Streamline Your Gear

Posted by Kevin Estela on Mar 21st 2024

One of my pet peeves in the bushcraft community is backpacks with trinkets hanging off them. You've probably seen them online, and maybe you've been able to witness one in nature. These backpacks look like they belong to a gypsy, and the array of items that hang from them are prone to snagging on branches and making noise rattling down the trail. Whenever possible, you should make the effort to streamline your gear. Much like dropping that extra five pounds of fat around the new year, if you streamline your equipment, you will move more efficiently as it doesn't fight you at every turn. My late mentor Marty served in Vietnam, and he spoke about keeping gear simple, clean, and effective. In this week's blog, let's look at how we can cut weight, reduce profile, and operate less cluttered through streamlining.


Synonymous with streamlining is downsizing. Think of what your body would look like with an extra ten pounds on it. Just like your body is easier to haul around with less weight and bulk, so is your gear. From your pack to your rifle, boots, and EDC gear, you can always find a way to save ounces and decrease the footprint of what you carry. A favorite optic of mine is the Aimpoint PRO, but the factory mount is cumbersome. An alternative is the Geissele Aimpoint PRO mount, which saves ounces and streamlines the profile of the optic on the rifle. This mount is lighter and has less profile to snag on gear or get hung up on other items in your gun safe when you retrieve your rifle. Sometimes, downsizing means carrying capable tools that are smaller, more compact, or multipurpose. Rather than carrying a full toolbox with me to the range for shotgun courses, I have a Fix-it Sticks All-In Kit for mounting optics, tightening down magazine tube screws, and so forth. Multi-tools and compact tool kits make sense when space is at a premium.

Carry What is Practical

When I teach the Modern Survival Skills and Wilderness Survival Overnight courses, I use a very large ferro rod for it throws the most sparks and is easy for the students to see. While the Exotac FireROD XL is ideal for show, it isn't the best option for EDC. I carry the smaller FireROD 2.0 that is still capable and fits in my pants pocket more easily. Both of these ferro rods can be used to get a fire going, and I have faith in them 100% of the time. If a smaller tool can perform at the same level as a larger one, consider packing something smaller. Another practical factor is cost. My larger ferro rod costs double the price of the smaller one. It is more practical and responsible for me to purchase the less expensive option than choosing the more expensive option. Another aspect of practicality is realism. I carry a Glock 19 most days with one spare mag. The juvenile Kevin used to believe I always needed at least two spare magazines on me. Through training, the advice of my instructors, and the experience of carrying two additional magazines concealed, I moved away from that habit early on in my concealed carry lifestyle.

Slick Carry

Whenever I backpack, I carry more equipment vertically than I do horizontally. I don't want my backpack to have a silhouette extending past the outline of my arms. I find it easier to make my way through tight squeezes on trails when a pack is taller than it is wide. I also ensure my pack doesn't snag overhead if I'm carrying through the thick woods, where I have to duck under branches as I make my way to camp. One of the easiest ways of streamlining is to manage your backpack and gear straps. This can be done with electrical, duct, or 100mph tape, and it keeps your straps from flapping around in your space. One method of securing your straps without tape is using a strip of Velcro and rolling the excess webbing back to the buckle. Leaving your straps to flow in the wind might not seem like a big deal, but depending on how the ends are finished from the factory, they can easily snag. This is especially true if the ends of your straps are sewn in a manner that keeps them from slipping through buckles. A streamlined strap won't snag, won't slow your progress through the woods, or potentially create a tear in your gear.

Parting Ways

I hate to admit it, but part of streamlining your gear is parting ways with it. I'm constantly purging equipment that doesn't get used. I hate having gear that sits in my safe, on my shelves, in my office, and my garage. I like knowing I have what I need and don't need much more. Unless I have a collection of something like Swiss Army Knives or coffee cups for collecting sake, I usually let equipment go. We often buy equipment for the thrill of the chase. If we're smart, we buy for catch and release, with the release being at a higher price than what we bought it for. We can streamline what we carry out of the house on a daily basis and what we leave behind in the house in our storage areas.

Streamlining is an important concept that will get you to a more ready state. It is a process you can revisit over and over and in all aspects of your life. Look at your kit and how you operate daily, and determine what you can do to streamline. You'll find out how less can be more.