Chinese Blanket Pack

Do you ever think about why the word “pack” is used in terms such as “backpack”? I had not, until I came across a chapter of Horace Kephart’s “Camping and Woodcraft”. As can be seen from the image reproduced below, some packs are literally packages, wrapped in waterproof material and held together by a harness.

The reason I was reminded of this was because I have come across yet another variant of blanket roll. I was reading about China in the first half of the twentieth century. This is a very interesting period of history and I am rather surprised more movies and games are not set in this period and location. The various Chinese factions had to equip millions of fighting men with only limited resources. How they achieved this is relevant to recent topics on this blog.
In the photos below you can see that a pack was created by placing the cargo within a blanket and then rolling each end inwards until they met. In the last photo you can see that a shelter cloth/ rainproof is carried in a horseshoe around the pack so that it is easily accessible.


Blanket/ Cloak

Many moons ago I described a method of turning an item such as an all-weather blanket into a hooded rain cape. This was adapted from a method of wearing a plaid associated with the Inverness area. An Inverness cape or cloak is something different and today I will describe a way to use a blanket that forms something not unlike an Inverness cape. We touched on this method with the recent post on Japanese shelter cloths.

Take one corner of a blanket in each hand and hold it behind you. Place the middle of the side between your hands over your head.
Release the corners and reach down to waist level and gather the blanket around your lower body. Adjust so the lower edge is about mid-calf level or your preferred length. Tie the blanket in place by encircling it with a belt, piece of string or anything similar you have handy.
Fold the cloth over your head back so it forms a collar. The garment can be improved by using a blanket pin to close the throat area. If you are really improvising you can make a pin by sharpening a small stick.

Your blanket now resembles an improvised cloak. It also resembles the greatcoats worn by US soldiers in westerns. The upper section allows good access to your chest pockets or other gear carried in this area. If necessary it can be drawn up over the head to form a cowl. If your legs need more freedom of movement the lower corners can be brought up and tucked through the belt. Military greatcoats were often designed so the skirts could be buttoned up in similar fashion. This is sometimes called “French fashion” since French troops were noted for fighting in their greatcoats.

You can modify a blanket so that it can more easily be worn in this fashion. Sew a cloth tape by its middle to the middle of the blanket at your preferred waist level. If you refer back to the Japanese shelter cloth article you will see the cloth included this feature. To close off the neck the best option is one or more hook and loop fastenings. Loops should be cord and blunt hooks can be made from suitably bent paperclips or other wire. Hook and loop fastenings are less likely to be uncomfortable should you happen to be lying on them when the blanket if used for sleeping in. Even if you use a sleeping bag for sleeping a blanket is a handy thing to have should it turn unexpectedly cold. Using this technique the blanket is a day garment too. You can wear a rucksac while wearing a blanket like this. The front tends to open more which may or may not be a problem. If you do not need the ventilation when carrying a load a couple of extra blanket pins or a blanket scarf can be used. If your pack is small the cloak can be put on over it.

I have described this as being with a blanket but as the Japanese shelter cloth shows us this can also be used with a rain-resistant material. If you carry a rifle and ammunition across your chest the upper “flaps” provide good protection and easy access. Unlike a poncho this rain garment does not need a hole in the centre for a hood, so is less problematic if rigged as a shelter. A separate hood could perhaps be attached near one edge near the neck fastenings if you are modify a cloth for use in this fashion. If the weather is particularly foul a blanket can be worn within a rain cloth.

More on Blanket Rolls

In the last blog I talked about the American Civil War (ACW) horseshoe roll. A point worth stressing is that a horseshoe roll does not need to be constructed from a blanket.
As we saw with the Soviets and ACW horseshoe rolls can be used to carry long greatcoats. A modern sleeping bag, for example, can also be carried as a horseshoe roll. I have a four or five season sleeping bag I brought many years back. It is a great bag but I have seldom used since it is so bulky. I cannot carry it if I have to also carry any other reasonable amount of gear. If I put it in my pack I have very little room for anything else. If I tie it to the top of my pack I’m over seven feet tall, and this is with the thing in its compression sack! Rolling the thing into a horseshoe roll may very well be a better way to carry it. Worn in this way it will also provide some insulation when walking, which may very well be needed in any climate where I actually need such a high-rated bag.
The over the shoulder horseshoe roll is not the only way to carry such items. In many armies of WW2 shelter halves and the like were rolled into a horseshoe that was placed around the pack. A shorter blanket roll that could be carried above or below the pack was also used.
Like the soldiers of the ACW the WW2 Japanese soldier often used a horseshoe roll instead of a backpack. This could be constructed from the shelter cloth. Alternately a canvas “hold-all” was used as described here:
“Instead of the pack a canvas hold-all is sometimes used. This is simply a piece of light canvas with carrying straps at each end, and two long tapes, with shorter tapes to help secure the load. When rolled it can be carried across the back, slanting diagonally upwards from left to right, the straps and long tapes making an X across the chest where they are knotted. The hold-all serves as a combat pack and usually includes overcoat or blanket, shelter half, and tent poles and pins, besides whatever gear is not carried in the haversack. Canteen, ammunition pouches, and gas mask and carrier complete the combat gear normally carried by the Japanese soldier.”



As I discussed in the last blog, many modern waterproofs lack the robustness to make a good blanket roll cover. Something like Japanese hold-all described and illustrated is worth looking into. Such a thing could be combined with the methods for making your own gum-blanket. If the unrolled blanket roll cover was of sufficient dimensions to serve as a groundcloth that would be no bad thing.
Below is another example of a roll being used to carry equipment:
Variations on wearing the web equipment began to evolve while the Canadians trained in England, as Battle Drill put men and gear through increasingly more challenging situations. In Sicily, however, contacts with battle experienced soldiers of the British 8th Army led to quick revisions in how best to carry equipment in action, leading to the adoption of "Fighting Order." The small pack, or haversack, was quickly discarded due to its distinctive outline and the mess tins were instead added to a water-bottle carrier, and worn suspended from the brace-ends, in a spare water bottle carrier, on the left side of the waistbelt, opposite the water bottle. The gas cape was used to wrap spare clothing, rations and kit, then tied to the back of the waistbelt with spare blanket straps.”
Troops of the Loyal Edmonton Regiment at Ortona, December 1943, wearing Fighting Order. LAC Photo.


Horseshoe Rolls, Blankets and Gum-blankets

While researching the “Soldier’s Load” a conflict that was often mentioned was the American Civil War (ACW). Sherman’s “March to the Sea” was a frequent topic. From the Confederate side we have “Stonewall” Jackson’s Shenandoah Campaign where infantry covered 670 miles in about a month and a half.

A distinctive element of these campaigns was the use of the “horseshoe roll”, occasionally called a “croissant”. During the blogs on the WW2 Soviet infantryman I mentioned that what was often described as a blanket roll was in fact a rolled greatcoat, which was also used as bedding. The horseshoe rolls used by ACW soldiers were blankets, but they were not just blankets.
It is a matter of record that many ACW soldiers on both sides discarded their issue knapsacks and carried most of their gear in a blanket roll. There are a number of videos on-line showing you how to construct a horseshoe roll. Key point is that they are rolled LENGHTWISE. A very good article on how the ACW soldier carried his gear can be found here and is worth reading.
The horseshoe roll was generally not just blankets. Spare clothes and other suitable items were carried wrapped within it. Often the blanket itself would be protected from damage and weather by wrapping it either in a shelter half or a gum-blanket.
The shelter half of this conflict was a simple square of cloth. Two could be buttoned together and rigged up in various ways to make a very compact two man shelter. Rifle-muskets or local materials provided support.

The gum-blanket was a relatively new invention. It was a cloth coated on one side with a waterproof coating such as vulcanized rubber. The gum-blanket served as a ground cloth. Materials such as hay, cut long grass, bracken or similar can be piled under the gum-blanket to serve as a mattress. If a shelter cloth had been lost or been discarded a pair of soldiers might sleep on one gum-blanket and rig another up as cover. A single sleeper might wrap himself in his blanket(s) and sleep within a folded gum-blanket. The gum-blanket also served as a rain cape. Rain ponchos were constructed in the same way as gum-blankets but many soldiers used a single gum-blanket for everything. The shelter half might be discarded in favour of just the gum-blanket. (Note that some books clearly confuse gum-blankets with rain-ponchos).

Some comments on sleeping in blankets in the field are relevant here. I cannot do better than quote Horace Kephart:
“To roll up in a blanket in such a way that you will stay snugly wrapped, lie down and draw the blanket over you like a coverlet, lift the legs without bending at the knee, and tuck first one edge smoothly under your legs then the other. Lift your hips and do the same there. Fold the far end under your feet. Then wrap the free edges similarly around your shoulders one under the other. You will learn to do this without bunching, and will find yourself in a sort of cocoon.”
It will be noted that this arrangement tends to place a double thickness of material between the sleeper and the ground, reducing ground chill.
The horseshoe roll was supposed to be carried from the weak-side shoulder, allowing the rifle-musket to be more easily fired from the strong-side. If your activities are less bellicose the roll can be alternated from one side to the other to rest one shoulder. The end parts of the roll needn’t be at the lowest point. Such a configuration apparently hindered access to the cartridge box when worn from the left shoulder so the ends were often shunted back.
After the civil war the American Army issued a set of leather straps designed for constructing a blanket roll. This seems excessive both in weight and complication of maintenance. Use some cordage and a parcel wrap of half-hitches. For some suitable knots see my free book on the subject.

The shoulder roll can be easily discarded if needed. On the negative side it is not a very good way to carry items that you might want while on the move. Accessing the any item within it requires stopping and unrolling the roll and then reconstructing it. It is better used to carry “end of day” items. Using a gum-blanket or rain poncho as the outer cover of the roll has the disadvantage that if it starts raining you will have disassemble and reassemble the entire roll. This article describes several ways to carry a gum-blanket or similar item separately.
Osprey Men-at-Arms 214 US Infantry Equipments 1776-1910 (p.23) adds:
By the Spanish-American War Of 1898 the Army had devised a regulation manner of rolling and wearing the horseshoe roll, as Plc. Charles Johnson Post, a New York infantryman, found:
‘In the business of making a blanket roll, you lay the blanket on the ground, put into it your tent pegs [3 pegs] and your half of the two tent poles—for each man carried but one-half the tent—and then arrange your towel, socks, shirt, and extra underwear and roll up the blanket. Then, turning your attention to your half of the tent, fold it lengthwise. This you lay on top of the blanket roll, fasten it at the ends and the middle, much as if reefing a sail, then bend it until it takes its horse-collar shape, fasten the two ends—and there you are ready to stick your head through and sling it. It is excellent. But—and this we learned on our first march to the transport— the blanket roll must be made sloppy, not neat. A hard, neat horse collar will bear into the shoulder like a steel bar, so roll it loose and floppy for the part that lies over the shoulder and with no baggage inside the center section—just at the two ends. It looks like a clumsy, amateur sausage lying out straight, but it is soft on the shoulder. In Cuba our horse collars made us look like a bunch of hobo blanket- stiffs.’
Rain ponchos and similar items made from modern materials may be too light and fragile to form the outer layer of a horseshoe roll. Using them in this fashion may increase the likelihood of them becoming damaged or punctured. A heavier duty item such as a canvas shelter half or a groundcloth may be more suitable. There are a number of websites that explain how to make your own gum-blanket/ groundcloth by painting one side of a cloth with black latex paint.

Japanese Shelter Cloth.

While I was researching aspects of reducing the soldier’s load the WW2 Japanese Army often came up. Of particular interest was this in-depth article on the evolution of the Japanese soldier’s shelter cloth. I have taken the liberty of reproducing some of the illustrations from that article below.
According to the 1944 Handbook on Japanese Military Forces (TM-E 30-480): “Cotton raincoats with hoods are issued to Japanese troops, but in most theaters they prefer to use the shelter half as rain protection.” and “As a raincape it provides excellent protection against wetness and is preferred by many Japanese soldiers to the issue raincoat. A cord is attached to the middle of one end so that the shelter half can be suspended from the shoulders and tied under the chin. Loops through the eyelets on one of the sides then may be slipped through the eyelets on the opposite side to close it securely in front. Two of the corners rest approximately elbow high, allowing the arms freedom of movement. The shelter half also is used as a ground sheet, or to roll up in for protection in a foxhole. It can be pitched as a tent, either alone or in combination with varying numbers of others.”
The method of joining the cloths together with the cord loops is rather elegant and ingenious. Apparently this was also used when the cloth was worn as a garment. Below is an illustration I have in another book. Interesting here is that the cloth appears to be a 3:4 rectangle rather than a square.

Soldier's Load : Sundries

For many years I have been involved in various discussions on minimizing or optimizing the soldier’s load.
Some of that discussion is not relevant to this blog.
Some of it may be of interest to those readers that are servicemen, or those that are considering ways to reduce the weight of their own kits.

The issues of food and ammunition loads are to be discussed on another day.
We still hear accounts of troops carrying six days rations for operations that are not expected to last long enough to need fresh underwear!
The topic of bedding and shelter I intend to address in a future article. Some of my thoughts can be found here.
Today’s blog addresses what might be termed “the sundries”.
Note that some of the following recommendations may contradict your unit’s SOPs and may not be permitted.
Part of being able to carry the stuff you really need is to not carry stuff you do not need. Personal mobile phones and music players have no place on an operation.

Backpack Contents

I will start with a discussion of the things that might be carried in your backpack.


Your wash-kit should not be in a multi-pocketted washroll. A simple mesh bag is lighter and better.  It should contain:
  • Half a bar of soap in a small PU drawcord bag. Half a bar of soap is likely to last you ages out in the field. The bag can be made from scrap waterproof material and should be within the sewing abilities of anyone.
  • One disposable razor. In the field the main purpose of shaving is to ensure that your respirator is a snug fit. You don’t have to be baby-faced or look like a male model. A single disposable razor should last you a couple of weeks. Cut a few inches off the handle to reduce weight and bulk further. If respirator use is unlikely, consider a beard.
  • Toothbrush. I doesn’t need to be a special camping or travelling model. Chop a few inches off the handle. Children's toothbrushes are more compact and seem to clean better.
  • Small tube of toothpaste or tin of baking soda. A little will last you a very long time so do not carry too much.
  • A low bulk towel. This may be a travel towel such as pertex, or better still, half of one. Alternately, your towel may be a spare bandanna or keffiyeh. If this is selected in a tactical colour it can be tied to your gear to dry in the wind.
  • A small stick of deodorant might be included here. It reduces your “scent signature” and makes things a little more pleasant for whoever you share bedding with.
  • A plastic comb is optional. Some people’s hair needs a lot of combing, some very little and others just have very little!
Note what is not included in this wash-kit:
There is no shampoo. If you need to wash your hair make do with the soap.
There is no shaving brush or foam. Use the face soap, it works fine.
The mirror for shaving is carried elsewhere and will be detailed later.
A flannel is unnecessary. If you want, use a corner of your towel/bandanna.
The soldier should carry a Swiss army knife so there is no need for items such as nail clippers.
The wash-kit goes in your “personal admin bag”. This bag may be a large pencil case or a simple sponge bag. Select something light and simple. Also carried in the personal admin bag is a medical kit, sun-cream, insect repellent and your repair kit.
The personal admin bag puts most of your personal gear in one place. It is easily grabbed and transferred between locker, patrol pack, large pack and kitbag.

Repair Kit

Take a couple of sewing needles and stick their points in a piece of foam. If possible one of your needles should be a heavy-duty type such as a triangular-section sailmaker’s needle.
Needles can be magnetized to act as emergency navigation aids.
Place the needles in a small plastic bag and add several metres of “invisible” thread and a handful of safety pins of various sizes.
A large “blanket pin” or two is worth including.
A few yards of dental floss can be used for heavier repairs. Other uses of dental floss include as fishing line and cleaning your teeth!
Add a couple of spare uniform buttons and rucksack buckles if you wish.
Items such as folding scissors and thimbles are unnecessary. Use your Swiss army knife.
In addition to the sewing items, your repair kit should hold a small tube of superglue and a few metres of duct tape. The tape can be wound around an object such as a pencil. A few metres of electrician’s tape can be added too.

Dirty Boots, Lighter Load

The personal admin kit would not normally carry boot polish and other shoe cleaning items.
For most operations this is not a priority. Boots can be cleaned before and after an operation.
In exceptional circumstances it may be necessary to take shoe cleaning supplies. Seldom will it be necessary for each man to carry a full kit. More prudent is for just one member of the squad or team to carry a tin.

Toilet Paper

A vital thing your pack should carry is some toilet paper. Flatten a roll and place it in a plastic bag. Carry it somewhere in the rucksack where it will be readily available. An external pocket is ideal. Toilet paper can, of course, be used as tinder.

Weapon Cleaning Kit

A weapon-cleaning kit should be carried.
At the minimum, this should consist of a pull-through or bore-snake with the correct size brush, half a toothbrush, small volume of solvent/lubricant, a rag and some patches.
Some of these supplies will be in the rucksack while some might be carried with the webbing.
A unit should never have more than half of its weapons being cleaned at any time. A weapon cleaning kit may therefore be shared between two soldiers.

Extra Clothing

Extra clothing carried divides into spare items and supplementary.
A spare set of underwear and at least one pair of spare socks should be in the pack.
A small container of foot-powder can be carried with the spare socks.
Additional spare socks can do double duty as carrying pouches or improvised mittens.
A spare set of combat dress may or may not be carried. In some environments you can change into your dry spare set to sleep in at night. In the morning you redress in your “day” clothes. If weight is critical, the spare set of combat dress should be one of the first items omitted.
Supplementary clothing includes such items as hats and gloves.
In addition to your helmet you will need at least two hats.
One should have a broad-brimmed and provide protection from the sun.
The other should be a warm hat such as a watchcap or headover. This can be used as a nightcap when sleeping in the cold.
Headovers are such useful items it is worth carrying more than one. Luckily they are of modest weight and bulk.
You may be carrying more than one pair of gloves. You may have a heavy pair for wire or ropework and another pair for fine work. In sub-zero conditions a spare pair of gloves/mittens is prudent.
Glove liners are also very useful. When carried in your pack, hats and gloves should be readily accessible in a pocket, not at the bottom of the pack under other gear.
Add a snaplink to your gear so you can stow your gloves when your pockets are full of other items.

Cooking Gear

In the past soldiers carried mess-tins and stoves.
Innovations such as MREs and heating pouches have reduced the need for such items and often they are not carried.
Any cooking or water heating that may be necessary can be performed with a metal canteen cup.
Mess tins were also used to receive food from field kitchens. Having only a canteen cup may be insufficient if soldiers are fed this way. Large scale catering units may provide disposable plates.
If cooking is at section or platoon-level soldiers may need vessels in addition to their canteen cup.
In such situations a pair of lightweight plastic bowls may be carried in the pack. A length of line can be added as a handle, allowing them to be carried like buckets. In this way a man with a pole or branch can carry food for several comrades.

Jacket Contents

Certain items should be carried in the jacket pockets or upper body. This includes a notebook, map protractor and writing implements. Pens malfunction. Carry at least one pencil.
Various bits of cordage, comms-cord etc is likely to be carried in jacket pockets.


A small mirror should also be carried in a breast or sleeve pocket.
This should not be a heavy glass item as some armies issue. It should be plastic or made from a light piece of polished metal, such as a door fingerplate.
This mirror is used for shaving but serves other purposes too. It can be used for signalling or can direct a spot of light to designate a point of interest. It can also be used to look around corners, over walls or under objects when searching.
A laminated card with Morse code printed on one side should be kept with the mirror.


A lightweight plastic whistle should be carried, perhaps attached to the dog-tag chain. Whistles are somewhat underused in the modern military. They can be used to raise an alarm or call for assistance.
A small LED light such as the Photon II can also be added to the dogchain and will prove useful. Some soldiers use a betalight instead.

Trouser Pockets

You are less likely to remove your trousers than your jacket or pack.
Therefore your emergency gear is carried in your trouser pockets.
You should be able to sleep comfortably with these items in place. Pad them with spare socks or cordage if necessary

Fire Kit

A fire kit can be carried in one of the thigh pockets. This should be relatively simple and compact: Two disposable lighters, a birthday cake candle and a container of vaseline-soaked cotton wool for tinder. A tub of storm matches or a Fresnel lens might also be added.
This fire kit is wrapped up in a waterproof bag.
An additional lighter for “everyday use” may be carried somewhere else such as a sleeve pocket.

Fishing Kit

In the same pocket as the fire kit, a simple fishing kit can be carried.
This should consist of about six metres of braided line.
Hooks should be already tied to monofilament with a snap-link swivel at the other end. Split shot may be already tied to these lines.
A few mackerel feather lures can be included in this kit. Items such as extra split shot should be packed so that it does not rattle.
Add a few metres of brass wire to this kit. Brass picture-hanging wire can be an economical source of the latter.
In many situations, trapping or fishing may not be tactically feasible. If an enemy discovers your trap or trot line they may lay an ambush or set booby traps.
A kit of the sort suggested takes up very little room or weight and the cordage and hooks may be used for other purposes.

First Aid Kit

In the other cargo pocket is a small first aid kit.
Field dressings are for major injuries. The first aid kit is a “boo-boo” kit for more minor injuries that may become a problem if not treated.
The kit should contain painkillers, band-aids and alcohol wipes.
Important medication such as anti-malarial drugs is also carried here.
Choice of other medical kit contents is a matter of personal preference but it is important to distinguish between “nice to have” and “very likely to be needed”. Your main medical kit is in your backpack.
The cargo pocket kit should remain small and compact so that is always carried on the solder’s person. Additional medical items can be carried in the personal admin bag.

Space Blanket

Carried with the pocket first aid kit is one of the most useful survival devices of all: A foil space blanket.
Depending on the climate, small quantities of sun-lotion and/or insect repellent are carried in the pockets or webbing. Larger volumes to refill these containers are carried in the pack.


The soldier’s Swiss army knife should be carried in the trousers or on a pouch on the trouser belt. A small sharpening stone should be carried too.

Webbing Equipment

Intermediate between the contents of the pack and the pockets is the soldier’s webbing.
Primary purpose of the webbing is to carry ammunition and mission gear.
Ammunition and related issues may be dealt with in another post.
Today I will concentrate on other webbing-related loads.


The modern soldier should carry a number of plastic zip ties, aka cable ties or flexicuffs. Select “tactical” colours.
These can be laid along a belt and tucked behind a pouch. They are secured in this position by a couple of rubber bands or pieces of elastic.
The primary role is for securing prisoners and suspects.
Another potential use is to secure double doors by binding the handles together.

Water Supply

The webbing gear should also carry at least one litre of water.
Conventionally, this will be in a rigid plastic water bottle. One problem with such bottles is that if they have been partially emptied, the water sloshing around inside can hinder quiet movement.
If you fall on a rigid bottle it will hurt a lot!
The British 58 pattern water bottle is designed so that the plastic mug fits over the top. In other words, you have to remove the cup before you can drink from the bottle.
Water bladders such as the Camelback and Platypus brands have become popular in the last few decades. Larger volume bladders are either carried in the pack or worn as a pack and can be drank from by a sip tube.
Having a litre or two of water with your belt order is still prudent even if you use a larger water supply in your pack. Draw from the supply in your pack when possible and keep the belt supply in reserve.
Some one-litre bladders will fit in an issue water bottle pouch. Unlike rigid bottles, air can be squeezed out of a partially full bladder to reduce sloshing noises.
A supply of water purification tablets should also be carried with your belt gear or in a pocket in your clothing

Canteen Cup and Brew Kit

The belt order may include a metal canteen cup. This is used for any cooking in the field that needs to be done. It is also used to pasteurize water if purification tablets cannot be used or supplies conserved.
For the British soldier the primary purpose of the canteen cup is to make tea.
One of the lightest ways to make tea is to use three six-inch nails to support the cup over a small fire.
A number of armies have issued cookers specifically designed to work with canteen cups.
The American Natick cookers are designed to fit around a canteen instead of a cup. The GI would carry one canteen with a cup around it, the other with the stove around.
The British Crusader system has a metal cup that fits over the bottom of the water bottle and a stove that the cup nests in. Since the plastic mug fits over the top of the issue water bottle, this can be carried as well if you desire.
An improved stove, the “Crusader II” or “Fire dragon” is slightly taller and the capacity of the metal cup has been increased too.
This has resulted in the issue of a water bottle pouch that is 12" deep in order to accommodate the stove, bottle and cup(s) in one package.
This is obviously less than ideal. More practical may be to carry your water bottles/bladders in separate pouches to the stove and cup.
The space inside the cup can be used to carry some fuel for the stove. It will also accommodate a brew kit.
The basic brew kit is tea bags, sugar, powdered milk/creamer and a plastic spoon/spork. Carry sugar even if you do not normally take it in your hot drinks. Sugar is energy and your body will often give you a sweet tooth if it feels the need. Artificial sweeteners have no place in your kit!
A couple of OXO cubes provide variety. In cold climates, when you will be brewing up often, a couple of packet soups provide additional variety.
Instant coffee is not worthy of the name. Carry some coffee bags. Good coffee requires water that has cooled down a bit from boiling. Heat till water just begins to bubble and then remove from heat before adding coffee bag.
While a canteen cup and brew-kit are widely regarded as belt items, I think they are better carried in an external pocket of a pack, minimizing the mass on the belt.


A small flashlight such as a mini-maglite can be added to a pocket or the brew pouch.
This is used for jobs that more powerful weapon-mounted lights are not suitable for. It should be of a form that you can easily hold in your mouth or tuck in a hatband. A red filter should be fitted. A few metres of tape can be wrapped around the handle.

Navigation Aids

What navigation aids you carry will depend on your role and training. While land navigation skills should be encouraged, many riflemen only need a broad idea of direction during an operation. A wrist-mounted compass may provide adequate and convenient.

Fixed Blade Knife

Most modern bayonets are weighty and of limited utility. A stout but short knife of under 11" length should be carried over the weak-side pectoral muscle. This can be mounted on a suspender/brace but must be positioned so that it does not interfere with any backpack straps.
I discus the merits, uses and features of such a knife in my books “Survival Weapons: Optimizing Your Arsenal” and “Crash Combat”.

Other Tools

Most units have SOPs on where field dressings are to be carried. This is so a comrade can immediately locate a dressing when it is needed. Therefore such SOPs must be followed.
A bullet often creates both and exit and an entry wound. At least two field dressings should be carried by each soldier.

The distribution of entrenching tools poses some interesting questions.
One train of thought is for them to be only carried by half a force. This makes the assumption that half the force will be on guard while the other digs.
A few extra tools may be handy if the threat is not immediate but the task must be completed as quickly as possible.
If better tools are available, such as from vehicle pioneer kits, the carrying of personal entrenching tools may be redundant.
Ideally a range of tools should be carried by a unit. Fixed blade spades should be supplemented by picks, pick/mattocks (M1943), trench axes and similar. A few crowbars or axes with the squad will be of more use in an urban environment than entrenching tools.
A soldier should carry one “tool”, be it spade, M1943, crowbar, trench axe, tree saw etc.
On the march, such tools are best carried in the pack.
During an assault they may be transferred to the webbing.
Such tools are also used as weapons so the practice of slipping them through the belt for easy access is often seen.
In this light, the issue of bulky carrying cases to carry entrenching tools on the belt must be questioned.
As was discussed on the recent blog on tomahawks, a simple carrying loop may be all that is needed if some means of muzzling the edge and any points is provided.