The Carry System – Concepts of ‘lines’


carry systems

What got me thinking about carry systems? On an MSC organised Bushcraft trip earlier this year, after a group of us wandered out in the dark for a night tramp, we reached the lookout, and we were posed the question by the instructor…

“If something should go wrong right now, what do you have on you to help you survive the situation?”

The answer for most of us?


As it happened, one of our party had just slipped down the stairs, thankfully not hurting themselves, but it did highlight one vitally important point – we had all just walked straight out of the hut, leaving our packs, and therefore all of our equipment behind. The only person still carrying anything of any use above a flashlight was the instructor, who was carrying their belt-pack– a pouch that never left their side when in the bush.

This got me thinking. While it’s all well and good carrying everything bar the kitchen sink in your pack, it all becomes relatively useless if you leave that fully loaded heavy pack when you head out for a quick side trip, or in a worst case scenario – lose the pack in a river crossing or some other unplanned event.

So, what can you do to prepare yourself for these kinds of situation?

After a quick bit of online research, as it often does, the military came up with a predefined solution to this problem – The ‘Line Gear’ concept. Carry systems.

While I will go into a more detailed description of the separate lines in subsequent articles – the overview of the concept goes like this:

No-one knows a stupid heavy load like the Military.

1st Line

The bare essentials you permanently carry upon your person, in your pockets or clipped directly to your belt. This is also known as your EDC or Every Day Carry. This is your bare minimum carry.

2nd Line

In military terms, this is your ‘fighting load’ – your weapon(s), additional ammo and tools. Still lightweight, this is the stuff that is going to make your existence a lot easier beyond just having the basics. Often this is carried in either a small belt-pack or vest. This is what you are likely to carry, even when you leave you big pack in the hut or at camp.

3rd Line

Also known as ‘sustainment’ level – this is all the additional equipment that you are likely to carry in a pack, not essential for survival, but certainly a lot nicer to have. In the case of a backpacker – sleeping bag, tent, additional food and cooking equipment and so on – the equipment we probably spend the most time thinking about.

While it is nice to always assume you are going to have your pack on you, the idea of line carry systems, in regards to backpacking, means that you can drop or leave your pack, and still have the majority of what you would need to survive for a period of time in the bush. Should you also lose the 2nd Line, then you still have the bare essentials on you.