I live in layers. From life to gear, I have come to understand, or at least define the phenomenon as “layering.”

In interpersonal relationships I am pretty basic (boring) at work with outsiders. Then a layer is added when talking with my boss who is a long time friend. Many more layers of “me” are added on when hanging out with my close personal friends, and finally some more layers happen with my family.

That all might not make much sense as is, but its the example I am using to introduce the concept of how I handle my personal gear load out… for lack of a better term.

Now again, I’m not the best survival nut around. I like my Starbucks, call ahead food and netflix. I do not think the US will ever be invaded and that we will have to take up arms. On the other hand, I’m very careful about fire safety, but still have a bunch of smoke detectors and fire extinguishers in my house. Better to have and not need…

Other countries have seen sudden and dramatic civil unrest turn to civil war. I dont think we will ever see that here either, but we have seen small pockets of really bad stuff happen inside of this country just enough times to make me see the similarities and take notice. And there are many different scenarios in which a person may need to have a bag and a gun prepacked and ready to go, so i figure a person might as well be ready , just in case.

Now I’m an intel guy, and that encompasses everything a person would think it does. I like to be clued in on whats happening, I like to know what leads to what, why stuff happened, what options you have available… thats all intel work. What is interesting is that this tendency has really shaped how I view gear load outs.

We’ve all heard the idea of letting the mission dictate the gear, well Ive taken that to heart… in a generic way. The variables in which life happens and what you need for those situations are endless, but Ive found that by utilizing my system of “layers,” Ive actually simplified things a bit.

Oh, and this isnt a another 1st, 2nd and 3rd line gear load out list either, and obviously, what works for me will probably not work 100% for anyone else. Everyone’s level of training and familiarity is different. For example, I dont have full surgical kits in my trauma gear, because I dont know how to use them. With that out of the way, lets look at what I do use.

The first layer for me is what is always in my pockets. I always have a pocket knife, lighter and flashlight in my pockets. Was I a boyscout and taught to always be prepared? No, its because I use that stuff daily.

Next is a sidearm of one sort or another. Its either on my belt, or on my desk ,or on my nightstand… it just is.

So far not a big deal right? Well there are two points Id like to make about that. First, those four items, statistically, will handle 99% of anything I will ever have to deal with. And actually its the first three items that will probably do the trick. Im sure we could argue that idea endlessly, but for now, lets just say I do carry a pistol, I dont want to ever have to use it, but I can.

The second point I wanted to bring up before I go any farther is that these four items, being the first layer, means I dont have to double up or move around things for the next layers. I’m a lightweight backpacker and watch the bottom line in my load outs… you’ll see what I mean by this in a minute.

Also before I get too ahead of myself, I should reiterate that this “gear” is a balance of my regular everyday life, my hobbies, and my what-if life. I have full and complete first aid kits in all of my vehicles along with spare pistol mags (I standardized on Glock pistols a long time ago… unfortunately). Those items are other layers in and of themselves.

Next comes my “go bag.” This is different than what most everyone else calls their go-bag. I refer to mine more appropriately as the “stuff-in-a-bag-that-I-need-to-pack-everytime.” What this means is that I’m not a millionaire. I dont have a nice water filter, handheld CB,  or high end GPS unit in every backpack, recon pack, car kit or assault pack. I also backpack, hike, car camp, travel… so I have a bag of the expensive stuff that I can at this time only afford one of, and that stuff goes with me on every trip, no matter what luggage or backpack I take on that trip. It just kind of simplifies my packing.

Layers. Are you starting to get it?

That, at this time, is my basic foundation. And dont think for a minute that gathering that part itself was as easy as Ive made it sound either. There have been many years of trial and error, making concessions to lesser quality stuff in different bags, etc.

So, moving on to the fun stuff.

A friend of mine turned me onto the idea of having one basic load bearing gear rig, and then dropping specific mission and gun load outs on top of that. This was during a time when we were doing a lot of back woods and team patrolling. It was probably also the start of my layering system.

His idea was to have one setup for patrolling, and then depending on what rifle he wanted to hump for that mission, he would just sling a bandoleer of mags for that gun on top of his LBE and he was off and running. That is maybe a simplified version of his system, but I liked it and quickly adapted it to my own set up.

So now, depending on my needs, and even if I have a vest or plate carrier on, I throw on a padded (for lack of a better term) Battle Belt, which houses the bare necessities (will explain in a second), including an empty Taco mag pouch that gets filled by the spare mag I keep next to each gun in the safe.  For anyone unfamiliar with the Taco pouches, gt familiar with them. Dont let the price turn you away either, they are dang near necessary when doing this sort of thing.

The Battle belt idea is a funny thing all on its own. Old Best gunfighters always had their pistol holster and usually some extra ammo on a nice wide and comfortable leather belt that they could take on and off, independent of their trouser belt. As a kid I did the same thing while backpacking. For a lot of the “modern” years, people have gone away from the concept, but what is old is new again. The padded belt is the modern old west gunfighters belt. Oh sure it doesn’t have to be padded, especially if you keep the load to a minimum, but an independent gun fighters belt is so nice for day to day life. If you dont believe it I highly suggest watching a weekends worth of westerns, then some HSGI youtube videos.

On my belt I have a simple quality fixed blade knife, a rifle reload, a pistol reload (Glock standardization really does simplify things), A very simple blow out kit (Tourniquet, Israeli bandage, chest seal and quic clot), a rolled up dump pouch, and an admin pouch to for some of the items in that “go every time bag”. Light, simple, maneuverable.

Back to it… The belt is on, open the safe, grab a gun, secure the spare magazine into the Taco pouch for an emergency reload, grab the bandoleer/chest rig full of associated magazines out of the gear locker, and you are ready to be lethal.

Ive mentioned a few times my preference for light weight and bare minimum, and really it comes from experience. Ive found that the more you are out in the woods, and if you are honest with yourself, you realize how much you dont need. Conversely, you also see what not to skimp on.

There is lots of watering holes in my area, so I dont have to load up with a 100liter camel back bladder and two full size water bottles. I do have to know where refills are though and have my filter for most cases. This is something that comes from knowing your AO like the back of your hand, and that only comes from really spending enormous amounts of time peaking under every rock in the area.

Water availability brings up another consideration that I would like to address, in reality, there are lots of people around. Even way out in the sticks, there are houses every mile or so. The situation may be one that calls for you to sneak over to a muddy cow water trough, but more often than not, you can probably find a friendly house to refill from if you are that desperate. This may only work if you dont look like you’re geared up for war though. John Mosby, the Mountain Guerrilla, has recently written on the subject of civilian support, having your network or being in good terms with your neighbors, its a good read and better practice.

Wow, I should rename this article  “How to get Sidetracked” … pockets are full, belt is on, gun is in hands… what next? oh yes, the Assault pack. This is something I have packed and repacked, tried way too many packs for, named and renamed, but finally (for now) I have worked out a good small pack that contains the items I need to recon with, comfortably stay a few nights in the woods with, resupply myself with, and still be quite mobile.

My original idea was a sustainment pack. A big old 70 pound cover all bases resupply rig. But where I live, I don’t need that for a quick reaction pack. If the mission ever calls for three pairs of BDUs, a box of MREs and full tent, then yes, I can do that. But the quick grab bag isnt that. It lets you get the mission done a little more comfortably than if you didnt have it. A little food, water, batteries, 550 cord, a more comprehensive 1st aid kit, maybe a fleece hat and gloves, small weapon cleaning kit, some bug dope, the stuff from your “go every time” bag that you didnt stick in the admin pouch on your battle belt… its the “other” gear you need, but nothing you “might” need just in case. You start doing “just in case” gear, and you are back to the 70 pound external frame backpack. Again, this is only worked out through doing, not guessing. Hit the woods for an over-nighter and take notes.

I do, quite honestly, have way too much stuff. As In, I could equip a squad or small platoon fairly well, given that they are within a size of myself one way or the other. Over the years and gear progressions, it has just happened that way. In fact a good part of my firearm collection at one time was based on being able to accomplish just that concept. But thats beside the point. Suffice it to say, I have too much stuff. It is fun to go though it all every once in a while to test and eval, but when you come down to it, you never need as much as you have. Keep it simple.


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