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Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:01

A Guide to Operating from a Three Day Pack
[This article is in a final draft stage with small ongoing modifications. Special thanks to my fellow 3Day Packers for their invaluable contributions... Ray, Mike, Matty, Rich]


This article is written for those people who are about to embark on a military simulation that lasts 24-72 hours, where there may be no fixed base of operations, and desire to remain self sufficient without resupply. It won’t apply to every simulation you participate in, nor will it apply to everyone that wishes to participate. However, it will provide a solid foundation for you if you’re looking to load and operate from a Three Day Pack. If you already operate out of a Three Day Pack, then this article should provide you some insight into how others are selecting equipment and organizing their gear. If you are new to the concept, then welcome to the club. There’s a lot to think about.

The concepts behind this guide are based upon a philosophy that you will have your pack with you almost all the time, with the exception of stashing it at a rally point prior to an assault. The decision to operate with your ruck requires serious consideration regarding pack weight, size, and contents. Choosing items that serve multiple purposes, sharing specific equipment among your squad, and selecting lightweight versions of equipment can decrease fatigue and increase agility.

1) The Pack

2) Food & Water

3) Shelter

4) Sleeping Equipment

5) Clothing

Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:02

The Pack
Your pack is one of the most important items you will select. It is not an easy decision, and the market is filled with great options. Don’t be surprised if your first pack doesn’t quite fit your needs and you identify key features you’re looking for or could do without. Chances are, this won’t be your last pack purchase.

Things You Should Consider
  • Volume
    • Typically, a suitable 3 Day Pack has a volume between 30 and 45 litres. Less than that and you may not be able to fit all your equipment. If it’s greater, you may fill it with items that aren’t necessary.
  • Empty Weight
    • The weight of the empty ruck must be factored into your total load weight.
  • Load Transfer / Suspension System
    • Does the pack have a hip belt? Do you need one? Do you need an internal or external frame to help with structure and weight transfer?
  • External Features
    • Does the pack have PALS webbing on the outside to attach additional pouches if needed? Does the pack have straps that allow you to attach sleeping pads and sleep rolls so they can be stored externally?
  • Internal Features
    • How much organization do you need in your pack? Are there pockets for hydration or electronics?
  • Design of Openings
    • How the pack opens can be important to consider. Does the pack have a clam shell opening or does it just zip at the top? Is it a roll top? Three Zip? Does it have additional access points on the sides or bottom? These can be important when needing to access items located at different points in the main compartment.

Below is a list of the packs used by contributors for this article. The recommendations section contains why they chose the pack they use.
  • HG3D (High Ground Gear)
  • 3DAP (Mystery Ranch)

  • HG3D Pack by High Ground Gear (Sean)

My needs for a 3 Day Pack were pretty well defined and this helped greatly in selecting a pack. I wanted a pack around the 40L mark. My experience was that anything smaller wouldn’t hold all the equipment required for 48 hours. I also needed a pack that would support the 30-35lbs I expected to be carrying, so a suspension system was important. I didn’t want the pack to be too heavy on it’s own and eat into my 30-35lbs limit. The pack had to have good access points for the main compartment to allow me to get at gear quickly. I wanted something with organizational capability such as separate compartments for hydration and small items, and attachment points on the exterior for sleeping gear. PALS webbing was a nice to have so that extra pouches could be attached. The HG3D met my requirements coming in at 40L and 5lbs. It also had a few additional features that I’ve found useful.
  • It has dedicated hydration and comms routing ports that lead to zippered channels on the shoulder straps. These channels keep the cables and hoses from getting hung up on foliage or other gear.
  • It has two entry points into the main compartment, one each at the top and bottom. This has allowed me to get at shelter gear without pulling out all my layers or mission equipment.
  • The beaver tail on the pack allows for storage of a helmet or other items that you may want quick access to.
    High Ground Gear put in place a quick release system that detaches the pack from the waist belt, leaving you with a battle belt.
  • It also comes with a separate insert that rides along on the pack that fills the gap on the belt when the pack is removed. Essentially you carry extra gear on the insert and strap it in for a mission after you’ve dropped your pack. There is a lot of potential here but I’ve found the system a little challenging so far. More practice may resolve this.


For me the Mystery Ranch 3 Day Assault Pack comes at the end of a fairly long line of different packs. Some of the first packs I used were from offshore tactical companies like Condor or civilian companies like Osprey. While those packs served their purpose, they never served it well when it came to Milsim applications. In my search for the right pack I tried out packs from LBT, Tactical Tailor, Eberlestock and more. While they were certainly an improvement, none of them quite met my needs in a pack.

Enter the Mystery Ranch 3DAP. Mystery Ranch builds their packs based on the combined knowledge from years of mountaineering and pack construction with direct input from tactical real world users. That means they aren’t cutting corners when it comes to features or materials in their product. The end result is something comfortable and highly functional.
The primary features I was looking for in a pack were as follows:
  • Scalable: As a tall guy, many ‘one size fits all’ packs were simply too small for me. I needed a pack with an adjustable yoke and a sized waist belt.
  • Compressible: I wanted a pack could easily carry a full loadout, while not looking like a bag of dicks when only partially filled. This meant it needed compression straps to cinch down the load.
  • Comfortable: Many packs I’d tried failed to strike the balance between padding, weight, and proper distribution of the load.
  • Practical: Many packs I’d tried had features that simply weren’t needed, or poorly implemented. I wanted something simple and user friendly.

Clocking in at just shy of 33L the 3DAP is one of the smaller packs I’ve used for 24-48 OPs. Surprisingly, I’ve never run out of room to the point something important was left behind. The downfall of many packs in this category in my opinion is too many compartments of 500-1000D cordura. These compartments are useful for organization, but are rarely filled all the way and they add a good deal of weight to the pack. This results in a heavier pack with wasted space inside it. All the compartments in the MR 3DAP are contained within the main body of the pack, and separated by mesh or light nylon. This means partially filled pockets don’t waste space. Additionally, the Tri Zip design allows for the pack to be loaded (and more importantly unloaded) in a very efficient manner. Finally the numerous compression straps allow many bulkier items to attach the the exterior of the pack, saving room inside for the essentials.

Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:03

Food & Water

How much you need to eat is a personal decision. Weather conditions, physical exertion, and your experience will dictate how much food is necessary for you. You may find that over 48 hours, you only need two large meals plus snacks. Alternatively, you may need a large dose of calories every 6-8 hours to sustain yourself. While bringing less food has obvious benefits, do not short yourself on the energy you’ll need to operate for the duration of the simulation. Some types of events pose some unique challenges when it comes to food choices. In some situations, you may only stop for a few minutes. Perhaps you’ll need to eat on the move. In the cases that you do end up at rest, how long will that be maintained? Can you be sure you have the 20 minutes it takes to boil water and rehydrate a meal? Can you spare 2 cups of water from your drinking supply?

Things You Should Consider
  • Weight/Volume
    • The more space and weight that your food occupies, the less room you have to haul other gear. The weight requirements of hydrated food can add up quickly, and should be factored into your pack weight. However, food is consumable. As you eat, you’ll gain that extra room in your ruck. Don’t forget that you’ll need to pack out all your trash. Keep this in mind if you’re considering canned food.
  • Personal Needs
    • Your experience will always dictate how much and what type of food you personally need to keep up your energy. Consider previous events you’ve attended and how you coped with the activity requirements and the food you ate. If in doubt, packing extra snacks and ready-to-eat (RTE) items is a small space investment but can pay off if you run low on meals.
  • Preparation Time
    • This is critical. Know that occasions to stop for 30 minutes and boil water to cook food might not happen regularly enough to sustain you. Also consider the possibility of being bumped during this stop. Will you be able to pack up your food and gear quickly and fight your way out or are you going to have to ditch it in place? What resources are you going to lose if you do so?
  • Preparation Needs
    • Do you need a stove? A pot? Do you need extra water? Have you factored these requirements into your load? A meal that requires extra equipment to prepare is less desirable than one you can simply consume. Do not underestimate how quickly these pieces of gear eat into your weight and space limits.
  • Water
    • Water is critical, but there’s not much that can be done about carrying it. You either do, or you don’t. Your personal requirements will dictate how much you will need, but it could be in excess of 3L a day. You will also need to consider water you may use to cook food, or perform personal hygiene.

  • Snacks / Ready to Eat (RTE) / Prepared Food
    • These items may consist of energy gels and chews, energy bars, or simple trail mixes. They are very light and take up a small to moderate amount of space, but they require no preparation work or equipment and can be easily eaten on the move in short amounts of time. Additionally, some prepared items like sandwiches may work depending on conditions.
  • MREs/IMPs
    • A single MRE or IMP box contains a meal consisting of multiple food items, accessories like salt and jam, and electrolyte drink mixes and/or coffee. MRE boxes are rather large and heavy, but can be broken down into their components so only necessary items can be packed. In the end, they’ll take up a moderate amount of space. Items are hydrated and ready to eat, however heating them is always an option. Boiling the package in water or using an MRE heater are both valid options but take additional time and resources. Typically the actual food items would be consumed at a halt and not on the move.
  • Dehydrated Food
    • Backpackers Pantry, Mountain House, and other backpacking meals are one to two servings of food in a very lightweight package that takes up a moderate amount of space. These meals are dehydrated and require you to add boiling water and let the meal sit for up to 15 minutes before consuming.
  • Carrying vs. Filtering Water
    • Water is heavy. If you’re looking to carry it, bladders and bottles/canteens are your only real option. Bladders have the benefit of being low weight and can change size based on the amount you have left. You also have the option of filtering water. If there are water sources nearby, a good quality filtration system and a few minutes at boiling will remove all of the pathogens. However, filtration and boiling will not remove chemical contamination.

  • Snacks with MRE/RTE (Sean)

Food preparation takes time. Boiling water or using heat packs means you're committed to your position. You risk having to lose/ditch all of that kit when you need to suddenly and urgently go mobile.

I choose to use snacks and gels because they can be consumed on the move, and need no time to prepare. The reasons for choosing MREs were similar. While heavier to carry, they did not consume my drinking water and can be eaten cold.

That said, do NOT underestimate the morale boosting power of a hot meal and some coffee. We typically ensure one man in the team is carrying a stove, and each member is encouraged to carry a metal canteen cup so that water can be boiled if the tactical situation permits. I may also carry one larger dehydrated backpacker meal that can be prepared in a base area if one is available.
  • Prepared / Fresh Food (Mike)

In regards to food, one of the reasons why I keep breakfast sandwiches from McDonalds in my pocket is because they do last a long time, and they are a morale boost. Boiling water takes a long time, waiting for it to rehydrate takes time, plus you have to carry a stove pot and fuel with you. Why not bring sandwiches that have fillings that won’t wet out the bun and spoil it. Put it in some tin foil and then it’s ready to go immediately.

I like a good high calorie trail mix, perhaps some fruit cups and of course energy food. Even pre-cooking bacon and throwing it in some ziplock bags is a great idea that requires no prep time. The waste from all of these things will cost you grams, not pounds, and it won’t take up much pack space.

Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:03


Cooking, changing layers, drying out, and warming up are all made easier with some form of shelter. Even simple protection from wind, rain, or snow can help sustain operations. Unfortunately, some compromises must be made in this area. Tents can be heavy and bulky, while tarps won’t offer 100% protection from the elements and pests. Your choice of shelter equipment will be heavily influenced by your personal preferences and by the predicted weather. Remember that you will be forced to carry your choice with you the entire event. If you have never slept in a bivy or under a tarp, this may be something you want to experiment with before committing to a choice. That said, you may surprise yourself at what passes for ‘comfort’ after walking for 10 hours.

Things to Consider
  • Weight / Volume
    • When considering your shelter options, the weight and the volume of the equipment should be top of mind. What percentage of your full load is occupied by items that will only be used for a small portion of the event? Tents will always provide the best protection from precipitation, wind, and bugs. However if that tent takes up a third of your pack and adds three kilograms, is it worth it?
  • Protection from Wind/Precipitation
    • Some shelter choices will isolate you from the weather better than others. Consider what you need based on the forecast and historical data. Do you just need a place to stay dry and keep the wind off of you, or do you need a protected space that is wind, water, and bug proof? Can you get by with less?
  • Usable Area
    • When you set up your shelter, can you cook under in it? Add clothing layers? Can you reorganize your gear? Keep your pack with you? Are these things you are concerned about? Small bivys or one person tents may not allow you the flexibility to don/doff layers, or you may have to leave them to use a stove.
  • Setup / Takedown Time
    • If your location comes under fire and you have to retreat, how quickly will you be able to breakdown your gear? Are you going to be messing with poles for 3 minutes while your team tries to fend off an enemy assault, or are you going to abandon your only shelter in hopes of coming back to it later? Short setup and takedown times are ideal because you can react quickly to changing conditions and threats.
  • Visible Signature
    • It should be obvious that a red four person tent from MEC may be conspicuous in the woods, but even a poorly set up tarp can wave and flap in the trees like a flag. When selecting items to use as shelter, consider how well they can be hidden in the woods or in a field. Are they easy to spot from a distance, even with some camouflage?
  • Sleeping Equipment Choices
    • Your shelter and sleeping system work together, and so you may find yourself restricted by one or the other. A regular down bag can not be exposed to the rain, and going without any shelter may not be an option if you plan on only using insulating layers as a sleep system.

  • Tent
    • Civilian tents are always an option, but a number of manufacturers make military tents for 1 or more individuals. Check out the lines by Nemo Shield, Snugpak, and Litefighter
  • Bivy
    • Military surplus items such as the Military Sleep System (MSS) Goretex Bivy, the USMC 3-Season Bivy or the Canadian Army bivy are fairly inexpensive. Nemo Shield and Snugpak also offer bivy options.
  • Tarp / Basha
    • Tarps can come in numerous sizes, weights, and colours. This may be one of your least expensive options. However, they lack the protection of a bivy or tent.
  • Poncho
    • Ponchos have been used by the military for decades and serve multiple purposes. Aside from durable protection from rain, they can also be used as shelter, litter, or as a bivy bag. Like the tarp, a poncho will be offer less wind and precipitation protection than a fully enclosed bivy or tent.
  • None
    • No shelter is actually a viable option. Your combination of clothing can protect you if you’ve chosen the right kind of equipment. While it may not be the most comfortable night you spend outside, it will allow you the ability to move quickly and reduce the weight you carry.
  • Basha and Bivy (Sean)

I was guided to the Basha used by the British Armed Forces by Matty. The camouflaged Basha is the equivalent of a tarp but with a few additional features. These include grommets on the corners and sides, tie off loops in the same locations, as well as some along the centreline for help in suspending it from trees. The Basha can also serve as a litter in the event a team member is immobile and needs extraction.

The benefits of a tarp or basha are low weight and volume requirements, a usable space that can be upwards of 9 square meters, and a small setup and takedown time. The setup times are reduced drastically with the use of bungee cords that can quickly wrap around trees. Tarps also offer a low signature as they can be set up very close to the ground. Tarps do not offer the bomb-proof protection from wind and precipitation that a tent or bivy will, but when combined with clothing layers, I feel these are suitable trade offs for the benefits.

I also carry a goretex bivy bag; either the woodland camouflage version from the Military Sleep System (MSS) or the USMC 3-season. While they do operate in the space between sleeping gear and shelter, their ability to block out all wind, rain, and most/all bugs allows them to be used in colder and wetter conditions. I have found I end up stripping off numerous insulation layers when in a bivy due to its ability to trap body heat. They are also used where a larger defensive position reduces the risk of being trapped in one during an attack.

The combination of Bivy and Basha allows me a secure sleeping environment, and a protected space for cooking and equipment work.

My shelter solution is a USGI Poncho in Woodland with a Cadpat Bivy. The poncho has grommets in the corners to allow it to be strung up much like a tarp, but as a poncho it can also be utilized with nearly zero setup or teardown time which I find to be very useful. When setting it up as a tarp I use Nite Ize Camjams and S-Biners with some light Aluminum stakes preset with paracord to keep my setup and takedown time to an absolute minimum. This setup means no knot tying or untying and the same paracord gets used every time so there is no waste.

My bivy acts as a second protective layer under the poncho in inclement weather along with additional camouflage. In colder weather the gore-tex also does a great job trapping heat. The one drawback is that much like a sleeping bag, a bivy can trap your arms and keep you out the fight. I intend on having mine modified with a water resistant zipper to help deal with that issue.

All of my shelter items including stakes and paracord get packed on the exterior of my pack. This allows them to be accessed easily without having to dig through my pack for items.

Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:04

Sleeping Equipment

You will likely be afforded two types of sleep at military simulation: planned, and unplanned. Planned sleep will occur when your unit is rotated out of action for rest. Unplanned sleep is the result of your unit identifying a time when a reduced level of alertness is acceptable or required. These times may include situations where you are placed in a LP/OP overnight, or holding a defensive line in force with good fields of visibility. Your sleeping gear needs to allow you to sleep with a degree of comfort and get real rest. However, it is important to remember that you may need to go from sleep to fighting in seconds. In some cases, you must pack and be mobile in less than a minute. Your choice of sleeping gear will greatly impact your ability meet both the rest and action requirements placed upon you at 24-72 hour simulation.

Things to Consider
  • Weight and Volume
    • Sleeping gear, like shelter, can consume the majority of your pack space and weight if allowed to do so. Most inexpensive zero degree bags will be up to 20L in volume and can exceed 3kg in weight. Many people won’t compromise on sleeping equipment comfort, but combine that with a desire to save money by buying an inexpensive system and the weight and volume requirements skyrocket.
  • Temperature Range
    • Whatever the weather report says, assume it will be 10°C colder. Sleeping gear has to keep you relatively warm. Compromises can be made here if you’re willing to deal with some discomfort over night.
  • Water Resistance
    • How well does your sleep system deal with water. Even drybags can leak, and a sleep system set up on the ground may receive splashes from rain or become dew-covered overnight. A down sleep system will not retain warmth if wet, and must be protected.
  • Setup/Takedown Time
    • Can you easily set up and take down your sleep system? If suddenly called to action, how quickly can you get out of it and into the fight? How quickly can you pack it and bug out if required?
  • Shetler Choices
    • In some cases you may be able to compliment your sleep system with shelter. A bivy or tent may reduce the need to use waterproof sleep gear. The protection of shelter may also help reduce the necessary temperature rating as you’re protected from the wind. Conversely, no shelter means you need to choose some extremely good sleeping kit.
  • Clothing Choices
    • You spend all day wandering around in insulating layers. If you’re taking them off only to replace them with the warmth of a sleep system, you may be wasting the space in your bag. Remember that any insulating layers you pack can be used to supplement your sleep system. In some cases, you may be able to replace the need for a sleep system all together with your clothing choices.
  • Sleeping Pad
    • To prevent heat loss through conduction, you need to place an insulating layer between you and the ground. Sleeping pad can be inflatable, closed cell foam, or a combination of the two. It’s important to consider the ‘R’ value of the pad, which will inform you how well the pad insulates. Some are larger and heavier than others, and tradeoffs are made between size, comfort, and price.

  • Sleeping Bag
    • It is impossible to list all possible sleeping bags options. A good primer on what to look for in a sleeping bag is available at Ultimately you’ll have to choose between down and synthetic insulation options. While regular down packs down very small and is very lightweight, it is susceptible to moisture. Synthetic is warm when wet but can’t hope to beat the compressibility of down. Colour choice may be important if you don’t plan on using a bivy bag or tent. Snugpak is one of the retailers offering a good selection of military sleep systems. Sleeping bags can be extremely bulky and heavy, or small and lightweight, but the cost and temperature rating will vary just as drastically. Being inside a sleeping bag may limit your mobility.
  • Poncho Liner
    • The poncho liner, ranger blanket, or woobie, has always been a staple of military rucksacks. It is a simple blanket made of nylon or polyester with an insulated fill. While it is not ideal for very cold weather, it will work well in warm and cool conditions if combined with layers. They come in a variety of colours, and a number of companies make commercial versions with more insulation. They pack down reasonably small but may not be as small as the most lightweight and expensive sleeping bags. Being synthetic, they are more likely to hold heat when wet. Finally, because it is a simple blanket, it does not limit your mobility like a traditional sleeping bag.
  • Layers
    • An alternative to a dedicated sleep system is simply packing additional layers of clothing. The ECWCS and PCU systems will enable static operations down to -40 degrees. The benefits of sleeping in layers is that your reaction time and capabilities are not hindered. While multiple layers can begin to dominate the volume of your pack, they are not single purpose items. Clothing layers can be added or removed at any time to increase comfort based on the mission.
  • Sleeping Pad
    • To prevent heat loss through conduction, you must separate your sleep system from the ground. Again, there are too many to list, but OutdoorGearLab has a solid primer on sleeping pads. Military options exist from companies like Klymit and Thermarest.


I chose to use existing clothing layers that I’d already packed, and supplement them with a Kifaru Woobie. The Woobie is a poncho liner or Ranger blanket. It is small, light, and easy to deploy, and more importantly, easy to stow. It takes seconds to cram it back into your ruck and you’re ready to roll. It doesn't restrict your movements the way a sleeping bag will and won't trap you if you're bumped in your NDP. It doesn't quite provide the same insulation that you get from a sleeping bag as it does not readily seal around your body to keep the warmth in. However, it is large enough to share with a team member which provides opportunities for more warmth.

Using clothing layers means that I’m not carrying any single-use insulation in my ruck and I can save that space for mission critical gear.

The Z-Lite pad comes in coyote brown, and is a good way to get you and your gear up off wet or cold earth. It doesn’t have a high R value though, so I supplement with a Klymit Recon X-Frame stuffed inside my bivy. This combination does a sufficient job with cool to cold weather.
  • Layers with Light Sleeping Bag, Neo Air Pad (Ray)

Like Sean I like to use my additional layers when possible to beef up my insulation while resting. I do try to ensure that whatever layers I am resting in are dry however, as moisture is the number one killer of warmth. While synthetic retains heat better in moisture, down compresses better for packing. My go to bag is a small down bag rated to around +5 Celsius that packs down smaller than a nalgene. When combined with dry layers and a bivy I’ve had comfortable sleeps subzero.

For additional warmth, my sleeping pad has a layer of mylar in it that reflects body heat back. I usually like to keep my mat inside my bivy to minimise heat loss. As a final tip, I find placing an air activated hand warmer inside my sleeping bag while it’s packed in my pack makes it much nicer to crawl into and saves wasting body heat to warm up the bag.

Bravo One-Six February 3rd, 2016 21:04


Your choice of clothing is weather and mission dependent. For our specific packing list, we’re looking at Spring and Fall weather, where temperatures can be challenging to predict and pack for. Before going any further, you should familiarize yourself with the ECWCS or PCU clothing systems used by the military, as some of the language will be used during this section. The other major influence in your choice will be your own personal experience.

The ECWCS/PCU clothing systems are extensive and adaptable. The 7 piece system will always be used differently based on how much heat you’re generating, how much moisture you’re producing, and your own tolerance to weather. To add complication to this, what you wear may differ drastically from what your teammates are wearing. While this is primarily a personal decision and requires you to customize your list to your own performance and comfort needs, you’ll be looking to combine three categories of clothing: Base layers, insulating layers, and shells.

Things to Consider
  • Weather
    • Weather is your primary concern when packing clothing. The predicted temperature and precipitation will all factor into your choices. However, do not trust your comfort or your life to a METREP. If it says it will rain, assume monsoon. If it says it will be 10 degrees, assume it will be zero. If it says bright and sunny, assume some wind and rain. You need to prepare for a more severe situation than whatever is expected. Failure to do so could be dangerous. However, you have to balance that with the need to save space and weight in your pack.
  • Worn vs. Packed
    • Not all your clothing must be packed in your rucksack. L1, L2, and L3 items may be worn based on weather conditions. Consider what you’ll be wearing when the operation starts, and ensure you don’t bury it at the bottom of your pack. Also note that while you may start off wearing shells, you’ll need to have room in your pack for when they come off. The strategy of where to pack each item will also depend on what you expect to need first or in a hurry. Shells and insulation may be best kept towards the top (or on the outside) of the pack for quick access. Keep this in mind when organizing your load.
  • Volume
    • Whatever choices you make regarding clothing, you should take the opportunity to try packing it as small as it can go, while still remaining accessible. Insulating layers can often be compressed into waterproof stuff sacks and benefit from a significant size reduction. While some soft and hard shells may also pack down this way, it’s likely you’ll want them closer at hand for when the weather changes. Note that some situations may have you quickly shoving your insulating or hard layers into the pack without time to compress them into stuff sacks, so ensure you’ve left some room in your pack to accommodate uncompressed items.
  • Extremities
    • Do not neglect your hands, feet, head, and face. These areas are more prone to cooling because of their distance from your core, and the tendency of the body to reduce circulation to those areas to retain body heat. A variety of items exist for these areas, but remember the concept of layering. A simple shooting glove may work well to shrug off some wind or cool temperatures, but you’ll need something to keep them dry and warm in a cold rain.
  • Personal Experience
    • There is no substitute for this. Your choice of layers will depend on your knowledge about your body and how it performs when active and when static in various conditions. The best way to test this is to start going on long hikes or runs with frequent stops. These should be attempted in both temperate and severe weather. Attempt to get your body hot, and find the right combination of layers to keep you from sweating. Then when you stop, monitor your temperature as you cool down. Determine what layers work best to retain heat when stopped. Try to layer up and down to keep your body ‘comfortably cool’ the whole time.

  • Base Layers
    • Base layers are tighter fitting clothing items that may also provide insulation. Their main function is to absorb water from your skin, and wick it away to evaporate. They may be made of artificial fibers like polypropylene, or natural fibers like wool. Polypro items wick and dry quickly, but have a tendency to hold body odours after only a short time. Wool is naturally odour resistant but dries a bit slower. Under no circumstances should you wear a cotton base layer. Cotton dries very slowly and hold moisture. In cold conditions, cotton kills people. Seriously. Don’t be stupid.
  • Mid Layers
    • Mid layer options may also be natural fibers, but the majority of modern insulation items are synthetic. Lofted fleece is one option, and many varieties exist - some more breathable than others. Some lofted fabric options such as the Arc’teryx ATOM series and Patagonia 3A jacket pair the insulation with a shell that makes it more wind and rain resistant than a fleece on it’s own.
  • Shells
    • Three main categories of shells exist. Hard shells, soft shells, and wind shells.
      • Hard shells are designed to be impervious to precipitation and wind while also remaining breathable to allow your sweat to evaporate. Goretex hard shells are the most common but can be quite expensive.
      • Soft shells are usually a wind and precipitation ‘resistant’ layer. This means they’re good for intermediate conditions. They will usually hold up well against wind, and happily shrug off some rain. However, they’re not designed to fight off downpours. They’re more breathable than hard shells which makes them a great choice for high activity levels in cold and light rain. Many styles exist, including some that are insulated.
      • Wind shells function almost exclusively as a wind-blocking layer. Many styles offer little to no precipitation resistance, but they do a remarkable job of keeping warm air trapped inside while a wind tries to strip it away. Wind shells can make a significant difference in core temperatures, and many styles have the added benefit of being extremely packable.
  • Head and Hand wear
    • Gloves or mitts may be required depending on the weather. While a good pair of working gloves such as the PIG Alphas or Mechanix Fast Fit will keep your hands protected from scrapes, you may need insulation if the temperature drops. You can treat your hands like the rest of your body by layering insulation and shells over your work gloves. Outdoor Research and Arc’teryx both offer insulating and shell gloves.
      Headwear should also not be neglected. In many cases a simple watch cap made of wool or synthetic will be enough. Balaclavas do an excellent job protecting your face from the wind and cold, but may not be necessary except in colder conditions.
  • Socks
    • Socks are necessary additions to your pack. Like baselayers, both synthetic and natural fiber options exist (still stay away from cotton!) and come with the same advantages and disadvantages. Also available are waterproof sock options which can keep your feet dry if you expect to be travelling through very wet terrain, but they also keep more moisture inside near your feet. You’ll need to evaluate your foot condition regularly.

  • Sean's Layers

  • Base Layer
    I typically run a long sleeved merino wool base layer shirt, and merino tights as a base layer. While my choice of wool has been a warmth and odour-reduction reduction strategy, I’ve also been very happy with Patagonia’s synthetic Capilene series. In one case, I’d been caught in some rain and had been soaked through to the bone. Within an hour of moving around, my NYCO combat pants were still wet, but my capilene base layer was completely dry and keeping me warm. In many cases, I’ve added a PCU L2 grid fleece or a Patagonia R1 half zip pullover to help retain core warmth. The PCU L2 pant is great in cold weather and I can’t recommend it highly enough as a base layer for those conditions. Basically,I think grid fleece is a key component of any layering system as a base (or a mid) layer, as they trap heat and breathe well.
  • Midlayer
    I’ve used a pair of ATOM LT pants to help insulate my legs in colder conditions. My personal experience is that my legs are tolerant to a much larger variation in temperature, but the ATOM pants compress down very well and are an asset in cool to cold weather. On my torso, I’ve started experimenting with Patagonia’s 3A jacket and have been impressed at it’s performance across a wide temperature range. In colder temperatures, a high loft fleece like the PCU L3 (or Patagonia’s R3) manages to keep a lot of heat trapped inside.
  • Shells
    Goretex top and bottom. It’s something that is consistently inside my pack, no matter where I go. They’re less versatile than a soft shell, but protection from severe rain is something you must always consider. I’ve also been impressed with how well they add warmth in cold conditions. They stop wind, rain, and reduce the amount of heat that escapes from your body by their semi-permeable nature. The ECWCS versions are a lot less expensive than the Arcteryx LEAF line, and are perfectly functional. However you’ll find they are less feature-rich and weigh more than the average $700 pair of Arcteryx LEAF pants. A wind shell is something else I also ensure is packed. It is very small, lightweight, and multiples the heat-trapping ability of your base and mid layers. Soft shells have a place as well but for me these are my go-to pieces.

helljumper02 February 4th, 2016 12:57

This is a "should read" for all players wanting to start into the 24-48 hour game or outdoor adventure scene. Well written, easy to understand and with insight from members of the community that have experienced the pros and cons of running a 3 day pack. well done.

If you plan on doing a follow up, maybe provide an overview of what kind of equipment should be packed by an entire squad sized element, to show the dispersion of equipment among members.

Covax February 4th, 2016 14:27

This is a good write up; thanks for the work put into it guys.

I'm curious though, you mentioned a base chance of being engaged while prepping food or shelter. Does that happen in any kind of frequency during 24-72hr games?

From a tactical side I'd like to know - in another thread - how to set up camp defense if you're limited to a recon team or squad sized group and you have to crash in the field. What kind of window do you give you team, how you rotate them out, etc.

Most I've ever done is the 30 min tac-nap during zombie games.

Desmodus February 4th, 2016 15:08

Excellent read. This HAS to be stickied. I recently picked up a bigger USMC ILBE and I'm excited to start using it with some of the strategies in this post! I wish this post was around for some of the colder and wetter games I've been to in the past.

w1lp33 February 4th, 2016 18:51

This ^^^^^

I'm ordering one of the ILBE's with the assault pack this weekend, and I was very happy to read such an in depth guide on stocking a large pack, and how to run with one (I'm usually a very "carry just the essentials leave the rest at the spawn" kind of guy, so this is a big change for me, and I didn't really know where to start.)

Bravo One-Six February 4th, 2016 21:12


Originally Posted by Covax (Post 1970557)
I'm curious though, you mentioned a base chance of being engaged while prepping food or shelter. Does that happen in any kind of frequency during 24-72hr games?

It will depend entirely how realistic the event is. This article is most useful if you are required to be in the field for the entire event, in a hostile environment, where the enemy could be anywhere. In this case, you MUST carry all your sustainment gear with you, and have to consider the possibility of attack. It is useful for other types of events as well, but you'll have to ask yourself why you're carrying everything if you have an out-of-play area for breaks and food.


From a tactical side I'd like to know - in another thread - how to set up camp defense if you're limited to a recon team or squad sized group and you have to crash in the field. What kind of window do you give you team, how you rotate them out, etc.
We ran an OP of 4 men at Deadfall near Picton, Ontario (which is a persistent hostile environment for 24-30 hours) and found the deepest, darkest patch of bush we could. We crawled in and did 60-120 minute watches at 50% (two slept, two watched). It's doable, but if you don't have at least a full squad or two on watch, concealment and watch is the best option.

w1lp33, Desmodus
I'm excited to hear both of you are moving towards carrying your sustainment gear. Remember a couple of things: First, if there is a place for you to safely ditch your your gear, you should use it. This article really assumes you're away from resupply for 24+ hours, and will be spending the night in a hostile environment. Second, really evaluate why you need a big pack. You may start to question the gear you have inside it.

Use it, train with it, and assess how much you really need. This article is just personal experience, and is there to give you things to consider. Ultimately, it's what YOU discover through your personal experiences that will be the best guide of all.

w1lp33 February 4th, 2016 21:18

I'll be honest, my original intent was the hope that I'd eventually do a MilSim West event, where it's basically required to have a large ruck and all your sustainment gear. But I know there are other events (like Deadfall) where it would be prudent as well. So it's not something I would run all the time, but I'd like to be prepared and able to fight out of a 3 day pack if the need arises.

Bravo One-Six February 4th, 2016 21:33


Originally Posted by w1lp33 (Post 1970590)
... I'd like to be prepared and able to fight out of a 3 day pack if the need arises.

Well then, Will. You're just as messed up as we are. :)

w1lp33 February 4th, 2016 22:47

Haha, well there was never any doubt about that, was there? :-)

Also I have a question. The hip strap on these sorts of packs (The ILBE specifically...), do they or can they sit above another belt system? I currently run a few mag pouches, dump pouch, and holster on a belt. Would I have to rearrange my gear to run that stuff off a chest rig, or could my belt system play nice with the pack? (If it matters, it's a Ronin Tactics Warrior's Belt).

(Currently I run a Haley D3CR, but if I can't share my load with my belt because I'm running a pack, I'll want to get a larger chest rig to accomodate the stuff that normally I'd wear on my belt...)

mcguyver February 5th, 2016 00:41

A few additional points to add:

1) Know the game type, style and venue before you even consider packing your bag. Do your homework, ask around if necessary. There is nothing worse that carrying 40lbs. of kit unnecessarily, or 20lbs. of useless items.

2) Plan your pack for the gear you use in-game. Things like night vision, helmet, radio gear, consumables (gas, BBs, batteries, etc.). They may need to be carried in your pack when not in active use, or when you are needing to ditch them for a variety of reasons.

3) Sleep systems are customized for each person. How you sleep (back, side or stomach) will determine what type of pad to buy. And your first time out with it should NOT be game day. A poorly chosen system will leave you with a poor sleep (tired and cranky) at best or virtually crippled (back pain) at worst. It can cut your game short. You may have to try a couple until you find the one that works for you. Never buy the lightest or smallest or best-rated because of those attributes, buy the one that is most comfortable and not going to gank up your back, light and small is a bonus.

4) Money. Lightweight, high-tech gear is expensive. Prices are seemingly unlimited. I could write a book on high-end gear, since 10% of my gear is more than 90% of ASC spends on all their airsoft stuff, I am no stranger to retarded buying. That being said, there are some fabulous deals out there on kit with military-type uses that can be found on the commercial/civillian market. Look for those. But, if/when the time comes, and you need to buy that $200 sleeping pad or $300 sleeping bag or $300 tent, you might just have to suck it up and do it. I absolutely can not overstate the enthusiasm or morale killing effect of having to spend a cold and wet night on the ground, or be hungry, thirsty or delerious on the field, or become a casuality from the elements. These situations can force other players to have to look after your sorry ass because you thought a ponch liner, some granola bars and a 500ml of water would get you through the day. That is unfair to others.

5) Plan, test, revise. The week before the game is NOT the time to start buying, or testing, your setup. A 40lb. pack sounds OK, until you actually have to carry it. Ounces equal pounds, and pounds equals pain. Keep it light, as light as possible. Buy good, buy once. You have only two choices, your gear will take it out of your body or your wallet. Wallets recover much, much faster than your body.

6) Know your limits. Not everyone is made to make a long-duration game, and there is absolutely no shame in trying and having the conditions beat you.

7) There are good suggestions listed here. For me, I don't follow 95% of them though, for various reasons. I have built up my own repertoire that I like, at great cost and effort that is not for everyone. Some of my friends have helped me greatly in this regard, being guinea pigs for gear and steering into great gear or away from costly mistakes. I have tried many sleeping pads, many bags, several tents, pillows, etc.. Don't be discouraged, some camping stores like MEC have good return policies.

8) Toilet paper and a shovel. No further explanation needed.

9) When possible, try to have items with multiple functions or uses. For example, if you carry a shovel with hammer option, like the Gerber available for about $28 at WSS, etc., go that route. Or the Gerber Downrange Tomahawk ($375USD list, but much cheaper if you shop around), that has axe, hammer and breaching pry bar and demo hook, all in one low-profile tool. Axe is dull from factory, but sharp is not always needed.

10) Knife. You always need a knife. Where I live, man is nowhere near the top of the food chain, and there are many predators out there that have man on the menu. Perhaps in PEI large bears or cats are not a problem. Often, game rules prohibit knives with blades longer than 4", but like hell I am going out there with just a multi-tool. Know your area. When not airsofting, my go-to gun is a .45-70. For good reason. I heard last Zulu 1 game had a bit of a bear problem.

11) Further to the predator angle, police your food waste, or plan it to have little to no waste, and plan to carry it with you. Keeps the game area clean, and reduces your scent signature to minimize contact with Smokey. Cans of food is kinda retarded.

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