A Green Beret’s Guide To Basics and Priorities: Rucksacks, Vehicles and Specialty Gear

by Jeremiah Johnson, SHTFPlan.coom

Jeremiah Johnson is a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne) and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).

This is the final installment of our personal stance-series (Part 1, Part 2)

Today we will discuss rucksacks, the uses for vehicles, and specialty gear you may want to consider.  Keep in mind: these are ideas to provide you with food for thought.  They are not rules set in stone, nor are they foolproof.  What I detail works for me, and I will give you reasons for things not immediately self-explanatory so that you may weigh them in the decisions you make for yourself.

Another thing to keep in mind is that there are physical differences and limitations that vary considerably per individual.  You have to gauge your equipment by your limitations and abilities.  Someone with the physique of a Hulk Hogan will be able to carry a load that differs considerably from one toted by Justin Timberlake.  Nevertheless, there are certain basics that we can all strive for, and everything else is gravy on the meat.

My personal preference is ammo, and I’m partial to a large rucksack, military issue.  An anonymous commentator gave some advice for me to not use so many military acronyms, so I’ll be sure and define any I use from here on out.  I prefer issue gear from the U.S. Army for three reasons: familiarity, dependability, and durability.  The large rucksack with its sturdy frame and kidney pad holds a tremendous amount of gear and takes great punishment.

usgi-rucksack

(Click to View This Rucksack at Amazon)

Your basics need a priority, and these are mine, in this order:  bullets, beans, and band-aids.  I tote 600 rds for my rifle and 200 for my pistol; each is waterproofed in Ziploc bags.  For food, I have enough dried jerky, ramen, dehydrated vegetables, vitamin pills and power bars to sustain me for two weeks at two meals a day.  I have a ceramic filter katydyn, along with a lifestraw; I carry one 2-quart canteen affixed to my rucksack and two 1-quart issue canteens for my LCE (Load Carrying Equipment).  The LCE is (to me) an integral part of the ruck system.

I do not like camelback systems for water; I prefer the old GI almost indestructible plastic 1-quart canteens, and each has its own issue canteen cup that nestles it in its holder.  I also prefer the LCE to a vest/load carrying vest, due to the number of extra uses the LCE has when it is taken apart.  Examples of this are for hasty sling loading of equipment, field-expedient stretchers, straps for hasty splints, and so on.  Attached to the LCE are a lensatic compass (tritium), knife (I prefer V-42’s, the Sykes-Fairbairn design), mag light, and 2 magazine pouches, along with first aid pouch with field dressing, augmented with quick-clot.

I have a minor surgical wound kit (MSW) packed in the top of my ruck.  It is one of the best investments you can make.  I strongly recommend taking some courses in suturing and minor surgical procedures, such as ligating a bleeding vessel, debriding nonviable tissue from burns, and removal of fragments/bullets.  Along with the MSW kit it would be good to have a bee sting kit, as it can help in cases of anaphylactic shock.  IV bags (at least one) and an infusion kit with at least a 12-gauge catheter for trauma would be a good investment.  Supplement all of this with a small first aid kit for minor cuts and scrapes, with plenty of Neosporin and alcohol prep pads to sterilize.

Clothing is going to vary per geographical area where you reside and the season, as well as necessities for sleeping.  I prefer to carry an Army extreme cold weather sleeping bag with gore-tex cover in a compression bag all year round because of the fluctuating temperatures in the mountains here in Montana.  The compression bag is secure inside of a waterproof bag.  I always carry one pair of cargo pants and one heavy sweatshirt with hood, along with half a dozen pairs of socks.  I also pack my gore-tex jacket and pants, along with a set of gore-tex wet weather gear.  Finally there is a pair of hi-tec hikers; very lightweight and durable that I can change into if my footgear becomes wet.

These are the basics.  There is more that can be packed, especially relating to specialty gear.  Survey meters and dosimeters are handy.  Night vision devices and extra batteries go a long way.  Remember, you also require all of the basics we covered with A-bags in part 2: fire-starting materials, small tools, tripwires for snares, hand tools, binoculars.  The list can be endless.  The main thing I wish to emphasize is you need your basics covered for the amount of time that you believe you may need to “hunker down.”  You also need to assess what your workable load is to carry.

Once you have accomplished this last task, it is time to practice carrying your rucksack.  You need to become used to the weight, and to do that you must practice ruck marching on the road and through uneven terrain, such as woodlands and fields.  Be sure and do some good stretching exercises for at least five to ten minutes before ruck marching, and hydrate before you begin.  These are all basics to provide you with food for thought, nothing more.  I advise a good hunter’s scale that can weigh at least to 100 lbs in order to check your load prior to doing all of this.

Now for some food for thought on vehicles

I know a lot of people who plate behind their driver’s seat with steel plating.  There are two considerations to take when plating your vehicle that factor the thickness of steel you will need:  1. Type of round/composition/bullet shape you are expecting to encounter, and 2. Grade of steel used.  There are two qualities of material:  1) Deviation, and 2) Reduction of Damage, and they are defined as follows:

Deviation: the amount of change in direction as a bullet passes through blocking material.

Reduction of Damage: is the reduction of damage per inch of material carried out by the bullet as it passes through the blocking material.

Steel is graded in soft, mild, medium, and hard, further classed by the Rockwell hardness factor.  A .223 round will not penetrate steel plates at 100 meters of ½ hard steel.  There are plenty of tables out there; your best bet is to research them and talk to your local metal fabricator about hardness and protection factors, as well as to shop for costs.  Areas to reinforce besides the “cockpit” include but are not limited to: the gas tank, the bottom below the driver’s seat, and shields for the sides and front by the engine block.

Next is bulletproof glass.  Bonded bulletproof glass is used in military vehicles, made of laminated glass layers and sheets bonded together with forms of polyurethane.  Bulletproof glass has the effect of causing the bullet to flatten, and with the disfigurement of the plastic, the energy of the bullet is diffused and the penetration halted.  Generally it ranges from UL 752 Level 1 (effective against 9 mm) to UL 752 Level 10 (effective against .50 BMG).  You’ll have to shop around and compare prices.

Let’s not forget the tires.  Sinotyre Industrial and Rasaku tire are two firms that make bulletproof tires, and prices vary.  Sometimes you have to order en masse.  Sometimes you can buy by the set, or only purchase the individual tire.  One website that offers them is www.alibaba.com that has a subheading for bulletproof tires and some price listings.

For other considerations for your vehicle, here are a few ideas.  Always have a good wrench set, jump cables, extra oil, and fluids in the trunk.  Also carry a gallon of water, flashlight, and a blanket or sleeping bag; along with a small box with canned goods enough for 3 days.  Make sure you continually maintain your vehicle.  I keep mine at a minimum ¾ full of gas at all times.

Also, a little hint passed on by Ben Raines that I feel has great value in these times we live in: obey the traffic laws as scrupulously as you can.  There is no percentage in speeding or moving violations that may violate the prime directive they told us in the Q-course: “Do not draw undue attention to yourself!”  You don’t need any police problems and it’s best to remain low key and not allow any part of your preps to be discovered.  What would Johnny Law say if he noticed the 1” steel plate behind your driver’s seat?  Or the bags of gear?  Or weapons?  The least seen, the least said, and Officer Friendly can always become Officer Unfriendly.

These tips are some basics, and I hope to field questions and open discussion in the comments section.  As you guys and gals know, I read your comments and respond to as many of them as I can.  Remember that we are all facilitators of information: our job is to help one another and present ideas and information that may be put to productive use.  I thank you for your comments and suggestions, and hope you know that I act upon them.  Learning is a two-way street, and I welcome all of the knowledge and experience you wish to share with me and the other readers.  Have a great day, and do good things… well!

Part 1: Planning Your Personal Posture: “First Things First: Always Be Armed”

Part 2: Guide To Action Bags: “Your Go-To-Kit When You Have To Pop Smoke & Depart In a Rapid Manner”


Jeremiah Johnson is the Nom de plume of a retired Green Beret of the United States Army Special Forces (Airborne).  Mr. Johnson is also a Gunsmith, a Certified Master Herbalist, a Montana Master Food Preserver, and a graduate of the U.S. Army’s SERE school (Survival Evasion Resistance Escape).  He lives in a cabin in the mountains of Western Montana with his wife and three cats. You can follow Jeremiah’s regular writings at SHTFplan.com.

This article may be republished or excerpted with proper attribution to the author and a link to www.SHTFplan.com.

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