This is a repost of my post on lightfighter. Enjoy.
Well, I just got back from Northwestern Helmand (DS to 2/5) a few days ago, so I can finally contribute to this thread... Because I didn't really read this forum until after my last deployment, and I like to think I've learned a lot because of it.... And maybe someone might learn something from this post.
Seven months in a wonderfully desert area of hell's armpit, where it topped 120* for weeks on end, makes me really want to be as small, light, and fast as possible, so that was my philosophy with my gear.
First up: USMC issued plate carrier.
It's a nice piece of gear, certainly better than the MTV we had to wear in Iraq. Some problems with it are the shoulder pads that are too small (for most people) to be velcro'd in to the carrier on both sides... So it slides and twists around. I took 'em off and taped some comfy foam to the straps, and it worked fine. I put three Pmags into the kangaroo pouch, and secured them with some bungee cord and pull tabs stolen off of some Blackhawks rig. It worked amazingly well once the pouch stretched out. Note that the Pmags have ranger plates... I wouldnt be able to easily extract the mags if they didn't have the ranger plates. The mags also have skateboard grip tape pieces on the bottom parts, to aid with control when reloading (works better than I expected). I wore 5 rifle mags and had one in the gun, for six total. I'm not a grunt, but I support them and patrol and all that, so I didn't need more than six. I had two more mags in my left side with two pistol mags, but I forget the name of the mag pouch. The pistol pouches are elastic with magnets to secure the mags, but one fell out once, so I got some more elastic cord and made my own retention bands. Behind that is my dump pouch, which I never really used in past deployments after some Iraqi kids started mobbing us and stealing everything out of them. It folds away super small, and I only keep it on there in case of a site exploitation or if we're handing out flyers or something. On the range I wear a bigger dump pouch, but in a firefight the last thing on my mind is magazine retention (many more experienced shooters disagree with my thoughts on this).
On the other side I had a GP pouch... Again, I forget the name of it. I usually had a pen and chemlight molle'd on the outside, and my NVG's inside. I wore the nut protector flap due to battalion policy, and I wore the blast diaper underneath (not shown) because I enjoy having a dick.
I bought a 3L camelback that directly connected to the molle via plastic clips. The water bag kept itself fairly flat due to the interior seam, creating two smaller baffles instead of one big one, which bloats out. If I was mounted, I could also have a friend quickly disconnect or reconnect it from my back, making a more comfortable ride (which reminds me: I want to find the designer of the MRAP and MATV seats and punch them in the face). I rarely ever disconnected it, though, because it was flat enough to not bother me on short trips. I kept a set of flexicuffs in the camelback just in case.
If going on ops, I had my Mystery Ranch 3-day assault pack, with the BVS. It fit right over my camelback, and never slid around.... It's a ****ing brilliant pack, and I recommend it highly. I added some small things to it, like 550 cord tabs to all of the major zippers, so I could rip it open easily. I also put 550 tabs on the corners, to pull them tight to zip more easily. I gutted the insides of the radio mount (which works, but I never carry a large radio), and only left one set of the straps (padded, and it secures a laptop nicely) intact. I just love this pack... Comfy as all hell.
I bought this fanny pack from Ares Armor, but there's many on the market that are similar and will work just as well. I used it as my first aid pouch, in the place of my IFAK. After going though CLS and the live tissue training (pig course- best training ever), I realized my issued IFAK was retarded, and needed an overhaul. For one, the plastic clip breaks or gets sand in it and doesn't open easily. Two, the flap opens up, hits the flak, and falls right down again (hooray gravity!), blocking you from getting the supplies unless you dedicate a hand to holding it up, which is retarded in a situation like that. Three, it forces you to pull everything out of it, just to get what you need. Four, nobody puts it in an easy-to-access area, and often times people can't fully access their own med gear if hit in that side, rendering self-aid impossible. Five, the supplies in it are not all good ones, such as the elastic band with metal hooks that is supposed to be a tourniquet. Six, it's not large enough to hold enough dressings to do anything if the guy has been struck by an IED and is bleeding from several places.
....and I'll stop at six, because the hate in my heart is growing.
I put a tourniquet on the strap using an elastic band, and it never fell out on me. To use it, I just twisted and pulled, and it came right out. I wore the fanny pack over my ***, but it could be slid to my front easily, or just disconnected from me... Or I could disconnect it and throw it to somebody that needs it. It also freed up room on my flak and made me smaller and lighter on the flak.
It's not perfect, but it's better than most of the alternatives (in my opinion). If I deploy again, I'll have Ares mod it to better fit the combat shears, increase the mouth size of the zipper, and reinforce the belt. I added my 550 cord to this zipper too, because the last thing I want is someone fumbling with a zipper when I'm bleeding.
Bates lites. **** 'em. They are indeed light, but they have a design flaw with the sole. As you can see, the sole has a rim on the outside... And it falls off. The hot weather and walking on rocks and dirt probably didn't help, but wow.... They just fell apart.
From right to left.
Socks: Smartwool PH.D medium cushion socks. They're awesome. They breathe well, they are comfy and padded, and they can be worn for multiple days without going to hell. They're expensive, but it's all I wear on ops.
Sandals: shower shoes or whatever... Rainbow Sandals are the best you can buy. They don't dry very fast, but they last forever. My pair is on its second deployment and still gong strong.
Frog fleece: Best. Issued. Item. Ever.
Nalgene bottle: some flat spray paint and a strip of masking tape made it tacticool, but it's nice for everything from soup to workout supplements.
Snugpak: it's a lightweight sleeping bag with a mosquito net over the head, and it's both warmer and more compact than a normal poncho liner. This was all I used the entire deployment. It's definitely not for cold weather, but it can go flat and be used as a good blanket, stuffed and become a good pillow, or whatever. It's like a woobie for poor enlisted folk.
Safari land ALS:
I bought the holster separate from the drop leg attachment, and I love the combo. I had a Serpa on my previous two pumps, and I even made comments about them in the Serpa threads on this forum, and then was told the error of that system. I thank the members of this board for teaching me about the ALS, and I'm glad I listened.
Mechanix gloves: comfy, cheap, reliable, durable, and had good dexterity. 'Nuff said.
Sling: I use an area armor husky 2-point sling, and I liked it a lot. I had no issues with the loop catching on anything, which some people get concerned with.
Blast diapers: yeah, they aren't fun, but whatever.
Towel: it's an "outgo" microfiber towel, and it's awesome. I'm going to buy several for my next pump, different sizes and such.
Shemagh: the unit leadership hated these. That's why I have a garrison 8-point cover on it... Because I was told I couldn't wear the shemagh on patrols, but I HAD to wear the 8-point on the FOB, instead of a Boonie cover. Now.... Our fob had about 100 people on it, and that was including attachments, contractors, and interpreters. It's a field environment, and commanders wanted it to be garrison. Every terrible thing that you can imagine regarding unit commanders and garrison standards in a combat environment... Yeah, we had that. This photo is in protest.
...and that's about it.