Gear Up: Packing Your Bivouac Bag

On May 30, 2008, in Basic, Featured, by Gerry

If you’ve reached this page, you’ve likely just Googled ‘bivouac’ or ‘bivy’, after signing up for a milsim bivouac game without even knowing what the word ‘bivouac’ means. Well, it’s French, and as with all things French, it’s complicated. Simply put, it’s a long game with one or more nights in between, which also means you’ll be camping out in the wild. So much of what you’ll need is camping gear, but unlike your typical nature trip, men with guns are out stalking you in the cold dark night, and it’s perfectly fair game for them to take you out in your sleep.

Fortunately we’ve come up with this short guide, where we’ll run down the essential gear that you’ll need on a bivouac game to survive, sustain and succeed, or at least make your stay out in the woods as comfortable as possible, before your inevitable demise.

Bivouac Gear Breakdown

1. Old Reliable – Whatever your preferred tool, be sure to bring a battle-tested and proven weapon. The worst problem to have is a gun that quits on you before you’ve fired a single shot, after walking miles on a mission. This M4 is a safe choice, as you can get spare mags and parts easily, unless you’re playing the other side, in which case you might consider an AK47 variant. Railed weapons are not completely impractical, as it lets you carry other scouting gear (i.e. a scope for scout work, night vision optics for night fighting, tactical light for pitch black spaces).

2. Carry The World On Your Back – It’s important not to be overloaded on a long game, but to be effective you must be able to bring what you need to survive the environment. Rucksacks let you carry the extra stuff you don’t need quick access to on your back, such as sleeping gear, warm clothes and wet weather gear. They can also be easily dropped in case the situation calls for quick movement. This 3-Day Assault Pack has a lot of storage in its three split compartments and can carry additional pouches on the PALS webbing and rolled up sleeping bag on the bottom and side straps.

3. Hydrate, Hydrate, Hydrate – Water is your most basic need, as in any physical sport. Make sure to bring a lot of it in water bottles, a canteen or a hydration bag such as this 3-liter bag. Your water requirements will vary depending on how much you sweat.

4. High and Dry – Keep your mission maps and other documents in a pouch that you can keep dry. You could also keep your real-world ID and bank notes here. Better yet, put them in a watertight bag with a zip-seal (a.k.a Ziploc), and you won’t have to worry about getting your personal effects waterlogged.

5. First Aid – Injury is inevitable in a game where survival means running, jumping and climbing on all kinds of uneven terrain while avoiding getting hit by projectiles. A small first aid kit would be easy to drop into your gear. Your equipment can damaged too, so keep a multitool handy, or at the minimum have room for the universal tool (see #10).

6. Lock and Load – Bring as many magazines as you need, but no more than that, and keep your mags close at hand. Web gear and chest rigs are the lightest options available for carrying ammunition. If you can plan for how many magazines you need at the ready in a firefight, and if the rules permit, you can carry additional BBs for reloads in a BB bottle or bag, elsewhere on your person.

7. Marching On Your Belly – Water alone will not sustain you for an entire game. Candy bars and energy bars are a quick way to get some sugars into your system. It doesn’t replace a full meal, so you will want to carry something more substantial in the form of an MRE (in this case, Beef Stew) or sandwich for restoring your energy. The protein in a beef stew meal will make you feel sluggish, though, so save the big meals for a long lull in the fighting.

8. Never Lost – Even if you can’t follow a map, an integrated survival compass and whistle can do you a lot of good. Even better insurance against becoming a straggler is a long-range radio or a cellphone if there is reception.

9. The Pen Is Mightier – Milsim events can get incredibly complex, and it can be critical to have a way to record information. Sure, you can memorize the coordinates of the enemy base in your head, but after walking ten hours back to base to report your findings in person, you might find it hard to jog your memory.

10. The Universal Tool – Duct tape, or US 90MPH tape is the tool that holds the universe together. Trust us, you’ll find a million uses for it, from taping up a broken rifle stock to blindfolding POWs. Take a stiff piece of cardboard and roll some tape around it to make a flat card of duct tape that you can store easily.

Now, this will probably be the minimum you could expect to carry. Depending on how long the deployment is and how far your resupply is, you may add to this extra water, food, and ammunition to sustain you for days of fighting. Stuff specific to your environ like sunblock, mosquito repellent, or antivenom could be essential or even required. Travel at night will call for night vision optics or some artificial light source like flashlights or chem lights, in case it is not allowed or illegal to start fires.

Got any campfire stories to share?  We’d like to hear them in the comments!

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