Trial & Error
When it comes to load bearing equipment, there are tons of options. You can go old school with the belt and suspenders setup or “upgrade” to a chest rig or maybe go all out and get a plate carrier with enough armor to stop an RPG round. Any of those options are a good choice depending on the mission at hand. If you were in a high threat situation, let’s say urban warfare, then you go with the plate carrier and armor. If you’re on a recon mission, you probably drop the plate carrier and go with a lighter rig, you get the general idea.
For myself, it’s been a bit of a learning curve and more than a bit of trial and errors. When I first really started getting serious about my kit, my first idea was to fall back on my military experience and go with a chest rig or plate carrier. It seemed to make sense. Until I realized that the full blown battle rattle worn by your average grunt has no real practical application for a survival situation or field recon. I’m not operating in a combat zone, there is no need to drag around armor, plate carrier and 8 loaded mags. The overwhelming majority of my training revolves around primitive survival skill building, long hours or days spent in the field doing recon of new areas and practicing basic patrolling and security operations.
After coming to this “lightbulb” moment, I reverted back the classic load bearing rig, turning it into a hybrid of survival gear and a minimal ammo load. The open front of the rig allows me to easily go prone if needed, makes getting the rig on and off super easy since the buckle is in the front and overall, it’s much lighter than toting around a plate carrier or chest rig. The belt and harness design allows me to add a buttpack with basic survival items (dry bag, poncho, hydration) and some extra change of clothes. I added a canteen to the belt, two Russian issue mag pouches, a British Pattern 58 holster, med kit and admin pouch for the basic items like my mini binoculars, multi tool, notepad etc.
The Hybrid Rig
I wore this hybrid design for every FTX in the past 6 months, making a few tweaks as necessary, but leaving the overall concept untouched. It worked out great, but I still had a nagging sense that something was missing. Yes, the configuration provided me with all the basic survival items directly attached to my person IE First Line Kit and provided me with a total of four AKM mags (120 rounds). But what if I needed to adapt the rig to a full on combat situation? I realized I was basically SOL at this point. I would either have to replace some pouches with additional mag pouches which would mean cutting down on my basic survival items. Or leave the rig at home and go with a dedicated chest rig or plate carrier that was specific for a combat situation. Either way I would be unable to retain my basic survival kit which is a huge downside. In order to work around this deadend and keep using my LBE, I just added some more mags and stripper clips in my pack. But once again, that is in my pack, not on my LBE.
But fear not, there is a happy ending to this story. The writer of the blog, Mason Dixon Tactical published an article on the subject and proceeded to open up my eyes to the concept of a fighting and survival loadout. His concept is simple but genius in application. As you well know, our gear these days is designed to modular, molle webbing makes configuring your gear easy and quick. That’s the first point. Secondly, when it comes to survival in general, we all realize the power of layering. We layer our clothing to fit the climate so why not do that with your LBE?
That is his concept and it’s an idea that works perfectly. You keep your belt and suspenders and use that to hang your basic survival kit. The knife, pistol, canteen, poncho, first aid, all that goes on the belt. That is your true first line kit. If you lose everything else, you still retain the ability to defend yourself and provide for your basic survival.
Then comes the layer, in the form of a tactical vest. This vest has the combat load. The 8 mag pouches, IFAK, radio, etc. When the mission calls for this, you simply just put this vest on OVER your survival rig and like magic, you are prepared for your basic survival AND for combat operations.
It’s a great idea, I have just skimmed over the basics that are detailed in his post. You can check out the post below, it’s well worth the read and the info that draws on 30+ years of experience with load bearing systems and their use in both training and combat operations.
The Fighting/Survival Load for Mounted and Dismounted Operations