3 Keys Every Soldier Should Use Packing for the Field.

Every time my unit is in the field, someone makes fun of me for lugging a large rubbermaid tote (gorilla box) to my tent. Usually not long after that, the same person or people are telling me I’m a genius for lugging that tote out there.

Packing for the field has two challenges. First, you need to bring everything that is REQUIRED by your leadership and will be necessary for the training. Secondly, you have to figure out how to fit the stuff that’s NOT REQUIRED without dragging 5 extra bags with you.

If packing for the field is a headache for you, consider using my 3 keys to help you do it better and do it right.

1.) Divide and conquer.

When I pack for the field, I do it the same way every time. First, I get my packing list and lay out everything on that list. This ensures I actually have the stuff, and allows me to see it all at once. Secondly, also lay out any comfort items or snacks/drinks – all that stuff that’s NOT on the packing list. Once you have it all in front of you, start to separate it into 3 categories or piles: 1) Definitely going to use 2) Might use 3.) Probably not going to use.

Another way you can do this, if you choose, is to make your three piles: 1) okay to get wet 2) would rather not get wet 3) absolutely cannot get wet – do it the first way I said the first time, but if you run into problems fitting things into the spaces you have, this might be a good alternative.

Once you’ve accounted for all your stuff, and have your 3 piles, you can move on to the next step.

2.) Determine your “compartments”.

This is actually the most important step, but in order to do it the most effectively, you need those 3 piles. Many soldiers pack differently, and many units have different requirements. My current unit if pretty flexible, as long as your bags and rucks are all subdued/camo you won’t get a bunch of heartache. I have been in units that only allow issued bags and rucks to be used. So, I understand that your “compartments” might be slightly different than what I’m describing, but the principle is the same.

If we’re going to be in the field for a short amount of time, I only bring one bag. If we’re going to be out there for a week or more, I bring 2 bags and my gorilla box. Depending on the size of your piles, you might be able to consolidate further and use less.

I start by packing my  assault pack. My assault pack gets the “I will absolutely, without a doubt, use this stuff.” Helmet, eye pro, gloves, ear pro, etc. go into this back as it can easily be taken anywhere with me on short notice. It’s my smallest bag, but not so small that it won’t fit everything.

Next, I pack my “definitely will NOT use” pile into my issued ruck. These piles change seasonally. For example, if it’s July, I know I will not use my blankets, coats, or two layers of my sleeping bag. Any of this stuff that is on the packing list but I’m confident I won’t use, I put them in that ruck (in the main big pocket) and the sleeping bag in the main bottom pocket.

Now I have a pile of “I might use” kind of stuff. This is where I get strategic. For example, I “might” need my wet weather gear. If I do need it, it needs to be easily accessible, so if there’s extra room in my “definitely use” bag, I would put it in there – but I could also use the side pouces on my ruck. The main thing is to know where these things are in case you need them quickly and unexpectedly. Other “might use” items should be split between your ruck and your primary bag based on the likelihood of need.

Bam! you’re all packed. But what about that gorilla box that’s empty?

withered leaves photo
Photo by Daniel Frank on Pexels.com

3.) Lighten your load for movements, live like a king when in position.

When packing to move long-distance (armory to the field, field back to the army, etc.) I keep that gorilla box empty so it’s super easy to move around. Once we are out in the woods, I use my gorilla box like a dresser. This is my completely 100% weather-proof compartment. It’s great for food storage, anything that must remain dry – it’s awesome. Also, it locks, so racoons and other pesky critters can’t run off with your stuff. I used to hate it earlier in my career when I’d go to sleep, and no matter where I put my uniform, it would be wet in the morning with dew or condensation. The gorilla box is perfect for keeping your uniform dry overnight, and helping you get an extra day or two out of it. Even the military issued bags are not completely waterproof, so it’s hard to trust them. Also, individual tents are getting so small, that it’s nice to be able to have that gorilla box outside the tent and not in the way (as opposed to piling all your crap up inside your tent to ensure it stays dry)…if conditions get crappy at night, you won’t have to figure out how to fit yourself and all your stuff inside the tent.

Obviously, there are tons of different ways to do this, but my method had been developed over the course of 17 years. I can’t remember the last time I was in the field and failed to have something I needed. There’s a bit of “I told you so” in me when we wake up in the field and I hear someone say, “All my stuff is wet; it didn’t even rain. What’s up with that?” I just think to myself…”rookie”. This is the most satisfying when its the person making fun of my gorilla box the day prior, and telling me I “pack like a woman”.

I hope you found this helpful. Please subscribe so you don’t miss future helpful posts. As always, feel free to reach out to me, like, and share with your battle buddies.

flight sky sunset men
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com



Published by


Husband, dad, soldier, veteran, transportation manager, musician, and now a blogger and podcast host...sharing stories, experiences, and debates.

Leave a Reply