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Phillosoph

New Machete Grip.

Surprisingly, machetes have featured infrequently in this blog. Possibly this is because much of what could have been said is already covered in “Survival Weapons” and “Crash Combat”.
One of the virtues of machetes is that they are mass-produced in their thousands, allowing you to acquire a reasonable quality tool for a very modest outlay. Sometimes the sheath costs more than the knife! Some auction sites that no longer sell “knives and bayonets” still sell machetes. A typical machete may be a fraction of the price of a smaller survival knife, yet prove more capable and more useful. In addition to new items, you may find some bargains second-hand or army surplus. Certainly, there are machetes being sold for hundreds of dollars, but it is unlikely that ten times the outlay will get you a ten-times better tool. The price of machetes is such that you may find yourself owning several, and distributing them among various kits and caches. You may have one in your garden shed, another with your bug-out bag, and one with your vehicle, plane and/or boat. If you are a bit of a kit tinkerer, this gives you an excuse to try out a variety of models without wasting large amounts of money.
I have spent the last couple of days fitting one of my machetes with a new grip. The new grip is modelled on that of a couple of barongs that I have.
Machetes sometimes attempt to escape their user! You might cut at a springy branch placed under tension by other growth. Such an event can knock a machete right out of the user’s hand and send it flying into the brush. It is rather surprising that more machetes do not feature retention features such as knuckle bows and wrist loops. Many models don’t even have a hole in the grip for fitting the latter!
The barong-style handle is functional as well as cosmetic. The bird’s head shape facilitates both retention and manipulation.
My grip is made from teak, which once served as a chunk of laboratory bench top. It was shaped with a variety of hand-tools, with the occasional use of a Dremel-tool and an electric drill. Once the sanding was complete it was treated with several applications of linseed oil. The metal collar was made from a strip of soda can. Just above the machete you can see one of the original handle halves. The only modification made to the blade was one corner of the tang was reduced and rounded.
Flip-side view: Some dust still in need of cleaning off. I changed the cord for a longer piece with an extra knot, allow use as both a wrist loop and a thumb loop. The grip part could be slimmer, but I err on the side of caution when carving.
Currently I am sharpening this up, and it now has a reasonable edge on it. Most newly purchased machetes need some sharpening. You will be tempted to try sharpening it with a Dremel or bench grinder, but it is possible to overdo this. Machetes are made of softer metal than most smaller knives, and do not need a fine edge. The “micro-serrations” of the edge actually help the machete bite on vegetation. This means all you really need is a medium-sized “bastard” file. In the field you can maintain the edge with your usual sharpening tools. My EDC includes a diamond-impregnated card, and my kukri has a chakmak and small stone with it. If planning a trip where you expect your machete to see lots of use, it is worth packing a file in your camp gear.
Hold the file at an angle of around 22.5 degrees (for example) to the blade flat and push away from the spine. The noise the file makes on the steel will give you clues as to which parts of the edge need more work. Half a right angle is 45 degrees and 22.5 half this again. Fold the corner of a piece of paper twice and use this to check your angle.
I have been sharpening with the machete across my knees, edge away from me. You could probably make a rig with a couple of supports at 22.5 degrees. The width, flatness and relatively straight edge of a machete favour this arrangement. With the machete resting on the ramps, edge up, a file held horizontally will be at the correct angle. Now I have an edge at the correct angle it is easy to file either side while holding the blade vertically. 
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Phillosoph

Musketeer Cloak for Survival.

Another night where the only good stuff on TV I have seen before. I remembered that the BBC series “The Musketeers” had been added to box sets. I think I had missed the early episodes when they were first shown, so I downloaded episode one and started watching.
As it turned out, I remembered quite a bit of the first episode, so must have started watching part way through the first one. Good fun, however.
According to some sources, a cloak with arm-vents is called a “mandelion”. This is often also defined as being waist-length. The cloaks in the series appear to be around knee length.
The costumes of the musketeers in this series is interesting. It features a pauldron on the right shoulder and is mainly leather. Think “Mad Max” meets Dumas! No idea as to the historical accuracy, but looks good. I wonder how uncomfortable it was in the sunnier scenes.
What did grab my attention this watch through was the design of the cloaks worn by the musketeers. According to some web-sources there were at least two different cloaks used. A lighter weight, light blue cloak was used in “parade” scenes, a heavier, darker blue in other scenes. In some scenes the cloaks appear to be hooded. In the episode set in the “Court of Miracles” Portos wears a brown cloak sharing some design features with the musketeer cloak. Cloaks with similar features appear worn by other characters in later episodes.
The distinctive feature of the cloak is that it has two long arm vents so the cloak resembles a long tabard. These are usually shown open, but the long line of buttons suggest they can be closed so the cloak can be worn in a more conventional fashion. Presumably these slits can be partially unbuttoned too. Unlike the tabard, the cloak has a full length opening down the front. This too has a long line of buttons, and the fold-over of cloth suggests when closed it may share some of the features of a double-breasted greatcoat. While it is hard to make out, the rear part of the cloak may have a waist-height buttoned vent for use when riding. As one might expect, the collar of the cloak is substantial and can be turned up to protect the neck. In warmer conditions the cloak is shown worn on the left shoulder, with a cord passing under the right armpit.
Some patterns. I suggest the rear side of the side pieces be sewn to the back part. The wearing of a rapier seemed to necessitate a second side vent. A cloak could be constructed by joining a semi-circular back piece to a rectangular front section. In such an instance it may be prudent to continue the top of the front section back to create a vented yoke, rather like a trench coat.
The merits and possibilities of a cloak for survival have been discussed on previous posts. One advantage is that it is sufficiently roomy that any of your other cold weather items can fit beneath it. For a modern version two-way zips might be utilized. For the arm vents I would suggest poppers be used, allowing a closed vent to be more easily opened. Seventeenth century clothing often featured closely spaded buttons, so a modern cloak may need less poppers than the buttons used on the costume items.
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Phillosoph

Breakfalls: The Lateral Roll

Close combat has been described as the art of knocking someone down and kicking them while they are down. In this light, it is perhaps surprising that breakfalls are a rather neglected skill in many martial arts and self-defence courses.
The book Arwrology recounts and incident where a serviceman uses a breakfall to avoid injury when he is thrown to the ground during a bombing raid. Breakfall techniques can be incorporated into the warm-up for a training session in any martial style. In an ideal society, children would be taught breakfalls in kindergarten, learning a useful skill to save them from possible injuries in later life.
It will come as no surprise that Crash Combat and Attack, Avoid, Survive both contain sections on breakfalls. Breakfalls can be classed as “rolls”, “slaps” and “non-traditional”. A roll is self-explanatory. Slaps use the impact of the forearms and palms on the ground to brake the fall. In my books, the non-traditional techniques are represented by the cartwheel and the parachute landing fall. Once, on an isolated mountain path I missed my footing. Executing a parachute landing fall saved me from injury in a remote location, even though I was wearing a heavy pack.
In my books I also describe the forward roll, and slap techniques to the front, side and rear. Today I will look at two additional techniques.
The first is the rear roll. This resembles the rear slapping technique, but without using the forearms to brake you. The starting posture for learning resembles that used to learn the rear slapping roll. Instead of using your arms you continue to roll backwards, across your back and shoulders. It may be necessary to roll several times. Ideally you finish on your feet, ready to stand up from the squat position.
The second technique is the “lateral roll” (yokonagare). The starting position for learning this resembles that used for the sideways slap breakfall. These photo sequences from books by Stephen Hayes illustrate the principle better than my text does:
The extended leg provides balance, and should be extended straight so that the bottom of the thigh absorbs the impact with the ground. The supporting leg is allowed to fold as much as practical to reduce drop distance. In the first sequence the roll seems to be to the rear quarter rather than to the side. The same starting position and core technique can be used to make a roll to the rear.
The lateral roll has a number of other applications. As well as being a breakfall, the technique can be used to drop below and away from an attack. It can also be used to drop and roll behind cover if spotted or fired upon. Possibly the move could be incorporated into certain sacrifice throws.
This is a move that can be initiated from any stance where the weight can be easily transferred to the rear leg. My Capoeira background notes that the actual roll action is preceded by a posture similar to negativa. It also resembles the semi-squat position often seen with some Chinese martial arts. For negativa and other breakfalls, see my books.

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Phillosoph

Wind and the White Crane: Hidden Hand Attacks.

I have used lockdown as a chance to complete a number of projects. I have also done a lot of reading on a wide variety of topics. This included finishing some books I had stalled on, and looking at some others I had just never got around to giving my full attention to. In the latter category were a number of books on Ninjitsu, including some by Stephen Hayes. Books on this topic often have a lot of chaff in with the wheat, although to be fair, that is true of many martial arts books written in the 80s, if not in general!
One of the sections that interested me was that on stances, the stance associated with the element “wind” in particular.
As I have discussed in my own books, I feel “stance” and most of its English alternatives is an unsatisfactory term. It is a transitional rather than stationary configuration. Hayes likens them to snapshots or frames from a film rather than being stationary. Most of us, even many high-grade martial artists, have a relatively shallow immersion in the art. Stances are an important training aid but it is easy to become diverted by the details rather than passing through to master the underlying concepts. Interestingly the Japanese term “kamae” translates as “pose” or “posture”, but also as “base”. Stances are often the foundation for learning.
From Stephen Hayes Ninja Vol.1:
“The wind level of consciousness is characterized by the receiving posture, or hira no kamae. The receiving posture couples a freely moving base and the power to harmonize the body with the intentions of an attacker. The feet are placed hip-width apart and carry the body weight evenly. The knees are flexed slightly more than in the natural posture, creating a feeling of balance in the hips similar to that experienced just before sitting down on a chair. The back is straight, in a natural manner, and the shoulders are relaxed. The arms extend outstretched to the sides with the hands open, and the eyes gaze forward in soft focus, taking in the whole picture without limiting the concentration to one single point.
The body should have an extremely light, almost floating feel to it. Epitomizing some concepts that are the opposite of those embodied in the shizen earth pose, the wind-level hira no kamae prepares the fighter for adapting to and going with the attacking moves of the enemy. This adaptive sensitivity is centered in the chest behind the breastbone. The evenly distributed balance facilitates quick and easy movement in any direction in response to the attacker’s intentions. The outstretched arms have the potential of becoming tools to carry out punches, strikes, deflections, blocks, throws and locks, as well as acting as distractions and calming techniques.
In self-protection situations, the hira posture is used to handle attackers in a way that subdues them without injury, if possible. The pose itself is nonthreatening, and it appears to be an attempt to fend off an attack or to reassure an adversary that there is no hostile intention, as upraised open hands traditionally symbolize surrender or benediction. From the hira no kamae, footwork proceeds with circular or straight- line movements, as appropriate for the specific circumstances. The arms are used to entangle the adversary with spiraling actions or intercept the adversary with direct advances.”
Another book on Taijutsu (by Charles Daniels, taught by the same sensei as Hayes, Masaaki Hatsumi) shows a posture it calls “hoe no kamae”. While this uses an L stance and raised forearms, I suspect the application is similar.
Those of you wise enough to have invested in a copy of Crash Combat or Attack, Avoid, Survive (thank you!) will know I place considerable emphasis on evasion rather than parrying or blocking. The basis of this is the ginga movement from Capoeira. Could the wind kamae be an alternative or complimentary evasion technique to ginga?
Sadly, I do not currently have much room to dance around, so I cannot experiment much with movement and evasive moves in hira no kamae. Some observations:
On its own, hira no kamae and hoe no kamae look like the fighter is just standing there saying “Go on dude, hit me!”. This is one of the symptoms of regarding a stance as static, amplified by still photography. In practice, this posture will be used to allow fast body turns. The outstretched arms contribute to maintaining balance. Study the body twist used in the photos below. Hira no kamae is not used, but it could have been passed through if the defender had thrown up his arms for stability. Both of my martial arts titles explain how to use quick evasive turns similar to that shown. You will find these in the bayonet and knife sections, as well as elsewhere in the text.
Hira no kamae may have reminded some of you of the white crane-inspired movements used in some styles of Kung Fu and Karate. Not surprisingly, white crane styles often put a considerable emphasis on evasion.
The extended lead arm can be used to parry attacks that cannot be fully avoided. Brought up under the attacker’s armpit and we have the Tai Chi technique of “diagonal flying”. This is effectively the same principle as using a straight-arm Karate parry against a foe’s torso and breaking their balance.
Hayes’ books often show defensive strikes made against the attacking limb, including from hira no kamae. This is also a tactic favoured by many white crane styles.
The wind posture is likely to place a defender side on to an attacker. As described above, the lead hand may be used for an assortment of parries and strikes. The latter include finger jabs to the face and clawing actions. The rear hand has the advantage that is has a considerable distance in which to generate power, and that it is effectively hidden from the attacker’s view. This is the equivalent of the “tail” position used with swords and other weapons. The foe has no idea from what direction a rear hand attack may come, and the rotation of the waist can create power and velocity.
One option is to adopt a side-on horse stance as the forward arm parries. The rear hand then executes a classic reverse punch, the hips twisting through ninety degrees to transition into forward stance. Hook punches are another useful technique for an enemy you are side on to.
In Complete Wing Chun (Vol.2) the author discusses Pak Hok Pai, a white crane style with several techniques suited to attacking an opponent to the side. In best Batman tradition, two of these are called “pow” and “kup”. Pow chui has been described as a straight uppercut employed with a semicircular body motion. I like to think of it as a “long uppercut”, although technically it is more of a long shovel-hook. Targets include the testicles, kidneys or throat. Kup/ cup chui is a downwards, overhead strike that can be targeted at the soft muscles of a kicking leg or the forearm, biceps or triceps of an attacking or guarding arm. The temple, nose or top of the head can also be targeted with kup. Like the corkscrew hook described in Attack, Avoid, Survive, a kup can be used to reach over and around a guard. The difference is that the kup typically comes from the rear hand while the corkscrew starts as a lead jab.
A more horizontal motion, intermediate between pow and kup can be used to throw a lateral, circular strike (a “roundhouse punch”, perhaps?), more open and straighter-armed than a hook. While this has elements of being a “haymaker”, many of the standard objections do not apply if correct tactics and a hidden hand posture is used. The back and kidneys or below the guard are the favoured target areas. An upward angled or horizontal strike can be applied to the area of the sixth to tenth ribs: above the floating ribs and below the level of the lower tip of the sternum. This is likely to affect the lungs. All these punches are powered by waist/hip rotation and are most effective with a relaxed, easily accelerated arm.
Kup and pow are both performed using the second knuckle of the fingers as the striking surface. These are the knuckles that would make contact if you were knocking on a door. Some styles call this a “leopard fist”. Attack, Avoid, Survive showed a related technique, the half-fist, used to attack soft, narrow targets such as between the ribs. The thumb is often pressed against the side of the fingers, rather than being clamped across them as with a conventional fist. Rear hand attacks can also utilize palm-strikes, chops and hammer-fist strikes.
In “How To Use Tai Chi as a Fighting Art” Erle Montaigue describes the Stork Spreads Wings Punch, another potential rear hand attack. The “Stork Spreads Wings” posture is often translated as “white crane…”:
“This punch is one of the most powerful punches from any martial art. It is totally centrifugal and quite fast considering its distance…This is one of only three punches in T’ai Chi that uses the first two knuckles, in T’ai Chi we use the knuckles that most suit the position of the palm upon impact otherwise we use extra muscles to hold the palm into position and there-by lessen its impact…If you block with the right fist across to the left against a left face attack with the left palm underneath it, … the left palm then takes over the block while the right fist is thrown out at the target with the turning of the waist…Your left palm looks after the left fist while your right fist circles back up in a centrifugal punch to his left temple”
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Phillosoph

Help for Time Travellers.

In my novella, “Anatopismo”, one of the characters expresses surprise that a community has electricity. The other character is surprised by this reaction and responds “Why not? It is just wire and magnets.”
I was reminded of this passage since I have started reading “How To Invent Everything: A Survival Guide For The Stranded Time Traveler” by Ryan North (2018, Riverhead Books) ISBN 978-0735220140. A common theme that occurs in this book is that many of humanity’s inventions and discoveries could have been made centuries or even millennia before they were. Sometimes an idea was adopted in one field, but it was a considerable time until it was applied in others. For example, wine was being pasteurized centuries before it was applied to other foodstuffs, such as milk.
How To Invent Everything will probably prove interesting to many readers of this blog, but particularly those interested in long term scenarios. It is packed full of diverse, useful information in an easily readable style. There are a few points of contention. The beer recipes given are rather vague. The comments made about the cloudiness Egyptian-style beer are probably out of date. Staphylococcus are not necessarily harmless. The author also describes yeast as “animals”, which is a pretty basic, avoidable mistake, and makes me wonder about other inaccuracies. You should probably double check any facts from the book before you get into any arguments, but that is a sound policy anyway.
On the topic of verifying information, the book is worth reading just for the comments on the scientific method:
“This is the more accurate theory of combustion that we still operate under today, but we could still be wrong.
Or, more likely, we could still be more correct.
Here’s how you produce knowledge using the scientific method.
An example: maybe you notice (as per step 1) that your corn didn’t grow well this year. For (2), you might ask, “Hey, what the heck, everyone, how come my corn didn’t grow well this year?” You might suspect the drought affected the corn’s growth (3), and so (4) decide to grow corn under controlled conditions, giving each plant different amounts of water but equal amounts of everything else you can think of (sunlight, fertilizer, etc.). After carefully doing that (5), you might conclude (6) that a precise amount of water grows the best corn plants, and (7) let your farmers know. And when your corn still doesn’t grow as well as you want, you might explore (8) and wonder if there’s more to growing great corn than just making sure your corn isn’t thirsty.*
The more ways a hypothesis has been tested, the more likely it is to be correct, but nothing is certain. The best case you can hope for by using the scientific method is a theory that happens to fit the facts as you understand them so far: science gives you an explanation, but you can never say with absolute certainty that it’s the correct one. That’s why scientists talk about the theory of gravity (even though gravity itself clearly exists and can cause you to fall down the stairs), theories of climate change (even though it’s obvious our environment is not the same one our parents enjoyed, or that you’re enjoying right now), or the theory of time travel (even though it’s a fact that you’re clearly trapped in the past for reasons that cannot have any legal liability assigned).
Note that the scientific method requires you to keep an open mind and be willing—at any time—to discard a theory that no longer fits the facts. This is not an easy thing to do, and many scientists have failed at it. Einstein* himself hated how his own theory of relativity argued against his preferred idea of a fixed and stable universe, and for years tried in vain to find some solution that reconciled them both. But if you succeed at following the scientific method, you will be rewarded, because you will have produced knowledge that is reproducible: that anyone can check by doing the same experiment themselves.
Scientists are often seen as turbonerds, but the philosophical foundations of science are actually those of pure punk-rock anarchy: never respect authority, never take anyone’s word on anything, and test all the things you think you know to confirm or deny them for yourself.”

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Phillosoph

The Soft Core Bag.

Today I am going to introduce what I call my “soft core bag”. This is not a “bug-out bag”, although it could be included in the contents of one.
I have a number of bags and rucksacs, and there are certain items that I would invariably want in one of I was carrying it. Stocking each pack with necessary items is not economically practical, however. Perhaps, I thought, I should have a box containing the necessary items and potential alternatives. This was part of the solution, but I quickly realized many items could be packed together so they could easily be grabbed in one go.
I drew on the lists given in the previous post to select the current loadout.

  • Top left: A small first aid kit. This supplements the items I carry in my skin-level EDC.
  • Directly below the first aid kit in a dark brown camouflage bag is a rain poncho.
  • The white plastic bag beside the poncho contains a toilet roll.
  • Middle top can be see a bag of boiled sweets and a pair of warm gloves. These are sitting on top of a dark green all-weather blanket. You can see some of the shoelaces that are tied to the grommets of this. I intend to add a pair of silver space blankets.
  • Top right, a red and black shemagh. This is a spare/ additional shemagh since I am often wearing one these days.
  • Bottom centre is my Advantage-camouflaged boonie hat.
  • Sitting on the boonie hat is a plastic bag carrying a small fire kit. This has two butane lighters, two nightlights, a 35mm film container filled with Vaseline-soaked cotton wool and a Fresnel lens.
  • Below the fire kit and to the left is an ACU-patterned headover which can serve various roles including as warm headgear.
  • Bottom right is a one-litre Playtpus waterbottle. Sitting on it are a shoelace, hank of general purpose string, hank of green paracord and some braided fishing line wrapped around a piece of plastic (yoghurt carton).
  • Not shown: two supermarket carrier bags. I wear photochromic spectacles. If you do not, a pair of cheap sunglasses may be a prudent addition.

The whole collection packs into a draw-cord bag, as shown. Note snap-link added to one carrying cord. This bag is lined with another plastic bag to provide better water resistance. The headover is folded into a pouch and used to contain some of the smaller items. This pouch, in turn, is placed inside the boonie hat. Most of the pack contents are soft and crushable so no great genius at packing is really needed. Put the blanket in first and add the other contents. Put your water-bottle away from your back and ensure your poncho rides near the top of your bag.
Packed, but without water, the soft core bag weighs about 1.3 kg. The volume of water I will carry and which water-bottle I will carry will vary with climate and anticipated conditions.
The soft core pack is easily stuffed into a larger bag, immediately adding a collection of very useful items. On its own, it is a good bag to have for trips where you do not want to be bothered by a bag. It is light and low-density, and makes a pretty good pillow.
A quick glance inside the first aid kit. Items in this kit are consumed in preference to those in the skin-level EDC. Vaseline is good for chapped lips and other ailments.
The soft core bag probably has more cordage than it needs, but I had some hanks already made up. This is a nice example of paracord carried using hojo-jitsu configuration.
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Phillosoph

Survival Kits: Bringing It All Together

Today I am going to try and bring together some of my ideas regarding survival kit and selection of contents. When possible, I try to approach topics from a different perspective to that echoed on most websites.
Regular readers may know that I have my reservations about the “little tin of gizmos”. Thinking that you are covered because you have a couple of band-aids and a couple of loose fishing hooks and swivels is a recipe for disaster.
Survival kit may exist on several levels. On your person you will have your skin-level EDC. Most of mine is in the pockets of my trousers, although some items are on my trouser belt or key-ring. If you are carrying a bag, it is prudent to have some additional items in your bag. You consume the items in your bag in preference to your skin-level items. Military personnel often have an intermediate level in their webbing load-bearing equipment. Ideally this should only hold ammo, weapons, some water and immediate first aid items but the tendency to add additional gear is common. A larger pack or vehicle may provide higher levels of survival gear. One should always plan for the contingency that one may get separated from bags or vehicles. This is why your skin-level gear is important.
My current planning list looks like this:
Seven Tools of EDC
Hat, Towel, Rope
Medical, Writing, Fire, Knife
Foundation Survival Kit
Blanket, Fire, Knife
Poncho, Water, Toilet Paper, Canteen Cup
Travelling Kit
Navigation, Signalling, Illumination
Washing, Repairs, Food,
Documentation, Money, Clothing, Armament
The item names are memory aids and should be taken generically rather than specifically. “Knife” represents other tools, “blanket” represents sleeping bags and related items and so on.
The Seven Tools of EDC
The Seven Tools of EDC were inspired by the roguku or Six Tools of Travelling. I remember these as three flexible things (hat, towel and rope), three multi-part things (medical kit, fire kit and writing kit) and a knife.
Hat” represents other protective clothing, such as gloves, goggles and sun-glasses. At “skin-level” this will be whatever headgear and other items suits the current or expected weather. If I am taking a bag I will probably have two hats. One will be to protect from the sun and keep the rain off my glasses, probably a boonie hat. The other will be a warm hat such as a watch cap or headover. If it is really cold spare gloves and headover are a prudent precaution.
Towel” in this context is a multi-purpose piece of cloth. At skin-level this is a bandanna in my pocket but recently I have also been wearing a shemagh. If I lose or did not bring my hat these can serve as head coverings. Any bag I carry usually has a spare bandanna and/or shemagh in it. In colder conditions the shemagh is replaced or supplemented by a woollen or acrylic scarf.
Rope” for the ninja may have meant a grappling hook and rope. For me this reminds me to carry some cordage. At skin-level this is a couple of armspans of paracord, a hank of string, a container of dental floss and a retaining cord for my glasses. Packs contain longer lengths of paracord. If heading for the deep wilderness I would have a toggle rope or the modern equivalent.
Medical Kit. On my person I have a small number of plasters, alcohol wipes and pain-killers, plus some personal medication. I have a more extensive medical kit I carry in daysacs, plus a bigger kit in my travelling bags. Medical also includes such items as insect repellent and sun cream. These are usually bag items but certain conditions may require a small supply to be carried on your person. Whenever possible items are consumed from the larger kits before the skin-level kit.
Writing represents communication and recording. In my pockets I carry a pen, pencil and two pieces of chalk (one light, one dark colour). Usually have a phone on my belt. Daysac may contain a notepad in a plastic bag. When on holiday I keep a journal.
Fire Kit. For everyday use this is simply a disposable lighter riding in the bottom of a pocket. I carry a plastic bag with a couple of tissues in, which could be used as tinder. If straying further afield I would add a container of tinder, fresnel lens and spare lighter to my pockets. Daysac has a couple of spare lighters and some candles.
Knife” represents tools and related hardware. My Swiss Army Knife goes nearly everywhere with me. I also have a Leatherman Squirt and pocket prybar on my person. A diamond impregnated metal card is carried for sharpening.
Foundation Survival Kit
The items on the Foundation Survival List are mainly bulkier “bag” items, with a couple of significant exceptions.
Blanket” represents sleeping items in general. It includes poncho-liners, sleeping bags, cloaks and long coats. These can keep you warm, even when not sleeping. This category is called “blanket” to remind us about the survival blanket, which is compact enough you can easily fit one or more in a trouser cargo pocket. They are reasonably priced so you can buy a dozen and stick spares in coat pockets and any bags you might carry. As well as keeping you warm, they can keep the rain off, spread out as a signalling panel, possibly even used as a heliograph. One is in the little medical pouch that carries most of my skin-level EDC. For decades now my daysac has carried the survival blanket’s larger cousin, an All-Weather Blanket.
Fire Kit. A fire kit was included in the original Foundation Kit list. It is repeated since the ability to create a fire is an important component of survival. Have a means of making fire on your person, and additional means in your bag. Consume the bag supplies before that on your person.
Knife. Another duplication, but repeated for much the same reason. In this context it can be read as “a bigger knife”. Useful as a pocket knife or muli-tool are, they can only get you so far. This category also reminds us to remember other, larger tools such as a crowbar or entrenching tool. Have a fixed-blade knife on your trouser belt. If you lose your pack, webbing or even your jacket or shirt you will still have a useful survival tool.
Poncho includes other forms of rain-proof clothing and shelter items such as tarps, tents, shelter halves, basha-sheets, groundsheets and so on. Any bag of sufficient size should include a means of rain protection.
Water represents a means to carry water, and the means to ensure that it is drinkable, such as water purification tablets. In rural areas a supply of water and purification tablets should be both on your person and in your pack. Consume the water in your pack before that on your person.
Toilet Paper. A roll of toilet paper in a waterproof bag is a prudent addition to any bag. A small bag with a couple of paper tissues rides in a cargo pocket of my trousers. A bag with additional tissues will be added if I am heading off the beaten track. As well as intended use, such tissues can be used for nosebleeds, nose-blowing and as tinder.
Canteen Cup. A metal canteen cup or similar small cooking vessel is a useful addition to the above items. Boiling water to sterilize it will conserve water-purification tablets. It can also be used to sterilize instruments or blades intended for medical uses. Even if you wear a water bottle on your person, the canteen cup is probably best carried as a pack it. The interior can be packed with some of the smaller items listed above.
There is a survival adage that says you cannot live three minutes without oxygen, three hours without shelter can kill you, you can last three days without water and three weeks without food. The Foundation Kit contains the essentials towards keeping you alive beyond three days.
Travelling Kit
What I have chosen to call the “Travelling Kit” are mainly “very useful” rather than essential. Food is obviously essential, but you can last several days or more without it.
Repairs. If away from home, a small repair kit is worth putting together. My compact little sewing kit has seen many uses over the years. This is supplemented by a couple of rucksac buckles, dental floss, a roll of electrical tape and a tube of superglue. A small screwdriver that fits in my Swiss Army Knife corkscrew has been used to repair several pairs of glasses. I have seen it suggested that a piece of glue stick of the type intended for hot glue guns may also be useful. You can even add a little repair capability to your skin-level kit. A small bag of safety pins can deal with tears and zipper problems. Around the pencil I have wrapped a length of electrical tape then bound two threaded needles to its sides.
Food includes food procurement and cooking means. Put together a small fishing kit, with some wire traces that can be used as snares in extremis. Assemble as much of the kit as is practical before hand. Sitting in the wind and rain as the light fades is no time to be tying on swivels! Add the fishing kit to your trouser pocket items if heading into the wilds. The food you carry should include some items that can be consumed without heating or rehydrating. Some boiled sweets/ hard candy is a useful addition to any daysac, giving a quick energy boost when it is needed.
Illumination. There are numerous small flashlights that are suitable for skin-level EDC. The little Photon lights can be added to a keyring, dogtag chain or whistle lanyard. A larger flashlight is a suitable addition to a daysac or larger pack. My daysac has a handcrank model in it.
Navigation. Personally, I have found a small compass a useful addition to my EDC. Even in town it is sometimes useful to know which direction is which. A number of guidebooks have information such as “…the hostel is to the northwest of the piazza”. If travelling away from civilization better maps and compass are recommended. GPS is nice, but you should plan for when it stops working. Without a compass there are other ways to determine direction, which is why these items are under “very useful” rather than essential. Worth repeating is that in most cases where rescue can reasonably be expected your chances of survival are better if you stay put rather than walking out.
Signalling. Signalling assumes there is somewhere out there to signal to. Flares are not much use if no one is likely to be in line of sight. Tell someone where you are going and when you will be overdue. Signalling overlaps with Illumination and Fire, and mobile phones have already been mentioned. Your skin-level kit should include a whistle. Mine is on my key-ring. A small heliograph is easily fabricated. The back of my phone is mirror-polished, so I would use this instead.
Washing. If you do any travelling you should put together a lightweight wash kit. How to put one together is detailed on another page. I prefer mesh bags over the more elaborate, heavier and more expensive wash bags.
Documentation. Travelling may require visa, permits, passports and other documentation. Make sure you have it all before any trip, and store in a waterproof bag. Make photocopies of important documents, such as your passport, and carry then separately to the originals. I prefer to carry some of these things on my person rather than in a bag.
Money. In some environments, one of your most useful tools. Includes credit, debit and ATM cards. Have information on what to do if you lose the latter. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket!
Clothing. How much spare clothing, its type and quantity will depend on trip duration and conditions. 
Armament. Carry if you can. The world is full of nasty people who will rob you or hurt you just because they can.
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Phillosoph

Bush Shirts.

You may have an emergency kit or bug-out bag ready packed, but what clothing do you have stored with it? Your emergency kit should include an outfit of clothes suitable for travelling. This must include underwear, outerwear, footwear, headgear and insulation suited to any season. There are many possible choices, some better than others. What are our best options, particularly if on a budget?
For most of the nineteeth century the US Army wore a dark blue woollen uniform. This was considered suitable for all climates, regions and seasons within the US. In practice the material and colour were uncomfortable and impractical for the hotter months and latitudes. Durability was also an issue. Troops often returned from campaign with uniforms in a very poor state. The blue woollen uniform was also poorly suited for the various menial tasks a soldier might be called on to perform.
Troops on campaign were, however, allowed considerable latitude when it came to clothing. During the Geronimo campaign some infantry in Mexico and Arizona are known to have marched wearing only their army underwear of undershirts and cotton drawers. (Uniforms, Arms, and Equipment: Headgear, Clothing, and Footwear by Douglas C. McChristian) Historical accounts mention soldiers on campaign wearing their “overalls” as an alternative or replacement for uniforms. The overalls in question were a two-piece alternative to the stable frocks mounted troops were issued. Mounted troops were required to conduct stable duties twice a day. Horse hair and dust would have rapidly fouled the blue wool uniforms so troops on stable duty wore either frocks or overalls of white cotton duck garments over their blue uniforms. These overalls and smocks saw use as campaign wear or unofficial uniforms. The white colour was less than ideal, but a few weeks of campaign often turned them another shade.
Officially, the US Army remained resistant to issuing a summer uniform. When regulations were relaxed to permit the wearing of a white summer uniform, the soldier was expected to pay for the garments out of his own pocket at whatever prices sutlers asked. It was not until the 1880s that a summer uniform was issued. Quartermaster General Holabird ordered surplus shelter tents to be made into coats and trousers. Experiments with dying the canvas brown also proved successful. The uniform was clearly intended to serve as a summer uniform and campaign wear. The jacket was of blouse or sack-coat style, rather than a stable frock coverall. I have seen it suggested that the canvas uniform was designated a fatigue item so troops would not have to pay for them from their clothing allowance.
Jump forward about half a century and things come full circle. World War Two saw fatigue-duty clothing being used as hot weather combat wear. By the Korean War this had become common practice and “fatigues” became synonymous with hot-weather combat dress.
When selecting outdoor gear it may seem logical to copy what the army uses. After all, the army spends millions developing and testing gear, and surely wants our troops to have the best possible. Sadly, no! If this hypothesis was true, why do different armies produce different solutions to the same problem? Why is gear changed and replaced with such frequency?
If you study the history of, say, US combat/ field jackets, you observe a repeating cycle. Something practical is designed. After a few years in service it is noted the practical item is not that smart looking. A new, smarter replacement is adopted. Troops complain the smarter item is not that practical, so a replacement is designed, and so on. This cycle dates back well into the blue woollen uniform era. The army wants practical field and work wear that still looks soldierly. (This trend can be seen in a number of books on the history of US Army uniforms. Several of the “U.S. Army Uniforms of…” series by Shelby L Stanton are a good starting point) The US Army currently seems to be in a “non-practical” phase. Trousers are cut too narrow to fit over knee-pads or to allow good air circulation. Shirts intended to be worn under body armour have no camouflage on the torso, with tight-fitting sleeves that do nothing for shape disruption and air circulation. Camouflage that does little to hide the wearer.
As preppers, survivalists or outdoors-people, looking neat and soldierly is low on our list of priorities. We want versatile, practical gear that hopefully will not break the bank.
As I have mentioned in the previous post, for many conditions, jackets are too warm, particularly if lined. This holds true for many designs of combat jacket. As might be expected from the introductory passages, an unlined fatigue jacket is a possible option, if you can find such a thing at a reasonable price. More readily available are medium or heavyweight shirts, which we will designate “bush shirts”. A pair of cargo trousers and a bush shirt over suitable underwear is the start of a very practical clothing system. Notable is that the upper garment of US Army fatigues was originally designated a jacket, but troops were usually required to tuck it into their trousers. Eventually it was re-designated a “utility shirt” and redesigned with shirt-type cuffs.
If you now jump to googling “camouflage shirt” you will discover most of your hits are tee-shirts, which are not what we are looking for. Those that are not tee-shirts tend to be pricey!
Forget about camouflage patterns for a while. Smocks and other camouflage measures will be dealt with in other posts. For the moment we will be satisfied if our bush shirt(s) is a low-signature “neutral or natural” colour. Google “khaki shirt” and you should discover a wide variety of choices and colour shades. The true green coloured are best reserved for summer or jungle use. Similarly, very light khaki shades may be best kept for bright environments such as desert. This still leaves us a wide choice ranging from light tans to olive-brown. Mid to light greys and possibly pale olive are also acceptable shades.
Whatever shirt you opt for, buy it larger than you would usually wear. In cold weather that space allows you to wear more insulation under the shirt. In hot weather that space allows air to more freely circulate. Your shirt should also be long-sleeved, for when insects bite and thorns come scratching. Here is a good place to repeat a piece of advice from the Victorian explorer Francis Galton: “When you have occasion to tuck up your shirt­sleeves, recollect that the way of doing so is, not to begin by turning the cuffs inside out, but outside in-the sleeves must be rolled up inwards, towards the arm, and not the reverse way. In the one case, the sleeves will remain tucked up for hours without being touched; in the other, they become loose every five minutes.” Try it! He is right!
Most of the potential bush shirts you will encounter will be cotton or poly-cotton.  Microfibre shirts are becoming more widely available and often with a similar price tag to cotton. These are breathable synthetics, so should be quicker drying.
Other features are up to the buyer. A pair of practical breast pockets are useful, although your trouser pockets should be where your primary EDC gear is carried. The shirt is also your nightshirt, so overfilled pockets may be uncomfortable. A “traditional” shirt collar can be turned up to further protect the back of the neck, although since your outfit should include a neckerchief, shemagh or scarf this is probably moot.
Your bush shirt(s) can be customized, should you feel so inclined. Reinforcements can be added to the elbows and possibly the shoulder area too. Elbow patches should not hinder the sleeve’s ability to be rolled up or stay up. Breast pockets may be covered by pack straps, so sleeve pockets are a useful addition. These should be long enough to hold a pen or pencil. Poppers may be preferable to buttons. Vent zips or holes under the armpits can be added for increased ventilation. Additional pockets can be added to the lower part of the shirt, although these will not be accessible if the shirt is worn inside the waistband. If the shirt is worn outside the waistband the sides may be vented to allow access to a belt-worn knife or pistol. If desired, a bush shirt can be converted to a pullover style by sewing up the lower half of the front opening. This can reduce drafts around the midriff and keeps biting insects out.
In many conditions your bush shirt will be your outermost garment. When it gets colder it is an additional mid-layer beneath a jacket or coat. It may also be your nightshirt.
While I was planning this article, I came across the following passage in the Boy Scout Handbook (1911) “It is well to carry a spare shirt hanging down the back with the sleeves tied around the neck. Change when the shirt you are wearing becomes too wet with perspiration.”
Tying a jumper around your waist was standard practice when I was a schoolboy. The jumper tied and draped over your shoulders is a familiar 1980s icon. Carrying and using a second shirt this way is something quite different, and potentially very useful. If not worn in this way the spare bush shirt should be kept somewhere easily accessible, such as the outer pocket of a pack. The merits of being able to change out of sweaty gear were addressed in the last post. If the weather turns colder you can wear both shirts. The spare shirt can also serve as an emergency face or head covering or as a scarf. A wet shirt can be hung down the back, or the back of the pack, to dry. This is one of the reasons we choose neutral or natural tones for clothing, even undergarments. Drying laundry can act like a signal flag!
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Phillosoph

The Layer System

I plan to make some posts on clothing. Before I do so it is appropriate that I address the commonly encountered concept of “the Layering System”.
Many websites and books pay lip service to the Layering System. The problem is that this is usually oversimplified into a “lie to children” that omits important facets.
The typical version goes something like: “Your clothing needs to be in three layers. The under layer (buy some wicking underwear), the mid-layer (we sell really nice fleeces!) and the outer layer (have you seen our Gore-tex range?)
Not technically false, but also lacking a lot of information you should also know.
The most important concept to grasp is that it is not the clothing that keeps you warm, but the air that the clothing traps. Several layers of thin garments may keep you much warmer than a single thicker (and possibly heavier) layer. The best insulation is still, dry air. Most materials that we call insulators serve to catch and hold such air.
Underwear.
I have addressed the topic of underwear in a number of other posts, so I will be brief here. Underwear is not just for wicking sweat off your skin surface. It is also there to prevent your body soiling the outer layers of clothing. Clean clothing traps air more effectively than that clogged up with oils, salt and other crud. Undergarments should be selected with of washing and quick drying properties in mind. Thin items will dry quicker than thicker. If it is very cold wear multiple thin layers of underwear. Carry a spare set of underwear. Depending on climate this may be simply a tee-shirt/ vest and a pair of underpants. Kephart tells us to change into our cleaner set for sleeping. If your underwear becomes sodden from exhaustion, change into the drier set. Use the dirty set to give your body a rub-down before donning the cleaner. Whenever practical, give the set your are not wearing a rinse or a wash. It may be prudent to change first if the set you are wearing is the dirtier.
Mid-layer.
This should actually be “mid-layers!”. A thick fleece jacket or jumper can only be on or off. This may mean a choice of too-cold or too-hot. Many of the mid-layer garments sold in outdoor shops tend toward being overly insulated. If your mid-layer is actually several layers of thin garments you have a more versatile system. This is likely to be warmer and lighter. Individual layers will be easier to wash and quicker to dry. Chances are you have a number of old shirts or thin jumpers that can be combined as very effective mid-layers. Minor damage or marks are not a problem in this role. Shirts may be more comfortable as mid-layers with the collars removed.
Your body may be sweating as well as producing heat. You want to get rid of this water vapour before it can condense, or even freeze. Even if there is metre-thick snow on the ground, vent your clothing occasionally to remove humid air.
Outer Layer.
The mid-layer(s) trap a layer of air that your body warms up. The outer layer prevents the wind blowing this warm air away, or the rain soaking into the mid-layers and displacing the air. Fleece jackets are often seen worn as the outermost garment. While this works with some models or under certain conditions, you will also find in other situations the wind will cut right through them.
You actually need a choice of outer layers. A rainproof is great if it is actually raining. In other conditions, even the breathable models may become clammy inside. Regularly venting your mid-layers is an important habit to acquire, even if you have top of the range breathables.
The more you wear rainproofs, the greater the likelihood they will be holed by thorns or other hazards. A few decades back “pac-a-macs” were fairly common. Rainproof garments that folded up into a small pocket or pouch when not required. These now seem hard to find and modern rainproofs tend to be more substantial, bulkier and more expensive. I have to think this may be a step backwards. On the other hand, some of the rain-ponchos on offer seem to be very light, compact and reasonable in price. They can also be used as groundsheets, shelters and so.
If you are not wearing your rainproof, you still need an outer layer that will retain the air your mid-layers are holding. Most cloths of a sufficiently tight weave can serve as a windproof. Most of your likely options are going to be cotton.
Cotton is not ideal as an outdoor material. If wool gets wet it retains most of its heat. Wet cotton is cold, and drains the body of heat trying to dry. While this is relatively well known, outdoor shops are full of cotton items they will try to sell you. Most military surplus items you may consider will be cotton. Cotton is easier to print in camouflage patterns, although the wide use of cotton in certain armies predates their adoption of camouflage. Most civilian, non-specialist items you might use instead of the above are also likely to be cotton.
You probably cannot avoid having some cotton items as your windproof layer. Sensible precautions are keeping a fire kit and rain-poncho on you. A change of clothing, carried in a waterproof bag, is also prudent.
For the lower body, cargo trousers and gaiters are a reasonable choice. The former can be modified as suggested elsewhere.
Combat jackets may seem a logical choice for the upper body. Their main problem is that in many conditions they tend to be too warm. You may be better basing your clothing system around a couple of bush-shirts, much as Kephart did. Field jackets and parkas can be added if the mercury drops.
A good bush-shirt may be cotton, but may also be found in fast-drying microfibres. Bush-shirts are a topic I will discuss in more depth in a future post. Relevant to today’s subject is that any shirt (or jacket) you plan to use as an outermost layer should be selected with room to wear several layers of insulation underneath. It should be at least a size larger than your usually wear. You should be able to comfortably wear it over a fleece jacket or NATO sweater, or their equivalent in thinner layers. In hot weather that space lets more air circulate.
As an aside, wearing a shirt over any insulation is a useful dodge to remember should you become separated from your jacket. A similar idea was to wear a combat jacket or bush-shirt over a waterproof jacket. This protected the waterproof from damage and reduced the noise that such a garment might make. It also might contribute to visual camouflage too. Although the outermost layer of clothing might get soaked, the waterproof kept the inner layers and wearer dry.
A few final points about the Layer System. The idea is that you can regulate or comfort and temperature by removing or donning garments as needed. Some means to carry unworn items will be needed. Stopping to change may not be practical. The rest of the platoon may not want to stand around while you redress, especially if your garment is under a mass of LBE and body armour! A common error in cold climates is to over-dress/ over-layer. If you are mobile, your level of clothing should ideally feel slightly chilly when standing around. Static roles such as sentry duty or manning foxholes will need more insulation. In any climate, do not neglect ventilation.
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Phillosoph

New Survival Tool: The Brick Hammer

Some time back I was reading a number of manuals written for the British Home Guard. Fighting in an urban environment was a common theme. Many of the authors drew from experience in the Spanish Civil War. They had learnt that urban terrain could negate an enemy’s advantages in air power and armour. Urban operations was expected to be routine, rather than exceptional.
It is safer to be firing from loopholes rather than from windows, but I began to wonder about the practicalities of cutting a loophole in a brick or similar wall. The Home Guardsmen probably would have had available the 1937 entrenching tool, which included a relatively stout pick. Troops with other designs of entrenching tool may be less capable.
A bit of research turned up the tool shown below. This is sold as a “brick hammer”. I will confess, I have yet to try cutting loopholes with it. My landlord would probably object
This potentially quite a useful survival tool. The adze part can be used for digging, and should be more than adequate for such tasks as creating cat-holes or Indian Wells. The hammer part can hammer things, such as tent pegs if stealth is not a requirement. Shank and head are both steel, so the adze could also be used as a prying tool or crowbar. If necessary, it can serve as a passable hand weapon or missile. Could potentially be used as an anchor or for hooking. The brick hammer is relatively compact and light (718 grams with tape and cord), and very reasonably priced. For trips that are unlikely to require building foxholes, this may be all the entrenching tool you need.
In its original state, this particular brick hammer was polished steel and a black rubber handle. I have given the metal parts some paint, although I expect this to wear off with use. The handle was covered by some self-adhering grip tape I had, and I have added a thong for retention.