You Might be Surprised

The Few, the Brave, the Marines

While it may look like an ordinary hiker's backpack, the MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) carried by the American infantryman is actually a carefully conceived, meticulously manufactured and indisputably necessary piece of his military equipment.

The gear, known to the troops as a "mollie" - pronounced like the girls name – serves to sustain, protect and preserve the fighting soldiers of the U.S. Army  in the field. The standard (read that, required) configuration weighs just over 100 pounds but most experienced soldiers will augment this complement of goods with an even heavier assortment of items.

Food & Water

Every army marches on its stomach. Regardless of how trained or battle-hardened, it is essential to keep the soldiers well-fed and adequately hydrated. To this end, the typical MOLLE contains an easy to reach hydration bladder that holds just over 70 ounces of water. Supplementing this bladder is an intravenous fluid bag with an additional 16 ozs. of fluid for emergencies. It may sound like a lot but an active soldier can easily lose this amount of water in just 2 hours. Soldiers spend a lot of their down time searching for and replenishing their water supply.


While not quite as critical, there is a substantial need for food. Soldiers, at any time, require massive amounts of calories to properly perform their duties but the need is even more pronounced in the field. To curb his hunger, three or four Meals Ready to Eat (MREs) are included in the standard MOLLE. While these meals can be conserved, they are really intended to last for just one day.

Clothing & Protective Gear

Soldier' protests to the contrary, the U.S.military is neither stupid nor inefficient when it comes to combat. Regulation, army gear is specifically engineered for both the area of deployment and the expected climate. As such, it is remarkably durable and effective at maintaining at porviding suitable nourishment, sustaining a soldier’s body temperature and protecting him against the worst of Nature’s ill effects.

Still, there are times when a little extra protection will go a long way in providing some additional coverage and comfort. Most MOLLEs will include a poncho, poncho liner and a bivy sack. The former protect against the effects of precipitation while the latter provides a sanctuary against insects and other small animals and a somewhat comfortable place to sleep.

Lastly, a soldier also carries spare undergarments and socks in his MOLLE that can be rotated to avoid hypothermia. It may seem like little comfort but, often, a dry undershirt and pair of socks can make all the difference between a good night’s sleep and lying awake while shivering uncontrollably.


Throughout history, armies have been instrumental in the projection of power. Modern armies, in particular, have focused this concept onto the individual level. For this reaon, a reliable source of electrical power is indispensible to the modern soldier. In fact, the modern American soldier simply cannot fight effectively without a constant and reliable source of power, upplied by batteries. The ramification? A typical, combat MOLLE will contain over 20 pounds of batteries.

It may strain credulity but the modern American soldier carries twenty pounds of batteries into battle. Without these items, he is highly ineffective and loses much of his battlefiels advantage. While the average soldier will only carry enough food and water for a day or two, they are required to tote enough battery power to last for three to seven days. It’s a sad fact that their fighting ability is prized over their lives. It is one of the priorities of the generals that has not shifted a millimeter since the days of Alexander the Great.

Weapons Maintenance

You may be tempted to think, “toilet paper” but the average soldier is much more concerned with keeping his weapon clean. To this end,the MOLLE of any properly outfitted soldier will contain a cleaning kit for each of his weapons.

For most American infantrymen, the weapon supplied is an M4 or M16 but there are obviously a wide range of other ones supplied to certain squad members. In any event, the soldier is equipped with the appropriate gear to clean his particular weapon. These cleaning kits are fairly basic and engineered to be small but they still take up a considerable amount of space and weight as the majority of their components are cleaning liquids. There is just no way to diminish the need for these compounds.


Fortunately for the soldier carrying this load, the MOLLE also contains an attachment system whereby additional items, secured in pouches, can be attached to the exterior of the MOLLE. Known as the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PAL), these pouches allow the serviceman to customize his MOLLE to his individual needs. While there are institutional limits, the soldier is free is carry as much extra gear as his ability, stamina and the situation warrants. The modular pouches are considered one of the best innovations of the MOLLE system.

When Ivan Meets G.I. Joe - A Clash of Priorities

The U.S. Defense Department has invested considerable amounts of time, energy and research into the development of the MOLLE, By all accounts and standards, the result is the best all-around military backpack of any one developed in the world.

Still, the armed forces of other countries,, naturally, developed their own basic kit and equipment. In most cases, they merely vary as to geography and environment. In most cases, they employ the same basic tenets of the MOLLE and incorporate the same requirements.

The different commands of the U.S. military are also not convinced that the highly serviceable MOLLE is the best backpack option. Subsequent backpacks such as the ALICE and the ILBE have been introduced and adopted on a limited basis.

What Does Any Soldier Really Carry in His Backpack?

The answer is as simple as it is obvious. A soldier carries the hopes and aspirations of his nation, a high regard for themselves, a dedication to their comrades and a determination to get the job done no matter the cost.

This country, and, indeed, every other one throughout history, has relied on its armed forces to protect its citizens, attain its goals and, most importantly, preserve its ideals. Take your pick and thank the Lord or your lucky stars that the United States of America and its military heroes have been almost uniformly victorious in this regard for the past two centuries.