(PERSEC for ugly face)
I went along to a 36hr airsoft game run by Warzone Battle Simulation this past weekend to try out ‘military simulation’ for the first time and I must say, it was certainly a good experience overall. I bought in a substantial amount of new gear specifically for this event as it took place in rural south Wales and being the end of October/start of November I was expecting some unpleasant weather conditions, hence the loadout was at least 90% different to what I’ve always used in the past for 1-day skirmishes. In the end it actually turned out we had the hottest November day that Wales has ever experienced with hardly any rain, little wind and generally warm temperatures throughout. That said however there was still plenty of night fighting, long patrols out in the woods and extended periods of action; we often didn’t return to our harbour area for 5-6+ hours at a time so the kit still got a really good run out in terms of general comfort when cautiously patrolling and performance when getting more active against the enemy force.
With that in mind I’ll take this opportunity to pick out some of the items that really worked well and made life easier, as well as a couple of things that didn’t.
Jetboil Flash – Compared to hexi blocks the Jetboil seriously lived up to its’ name. Not only is it incredibly quick at boiling water (for food or hot drinks) but the ease of using it really blew me away. The gas canister, stand and burner ring/igniter all pack away inside of the water vessel and setting everything up takes about 30 seconds tops. You dial up the gas, press the igniter just like a gas hob in your house and you’re off. Absolutely night and day compared to the old issued cooking system I used going through basic training.
Muc-Off Dry Shower – This was a bit of a random addition to the kit that I added last minute on something of a whim, but I’m damn sure I did. The small bottle contains a pink liquid that dispenses as a foam and you can easily cover your entire upper body in 3 presses of the nozzle. It has a light coconut smell which is a pleasant change when you’ve been sweating in the field and most importantly, boy does this stuff work. I know my armpits smell after just an average day in work and that;s when I’ve had the opportunity to take a hot shower in the morning and apply antiperspirant to clean skin, but this product absolutely does what it says on the ‘tin’ i.e. kill off the bacteria that actually cause you to smell. I was waiting in the queue at McDonalds when stopped at a services travelling back from the event and I know under normal circumstances people would’ve been literally recoiling at the smell after 2 days of not showering and running around, but nobody seemed to even notice in the slightest and I was paying very close attention. The bottle is tiny and weighs very little but it would easily last you weeks in the field.
LOWA Zepyr GTX – Traditional leather boots are now totally and utterly obsolete in my eyes. These are the first truly modern gore-tex boots I’ve tried and though they use some suede their construction is largely synthetic. Compared to any mostly-leather boot I’ve spent time in in the past (which covers many different types of issued boot over the past 8+ years) these were a true game changer. I took them straight out of the box to use them for the entire event and they required absolutely no breaking in what-so-ever. This is a claim I’ve heard before regarding boots and always found to be false in reality, but in this instance it really stood up. They were soft and comfortable from the get-go and despite the fact I ended up with a pair that were slightly on the large side for me I had zero discomfort throughout the weekend. Walking through soaking tall grass at 5 a.m. was no issue for the lining yet I really didn’t feel hot or sweaty inside these at all.
Beyond Clothing PCU L5 Trousers – Wearing these was my foray in to a softshell layer for the lower half and though I didn’t get to see their performance in the rain the way I’d have liked, they still put in a top showing. I’ll write more about these specifically when I post detail pictures, but sufficed to say I am a convert and I wish there was an issued equivalent in the British stores system. The way the pocket zips were mounted upside down really messed with my head for a while, but in terms of access when wearing a belt it did make sense overall.
Plat-A-Tac Harry Combat Jacket – This level 5 non-insulated softshell puts the multicam Arc’teryx combat jacket to absolute shame given the price difference. Something I was never aware of in the past was how these sorts of shell layers really tie in to a clothing system (and retailer sites are rather lacking in info to my mind), but once I’d done a good bit of digging around reading reviews and articles from experienced outdoor people, their purpose became much clearer. This jacket blocked the cold wind like a champ and still did a brilliant job of breathing, letting out the sweat and generally regulating my temperature the way I needed. Compared to a NYCO field shirt (which it replaces for usage in less favourable climates) the shell fabric did an infinitely superior job. The wind flap at the neck did hinder the zip going fully closed sometimes, but I was wearing fairly thick gloves and with airsoft goggles on it’s very difficult to see down.
Standard issue t-shirts – They’re cheap and they wick sweat incredibly well, which is pretty much the main quality to look for in your base layer (cotton t-shirts are just about the worst option going – avoid). One of the few issued items I highly rate. I wouldn’t wear one in to actual battle because they are the opposite of ‘no-melt no-drip’, but for training, range time and airsoft they’re ideal.
Grey Ghost Lightweight assault pack – This particular one is made from a Litelok multicam fabric which GGG don’t carry any more sadly, but it did exactly what I needed in terms of carrying hydro, jackets for cold and wet, medical kit, extra magazines and other admin items all within easy access. More importantly it did so without me ever feeling like it was digging in to my shoulders or hurting my back in anyway. It probably would do if you had a very heavy load in there (I was only carrying about 6kg of stuff) but the PALS space it has externally along with the easy access of the pockets make for a winning combination as a light patrol ruck.
The Not So Good
PTS Rail Sling Attachment – Nicely made, but pretty much a microcosm of my reasoning for always using firearm accessories and parts over airsoft ones where physically and legally possible to do so. I know I sufficiently tightened this RSA on to my gun, but the simple action of the sling loading weight on to it repeatedly (the ACR AEG does not recoil) caused the screw to work loose. This meant I lost my front sling point and was relegated to purely using my sling in a 1-point mode, in turn resulting in more neck ache and rubbing than would have occurred if I could have carried on in a 2-point.
ESS Prescription inserts within Turbofan goggles – I’ve used these goggles many times and the fans have done me proud in terms of fog prevention, but once the inserts were fitted.. no dice I’m afraid. This isn’t the fault of the inserts or the goggles to my mind, I’m just a pro at fogging goggles up and the added surface area of the inserts clearly was too much for the fans to cope with. I’m not a proponent of mesh eye protection for airsoft so I’m pretty much resigned to either getting contacts or laser eye surgery (or always running magnified optics) if I want to be able to ID targets at distance and adequately protect my eyeballs at the same time (which requires full-seal goggles). A lesson I learnt quite abruptly as it were was that one should take extra caution when their vision is obscured, as in my haste to medic a team mate I ran right in to a massive tangle of rusty barbed wire that I’d mistaken for average brambles through my misty lenses. I was extremely lucky that all the wire actually did was poke a small hole in my trousers, things could’ve gone a lot worse as it all came right up to my waist when I trampled the centre part of the reel down in an attempt to charge right through it.
Sealskinz Dragon Eye gloves – If I had more of a middling category these would probably go in there. I went for a small based on their sizing guide but even with my stubby fingers the actual fingers of the gloves were quite a bit too short. The palm surface was also probably one of the most slippery I’ve encountered, though in fairness the painted surface of my ACR is also incredibly smooth. However I do suffer in even the slightest cold where my hands are concerned (even when the rest of me is perfectly warm) and considering the insulation in these is quite thin it provided a comparatively high amount of warmth while still managing to breathe. None of that horrible foreboding when putting on a glove you’ve previously sweated in, taken off and allowed to go cold.
There were lots of other items that served me well (never forego a good folding camp bed and a thick sleeping bag when you have the luxury of bringing them) but the above were the things that really stood out from the crowd. A lot of the equipment I used has yet to come to the front of the queue for its’ own post here on the site, but that’ll all come in due course.
Thanks to the organisers of the event and everyone that took part in good humour and with the right attitude – not every participant did so, but those who came in with the right mindset certainly made it a good time.