor knowing exactly how to prepare for it when we do see it. While there is something to be said for lessons learned the hard way, as we all know, there is also never enough time to make all those mistakes again for yourself. So for that reason, as well as all the wasted time & resources we've fumbled our way through, we would like to share with other readers the lessons we've learned, with the hope that they will help someone else streamline their preparations better than we did. We certainly don't have all the answers, in fact I can't even say for sure that the answers we do have are the right ones for anyone other than us, it's just what we've found, and how we have addressed our various concerns. I guess here's also where I should say, "your individual mileage may vary." To best convey the lessons we've learned I would like to do it in three distinct sections. First, how we arrived at where we did, secondly, the information which generally guided our then redirected and more aware thought process, and finally, the actual equipment and decisions that actually got us to where we wanted to be.
I should start off by saying that we are middle class Americans. Christian, law abiding, patriotic, and freedom loving of course. We are not disenfranchised, anarchists, social malcontents, nor psychotic. We are just worried by what we see happening in our country. I'm a ten year military veteran, former police detective / SWAT officer, and now a licensed in a medical private practice. My wife works as a sales representative. We have three sons who are in their mid to upper teens. We're just average, everyday people by most standards.
Like most folks, we thought we had been moving along the prepping path fairly smoothly, until recently when my wife and I both began to feel very uncomfortable with what we were seeing regarding how easily our various elected "leaders" were apparently embracing the concept of "political corruption with impunity". Additionally, we were very concerned not only with how all of us, as citizens were being treated, but the very way in which these same "leaders" seemed to view us at a fundamental level. They seemed to be barely able to conceal the disdain they have, both for us, as well as the constitutional rights we claim, when we question their actions, and seek their accountability.
[Some deleted, for brevity]
Our hope and goal of course, is to be able to remain low profile, and stay in the home we are preparing on our northern Idaho ranch. It is, after all, our primary security and logistical base. I know many of us realize that at some point we may need to defend our homes, as well as ourselves, be it just as a single family, or in cooperative groups. Home defense, to whatever degree may be required, I happen to believe, can only be realistically attempted against civilian threats, and even then, only in reasonable numbers. Certainly not against any, even moderate size, or type of conventional military, or militarized police forces. Like most in the prepper community, we want to avoid any armed confrontations with anyone, to whatever degree we can. Our intent has been to do that by being as discreet as possible. Knowing that will only go so far however, our simultaneous plan has been to make our ranch as inaccessible, and undesirable of a target as possible. Worth neither the risk, nor the cost, to any potential miscreants. Should the worst come to pass, hopefully, Good Lord willing, there will be an evolution into cooperative communities throughout The Redoubt, be that simply a single street, a whole neighborhood, or entire communities. An evolution into working together for their mutual security, as well as other common benefits. The down side to this hope however, is that such cooperation will likely take time before people realize the logic and mutual benefit in doing so, as well as to develop the willingness to trust anyone again. In view of these things, our mindset had been to hope for the best, while preparing for the worst. All well and good I suppose, until in our scenarios, we started replacing criminals and looters with federal sanctioned enforcement troops, who viewed us as "the threat". We then started wondering, what happens at that point? More importantly, what if these same "leaders" who show such disdain for the citizenry and their constitutional rights now, become a bigger component in this forthcoming problem? What's left then, just to run and hide? I must admit, we considered that tactic. Just hide, survive, wait for the dust to settle, and then help rebuild. Hard for us to swallow to be sure, but something we had to consider, none the less. In the end however, we felt that simply leaving our ranch to be plundered, and running away to hide, in what we access would clearly be a hostile environment at that point, with no additional substantial support structure in place to sustain us, just to avoid potential conflict, put us all in an equal, albeit different type, of danger that is every bit as grave.[Some deleted, for brevity]
Up to this point, our preparations being geared towards living discretely and then hiding and waiting things out, was not a bad starting framework. However, given these aforementioned realizations, we have been forced to evolve in our thinking, and therefore make some adjustments to our preparations as well. Due to the increasing concerns these realizations have have brought to our attention, my wife, now thoroughly stressed out, opted to turn it all over to me (God bless her) to find the solution. To that end, I began doing research both historically, as well as regarding current military forces, and their use in quelling the civil unrest that's currently going on around the globe. As a result, I've come to the conclusion that there will very likely be more violence directed at dissenting citizenry than we personally were anticipating. That appears to be the common thread in how these situations unfold. Additionally, as for us, we were probably too open in voicing our opinions about the current state of affairs in our country, letters to newspaper editors, etc. Thus, I don't think we can effectively "fly under the radar" at this point. We've already spoken up and drawn all the wrong kinds of attention to ourselves, "making the list", so to speak. Decision's I'm not sure I would make a second time. They only served to draw negative attention to our position on these social issues, while producing no apparent immediate positive change. Why send out such an alert, when we are all so closely scrutinized? Why inadvertently shorten your G.O.O.D. reaction window, and become one of those first houses visited without warning? Was it worth it or not? I cannot say.
[Some deleted, for brevity]
Things in recent world news, as well as events here in the various scandals of our own government, It scares us to death. It's as if our elected leadership has been empowered, and turned down the path of trampling any of our rights that are not convenient for them. Usurping authority, abusing citizens, and not to sound melodramatic, but turning not only ungodly, but just plain evil. Such demonstrated behavior compels us to believe that without the boundaries of accountability and resistance when needed, their abusiveness will not end, but rather will only expand and grow worse, until it destroys us all. If that's in fact true, and we see no reason to think otherwise, then the hide and wait scenario has a very limited shelf life after all. No more "low profile", hide & wait it out. We're all going to have to stand the line, or live with something much worse than what we're complaining about right now! While we can't speak for anyone else, we've decided that we're not up for passing that legacy on. The buck had to stop somewhere, & that's where some new stuff for us had to begin. These realizations have changed both our thinking, and how we prepare, we believe for the better. This section was about realizing the underlying threat. The next two sections respectively are about better understanding that threat & how to cope with it, and then the item by item list of how we modified our preparations meet this evolving threat. We hope that it helps others to to take a look with fresh eyes at their own preparations and consider the realities we did not.
[Some deleted, for brevity]
I also learned military operations today are primarily focused around the concept of forces being "inserted" near a conflict area. This can be done via airborne drops, rotary wing, vehicle, etc type transport. Once deployed, forces may have to move on foot a couple clicks to an objective, where they perform their specific mission, and walk back to their vehicles or extraction point for transportation back to their base of operations. They don't really march in & out any more, which enables them to carry more high tech gear on their missions, the downside of which equals heavier combat loads. It also means however that in carrying that extreme load, they are unable to move as quickly during actual contact (look at pictures of guys in full kit and see how likely you think it is that they can effectively get prone, & when they do, that they can get back up & quickly sprint to a new position). Additionally, unless it is an "Elite" soldier, whose physical conditioning standards are significantly higher, they are not going to carry all that gear very far very fast (below is an AAR about that). Regarding that issue, I learned that overall, in today's conventional military forces, although some have the title, there is generally speaking, no longer a true "Light Infantry". By light infantry I am referring to foot-borne units that are capable of rapid movement over long distances of varied terrain, being able to rapidly engage a non-static, elusive target. All my reading led me to believe that in significant part, the inability to move as quickly, having a less intimate knowledge of an operational area, and the dissidents ability to "disappear into the indigenous local populations" (which in some instances supported them in their cause), seemed to account for most of the problems abusive governments had with using conventional military forces to deal with dissident type problems, and offset much of the benefit of the increased technology. (now the caveat, that does not of course include the numerically limited, elite units such as Rangers, S.F., SEALs, etc, as that is precisely their game.) It seemed as though this would be applicable to us as well, rather I should find myself at odds with abusive government enforcers, OR an overwhelming group of marauding civilians wishing us harm, and that could not be successfully preemptively repelled at a greater distance. Being able to move faster & farther, knowing the area better, and being able to disappear, seem generally beneficial across the board. I further discovered that when confronted by a force by which you are outgunned and out supplied, a static defense (such as defending a home against a military or militarized police unit) is almost certainly a losing proposition. However, if you turn the tables, and they have to carry all those beans and bullets as they pursue you, and you are fluid, fast (i.e. can travel light due to pre-positioned cache points), and can blend in, they are generally not able to be very effective in such a dynamic situation. Basically, what it all boiled down to is that it's hard to catch a ghost. In support of that, I also came across some interesting information from a S.F. NCO in Afghanistan, that the average fighting load carried by a combat infantry soldier in the mountains of Afghanistan is 60-80 lbs. Now bear in mind that that is what he is carrying in the midst of the actual combat, i.e. closure with the enemy. This same soldiers "approach march load" (which is what he carries to sustain him in the field just getting to the fight) is between 130-150 lbs. It is also noteworthy that the load weights listed, only addressed the "doctrinal load", and did not include the inevitable addition of personal items that most guy's also carry. Now I realize, these are fit and conditioned young men, but that's a lot of weight to pack, and having a little brother currently over there, I know the Hindu Kush mountains are some serious mountains. Thinking about that, and digging further I found this information, which puts into perspective the results of carryings such massive loads. This is an excerpt from an after action report from a first sergeant in the 187th infantry regiment of the 101st airborne div. during operation Anaconda in Afghanistan. It stated:
“We had extreme difficulty moving with all of our weight. If your movement would have been to relieve "a unit in contact", or a time-sensitive mission, we would not have been able to move in a timely manner. It took us 8 hours to move 5 klicks. With just the vest (Interceptor Body Armor vest) and LBV, we were easily carrying 80 pounds. Throw on the ruck and you’re sucking.”
I also discovered in this information that these incredible loads were based on apparently short term needs vs more protracted time periods, because they were factored on 48-72 hr regular re-supply. They are not able to be self reliant any longer than that and remain at full capability. Now one of the things I found particularly interesting about this information, was how it related to a previous study conducted by the U.S. military that I found, (it seems the military quickly forgets the lessons of it's past). In this study, they determined that a soldiers maximum "approach march" load should not exceed 55 lbs. That was the maximum that he could carry, and still possess the energy to be able to fight effectively when he got to the fight. Now bear in mind, that "approach march load" is inclusive of all the gear they carry, period. The study further determined that a maximum 48 lb "fighting load" could be effectively carried in actual combat if it was carried by a "conditioned soldier".
Now, that's all interesting stuff, but why go into it? For several reasons. Because I wanted to understand something about those who may be sent to come after us, and at least in part, some of their strengths and weaknesses, as well as to have a better understanding of both myself, as well as the physical abilities we need to possess. Realizing that while in good health, I am no longer the highly fit, conditioned soldier of my youth, this helps put into perspective the importance of our daily PT regimen because survival isn't something that is graded on an age curve. You either will, or you won't. The age, we're stuck with. The mileage, and the wear and tear, well, it just is what it is. The conditioning however, that is within our control to improve every day. This information was also helpful when we got down to seriously culling our gear. When I looked at all our preps in the harsh light of these weight recommendations, it was clear that we were carrying far too much in our BOBs. Think about how much faster could you run, or if necessary, better defend yourself, if you were carrying less weight. When it comes to surviving there are no points awarded for second place, we want to have every advantage possible, even before we start cheating! For me, this is when I realized that the gear we were amassing, and the way we were planning to utilize, and transport it, was totally inadequate for this updated scenario. Our gear was set up great for an extended "backpack" type movement, or to pack it all on the mules and haul it up to a remote alpine static location & hide there until the smoke settled. We definitely were not however, set up for a "break contact" type running gun battle while trying to E&E from folks intending to incarcerate, kill, or perhaps do even worse things to my family and I. What we were doing wasn't going to cut it for people who had to be alert, fluid, and ready for a spectrum of scenarios. Scenarios ranging from the daily working and defending of our ranch, to short range patrols around our AO / Community, to fight, disengage & run from surprise encounters, and unexpected E&E when you might not have all your gear with you, and progressing all the way up to proactive offensive actions. All while still trying to function in discreet daily living on our ranch. A pretty broad spectrum to fill. What we needed was a system, and gear, that would be as adaptable to both home / ranch security, as to living in the field, or on the run, and it all had to be able to be accomplished potentially without the availability of the ranch as a base to work from any longer. So, we switched from a full size, catch-all emergency / survival pack system which involved a get home bag, a B.O.B., separate cold weather gear packs, and a separate tactical gear set up, to a lighter, more efficient, integrated four tier system. I was able to, for the most part, use gear I already had to accomplish this, although some new stuff was required.
Now that we've identified the threat, and have a fundamental understanding of it as well as it's various strengths and weaknesses, we can now look at the actual equipment changes we made to address those issues.
Before delving into how we cut incredible weight from our loads, and streamlined our equipment, we feel it would be irresponsible not to point out something that is best expressed by a saying from a man with some real credibility in this area. "Software trumps hardware." My interpretation of this is, skills are more important that excess equipment. Beware of the trap many of us have fallen into, gear is absolutely necessary, however, training and the high level of skills it produces, even more so. That being said, onto the gear! Oh, and by the way, I have no affiliation with any of these products other than as a consumer, except the Kydex mag pouches, which we make ourselves.
The first sorting out, or "Culling" of our gear, was done according to this new load weight information, and threat expectations. It was done according to the recommended mnemonic of SMOLES. This stands for Self defense, Medical emergencies, Observation, Lost & found, Extreme weather, Survival. Focusing on those priorities, with an eye on cutting weight, actually reduced what we thought was a pretty "Necessary stuff only" out by about half. We were feeling pretty good at that point, little did we know we had barely scratched the surface. With our newly updated version of "necessary" gear as a starting point, we began looking at putting it into tiers, and found some great recommendations out there to combine with our own experience.
In breaking down my tiers, I found it most effective if it is built upon a base uniform, and then each tier folds into the next, but is independent from it. This is important since it, in essence, this prioritizes the gear. The very first issue I ran into however, was how I was going to be able to have my Tier 1 gear (basic survival essentials) on me at all times, as that was our goal for Tier 1. I'm sure there are a lot of other ideas about how to skin that particular cat, but the way I did it, was opt for a style of military clothing called Combat Vehicle Crewman (CVC) coveralls. They are a type of coverall that looks very much like the flight suits we built our ghillie suits on in the military. They are inexpensive and they are actually ideally suited for my purposes. They are fire retardant, have re-enforced knees, elbows, and seat. They also have both a front zipper that opens from the top down as well as up from the crotch up, and a seat flap, (trying to be discreet here) both of which are quite utilitarian when you are wearing a tac-vest with plates and a battle belt, and don't want to have to virtually disrobe when nature calls, hence this also makes them unisex applicable. Additionally, they have 9 zipper closure pockets wherein I can secure all of my Tier 1 gear. Thus, as long as I'm dressed, it is with me. The only adaptation required was to put in an additional chest pocket I reinforced with kydex to support my P220 when I'm not wearing my Tier 2 gear, and sewing on some 1 3/4' exterior belt loops.
Regarding clothing, and viewing it in light of using it in the Rocky Mountains of the pacific northwest, and in an attempt to more or less standardize, we tried to err on the side of going bit overboard, knowing we can cull it down as necessary. Some of our selections were due to what we felt is the very real possibility that we may end up living in a field base camp(s) situation for an extended period of time. Therefore, durability, medical, as well as hygiene issues came up in our considerations, and influenced some of our choices. We decided to start at the basics, and worked our way through a complete set of field clothes. Since the CVCs may be a bit warm during the hottest time of the year in the Pacific Northwest (although I don't think unbearable, by any means) we put extra cost into undergarments to stay as dry as possible, and avoid things like severe rashes, yeast infections, etc, as those types of issues not only interfere with your ability to move rapidly, but can also be an unnecessary drain on medical supplies. We avoided cotton altogether. We did some research on a product called Under Armor Heat Gear. Well made, it wicks moisture extremely well, eliminates chaffing, dries quickly, and is antimicrobial. Additionally, it comes in a style that acts very much like the nylon leggings I used to wear under a karate gi, to allow it to slide freely and not bind up during kicking, jumping, etc. Thus they have the same effect regarding combat athleticism in the CVCs, as an added benefit. They also have shirts to match. That is what we use under the CVCs as a base layer. For cold weather we also have the underarmor cold gear, which we already knew, works fantastically. Polypropylene sock liners, again wicks moisture, and eliminates friction, helping to eliminate blisters, etc. Wool outer socks for cushion, as well as being insulating even when wet, have been useful in all weather. We discovered that a style called "wader socks" work the best for us.
Footgear has been an individual choice, it's only requirement being, that it is constructed of heavy leather to minimize the potential penetration of snakebites. Those are overlapped with TurtleSkin snake gaiters. Many may think I'm crazy on this one, but here's our logic; Without antivenin a Rattlesnake bite's hemotoxin can be bad at best, and fatal at worst. Discounting the approx 20% of bites that are "dry", that still leaves 8 out of 10 bites that potentially envenomate the person struck. Medical care being uncertain at best, we were not willing to gamble on those odds. Antivenin is not something we can access, nor stockpile. Contrary to popular belief, they don't always rattle, before striking, or rattle early enough to be of any help. According to a gentleman at Turtle Skin who happened to have spent a great deal of time working in the woods for the forest service in northern Idaho, and is quite familiar with the area, it's unlikely that any of us would run across a rattlesnake. However, "unlikely" is not the same thing as won't. Living and operating in the woods constantly, can only increase our "unlikely" chance of that one "run in" with one. While we are normally very alert to the things around us, as well as avoiding high risk behaviors and places for them, our concern is, that in running from pursuers, or trying to navigate and hastily exit a two way firing range, we'll likely have other things on our mind, and may find ourselves stepping in the wrong place at the wrong time. This strikes us as one of those times where an ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure. Moving on, we included KEPS (knee & elbow pads) which anyone who as ever had to drop to their knees or prone on rocky ground will understand, and for headgear use the old standby USGI boonie hat. Lastly we all have solar watches that also contain a digital altimeter, compass, and barometer in them. This constitutes our basic field uniform. (BTW, should anyone else opt for CVCs, be sure to break up the solid OD color with some Rit dye in spray bottles, it works great, if you don't then they will stand out.)
\This brings us to the four tiers of our gear. Tier 1 is our basic survival stuff. It's the stuff we figure you should always have on your person in such an environment. It's a pared down compilation of various experts recommendations, as well as our own experience. It's primary purpose is that if due to some threat, I needed to immediately run without any other gear, or had to ditch my gear so that I could run faster than the "fed-ex man" pursuing me with my FEMA invitation, I would still have what I needed to survive until I could get to either a safe place, or a cache site. ~ yes in our system we chose to employ the use of cache sites for long term emergency resupply ~ Tier 1 is what you have on you when you are just working, etc. within what you consider to be your secure area, whatever that may be at any given time. This gear provides for the needs of defense, shelter, navigation, fire, water, and food, and would never be discarded. The way I currently have it configured, it all fits nicely in the nine various pockets of my slightly modified CVCs.
Our Tier 1, "Survival Load" that, Lord willing, we will never be without, consists of the following:
1. SIG P220 & one spare mag in modified, kydex re-enforced, zippered chest pocket of my CVCs (whenever not in Tac gear). (S.S. 220 with 1full 8
rd mag and 1 in the chamber + 1 spare mag of eight 230 gr. JHP's weighs a total of 53.6 oz OR 3.35 lbs.
2. Leatherman Wave tool. (weighs 7.9 oz)
3. #550 cord (50' daisy chain weighs 3.9 oz ~ we also use #550 cord in my boot laces, 5" daisy chained pull tabs on all 9 zippers, with a cord-lock
on the end of each. Those pull tabs, while just normally handy, when "unchained", each also provide 2'4" of emergency cordage, believe it or
not. 9 separate 2'+ sections (12' worth) of #550 cord with a cord lock on each. (Great for shelter construction, making a yeti for concealment,
4. Small Silva compass. Explorer Pro High Vis. (This is redundant, in case of failure of the digital compass built into our watches) (1.0 oz)
5. Small flint & steel fire starter & 15' roll of jute. Tie 3 or 4 overhand knots back to back and then leave 3-4" of cord & cut. Fray the un-knotted
end into a "bird's nest" & strike a spark. Works great & lasts long enough to get your twigs going well and then some. (Jute weighs 1.7 oz & the
"Light my Fire" flint & steel weigh 0.3 oz, for a combined total of 2.0 oz)
6. A small collapsable MSR dromedary type bag (we use a Camel-Bak bladder & tube) and purification tablets to purify it. (2 liter bladder & tube
= 7.3 oz, 1 bottle Potable Aqua & 1 bottle of Potable Aqua+ , weigh 1.1 oz each, combined total of 9.5 oz and will treat 25 ltrs of water)
7. Small fishing kit (a roll of spiderwire, some small split shot & some #10 hooks in a Zip-Loc bag.)
8. Casualty blanket for shelter ~ Heavy duty, OD green / reflective (with 4 daisy chained, 5' long sections of #550 cord, one attached to each
corner grommet. All you then have to do is make some quick stakes, or use some rocks for that matter (weighs 11.8 oz)
9. A rat trap (Works great for catching squirrels around the house here, but I need to test it, out in the field) (weighs 5.4 oz) [JWR Adds: I'd rather carry 10 wire snares (also about five ounces, combined weight) for 10 times the number of chances to catch critters.
10. Plain fish netting (two pieces, approx 12"x24" and 2'x6') In the military, I learned in Survival / E&E, staying hidden is very important. With the
2X6 netting you just cut a slit in the middle of for your head, drape it over you like a poncho, and secure it around your waist with your belt or
#550 cord and you have the foundation for a quick, makeshift bushrag. Thread it with whatever foliage is appropriate. Use the 12x24 over your
boonie hat, for your head veil. Not as effective as my full ghillie suit, but it's field expedient, light weight, and it's quicker and easier to throw
together than a yeti. It's also versatile and can be used for other things as well.
11. Gig head. Cut shaft for it in the field, if needed. For frogs, fish, reptiles, small mammals (weighs 1.7 oz) [JWR Adds: For safety, be sure to cap your gig's points with a piece of rubber or a wine bottle cork, when stowed!]
12. Blackhawk Serpa holster (weighs 4.3 oz + 2.0 oz for chest adaptor = 6.3 oz total)
13. Pistol mag pouch (weighs 2.2 oz)
Tier 1 weight before culling: 103.1 oz, i.e. 6.44 lbs. We felt that this was too much, so after consideration, we made the following initial cuts:
The ever-painful "Culling Of The Gear":
Dropped gig head (-1.7 oz), P220 (-38.4 oz), 2 empty magazines (total -5.0 oz), 17 rds of ammo (-10.2 oz), holster (-6.3 oz), mag pouch (-2.2 oz). Combined weight of these cuts was 3.99 lbs.
(The pistol and ammo can be replaced if the threat situation merits it.)
Total weight of my Tier 1 load is after culling is: 2.46 lbs)
Tier 2 is all of our basic combat gear, our "Fighting Load", or "Kit", if you will. It's contained on our Tac-Vest / battle belt. In my case, I opted to attach a battle belt to my plate carrier tac-vest. While I wouldn't say it's necessary for everyone, due to my body geometry (i.e. long torso) it's just the way I chose to go. It gives me a little more real-estate to put my gear on, without interfering with my ability to get prone, should I need to. Tier 2 is supplemented by your survival load which you will always have on your person. We would be wearing Tier 2 gear for example, anytime there was an elevated threat level, when performing security operations at the ranch, or of course for anything that took us out into the field, things of that nature. It is not a "stand alone" gear list however, it both builds upon the Tier 1 gear, and is in turn, supplemental to the Tier 3 gear as well. It is divided this way so that if any of us were to find ourselves in a fix and needed to hastily E&E, and our combat gear was slowing us down too much, we could ditch it in order to run faster, and come back for it later. Meanwhile we still have all of the necessary 1st tier gear on our person, because it is not actually attached to the Tier 1 gear. The important point here being that you can dump Tier 2 and still have your survival load. This gear would be the last of the three tiers to be discarded. Our goal here, although probably unattainable given our choice of battle rifle and caliber, is to keep the combined weight our Tier 1 & 2 gear to right around 40 lbs, with a maximum of 48 lbs.
My Tier 2, "Fighting Load" consists of the following:
1. Tactical vest: We went with Blackhawk's S.T.R.I.K.E. Commando Recon front & back plate carriers, along with Infidel Armor front & rear ballistic
plates. Heavier than I'd like, but they fit into the budget. We've gone to wearing our's while doing PT & H2H practice, & it's beginning to feel a
little less foreign at least. (plates and vest collectively weigh 268 oz, i.e. 16.75 lbs).
2. Battle belt (attached). We went with High Speed Gear's "Sure Grip" belts for those who wanted them, with a Cobra riggers belt as an under belt.
(weight unknown at the moment)
3. M1A Rifle mag pouches, X 6. We went for seven 20 rd mag's - two on the vest, two on each side of the battle belt (both in the event of an
extremity injury, as well as I reload faster from different sides, depending on my shooting position) & one in the rifle. Went with kydex, since that
is my side business anyway, and made our own custom mag pouches. (weight per mag pouch is 3.5 oz, for a total of 21.0 oz)
4. M1A magazines X 7 ~ one carried in the rifle and 6 spares (loaded w / 20 rds each), (weight per empty mag 8.6 oz, loaded mag is 26.6 oz, X7
= total of 186.2 oz or 11.6 lbs)
5. M1A rifle, in Sage EBR mod 1 configuration, with scope, with no mag. (weight 224 oz or 14 lbs)
6. M1A rifle sling (I did not opt for a fancy "tactical" sling, instead I went for the simple Blackhawk "Rapid Adjust" 2 point sling. With SOCP, as my
primary form of H2H, you will understand why I chose to avoid a 3 point tactical sling. (weight 5.9 oz)
7. Pistol mag pouches, X 1 . Again we went with the kydex, and made our own custom single mag pouches. (weight is was excluded at Tier 1)
8. SIG P220 SS magazines X 2 ~ one in pistol + 1 spare, loaded w / 8 rds each +1 extra for the chamber (weight was excluded at Tier 1)
9. SIG P220 ST, .45 ACP (weight excluded at Tier 1)
10. Dump pouch. We went with the Blackhawk S.T.R.I.K.E. folding dump pouch, mounted rear center of the battle belt so that it was accessible with
either hand. (weight 8 oz)
11. SOCP dagger (While some may cringe at the non-utilitarian nature of having a "dagger", and I would have too, it's not what you're probably
thinking it is.) Since we use SOCP (my brother is a SF NCO), in part, for our hand to hand / CQB defense, this is actually fantastic. If you're
curious, then do a web search on it. Watch Greg Thompson's demos and see for yourself, it's fairly close to perfect, especially when you are loaded down in kit
and things need to be simple and effective!) (weight 2.5 oz)
12. Tomahawk. Some may think I'm crazy on this one too, but honestly, after spending a lot of time in the woods using it for everything from
firewood, to pulling the handle out and using it like an Alaskan Ulu knife, I've found it's a lot more versatile that my ghurka kukri. It's quite handy, and
between it and my Leatherman I've had no want of anything edged. I made a custom kydex sheath for it, it stays out of my way, but is handy when I
need it. (weight 30.0 oz)
13. B.O.K. (You could think of it as a trauma first aid kit) (weight 18 oz estimated)
14. 2-Way Radio (currently undecided on model) (weight TBD)
15. Poncho with liner, in pouch on rear plate carrier (weight is approx 21 oz for poncho and 21 oz for liner, TOTAL is 42 oz)
16. An empty, drawstring closure pouch on the back of my Tac-Vest for carrying dehydrated food, as well as being able to carry your emergency
water bladder when you're not packing your Tier 3 Camel-Bak. (weight 12 oz)
Tier 2 weight before culling: 817.6 oz, i.e. 51.1lbs. The initial weight of our Tier 2 gear was more than we were satisfied with, so again, we let the culling begin!
After consideration we made the following cuts: As much as I hated to, I reallocated the tomahawk to Tier 4 (-30.0 oz), & reallocated the poncho / liner (-42 oz) to Tier 3 as it's only necessary away from home.
Combined weight of these cuts was 72.0 oz, i.e. 4.5 lbs.
Total Tier 2 weight after culling: 46.6 lbs.
Results: Combined Tier 1 and 2 "Fighting Load" weight is: 49 lbs (goal is 48 lbs or less) compared to 60 - 80+ lbs, for an average conventional foot soldier, or enforcer who may be pursuing the pleasure of our company [JWR Adds: Note that his calculations are based on an empty Camel-Bak and minimal rations. The weight of water and food adds up quickly.
Missed the weight allotment goal for the Tier 1 and 2 combined "Fighting Load", by 1 lb. I really would like to do more reduction. However the body armor and the M1A EBR are big drains against our weight allotment. The weight of the .30 cal ammo is also not helpful. While we did not opt to trade away what we see as a ballistically more beneficial caliber for our varied purposes, one could clearly present a legitimate case for the lighter weight of both the AR platform rifle, as well as it's lighter .223 caliber ammunition in this particular context. Those tradeoffs just are what they are however, not much can be done there. Unquestionably, without just the armor plates alone, the load is reduced by 15 lbs, ( down to 30.41 lbs) but that option was off the table for us. Expecting the lack of surgical facilities to deal with a thoracic gunshot wound, we don't see that as a chance worth taking. The reality is, this is going to be the Tier where the the real weight is. I'm not sure anything else can be cut at this point, after all, we need what we need, & then cull out the rest. This heavy stuff (i.e, the armor plates, ammo and rifle) are necessary. At this point I guess that just means more PT, and after all, 48 isn't that old, right?
Tier 3 is our S.R.R.P. (Short Range Reconnaissance Pack). It falls under the higher combined weight restrictions of the "Approach March" load's 55 lbs maximum weight, although should still be as minimal as possible. For us, that currently means it should be somewhere in the area of about 6 lbs. We knew from the beginning that was not going to happen. The pack and water alone weigh more than that already. . . This is the gear that it would take to sustain us, in addition to the items in Tiers 1 & 2, for those times you would be in a potentially hostile, field environment, overnight and up to 3 days. You are basically living out of a Camel-Bak. Logistically speaking, this is to enable you to perform short term patrols / missions within your AO. It is supplemented by the equipment that is already contained in your Tier 1 and Tier 2 loads. It is the "less essential" gear that could/would be dropped prior to dropping the Tier 2 gear, if anything had to be dumped. Agai, it is not actually attached to the Tier 2 gear, it simply augments it. Excluding Tier 4, this gear would be the first option to be left behind.
My Tier 3, "S.R.R.P. load" consists of the following:
1. Camel-Bak W / bladder. We use the Rim Runner model. (36.5 oz) (note: the H2O will weigh an additional 4.4 lbs, a total combined weight of 6.7
2. For "field rations", so to speak, as I am only addressing a 24 - 72 hr window, we decided to go with the "Mainstay" emergency ration bars. Good
for five years, these come in 400 cal meal bars, 6 to 9 in a packet depending on what you order. You can check the other nutrients on line if you
are interested, but they're good. Additionally, they do not increase your thirst, a good thing if you find yourself in an unexpected situation where
water is either scarce, or if the incoming fire that your attempts to access it creates irritates those around you. A 2,400 cal pack contains six 400
cal bars, each a meal they say, and weighs 16 oz. the 3,600 cal pack contains 9 of the same bars and weighs 24 oz. They figure that at 1,200 cal
a day, this is a two day supply pack, however they are also thinking in terms of someone in a life raft on an ocean. But honestly, how far are you
really going to walk per day, in that case? Being a "land lubber", I planned for a higher caloric need of 2,400 cal per day. Six bars a day,
breaking it down however you want. The good thing about this however, is that should you need to reduce your consumption for some reason
and stretch this supply out, or share with someone, you can easily do so. I also include 3 multi-vitamins as an additional margin. (weight is 48
3. Petzl headlamp with one set of spare batteries (4.3 oz)
4. Casualty blanket to wrap up in (this = 2, 1 for shelter, which is in my survival load, and now a second one to wrap up in) (11 oz)
5. Poncho (with liner) (42 oz)
6. Underwear, extra pair (U/A Heat Gear type) (2.2 oz)
7. Poly-pro sock liners, extra pair (0.6 oz)
8. Wool socks, extra pair (6.7 oz)
9. Under Armor cold weather hood (1.6 oz)
10. Solo stove / pot (16.3 oz)
11. Leather gloves (4.8 oz)
12. Safety pins X3 (0)
13. Area map (N/A)
14. ACE wrap (2.2 oz)
15. E-Tool (40 oz)
16. Note pad & pencil (1.7 oz)
*** Locking "D" ring, & rappel brake (NOT FACTORED IN AGAINST WEIGHT ALLOWANCE BECAUSE IT IS PURPOSE SPECIFIC, & DEPENDENT
*** Rope for rappelling seat and a 100' rappelling rope (NOT FACTORED IN AGAINST WEIGHT ALLOWANCE.)
Tier 3 weight before culling: 170.4 oz = 10.7 lbs + 6.7 lbs = 17.35 lbs. The initial weight of our Tier 3 gear was way more than we were satisfied with, so again, we continued with the culling.
After consideration we made the following cuts: Reallocated the e-tool to Tier 4 (due to high wt. & limited use, more useful in establishing a remote base camp than on a S.R.R.P.) (-40.0 oz), dumped the spare sock liners (-0.6), spare wool socks (-6.7 oz), solo stove & pot (-16.3 oz. With the Mainstay rations no cooking is required, & with H2o tablets no boiling water is necessary on a 3 day patrol), 1 Mainstay 2,400 cal packet (can live for 3 days with NO food, so can surely do fine with 1,600 cal, i.e. four bars per day)(-16 oz), casualty blanket (may rethink in winter, along with socks) (-11 oz), spare underwear (-2.2 oz).
Combined weight of these cuts was 92.8 oz, i.e. 5.8 lbs.
Total Tier 3 weight after culling: 11.55 lbs, (without H2o weight 7.15 lbs.)
Results: Combined Tier 1, 2 and 3 "Approach March Load" weight is: 60.61 lbs (56.21 lbs without the H2o) compared to 130 -150+ lbs, for the average "Marching Load" of a conventional foot soldier, who my be pursuing my family & I …
While 5.6 lbs over what we wanted for our Maximum March Load, given the larger, heavier rifle, the heavier basic load of ammunition, and the extra 15 lbs of armor, we are quite happy with where we are at this point. The bottom line: We got the "Fighting Load" to 49 lbs, one pound over our 48 lb. maximum goal, but still 11 - 31 lbs lighter than that of potential pursuers. We got the "Approach March Load" to within 5.6 lbs of our 55 lb. maximum limit goal, but are still 69.4 - 89.4 lbs. lighter than that of potential pursuers. The difference being more than the weight of our entire Marching Load Out. Frankly, at this point I think we have more or less reached bare bones, if you will. I just can't find any more reasonable cut's to make, so for additional gains at this point, the game has to change from an issue of hardware (equipment) to one of software (skills, tactics, conditioning, area familiarity, etc.).
Tier 4 is my L.R.R.P. (Long Range Reconnaissance Pack). It's incomplete at this point, still undergoing construction and refinement. It is the gear that would allow us to set up a distant field base of operations. It is primarily the equipment required for establishing a primitive alpine safe haven, should you be forced from your normal AO. It would also serve to develop a base camp of a semi permanent nature, from which could be conducted security patrol operations to a distance greater than that which your SRRP provides for. The areas for camps were pre-selected as optional sites and then will be chosen specifically depending on the situation. The pack will contain more rations, to sustain you during the initial set up of your field location. As well, it will have a longer term shelter system, increased & upgraded medical supplies, and additional munitions. This is not a tier that would normally be carried in the field, and with any luck will be transported by pack animal, although it, out of necessity, is man portable as well. It is best thought of as a sort of foundation level, emergency camp construction pack. It's intent is to provide for the needs covered in S.M.O.L.E.S. (but of a base camp nature), and expands upon the equipment you already have at your disposal via the first 3 tiers. At this point, ours contains the following, although exacts amounts and weights have not yet been determined:
1. Backpack (Gregory, North Face and Dana, internal frame packs, although any quality pack will work, this is just what we have).
2. Food, dehydrated (additional rations).
3. Second full set of clothes & cold weather gear -fleece pants & top.
4. Medical kit (more inclusive).
5. Shelter ( a new enclosed 4 season hammock design).
6. Spare magazines and ammo.
7. Spare weapons parts (Firing pin, extractor, cleaning supplies etc).
8. Mission specific items, (Rappelling ropes harnesses, etc).
9. Mini-mag light with solar rechargeable batteries and spare bulbs.
10. Range finder & spotting scope.
11. Weatherproof notebook.
12. Additional H2O purification tablets.
13. Additional roll of jute rope.
15. Mess kit.
16. Wyoming saw.
17. Spare parts / sewing kit.
18. P220, mags & ammo.
19. Solo stove & pot.
21. Second causality blanket.
22. Spotting scope.
23. Solar charger kit.
24. 100' of additional #550 cord.
25. Night vision optic is currently under debate as it has an IR illuminator as enhancement option, and given the preponderance of IR detection
devices out there in the hands of anyone and everyone, we are evaluating the risk of sending out such a beacon as opposed to the reward any night
time surveillance ability may offer. Of course the logistics of it are an additional concern. May well end up becoming a cached away special
purpose tool, since we already have it.
While tier #4 is still a work in progress, and being interfaced with pre-positioned caches and preps, we look for it to eventually, like the other 3
tiers, come together as part of a cohesive system.
Hopefully this information will be of use to other prepper's in understanding, more fully than we did, the dangers facing us all, as well as the need to adapt to it. While certainly not the only way to address these issues, we hope our solutions will stimulate thoughts, and help other survivalblog readers find the ways that best address the issues facing them in their unique situations. Master your skills, travel light and fast, blend in well, and most importantly, trust that God often shows His strength through our weakness!