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Skully and his rucksack

Skully’s Tactical Gear Guide | Part 2 – Rucksack Rumble

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This entry is part 2 of 3 in the Skully’s Tactical Gear Guide

Hello, and welcome to Part 2 of Skully’s list of gear recommendations to keep you geared up and ready for battle. If you haven’t read Part 1 yet, start there and return here when finished. This week I’m going to talk about your rucksack and assault pack. 

RUCKSACK 

There are lot of good military surplus rucksacks out there that can hold the vast majority of your gear. You’ll be living out of this in the field, so pack wisely. That being said, I can’t recommend the US Army’s TA50 ruck enough. This thing can hold anything, coming with the famous MOLLE attachment system, buckles to attach extra gear and compress your pack down, a frame along with shoulder and hip support, and an extra compartment beneath the top folding flap as well. They come in either UCP or multicam/OCP. Go for the OCP if possible, or get the UCP if you want to be cheaper or don’t care. 

SUSTAIN YOURSELF

With the TA50 ruck comes the famous MOLLE system that can attach so much on the sides. I personally run 4 of these pouches, dedicated to hygiene, tools, wet/cold weather gear, and the last for undergarments and socks. These give you quick access to what you’ll need without having to break open the main compartment of your ruck. Feel free to switch out what’s inside for what’s important for the mission at hand. 

TRASH BAGS

Many people would ask just why I’d recommend trash bags. Aside from the obvious sanitary reasons, they can be deployed to line your sustainment pouches, quickly sealing them can add a water-resistant element to everything inside the pouch, keeping whatever’s inside dry. Especially useful for storing underwear, socks, boots, and clothes. 

E-TOOL

The famous E-tool is an absolute necessity with your ruck. It will help you dig trenches, fighting positions, fortifications, latrines, and more. It can even be used as an improvised weapon if need be. Get it with a pouch, and attach it to the back of your ruck. When you lay your ruck with the back facing up, it’ll be right there for you, ready and waiting to literally hit the dirt. 

PONCHO

This one is important. A waterpoof camouflage poncho not only helps keep out the rain, but helps keep you warm, keeps you blending in, and can also be put to cover your ruck to waterproof it against the rain. Or anyrhing else you want waterproofed from above. Military surplus is good, but Propper makes great ones too. Keep it folded up in the main compartment of your sleeping bag.

WOOBIE

Any veteran can tell you they absolutely loved their woobie, also known as a poncho liner. For the uninitiated, it’s commonly used as a blanket. A standard US government issue one works great, and more companies out there make them in all sorts of different camo schemes. My personal recommendation? Get 5 Star Gear’s 3-in-1 woobie, sleeping bag, and poncho liner. Not only does it come as a 3-in-1 bundle of awesomeness, but it also comes with a sack to stuff it in. Tighten the cord on the sack, and you’ve got a pillow to rest your head. Or fill the sack with your (clean) socks, underwear, uniform, etc, spread your woobie over yourself, and feel toasty while in the field. When not in use, keep in the main compartment of your ruck above your sleeping bag. 

SLEEPING BAG

When looking for a sleeping bag, it’s crucial to know what temperatures it’s rated for. This is doubly essential for cold-weather environments. Some go down to 15 degrees Fahrenheit. Some go lower. Find out how low the temperatures in your area of operations can go at the time you’re there. Remember as well that layering up is absolutely a thing. The US Army issues two sleeping systems, one rated for summer, and the other rated for winter. A compression sack is often offered with these sleeping bags, and you should get one to compress your bag as much as possible before placing it in the bottom of the main compartment of your ruck.

BIVY COVER

An add-on to a sleeping bag meant to keep a sleeping bag dry and warm, a bivy cover can make a rainy day not as rainy. They’re water-resistant, and can make a big difference on whether you wake up dry, or wake up feeling like a prune with a possible mean case of chafing (it happens). The US military is phasing out bivy covers in the UCP pattern, so you can nab one a bit cheaper, or go all in and get one in the current-issue OCP pattern for a little bit more. Either way, if rain is in your forecast, you’ll be ready. Simply stuff your sleeping bag inside the bivy cover and zip the cover over the bag, preferably with yourself inside the bag. Enjoy a dry sleep. Keep it in the compression sack with your sleeping bag. 

SLEEPING PAD

Also humorously called the puss pad, a sleeping pad is essential to separate you from the ground that would otherwise absorb your body heat, making you miserable and possibly endangering your health. If possible, get an inflatable one, and only use those foam ones offered at shops as a last resort, or if it’s better than nothing. The inflatables come with a seal that allows you to blow it up like a balloon, block off the air so it only goes to one part of the pad, you’ve got yourself an improvised air pillow. The best ones I’ve seen come from Thermarest Cascade Designs, for as little as 30 dollars. Highly recommended, and you can run it through the top straps on your rucksack, even angling it to use as a pillow if you need. 

COLD AND WET WEATHER GEAR

In one sustainment pouch I keep all my cold and wet weather gear, rolled up and ready for action. I usually recommend to anyone that they acquire base layer silks, a layer of Layer 2 Waffle tops and bottoms, and finally Layer 6 Goretex Outer shell jacket and trousers. The jacket and trousers are waterproof, so they function great for the rain.

A quick word on Gorkas for those considering them: don’t. They’re decent for chilly dry weather, but Goretex comes waterproof right out of the bag, whereas the Gorka needs to be waterproofed. Don’t get yourself waterlogged with old Soviet gear from the 80’s. Get your gear right the first time, and don’t regret it later.

INSULATED GLOVES

Keep these in your sustainment pouch with your other cold weather and swap them out (or put them over) your regular gloves during the winter months. I use True Grip’s Cold Weather Blizzard Utility gloves, and I’ve got zero complaints. True Grip has recently come out with a new line of these, aiming for more dexterity while still matching the level of comfort and warmth offered by the insulation. 

550 CORD

This one you absolutely need. Tie between two trees and throw a tarp over it, or use it to tie together several large sticks, shoots, etc to make part of a shelter. Tie down your weapon attachments, tie your night vision to a carabiner and then yourself, or use it for something else. Cut it up with a knife or other cutting tool, take a lighter to the ends to seal it, and do much more. 550 survival cord: a utility you can’t beat found at any military surplus or survival store. Toss it with your tools in your sustaiment pouch. 

RAISE UP THE FLAG

A flag is essential in operational areas. It not only shows which side you’re on and who you belong to, but also is used in signals, marking your position, communication in Morse Code, signalling distress, and much more. Keep the flag of your faction/country handy, for propaganda and morale purposes if absolutely nothing else. Treat it with the utmost respect! You never know if that store-bought flag you have may end up being a part of history. Keep it in the top flap compartment of your ruck for easy access. 

MAP OF LOCAL, REGIONAL, AND STATE AREAS

Intelligence and knowledge of the area around you is crucial for making tactical and strategic decisions. You should have maps of every city closest to you, maps of your region, and a map of your state. Change these maps according to the area you are operating in. If possible, laminate these maps before deploying with them.

If not possible, fold them into a Ziploc bag to prevent them from getting wet, and pull them out when necessary. When not in your assault pack or on your person, they should be inside the compartment in the top flap of your ruck.

PT/ HI-VISIBILITY BELT

This one more or less should only be used at night in areas where the enemy is highly unlikely to be present. It will make you easy to spot in the dark when a light shines upon you, so keep it tucked away in a sustainment pouch until you need it. You can wear it over your shoulder, around your waist, or around something else such as your ruck if you’re on the move. It can be used as a signal or position indicator, but avoid using this in any area of operations where an enemy may spot it and thus, you. 

WEAPON CLEANING KIT

Your weapon is of vital importance to you on a battlefield or anywhere else. In order to keep it functioning well, you must maintain it. This kit should consist of CLP (Clean, Lubricate, Preserve), or an equivalent. Hoppe’s #9 has been a gold standard as well for ages. Find metal picks as well to help remove carbon buildup in and on your weapon and its parts. You can include a brush or an old toothbrush to help brush your chosen cleaning solution onto hard to reach reas on small parts. Afterwards, make sure you have some good pieces of extra cloth to clean the carbon-filled solution off your weapon. Treat it like the future ethnostate: make sure no black remains (ha ha). Use a few more drops of your solution to lubricate your weapon and ensure it functions flawlessly. Many gun shops, military surplus stores, and hunting supply stores carry cleaning kits, mainly for AR15s, but many stores also carry cleaning kits for other weapons and calibers. Whatever you get, keep it in the top flap of your ruck or in a sustainment pouch for quick and easy access. 

EXTRA AMMO

This one’s a no-brainer. Extra magazines with extra ammo will keep you in the fight longer. This is especially useful if you’re in the defense, where you’ll need extra ammo to handle attackers. Whatever you don’t have on your person or your kit, keep loaded in magazines at the top of your ruck. You’ll be glad you did. 

UTENSILS/MESS KIT

Unless you’re a savage that likes eating with your hands, you’re gonna want to eat like a civilized person. A mess kit and utensils is what you’ll need if you’re not eating out of MREs. The US Army M1942 is in my opinion the best bang for your buck. A classic design, it implements a 2-part tray along with a foldable pan, buyable at most camping, outdoors, and surplus stores. 

Utensils are easy to come by as well. Many camping and surplus stores offer camping utensils, usually utensils that either stack with each other for storage, or are attached to each other where the user simply turns which utensil he wants out. Most camping utensils have holes running through the end of the grip for easy attachment to other utensils. Simply run some 550 cord throufh these holes for your spoon/fork/spork/whatever you have, and tie them all together to make sure you don’t lose your utensil set. Keep it with your mess kit with your tools in a sustainment pouch. 

FLASHLIGHT

An L-Torch is the military standard, but there are many better ones out there. A Bell and Howell TacLight can illuminate any space efficiently well at night. A quick remider to put a red filter over the light. This one is bright and bright lights in the dark are a magnet for enemy fire. Use sparingly when your headlamp won’t do. 

HYGIENE ITEMS

Hygiene is intensely important in the field. One of the reasons the Soviet Union lost in Afghanistan was because the average Soviet soldier did not maintain proper hygiene, and in particular foot hygiene. It also accounted for many illnesses and sicknesses in World War 1, including the notorious Trench Foot. Hygiene has also classically been a killer in older times. A survivable wound in the American Civil War was made fatal through infection caused by bad hygiene. While our ancestors only knew so much, you, dear reader, know much more today.

Your hygiene kit can be waterproofed by putting in a ZipLoc bag. It should consist of toothbrush, toothpaste, a razor (I like Braun’s Mobile Electric Shaver, much more comfortable than a dry shave), baby wipes, and if you have access to a shower or bath, soap and shampoo. Also keep some Gold Bond foot powder on hand, and possibly foot cream to really avoid bacteria buildup. 

Do your hygiene at least once a day in the field, with your shave in the morning, and your shower and tooth brushing at night. Use the baby wipes for your pits and inner thigh (particularly the fold where your manhood and your leg meet) to avoid jock itch, and to wipe after defecation. 

COLORED TAPE

As some have noticed from the Russo-Ukrainian war, each side identifies themselves with certain colors of tape, famously the Ukrainians with blue and yellow, and Russia with white or red. Keep a roll of tape with an agreed-upon color for you and your comrades to distinguish each other as friend or foe. Location of the tape (such as around one or both arms, or on helmet/hat) can also distinguish between officers, sergeants, and men under their command.

WHAT GOES IN THE MAIN COMPARTMENT OF MY RUCK OTHER THAN MY SLEEPING BAG? 

A good question. Take your extra uniforms and boots if you cannot put them in sustainment pouches. Same with your outer goretex jacket and trousers. If you’ve got a light parka, pack it in there. Extra cap? Pack it in there. Essentially you want to free this space for whtever extras you may need to pack according to mission necessity.  It’ll also give you room to put your plate carrier, assault pack, and Camelbak (if you have one).

I HAVE AN ASSAULT PACK, WHAT DO I PUT IN IT FOR A MISSION?

First, your mission essentials. Whatever you need for the mission, pack that first. Always pack extra ammo if you expect a fight. You may also want to pack your poncho and woobie. Pack an extra pair of socks and underwear, and pack your foot care and baby wipe parts of your hygiene kit. If you have an MRE or some kind of prepackaged food, bring it in another compartment of your assault pack. Finally, bring along your flag as well. If you’re operating at night, your night vision and flashlight will be essential along with batteries to keep them powered. 

Series Navigation<< Skully’s Tactical Gear Guide | Part ISkully’s Tactical Gear Guide | Part 3 – The Plate Carrier >>

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