You are here

Technical note | A Review of the Soldier's Equipment Burden


The equipment load carried by the Australian Infantryman is so bulky and heavy that it presents a significant burden and impairment to his performance. This report aims to characterise this problem, to assess its impact, and provide recommendations from a range of disciplines. A survey of soldier equipment found it is set up and packed for ease of use, not ergonomic considerations. The load produces discomfort and injury, and reduces soldier and unit agility. All these findings are supported by a review of published literature. The report contains a description of the issues contributing to excessive soldier load, provides project management strategies and the change in the nature of operations, and ends with descriptions of six groups of solutions arrived at from examining the factors that make up the 'soldier equipment burden': load weight, equipment placement, and carriage duration.

Executive Summary

The equipment load carried by Australian Infantryman is so bulky and heavy that it can present a significant impairment to his performance. Despite all the research to date no single effective solution has arisen. The aims of this three-part report are to characterise the problem, to assess its impact, and to provide recommendations from a range of disciplines to reduce the soldier's burden.

Part One of the report summarises the results of a soldier equipment survey which characterised the soldier's load by providing a real-world snapshot of the type, weight and manner in which the load was being carried, plus captured recommendations from soldiers on pack and webbing design improvements. It was observed that soldiers 'live on the outside of their pack'; meaning they pack for need first, ergonomics second. Since many high-need items are also the heaviest it may be necessary to re-consider pack design with these factors in mind. It was reported that the weights carried at the time of the survey are incongruent with the notion of manoeuvre warfare, and soldiers experience discomfort and injury from their Load Carriage Ensemble (LCE) when carrying heavy loads, so the need to reduce the equipment burden should reduce the risk of injury and improve performance.

Part Two confirms observations from part one from evidence in the open literature that the problem of soldier load carriage is a combination of reduced soldier and unit agility, increased fatigue, and high injury rates. This section examines the concept of the weight budget and addresses the question how heavy is too heavy? It also contains a description of the issues contributing to the excessive soldier load, including project management strategies and the change in the nature of operations. A usable definition of a Soldier's Equipment Burden is then outlined; being a combination of load weight, equipment placement and duration of carriage.Part Three describes near-future solutions to the problem of the soldier's equipment burden, arrived at by addressing weight, placement and duration. There needs to be consideration of what is an acceptable compromise between capability loss and performance improvement. There is a need to adopt a philosophy in the acquisition cycle on reducing equipment weight by at least a few grams per item. Then, when combined (as one soldier said) 'the kilos will take care of themselves'. Reducing volume and optimising equipment location are as important as reducing weight. To that end the LCE needs to be designed to best blend operational needs with ergonomic considerations; a pack that allows soldiers to quickly access the middle contents would allow heavy items to be packed close to the soldier's natural centre of mass. The Infantryman, with such a large equipment burden, is in effect disabled compared to his normal functioning. As such the field of assistive technologies may  provide solutions to aide the soldier in carrying their load, or carrying part of the load for the soldier. This allows the possibility of a soldier having with them all the equipment they need when they need it without having to carry it, or at least shorten the duration of carriage. This will allow the soldier to travel further, faster, and be less fatigued (combat ready) at the end of their patrol.

Key information


Chris Brady, Derrek Lush and Tom Chapman

Publication number


Publication type

Technical note

Publish Date

December 2011


Unclassified - public release


Army Equipment, Physiological Stress, Human Factors Engineering