The talk we have going on of a hopeful new assault pack offering, relative to the current "Jansport" model, makes me sit back and ask the question of whether we are asking too much from the assault pack we currently have. I've never caught wind of the requirements that were laid down for the Jansport bag, so I don't have a frame of reference whether it was envisioned to be a day pack (more likely) or someone had the crazy idea that its profile and dimensions would make it a 3-day bag. When it first came out, I remember it being called a day pack, and that's about where it's at in terms of capability. Should we really be working towards a patrol pack?
By virtue of the nickname, an assault pack is supposed to be capable of being carried into the assault, and carrying whatever essentials the unit SOP or shooter's preference prescribes. At the lower end, we seem to have options that were built as a hydration source carrier, like the CB Ambush and MULE, and the Eagle Yote, then sorta move up a notch to options like the TAG CSP, Eagle MAP, Ares Armor Combat XII, and the Tyr Tactical Assaulter Sustainment packs. It seems like the defined shift stems from the pack being touted as hydration source-compatible, versus starting life as a dedicated carrier. These offerings are assaulter's kit in form and function (although, yes, I read that the Combat XII stared life as a piece of gear for a sniper platoon), if you follow some of the industry blogs and manufacturer descriptions, and direct attachment seems to be a good departure point for the concept.
Then we get into the bigger bags that are too numerous to describe and account for here, but the RAID and TT Modular Operator Pack come to mind. We are in patrol pack territory by this point, but the terms assault and patrol get interchange too often by folks who just don't consider the definite difference. The better ones typically have antennae ports on the top, a framesheet to add rigidity, and often a waist-belt that allows the wearer to shoulder heavy loads in a small package.
The Jansport edition fails by virtue of crappy straps and strap orientation, and yeah, it doesn't hold a lot, but what should it hold? Do the requirements folks start with a frame of reference like 100 oz bladder, 3 DOS chow, sleep kit, change of skivvies, etc., and work their way up from there?
Even stripped down, and with the non-essential crap tossed, a 3-day supply of MREs to cover the calories associated with an 8-12 hour patrol/day is no small amount of foil pouches. I've never tried it, but I am pretty confident that even three stripped MREs would take up a sixth of my RAID, before add-on pouches.
Having said all this, what do we, across the frontline infantry, want an assault pack to do, and do we really need an assault pack and a patrol/3-day pack? WE establish the requirements and WE frame the debate, and things only get twisted if we allow it to get off track and jacked because no one bothered to stay abreast of what is going on. The beauty of social media is that the end users have a voice with power never before imagined, so we need to use it. Everyone cannot be made happy, but I still think some decent baselines can be established that allow the procurement folks to define good requirements, procure decent gear, beat it to death and learn from the usage, and make improvements.
I grasp that the infantry don't have the only votes on the matter, and any pack design runs the risk of having lowest common denominator requirements woven into the design. For example, the Long War years have no doubt left a lot of people with the impression that you gotta have a "day-pack" to use as a carry-on, with the seabag, pack, and/or deployer bag rounding out the palletized baggage load. Given an opportunity, they might toss in requirements with that baseless frame of reference in mind. This means their input would be fine for fitting a pillow, iPod, Bose headphones, PSP and case of disks, and battery chargers, but crap for getting actual work done.
I for one, believe the Marine Corps would be better of going with a beefed-up hydration carrier like the Eagle Yote, where the user has ability to access water and mission-specific tools that might otherwise be carried on the 2nd Line, but he doesn't need instant access to like a speed reload. Although I haven't used one, it looks like just the right step up from my Ambush, which is already good for patrolling and carrying some mission-essential items, but can't handle other needs like a Ranger roll or any snivel gear. While we're at it, I might be scouting the swap meet to pick one up the next time any show.
In addition to the Yote, a true 3-day bag is called for, which the Corps certainly does not have at the moment. The point of this whole already too long post is that to get to a better assault/patrol pack, the requirement needs to be defined, and I wanted to hear what everyone else had in mind for building that bag. Additionally, can something like a Yote fill the role of an assault pack, with a good 3-day bag filling the broader utility roll that is gapped right now, since main pack ILBEs do not get used for they were originally designed for (approach march) in the COE.
And I'm spent...thoughts?