A Baseline Patrol Kit

20160516_113026This post is meant to serve as a baseline. What this means is that, quite bluntly, it works for me at a minimum. It is meant to be added to, but never detracted from, while patrolling in the traditional sense. There’s a few items not pictured that should go without saying, such as a couple extra undershirts and a few pairs of socks packed in ziploc bags, and the communications equipment I’d carry as an RTO, but for the most part what you see here is basically the same as what was carried by yours truly in Afghanistan on multi-day long range patrols.

I’m a big fan of chest rigs for a couple of reasons- reloading speed and weight carrying efficiency along with the fact that everything centered on the body creates less snagging in thick brush, leaving less spoor for the potential tracker. Although they deserve a post unto themselves, my chest rigs are essentially all the same- the AR platform up top (specifically for 7.62 NATO, but 5.56 can be doubled up in the pouches), my primary AK rig (a UW gear Swamp Fox…highly recommended), and a Chinese four cell AK rig on the bottom. I included the Chicom model because it’s less that $20 online and at many military surplus stores, and will literally last generations being made of simple cotton duck (the same stuff Carhartt is made of) and can fit AR-15 mags in it as well if you stuff the bottom of the pouch. Having each rig nearly identical allows greater muscle memory when running any weapon, and the two primary rigs can accommodate magazines for virtually any weapon I either have or may come across. A chest rig can also interface better in conjunction with body armor, and can carry a lower signature than a full on LBE.


from L to R- lensatic compass, mk1 mod 0 7x binos, ESEE write in the rain notepad, signal mirror, 1:24K protractor, Signal Cheat card, American Flag patch, noisemaker, cordage, VS-17, IR flash, Notecards, Gerber tool, Chlorflox tabs, magnesium bar, Jeff White Knife, permanent markers and a lighter

The line one kit encompasses the last ditch communications kit, navigation, observation, fire making, security, and water purification. Of course maps are added as well, but not included for obvious reasons. Also not pictured is the tweezers, petzl headlamp, Israeli bandage and SOF-T tourniquet. The kit stays on my body 24/4 outside the FEBA(Forward Edge of Battle Area…aka “outside the wire”) and I can make it to a RV with these items if I had to. It won’t be fun, but last-ditch situations never are.


The baseline for the hide site construction is seen here. A German surplus silkweight tarp, aluminum tent stakes, a casualty blanket, and bungees. They’ll be more on site construction later, but for right now understand that this is the base layer and brush goes over top of it. It is not shelter meant to be comfortable; but it is larger and more effective than the GI poncho.


The Patrol Pack. It’s a Blackhawk clone of the Ethan Becker Patrol Pack, which itself was a modified German Alpine Ruck. It has lasted a very long time and is still in extremely good shape. The two side pouches have spaces to slide items through, such as Skis in the case of the original German model, and like the ALICE ruck, but for me I use it to slide my Russian Infantry Spade and Tomahawk through. Included is a small Stanley steel pot for boiling water or making tea, and a USGI two quart canteen. I prefer the Stanley pot to the GI canteen cup, as it holds more water and I don’t carry the standard 1 qt that the traditional cup fits under. I prefer the 2 qt as it’s collapsible, making it quiet even as you drink from it in the field. A hard canteen not topped off is a canteen that compromises you during movement. Do not use camelbacks; they tend to pop at bad times, but worse, they become a bacteria farm in a hurry around the mouth piece.

I do not care for the standard GI E-Tool, as they tend to break at the forward hinge, and once broken cannot be repaired. The Russian Spade (and yes, it’s actually Russian, OTK, but I also have a Cold Steel one floating around) can easily be repaired if the handle breaks by simple carving a new handle and fitting it to the head. A small spade is essential to the Scout for a number of reasons, most notably the fact that digging a cathole to poop in is pretty important for counter-tracking and a spade makes digging in pretty easy.

The Patrol Pack does not have any zippers. Most gear these days is made with zippers of some kind, which I personally hate. They make noise and tend to break when you really need them. With the design of the older top-loading rucks, the only thing that can break is a replaceable buckle, and even if it breaks on patrol, my ruck still holds all of its gear, unlike a bookbag-type assault pack which will spill its guts when broken. The medium ALICE ruck can be found cheap and is a good alternative to the now-discontinued Blackhawk Pack.


On the topic of all things ALICE, anyone who used that gear can tell you the metal clips loved to come apart at the worst times, and best of all, would find a way to let you know they were there by wearing blisters on you in the most irritating of spots.

Since I no longer have to worry about CSMs telling me how best to run my kit, a better and more secure option for pouches is simply using zip ties, seen here, attaching the 2 qt cover to the Patrol Pack. It might not be inspection quality but it works. It works with MOLLE pouches as well, and is a heck of a lot easier to rig or un-ass in a hurry. Zip ties and duck tape should always be near by.


The tomahawk is a Cold Steel Pipe Hawk, heavily modified into what you see here. It’s lighter than a pack axe and has a number of advantages over a heavier axe or hatchet here in the Southeast where serious chopping can be accomplished by lighter tools.

First, it has a large cutting surface and a hammer poll, making driving tent stakes and other hammering tasks very easy. Second, it requires no wedge like hatchets or axes do, so if I happen to crack the handle, I can make a new one in the field. The head can come off, allowing me to use it as an Adze or Ulu if need be. Like the Russian Spade, it is easily repairable in the field, making it very versatile and robust. I have to note here that I’m not a fan of the models that are one piece with the handle, such as the SOG LaGana clone, as this detracts from the versatility of the tool. If you’ll notice along the handle I’ve cut notches at each inch mark, making a measuring stick. For tracking purposes this is important. Although I do enjoy throwing Hawks as a pastime, I don’t consider this a reason to carry one…it’s just far more likely I’ll use it as a tool than a weapon, and it is efficient for what it does.

This is a Baseline Kit. This is not a bugout bag, long term survival kit, or anything of the sort. It is simply a rundown of the equipment I employ for Scouting and Recon work, as a Light Infantryman, out and about in a hostile area. It does not include mission specific equipment for a patrol, nor does it cover ancillary gear essential to reconnaissance (for example, a ghillie and camo netting) but it does demonstrate where your head should be for a realistic, indefinite but light combat load may look like when used in conjunction with caches of supplies. This is meant to be built upon as need dictates.



34 thoughts on “A Baseline Patrol Kit

    1. I think Eagle is making the original Becker pack again, but it’s pricey. There were two models, the Patrol Pack and the slightly larger RTO pack. Eagle makes good stuff, but had discontinued both by the time I found out about the design.

      1. Donk

        What is your opinion of the USGI butt pack as an add on to a chest rig as the Alpine ruck or Becker is hard to locate and/or spendy?

        Second, I carry a Marpat tarp but it’s heavy, do you have a source you can recommend for the German surplus silkweight tarp?

        Finally, your opinion on a mesh hammock for sleeping off the turf with a tarp cover?

      2. I think the butt pack is cutting it close in terms of what you can carry. The items I noted as not shown are actually in one in my truck in a small emergency kit. A medium ALICE ruck will also work just fine. My biggest issue of all is that you can’t access it without taking off your whole rig.

        As for the Tarp, I don’t yet own one, but this one listed a while back over at WRSA: https://westernrifleshooters.wordpress.com/2016/04/19/gear-gadsden-dynamics/
        I strongly recommend suporting the small companies who support us. The flecktarn model is a bit old, and a bit expensive compared to the one sourced here at home.

        On the terms of sleeping gear, notice I didn’t list any. This article was the focus of kit carried on a Patrol, not longer term operations. There’s not a lot of sleep to be had forward of the FEBA. However, I do have a post concerning these differences on tap. Hammocks are fine, and in some places preferred, provided they’re close to the ground to retain heat.

      3. The MALICE is a great ruck- I have the Blackhawk SOF version that was given to me. Both are commercial versions of common mods to the old Large Alice ruck.

        I have a post on specifically on rucks coming. The differences in use between a full-blown ruck and a Patrol Pack are never really identified, but they have different roles.

      4. Gary

        I used the Blackhawk version in late ’04 in Iraq for dismounted patrolling in the rural areas nw of Bahgdad in the Saba al Boor area. It lasted for a month or so, til the shoulder strap tore off. I sent it back to Blackhawk, from theatre mind you, to hear it “was abused”. Somuch for the old promise from Blackhawk that if you don’t throw it out of a plane or get it caught in the props of a cruise ship the will warranty it for life.

      5. Mine and the others I’ve encountered luckily never had any issues. That sucks. I’ve also seen a very expensive LBT assault pack disintegrate on a patrol similar to what you described, and several other brands in between. It’s definitely a pain in the ass.

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  3. It’s good to see someone else who uses duct tape and zip ties to get their gear just right. I like the zip ties with the stainless steel tabs. https://www.amazon.com/gp/aw/d/B001DEHV36/ref=pd_aw_sim_229_2?ie=UTF8&dpID=31YZyo1BkYL&dpSrc=sims&preST=_AC_UL100_SR100%2C100_&refRID=W984MBAVS8RHC6MBGD95
    I always appreciate examples like this from guys who really have used, abused and reinvented their gear. I hope people are paying attention to the experience being shared here.
    I’ve been thinking about going back to a medium alice from the Molle patrol pack I have set up right now, and the thought of everything spilling out of it when a zipper fails has really got me thinking now. Thanks again for sharing all your hard earned experience.

    1. You’re very welcome Brother…and if it can’t be fixed with zipties or duck tape, it’s too broke to care about. 🙂

  4. Anonymous

    Excellent explanations on WHY you chose the listed gear. I wasn’t in the military so have no experience in ‘outdoor camping with consequences’ ! :^)

    1. Anonymous

      BTW, if you want to down size your trip wire container, a sewing bobbin will hold one of those wood spools on it. It takes a LOT of patience wrapping it neatly onto it. It is worth it though – approximately 40′ of that wire that literally can fit in your change pocket, key chain. I even glued a small ferro rod into the hole so as they both compliment each other (spool is an easy way to grip rod).

      Thanks again.

  5. mike

    I like the gear selection.
    Not unlike what I run.
    However I still have LC-1 y harness with the three mag ammo pouches though I dumped the two canteens for two more pouches.
    Im having a little trouble wrapping my Brain around the chest rigs, seems to me to interfere with prone movement and mag access for same.
    I have always been looking for the “perfect” kit.

    1. It’s definitely a matter of personal preference. My two go-to rigs are split front designs, so that in the prone I can unbunckle them the same way folks do with LBEs. It’s a constant evolution, that’s for sure.

  6. Virgil Kane

    More great information. Thank you.

    I have a bit of a pack fetish and have a few Beckers, large and medium, and several zippered clamshell type packs. The Becker is a great design, but the price of used ones is out of hand.

    You make a great point on top loading packs vs zippered ones, although most of the zippered packs have cinch straps that will hold things together. A couple of holes and zip ties or large safety pins will fix it, but the best fix is prevention. I’ve never had one fail, but I also don’t jump out of airplanes or helicopters and I’m not a 19yo treating it like my uncle will give me another one.

    The best deal for a top loader is probably the medium ALICE with a MOLLE belt and Tactical Tailor or Spec-Ops straps. (Google Hellcat ALICE) Replace the metal buckles with ITW buckles. You can buy the kit or buy a bunch of buckles for less $$ and cut the bars yourself. You’ll have over $100 in it, but it will last. Tactical Tailor will do professional mods and reinforce the stitching also, but it’s pricey.

    1. “The Becker is a great design, but the price of used ones is out of hand.”

      You know you could make a small gold mine from those used Beckers. 🙂

      As for the zippered packs, most have clipped straps for added relief in the zipper. But if I happen to have smaller items, they still aren’t secure. As a young Infantryman I was painfully taught the lesson of tying everything down and becoming obsessive over personal accountability.

      I have a friend who made a Hellcat ruck and likes it.

      Tactical Tailor is a great company too.

      1. I use those mini S-biners on anything with a zipper as a locking mechanism.

        Won’t prevent the zipper from a blowout, but it definitely prevents zip-slip.

  7. Donk

    Your point is taken regarding sleeping provisions, I was on a roll and thought I would throw that in there. The hammock is intended for warmer climes as I am presently in NC Piedmont and moving soon back to SE VA. Winter sleeping is done with a a Klymit Static V inflatable mat and Wiggys bag – very toasty down to 10 deg F – temps rarely seen in the SE.

    As far as a patrol pack, I too am not ex-MIL but have experience ultralight camping. I am presently using a ILBE assault pack with Molle pouches – have done 4 day minimalist backcountry hikes with same. I tucked in the issue waist belt and threaded a molle battle belt through the slots in its place. Much better load distribution to hips and molle up front for small pouches like Maxpedition. I also replaced the standard buckles with ITW make. Can carry a 50 lb load in comfort with great freedom of movement but YMMV. I prefer to carry sidearm in Hill People Gear Heavy Recon Kit Bag instead of on the molle battle belt.

    1. Yeah, here in NC one can easily get away with a hammock on the trail for three seasons.

      A very close friend and former Marine Recon loves his ILBE. The Army was issuing a similar medium pack as I was getting out, called the medium MOLLE and had a similar frame to the standard MOLLE ruck. I never cared for the plastic frame though, and given the choice most guys went back to using the ALICE.

      HPG makes really cool stuff too.

  8. Hawkeye

    Ncscout, this is John from UW Gear. Thanks for the mention! Shoot me an email when you have a chance.

  9. Pip-Boy

    NCSCOUT you forgot to show them how to put their “hair” on. LOL

    I still have my original issue ALICE from the 7th and I bought a TT MALICE from a friend who didn’t make through selection. Jumped the MALICE last month from a blackhawk with no problems and they are alot more comfortable then the original, we did a 20 miler from the DZ back to the barracks, the shoulder and back pad is so much better then the original, especially on this 42 year olds back. The MALICE also has more pockets for “stuff” to go into, like the claymore pouches on the top flap, thats where my readily available pogy bait usually goes.

    Why not just use 550 cord to secure your ALICE/MALICE gear, that has always been in our SOPs, secure the item tie a square knot, then 2 half hitches, then melt the exposed ends. I asked a SGT when I was putting my kit together as a very young 18 yo PFC straight from jump school and trying to get into the LRSD unit why not secure our gear with zip ties. That POS dirty nasty leg explained to me whilst pushing down planet Ord, that, that was the stupidest thing he had ever heard and that the plastic will make noise and break easily in the cold, and uncle sam did not issue them to line units.
    I hated mech guys from that point forward. LMAO

    1. Ahhhh Mechland….lol…

      Ghillies are another topic alltogether. I showed zipties instead of 550 for the only reason that when I’m cold, tired and wet, it’s easier to thread a ziptie than tie a square knot with two overhands.

      1. Pip-Boy

        No ncscout, I wasnt talking about a ghillie. 1st duty station was 7th ID (L).This is what we put on our Kpots to break up the roundness of it. We called it Manchu Hair, Rag top, even Cabbage Patch Top. Of course the principles in making the top are are the same as a ghillie. Wish I still had mine.

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