Recognizing the importance of always striving to reduce the mobility-destroying load-bearing requirements of the guerrilla fighter, it is critical to first dispel some long-cherished myths regarding the historical American woodsman-scout. When most Americans consider the archetype of the woodsman-scout, their visualization typically involves a frontiersman (eastern long-hunter or western “mountain man”) slipping silently and effortlessly through the timber, carrying everything he owns in a shoulder-slung “possibles” pouch or a small knapsack slung across his back. This, like the cowboy-plainsman with his bedroll strapped behind the cantle of his saddle, is for the most part, nothing more than Thoreauan mythology.
It is neither necessary nor desirable to pack the “kitchen sink” in the guerrilla sustainment rucksack load. A guerrilla light-infantry patrol is not a recreational backpacking trip. Focusing the sustainment load packing list on the basic necessary logistics of survival and combat effectiveness, rather than creature comforts, and the regular utilization of pre-positioned re-supply caches, makes it possible to minimize the guerrilla fighter's load to the barest minimum possible.
The selection of a load-bearing pack design for the guerrilla fighter is most critically dependent on the demands of the immediate operational environment. A guerrilla force operating from an urban enclave guerrilla base, with ample support from a complex, established subversive underground and extensive auxiliary support network, will have a significantly different logistical sustainment requirement than a less well-supported organizational element operating from a swamp/jungle base or in an alpine environment.
At its most fundamental level, Che Guevara's recommendation of a poncho and light blanket may be all that is required for shelter in many environments (as a young hooah, training throughout the southern US and many tropical and sub-tropical environments, even as far north and south a temperate regions, we utilized nothing more than a poncho and poncho liner as a “sleeping bag,” even in winter. --J.M.). Along with a decent water bottle, water purification method, and food supplies for several days, a complete sustainment load could theoretically be carried in no more than a small assault pack, or even an old ALICE buttpack (for those still dedicated to the ALICE LBE system). With regular re-supply from caches, the guerrilla could conceivably operate in the field indefinitely.
In more extreme environments, requiring more extensive shelter protection, or for longer duration patrols without the benefit of auxiliary support and/or pre-positioned caches throughout the operational area, a larger sustainment system load-bearing pack option may be necessary. The small assault pack/buttpack option may not be viable (on the other hand, even in winter in extreme alpine environments, it is theoretically possible that it may be sufficient. The interior of a snow cave maintains a pretty steady temperature just above or at freezing. I've stayed comfortably warm in snow caves with nothing more than a poncho, poncho liner, and casualty-type quilted “space” blanket with just a small candle for warmth and light. Of course, on the other hand, I've also frozen my dick off laying in a tank track in the mud of an early spring sleet storm, wrapped in a poncho and poncho liner, with MRE heaters shoved under my ass for additional heat! --J.M.) in some environments.
Larger rucksack options for the potential future guerrilla light-infantry fighter range from military/military-surplus options such as the LC-2 ALICE rucksack (with frame) to the newer MOLLE designs (despite the total lack of any sort of contemporary ergonomic engineering, I still own, use, and love the “big green tick” ALICE ruck. My body long ago learned how to mold itself to fit the idiosyncracies of the “tick.” While I love the carrying capacity of the MOLLE II ruck, I still can't bring myself to trust the integrity of the plastic frame, after seeing them break just being tossed out the back of HMMWVs and five-tons. A MOLLE II ruck on an ALICE frame though? What's not to love? --J.M.), to the option of civilian mountaineering packs from companies such as Gregory, Dana Designs, North Face, and Kelty. While these typically lack the modularity or sheer brutal toughness of the military designs, it is important to remember that, despite the sometimes odd-ball aspects of the mountaineering sub-culture, serious alpinists are extremely physical athletes who demand a lot from their equipment.
Further, the relatively innocent appearance of this equipment, in some areas may assist the guerrilla's attempts to blend with the local civilian population in regime-controlled denied-territory, when moving through built-up areas (consider the idea of a small guerrilla force infiltrating a an urban area solo or in pairs, to rendezvous/link-up at a pre-arranged, auxiliary-operated safehouse, to conduct final planning and isolation functions prior to a HVT raid within the regime-controlled urban area...Anyone been to Portland, Oregon, or Seattle, Washington? If so, do you see the point?).
Finally, there is the obvious option of selecting the sustainment-load rucksack from the current offerings of companies catering to the military and PMC markets with non-issue, COTS rucksack and load-bearing gear, such as Kifaru, Eberlestocke, and others. While they offer a remarkably attractive blend of the best of both worlds, they do suffer from two potential drawbacks, dependent on the operational environment. One, they are incredibly expensive (although often no more expensive than comparable civilian backpacks, they are seldom found used, in thrift stores and second-hand stores, dirt-cheap, the way the civilian models often are), and second, they are obviously military in appearance, meaning they offer little advantage to the urban-based guerrilla who will need to avoid piquing the curiousity of security forces.
If the priorities of survival are considered honestly, the importance of packing the sustainment load with adequate water, food, and shelter may vary in criticality dependent on the local operational environment. It truly is a METT-TC consideration. Conditions vary greatly across North America and across the globe. What constitutes adequate shelter in downtown Miami Beach, Florida in July will differ greatly from what constitutes adequate shelter in the Bears Paw Mountains near Chinook, Montana in January.
While potable water will be a major concern in most months of the year in the Sonoran desert environment around Yuma, Arizona, the winter months in the area of Heber City, Utah mean there will be adequate water in the form of snow to validate a very light packing list for water in the sustainment load.
At a fundamental level, clothing is shelter. Wearing adequate clothing for the operational environment will greatly reduce the necessary sustainment payload for shelter (for example, in the above example of using an ultra-light shelter option in a snow cave, had I not been wearing polypropylene long underwear, fleece second-layer, Gore-Tex shell garments, and a polar fleece balaclava, I would not have been anywhere near as comfortably warm in the snow cave. Further, the fact that I was not wearing anything but basic summerweight BDUs and jungle boots when I tried to bivvy up in the tank track, the mild sleet storm would have been far more tolerable with just a poncho liner and poncho. --J.M.). Additionally, since time is generally on the side of the guerrilla (thus the term “The Long War”), the utilization of field-expedient shelters such as snow caves, brush lean-tos, and even dug-out, roofed over fighting positions, further reduce the environmental protection needs of sustainment load shelters. While the very real potential of having to bivvy up in the middle of a thicket of thorny brush must be considered, the guerrilla should recognize that, outside of an active E&E, he should never rely just on the supplies on his back. He must think outside of the box (further, the thermal mass represented by an earth-covered fighting position or a snow-cave offer interesting countermeasures to the threat of regime security force thermal imaging devices...--J.M.).
It is late. Despite not having completed this installment of the third installment of this article series, I am going to post it, and try to complete the rest of the article tomorrow. My sincerest apologies, but it did take awhile for OpenOffice to download this evening after I got off work. I am now back to having a real word-processing system, and my wife, significantly younger than I, and thus far more tech-savvy, managed to do some stuff to the computer today to ensure the continued viability of WinDoze until I can get the Linux disc I burned this weekend to boot properly.
Somewhere in the mountains