I just heard about a blog called "Afghan Lessons Learned" which is written by soldiers who have deployed to Afghanistan for soldiers about to head over there. I've added it to the blogroll and have included a pack-out list as an example of some of the practical advice it offers. Of course I have no idea who wrote this but #55 indicates it was a National Guardsman.
I'm sure there are good stories behind each item on the list, both good ones from those who had them and some not so good ones from those who lacked.
Here is the list, in raw form:
1. Any extra Class VIII you can bring with you is good to have.
2. Wolfhook single point slings
3. Desert Tan Spray paint
4. Space blanket(s)
5. 100 mph tape, 550 cord, TP, other expendables you think would come in handy
6. Drop Leg Holster (blackhawk or SERPA) and Uncle Mike's Paddle-Holster for wearing around every day (drop leg will wear a hole in ACUs over time). I also have one for my IBA so I can have my 9mm handy when in the gun hatch going through towns.
7. Weapons lube that DOESN'T ATTRACT SAND. (MILTECH or Remington Dry Lube only)
8. Two copies of addresses, phone numbers, account numbers, etc.
9. 2 pairs of GOOD boot insoles
10. A Good Tactical Flashlight (SureFire, even though you will get issued one with M4)
11. Red/White light L.E.D. headlamp
12. Spare pair of running shoes
13. MP3 PLAYER W/ x-tra pair of spare headphones
14. Enough batteries to last you 30 days
15. Chap stick
17. 30 SPF or higher Sun block
18. Bar soap- for some reason its in short supply....almost always
19. Small compact rolls of TP. A lot of places make travel size, half the time you get to a port-a-potty the jackA$s before you ganked the TP
20. Baby wipes-- 30 days worth. Expect that the power and water will either go out, or the water will be contaminated at least once a month.
21. Gold Bond Foot and Body Powder
22. Small clip on LED light-clip it to your IBA....it will come in handy....quite often.
23. Drink mix for 16/20 oz bottles of water
24. Weightlifting supplies
25. Small photo album with pics from home.
26. Hand sanitizer (small bottles to put in ankle pockets)
27. More books/magazines than you think you will need.
28. DVDs, for you and to loan out for swapping purposes
29. Tactical gloves- military gloves are sort of clumsy ( I love the $9.95 whitewater brand gloves from the clothing sales). Also standard flight nomex are good.
30. Lens anti fog agent. Shaving cream works in a pinch, but you have to apply it every other day or so.
31. Good pair of shower shoes/sandals. I recommend the black adidas....lasted me all year.
32. Small pillow (air inflatable)
33. Cheap digital camera (at least 2.1 mp)
34. Boot knife
35. Gerber multi tool
36. Fabreeze-sometimes the laundry is few and far between.
37. Armor Fresh
38. Extra boot laces
39. Stainless steel coffee cup with screw on lid.
40. Soccer shorts/normal t-shirt to sleep in, hang out in your room in
41. Sweatshirts for winter times hanging around
42. A couple of poncho liners for privacy, nasty mattress cover, etc.
43. A set of twin sheets with pillow case
44. Good regular-size pillow
45. One or two good civilian bath towels
46. Buy a good set ($200) of winter desert boots. All they will give you is a regular summer set and a set of goretex lined for waterproof needs. Desert is a cold place at these altitudes in the winter time.
47. Bring a laptop!!! Also may want a PSP or some other handheld gaming device.
48. Get an external USB hard-drive (120gb). You will need this to back up data to, and to store movies and MP3s that you will fall in on from previous teams.
49. Get a Skype account and download the software from skype.com. This is how I talk to home 95% of the time. If you call computer to computer it is totally free. You can also skype out from your computer to a regular phone for $0.021 a minute. There is nothing cheaper than that.
50. Decent headset with mic for computer (skype).
51. Webcam for video calls back home.
52. Bring a min. of 18ea. M4 mags per person. 9 that are loaded and 9 that rest. Plan to do M4 mag changeover once per month.
53. Bring 8ea 9mm mags, for same reason above. Change these over every two weeks.
54. Order a LULA mag loader/unloader. It will be the best $12 piece of plastic you every bought. I have 12 mags loaded at all times and when I do change over it will do it in a fraction of the time and save your hands, and save the ammo.
55. Try to get your state or purchase yourself one 12v DC to 110 AC inverter per man for your trucks. There are crucial on mission to charge personal items, cell phone, ICOMs, and especially ANA radios (they only have re-chargeable batteries).
56. Dump the IBA tac vest you get issued. Get a Tactical Tailor MAV chest rig (does not matter if you get 1 or 2 piece one as you want to keep the front open for laying in the prone. You don't want mags pushing into your chest making it hard to breathe) . I wish I would have bought mine at the start. It makes a HUGE difference on the back and shoulders when carrying a loaded rig.
57. Get comfortable pair of desert boots. I wear only the Converse 8" assault boots (non-zipper ones). Oakley, Bates and several others are similar in style and comfort.
58. Bring some good snivel gear for the winter time. Extra poly-pro winter hat, gloves, neck gators, etc.
59. Lock de-icer for the winter time
60. Disposable hand and feet warmers
61. Canned-air, lots of it for electronics weapons, etc.
62. Lens wipes for optics
63. Screen wipes for computers
64. Firing Pin Retaining pins, Brownells is a good source
65. DVD ripping program for your laptop so you can transfer all your DVDs to electrons and store on a harddrive
66. A good assault pack, I have one from Tactical Assault Gear with aluminum stays in it for support. It's been a lifesaver several times,the one the Army issues is a P.O.S.
67. MBiTR pouch from Tactical Tailor
68. An aviators knee board
69. Personal GPS (Garmin, etc.)