Mayflower lightweight unconventional warfare chest rig

Click on the picture above for a detailed breakdown on the Mayflower unconventional chest rig.  The above is a lightweight, low-cost, low-profile combat rig.  I bought this just as I was leaving the Army and didn’t have the chance to use it in combat, but found it to work like a charm out on the range while field testing the SCAR rifle.

Here is all of the equipment I had loaded in this chest rig when I took these pictures.  I’m only showing this as an example of how much you can carry comfortably.  This is not an example of what I would necessarily carry in combat.  Here we have 4x M4 Magazines, 2x CMC .45 magazines, a monocle, lock pick set, gloves, headlamp, Garmin Foretrex, and a pocket calculator.  You could cram more in there if you were so inclined but this is a good sample.

What separates the Mayflower UW rig from others is it’s emphasis on what for lack of a better term, could be called tactical ultra-light.  While most combat gear these days is advertised as being “bomb proof” the UW rig is made from lightweight materials, taking a minimalist approach.  After eight years split between the Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, I definitely agree with this approach.  There is no need to wear body armor into every single scenario, nor is it necessary to carry eighty to ninety pounds of kit on your person at all times.   A lot of this happens because commanders are obsessed with safety and fail to consider the effect that carrying all that kit has on men, weapons, and equipment.  I’m not making an argument against body armor, I’m just saying that because it has saved lives in some instances doesn’t mean it should apply in all instances.  Think dismounted patrols through the deserts of Iraq or mountains of Afghanistan.

Is all this really needed….

In this environment?

In maneuver warfare, not to mention unconventional warfare, troops need to be able to, that’s right, maneuver.  The inclination towards wearing every piece of armor and carrying every bit of kit, just in case, is extremely powerful.  I had a Sergeant Major who said something along the lines of, “If you give a Ranger a bigger rucksack, he’s going to go ahead and fill it to the top.”  It was meant as a warning.  Our rucks are to damn big, and just because you have some excess webbing on your body armor doesn’t mean you need to attach something there.  In the above pic of me moving that rebar out of the way, I could barely damned move.  Yeah, the gym helps, but only so much when you are carrying that much in the Summer heat.

If I was to add something, it would be a place for a camelbak.  No matter how lightweight you want to go you still need water.  Overall I have been very pleased with the UW rig.  The more experienced you become as a soldier and a shooter the more you ditch all the excess equipment and move back to the basics.

I was inspired enough by this design that I got to thinking about what an updated LCE would look like.  What I came up with is something I will post here in the future.  Until then, if you are interested in going ultra-light you can’t go wrong with the UW rig.  If you want to read up on the tactics that justify the above mindset please read “The Last Hundred Yards,” “Brave New War,” or do some research on the Rhodesian Light Infantry.

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11 Comments

Filed under Afghanistan, Gear, Iraq, Special Forces, Weapons and Tactics

11 responses to “Mayflower lightweight unconventional warfare chest rig

  1. Definitely cool. I can see the dangerous appeal of wanting to over-kit; no commander wants to be the guy who says “Yeah, my men didn’t want to bring along XYZ, so I told them to leave it behind, that that cost me half the unit.”

    On the other hand, being able to run for cover, to slip through an urban environment, or snake through heavy brush necessitates “high speed low drag” inventory.

  2. Yup, I’ll have more on this subject later on. The monocular is cool, I like it because it’s better than carrying a pair of binoculars around with you for spotting your target when doing sniper stalks.

  3. Actually, I thought you looked dressed light in that pic. 😉

    No, I agree with pretty much all you said.

    In peacetime/training, we humped our rucks EVERYWHERE, and at break-neck speed. I assumed it was to keep us in shape so we’d move like lightning when stripped down for combat. Ha.

    A couple times as a cherry, they had me weighed down so bad that my arms went asleep from the ruck straps digging into me. On one jump I thought I was gonna die waiting for the green light. Luckily somebody left their seat down and I was able to rest my ALICE pack on it to get some circulation going again.

    When the LBVs came out I thought they were a great idea, but (out of habit, I guess) I hung trash from mine until there was no place left to do so. My web gear weighed more than A REMF’s rucksack. But, then, in the Deuce they always emphasized that we could expect to be without resupply for 48 hours after hitting the ground (elsewhere in the RDF, haters insisted it was only 24 hours, but Division tended to pack as if anticipating another Bastogne).

    I think the camel pack is a good idea and would make it a really nice rig.

  4. Ruck marching is important but the mantra, Smarter not Harder, applies here. Thankfully, ruck runs are pretty much a thing of the past. Kit runs are more common. I suspect this is the case because of the type of war we are fighting rather than any bright light bulb going off in anyone’s head about training techniques. Kit runs are great, but also need to be done in moderation.

    My Team Sergeant in SF had been to “selection” several times and had his rucking down pretty well. He used to have us do normally ruck marches one week and terrain marches the next, walking through hilly, wooded areas. I’ve got a Kifaru rucksack that I will have to review here some day, it’s like the Bently of rucksacks.

    I incorporated a camelbak bladder into my own hi-tech LCE that I made, so I will have to post that up here as well.

  5. I must say that I do not like the very idea of heavy, cumbersome body armor. Light, quiet and fast. It is not standard kit in most African armies….

  6. After experimenting with some different setups, I discovered the South African Recce rigs. We developed things in two different directions, the US going towards body armor and tons of kit while SA evolved their kit to fight the bush wars. I think the Recce’s nailed it or came very close with their web gear, which seems perfect for fighting counter insurgencies and unconventional warfare.

  7. I think Henry hit on something critical when he said:

    “But, then, in the Deuce they always emphasized that we could expect to be without resupply for 48 hours after hitting the ground (elsewhere in the RDF, haters insisted it was only 24 hours, but Division tended to pack as if anticipating another Bastogne).”

    The fear is always there that your men will get pinned down, stuck in, and run out of some critical supply that will cost lives. Hell, even in Somalia there were criticisms that the men didn’t go in with enough water or ammunition (even though they were only supposed to be on station for what, an hour? Two?).

    However, that was almost 20 years ago, and while you can never be sure, I think these days situations where a team would be sent in “high speed low drag” and get stuck for 24 hours are few and far between. I’m sure it could happen, but I just envision the risk of bad PR, if nothing else, would drive the upper echelon to bring in whatever it took to open up a conduit to the men on the ground.

    It’s interesting; even though I’ve never been in the military, this same sort of debate is something I come across a lot with wilderness survival / camping / hiking, which is something I’m much more familiar with. When I was younger I was much more the “I pack everything just in case”. Now that I’m a little older, I very much appreciate trimming down the weight and bulk of my gear.

    Perhaps even more than in the military, the lone hiker faces the quandary of “If I am stranded for 48/72 hours, I need XYZ or I might die out there”. On the other hand, once you get yourself into this mentality, there’s no stopping what you think you need. What if I fall and break a leg? What if I get attacked by a mountain lion? What if I have to hack my own arm off in order to survive? The worst-case scenarios can spin wildly out of control, and the best defense is simply think ahead and don’t do anything stupid. Giving someone reliable your travel plans and not deviating from them weighs nothing, costs nothing, takes up no space, and is way more useful than packing a week’s worth of food and batteries.

  8. Good point. One aspect of this type of maneuver warfare is the expectation of being able to receive a resupply or return to a safe area, combat enclave, or FOB. During one of the combat jumps that kicked off OIF our guys were so weighted down that they took some excessive casualties just from the jump, the impact breaking legs and ankles. Buddies told me that everyone carried so much kit, and was so hunched over, that when they hooked up in the aircraft the static line was at waist height. They basically waddled to the door and fell out.

    Commanders always have to walk that fine line of making sure their unit is equipped for the job at hand, but not so over burdened that they are unable to move, and the weight of that equipment is not causing casualties by itself. This can happen in a combat jump (as above) or can happen by causing heat exhaustion as well.

    As you mentioned, I think the military can learn a thing or two from ultra-light hikers.

  9. “After eight years split between the Ranger Regiment and Special Forces, I definitely agree with this approach. There is no need to wear body armor into every single scenario, nor is it necessary to carry eighty to ninety pounds of kit on your person at all times. A lot of this happens because commanders are obsessed with safety and fail to consider the effect that carrying all that kit has on men, weapons, and equipment.”

    ———

    Amen to that! Great post by the way, and Mayflower is making some awesome stuff…

  10. I would have no problem recommending their kit, although this is the only rig from them I’ve used. I’d love to “test” some of their stuff if they wanted to give me a free sample though!

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