It's always interesting to see how soldiers in the field adapt and overcome problems in their day to day business. Like how to keep all the relevant, dynamic and often rapidly changing battlefield information accessible and to hand. In Afghan it took the form of the lads cutting out the white plastic inserts from grenade tins and using them as marker boards, sometimes in thin strips taped to their arms, other times as pocket-fit rectangles. Always a mass of grids, bearings and large font ‘FML’ from time to time.
What's more interesting is how quickly companies involved in military kit observe these field adaptations and bring it into their own products. Blackhorse military may not be the first but it's certainly the first product I've seen to encompass these plastic boards in with their 'The Soldier' fully fitted field aid folder.
'The Soldier' is as it says, a field aid folder which is sized to fit your map pocket and contains a plethora of options for scribblings.
We have at the back an Aquascribe notepad inserted into its own sleeve. This pad can be written on in the rain but is a Blackhorse stamped product and not the same product that you may have heard of which is called 'Rite in the rain' or something to that effect. However having compared the two there is no difference apart from the colour as this is a white notepad instead of the other brands brown offering.
After that you then have the plastic board which is held in place by a small green sleeve which is actually sewn directly onto the plastic itself giving it a secure housing. Several good attempts to rip it out proved its sturdiness.
That's then followed on by four clear folders for inserts such as crib cards, etc. It also has a sticker on one which very helpfully notes that talcum powder inside the sleeve can stop ink etc coming off onto the plastic, a common problem and the first time I've heard of this solution, so a good top tip there.
Again, these are sewn in with green sleeves up the sides and seem fairly well secured. They are small but should do the job for most A5 crib cards, though some adjusting of layout may be required to make it all fit.
Then on the inner jacket you have a pocket for a standard notebook (Supplied) a pen holder which will fit three pens (One supplied) then another five pen holders behind that (One holds a Chinagraph pencil, supplied) and a final sleeve behind that which can hold either more cards or just general storage for paper, chewies or a morale picture.
The whole shebang is a zip affair in the standard style and on the back there is a zip pouch which again gives access to another pouch for storage of bits and bobs. On the front there is a clear window for the insertion of an ID card or something similar and the whole thing rounds off with the Black Horse Military logo on the bottom right.
I think everyone has had something similar to this at some stage or another. I know I've gone through several. The material used seems a lot more robust than some other offerings I've come across and the stitching used is solid and very well done. The material used is waterproof and has a rot proof binding which is always a winner as I've seen some other firms take on this start to disintegrate after a while in poor conditions.
With the amount of options available it's not just a standard Nirex or zip pouch, it's a genuine replacement and upgrade to existing options. The plastic insert is straight out of theatre and into your pocket. The only thing they could do to make this product any better would be to have another plastic board as those that have used them in the field know how quickly they fill up and how loathe you are to erase any information on it in case it's relevant or needed later.
That's just a whimsical thing though and overall this is a top notch product with serious use in the field. The plastic insert wins it as it means you don't have to faff around with the clear inserts if you don't need to and the fact it's fully kitted out with the notepads, pencil, pen and Chinograph
Top gear and something that is invaluable in the field when the details start flowing and that bit of laminated paper just isn't cutting the mustard!
Five Year Update: This little thing missed the sexy Herrick deployment, but went with me to Kenya and the Falklands as well as a couple of Salisbury Specials, and it got fairly abused I have to say. It held up well and I loved the plastic insert – though after a while it became pretty illegible due to the amount of staining, etc, on it. Even nail varnish wouldn’t shift it. However, without spending megabucks on something far more complex, it’s an easy, inexpensive option that kept trucking on.