The Rocker Box Blog Archive

Count'n Ounces


If there’s one thing I learned in my life, it’s that small things matter. Small things, if allowed to collect, can turn into big things. Big things are heavy. In my prior life, I went ‘to the field” in an airplane, and when the time came…jumped. I jumped with a parachute. I jumped with a reserve parachute. I jumped with a weapon (at least one). And, I jumped with a rucksack and LBE (Load Bearing Equipment…which is military jargon for a canteen belt and suspenders with all kinds of "stuff" hanging on it) that contained everything I would have available to me to do whatever was I was going to the field to do. Let’s not forget ammunition, and other munitions. All told, everything I went out the door of the aircraft weighed anywhere from 120-160 pounds...or even more. Thank goodness, the parachute did its job.

When I started my career, we had a rucksack called a “jungle ruck.” It consisted of a tubular metal frame and a bag that held maybe 1 ½ to 2 cubic feet of space. Not a lot of space, considering everything that had to be carried. On the frame (usually the top half) we would strap on a waterproof bag that carried sleeping gear and maybe a few other things. Now for a soldier heading to the field for 14-30 days, the first priority that goes in the ruck is mission critical supplies and equipment. For me, that meant a minimum of one heavy radio, multiple batteries (big batteries), antenna making supplies (wire, insulators, rope, etc), and a bunch on other miscellaneous stuff. Next came my share of other required team equipment.

After that, I can start looking at my needs. Food, water, clothing, toiletries, sleeping gear, “snivel gear”...whatever. Every man had his standard list of personal stuff he took. And what you took was as small and lightweight as possible. You literally started ‘count’n ounces’ cause you were going to carry every ounce you took. And if you could get away leaving that extra ounce behind, you did. Here’s an example: Back then, you were issued one of two types of field rations: C-rations or LRP’s. C-Rations were “wet food.” It came in a box that had individual cans of the main meal, fruit, cake, whatever. It also had a sundry kit that had coffee, creamer, salt, pepper, toilet paper, and a few other things. A full C-Rat may weigh 2 to 2 ½ pounds. You could either carry that whole thing…or…you could break it out and take only what you wanted and leave the rest behind. And that’s what we did. I couldn’t eat the box. I didn’t want the creamer. Whatever was inside that box that I was not going to consume, I left behind. It may have only totaled an ounce or two, but that’s useless weight I didn’t have to carry. Everything was scrutinized in such a manner. Probably the most valuable lesson I learned was the concept of “Dual Use.”

What is Dual Use? It’s the selection of items that I took with me that could be used for two or more tasks. Comfort, no matter how menial, was important to us in the field. If you could carry something that had a dual use that also provided some means of comfort, it was worth its weight in gold. What’s an example of a dual use item? A canteen cup. The old G.I. canteen cup was made of stainless steel, and molded in such a way that the canteen fit inside. The canteen cup was something you could use to heat up food, drink coffee, scoop up water from a shallow creek to put into the canteen (yes…we used iodine tablets to purify the water), boil water for sterilization of medical instruments, and the like. Another dual use item? Just about every man had a “drive on rag.” This was a triangle cloth known as a cravat that he wore around his neck for warmth or to hang something on (like a flashlight), tie around his head to keep sweat out of his eyes, and to use as a filter for bugs and other debris from water being collected and poured into the canteen. A multipurpose knife, like a Leatherman, was also popular. It had a knife, pliers, screw drivers, punches, even a saw. Parachute cord (aka 550 cord) was invaluable.

We had another saying, “Travel Light – Freeze at Night.” Sleeping bags were heavy. Especially when they got wet. Better to take a poncho liner (nylon) and a lightweight (nylon) poncho and wrap up in them at night. Not as warm, but not as heavy. The rucksack was the pillow. No tent either. Instead, we used a second poncho strung up with 550 cord. I will admin that I found a lightweight nylon camouflage tarp that I used instead of a second poncho. I'm tall...ponchos are short. Used as a tent, I'd stick out both ends. The tarp was a much needed comfort ite. What was the dual use? During heavy rain, I would wrap my rucksack with it to keep it dry (water-logged rucksacks are VERY heavy).

Time went on and the old jungle ruck was retired and replaced with the ALICE Ruck. A much bigger bag to carry more stuff. That was replaced with what was called the LOWE Ruck. Even bigger, but it also was MUCH HEAVIER than the jungle or ALICE rucks. We were issued a lot more gear, too. Technology shrunk it down, but 100 pounds of lightweight gear weighs just as much as 100 pounds of heavy weight gear. So, ‘count’n ounces’ was still the name of the game.

As I talk about specific planning for or conducting treasure hunting adventures, be it metal detecting, gold prospecting, or whatever, I will be giving you my “spin” on supplies and equipment to take. In most cases, I’ll recommend something that is dual use, or at least light weight, yet gets the job done. I’m big on comfort, and part of that comfort is being able to get from point A to point B with all my “stuff” and not so exhausted that I cannot do what I went there to do. Until then, start thinking about Dual Use and ‘Count’n Ounces,” and start planning your next treasure hunting adventure.

Full Disclosure: The supplies, equipment, tips, techniques, and procedures I recommend are based on my evaluation and experience. I link items I recommend to companies I have an affiliate agreement with (or to The Rocker Box Catalog) from which I receive a small percentage of sales if sales are made during your visit to their website. The recommendations are mine, and mine alone. I use any proceeds to pay for The Rocker Box website, and to generate future articles and activities. I thank you in advance for your patronage and support to further the great recreations, hobbies, and vocations of treasure hunting, gold prospecting, metal detecting, ghost town hunting, and rock hounding.

30-Second Bio: I am a retired soldier of the US Army Special Forces (aka Green Berets),The Author: Mark Prewitt serving for over 25 years. My specialties were communications, medicine, operations and intelligence, with extensive cross training in weapons and demolitions. I was a paratrooper, jumpmaster, combat diver, combat dive supervisor, combat dive medic, sniper, and pathfinder. I’ve been deployed countless times to locations on four continents, and have participated in operations in open water, riverine, jungle, mountain, desert, arctic, and urban environments…but I’ve been a “treasure Hunter” since I was eight. The End.