The days of carrying everything you need for a patrol or ambush in belt pouches are long gone. Decades ago, all you had to carry was ammo, frags, maybe a smoke grenade, water and perhaps an MRE. Now, we have many more tools in our arsenal – but it means you have to carry more stuff. Even a short dismounted patrol means packing a load of stuff – water, extra ammo, first aid gear, NVGs plus batteries for radios and possibly ECM equipment as well. The standard issue solution to that is the 40-liter MOLLE patrol pack. It does the job, but there are plenty better options on the market. Here’s a quick guide to finding the ideal patrol pack.
Choosing a Ruck: Size
The first thing you need to consider is the size. The standard issue pack is about right in this department – go much below 40 liters and you won’t have room for everything. You need something that will comfortably hold all your patrol gear, but is still compact enough to stow (fully packed) under the flap of your large rucksack when you’re carrying the full load.
Choosing a Pack: Organization
There are simple packs on the market, and the “one big bag” design is perfect for your main pack where its toughness counts, but for a patrol pack your priority is fast, easy access to anything you need. MOLLE straps let you attach external pouches and other gear, but it’s simpler if your pack has a number of external pockets that can be opened in a hurry. At a minimum, look for two side pockets, and if you can get front and top pockets as well that’s ideal.
Even better is a pack that unzips and lies flat, giving access to internal organizers. The 5.11 Tactical Rush series are great for this. The 47.5-liter Rush72 makes a perfect patrol sack, with a large main compartment for bulky items combined with a front section lined with mesh zipper pockets. The Rush24, at 34 liters, is ideal for team medics or anyone else who’s carrying specialist tools. It has the same front section layout and, again, the mesh pockets mean you can easily see your gear. Both also have fittings for hydration systems. Condor Outdoor also makes a number of bags to suit every need at an affordable price.
Choosing a Pack: Hydration
Talking about hydration, there are packs with that feature built in. Camelbak’s BFM 3L has an integrated three-liter hydration system plus 48 liters of cargo capacity. It also has multiple side and front pockets and a clamshell opening system for easy access.
Choosing a Rucksack: Durability
A patrol pack doesn’t carry the same load as your main rucksack will, but it still needs to be tough. Look for robust fabrics, like Cordura 500. Don’t skimp on the cost, either. A cheap pack is a lot more likely to split or have a strap break just when you don’t need it, and the price of that can be the loss of life-saving equipment. Paying a bit extra will get you better stitching, more reinforcement and higher quality fittings.
At the end of the day, on most operations your patrol pack is going to be your main load carrying system for critical gear. It’s important to have the best you can find, and to be completely comfortable and familiar with it. That way you’ll be able to carry the tools you need with the maximum comfort, and get your hands on them quickly when it matters.