"You live with what's on your back, you fight with what's on your belt and survive by what is in your pockets"
Belt order is fighting order, so contents should be restricted to what you need for combat, mainly ammunition, water, NBC gear and battle first aid items. The kit may also provide some means of shelter or sustenance should the wearer be separated from his rucksack, but within reason. Some official lists of equipment require the infantryman to carry pot scrubbers and boot polish during an assault.
Suggested Belt Order. Many armies will issue several types of camouflage clothing, but usually the soldier only gets one set of webbing, the majority of it dark green, which he must use in desert and snowfield. Making webbing brown would help, but the straps are straight lines, which the human eye is very adept at picking out. Webbing should be made from a material with a pattern of neutral grey, beige, red-brown and charcoal:- Disruptive Webbing Pattern. To break up the shape the colours should be printed in transverse bands. The pattern used in French "Central European" camouflage may be suitable with a change of colours. The same pattern would also break up the rectangular shape of pouches and rucksacks. This pattern can be customized with white tape for snow operations, green for jungle or black for night operations.
Modified STABO harness. The Stabo harness was invented in Vietnam for extraction or insertion by helicopter winch. It is actually quite simple in construction:- two adjustable suspension straps with loops for an issue belt. The rear strap ends extend into leg straps that can be passed between the thighs and fasten to the bottom of the front straps. When not needed they are folded and secured by bands of elastic, allowing full freedom of movement. Such a harness would also be useful for climbing and rappelling, so have rescue and MOUT applications and therefore be useful to all Soldiers, not just those who insert by helicopter.
Any harness or webbing system should be capable of being easily and quickly removed in the event of an NBC alert. Some designs of chest rig may not meet this criteria, so increase the time it takes to don protective clothing. The belt should be easily adjustable to allow for wear over extra clothing or NBC gear. The rear straps of harness should have two carrying loops, allowing the soldier to carry a parka, sleeping bag, Stretcher/sleepmat, Camelback, Blanket, waterproof etc without needing a pack.
Carrage of ammunition, water and shell dressings can all be catered for by the waterbottle/ammo pouches that Mike proposes. We'll call these "medium utility pouches", since the FFD/compass pouch is sometimes called a small utility pouch. I particularly like the idea that nearly every pouch that you open would contain a shell dressing. The variety of equipment carried can be varied without disassembling the webbing. Troops on a disaster relief operation have more need to carry water than ammo. One pouch used to carry water should also carry a Natick stove, fuel, purification tablets and a filtration bag. Three medium utility pouches at the back could be used instead of a buttpack or kidney pouches.
In Vietnam many soldiers preferred to carry their ammunition in Claymore mine bags. These were either used like shoulder bags or worn tight against the sides with the straps crossed over the chest. Two medium utility bags sewn together and provided with a strap can be used in the same way, as can a buttpack. A snaplink would allow the bags to be hung up or run down lines and would be useful for collecting spent magazines.
NBC. The respirator is carried in a bag on the belt. In the British army it is also acceptable to carry this bag by shoulder strap, so long as you are never more than five paces away from it. This option is very useful for personnel such as drivers. The bag could be hung in the "Alert" position used by Tommies for two world wars- in other words suspended from the neck to ride over the chest. A trick used by airborne soldiers was to mount the bag upside-down, so the gas-mask dropped into the hands as the bag was opened. How to carry the rest of the NBC suit is usually solved by carrying it in a poncho roll or similar piece of material. This is attached to the top or bottom of the buttpack/kidney pouches or the rucksac. If the respirator case is carried by a strap then provision might be made for attaching the NBC roll to this. Some manufactures tout the fact that their design of NBC roll can be rapidly removed. One of the first things you'll do during an alert is remove your pack or webbing so you can pull on the NBC smock, so it is quick opening rather than rapid removal that is an important feature of NBC rolls.
Buttpack.(Large Utility Pack?) A buttpack should have provision for straps at the top and bottom and attachment points on the side for medium utility pouches. The Buttpack should be capable of being worn on the back or belt or used with a shoulder strap. Mike Sparks suggests that the buttpack should contain 3 MREs, a Poncho and a lightweight sleeping bag. This caters for shelter and sustenance in a small package.
Mike's thoughts on solving the soldier's load are nicely summarized on this page.
Mike's complimentary suggestion is that the Rucksac should cease to be regarded as a personal item. Instead it becomes a "Log pack" filled only with food, ammo and water. During a resupply the troops swap their partially emptied packs for fully packed ones supplied by sustainment personnel. For shelter or sleeping the troops use the poncho and sleeping bag in their buttpack. Log packs will need some form of distinctive marking so that it is known wether they contain ammo for a rifleman, grenadier, SAW or GPMG gunner. Such markings should be geometrical as well as colour coded for distinction in low-light conditions. My suggestion is a Circle for riflemen, and Arch for grenadiers (resembling a M203 grenade), Square for SAWs and Triangle for GPMG (representing a tripod) The Log-pack is a good idea, but there are other items that a soldier may need in the field that are not really appropriate to the belt order, even if there is room to carry them. These include such things as warm or clean clothing (shirt, underwear, socks, fleece), washkit, carabineers, extra medical items, spare toilet paper, sleepmat, mosquito net, sections of tent pole and pegs, sandbags, wirecutters, weapon cleaning kit, spare bootlaces, earplugs, clear trash bags, sewing kit and 100mph tape, air to ground marker panels etc.
The solution to this is threefold.
Firstly, some items like the ground to air signaling panel can be made a permanent part of the Log Pack's inventory. It's possible that such an item could also be designed to be used as an emergency stretcher. Larry Altersitz has suggested that one side of such an item should be camouflaged, and this suggests even more uses for the item. The "Overt" (high visibility) side of the item should have an aide memoire of Ground to Air signals printed on it.
The Second idea is to have a small pack that either attaches to the Log pack or fits inside. The British PCLE system has a 20 litre "3-way pack" that can be worn on its own, attached to the webbing yoke or attached to the PCLE Bergen. This "patrol pack" might even be a second buttpack. This can be worn on the back when the Log pack is not being carried, and gives the soldier extra carrying capacity. When a soldier exchanges his used Log pack for a fresh one he simply pulls out this patrol pack and places it in the new Log pack (space for such an item having been left when the Log pack was packed at the depot). This 1941 USMC pack system uses a shelter roll, Haversack (assault pack) and Knapsack (buttpack)