In today’s economy it can be difficult to pay for the day-to-day necessities much less have any dollars left over to pursue recreational outdoor activities. Let’s face it: sometimes the gear is just plain expensive. Top-of-the-line anything doesn’t come cheap or even “cost effective”. In two previous reviews I’ve looked at some surplus equipment that can help reduce the overall cost while still providing you with serviceable kit. This week we’re going to look at some more surplus kit in a specific area of use: carrying your equipment. Surplus Load Carrying Equipment can offer a lot of options for convenient carry without draining your wallet quite so bad.
The usual components of a Load Carrying Equipment (LCE) system include:
- Web belt
- (2) ammo pouches
- butt pack
In the picture shown to the right here there is also a first-aid pouch and an entrenching tool (looks green on the right side). The H-harness essentially forms the suspenders and is adjustable to fit length of torso. The web belt is so common that most everyone knows what it is and how to adjust it to fit their waist. Depending on how you construct the pairing of the H-harness and the web belt you can connect them directly or you can use the ammo pouches and butt pack to bridge them together.
In the past I’ve written a number of articles about “bug out bags” or “go bags” and, as I was looking at surplus LCE gear it occurred to me that a complete LCE – to include pouches – could also serve a similar purpose. Let’s take a look at the components and what fits easily to meet your needs.
The carrying system is comprised of the H-harness and web belt. Everything attaches to them or is used to bridge them together.
The canteen is obvious. In today’s world of hydration systems that are usually carried like a backpack and have a drinking tube, the 1-quart plastic canteens of yester-year’s military don’t seem as convenient. In reality, you can carry two canteens – one just behind each hip – fairly comfortably. To make drinking more convenient there are after-market conversion kits which replace the canteen cap and have a drinking tube included. You only need one such kit and you can carry two quarts of clean water ready to sip as you go.
The ammo pouches are actually pretty good for carrying various items. One of them fits my shelter kit (poncho, 550 cord & stakes) while the other could be used to carry emergency food supplies. Depending on which model of ammo pouch you have, it could carry an assortment of food bars, drink powder supplements, or even MREs.
The first-aid pouch, if you use one, is properly sized to carry ONE military pressure bandage. You may be better off putting a cell phone or compass in this pouch as both will usually fit – and a single pressure bandage isn’t what you need for emergency first-aid in the field. (see farther down about the butt pack for including first-aid supplies).
The entrenching tool and knife surplus bayonet are a given for use. Both are excellent for emergency survival. The entrenching tool – a folding shovel – is imperative for constructing shelter and can be used to chop wood if properly constructed and maintained. It also makes a formidable weapon (the Russians have – or at least used to – an entire fighting system built around the compact shovel). Surplus bayonets make excellent field knives if you restore and care for them. The end cap can be used to hammer in your stakes to use your poncho as an emergency shelter.
That leaves the butt pack. A number of different designs are available today but if you get a Vietnam-era military surplus canvas OD Green butt pack it is essentially an open pouch with a flap lid. I would recommend you get a two gallon zip-lock bag to line it so that whatever you put in it can be kept dry. The butt pack is the perfect place to put your spare clothing (clean underwear, socks, t-shirt), first-aid supplies (tourniquet and two pressure bandages minimum) and any personal hygiene items you want to carry. I’d also recommend throwing in a cyalume light stick or three. If you are going to carry a flashlight (which I highly recommend) you should also put some spare batteries in the butt pack.
Speaking of a flashlight, if you’re using a surplus LCE for your “go gear” then you should see about getting a flashlight that you can hook – via d-rings – to one of the front straps of the H-harness. There might also be room on the web belt for you to put a light pouch (depending on your waist size).
Other items can obviously be included. Signalling devices, simple medicines such as aspirin, and other items are a good idea to keep in your kit. Obviously water shouldn’t be left in the canteens for prolonged periods. A method for purifying water should probably be kept in the butt pack.
Given the above it’s easy to see how such a simple surplus (and therefore fairly cheap) system can provide necessities and conveniences if you’re unexpectedly trapped in the field. Just Google “surplus load carrying equipment” online and see what you get.
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