STANDARDIZING YOUR GEAR
Take a look at the pictures below ( web gear and pack). Imagine yourself walking through the woods with a couple of friends, on your way to your favorite campsite. Your buddy John steps on a daisy and is promptly attacked by the honey bee who was diligently gathering pollen - and John is subject to an allergic reaction from bee stings. His medical pouch (L.B.E. #2 ) contains an anaphylaxis emergency kit which will prevent him from going into anaphylactic shock.
John can reach down, dig the kit out of his medical pouch, remove the stinger, and administer an epinephrine injection ... or one of John's buddies can do the same and probably in a much shorter time period, since access to John's gear is easier for the non-wearer. While it's unlikely that all team members would carry an anaphylaxis kit in their medical pouch, knowing where to quickly find medical supplies can save lives...
Before I say any more, let me say the most important thing - DO WHAT WORKS FOR YOU! While there are some basic items you can't afford to be without, you have to make whatever modifications will allow you the greatest survival potential. Left-handed people will grasp this concept immediately; there are a number of factors that will affect your choice and placement of equipment and supplies. I wear glasses to read and contacts for hiking and shooting, so I had to make room for related paraphernalia on my web gear. I like to use a clip-on mic and earpiece for my handheld CB: another modification. Emergency M&M's? Don't leave home without plenty of them - I like the mini M&M's that come in the snap-top tube which can be filled with aspirin, Q-tips, matches, a mini fishing kit, etc. Pistol or no pistol; knife on the right or left side; one or two canteens; CB on the pistol belt or shoulder-mounted ... You get the picture.
Now, suppose we find ourselves in dire circumstances; e.g. due to a flash flood we're forced to make a quick evacuation. I grab your pack and you grab mine (after all, they do look the same). If you have the same gear that I have, in the same place, finding what we need along the way (like compasses, bandaids, maps, etc.) shouldn't be a problem. If we're standardized, I can quickly locate items I need no matter whose gear I'm accessing. Your fatigues may not fit me, but your bandaids and Neosporin will!
As I've told you before, I have 2 packs: an ALICE (in my vehicle) and my faithful old Jansport (in the house). Obviously, the Large Alice Pack layout won't work for my Jansport. The J-pack has 2 large zippered compartments and 4 smaller zippered compartments, plus a map pouch and lots of leather strap patches and loops for adding this and that. To see how I modified the basic layout for use with my J-pack, click here.
This is a rather simplistic explanation, but field-testing is the proving ground, and when your team goes out next time run a few exercises to test the benefits of standardization. A simple field test might involve a designated team member deliberately showing up for a training session without a specific item (i.e. fire-starting materials). Other team members should have all equipment on-hand; if so the training could continue in spite of one member's "oversight". Another simple test is to designate another team member to carry your canteen or junk food stash for you - try this and see how much easier it is to access when you're "outside" the gear. I think you'll find, like we have, that having things in the same place on everyone's gear is worth overcoming your urge to be creative when placing your pouches, flashlight, etc. in/on your gear. Even at home, it helps to know where I can always find a roll of electrical tape! The ultimate test? If it works for you, it works!
A few common reasons for standardization below . It's in no way a comprehensive list; in fact, it's what came immediately to mind when we decided to add a list to this page. Feel free to send me some really great reasons and I'll be happy to add them to our list. If you want to know what we recommend including in your gear, check out the Equipment List ; keep in mind that what works is what works for you!
LARGE ALICE PACK
This holds true especially for items inside packs or on the back of web gear (i.e. canteens/medical equipment)
Bulk purchases of commonly used items are cheaper than single purchases (i.e. ponchos)
If someone forgets an item or has to show up without gear, others will have it and can pool resources to make up the shortfall; (i.e. ammo)
Standardization eliminates the need for each team member to determine the best whatever-it-is (i.e. radios), thus saving time and frustration while enhancing compatibility.
Through standardization and subsequent field testing of standards, team members gain a greater sense responsibility for each other as the notion of cross-reliance is demonstrated