As Seen In: USA Today, Discovery Channel, US News & World Report

Equipment Packing

Equipment brought on a mission is carried in the pack, worn on the body, or hauled in a sled (in winter). Obviously, the rucksack and sled (or Ahkio) can hold much more than a climber can carry. They would be used for major bivouac gear, food, water, first aid kits, climbing equipment, foul weather shells, stoves, fuel, ropes, and extra ammunition and demolition materials, if needed.

Choice of Equipment

Mission requirements and unit SOP will influence the choice of gear carried but the following lists provide a sample of what should be considered during mission planning.

a. Personal Gear. Personal gear includes emergency survival kit containing signaling material, fire starting material, food procurement material, and water procurement material. Pocket items should include a knife, whistle, pressure bandage, notebook with pen or pencil, sunglasses, sunblock and lip protection, map, compass and or altimeter.

b. Standard Gear. Standard gear that can be individually worn or carried includes cushion sole socks; combat boots or mountain boots, if available; BDU and cap; LCE with canteens, magazine pouches, and first aid kit; individual weapon; a large rucksack containing waterproof coat and trousers, polypropylene top, sweater, or fleece top; helmet; poncho; and sleeping bag.

Caution: Cotton clothing, due to its poor insulating and moisture-wicking characteristics, is virtually useless in most mountain climates, the exception being hot, desert, or jungle mountain environments. Cotton clothing should be replaced with synthetic fabric clothing.

c. Mountaineering Equipment and Specialized Gear. This gear includes:

  • Sling rope or climbing harness.
  • Utility cord(s).
  • Nonlocking carabiners.
  • Locking carabiner(s).
  • Rappelling gloves.
  • Rappel/belay device.
  • Ice ax.
  • Crampons.
  • Climbing rope, one per climbing team.
  • Climbing rack, one per climbing team.

d. Day Pack. When the soldier plans to be away from the bivouac site for the day on a patrol or mountaineering mission, he carries a light day pack. This pack should contain the following items:

  • Extra insulating layer: polypropylene, pile top, or sweater.
  • Protective layer: waterproof jacket and pants, rain suit, or poncho.
  • First aid kit.
  • Flashlight or headlamp.
  • Canteen.
  • Cold weather hat or scarf.
  • Rations for the time period away from the base camp.
  • Survival kit.
  • Sling rope or climbing harness.
  • Carabiners.
  • Gloves.
  • Climbing rope, one per climbing team.
  • Climbing rack, one per climbing team.

e. Squad or Team Safety Pack. When a squad-sized element leaves the bivouac site, squad safety gear should be carried in addition to individual day packs. This can either be loaded into one rucksack or cross-loaded among the squad members. In the event of an injury, casualty evacuation, or unplanned bivouac, these items may make the difference between success and failure of the mission.

  • Sleeping bag.
  • Sleeping mat.
  • Squad stove.
  • Fuel bottle.

f. The Ten Essentials. Regardless of what equipment is carried, the individual military mountaineer should always carry the "ten essentials" when moving through the mountains.

(1) Map.

(2) Compass, Altimeter, and or GPS.

(3) Sunglasses and Sunscreen.

(a) In alpine or snow-covered sub-alpine terrain, sunglasses are a vital piece of equipment for preventing snow blindness. They should filter 95 to 100 percent of ultraviolet light. Side shields, which minimize the light entering from the side, should permit ventilation to help prevent lens fogging. At least one extra pair of sunglasses should be carried by each independent climbing team.

(b) Sunscreens should have an SPF factor of 15 or higher. For lip protection, a total UV blocking lip balm that resists sweating, washing, and licking is best. This lip protection should be carried in the chest pocket or around the neck to allow frequent reapplication.

(4) Extra Food. One day's worth extra of food should be carried in case of delay caused by bad weather, injury, or navigational error.

(5) Extra Clothing. The clothing used during the active part of a climb, and considered to be the basic climbing outfit, includes socks, boots, underwear, pants, blouse, sweater or fleece jacket, hat, gloves or mittens, and foul weather gear (waterproof, breathable outerwear or waterproof rain suit).

(a) Extra clothing includes additional layers needed to make it through the long, inactive hours of an unplanned bivouac. Keep in mind the season when selecting this gear.

  • Extra underwear to switch out with sweat-soaked underwear.
  • Extra hats or balaclavas.
  • Extra pair of heavy socks.
  • Extra pair of insulated mittens or gloves.
  • In winter or severe mountain conditions, extra insulation for the upper body and the legs.

(b) To back up foul weather gear, bring a poncho or extra-large plastic trash bag. A reflective emergency space blanket can be used for hypothermia first aid and emergency shelter. Insulated foam pads prevent heat loss while sitting or lying on snow. Finally, a bivouac sack can help by protecting insulating layers from the weather, cutting the wind, and trapping essential body heat inside the sack.

(6) Headlamp and or Flashlight. Headlamps provide the climber a hands-free capability, which is important while climbing, working around the camp, and employing weapons systems. Miniature flashlights can be used, but commercially available headlamps are best. Red lens covers can be fabricated for tactical conditions. Spare batteries and spare bulbs should also be carried.

(7) First-aid Kit. Decentralized operations, the mountain environment—steep, slick terrain and loose rock combined with heavy packs, sharp tools, and fatigue—requires each climber to carry his own first-aid kit. Common mountaineering injuries that can be expected are punctures and abrasions with severe bleeding, a broken bone, serious sprain, and blisters. Therefore, the kit should contain at least enough material to stabilize these conditions. Pressure dressings, gauze pads, elastic compression wrap, small adhesive bandages, butterfly bandages, moleskin, adhesive tape, scissors, cleanser, latex gloves and splint material (if above tree line) should all be part of the kit.

(8) Fire Starter. Fire starting material is key to igniting wet wood for emergency campfires. Candles, heat tabs, and canned heat all work. These can also be used for quick warming of water or soup in a canteen cup. In alpine zones above tree line with no available firewood, a stove works as an emergency heat source.

(9) Matches and Lighter. Lighters are handy for starting fires, but they should be backed up by matches stored in a waterproof container with a strip of sandpaper.

(10) Knife. A multipurpose pocket tool should be secured with cord to the belt, harness, or pack.

g. Other Essential Gear. Other essential gear may be carried depending on mission and environmental considerations.

(1) Water and Water Containers. These include wide-mouth water bottles for water collection; camel-back type water holders for hands-free hydration; and a small length of plastic tubing for water procurement at snow-melt seeps and rainwater puddles on bare rock.

(2) Ice Ax. The ice ax is essential for travel on snowfields and glaciers as well as snow-covered terrain in spring and early summer. It helps for movement on steep scree and on brush and heather covered slopes, as well as for stream crossings.

(3) Repair Kit. A repair kit should include:

  • Stove tools and spare parts.
  • Duct tape.
  • Patches.
  • Safety pins.
  • Heavy-duty thread.
  • Awl and or needles.
  • Cord and or wire.
  • Small pliers (if not carrying a multipurpose tool).
  • Other repair items as needed.

(4) Insect Repellent.

(5) Signaling Devices.

(6) Snow Shovel.

Tips on Packing

When loading the internal frame pack the following points should be considered.

a. In most cases, speed and endurance are enhanced if the load is carried more by the hips (using the waist belt) and less by the shoulders and back. This is preferred for movement over trails or less difficult terrain. By packing the lighter, more compressible items (sleeping bag, clothing) in the bottom of the rucksack and the heavier gear (stove, food, water, rope, climbing hardware, extra ammunition) on top, nearer the shoulder blades, the load is held high and close to the back, thus placing the most weight on the hips.

b. In rougher terrain it pays to modify the pack plan. Heavy articles of gear are placed lower in the pack and close to the back, placing more weight on the shoulders and back. This lowers the climber's center of gravity and helps him to better keep his balance.

c. Equipment that may be needed during movement should be arranged for quick access using either external pockets or placing immediately underneath the top flap of the pack. As much as possible, this placement should be standardized across the team so that necessary items can be quickly reached without unnecessary unpacking of the pack in emergencies.

d. The pack and its contents should be soundly waterproofed. Clothing and sleeping bag are separately sealed and then placed in the larger wet weather bag that lines the rucksack. Zip-lock plastic bags can be used for small items, which are then organized into color-coded stuffsacks. A few extra-large plastic garbage bags should be carried for a variety of uses—spare waterproofing, emergency bivouac shelter, and water procurement, among others.

e. The ice ax, if not carried in hand, should be stowed on the outside of the pack with the spike up and the adze facing forward or to the outside, and be securely fastened. Mountaineering packs have ice ax loops and buckle fastening systems for this. If not, the ice ax is placed behind one of the side pockets, as stated above, and then tied in place.

f. Crampons should be secured to the outside rear of the pack with the points covered.

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