Personal Load Carrying Equipment

Personal Load Carrying Equipment (PLCE) is the current tactical webbing system of the British Army. It consists of a belt, yoke (shoulder harness) and a number of pouches. Associated with PLCE webbing is a series of other similar load carrying equipment and rucksacks (See ‘Components’).

The purpose of PLCE is to hold everything a soldier needs to operate for 48 hours. This includes ammunition/weapon ancillaries, entrenching tool, bayonet, food and water (and a means to cook), NBC (Nuclear, Biological, Chemical) protection and communications equipment. Soldiers will also often carry other items such as waterproof clothing and spare socks.

PLCE is also very popular with paintball/airsoft players, as high quality surplus is available at a reasonable price. Most web resources relating to PLCE are recreational (see links).

The British Army continues to use belt-based webbing as standard when most other countries are switching to modular systems. While vests and chest rigs may be more suitable for mechanised infantry and urban operations, the load-carrying ability of PLCE makes it well suited to conventional dismounted warfare.

The system has also been adopted by the Danish Army in M84 camouflage and the Irish Army in Olive Green (OG). Many other countries use similar systems.


PLCE replaced 58 Pattern webbing, which was made of olive canvas: this system was outdated by the 1980s. It was very heavy, uncomfortable, and shrank when wet - these problems were well noted by soldiers during the Falklands War - and would also be difficult to decontaminate following attack by chemical agents. A nylon version was made - 72 Pattern webbing - but not generally issued.

The US introduced nylon M-67 (and later ALICE) type webbing during the Vietnam War to overcome the issues associated with canvas in damp climates. Following their lead, Britain developed 72 Pattern webbing, which consisted of two front ammo pouches and a rear butt pack made of butyl laminate. This was never generally issued, but is thought to have been used by the SAS.

Developments resumed with the introduction of the SA80 rifle in the mid- to late 80s. Trials of experimental PLCE and combat body armour were conducted with selected units in 1983/84, following which 85 Pattern PLCE was issued on a restricted basis. It was very similar to the first issue PLCE, but used snaps for closure on all pouches.

The first PLCE (90 Pattern) appeared around 1988, in OG. The original type used ’58 pattern c-hooks for belt attachment, and angled D-rings for yoke attachment on the ammunition pouches (so there were separate left and right pouches). The first production utility pouches had additional belt attachments for high mounting, like the ammo pouches of 37 or 44 Pattern webbing.

Newer OG webbing has ambidextrous yoke fittings and standard PLCE belt attachments (see below). The Disruptive Pattern Material (DPM) version (95 Pattern/Soldier 95) has been made since about 1992.


The Infantry Trials and Development Unit (ITDU) conducted trials with PLCE. They divided PLCE into three orders of dress:

* Assault Order.
* Combat Order.
* Marching Order.

Assault Order consists of the essentials ammunition, waterbottle, entrenching tool hand(ETH), helmet and NBC clothing (carried in one of the detachable side pouches of the rucksack) for operations and patrols of only short duration.

Combat Order is assault order with the means of stowage for rations and personal equipment to enable a soldier to live and fight for 24 hours. In addition to assault order, the second side pouch of the rucksack is carried. In practice the patrol pack is used by many units and individual soldiers instead of the side pouches as it is larger and more convenient.

Marching Order is combat order plus rucksack and is a load which will be required for an operation of up to two weeks’ duration without resupply except for ammunition, rations and water, the complete bergan is carried.

The basis of PLCE is the belt; it has two D-rings at the back (to attach to the yoke), and many rows of narrow vertical slots sewn into it (for the pouches).

Two front pouches (ammunition or utility) attach to the belt; they have belt loops and plastic tabs that drop into the slots of the belt. These tabs provide more stability and security.

The 6-point yoke attaches to the two D-rings of the belt and two A-rings on each front pouch. This distributes the weight and is more comfortable than a 4-point yoke.

Rear pouches (utility, water bottle, respirator, entrenching tool) attach to the belt using the same loop and tab system.

The standard issue kit is two double ammunition pouches, water bottle pouch, utility pouch and bayonet frog. To this, privately purchased water bottle or utility pouches and hip pads are often added. The entrenching tool pouch is sometimes used as an alternative water bottle pouch.

The main criticism of PLCE is that the belt is prone to slipping. Some soldiers opt to change the plastic buckle for a Roll-Pin type, whereby the belt is threaded and tightened each time it is put on.


PLCE Webbing is made from double-layered 1000 Denier internally rubberised Cordura nylon, an incredibly hard wearing fabric. OG webbing is used, along with a variety of hard wearing plastic and metal fasteners.

The pouches are closed with ‘Spanish Tabs’ which are secure and quick to open, although not as quick to close as ‘side release’ type buckles. They also have velcro fastening with ‘silencer strips’ to cover them up when not needed. The tabs also can be closed in two different ways, quick release or secure.

A standard ammunition pouch as issued has two pockets; single versions are available for those not required to carry as much ammunition. Pouches used to contain a dividing strip to hold two magazines in separate compartments and eliminate rattle. Some soldiers, especially infantry, removed these dividing strips to make it easier to insert and remove magazines - this also means that three magazines can be squeezed into each pouch, giving a total capacity of twelve magazines per person in standard configuration. Newer issue webbing does not contain dividers, as each pouch can contain three magazines comfortably and without excessive noise, and because eight magazines in the webbing was not thought to be sufficient for sustained firefights with the enemy.

IRR coating is applied to all fabric and webbing, which reduces its signature when viewed through Infrared night vision systems to that of foliage.


The following are all Issue items, however many Commercial variants are available.
* Webbing:
** Main Yoke
** Quick-release Belt
** Hip Pad/Hippo Pad
** Double Ammo Pouch
** Single Ammo Pouch
** 200-rd Minimi Pouch
** Utility Pouch
** Water Bottle Pouch
** Entrenching Tool Pouch
** Respirator Pouch
** Personal-Role Radio Pouch
** Pistol Holster and shoulder strap
** SA80 Bayonet Frog
** Plain Other Arms Scabbard for Bayonet (fits inside frog)
** SA80 Infantry Scabbard for Bayonet with Sharpening Stone and Saw/Wire Cutters (fits inside frog)
** Machete Frog
** Jungle Knife Sheath
** Rifle Grenade Pouch (now obsolete, with the adoption of SA80 with UGL)
** Utility Straps
* Tactical Equipment:
** PLCE Chest Rig - with three ammo pouches, two utility/water-bottle pouches and a map pocket.
** PLCE Assault Vest- with two ammo pouches, four utility/water-bottle pouches, two general pouches and two dump pockets.
* Load Carrying Equipment:
** Patrol Pack (40 litres)
** Shortback/Longback Infantry (Or All Arms in later manufacture) Rucksack (100 litres) ("Bergen"). The detachable Bergen side pouches can be attached to a yoke to make a day-sack
** Rucksack, Other Arms. A slightly smaller Bergen with holdall-style carrying handles and pack-away shoulder straps, designed to be carried in vehicles.
** Field Pack Air Support. Larger rucksack with 6 external pouches on the rear and provision for an extra side pouch to be attached across the top. Issue to some SF, Pathfinder and STA Patrol Troops
** Radio Rucksack (351)
** Medical side pouch
** MOD 2 l Hydration Pack/Camelbak Thermobak 3 l

The Future

Most other countries are developing modular systems such as US Army/USMC MOLLE and the German Army IdZ vest as part of the Future Soldier programme, yet no plans have been announced by the MoD. Even though issue and privately purchased alternatives are becoming increasingly common the British Army will likely continue using PLCE for the time being.

It is worth noting, however, that PALS webbing has been incorporated into the new Osprey and Kestrel body armour systems.

Assault Vest

A new issue piece of equipment designed for carrying essential items on a more secure rig than the original PLCE webbing.

This consists of a typical waistcoat design fastened with three itw nexus clips. Two triple ammunition pouches are situated on the left hand side along with a utility pouch, small utility pouch and a zippered dump pocket with an internal holster. The right side is similar but with three large utility pouches, along with a small utility pouch and again a zippered dump pocket with notepad holder. All pouches close with nexus fastex clips as well as having storm seals.

The vest is adjusted via 4 ladderlock fasteners and webbing, the shoulders are adjustable with velcro. The idea is to gain a secure load carrying system that fits over body armour comfortably.

There are various types of this vest depending upon year of manufacture the originals are as described above but newer models have loops on the left side for bayonet frog, clips for a large hydration pouch, name patches on the left side small utility pouch and now most recently the Spanish tab fasteners are being used instead of nexus clips.

The genuine-issue assault vest is available in either DPM or Desert DPM depending on operational requirements, whilst the commercial copies on the market are available in multiple colours - Black, Olive Green, DPM, Desert DPM as well as U.S. Tri-Colour (along with PLCE webbing and bergens).

External links

* [ PLCE on the British Army Official Site]
* [ PLCE on the 'Army Rumour Service' Encyclopedia]
* [ PLCE Webbing Instructions on 'Newbury Air Cadets']
* [ How to assemble PLCE on 'Practical Airsoft']

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