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Military.com ran a story today about the U.S. Army fielding new, high-end, mountaineering gear to all infantry brigade combat teams.

The improved kit comes as U.S. forces are preparing to leave Afghanistan after more than a decade of deployments to the rugged, mountainous country. In the past, units have spent their own funds on commercial mountain gear.

This new gear will come in tactical colors and feature gear from proven brands such as Black Diamond, Petzl, MSR and Metolius. Units will receive the gear organized into the High Altitude Mountaineering Kit, the Assault Climber Team Kit and the Snow and Ice Kit — all of which are designed to equip platoon-size units, or up to 40 soldiers, with ropes, ice axes, crampons and other climbing gear certified by the International Mountaineering and Climbing Federation.

Now the Army has one, standardized set of equipment that has about 80 percent of the same mountaineering gear used by the Marine Corps, said Darren Bean, a retired Army sergeant major and instructor at the AMWS. Dean is now an engineer for Product Manager Soldier Clothing and Individual Equipment.

“In the past, units could buy whatever they wanted, and we have no control over that,” he said. “This now provides one standard set of equipment, so both the Army and the Marine Corps have stuff that integrates well together.”

Currently, there arn’t many photos of the kit, but we will put more up as they become available. Here’s a couple for now.

Composite of AMK (2)

Composite of AMK (4)

 

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

JCitizen February 20, 2014 at 6:28 pm

Really this kit should be in any preppy's bug out bag – especially in tall building urban areas, as climbing buildings after disasters can be a lot like mountain climbing. These kit would be cool in tactical color! I'm waiting for updates!

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Doc_robalt February 20, 2014 at 6:54 pm

Wow we got all this to test in 09 so 5 years later they start issuing it???? WTF

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Ian February 20, 2014 at 11:59 pm

Beware the Metolius cams. Have. Had a few of them fail, brand new, when subjected to a less than factor 1.5 fall. There are also better transceivers out there, than that Ortovox.

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Michael Cr February 21, 2014 at 10:51 am

Sounds odd to me. Failure is typically about poor placement, not the cams. If they so easily failed there would be numerous deaths and lawsuits. Simply put, they would not be available for sale considering the serious nature of their task. I have been climbing for 20 years and have never had a cam failure. Things slip out here and there, but it's more about poor placement (I knew that they were not really the best spots for cams), than defective cams.

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Canadian February 23, 2014 at 1:38 pm

Did they break, or just blow out? If they didn't break, the placement or rock quality was the problem.

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King Fred February 21, 2014 at 7:29 am

Climbing gear from the lowest bidder. .. sign me up

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Doc18D February 21, 2014 at 8:45 am

Once again big green drops the ball

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Monty February 21, 2014 at 3:37 pm

Some surprisingly good gear! Beacon looks like the BCA Tracker; simple and reliable (ski patrol issue here). Black Diamond Sabre Tooth crampons; nice– I use them on vertical ice (overkill here?). Petzl Reverso belay device is top notch too!

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Mateo February 22, 2014 at 9:10 pm

They’re strap-ons, not step-ins. A blackened version of their Contact model, maybe?

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D-Rizzle February 23, 2014 at 7:36 pm

I have the same crampons and love them. I've climbed grade 5+ ice climbs in the Italian Alps with them as well as mixed climbs and they have stood up to the abuse and done great!

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majr0d February 21, 2014 at 6:05 pm

Thanks Matt, I'll be posting a link on my blog.

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ReconMan February 21, 2014 at 7:54 pm

Smart of all the Services to let the Marines, and USSOCOM, buy and test this kind of thing – then pile on when it proves itself. Unfortunately, ever since the Army grew the "acquisition professional" corps and staffed it with doughboys (fat guys not WWI soldiers) it seems the approval, purchase, and fielding of gear has slowed to a snail's pace. How about the Rapid Fielding Initiative? That sped things up for some items from a 10 year acquisition cycle to a smoking hot 3-5 year timeline. Bottom line – if the Army PEOs are issuing it, it is yesterday's gear, brought to you tomorrow. Go Marine or SOF and get the good stuff – today!

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majr0d February 22, 2014 at 5:45 pm

There are many successes in the RFI program as well as programs that provided unit funds to satisfy specific unit needs. There has not been a shortage of mountaineering gear. There have been different approaches to what a unit needs. Considering how varied the terrain is in Afghanistan, how the Army routinely and often in mid deployment switches its troops AO's across the whole of Afghanistan this is understandable. I might need mountaineering gear in Mar in the mountains and not so much in May in some other area that happens to be flat. That said it's good the Army is creating the M1A1 mountaineering kit, fielding it to its four mountain schools so they can teach the lessons learned across a force almost four times the size of the Marines.

SOF has a hands down more effective acquisition model. It helps when you have a small force (good ideas travel up and down quicker as well as needing less to equip the force) and a lot of money.

The Corps acquisition model is not as effective as SOF. Marines have a tremendous amount of pride and sometimes that pride makes unsubstantiated claims. Their gear is not always better nor do they systematically issue better gear faster than the Army. All one has to do is look at the history of weapons optics, the M4, ballistic plates or the evolution of the helmet from the PAGST to today's varied issue to see examples of where the Army (and PEO) moved quicker than the Corps. It's not reason to do an end zone dance.

I'm all for the best gear for our troops but the mindless cheerleading isn't helpful. No one on the Army side was spiking the ball when the Marines were behind in adopting ACOGs, CCO's, the various versions of the MICH etc..

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larry February 21, 2014 at 11:48 pm

I guess the days are gone when we did it all with a swiss seat and some steel snaplinks.

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Canadian February 23, 2014 at 1:36 pm

Nobody has been authorized to CLIMB in a swiss seat, at least not for 3 decades. Steelies are heavy, aluminum is light- and contrary to the rumor mill the "if you drop them, they get micro fractures and explode" theory is provably BS. You can google it, testing is done, aluminum works fine.

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Canadian February 22, 2014 at 4:57 pm

Those specific MSR snowshoes suck. We trialed them, and they are much too loud (plastic squeaks and crunches in the cold) and are inefficient in deep powder with combat loads. There are many better designs out there, many by MSR. Not sure why they picked those beefy non-lockers either. Non-lockers should be simple and light, wire gates only make sense. Oh well, not my problem.

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Mateo February 25, 2014 at 3:08 pm

My assumption about that has been that the metal frame MSR models are less likely to make it all the way through the supply train intact. They have a reputation for being more prone to failure (especially at the point where the nose turns upwards) than the injection molded models. And you’re certainly right about the selected model not having much in the way of flotation in powder. I wonder if some of the old magnesium Arnprior MagLine snowshoes are kept around just in case?

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Canadian February 27, 2014 at 8:41 pm

I haven't heard of that before. Have used the MSRs, and had no problems. I replied to you below (before this post), and many Canadian units have in fact gone back to the magnesiums until they can get us something better.

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Mateo February 28, 2014 at 1:05 pm

MSR has a new model coming for next season that combines a metal frame with injection molding. http://bit.ly/1fwohll

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Ian February 23, 2014 at 2:34 pm

Re: Cam failure.
I have three Metolius cams sitting in my desk that failed over a three week course. The lines holding the retractor to the lobes failed on two, and the other was a lobe failure. The cams did not slip out, and it wasn’t a failure of placement.

The snowshoes are MSR Denali model. USMC has been using them for the better par of 5 years. They are a strap on style, with removable flotation tails.

Canadian, we top rope in Swiss seats all the time, but don’t lead.

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Canadian February 23, 2014 at 4:03 pm

Ian,

Roger, however top rope is only a training tool, similar to moving through a fixed line. I was responding to the "we did it all" comment. It's the same with standard combat helmets, you can top rope or move through a fixed line with one, but with the heavy helmets the green army uses, you don't want to lead on them, too much force on the neck if taking a heavy fall. In that case either a climbing helmet, or ultralight combat helmet is the safe route.

I have some of those snow shoes sitting at my unit, and I still think they suck for military applications. Even with the flotation tails, in deep powder with a combat load they don't float well enough. Any when it's well below zero they are just too loud. The plastic squeaks and crunches.

Which specific Metolius models have you had failures of? If what you say is true, then I stand corrected. However I only use Metolius TCUs, any other sizes are Black Diamond or Wild Country brands.

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Ian February 24, 2014 at 3:05 pm

Yeah I hear you on the snowshoes. We have identified them as noisy as well, as well as the straps are prone to slipping and coming loose. While on an exchange in Chile with their Mountain School, I saw the ones they used. They are similar to an AT ski binding, where you can free or lockdown the heel. They worked well.

We had failures on both the Metolius Power Cam and the Supercam. With our next course we are trying the Master Cam, which personally I have had good success with, and like.

The thought of leading with an ACH and swiss seat is enough to give me the twiches.

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Ian February 24, 2014 at 3:06 pm

For now we are using Black Diamond C3s, C4s, and Omega Pacific Link Cams.

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Canadian February 24, 2014 at 4:14 pm

I haven't heard many good reviews of the master cams, not failures, just personal biases. I prefer the new Wild Country Heliums- similar to C4s, but made in the UK not china (will never trust BD, as most of their stuff is chinese made, but their cams are still as much or more expensive).

I will look around for power cam and supercam failure reports, thanks for the heads up!

Mateo February 26, 2014 at 10:18 am

My experience with Faber’s ratcheted binding has been very good – http://flic.kr/p/e5ujKR

The GV bindings also have a good reputation. I believe they manufacture the bindings for the new model Canadian Forces snowshoe – http://flic.kr/p/7B8f9Q

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Canadian February 27, 2014 at 8:39 pm

That snowshoe is a PoS. They break all the time right at the pivot bar, and the way the foot fits into the bindings allows massive ice balling. Terrible.

Where I work, we went back to the old magnesium classics years ago. Many other places as well.

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