Join Date: July 26, 2005
Location: Los Angeles
It depends on the war, the unit and the mission.
I don't know what it's like nowadays, but I was a Reagan-era soldier in an Airborne unit, then was in a Mech unit in the Guard for many years, Infantry both.
One time, we deployed to a hostile country with basically what we carried. Very quickly, we were separated from our rucksacks, and just survived with our combat gear for about a week. Our rucks caught up with us, but we never had an established base camp, just patrol bases that moved periodically. I ate MREs for 27 days straight. We'd usually get a logistics package once per day. Food mostly, but also ammo, batteries, uniforms, sundry items, mail, etc.
It's funny that in peacetime one carries a heavy rucksack full of stuff that you don't even see in war: Extra boots, clean uniforms, toothpaste, stoves, etc.. In a real operation, the ammo alone is heavy enough that you can't carry too much else.
Contrast with a Mech unit in peacetime, where your camp looks like a Cabella's display. Cots, toilet seats, stoves, ice chests, duffel bags, etc.
Another time, we were deployed where we lived in a base for 10 days, then spent 20 days outside the wire. At the base, we had rooms, lockers, etc., and our duffel bags were there. When we deployed to the field, we took our rucks. We had fairly secure patrol bases, and our rucks would stay there when we went out on patrols.
Conceptually, you have a duffel bag with your clean uniforms, personal items, etc. It stays in a fairly static, secure facility.
Next is the rucksack. It contains your minimum items for several days: Clean socks, a poncho, cleaning kit, very basic hygiene items, an MRE or two, etc. It goes with you from place to place, but you drop it when actually fighting, usually.
Everything you need for your actual mission, you carry on your personal equipment.
In your pockets or on your belt, you carry a knife, a drive-on rag, and maybe a few other things for survival.
Most of the time, you get one or two logpacs per day, with hot meals and other items of resupply. If you have a vehicle, you have more stuff, but it gets pretty crowded with everybody's stuff.
Finally, the environmental conditions have a lot to do with it. Water is heavy but mission-essential. A sleeping bag that would be a luxury in a temperate climate might be mission-essential in, say, the Falklands.
In the Airborne, we had a motto: "Pack light, freeze at night".