I’ve never done a weekend skirmish. But I’ve always wanted to. And one day I will. So like every good boy scout, I’m determined to be prepared.
As all OCD airsofters will know, getting ready is half the fun of the whole thing. With this in mind, I’ve assembled a full weekend kit to supplement my usual load-out. The key theme is lightness. I’m a bit of a wimp, so the idea of schlepping around with unnecessary weight on my poor aching back doesn’t appeal. For this reason, every bit of kit has been selected for lightness.
In the bag
It all fits in my British Army Northern Ireland Patrol Sack. I think (and the more knowledgable are free to correct me) that this was developed for patrols in the badlands of County Armagh during The Troubles. It’s ideal for short-duration patrols and carries everything you’ll realistically need for 48 hours under the stars, or in a barn or similar covered shelter if you’re lucky.
The Patrol Sack sits high on your back, out of the way of your belt kit. It’s got a main compartment, two side pockets, and a small pouch on top. Plus there are handy loops all over it for attaching camouflage, should you be so inclined.
Let’s look at the contents of mine from the bottom up. At the bottom of the main compartment I keep my sleeping kit. The main element of this is a three-season Snugpak sleeping bag.
In its stuff sack, the Snugpak compresses to an unfeasibly small volume. But it’s the devil’s own job to get back in once you’ve got it out. And I can imagine being ‘bumped’ by an enemy patrol in the night and having to scarper sharpish. So I’ve dumped the stuff sack and keep it in its uncompressed state. The patrol sack is more than big enough to carry it.
In my ‘civilian’ life, I’ve tried sleeping on the ground without a kip mat, and it’s a mug’s game. So first I experimented with a semi-inflatable sleeping pad. But once again, you need the best part of a week to un-inflate it, fold it up and get it back in the sack. Hence my preference for a Z-mat. As the name suggests, this folds up into a Z-shape in seconds and fits neatly down the back of the patrol sack.
The third and final element of my sleeping kit is my shelter. I once had an Australian army bivvi bag which was effectively a self-erecting tent. Never has ‘self-erecting’ been such an optimistic description. The thing needed a whole pack of Viagra before it exhibited anything more than a dispiriting semi.
So instead, I’ve gone for the simplicity of a British Army Basha, effectively a large piece of camouflaged Goretex fabric. You use para cord to secure it to nearby trees, keeping it close to the ground, ensuring there’s a slight pitch to your ‘roof’ to help rain run off. In case there are no trees handy, I carry a lightweight telescopic basha pole and some beautifully-made titanium tent pegs.
Dinner is served
Next up in the patrol pack is my ‘sustenance’ kit, or cooking things.
Food is important to me. So dried rations just won’t cut it. So I plump for pouched ‘wet’ boil-in-the-bag meals from an irritatingly twee and self-righteous organic mail-order company called www.lookwhatwefound.co.uk. I’ll heat them in my crusader 58-pattern mug on a lightweight propane burner. That’s the only cooking vessel I’ll carry. I’ll eat the meals straight from the pack.
Coffee is almost as important to me as food. So much so that it gets a whole, rather obsessive, blog post to itself. I also pack a miniature of Johnny Walker. It’s not my favourite tipple, but I imagine it will help me sleep.
When nature calls
Alongside my sustenance kit is what I coyly describe as my ‘hygeine kit’. I have yet to find any DPM bog paper, so I stick with Waitrose’s finest.
I also carry enough anti-bacterial wipes and lotions to sterilise a small country. A few hard-to-explain BB welts are fine, but I don’t fancy the idea of taking home a stomach bug from my dirty weekend.
‘Civilian’ hill walking experience has taught me the hard way that you can never carry enough water. One August, I made the mistake of thinking that 1.5 litres would be enough to get me up Ben Nevis and back. I made it down again, but only just.
So as well as the water bottle on my belt kit, I’ll carry two 1.5 litre water bottles in my patrol sack, one in each side pocket. If it proves too much, at least it’s easy to discard. Plus there’s always likely to be another player who’s under-estimated the amount of water they’ll need.
Light ‘em up
In the top pouch, I pack my additional ammo and a couple of extra grenades. Up there I also keep a Petzl head torch, the theory being that it’s the first thing I’ll need when setting up camp in the dark. It has a neat flip-down filter that turns the light red. It’s less conspicuous, and I suppose it might help preserve your night vision, though I’ve yet to check that out.
So there we have it. All the gear I might need for a dirty weekend dispensing plastic death. But no idea when I will actually have cause to use it.