More on the Soldier’s Load: Pounds Upon Pounds

In the comments section of my recent article Are We Gearing Up to Lose the Next War? Overmatch, Part 2: Bullets & Backbreakers, two of TFB’s readers shared documents that help us describe the problem of the modern soldier and Marine’s load. The first, from reader cwolf, is a 2007 report by the Naval Research Advisory Committee entitled Lightening the Load. It is available on Slideshare here, or for download here. The second, from ReanerF, is a GAO report on personal protective equipment (PPE, i.e. body armor) from March of this year. In this brief post, we’ll be taking a glance at these reports, which I highly recommend interested readers make time to read in full.

Lightening the Load describes the problem of the Infantry’s (specifically: the Marine’s) increasing load in great detail. It outlines not only how much the Marine is carrying into combat, but the proper approaches to addressing the problem. The paper recommend approaching the Marine Rifle Squad as the “unit” of the system to be addressed, rather than the individual (an approach I agree with, and might even recommend extending to the platoon in the case of the Army due to their differentiated squads). It breaks possible solutions into three different approaches: lightening the load, transferring the load, and enhancing human performance, and notes that of the three, the last is the least effective (although still important). Much, much more detail is presented in the paper, and I do recommend reading it.

The GAO report helps emphasize one conclusion from the NRAC study, which is that the dramatic increase in soldier load can be attributed largely to the addition of heavy body armor. It also gives us an updated figure for the modern soldier’s average load, that being approximately 119 pounds (117 for the Marine’s average load). The report offers an in-depth look into the current and near-future state of body armor and other PPE, and is, like the NRAC report, well worth reading.

Thanks to cwolf and ReanerF for the tips!

Nathaniel F

Nathaniel is a history enthusiast and firearms hobbyist whose primary interest lies in military small arms technological developments beginning with the smokeless powder era. In addition to contributing to The Firearm Blog, he runs 196,800 Revolutions Per Minute, a blog devoted to modern small arms design and theory. He is also the author of the original web serial Heartblood, which is being updated and edited regularly. He can be reached via email at


  • I remember being in 3/327 Infantry doing road marches every Friday; 4, 6, 8, 10 miles respectively (12 miler once a month) with about a 60 lb ruck.

    My extra heating element was the radio with extra batts or a stripped down OE-254 antenna.

    So glad I’m retired.


    • Brad

      Ah, the ol’ XVIII ABC 350-1 standard. Regardless of the weight, you will do minimum 15 minute miles.

  • Paul Rain

    Why address the weight issue from the ‘percentage of average body weight POV’?

    Why not solve the issue which has caused that average body weight to decline in recent decades?

    • Kinetics

      Because regardless of that the amount of weight carried has still increased greatly, primarily as a result if adding armor.

      The simplest solution is to lighten the weight of armor, which looks more and more promising these days.

      • FT_Ward

        Why won’t the area covered by lighter plates just be expanded?

        • PK

          Now that sounds like the usual military solution!

      • CommonSense23

        While I see plate performance improving. Its going to get hard to substantially reduce weight with what is currently out there. My standalone plates and JPC were under 15 pounds. And those weren’t even the lightest plates.

        • Kinetics

          True, but the lighter you go, the more expensive the plate is, usually by a large margin (at least for DoD spec Level IV plates).

          I have no doubt that BAE and 3M/Ceradyne could shave some weight off the current armor set by integrating the latest advances, notably UHMWPE which simply wasn’t as mature as it is today 10+ years ago and I think it could be done for a more reasonable price than what currently exists.

  • Kinetics

    With the latest advances in armor, specifically the UHMWPE and Kevlar advances in the ECH and ACH-II, I would guess that body armor weight, given the same performance specifications (stopping 7.62 APM2), will go down.

    As manufacturers get better at tweaking UHMWPE, it isn’t unreasonable to think that you could play with the thickness of the ceramic plate in rifle plates because the backer would be much more capable of stopping rounds as opposed to fragments/spall the way Kevlar currently does.

    I’d bet that you could drop the weight of plates by 15% or so.

    • snmp

      the Dyneema/Spectra (UHMWPE) is not new! May be, in futur with Boron nitride nanotube armor or liquid amor

      • Kinetics

        No it’s not, but industry leaders have been working with it in recent years in order to gain maximum performance out if it for the weight because if the ECH program. The ECH program also set back face deformation requirements that are important, given that ECH helmets are thinner than previous UHMWPE armor plates.

    • Stuki Moi

      You’re basically betting armor capability will advance faster than rounds that can defeat it. Which is speculative, at best. From the perspective of law enforcement, in locales with strict gun and ammo control in place, you may be right. But where arms availability is less restricted, body armor will have a harder time coping with all possible permutations of projectiles being developed to defeat them.

  • PK
    • Cal S.

      Well, I was looking for good COSPLAY ideas. Thank you, now I just have to source a WH40k imperial crest for the helmet…

      • PK

        If you’re serious, check out ShapeWays… I bet there are a few on there. You can have one 3D printed or lostwax cast in metal.

        • Cal S.

          I wasn’t being serious, but ShapeWays is awesome. I’ve had a couple of things made through them. Good stuff.

    • HenryV

      Dude, it’s only airsoft…….. 🙂

      Who down voted the pic?

    • Fuze?

    • zipper

      You didn’t show the crane needed to transport to the battle site. lol

      • PK

        “No, our fine troops can carry this. They are WARRIORS!” – big brains for US .mil

  • McThag

    So the solution is to enlist fat people?

    • Some Guy

      There’s an argument to be made for replacing some of the calisthenic training with barbell training. It would require moving to a more sophisticated body fat measurement than the tape test. But a 200lb soldier with a 400lb squat is gonna be more effective than a 170lb soldier who is really good at pushups and situps.

      • Cal S.

        I’m 250 (and falling) with BF% of 18. Where does that get me? 😉

      • jono102

        Being conditioned is one thing but a lot of/bulk muscle is fine for guys living it up FOB style whilst on ops. For those maintaining sustained operations with intermittent or little access to those luxuries all that “Gym muscle” starts to burn off pretty fast or break down.

        • CommonSense23

          I’m going to argue that one. Go look at what SOF trains to these days. Its heavy lifting. More muscle means I break down less, can the load better.

          • jono102

            Heavy lifting is only part of it, Its conditioning as a whole to suit the role is the key part or their training.
            Of late the majority of SOF roles conducted operationally tend to be based around DA or short sharp tasks so therefore physical conditioning and training is orientated around that. The traditional SR and Long range roles would require something different once again.

            More muscle isn’t nearly important as having the right amount for the frame. Being huge fine for show but good for bugger all else. More to feed and maintain and more often than not you end up with soldiers over training in the gym or crash training between tasks and causing more injuries. And then you get the gym crowd, high on pre-work out struggling on task because they are in a near permanent state of dehydration from supplements.

            A key point is Infantry and regular forces aren’t SOF, going hard by day and gym and beers by night. Physical exercise on ops tend to be more of a mental escape or metal wellness be it doing pull ups or benching jerry cans on a bar.

          • Paul Rain

            Cardio kills your gains, bro.

          • Anomanom

            Maybe so, but if you want people to run and march for miles and miles, you gotta get that cardio.

          • cwolf

            The Israeli Army developed a timed/weighted marching-based PT program. Equal aerobic fitness with dramatically fewer injuries.

            Running isn’t the only way to get cardio.

      • Georgiaboy61

        That 170-lb. man is still going to wax GI Jane – but the powers-that-be still insist on putting women on the line anyway. Can you say “insanity”?

        • SuperFunkmachine

          War is not a weight carrying contest.

          • Georgiaboy61

            Actually, it is – infantrymen are beasts of burden. Ask any grunt who’s done time on the two-way range. Today’s fully-combat-loaded infantryman – Army or Marine – often carries a load approaching 100 lbs. – ammo, weapons, comms gear, body armor, food, water, knife/bayonet, first aid pouch, etc. – and that isn’t even counting shared loads for the squad/platoon mortar, MG and other crew-served weapons, such as mortar rounds, boxes of ammo, tripods, sights, base plates, and things of that nature. Women make inferior infantry soldiers because they can’t hack the physical requirements, they aren’t aggressive enough, and they lack the combat mindset. And it isn’t only women on the lines who are too weak. Male personnel in aviation maintenance sections often have to lift and carry the tool boxes of their female colleagues. Why? Because GI Jane isn’t strong enough to lift her own toolbox, that’s why!
            But wait, none of that matters to you, right – being the great expert you are.

          • SuperFunkmachine

            I’m not arguing that we should lower the physical standeds.
            I’m arguing that if only way you can win is to carry more stuff then you have done something wrong.
            Today many of our arm like artillery and armour are limited by rules of engagement.

            Oh and them North Korean’s going to stab GI jane, muscle bound giants every one to a man.

          • Georgiaboy61

            If you believe that, you are only showing how little you know about how infantrymen actually live and fight. They’re called “grunts” for a reason – because they are beasts of burden. Women make poor infantry because, amongst other reasons, they lack the raw strength necessary to perform the tasks an infantryman must be able to perform.

      • noamsaying

        Still going to be mind numbingly hard on your joints.

      • Anomanom

        Problem is, you can’t just make people to specifications. It’s easier enough to build up some endurance get someones number of pushups or situps up. But a lot of people are never going to lift 400 pounds no matter how you work them.

        • cwolf

          Which is why some folks spec a minimum of 5’9″ for Soldiers.

    • Paul Rain

      Can you think of another demographic who’s being enlisted who have no place in a combat zone?

      • Anomanom

        Anyone with a functioning brain these days.

    • cwolf

      Nothing wrong with fat folks. It is the leading cause of recruiting DQ.

      Fat isn’t cancer. We took those folks in the draft. We have this fat loss program called BCT.

      Basically we’re saying we’d rather have mentally slow thin folks than fat smart folks.

  • Brad

    This illustrates the difference between reading about military stuff and actually doing military stuff. Chart 3 is BS. Anyone that has been in an XVIII ABC unit (3d ID, 10th MD, 82d AB, 101st AB) will tell you that regardless of weight, Corps standard is 15 minute miles, minimum. Meaning that the monthly/quarterly 12 miler will be done in 3 hours or faster.

  • Anomanom

    This is the 21st century and commos weigh 29lbs? That’s just absurd.

    • jono102

      The comms themselves are getting a lot smaller but the batteries definitely aren’t. The big old ANPRC 77 sets we used to use ran a lot longer off their old brick batteries because they were just a straight radio’s. If encryption was required it was done by the separate self powered box, it in its self was bigger than a SINCGAR 119.

      VHF and HF comms like the 119’s 150’s do 1000 more things at once and need the juice to do so and battery development hasn’t caught up as of yet.

    • 11b1p

      It’s the batteries as Jono said. As a former RTO I can tell you hey weigh an absurd amount for their size and you need a bunch of them; your ruck gets heavy fast. Generally the load is spread through the squad, but RTO and ARTO get most of it. Problem with newer batteries is they are prone to fire and explosion if damaged which is not good in combat (or even training) obviously. Solution is to have fast charging solar or AC/DC kit so we wont have to hump as many batteries and just top them off instead, but that’s too easy I guess.

      • jono102

        I feel your pain. I did time as the HF Sig in a dismounted/point Recce patrol whilst deployed. I got stuck carrying the ANPRC 104 HF set and the 99 crypto box plugged in. That was 3 batteries alone just to run plus 2 spare with the rest shared across the 4 guys not carrying comms. Add that to being 96hrs+ self sufficient ammo, water and rations. Recce tasks in a jungle environment had a lot of guys burning the wick at both ends. Worse during the dry season with no help with water from the sky gods and a lot of dry streams.
        To add insult to injury, we generally operated in VHF comms range so the HF wasn’t needed or generally didn’t work that well anyway. After some heated discussion with higher it was kicked to the curb.

  • Gary Kirk

    These numbers are just an average.. It gets worse if you look deeper into it.. On P.I., my D.I.’s (as well as company gunny, XO, CO) used to use my ass as an example.. I weighed around 160 at my heaviest in boot, was fairly close to the bottom of the platoon.. But came from a life of HARD work, and my D.I.’s knew me. They would throw my ass in a full deployment load out and put me on the scale to prove a point.. I was always north of 300 lbs… Think the heaviest I ever weighed was 345.. And only weighed 160 going in to be weighed..

  • Ranger Rick

    This has become a problem that just won’t be resolved. As far as body armor is concerned, it weighs a ton and probably always will. Given the current “command climate” at every level no leader can afford to tell his soldiers/Marines to leave the armor behind and double down on ammo and water, at the first casualty they’d be crucified.

    • Ninoslav Trifunovic

      Amen to that!

  • Isa Akhbar

    Current ground forces loadouts are insanity in action. This has GOT to change…human lower backs, knees and ankles cannot withstand these insane weights without widespread damage over time, no matter what the muscular conditioning of the person. Thank God for the Air Force!

  • gunsandrockets

    Ah, the name of the report escapes me, but I recall reading some ORO type document dated from the 1950’s which had a remarkable recommendation regarding infantry body armor (as ‘flak’ vests had seen extensive use during the Korean War), which was it shouldn’t be used!

    According to the recommendations, helmets should still be issued but body armor should not be issued to men who move on foot because of the weight burden. It noted an exception might be made for personnel who were assigned as drivers or other relatively sedentary roles.

    • Stuki Moi

      Soldiers weren’t as precious a commodity back then. More young men available, allows you to pursue strategies of higher risk to each individual soldier.

      The report is right. America’s fighters is at a severe disadvantage, simply because most likely enemies have much higher individual fighter risk thresholds. They can move lighter, hence faster, despite this being riskier for each individual fighter, because their effective bench, and their ability to regrow, is much deeper.

      I know this isn’t particularly politically correct (or then again, maybe it is on a gun blog….), but pretty much no matter how good a female Marine manages to be as a Marine, she could provide even more firepower if she went Afghan, and cranked out 7 future Marines, along with 7 future Marine producers. Hence why this sort of sexual division of labor, is followed in all dyed in the wool warrior societies.

  • Georgiaboy61

    When an engineer sits down to design a main battle tank, he has to balance the three main characteristics of the tank in order to achieve as close to an optimal design as possible – which means trade-offs between mobility, protection and firepower. The tank has to be well-protected, but if too much armor is added, the tank is too heavy for the power-plant to handle, and the tank’s mobility suffers. You want the main gun to hit hard, but if it is too large, then the chassis can’t handle the recoil without being strengthened, which means additional weight, which means addition strain on the powertrain and less range due to poorer fuel efficiency. And so forth.

    Building an optimal infantry soldier or Marine is very much the same process, in general terms. If the infantryman wears no armor, he is lighter and faster – both of which are desirable in terms of preserving mobility in combat. If, on the other hand, he is so well-protected that the weight of the armor prevents him from being mobile at all, he can’t do his job. In terms of firepower, it might be theoretically desirable to arm each trooper with a machine gun, but in real-world terms, this breaks down quickly – for that means a heavier weapon with greater ammunition requirements – both of which add to all-up weight.
    And so on and so forth. Trade-offs – it is always about trade-offs.

    The bottom line is that perfection isn’t attainable. Trade-offs are going to have to be made between firepower, mobility and protection. At least that is the case until some sort of technological paradigm-change happens to alter the status quo.

    I’m just an armchair warrior, but wouldn’t it make sense to allow the individual soldier or Marine considerable latitude and flexibility in how he gears up, in consultation with his immediate superiors? The guys at the tip of the spear are going to know best how to balance between these competing needs.

    • Long time no see, Georgia!

      Big difference between the soldier and the tank example, is you can fit the tank with a stronger suspension and a more powerful engine – and if the tank breaks, you can just repair it. None of this is true for the soldier.

      • snmp

        May be in futur with exoskeleton

      • Georgiaboy61

        Re: “Big difference between the soldier and the tank example, is you can fit the tank with a stronger suspension and a more powerful engine – and if the tank breaks, you can just repair it. None of this is true for the soldier.”
        Well, yes and no. We do have these highly-qualified specialists called physicians and surgeons who can repair broken-down soldiers and get them back on the line, but you are correct insofar as that only takes you so far – there are things medical science does not yet know how to fix.
        All the more reason to use care when choosing how our GIs are outfitted. If it was up to me, I would give those at the tip of the spear the latitude to make as many of these decisions as possible, i.e., which weapons to carry into battle, whether or not to wear body armor, etc. They’re going to know what works best for a given mission – not some rear-echelon type 2,000 miles from the action.

        • CommonSense23

          You aren’t fixing skeletal and muscle injuries without serious amounts of time. And you are never going to get a 100 percent back.

        • I agree. I think flexibility will be key in the future.

      • cwolf

        The tank is a good exemplar concept. The tank is designed for forward threats….most of the armor is in the front. Very little up top and to the rear.

        The issue you’re forgetting is the heat load. slideshareDOTnet/James8981/body-armor-effect-on-heat

        Therefore, design the helmet and body army against a frontal threat and reduce armor to the sids and rear. German WWII MG gunners’ helmet had an extra plate to the front. The helmet really needs a vent ( to the rear of course).

        Then you design the IBA as the base for all the other equipment, eliminating some straps, harness, etc.

        True, you increase risk somewhat. I believe that if you offer Soldiers a choice, they’ll go for Option B: lighter.

    • PK

      “The guys at the tip of the spear are going to know best how to balance between these competing needs.”

      The truth of this statement, of course, means that they’re always the very last to decide. Go figure!

  • Dermot Rooney

    Whoopsie! I pressed send too early:
    …this caused a right fuss, with questions in the House of Lords and directions from top generals to “sort this mess out”. Eight years later there is still no solution. Our guys are given so much kit to make them more protected or more lethal that they’re more vulnerable and less effective. We’re measuring the wrong things.

  • pun&gun

    You could do a lot for soldiers by *rearranging* weight even if you can’t reduce it. Distributing more of the combat load across the body so the weight isn’t all pressing down on the shoulders would help a lot. Medieval armor was designed to put a significant amount of the weight on the hips, which allows less fatigue and greater mobility.

  • Kirk Newsted

    I’ve got an idea. Stop sending guys out armed and supplied like they’re invading the Klingon homeworlds. We have helicopters and transport for a reason.

    • well…

      Helicopter get shot down, vehicles arent usefull in bad terrain (dense forests, mountains, swamp, etc).

      Also what do you want to magically cut? Armor, radios, helmet, or even reduce ammo loadout and therefore take away fire superority? No. Lighter ammo is the only real solution (light case, a bit more energy, better shaped projectile), an area that currently goes in the wrong direction.

      • noamsaying

        Given the loads shown on the charts light ammo will not get you very far weight reduction wise. Would not be a bad idea to use bicycles in appropriate circumstances. The V.C. did it and it seemed to work for them.

        • tsubaka

          “Would not be a bad idea to use bicycles in appropriate circumstances”
          the V.C,werhmacht,belgian units….
          a lot of armies once used bicycles but since the general public like to see big trucks the idea won’t pass

        • Stuki Moi

          The V.C. weren’t carrying 150lbs per person……… Bicycles become more burden than useful beast, at those weights.

          Wheeled pulks, basically sleds attached to a harness, does enable higher loads. But in tough, remote terrain, they limit you to main arteries. Making you a highly predictable sitting duck. For both IEDs, and for more mobile hillbillies that can go anywhere.

          Like I wrote above, and as corny as it may seem, I can’t think of a better solution than properly configured goats. Goats, even loaded, can tackle virtually terrain any reasonably kitted out infantryman can. In most environments, they have fuel available everywhere.

          They’re less easily controlled than mechanical contraptions, and possibly more vulnerable. But with an administration in place that is at least theoretically less likely to freak out over Peta hysteria, they are certainly worth working on, to see if a suitable modern war mule can be built.

        • cwolf

          ADEA and USARIEM developed a waist mounted cart with quick release. It worked well, but the prototypes weren’t durable enough.

      • Kirk Newsted

        How is lighter ammo the only real solution? 210 rounds of 5.56mm (not counting the mags) is right at 5.7 lbs. Cut the weight of the round by 1/3 and what do you get? You reduce the weight the soldier is carrying by not even two pounds. That’s not a real solution.

        • Sianmink

          split by 13 marines, that’s 26 pounds saved. Now we just need to lose the rest of the 874 overage.

      • raz-0

        Well that explains why they want to go back to 7.62×51 then.


  • DangerRanger

    We might want to consider what we’re fighting against first. As has been proved countless times artillery is the main killer on the battlefield. Artillery shell produces fragments against which we can use rather light weight flak vests. Now were reasonably protected against 80% of the possible threats. Then there’s tanks and apcs, no way we can be armored against 120mm tank shell or 30mm cannon shell but we can be protected against their fragments. Fighting Jihadi Johns in rags wielding Pa’s AK has warped our view about what is reasonable level of protection. It’s fine to be overburdened if you have the luxury of waiting 15 minutes for airforce to bomb JJ into the Stone age but that won’t be the case against competent enemy.

    Fighting Jihadi John, go heavy and slow
    Fighting peer enemy: go light and nimble

    PS. I don’t like the term “near peer” because it assumes that “we” are inherently better and underestimating the enemy has never been a good idea.

    • Sianmink

      Good insight. We’ve been fighting irregulars with limited artillery for so long, protection against their predominantly direct fire threat has been overstated, and the difference when fighting a near peer force could be a shock to the system.

      • DangerRanger

        Exactly, GWOT has warped so many perspectives it’s starting to be dangerous. It’s time to wake and start remisnicing what it means to face JOINT combined arms technology age enemy.

  • Sid

    As a former member of the 7th ID (Light) and a veteran of the Invasion of Panama, I believe the answer is not very sexy or politically correct. Ruck marching under heavy loads must be practiced. And practiced. And practiced. Conditioning takes time and it will eliminate many (and predominantly female service members).
    We consider any NCO in this late 20s to be an old guy. Bodies wear out. Careers are cut short

    • DangerRanger

      In WW2 when grand assault on Mannerheim line started troops were transferred from Aunus’s Carelia to Carelian Isthmus either on trucks, foot or bicycle. The old “jaeger” insignia in Finland was crossed skis and bicycle which represents their better tactical mobility over footborne infantry. Marching has be taught and practised but when conditions permit vehicles have to be used. I don’t understand why anyone would make their unit march administrative marches on foot unless absolutely necessary or no vehicles are available.

      If you could tell us the reasoning behind such march and also if you had any other options?

      • Brad

        Because the US Army has Light Infantry Divisions. Their primary mode of transportation is LPC, leather personnel carrier. When I was in the 7th ID we had 13 vehicles in the whole battalion.

        • DangerRanger

          Wow, really!? 13 vehicles for entire battalion! They must’ve been fully packed with ammo, food and water.

      • Stuki Moi

        Europe was pretty built up even back then. Requiring less water and food loads. And armor wasn’t a big thing for the average infantry man. Also, terrain that enables some to go by truck, means going by bicycle is feasible.

        Gary Kirk above mentioned being loaded down with almost 200lbs….. You can’t put that on a bicycle and pedal around in a sandy desert, an infinite number of miles from the nearest drop of water….

        Maybe you Finns are unusually strong skiers, but from what I have seen, skiborne infantry, while multiple x more mobile than more common (at least outside Scandinavia) snowshoe borne ones as long as loadouts aren’t too extreme, lose their advantage when the weight gets heavy enough. Then throw in reduced mobility due to armor etc…..

        It’s hard to tell what the solution is. Exoskeletons seem too SciFi and brittle to me, but perhaps I’m just old. I like goats (and camels.) Perhaps those, in body armor, can be part of the solution…..

        • DangerRanger

          Not Carelia which even nowadays has terrible infrastructure and has had since ever. Mainly due to being Russia that is. The ones who would ski with heavy burdens would be recon troops and 90% of their gear would be in their 50+ kg rucksack. For everyone else we got snowmobiles to carry the heaviest items and even then there’s ahkios to carry them if no snowmobile is available.

          I’d say the solution is combustion engine or one of its evolutions. FFS it’s 2017!!

          My estimations about how much finnish troops carry gear in Afghanistan revolves around 30-40kg on foot patrols. Need to confirm this from a friend who’s been deployed there. Also having served in the infantry for a number of years I’d say finnish infantry moves into contact hauling approximately 30+ kgs. There are some poor individuals who carry Apilas weighing 9,5kg might go over 35kgs and also the PKM gunners and their ammo beares. Great portions of the weight would be 7.62×39, 7.62x54R and LAWs. Finnish infantry doesn’t carry plates, just flak vests if even those.

    • jono102

      Some thought is beginning to be applied these days. Here we are beginning to do a much better job than we used to, to build guys up from recruit training through with the likes of better conditioning based on medical and scientific research rather than “Taking a concrete pill” and chucking rucks or armor on.
      Small stuff like starting Recruit training in tramping style shoe’s or light weight low cut garrison boots to allow ankle/joint strength to develop rather than strapping up in boots from day one. And once in Bn’s having better designed physical prep and maintenance is helping preserve guys bodies and help with recovery.
      As you say ultimately guys need to be able to walk with weight, be it in armor and assault kit or going dismounted in the J with 3-5 days self sufficient strapped to their back. It needs to be maintained through well planned conditioning. Not doing dumb stuff like having the guys come out of the field from a 2-3 week exercise on the Friday and then a punishing pack march on the Monday will help.

  • Kurt Ingalls

    ….this can be argued until the cows come home…but… effective, clear, aggressive ROE that isn’t mired in political correctness could, at least, in one’s head, make these loads “seem’ lighter……just sayin’ 🙂

    • Dan K

      What does hat does political correctness have to due with reducing load?

      • Kurt Ingalls

        Keep up, Dan, these kids have a bigger obstacle than loadouts…….not saying with battle-rattle it’s not a problem, just not the worst problems that a Grunt suffers from…………….. 🙂

      • cwolf

        I think he is suggesting that we are unwilling to accept the same risk that WWII Soldiers assumed.

  • matthew newton

    Still throwing my previous comment about the military needing to focus on advanced/lightweight materials and some extra disposability in other stuff.

    A Trijcon ACOG is a nice piece of gear, it weighs basically a pound. A low mag illuminated sight with lightweight rings is likely to weigh more like 11-13oz. Yeah you don’t have the fiber/tritium tube, okay so you have a button cell battery that has to be replaced every year or two if you go with high quality gear. That is several ounces saved right there.

    What about a CF reinforced barrel? It increases heat dissipation and would likely shed a few ounces and a lot more for those guys carrying an M16.

    I was reading an article about a cadet that developed (jointly with her instructors) a non-Newtonian fluid armor that reacts when struck by hardening that seems pretty promising. I want to say a big European defense contractor was also developing something similar. It looks like it could really cut weight while being as effective or more than current hard armor.

    How much DO we spend on armor development? I mean, I assume a lot, but seems like maybe we should be spending more. If that is the greatest part of the load increase, we need to find a way to trim that back.

    At some point we need exoskeleton armor. That’ll possibly be a blessing all around. Greatly increase load capability and hopefully also drastically cut the load of “dismounted” infantry.

    Also, it would likely make some guys’ dreams of .50BMG being the issue cartridge to infantry be a thing. Might also be the only way of countering such armor.

    • cwolf

      We spend many millions.

      The problem is that 100 pounds of high tech, light weight stuff still weighs 100 pounds. And don’t forget blunt force trauma.

      The reality is foot Infantry by definition has limited station time. Water, food, ammo, etc. drive the train as much as armor.

  • Stuki Moi

    If you’re vehicle dependent, the enemy can find secure refuge in the hinterlands. And hence dictate time and place of confrontation. Then, after this has been going on for awhile, you’re stuck having to go where your vehicles won’t……..

    IOW, you need “vehicles” that can keep up with foot soldiers, in any possible terrain a foot soldier is capable of going. Or, the enemy will simply force you to leave them behind.

    • DangerRanger

      Do they contradict each other? No, so you can use vehicles for marches longer than say 5km unless enemy situation dictates it’s too dangerous. How long can you fight without resupply from trucks? A day? Two? Formations all over the world are road dependant, no one has enough horses or anyone trained to work with horses to run horse drawn logistics. Infantry on the other hand can go every they please once they’re dismounted. We’re not living in the Napoleonic times anymore.

      IMO inf battalion with 13 vehicles in utter stupidity. Modern IBCT has hundreds and hundreds of vehicles and only units that don’t have more than a handful are rifle companies and dismounted recon company. Why, ou why, doesn’t the rifle company have anymore vehicles? Infantry battalions FSC has mobility section with 10 trucks and eight trailers to provide mobility for the rifle companies I presume? If not then what is the purpose of that section?

    • Brad

      Or, like has been demonstrated repeatably during the GWOT, the enemy will just wait until you drive by in your road bound vehicle and detonate an IED under you.

  • ragnar

    I visited my bro recently who is active army, they had a bunch of high school kids visiting to

    Sweden recently reinstituted the conscript, but from what I saw, was not many will be able to
    they couldn’t even carry a backpack without complaining

  • No

    Aluminium takes a lot of energy to produce. And Nickel is one heck of an expensive material even compared to copper. And who knows how good it works in full auto military weapons. With the SLIGHTEST plating error the aluminium ignite and damage the barrel by producing insanly hard oxides while burning.

    Aluminium cases did ignite even at 37000psi, 7.62×51 is about 52000-55000psi.

  • LazyReader

    Well until they invent some sort of Super………Soldier………Serum I guess we’ll never solve th problem.

  • LazyReader

    research conducted by the Salk Institute indicates that Tweaking a gene can make muscles twice as strong, while the procedure can work for muscular degeneration, imagine what it can do for a perfectly healthy man. First step towards super soldiers.

  • Anthony “stalker6recon”

    These loads are ridiculous, even when I was in back in the early 2000’s (weird to write that), we had a heavy load to carry, with the LBV, SAPI vest and which every pack we would wear, mission based of course. The best one to wear, CamelBak assault pack, the smallest that carried 3L of water. On bad days, you would carry the standard “ruck” pack, much larger, and could easily be packed to carry 60-80 pounds. If you were stuck with the manpack as well, life really got bad, nothing worse than having to haul the older analog radio, I hated that thing. The new digital radio’s were not issued yet, I am sure they suck to carry as well.

    It is getting ridiculous, with the technology we have, things should be getting better, not worse. At that time, we were one of the few units that carried the M4, being “special” as Scout/Sniper platoon. The rest had the M16A4 or the M203.

    Even with the M4, when you add the M68 dot site, the PEQ-4 on KA rails with BUS, the weapon began to get heavy, not what was intended when they made the M4. It is getting ridiculous these days, if what you have doesn’t actually make you fight better, then you should not carry it. One of the ways they can make things a bit easier maybe, is if they can come up with a way to “dry clean” your socks/t-shirts/undies, so you don’t have to carry any of that stuff. I would trade extra clothing for extra ammo, any day of the week.

    They should also work on dropping the size and weight of the MRE, to little more than power bars, packed with 2000 calories, the meals suck, are heavy to carry, and bulky as all hell.

    I don’t know what is going on these days, even when I was in, it sucked. If it is getting worse, with the pansies coming in from the millennials, with their “time out” cards, how are they ever going to “hump” 20k in the first place?

    Crazy talk from an old vet here, just ignore me if the comment is too much.

  • bobk90

    I’d like to know how many guys have been “actually” shot in the Body Armor, during the recent wars, that makes it work the weight? Most of the Deaths and Injuries in Iraq, if I’m not mistaken, were from IED’s which make carrying that weight senseless!

  • wilbur

    Our military isn’t for winning wars it is for profit to the military contractors and politicians etc receiving their lobby money..

  • Bill

    Man, am I glad I’m not Infantry. I might need my back later on in life.

  • scaatylobo

    REALLY FUNNY, when you watch the movies about Zulu warriors and what they RAN with and the very limited gear and food they carried.
    I know that would not win a war in “modern times”.
    But the Cong did pretty well with almost no gear and no food to hump.

    • SuperFunkmachine

      They hump all must there entire arsenal down by back packs and bikes.
      But they picked the fights and came with weapons, not crap stuff you might need like gasmasks an spare machine gun barrels.

  • cwolf





    • cwolf

      RE UK presentation

      CEFO – Combat Equipment Fighting Order (the sort of equipment you would carry on patrol) IBS – Infantry Battle School (see para above) HFT – Hybrid Formation Training – the equivalent of Decisive Action Training as opposed to MST.

      ACMT – Annual Combat Marksmanship Test.

      CEMO – Combat Equipment Marching Order

      PSBC – Platoon Sergeants Battle Course.

      TES – Tactical Engagement Simulation – i-MILES equivalent.

      ASM – Anti Structure Munition.

      FIST – Future Infantry Soldier Technology (PNVGs etc) TAM – Tactical Aide Memoire (low level commander’s handbook) DCC – Dismounted Close Combat PLCE – Personal Load Carrying Equipment (webbing)

      CTLS: Commander’s Target Locating Equipment – A laser range finder with digital magnetic compass and a night II capability as well as day optic.

  • Don

    Much of it is based upon physical conditioning. When I was with the 1/9th Inf (MANCHUS), DMZ, Korea 78-79 we a weekly ‘Manchu Mile’, full ruck and all gear, (which I weighed at 108 lbs) in winter mode. 15 mi in 3 hours, cross country, last 2 mi on hard top back to Camp Greaves. The problem we face is being able to maintain that level of everyday physical conditioning. Sure it was easy at Camp Greaves, no family, could not leave post without permission, could not be out after midnight, no car, no fone. My weight dropped to 147 lbs (same weight when I came back from Vietnam) I am 6’2″ and was in great shape. But trying to maintain that is next to impossible. Not sure what the solution is other than to suck it up and soldier on. Worked for me, I am in my 70’s, knees, hips all in great shape in spite of a career in the Infantry. Today, it will hit a 100F, I will be clearing land here on my place, cutting trees, hauling them down to the burn pit, most of the day with a 16 lb chainsaw in my hand, I work hard in my retirement…sadly I tilt the scales at 185 now.

  • cwolf


  • survivor50

    20 mile march “INTO” battle, carrying 123 lbs…sure recipe for failure… You do not need that MINI fridge and generator…

  • Andrew Foss

    Wishful thinking on the part of the GAO. If my figures from 2009 (following) were any indication, rather than getting lighter, things got *heavier*. They’re not going to learn or listen.

    (Following: reposted from my comment on last year’s TFB article “Comparing the Load of a Modern Soldier and a 14th Century Armored Knight”.)

    My minimum approach march load in Iraq, ca. 2008 as a cavalryman grenadier: M4+”carry handle” sight+M203+PEQ-4 (unloaded weight) 11 pounds. (Yes, the M68 or
    an EOtech was available: When my M68 broke, I turned it in and just used a carry handle: Quicker CQB sight picture, no batteries, more durable.)
    8x loaded 30 round mags: 8 pounds (Yes, I carried 240 rounds. One of the mags was all tracer for target marking)
    6x40mm HEDP: 3 pounds
    8x40mm star cluster/parachute/smoke rounds+puoches+drop-leg carrier: 5 pounds
    1x M67 frag+pouch: 1 pound
    Medium IOTV+”nut flap”+2xESAPI+2xside plates+IFAK: 31lb

    ACUs+boots+strobe+VS-17+chemlights: 9lb
    ACH helmet+cover+padding+chinstrap+NOD bracket+NOD arm+helmet band+PVS-14: 5lb
    M40A1 protective mask with carrier, filter and TM: 4 pounds
    GPS+spare AA batteries+flexcuffs+pens+notepads+GCID (CAC card)+dogtags+knife+Gerber tool: 2 pounds
    2l Calmelbak: 4 pounds
    Total: 83 pounds. I weighed 140. That’s 60% of my (at the time) body weight.

    Mission-dependent essential equipment usually tipped that well past 90 (Up to 120 in some
    configurations) pounds. (Assault pack, Whiteboard, HIIDE, digital camera, local map or photomap, whiteboard pens, explosive/gunshot residue swab kit, 200 extra rounds for the SAW/240 gunner, detainee search/tactical site exploitation kit, E-tool, urban breach (Ram, halligan bar, pinch bar, bolt cutter) kit, a field-stripped MRE…)

    A Roman Legionary would have balked at the minimum I carried and drawn
    their gladius and taken your head if you’d ordered them to carry my
    maximum weight into battle: They carried about 60 pounds on their
    marches to contact.

    The modern US warrior is overburdened. How else did every insurgent since and including the VC beat us? They walk around with an AK, 330 rounds in mags in a rack vest and tip the scale, gear-wise, at less than 20 pounds of equipment. And that’s their *heavy* load. We need a fundamental shift away from the “Must protect the soldier”, a-s covering “But; Muh (NC)OER!” leadership: If Pvt. Snuffy, Joe D. (One Ea.) wants to ditch the armor, promask, and helmet, for a skullcrusher, boonie hat and a ranger rack; let them: That’s 38 pounds saved. I was told “No, if you get killed because you aren’t wearing a helmet, I’ll get blamed”, leaving aside the fact that a K-pot won’t stop
    a rifle round.

    Do we *need* the E/XSAPI plates? A regular SAPI (Size medium) plate is 4 pounds, an ESAPI is 5.5 pounds and an XSAPI is ~6 pounds. Each. You wear two. The majority threat (AK-47/AK74) is handily stopped by a regular SAPI plate. There is such a thing as
    “Diminishing returns”: We protect our soldiers so well that they can’t do anything risky that would win a war. I’d have happily left the armor in the HMMWV. “But, snipers!” isn’t really an excuse unless you’re issuing an ROE that hinders shooting back.

    The DoD is slowly figuring out that we need less carried weight but they’re going about it
    all wrong. Instead of having exosuits that can fail and require a truck to recover, let Joe ditch most of the protection and fight in “a light coat of CLP, a smile and a well-placed sock”. It’s cheaper that way, too: The SGLI at the time I was in Iraq was $500k: A Raytheon XOS-2 is *projected* to cost $600k. (ha ha, Just kidding, “government contract”: Multiply that by three.) And has a run time of 25 minutes before battery change. Do the math: One soldier costing half a mil that can win a war or two and a half million dollars of suit and soldier that *might* win a war.

    Says Heinlein: “There’s nothing more expensive than a second-best military establishment: Good, but not good enough to win.”

  • Eric B.

    The US military needs to take a CLOSE look at what ultralite backpackers carry.

    Our packs are durable (but maybe not totally “Marine Proof”) and we use mainly light but strong synthetic clothing. All our gear is ONLY what is necessary.

    EX. For a 7 day backpack hunt this year in upstate Nevada I’ll carry a 35 lb. load (not counting 10 lb. scoped rifle) in my Osprey EXOS 58 pack, Osprey’s lightest at 2.5 lbs. So their next heavier and more durable pack weighs in about 1 lb. heavier but still fairly light and very durable.

    ** You do not need to make EVERY cloth panel of a pack from heavy duty Cordura, just the bottom. Lighter ripstop nylon is fine in other areas.
    Webbing straps and buckles can be narrower and lighter and still be VERY strong. Two 1″ wide pre-curved aluminum frame braces are all that is needed in a lighter MOLLE pack.

    Truly, arms and gear designers for the military absolutely must test the new gear themselves! Consider the FN Five Seven pistol that shoots very light cartridges that WILL penetrate Level III-A body armor, unlike the century-and-a-half old 9 mm round.

    The Army’s Nautick labs have been trying mightily to reduce the soldier’s pack weight BUT new electronic gizmos keep getting added – and to my own pack as well! (eg. Steripen, GPS, camera, LRF capable binoculars… )

    Yes, the grunt can still use the AR type rifle – or the better SCAR – and with 6.5 Grendel ammo will not need to carry any more ammo weight B/C of the Grendel’s ability to reach WAY out and touch someone lethally. Less ammo expended may eventually mean less carried. True the 6.5 Grendel ammo is a bit heavier (heavier bullet) than 5.56 ammo but it has a greater lethal range by several hundred yards. Less “spraying and praying”.

  • me ohmy

    the US Armed forces have over loaded our troops for about forty years now…
    in Viet nam they carried a THIRD of their standard gear and were much more mobile.