It has been a long while since I have written on the topic of MILSIM, but with my recent increased involvement with the Rushing Russians North East Chapter, and subsequently their affiliation with Mil Sim West (MSW) I have begun planning for more intensive ops ranging from 24 hours upward.
In short that means that more than just a paintball mask and a rental need to be on your body to participate. Recently MSW distributed to players for it's Road to Rostov (RTR) game a gear list which can be found on their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MilSimWest). Now I have never attended an MSW game however I know RTR is going to be their longest simulation yet, and participants will be 'roughing it' out in the wilderness for the duration of the game.
As you can see there is a whole mess of stuff there. I was discussing with my buddy Kiko what would truly be required on this list as I was finding some things I disagreed with and he asked me to write an article on MilSim Pack weight from the perspective of a backpacker.
Well there's an idea I can hang my hat on, I doubt there's anyone out there writing a similar piece. So here it goes, I'm sure a '24-48 Hour Gear Breakdown Video' will be available in the future here on Going Big.
So I'm going to start with the number one rule of Backpacking after Leave No Trace (LNT):
'If it is yours, it is your to carry'
Basically what that means is that if you want to carry a 10 pound classical lute, because you find it fun to play at night around the camp fire, you carry it...the whole way. Don't try to con it off on your buddy because he's carrying his stuff, that he brought for him. This means 24 hours of the weight of your ruck or assault pack on your back.
90% of players who sign up for 24 hour events truly can't fathom what they've gotten themselves into unless they've do it before and will play themselves into a coma within the first 8-10 hours of play. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and this tiredness gets further compacted and quickened with field sleep and the need to move your bag of classical lutes from outpost to outpost.
That being said there's still essential items on that list, however there are lighter or better alternatives to carrying them. I'll run down a few of my suggestions.
We'll begin with the 'On Your Person' Section
It has underwear as an optional item, if free balling works for you...more power to you, but I chafe pretty bad so I need an undergarment (like the MyPakage underwear I reviewed). Be sure if you wear an undergarment to wear an athletic style, your ratty Hanes tidy whiteys will become soaked with sweat and decimate the skin they touch by chaffing it to bits over the long run of a 48 hour OP.
This brings up the big topic of boots. Please, please, please, I implore you to not just buy boots because they match an impression you are shooting for or whatever else. Go to an outfitter and have your feet sized for hiking boots. What kind of toe box, arch, and heel do you need? If you don't know the answer to this question your feet hate you, and will punish you as you play a long MILSIM Op in crappy boots you bought because Marky Mark was catching the Good Vibrations wearing them in Lone Survivor.
Once you have these well fitting boots, the next step is to toss out the uncomfortable and thin factory insoles and get aftermarket ones (such as Superfeet or Dr, Scholls Active series) and remember if you need anything special in regards to arch to include that in your sole purchase.
Unlike the rims you put on your Honda, these insoles will actually help your boots perform better for you.
Wristwatch is a required item for good reason, leave it off your wrist and place it on a MOLLE loop or belt to avoid sweat rash on your wrist.
Most of the Load Bearing Equipment items are common sense for most players even considering an event of this caliber. However unless a helmet is expressly required by operational or impression guidelines I'd leave it at home. Your neck will get tired. In a similar vein look at ways to reduce the weight of what you have to carry to fight, consider a chest rig or belt harness as they are lighter than plate carriers and cause your ruck to wear less on your shoulders and back.
Now the area of the Assault Pack and Ruck is the one that I feel needs the most defining. I am personally opposed to leaving my gear with other players inside patrol bases or at spawn points. Things have a tendency to disappear, with water being the worst offender...if it's not your water jug don't drink it, the guy it belongs to probably has herpes. So with that I would be fighting with my equipment on my back for 24-48 hours.
'Keeping it light, Keeps you in the fight'
The above saying is my mantra when packing for MILSIM events the lighter my bag is, the more energy I will have to be in the fight, because I have exerted less carrying my load to get to the fight.
Don't forget, your pack has a base weight. The frame, canvas, Cordura, Zippers, ect. Are all things you have to carry. Consider pack weight when buying a new carry solution on always replace metal zipper pulls with 550 cord, little weight savings like that add up in the long run.
Food is the next subject, for backpacking and hiking calories to weight is a hugely important subject. Avoid things with heavy packaging such as cans or the thick outer portion of the issued MRE (Strip it down to the smaller part to save weight). Three hiker favorites for calories are PopTarts, Snickers bars, and Knorr Pasta sides, you're putting out so much energy going up and down hills (or firefighting) the calories in these foods is more important than the health factor to keep you in the fight.
Spare weapons is a tough one. It's a personal choice, I don't like to carry the weight, some may consider it a necessity. I trust the reliability of my favorite main weapons to not crash on me mid-fight.
Cold weather gear is another choice based around where and when you play. If it is going to be cold, bring a hat, balaclava, and gloves. They are the items that will keep you warmest for the weight. If it's going to be really cold add a quality fleece (not that Condor garbage) to that set up and you'll be all set.
Wet Weather bag, Sleeping Pad, Sleeping bag and Poncho are easily rolled into 2 items. A military issued body bag, and a woobie (also known as a poncho liner). With these two items and the aforementioned cold weather gear. You and your equipment will be dry, warm, and comfortable as long as you find a good spot. That change alone will save you pounds of weight in your kit.
Extra socks, though required by the above list are a foolish necessity. Purchase a pair of Darn Tough socks made in Vermont (I recommend the Appalachian Trail Conservation supporting pair in Oatmeal color) and wear them for the whole operation. If they get wet, take your feet out of them, strap them to you pack to dry and go sock-less for a few hours. Underwear is the same way, if necessary swap undergarments to the outside of pack for drying and free ball as they dry. I have worn these socks for weeks at a time with this method, good socks are expensive but worth it in the long run
Cook set is required to make the oh so delicious Knorr pasta sides, but consider a ultralight cooking kit like the MSR Pocket Rocket, and a Titanium Spork and cook cup.
Personal hygiene kit? You mean a camo compact right? Seriously if you're planning on playing 48 hours worth of MILSIM and are worried about hygiene stay at home and play ARMA 3. You are going to get nasty and smelly, embrace it, go to McDonald's afterwards and disgust everyone, then shower the most glorious shower you've ever showered. It will feel awesome I promise.
E-tool is a heavy item. I imagine it is on this list to dig cat holes for taking a dump. Pro Hiker Tip: Leave the E-Tool at home and use rocks or sticks to dig the hole you make you nasty in. The extra effort for the 1-2 times you take a crap will be worth the 2 lbs of weight savings in the long run.
Water weight is the next big issue. Water weighs 5lbs per 2L you carry. So when it comes to weight it is important to carry your water smart. What I mean by this, is I see the habit of MILSIM players using drinking from their water hose as a time passer, or just because their mouth is dry. While it's good to be hydrated drinking yourself dry in the first few hours of a long op won't do you any favors. Also remember to start hydrating 3 days in advance of the OP.
Consider packing a light weight bladder like the Platypus 2L with no hose in your bag with a simple water bottle tip on it, also if the option is available to you run a Nalgine on the outside pocket of the pack. By having to take you pack off to retrieve these items makes you less likely to drink water for the sake of drinking water.
Keep in mind these things are just suggestions, for what works for me. You know your own body best. If you are a cold sleeper, than you may 100% require a sleeping bag for cold nights, for others they might sleep so hot they can cowboy camp in their gear and be just fine. Find what works for you for these long games and don't let others (including pictures of Navy SEALS) tell you whats best for you.
My final bit of advice is pretty common practice. Bring a 'Car Bag' for after the op with sandals and a fresh pair of underwear, shorts, and Hawaiian shirt (that's me...but whatever you're comfortable in). Despite the fact you'll still be grubby and nasty you will catch a second wind when you change into fresh cloths. Packing the extra bag is 100% worth it.
Hopefully this has given you some stuff to think about and gotten you in a better mind set to approach a long tactical MILSIM game such as those put on by MSW, while being weight conscious of whats in your pack.