For this final installment of the METT-TC series, I’ve enlisted the help of local milsim player and National Guardsman Dave. Many thanks to Dave for sharing his experience! I’ve included a few comments and my thoughts are in italics. Part 2 will include a more itemized list on the items I bring into the field.
My base layer consists of compression shorts and Army desert socks. I have thick legs and chaffing was an issue when I did week long patrols during training. Compression shorts give you decent support, breathe, and don’t let chaffing occur. The downside is they cost 15-20 dollars for one. I picked up the socks a couple years ago at some PX and fell deeply in love. They have a thicker wool-like blend on the feet and are stretchy on top. They only go up an inch or two over my boots and they are wonderful to wear. The compression shorts and socks are worn under any kit set, regardless of the temperature.
This may seem like a given, but wear clean undergarments. Dirty ones won’t wick sweat like clean ones and in cold climates the sweat in them will cool you very quickly. Don’t ever wear cotton socks. Inevitably your feet will sweat and cotton absorbs sweat rather than passing it on to your shoes like wool or synthetic fibers. This sweat will then cool and freeze (sometimes literally) your feet. If it’s hot out, the wet socks will rub on your feet and give you blisters. $10 for a pair of socks sounds like a lot but it’ll sound like less the first time you’re stuck with cotton on a long patrol.
The first thing I look at when planning is figuring out what the uniform requirement is. I typically play with woodland at larger ops (Broken Home, Rebel Yell) and Multicam at smaller skirmishes or games. All of my gear is patterned or colored with those two to help better camouflage myself. I typically wear plate carriers and I wear combat shirts underneath them to maintain clothing breathability. I have a Massif Army issue FR combat shirt ($160, but I got it issued) and a Rothco Woodland shirt ($50, surplus stores). I can’t find much in the way of differences between the two. The Massif shirt is pretty well worn and has holes, but they’re both comfortable and breathe nicely. If I am going for a lighter load in the woods, I wear a BDU top with a tan ACU undershirt ($10 for 4, surplus). I like the high polyester count ones because they are stretchier, don’t bind under the armpits (I have thicker upper arms and the shirts are tighter than (fill in the blank)). Cotton is also a PITA when you are sweating and the temperature is chilly. Old wisdom states that “Cotton Kills.” Pants are the typical issue cargo pants ($10-40 depending on the pattern, anywhere). There is nothing particularly exciting about them. I use the cargo pockets for maps, short term items (gloves, mags), etc. Hats are hats. I wear everything from black ballcaps to microfleece PT caps to helmets. You really can’t go wrong. Each type has advantages and disadvantages.
The best way to chose a camouflage pattern is to look at the AO you’ll be playing in. What color do you see the most of? Pick a pattern that has mostly this color. For instance the woods of Oklahoma are very green so M-81 woodland, green dominant ERTL and Russian Kamysh work very well. In areas that are more brown like California, woodland MARPAT works much better. You’ll notice that combat shirts have a base layer wicking shirt that covers the torso. Notice that I called it a BASE LAYER wicking shirt. Combat shirts are a base layer. Unless you’re trying to stay warm, don’t wear anything under it! Wear a quality belt and keep it snug. This keeps your pants up and dirt out of your undergarments. Dirt in the undergarments = chafing. The military issues 60/40 cotton/poly T-shirts which I find work well. Fully wicking shirts work well too.
I actually carry a few additional items and consider them part of my uniform as I always have them in the same locations no matter what the mission. In my left cargo pocket, I carry a small boo boo kit similar to that which Dave describes below and my dead rag. In my right cargo pocket, I carry a small utility pouch with the following inside:
- Miniature compass
- Length of trimmer (weed wacker) line to clear my barrel of jams.
- Plastic trash bag for general waterproofing or carrying of items.
- MRE toilet paper – standard use
- Small lighter
- Lens wipes
In my blouse or combat shirt pockets I carry a pencil and waterproof notepad. On my left wrist I wear a watch and on my right I wear a dive compass. Depending on the event, I will wear a USGI compass on a lanyard around my neck instead of the compass on my wrist.
Head, Foot and Protective Gear
Next I determine what the terrain will be. Is it outdoors? Will I be ducking into buildings? Will I be in buildings entirely? This helps me determine what sort of footwear I will be wearing. My issue boots are clunky and heavy, but if I will be indoors stepping on glass and nails I will happily wear the thick soled boots. If I will be walking longer distances I want lighter footwear to keep fatigue down and speed up. I have a pair of Patagonia Drifter ACs that I wear for this. They have very aggressive soles that allow me excellent traction, yet are light enough that I can sprint without clomping. My issue ones are garbage when it comes to ankle support, so there’s no benefit there for wearing them on long distance movements. If I’m going to be indoors I’m going to want knee pads. No one wants to kneel in a pool of broken glass they didn’t see because they were engaging baddies and had to drop to take cover. Poof, now you have multiple lacerations! On that same note, kneepads are not ankle warmers. I never got this phenomenon of people dropping their pads down low… if you aren’t going to wear them properly, there’s no rule that says you have to bring them. I’m pretty apathetic towards elbow pads – I’ve never been able to justify them other than “stupid crap TRADOC makes me wear on training missions”. Like them? Use them. If not, ditch them. As far as gloves go, wear whatever you want. If it’s cold wear thicker gloves. If it’s hot wear thinner gloves. I have one pair I use for everything (Wiley-X CAG-1, $65, CL). They are pretty well worn out and smell like bovine excretion, but they have a nice knuckle protector and have excellent dexterity. We wear gloves to protect our hands against glass, biological hazards (blood, feces), and getting shot by some jerk from 10 feet away. Plan accordingly.
Helmets are cool if you’re into that sort of thing. I wear a Crye Precision Airframe and I love it like a child. I purposely got the lightest helmet I could find that provided IIIA protection so when I mount NODs on it I won’t get horrible headaches. Go nuts.
Helmets protect your head, look cool and trap heat. If you’ll be in and out of buildings or vehicles they’ll keep you from getting knocked sensless. If it’s cold, they’ll to a lot to keep you warm – even vented helmets trap heat. If you’ll be out in the field on a non cold day it’s much more comfortable to wear a soft cover. Ankle protection is by far the most important aspect of your boot. If come down on your foot weird on a flat running track at the gym you’ll probably only twist your ankle. Come down full force on it while running over uneven terrain carrying a combat load and that ankle is going to give like a wishbone on Thanksgiving. Snap. Tailor your boot to the mission. Alta Superflex pads are cheap, stay in place and get the job done. Fancier pants have pads built in and are a great upgrade. I for one have 2 knees so I wear 2 knee pads. I’ve tried the one kneepad thing but constantly found my non-protected knee on the ground. Going to ground quickly requires both knees down hard as seen in the video above. Elbow pads are great if you’re going to be prone on a hard surface for a long time (think urban support gunner or marksman). I’ve found the ones built into combat shirts like the Massif are more than sufficient as plastic capped ones make a ton of noise.
I find myself wearing a boonie most of the time. I’m a white boy so sun protection is important to me. Additionally, boonies have loops I can shove foliage into to better camouflage myself. Whenever I buy a new boonie, I use rubber bands to crumple it into a ball and repeatedly wet it and let it dry. This gives the hat a rumpled appearance which I feel blends more naturally with my surroundings.
A note on cold temperature and snivel gear: don’t wear it. This was beaten into my brain over and over when I was a young baby soldier. We were constantly inspected for snivel gear before we conducted 6 mi road marches. We hated it, but when you’re wearing 60 pounds of gear and start moving you’re stuck until there is a column-wide halt (which rarely happens, if ever). I had a friend who thought he would outsmart our SL by wearing a thin polypro top under his BDUs. He ended up overheating and had to fall out while the temp was around 30 degrees. If you’re cold, use that as motivation to be more active and move around more. People that sit and wait in airsoft are boring anyways – be active. Throw your jacket on when you get back to the parking lot and take it off when you roll out.
Our next planning question consists of what sort of game we are attending. This directly affects sustainment planning. Is it a day op? Is it a skirmish day? Skirmishes are easy to plan for – bring whatever you want and if you run out you can just walk back to the car or bum off a buddy for 30 minutes before the game is over. Day ops are usually 6+ hour days with no planned resupply. You will need to carry more stuff. A successful team will have its common load distributed within the organization. For example, you will need more BBs. Every person on the team does not need to bring 5k bags of BBs. Select a couple guys to carry them to your FOB/OP/TTB/Hello Kitty Island Adventure Playset area. Same goes for food, water, batteries, tampons, etc. I personally carry everything on my body because I’ve been screwed by “buddies” who dumped stuff into the woods or forgot to pack them before, but it’s a different story when you put your own stuff in someone else’s pack. Always bring your own water. Always. When I go on longer missions I bring a rat-hacked (stripped) MRE, few granola bars, small bag of BBs (maybe 400), and a speed loader. If it’s really hot, pop a couple Nuun tablets into your camelbak. If you don’t know what Nuun tablets are, google.com. I strongly recommend them.
- Carry lots of ammo
- Lighter kit (gotta run, son!)
- Very light kit, binos, etc
- Ammunition, select fire, magazines, etc
- Strong weatherproof containers that can be tossed in the back of a pickup
- As compact as possible, needs to stand up to baggage handling and be well labled.
At this point I’ve covered uniforms and sustainment, or two things you have to have. We can now delve into the mysteries of gear. I’ll explain my different gear carriers, mag pouches, water carriers, packs, etc.
Carriers: I have a Tactical Tailor Fight Light PC ($350, TT) and a US Army Improved Outer Tactical Vest ($400, private). I carry level IV plates and the IOTV has full IIIA Kevlar coverage. The TTFL is a hell of a lot lighter, but puts more wear on my shoulder and doesn’t have as much room [for pouches]. I typically wear it when running around outside (remember, more movement means lighter gear). It breathes a lot better than the IOTV, which I typically wear while doing indoor stuff. Getting shot in the chest sucks, but getting shot in the side sucks a lot more. I don’t move around as much during CQB so the ten pound increase isn’t particularly noticeable. Weighing either of them would probably make me depressed, but the two plates total around 15 pounds. When I want to go light or feel like it, I use a fighting load carrier (woodland, 40 bucks, eBay). It has a MOLLE cummerbund attached to a mesh vest. It gets a little hot, but it’s a lot cooler than most other options. You need to purchase a separate bladder carrier, or use canteens. My starter vest was a Voodoo Tactical MOLLE Chest Rig ($35, CTD). It has a cummerbund front, wide straps, and bladder carrier. It’s a great rig and I suggest them to everyone.
“I have 10 MOLLE pouches, so let’s cram every one of them onto my rig!” Don’t be that guy! It’s your rig, but remember: less is more. My personal philosophy is don’t carry what you can’t or don’t use. I’ve seen some really intricate First Aid Kits, but when I ask what sort of training they have they shrug their shoulder and murmur Boy Scouts. Your 60 dollar blow out kit is about as useful as packing high heels in that case. I would suggest some bandaids, tweezers, bug spray, chapstick, sun screen, and some advil. I carry a lot more, but my FAK is designed towards 3 day treks.
Moving along… Magazine pouches are about as varied as people. You really can’t go wrong. I have two 6 (3×2) shingles that are very different. One uses snaps on top and is mounted to my IOTV, and the other is a kangaroo style with elastic retaining cords. I took the cords off the back row since there is enough tension to keep them in and the cords only get in the way. This shingle is slightly faster than my snap one, but only slightly. I practice reloading a lot and have gotten it down pretty good. I carry one of those and a two-mag pouch. I have never drawn anything from the two-mag pouch and am debating taking it off.
On my FLC I have 3 two round pouches that are kind of a PITA to use but it doesn’t take much to get used to them. I also have a dump pouch, which is pretty useful in airsoft if you’re mobile. I attach those four items, one pouch for my bladder, and one more pouch if I’m carrying a radio. That’s all I use. I’ve never ran into trouble running out of ammo, and I run 30 round magazines. One speed loader will resupply half of my magazines. If you’re broke, run your two hicaps and go as light as possible. I’ve heard this quoted many times, but the more experienced you get the less you shoot. Midcaps are great for long days. Figure out what you like.
As far as organizing goes, put your magazines in front of you as low as you can (easier to draw) and if you use a pistol keep the side you carry it on clear. I have my two-mag pouch and dump pouch on the left, and my FAK on the right. It’s pretty small and doesn’t take up a lot of room. I can’t draw a pistol on my TTFL so I have to use a battle belt. When this happens, the FAK gets shifted to the left and the dump pouch gets moved to my belt. On my IOTV, the pistol is mounted center high. I use a SERPA. I love it. Great for airsoft, terrible for real world (your left arm is always in front of the muzzle). I’m not a fan of drop legs, but I can’t argue with their usefulness in that regard.
A quick mag change may come into play here, it may be good to have especially in an urban environment. a couple mags where I can get at them quickly
Backpacks/assault bags/rucks/purses are great if you’re going out for two days or need to carry around heavy laptops and poopoo around during the game. Don’t get the kind that attach directly to your plate carrier unless it’s just to haul stuff around in. Otherwise, you have to take everything off or force your buddy to pull out your twinkies for you. I’ve seen some intensely big rucksacks used in airsoft during 8 hour games and they usually just make me laugh. Don’t be that guy.
There’s not a lot more to say… whatever you tack on you have to carry. The key to success is carry less and move more. Your 600 dollar vest with Gucci gear and 300 dollar uniforms might look pro as hell, but if you get stomped by someone wearing a tenth of that cost you ain’t cutting it. Good luck!