gear is not as important as skills or tactics it is frequently a topic for concern for the citizen soldier. People want
to spend money and get quality gear. On the other hand it is possible to overspend and get the wrong gear or miss-prioritize
and not have the gear you need. How much you can spend on gear is something only you know, and how much you SHOULD spend
on gear is something you need to decide. It is possible (even popular) to dress up like a soldier patrolling the streets
of Bagdad, but this doesn’t make you that effective. Your role is different, your resources are different and
your goals are different. I see pics of people on the internet expecting to carry 12 magazines, two pistols, armor,
spare “uniforms” and NBC gear into combat. This immediately marks them as someone who has never really
done any training. I prefer to take a minimalist “VC” like approach to combat gear, albeit with more modern
stuff. This is cheaper, easier to get in to and fits our tactical concept (i.e. hit fast and run away.)
most important aspect of gear is that you have some, you’ve tested it and trained with it, and you know how it works.
The “line” concept of gear
line concept of gear is about layering the equipment that a person needs to survive and complete a mission. It mostly
refers to the items that you would carry on an actual patrol, or while engaged in combat. But the idea can be extended
to what you would (or should) carry every day or on a camping/training trip. Line gear is individual and should be suitable
to your budget, training, fitness level and mission concept.
First Line Gear
This is basically
the things you would carry on your person. This would include your clothing, knife, personal weapon and maybe a small
survival and first aid kit. There is a difference between the things that you would have if you were heading to the
woods with the idea of training or fighting and the things that most people would have with them on an every day basis.
The things that you carry on a normal, everyday basis are frequently called the “everyday carry” or EDC.
What to wear? While it is tempting to think you need some kind of uniform, cammies etc, this
is probably only best in certain situations. I prefer good work clothes, things like Carhart or Wrangler fishing pants,
a good fleece top and earth tone tee-shirts. If you don't have to dress up for work, your soldiering clothes should
be the same as your every day clothes. This is helpful because it is mostly best to blend in. A set of cammies
might be a good idea for training, or if you live in a really rural environment.
Clothing is very
area specific. You might want to talk to campers for local advice for what works best in a particular climate.
For me, a fleece top and stashable gortex jacket are plenty for all but the coldest winter days. If you live in Northern
Michigan this won't be the case.
The most important part of clothing is a good pair of walking
shoes/boots. They should be just heavy enough to be safe with your load, and well broken in. Don't forget good
socks and foot powder as well.
Here is a picture of the type of equipment that you might want
to carry as a first line. This is called a “belt rig.” It requires a good belt to hold up the pants and
then a larger belt to support the equipment. They are connected by belt keepers. There is a pistol holster and
magazine pouch as well as a pouch for another magazine. There is a knife in a dropleg sheath and pouch for a mini survival
kit attached to the inner belt so that even if the outer belt is lost the wearer will have a minimum survival kit. Another
notable addition is a boonie hat with the loops lined with parachute cord and a pair of earplugs attached.
This is a picture of a lower key first line rig. Everything
can be concealed under a normal shirt if need be. You need a good belt to support the weight of the pistol and spare
magazines. Also for most people a narrower knife can serve better than a large “tacticool” folder like the
one in the previous pic. A small survival kit, made from an Altoids tin can fit in any pocket.
Second Line Gear
This is your “fighting
load,” basically your primary weapon and the things that support it, i.e. ammo. Other people include such items
as water, trauma oriented first aid kits, and other things that may be needed in a fight. This is usually carried in some
type of load bearing equipment (LBE) such as belt with suspenders, a chest harness or vest. There are advantages to
each of these types of equipment. The classic LBE or ALICE gear, is perhaps the cheapest and most versatile way to get
a decent second line set up. Some chest rigs have the ability to be highly adaptable with the advent of MOLLE webbing
(a way to firmly attach a variety of pouches or accessories) Vests can be modular or have certain pouches already attached.
Vests are the most comfortable way to a carry lot of gear but don’t usually work well with a pack or when in tight places
such as a vehicle. Vests can also have integrated armor, although in my opinion this is far to heavy unless you are
already limited in movement.
This is a simple custom MOLLE chest rig that carries five AR15 magazines. The weapon
is a midlength AR15 with a red dot sight and backup irons. The front is covered with PALS webbing that allows the attachment
of pouches. One pouch has miscellaneous gear including flairs and a whistle for signaling. Another pouch carries
a “blow out kit” (BOK) used for rapid treatment of gunshot injuries. Two of the pistol mags contain a multi-tool
and small cleaning kit. Threaded through the back of the pouches are two flex cuffs for tying up prisoners.
The classic Load Bearing Equipment (LBE) is a cheap option available
online and in many surplus stores. The equipment can be modified by the replacement of the metallic pouch clips with
zip ties or parachute cord. On this version the grenade carriers from the side of the ammo pouches have been removed,
and older pouches are used for storing signaling, survival and first aid equipment. A “but pack” can also
be added to carry a couple of days of sustainment gear.
A lot of people are real believers in the AK style rifle.
High-end versions can approach the price of high end ARs but a reliable AK can be had for around $300. While there are
expensive, modular chest rigs available for the AK magazines something like this Chi-Com pattern rig (less than $20) might
appeal to citizens on a budget. A few modifications (like buckles) make it acceptable. The spare pouches can be
used for things like gloves (necessary for fast AK shooting IMO) a mini survival kit and BOK.
Perhaps the basic second line is a simple shotgun available used for under $200.
Add a bandoleer and you have the minimum. The shotgun is not really an effective combat weapon, especially at ranges
past 50 meters. But sometimes we have to make due. A similar arrangement can be made with several military surplus
bolt action rifles as shown below. But make sure of ammunition availability before you decide on this.
Third Line Gear
is the “sustainment load.” Basically the things that you need to keep yourself alive and functioning for
longer periods. This is area requires the most individual assessment and there are even more options in basic style.
The simplest and most basic rig is some kind of daypack or book bag. These have the advantage of being low
key but have minimal carrying capacity and are uncomfortable when heavily loaded. As a low cost option you can partner
one of these with a a set of LBE with a butpack and have a versatile rig.
There are also nice packs available
for civilian camping, but stay away from the long traditional external frame models. These do not work well with your
second line gear and will hit your head if you jump into the prone position. There are good civilian options but you
need to make sure they work with your second line. As far as color, low key can be best, and if you get the right base,
a can of spray paint can solve this.
Lastly there are the true military options. The lowest cost is
the ALICE rig, but be careful you get a real one and not a Chinese nock off. More modern versions have MOLLE webbing
that will allow you to attach other pouches, tuck in camouflage etc. A quality modern military style pack will be very
durable and versatile.
Other line gear pages
Gear Examples 1st and 2nd line
Gear Examples 3rd Line
2nd and 3rd Line Gear Combinations
My current Gear Layout
My Gear Layout
Gear on the Cheap