If you’re interested in competing in the Mammoth Sniper Challenge, how do you get started when it comes to gear? There are three main elements to the event – shooting, rucking, and surviving outdoors for three days and two nights. Because you must carry all your gear over 30+ miles worth of timed rucks and shooting stages, you must find the right balance between performance and weight. Even if you can manage to complete all rucks within the time hack, if you are physically and mentally smoked after each movement, you will not be able to perform at the same level when it’s your turn to shoot.
At a minimum, in your team of two, you’ll need two pistols and precision rifles, with extra magazines and enough ammo for the match. At each stage, you’ll first need a way to find the unpainted steel targets, which means using binoculars or some kind of scope, to methodically search a wide area. Second, you need a way to measure the distance of each target that you do find, because that piece of information is essential for making the correct holds. Third, you need to build a stable shooting position to effectively engage the target, see the impact, and make follow-on adjustments as necessary.
We decided to bring the Vortex Fury 5000 laser rangefinding binoculars, which helped us search for and measure target distances. To build stable positions, we used bipods and lightweight rear bags. We would have liked to have a second pair of binoculars and a tripod, but with rucks that were already approaching 50 pounds, which is a large percentage of our body weights, we decided to leave those out.
We made contingency plans for building taller shooting positions, and we decided that whoever was first to shoot would use her rifle scope to scan for targets to supplement the binoculars. We brought a Kestrel to measure environmental factors that would influence how the bullet would travel over long distances, but we also prepared paper copies of our shooting data. We brought a few gun repair and cleaning supplies, so that we wouldn’t be completely out of the game in case of equipment issues. You can’t bring enough to prepare for every possible scenario, but you consider the impact and likelihood of each one, and make the best decision for your team.
For rucking, we already had some experience with the types of clothes that would work for us. Lightweight technical pants offered mobility during shooting and over many rucks. Merino wool base layers kept us warm and dry. Puffy jackets were lightweight but effective protection against the cold. Trail shoes gave us good traction for the off-road miles, without the weight of boots. We used hiking packs, which would be durable enough to survive the event while minimizing extra weight.
For camping, we brought an ultralight 2-person tent, sleeping bags, and sleeping pads. It was chilly outside each night, but we managed to stay warm and get some decent rest. A change of clothes would have been nice, but a change of socks and a change of underwear is all we allowed ourselves. We paid attention to the weather forecast going in, and with the relatively good weather predicted for this year, we were able to leave other contingency items behind.
With a portable stove, we rehydrated hot meals that we could look forward to each morning and evening. We each brought a sawed-off toothbrush and a bit of toothpaste because fresh breath does wonders for our ability to fall asleep quickly and wake up ready to take on the day. We’re used to competing in rucking events where we may have to go 24-48 hours without sleep, so we considered all of these a luxury, in the scheme of things.
The most important aspect of gear is that you practice with what you plan to use during the event. Learn how to pack your ruck in such a way that the weight is distributed optimally, so that a 50-pound ruck doesn’t feel like it weighs 75 pounds. Figure out a good system for how to arrange and compartmentalize everything, so that you can quickly access the items that you need the most often and keep everything dry and secure. Practice shooting with your field gear, which may not provide the same results as the best gear that you have, but that you learn to use well enough to make your hits under time pressure.
It may take some experimentation and time to figure out the right balance for you, so test things out, and be open to ideas and input from others. Everyone’s comfort zone for what minimalism they can tolerate while maintaining high performance is going to be different, but we found a good balance for ourselves for our first event.