First, a disclaimer. This post is not intended to be a thorough look into what you need to carry nor does it represent the setup of a specific unit. As always, I have drawn inspiration and ideas from the US Army Rangers and what they carried and could have carried during their missions. This setup is essentially for longer Airsoft Milsim events, where you are expected to stay outside for extended periods of time. This is just a insight into what I usually carry. Other items are needed depending on the length of the event, mission, weather, availability of water… So take this as a post to give you some ideas rather than a complete guide. I am not an expert, I draw from my own experiences and what I was taught back in the day, as well as from my research and reading. Now that we have that out of the way, lets begin.
The need and the space – What do you need and how much can you carry?
Space is always limited. The Medium ALICE rucksack is an excellent piece of military gear but it has its limitations. It has a bigger brother, the Large ALICE pack, which can take more items. The Medium ALICE has about 40 liters of space and over packing is possible due to the top lid. The Large ALICE has about 60 liters of space. Both packs allow ALICE pouches to be attached on the outside to the sides as well for extra carrying capacity. Most of the time these are used for canteens, shovels, machetes… Whatever you might need (and according to unit SOP of course). Do keep in mind that you still need to keep the ruck balanced and extra pouches on the sides do tend to snag into everything you go through in the woods.
Dividing the weight on a ruck begins with packing the large compartment. Keep the weight to the top to balance the ruck better and making rucking easier. When packing, keep in mind what you might need daily and what you might need occasionally. Keep the daily use items towards the top and the occasional use items towards the bottom. Since the ALICE ruck only has one opening, the top, getting items from the bottom will lead to unpacking the whole ruck. That takes time.
Daily use items can be: sleeping gear, shelter cover, stove, shaving kit, sweater/jacket (for extra warmth) and food. Keep these towards the top of the ruck or in the smaller side pouches for ease of access. Keeping the small items in one of the three outside pouches (or extra pouches attached to the ruck) will make it easier to find them.
Occasional use items can include rainsuit, socks/underwear and other extra clothing items. Extra clothing items can be a pair of BDUs or such. Other items such as overshoes and sewing kit are also occasional use items. Again, pack smart! Smaller items to the side pouches or combine smaller items together to make it easier to find them when digging through your ruck.
Worth noting here is that you are still carrying your ALICE harness as well. If you have a buttpack attached, or extra ammo pouches used for small items, you might want to divide all these items between the ruck and your load carrying harness. A good rule that I go by is that your harness should sustain you for at least 2-3 days. This is kind of a hardcore shot for Airsoft events, but keep that in mind. It would not be a comfortable period of time, though. If I carry a ruck in addition to my LBE, I have extra t-shirts, snivel gear, fire starting (magnesium fire starter and cotton balls dipped in petroleum jelly) and food on my LBE. Everything is personal preference so find out what is good for you. There are no SOPs in Airsoft (necessarily, when it comes to personal gear) so you have a lot of freedom here. The only thing to remember, is to pack smart, and pack light.
If you want to read more about the LBE side of things, read my previous post about my ALICE LBE setup here.
Packing everything smart
The above image shows some items that you might want to carry with you during longer events and where you need to fit it all. The gear represented here is aimed towards summer, thus the use of a custom made lightweight sleeping bag. I use a Thermarest sleeping mattress and not a USGI one, because this thing is amazing!
When you start packing, remember the daily and occasional use items and also keep the weight to the top. Sleeping gear can go to the bottom of the ruck, so pack the sleeping bag first. Poncho liner with the poncho can go on your buttpack if you need it. The sleeping mattress can be tied or secured to the top of the ruck, under the top flap. If you carry a shelter as well, you can secure these together. The cooking stove goes to the outside pockets. I would keep the petroleum jelly cotton balls on my LBE or even in my BDU pockets with the magnesium fire starter.
Shaving kit/cleaning kit goes to the outside pockets as well. Keeping them combined is a good idea, since you will most likely need them at the same time. A good thing to carry with you while in the boonies are baby wipes. The non-alcohol kind. I never leave home without these anymore. Mosquito repellent is also a good thing to have during the summer. I would usually keep one in my ruck and one on person, inside my BDU pockets. The camo cream in the images is an extra one and I always carry another on my LBE.
The knife, scope and small lights are something I added, due to personal experiences. The small headlamp is usually in my BDU pocket, while the smalled LED flashlight is attached to the outside pocket of my ruck with Paracord, further attached with the clip that is on it. If you need light, you need light. Adding a red filter to it makes using it during darkness hours that much more safe. The knife is a custom made knife, by yours truly. I usually have at least two knifes with me, one on person and a larger knife in my ruck.
Keeping warm is essential, since temperatures can plummet even during summer months or you can get wet. Keeping a sweater or a warm jacket towards the top of the ruck will keep you happy. I have a sleep shirt or a M65 jacket liner with me. The M65 jacket itself is a heavy piece to carry, but the liner can be combined with a regular BDU jacket or even worn over it. Add some buttons to the outside as well so you can button that bad-boy up. You’ll be happy that you did!
Also keep a pair of extra socks and a t-shirt towards the top of the ruck. The rest can be packed in the bottom with your extra BDU. There are some waterproof(ish) rubber coated pouches made for the ALICE ruck, meant to be used with the outside pockets. I always pack the stuff I need to keep dry inside these pouches. You can use modern commercial ones as well, since they do the job well. These can be also used as laundry bags, to separate the fresh from the not-so-fresh.
Food is another important factor. Keep it close to the top as well for easy access. I usually carry some small snacks on person or on my LBE, which can be eaten during marches or short breaks. Extra water can be carried in canteens attached to the ruck or in a 5qt collapsible canteen. The inner pouch that is inside the ruck can be used to carry said canteen, or if immersion is not your thing, you can even fit a modern water bladder there and thread the hose through the top opening.
Your rainsuit, the one which keeps water out and sweat in, can be packed in one of the outside pockets. You can opt for a Goretex jacket as well, but I have found that they do not pack as small as the rubber jacket does. Personal choice!
Other things you might want to do for the ruck is camo. You can use camo netting, natural camo or the combination of both. Or if you want to keep it simple, use one of the tire covers, like the one below. You can even sew some vegetation loops to it if you need. Get creative with this one! Staying concealed is important, but do remember where you drop your ruck if you so do. Good camo works both ways.
That’s the short and sweet about what you can carry with you during longer events. I added, as you might have noticed from the images, a first aid kit to the mix. While I have a smaller boo-boo-kit on my LBE, I always carry some extra in my ruck. The contents I will leave to professionals and personal choice. It all depends on you.
The lightweight sleeping bag
Since some of you will ask about it, here’s a few more details about the lightweight sleeping bag I made. I used a poncho liner and some highly water resistant fabric, which has a “warmth trapper” on the other side. Apologies, as I do not know the correct term for it. Basically it works very much like a space blanket, but does not make noise. I sewed the poncho liner onto the lightweight fabric and took a sleeping bag zipper from an old broken sleeping bag and attached that to the liner. Top and bottom parts are open, and the zipper is two-sided. An extremely lightweight sleeping bag that works really well during summer months.
And there you have it. Again, this is just to give some ideas on what you might want to carry with you. Take some time and think about what you will need, where you are going, the weather and how much you can actually carry. In Airsoft events, personal things matter and your preferences might be very different from the other players. Be smart about everything and pack according to your event/play style!
Many ideas for this post, what and how I carry stuff, again comes from the great Complete Ranger Digest: Volumes I-V by Rick F. Tscherne. Check that book out, it has some great ideas!