People have been cutting down the VS-17 Marker Panels to make them easier to handle and pack for years. The Marker Panel, Individual, Lightweight (MPIL) from Battle Systems LLC is an evolutionary upgrade to that concept but it has some additional features and functionality that make it more than just a downsized rehash of the VS-17.
I should note that I am reviewing the Mk1 version of the MPIL. A new Mk2 version that is 100% Berry Compliant will be released shortly. It will have some subtle changes but the functionality will be unchanged.
The MPIL is a 2 sided marker panel made from lightweight rip-stop nylon. One side is International Orange (Blaze Orange) and the other is fluorescent pink. Each side has a 2 x 2” color matched Velcro square that is intended to allow the user to attach an IR reflective patch. There are paracord loops sewn into each corner.
The panel, with IR patch, weighs about 1 ounce. The MPIL 16 x 16” in its fully open position and it folds down to about 2.5 x 2.5” for storage. It comes with a shock-cord loop that is used to secure it when folded.
The MPIL is available on its own but Battle Systems also offers some worthwhile additions and packages that will help you get the most out of it. Battle Systems will be offering IR patches that can be purchased at the same time as your MPIL. They will also be offering National Molding Poli Bina Clips that make it easier to attach the MPIL to a variety of gear or to attach multiple MPIL together.
I am unqualified speak to the military uses of the MPIL, though they are many. However, the MPIL’s uses are hardly limited to the military. It is potentially a very useful tool for the outdoorsman.
The MPIL is a compact and lightweight means of signaling in the event that something goes awry while you are in the woods. The ability to seen over large distances is paramount when you are lost or need rescue. Basically, when you need to be found, you need to be seen. I never walk into the woods without at least one means of getting someone’s attention.
It packs so small, that it can easily be carried with additional signaling methods. In fact, I have found that you can easily tuck a SAR Global Eclipse Signal System and a quality survival whistle into the folded MPIL to create a very compact, very light weight, and very versatile signaling kit. These items together are compact and light enough that even the most weight conscious packer can find room for them in their kit.
Just as the MPIL can help you be found, it can also help you stay found. It sounds simple but, not getting lost is a great way to avoid needing to be found.
If your usual outdoor haunts have acre after acre of forest with little to no under growth, I envy you. Around here, the little bit of wooded area that we do have is all second growth forest that tends to be choked with dense underbrush. This type of forest makes it nearly impossible to use a sighting compass to identify a landmark on your azimuth to walk toward. In places, it is thick enough that even the leapfrog technique of walking an azimuth can be difficult because you can’t see your navigation partner more than a few yards in front of you.
I’ll briefly explain the leap frog technique for those who are unfamiliar. When using a map and compass, you first determine an azimuth (the direction to your desired destination). Then you use your sighting compass to sight to a landmark that is on your azimuth so you can walk to it and repeat the process until you reach your destination. In the absence of landmarks or when your view of suitable landmarks is obstructed, you can use the leapfrog technique (I have no idea if that is what the technique is really called). Essentially, you use your partner as a moveable landmark. They walk out ahead of you only as far as they can be seen and then you, using your compass, direct them until they are right on your azimuth. They then hold their position while you walk to them and then repeat the process until you have suitable landmarks or your reach your destination.
Years ago, I found that having a brightly colored panel can greatly improve the efficacy of this technique because it makes the navigation partner easier to see and sight the compass against. It essentially allows you to send them further away from you in dense brush which increases the ground that you can cover with each “leap.” The MPIL is tremendously effective tool for this technique. In fact, the MPIL spends a lot of time in my favorite map case for just this purpose.
The above uses really only scratch the surface of the MPIL’s usefulness to the outdoorsman (and we haven’t even touched on military uses). In addition to the above, it can also easily be used to identify yourself as something other than a deer in hunting season. It can be used to mark your camp or gear so it is visible from a distance. It could be used in a vehicle kit as a means of indicating that you need help or being more visible when you change a flat tire on the side of the road. The potential uses go on and on.
Much of the MPIL’s usefulness is derived from how simple it is to attach to various objects. The paracord loops at each corner allow you to use just about any kind of clip or lashing to secure the MPIL. It will attach to some packs without additional hardware (especially any Mystery Ranch pack with the Daypack Lid). The National Molding Poli Bina Clips make it easy to attach to just about any piece of gear whether it has MOLLE webbing available or not.
It is also very simple to attach multiple MPIL together to form a larger panel. The Poli Bina Clips make this especially easy. Battle Systems will likely be offering some form of a multipack of MPIL and Poli Binas once the Mk2 version is available that will facilitate this type of use.
The IR reflective patches that are available expand the capability of MPIL to include low and no light signaling. I would like to see Battle Systems introduce a visible light reflective patch as well since it likely has more relevance to the outdoorsman market than the IR reflective patch.
I have found a way that I like to fold the MPIL that allows me to quickly deploy it as a small square, rather than unfolding it all the way to its full size. This is useful for the above mentioned leapfrog technique where you may not actually need a huge aiming point for the compass. This method can also be used so that the IR patch can be exposed with just one fold instead of fully opening the panel. Additionally, the panel can be folded so that the IR patch is visible without unfolding. Then it can be secured to a pack or gear in this folded state for use as a sort of make shift “cat eye” or “ranger eye.”
I hope you are getting the idea that the MPIL is ridiculously versatile. When every ounce counts, you want the items that you are carrying to be able to be used in multiple ways. I think it is an incredibly useful part of any well rounded survival/signal kit.