Count’n Ounces and Treasure Hunting

If there’s one thing I learned, it’s the power of ‘Count’n Ounces.’ 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. And, I jumped with a rucksack and LBE (Load Bearing equipment… which is military jargon for a canteen belt and suspenders) that contained everything I would have available to me to do whatever was I was going to the field for. Let’s not forget your weapon, ammunition, and other munitions. All told, everything I went out the door of the aircraft carrying 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 we had to carry. 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, clothing, toiletries, sleeping gear, “snivel gear,” and the like. 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’ because 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 LRRP’s. C-Rations were “wet food.” It came in a box that had individual cans of the main meal, fruit, cake, bread, crackers, peanut butter, 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. It stayed behind. I didn’t want the creamer. Out it went. 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 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. It was relatively heavy, but 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, collect berries or other native edibles, and the like. Another dual use item? Just about every man had a “drive-on-rag.” This was a triangle cloth called a cravat that he wore around his neck for warmth (when cold) or to hang something on (like a flashlight), tie around his head to keep sweat out of his eyes (when hot), and to use as a filter for bugs and other debris from water being collected and poured into the canteen (from the canteen cup). 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 (Army bags are down filled). Better to take a poncho liner (nylon) and a lightweight poncho (also nylon) 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.

Time went on and the old jungle ruck was retired and replaced with the ALICE Ruck. A much bigger bag so we could carry more stuff. Eventually, 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.

In future articles 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 ‘Count’n Ounces,” and start planning your next treasure hunting adventure.

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