Lighter Kit and Stoveless Cooking

A friend sent me this video. Good timing, since I had just posted my article on ranger rolling and how it could be used to reduce the number and weight of stuff-sacks used.
I don't carry a lot of electronic gear nor do I idolize my phone, so I had not paid much attention to items such as power banks. With a suitable suite of compatible devices this may be a step towards solving the problem of the soldier's load.
One topic touched on is that of “stoveless cooking”. My friend sent me an additional video on this: 
Years ago I encountered a technique that might be called the “mobile haybox”.
The hiker would heat his food, or add boiling water, as appropriate. The food was then placed in an insulated container and stowed inside the rucksack.
Like a conventional haybox, the retained heat continued to cook the food over the next few hours. Ideally one used a “wide-mouthed thermos”, but those were not that easy to find in those days. More usually, you used a sandwich box or screw-topped container and wrapped your sleeping bag and other insulation around the outside. The wise hiker placed the container in a plastic bag in case of leaks!
The stoveless method is similar, in that you hydrate the food several hours in advance and give the water time to do its job.
The two methods can be combined. Providing it has a good seal, a sandwich box could be used.
Sandwich boxes, incidentally, make pretty good eating bowls for more conventional cooking. Remember that before you fork out a good chunk of cash on a specially designed backpacker's eating kit!
Have a look at the supermarket shelves for other suitable containers.
Buying them filled with food is often cheaper than attempting to buy an empty container.
I have seen plastic peanut-butter jars suggested for stoveless cooking and this is a way to utilize that peanut-butter stuck at the very bottom.

4-4-4-4 Combat Load

Recently I was trying to relocate the following article:
This has some interesting information on the difference between a marching pack, combat pack and stripped-down “patrol pack”. 
Exploring the site further turned up an even more useful article:
During my search, I stumbled across the following:
Of particular note is the “4-4-4-4” system.
Don't get too hung up on the titles. Just understand that a clear distinction is being made between short duration operations and those that span more than one day, and for the latter a distinction is made between short and long duration.
I would like to examine this scheme in a little more depth. “4-month” doesn't concern us today.

4-Hour Load

  • “Deuce” (webbing) gear and weapon.
  • Helmet and Flak (regarded as “mission specific”)
  • Whatever weather gear the marine is wearing. (i.e. marine is assumed to be suitably dressed for current conditions)
  • A zip-loc bag of toilet paper is carried in a clothing pocket so it is still with the marine if any pack has been dropped.
  •  NO pack. NO food. NO toilet kit, sleeping gear, weather gear, boot polish, shelter, nor spare clothing.
If it is a tactical situation the only things you should be carrying are tactical gear and water.
To this I would make the following caveats:
A reasonable quantity of “pocket food” may be carried. This is such items as trail-mix, hard candy, biscuit/cookie packs etc. These can provide a useful energy boost. No food that requires cooking nor warming. Strictly no gum.
A poncho and/or rain jacket may be carried. No spare clothing does not apply to items such as gloves and bandannas.
“Weather gear” is probably best carried in a small, light pack such as a bergen side-pouch.
A similar pack holds the NBC (CBRN) gear. These may be zipped together and both carried.
In some environments, small bottles of insect repellent and sun-block may be carried on one's person. These are topped up from larger bottles in the pack or baggage.
The deuce gear is assumed to include one or two water bottles. In some climates extra water will be needed.
Water is heavy, however, so the volume of water carried should not be so heavy as to increase the rate of water consumption. Just how much water that is might prove to be a useful research project.
Water-bladders for carrying water is lighter than using conventional military water-bottles.
Some tactical and mission-specific items are better carried on the back rather than on the webbing. For this purpose dedicated tactical packs (“Tac-Packs”) should be acquired.
Many of the likely contents of a tac-pack will be dense (machine gun belt, mortar bombs, radios etc), so I would advise keeping the volume of such a pack small, say 16 litres.

4-Day Load

The additional “4-day items” may be considered to constitute an approach load and should be capable of being cached before the deliberate tactical phase.
As 4-Hour load with the addition of:
4-Day Pack with food, 4-day washing kit, sleeping gear, weather gear and shelter. No spare clothing. No boot polish.
It also worth thinking about the potential of a “24-Hour load”. This would resemble the 4-Day load with less food, and perhaps without the wash-kit. This suggests the food be divided into a one-day and three-day bag,
A case (12) MREs is suggested as four days food. Except in sub-zero operations, this may be overly generous. Three eating periods a day may not be practical and troops not eating all of their rations often occurs.
Two MREs a day may be more practical, with a useful quantity of components that can be eaten on the move.
A 4-day wash kit is a hand towel, 1oz/25mls toothpaste, one toothbrush, a bar of soap and “razors for 4 days”.
No shampoo, no shaving cream, no extras nor spares.
Shaving cream , incidentally, is totally unnecessary and has no place in any lightweight kit. Just use your soap. You do not need a shaving brush.
“Razors for 4 days” is ONE razor. Small tubes of toothpaste are often sold with travel toothbrushes. Cutting a normal toothbrush down to 4 inches is suggested, and you might like to follow my advice and get a child-sized brush to begin with.
The document suggests carrying soap in a plastic case such as a “chewing tobacco case”. I have no idea why people think they need to carry soap in a rigid case, and their expensive electronic gadgets in a soft pouch. Many of the soap cases that I have used over the years have turned out to be quite brittle and easily damaged.
The best way to carry soap is in a small nylon drawstring pouch.
The document also suggests that an empty plastic peanut-butter jar makes a good wash-kit container. Use a mesh bag instead.
You can use a bandanna rather than a hand towel.

4-Week Load

As 4-Day load, with the addition of a 4-week pack. 4-week pack includes food, 4-week wash kit, sleeping gear, weather gear, boot polish, shelter and spare clothing.
4-week wash kit includes replacement items such as extra razors, more toothpaste and more toilet paper.
One bar of soap should last more than a month.
I have been on 3-week plus trips and not used up 50mls of shampoo despite daily use.
It may be prudent to have a “spares bag” of toiletry items from which you can replenish the 4-day kit when needed.

More Ranger Rolling

Last night I conducted a pair of experiments in ranger rolling.
Firstly, I tried rolling a poncho. First I folded it widthwise. I then turned up the bottom, folded it in thirds lengthwise then rolled it down from the top. The resulting roll was a little smaller than the carrying sack. Ranger rolling either gives me a way to do without the sack or provides a convenient and quick method to roll the poncho small enough to fit in the sack.
The second item I experimented on was a poncho-liner. This took a number of attempts. The method I settled on was to fold the poncho widthwise. Then, rather than folding up the bottom I folded under the left side. Rather than folding into thirds and rolling down from the top I made my folds widthwise. I then rolled the right side to the left. Because a poncho-liner is so thick and you are working on a double thickness getting the right amount of turn-under takes some experimentation. About 25cm seems right.
You end up with a bundle that is close to a cube, but a little wider than it is high. It measures about 13" x 8" x 6", which is almost a Fibonacci/Golden Ratio object! This is a different shape to stuffsack the liner came with: thicker but shorter. Once you have the right turn-under figured out ranger rolling the poncho-liner takes less time than trying to cram it into the stuff sack.

Rolling and Folding

I suspect that many readers have already seen the above video. It may be one of the most useful things on the internet. Using this technique putting away the laundry has become a quick job of a few minutes rather than a tiresome chore.
Yesterday I came across the term “ranger roll” used to name an alternative to a sleeping bag. Not a term I had encountered before. It turned out to be an alternate name for a poncho and liner used as a sleeping system. A websearch on “ranger roll” in fact turned up something quite different:

Rolling clothing this way may be old news to many of you. If, like me, you had not encountered it before there are a number of webpages and videos. Once you have seen how it works for towels and tee-shirts you can probably work out how to roll most items. Some users suggest items may be rolled tighter if rolled on a hard surface. Some items may be more compact if folded flat. It will also depend  on the space where you need to stow something, so experiment.
I realized that I had encountered the technique before. My mother used to “marry” socks by rolling them up and turning over the cuff. As an adult I realized that this was a complete waste of time. Dump your washed socks in a drawer and grab the first pair that look similar.
The ranger roll method is worth trying if you have to pack items. Remember that items such as sleeping bags and down jackets should not be stored for long periods tightly rolled.
Many items of outdoor equipment that you buy come in their own stuff sack. Like me, you have probably unpacked the item to examine it and then found you cannot fit it back in the sack as neatly as it came. Using a ranger roll it may be possible to pack the item without using the sack. Either save weight by not carrying the sack or put the sack to a more useful purpose.