A Walk to the Park: Lessons Learned.

The other day I went for a walk. As it turned out, I was overly ambitious. Due to lockdown and other issues, I have not got out of the house much recently, and this has had more of a toll than I anticipated. After about the fourth or fifth mile my feet were aching, and worse, my hip joins were giving me considerable trouble. I was not able to walk properly for several days after.
One of my excuses for making this trip was I wanted to test a pair of shoes for this blog. About halfway into the walk I realized this was not practical. I have flat feet and torn tendons. In other words, my feet are atypical and whatever I experience, good or bad, is not relevant to most readers.
However, the day did yield a few lessons and observations that I thought I would pass on.
One thing I discovered is that I have lost some weight over the past few months. Normally this would be a good thing, but it meant my trousers were loose on me even with the belt drawn to the last notch. The shoes I was using also had less heel than my usual boots, which meant my trouser bottoms were catching and dragging on the ground. Rolled up, they would not stay up! I resorted to the safety pins in my EDC. I only had two, so this was only partially successful. Conclusion: add more safety pins to the EDC kit. At least half a dozen.
I could have used the two long cords in my pocket to improvise braces for my trousers. I was nearly at my destination by the time this occurred to me.
I was running late that morning, and was keen to get out. Thus, I forgot some things that might have been useful. I only realized that I had forgotten my iPod when I heard some idiot sqwarking down their phone. More importantly, perhaps, I should have added some boiled sweets to my bag. I had planned to buy something for breakfast along the way, but with lockdown there were fewer places open and I didn’t seem to get a chance. Keep a stock of sweets for travelling at “base camp”, and don’t eat them all watching the telly!
The second lesson from this is “make a list”! Do not just have a packing list for when the balloon goes up or the zombies arrive, but one for more mundane expeditions too.
If, like me, you have several rucksacs and daysacs, a practical idea is to have a box with your “rucksac things” in. When you get home, empty your rucksac paraphernalia into the box. When you head out, select items from the box and load them into whatever pack you have decided to use. And have a list! Not everything you might want will be in the box; at least one of my water-bottles lives in the fridge. Similarly, you pick and choose from the contents of the list. Warm hat and gloves may be low priority in summer, for example.
What I did remember to add to my pack was a bottle of water, my boonie hat and a rain-poncho. The hat was for if it was really sunny; it wasn’t. The poncho, on the other hand, got used several times. This was my first time trying this particular one out and it came through very well. It is very light (240 g, in stuffsack) and was quick to unpack and put on. I also like that it covers my daysac as well as myself. Another feature that endears it to me is the stuffsack is so sized that it does not take a mastership of origami to get the poncho back in.

Multi-role solid-state communication and repair system.
Incidentally, I have made another modification to my EDC kit. Originally it did not contain a sewing kit. My travel sewing kit has seen a lot of use over the years, so I decided some sewing capability should be in the EDC. The weight of a single needle and thread is negligible, yet potentially very useful. In fact I have added two. One is a standard needle with about a metre of doubled invisible thread already attached. The other is a larger needle with just over half a metre of doubled stouter thread. I would have used dental floss for this normally, but had some kevlar cord from Shomer-tech that I wanted to try out. Both needles have been threaded beforehand and are carried taped to the side of my pencil. I gave them a few score strokes of a magnet so they may also serve as a navigation aid.

The Worlds of James Schmitz

Science fiction is an important genre. Not only can it speculate on what might be, but often it holds a mirror up to what is. Being imaginative people, I suspect many of my readers enjoy a good sci-fi. Various names will spring to mind, but one that many of you may not think of is James Schmitz. That is a shame, since he is well worth a read. I have enjoyed his stories. His most well-known works are set in a community of planets called the Hub Worlds. The Hub Worlds grew from a long period of strife called “the War Centuries”. While Schmitz never states it directly, it is probable the Earth was one of the worlds lost during the conflict. A couple of stories mention characters from Earth, but this thread seems to have been dropped.

The structure of the Hub Worlds is not described in great depth. One gets the impression that planets or regions are allowed to administer themselves, provided certain statutes and laws are observed. An establishment called the Overgovernment exists, and presumably has jurisdiction over interstellar matters, such as exploration, colonization and peacekeeping. The Overgovernment seems to be concerned with strategy for the Hub Worlds and the humans within it. One instrument of the Overgovernment that features in many stories is the “Psychology Service”. The title itself is misdirection, since one of the Psychology Service’s primary concerns is the regulation and control of human psis.
Psi-powers have an unusual status in the Hub Worlds. Machines that use psionic abilities are well-known, being used in the judicial process or for spaceport security. It also seems to be accepted that certain animals and aliens have psi-powers. Devices such as mind shields are worn by some. Officially, human psi-powers do not exist, however. One of the functions of the Psychology Service is to ensure that humans who do have psi-powers do abuse them or their fellow citizens.
Refreshingly, Schmitz does not make the Psychology Service the usual two-dimensional Gestapo-witchhunters. Often we see the Psychology Service using prudent and subtle measures. As noted in the essay “The Psychology Service: Immune System of the Hub” by Guy Gordon, “The Psychology Service is not out to protect society by eliminating psis. Quite the contrary. They will protect the Federation by immunization. To eliminate psis would leave the Federation defenseless against external threats (such as the Elaigar), and internal threats such as undetected psis…instead controlling a serious problem as nondestructively as possible. More than that, they are trying to turn this serious problem into a strength…also pushing the use of psionic machines in the Federation. People with no psi talent of their own will be empowered to deal with psis. Mind shields are available for defense, and powerful mind-reading machines, such as the ones at the Orado City Space Terminal or Transcluster Finance, will provide the advantages of psi to ordinary people.”
Gordon also notes: “This attitude pervades the top level of the Federation Overgovernment. They treat the human species as an evolving animal and the Federation as an ecology. They aren’t out to create perfection. If survival is a good enough goal for nature, it’s good enough for the Federation and the Psychology Service.”
Unlike some authors, Schmitz does not delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of his scenarios. Many of the themes are thought-provoking, however.  An interesting discussion of the Overgovernment occurs in the story “The Demon Breed”:

The nearest thing to a war the Hub’s known for a long time is when some sub-government decides it’s big enough for autonomy and tries to take on the Federation. And they’re always squelched so- quickly you can hardly call it a fight.”
“So they are,” Ticos agreed. “What do you think of the Federation’s Overgovernment?”
She hesitated. One of the least desirable after effects of a nerve gun charge that failed to kill could be gradually developing mental incoherence. If it wasn’t given prompt attention, it could result in permanent derangement. She suspected Ticos might be now on the verge of rambling. If so, she’d better keep him talking about realities of one kind or another until he was worked safely past that point. She said, “That’s a rather general question, isn’t it? I’d say I simply don’t think about the Overgovernment much.”
“Why not?”
“Well, why should I? It doesn’t bother me and it seems able to do its job—as witness those squelched rebellious subgovernments.”
“It maintains the structure of the Federation,” Ticos said, “because we learned finally that such a structure was absolutely necessary. Tampering with it isn’t tolerated. Even the suggestion of civil war above the planetary level isn’t tolerated. The Overgovernment admittedly does that kind of thing well. But otherwise you do hear a great many complaints. A recurrent one is that it doesn’t do nearly enough to control the criminal elements of the population.”
Nile shook her head. “I don’t agree! I’ve worked with the Federation’s anticrime agencies here. They’re efficient enough. Of course they can’t handle everything. But I don’t think the Overgovernment could accomplish much more along those lines without developing an oppressive bureaucratic structure—which I certainly wouldn’t want.”
“You feel crime control should be left up to the local citizenry?”
“Of course it should, when it’s a local problem. Criminals aren’t basically different from other problems we have around. We can deal with them. We do it regularly.”
Ticos grunted. “Now that,” he remarked, “is an attitude almost no Palach would be able to understand! And it seems typical of our present civilization.” He paused. “You’ll recall I used to wonder why the Federation takes so little obvious interest in longevity programs, eugenics projects and the like.
She gave him a quick glance. Not rambling, after all? “You see a connection?”
“A definite one. When it comes to criminals, the Overgovernment doesn’t actually encourage them. But it maintains a situation in which the private citizen is invited to handle the problems they create. The evident result is that criminality remains a constant threat but is kept within tolerable limits. Which is merely a small part of the overall picture. Our society fosters aggressive competitiveness on almost all levels of activity; and the Overgovernment rarely seems too concerned about the absolute legality of methods used in competition. The limits imposed usually are imposed by agreements among citizen organizations, which also enforce them.”
“You feel all this is a kind of substitute for warfare?”
“It’s really more than a substitute,” Ticos said. “A society under serious war stresses tends to grow rigidly controlled and the scope of the average individual is correspondingly reduced. In the kind of balanced anarchy in which we live now, the individual’s scope is almost as wide as he wants to make it or his peers will tolerate. For the large class of nonaggressive citizens who’d prefer simply to be allowed to go about their business and keep out of trouble, that’s a non-optimum situation. They’re presented with many unpleasant problems they don’t want, are endangered and occasionally harassed or destroyed by human predators. But in the long run the problems never really seem to get out of hand. Because we also have highly aggressive antipredators. Typically, they don’t prey on the harmless citizen. But their hackles go up when they meet their mirror image, the predator—from whom they can be distinguished mainly by their goals. When there are no official restraints on them, they appear to be as a class more than a match for the predators. As you say, you handle your criminals here on Nandy-Cline. Wherever the citizenry is making a real effort, they seem to be similarly handled. On the whole our civilization flourishes.” He added, “There are shadings and variations to all this, of course.
The harmless citizen, the predator and the anti-predator are ideal concepts. But the pattern exists and is being maintained.”
“So what’s the point?” Nile asked. “If it’s maintained deliberately, it seems rather cruel.”
“It has abominably cruel aspects, as a matter of fact. However, as a species,” said Ticos, “man evolved as a very tough, alert and adaptable creature, well qualified to look out for what he considered his interests. The War Centuries honed those qualities. They’re being even more effectively honed today. I think it’s done deliberately. The Overgovernment evidently isn’t interested in establishing a paradisiacal environment for the harmless citizen. Its interest is in the overall quality of the species. And man as a species remains an eminently dangerous creature. The Overgovernment restricts it no more than necessity indicates. So it doesn’t support the search for immortality—immortality would change the creature. In what way, no one can really say. Eugenics should change it, so eugenics projects aren’t really favored, though they aren’t interfered with. I think the Over-government prefers the species to continue to evolve in its own way. On the record, it’s done well. They don’t want to risk eliminating genetic possibilities which may be required eventually to keep it from encountering some competitive species as an inferior.”

The societal template that Schmitz seems to be suggesting the Federation has is interesting when viewed alongside the problems for utopian societies that Appleseed raises. A friend suggested that sport might serve as surrogate warfare, but historically this has proved partially effective at best, and has often provided opportunities for crime. Major warfare is obviously undesirable, yet utopia is likely unattainable, and possibly undesirable. Does human nature mean the “simmering pot” is the best we can realistically hope for? Is criminal and anti-social behavior the price of personal freedom? In the introduction to “Crash Combat” I noted that most modern conflicts tend to be varieties of low-intensity warfare, local vendettas, guerrilla uprisings, terrorism, sabotage and civil disturbance. This may be the normal condition of humanity! Whatever way you interpret this, some individuals will potentially suffer, and those may be your loved ones or yourself. Prudence suggest preparation!

Crash Combat now in Second Edition!

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the cover of “Crash Combat” recently has acquired the addition “Second Edition”. The epub copy and book was actually updated in late May, but there were a few tweaks and things I wanted to triple check with the print copy so I chose to wait until I got the second proof copy before I made the launch official. This has cost me a bit more but I want readers to get the best quality product that I can provide them with via these mediums.

Crash Combat has gotten even better! Over a thousand words of additional text. New techniques and an extra illustration. Most of the additions are in the first part of the program, but I have gone through the rest of the book and polished a few spots.
There has never been a better time to add Crash Combat to your self-defence library.

Combat Carry: The Hippy Configuration.

A friend of mine commented that Canadian troops were wedded to the idea of carrying at least six to seven magazines. Recently, I was reminded that many water-bottle pouches can hold five or six 30-round magazines. I also came across a comment pointing out that you do not want your magazine pouches where most troops actually carry them, at the front on the waist. Lousy to crawl with them at the front, worse to fall on. Not so comfortable if you have to sit down, and many armies now have more drivers than infantry. That is not necessarily a bad thing! A small force, well-supported, can achieve more than a large, poorly supported one. This is how many guerilla, terrorist and clandestine forces operate. There are relatively few “trigger-pullers” and a much larger number of support and intelligence-gatherers. Put the right person, in the right place, at the right time with the right tools.
Load-bearing equipment (LBE) tends to be designed with the infantry in mind, but most of its users will be signalers, engineers, gunners and drivers.

Thinking further, most troops reload with their weak-side hand. (It might be different for some bullpups, but seems true for the M16, AKM and their relatives). It makes sense to have most of the ammo where the weak hand can easily reach it? Why not have a water-bottle/ utility pouch of magazines on the weak side of the belt, at the side? If you read my blog on chest-rigs you may recall the four-magazine pouches for the AK issued by some armies. Someone will object that all the magazines could get tipped out at once, so alternately, a pair of ALICE-type magazine “cases” that hold three magazines each. These would tend to sit at eight and ten “o’clock” on the belt (for right-handers), which may be more comfortable. Most rifle-magazine pouches available nowadays hold two magazines, and a pair of these will be less bulky. Additional magazines can be carried in chest or sleeve pockets or other locations.
Some experimentation will be prudent. Pouches for three mags usually sit with the spines of the magazines towards the body. Side-on may be better. Pouches might be more accessible orientated obliquely or laid horizontally. And we need to remember the soldier may need to reload while prone.
The above arrangement puts 4 to 6 lbs on one side of your belt or harness, but there is a logical way to balance this. The soldier will use his grenades in his strong hand, so on the strong-side of the belt we put a pouch or pouches holding several grenades. When throwing prone, you lay on your weak-side, so it is logical to have your primary source of grenades on the strong-side. Perhaps some frags at two o’clock, pouches for one or two cylindrical grenades such as smoke bombs at four. Actual grenade load-out will depend on combat role and mission. Alternately, a smoke grenade pouch can carry a 500ml water-bottle.
So far we have one pouch or pouches on one side of the belt, another set on the other. Our soldier is well-armed, yet front and back areas of the belt region are relatively clear, allowing our soldier to comfortably sit in a vehicle or crawl if someone is shooting at him or he doesn’t want to be seen. No bulky butt-pack or kidney-pouches at the back that hinder him (or her) carrying a rucksack, or wave at the enemy as they crawl.

The front of the belt can be used for relatively small, low bulk items, such as a compass pouch and some shell-dressings. With a number of small pouches the front of the belt could end up looking like an old Garand ammo belt! (above) For non-infantry the front of the belt will probably end up carrying small specialist tools and items. For some personnel the grenades and magazines at the side may be replaced by larger utility pouches.
The back of the belt is clear so far. This clearly contributes to comfort when seated in a vehicle or carrying a long pack. Here I am going to revive my “camelbum” concept and suggest a second belt, mounting two pouches. One pouch (clearly marked, and marked with blood group) contains an IFAK (Immediate First Aid Kit) for the soldier. The other is the same model of pouch containing a two-litre water-bladder dimensioned to fit inside. Having their own belt allows these to be worn rather like a bumbag. They can be added when in high readiness and shunted round the front or to a more convenient position when the soldier is seated or carrying a pack.

An entrenching tool or other tools can be shoved through the belt when needed, carried on the backpack when not. As I have discussed elsewhere, carrying cases for such tools are superfluous, and have no place on the primary LBE. A small, fixed-blade utility knife of about 25cm loa. should be mounted over the weak-side pectorial muscle where it can be reached with either hand. See my books Survival Weapons and Crash Combat for more on this. If a bayonet is carried, the logical place for it is on the weak-side of the belt, possibly mounted on the side of a magazine pouch in the manner of the British 58 webbing. A larger survival knife such as a machete or kukri should probably be attached to the trouser belt, so it remains on-person should the LBE need to be discarded in an emergency. The same is true of a handgun, which will likely be carried on the opposite side of the trouser belt. Field jackets and other garments should be modified/ redesigned so that tools and weapons carried in this manner are accessible. This arrangement places the survival knife in the space between the magazine pouch(es) and the trouser belt, and the handgun behind/ between the grenade pouches.
I have described this equipment configuration as mounted on a conventional LBE belt, but the basic concept should work with other carry systems. Rather than on the waist, those weak-side magazine pouches might be mounted in the area under the arm, and this gives some possible alternate configurations. For example, three dual-magazine pouches mounted horizontally or obliquely.
One currently fashionable item I have not mentioned above is the “dump-pouch” for empty magazines. What to do you do with those empty magazines? If fitted with a cord pull-loop (as described in Survival Weapons) you can clip them onto a snap-link on your LBE or rucksack strap, although this may admittedly be a challenge while most of your attention is understandably on more pressing concerns. Back in the day you might drop them down the front of your smock or jacket, but is difficult with modern combat wear and armour. The current solution is to fumble for a belt-mounted “dump pouch”, but the LBE belt is fairly crowded already and there may be more useful things that could use that space. There is an easier, simpler, more efficient and cheaper option.
Take a sandbag and cut off the bottom foot or so. Save the rest for making textilage. Hem the new top edge of the bag. You may choose to add a drawcord here at this step, although the cord is not needed for the dump-sack role. Put a ring or loop at each top corner of the cord so you can tie or snap-link a strap or two to it. Straps should be easily adjustable for length, so should have some form of buckle. You may like to add a length of cord to each lower corner of the bag.
A sandbag is good because they are often readily available and the light tan colour is good for most environments. You can, however, make these bags out of any suitably coloured piece of cloth, including discarded or damaged combat wear and old tee-shirts. If you have access to a sewing machine, even a little cheap one, you can knock these out in minutes.
You will have to disguise the basic rectangular shape of the bag, so regardless of what you made it from, add some scraps of cloth and sandbag as textilage. Don’t forget the straps. Some bold blobs of any suitably coloured and contrasting paint you have handy can be added too.
Adjust your strap so the bag hangs from your neck, at about chest level. Use the lower cords to keep it in place if you wish. When you change magazines you can drop the empty into the open mouth of your neck bag. The bag also helps camouflage your chest area. Since this area is subject to body-shading it helps that the basic colour of the bag is light. The neck bag will fit over a “reasonably-size” chest-rig while still allowing access to magazines.
The neck bag is a handy place to quickly stow anything else you come across during an operation. Bunch of materials or possessions that might provide intelligence? Drop them down your neck bag and examine them later. When not in use a bag easily rolls up and can be kept rolled by tying one of the corner cords into a slippery hitch. A quick tug and the bag can be unrolled. Such simple bags will provide useful for lots of other purposes. They are useful for foraging or supplying extra ammunition to crew-served weapons. Add a pair of snap-on straps, or use one “Veshmeshok”-style and use as a simple rucksack.

Hori-Hori for Survival.

One of the many things that became apparent after the American Civil War was that the infantryman needed a means to quickly construct earthworks.“Hardtack and Coffee” informs us that the quartermaster of the army had wagons of intrenching tools [sic] that were supposed to be supplied to units that needed them. In practice, there was seldom time to send for these tools, and infantrymen resorted to digging with their tin plates or muckets. As you can see, there were attempts to modify spike bayonets for the role.

One of the solutions offered after the war was the Rice trowel bayonet, which began to see trials in the late 1860s. Available on-line is a document detailing the findings of the trails. While a few officers expressed reservations, the opinion of the enlisted men and many other officers was overwhelmingly positive. The document describes “rifle-proof” parapets being constructed in as little as nine minutes.This would be impressive, even with larger modern tools. The trowel bayonet was clearly superior to the improvised means the troops had been using before. It also had sufficient size, heft and edge that it could be used to cut saplings and branches, something beyond the current spike bayonet. Many believed the large, spear-like blade would make a better bayonet than the spike bayonet. Breech-loading rifles were coming into service, and many were of the opinion that the bayonet might be becoming obsolete. If it wasn’t quite as good a bayonet as the weapon it replaced, this was tolerable and its greater utility made up for this. The main objection to the trowel bayonet was that troops might be tempted to dig with it while it was mounted on the rifle. This was likely to bend the barrel, damage the muzzle or block the bore. Shortly after the introduction of the trowel bayonet it was replaced with a trowel knife. This probably had a better grip than the trowel bayonet, but its rounded tip gives it a less war-like appearance and possibly it was of less utility as a hand weapon. 

Bayonets continued to evolve, but along different lines. The next step was the sword-bayonet, intended to serve as bayonet or hanger. Some infantry had carried both bayonets and hangers. Napoleon’s guard around 1815 spring to mind as an example. By the 1880s most infantry had long since discarded the hanger, so effectively the sword bayonet was replacing an implement that was no longer carried. Nonetheless, many armies entered the 20th century with sword bayonets, and would be using them until the 1940s at least.
The idea of letting the infantry have their very own entrenching tools had taken root, however. Infantry entrenching tools got bigger and more sophisticated until they reached the form we know today.
As has been discussed before on this blog, some of these tools are overkill for the non-military user. It is a hygienic cathole, rather than atomic-proof foxhole, that we generally need. There are little plastic trowels, of course, but these are not much use for anything else. The trowel bayonet suggests a relatively small digging tool can be a useful survival aid. Is there a modern equivalent?


Seeking to answer this took me to discover the hori-hori. In another blog I described how I had seen machetes used as jack of all trades by gardeners in Jamaica. The hori-hori is a similar device, but more compact. Not surprisingly, these are Japanese. The ninja put a similar digging tool, the kunai, to various uses. The hori-hori were originally used for gathering wild foods, so technically are already survival tools. A variety of models of hori-hori are available, but the one I have has a 7.5 inch blade, so more compact than the 10 by 4inch blade of the original trowel bayonets. One edge is serrated, the other can be used to chop or cut, or will be once I sharpen it. (The packaging says it comes “razor sharp”, which apparently means “unsharpened”.) The blade is a broad spearpoint, with one side slightly concave, as suits its digging role. Mine came with a nice condura sheath. Unlike many survival knives, this is a tool the makers recommend that you can pry with. Price is a bit more than a normal trowel, but this can be offset against the fact that many gardeners think they do not need many tools other than their hori-hori. On the other hand, compared to many survival knives, the price is very reasonable.
The hori-hori seems a pretty useful tool to have along on a trip or stored in an emergency kit. A useful backup or replacement for a survival knife.

LBE, M-1956.

My friend Ralph Zumbro had often referenced “the Pentomic division”, so recently I read “The Pentomic Era” by A. C. Bacevich. This provides an interesting insight into the politics and mindset that was behind this phase of Army history. What the book does not provide is much detail on the actual organization of the Pentomic divisions. Thus, a few nights ago I could be found wading through an on-line copy of “Infantry”, 1957-1958.

One thing I came across was an article (p.34, April-June 1958) on the new “universal, individual load-carrying system.”. Although the designation is not used, this is the M-1956 system that served in Vietnam and was replaced by what was essentially a nylon version. What caught my eye was the author divided the soldier’s load into three groupings: Battle load, existence load and protection and comfort load. “Combat load” was the battle and existence loads, “Full field load” was all three. Before entering “close combat” the soldier could jettison the existence load “except bayonet or fighting knife, first-aid pouch and other essential items”.
What were these loads?
The battle load was defined as the individual’s weapon and ammunition and weighed 25lb. This was still the era of the M1 Garand, although the M14 was just coming into service.
The existence load included emergency rations, medical items, canteen and canteen cup, toilet articles, one pair of socks, poncho and bayonet or fighting knife, and weighed 20lbs.
The comfort load included a sleeping bag, extra clothing and “personal gear” and weighed 10lbs.
The existence load was carried in the combat pack. Presumably the protection and comfort items could be stored in the sleeping bag carrier. An illustration in the article declares that clothing and other personal items can be carried inside the sleeping bag roll. Oddly, it shows a shaving kit, which you would think was a toiletry. Thus either load could be removed by just releasing a few clips. Full field load was therefore 55lbs. Compare this to the 1877 load in a previous article.
The idea of dividing and packaging the gear as several categories is interesting, although some of the details can be challenged. Why is the bayonet/ knife and first-aid pouch not part of the battle load? These would probably be carried on the webbing anyway, so would not be jettisoned with the combat pack/ existence load. One of the canteens on the webbing and part of the battle load makes sense, but the canteen cup is less vital and should be a pack item. 

Essentially this approach has the soldier carrying two packs, the contents of each having different functions and different priorities. You can create a similar system by having a large pack and one or more smaller packs that clips onto or fits in the larger. It is a set of ideas to play around with.

Kephart: Dressing for Cold Weather

Following the description on Kephart’s Autumn Outfit, I will add his recommendations for dressing for cold weather:

Cold Weather Clothing.— The main fault of most cold weather rigs is that, paradoxically, they -re too hot. You go out into ‘“twenty-some-odd” below zero, all muffled up in thick underwear, overshirt, heavy trousers, and a 32-ounce (to the yard) Mackinaw coat. Very nice, until you get your stride. In half an hour the sweat will be streaming from you enough to turn a mill. By and by you may have to stand still for quite a while. Then the moisture begins to freeze, and a buffalo robe wouldn’t keep you warm. Conditions vary ; but for average winter work put on two suits of medium weight all-wool underwear, instead of one heavy one, moleskin trousers (heavy Mackinaws chafe), wool overshirt, Mackinaw shirt worn with tail outside, so it can easily be removed and worn behind you when not needed, the rubber “overs” and socks mentioned above, a Mackinaw cap with visor and ear flaps, large, old kid gloves, and thick, woolen mittens held by a cord around the neck. In buying Mackinaws get none but the best quality. Cheap Mackinaw is shoddy, or part cotton, and soaks up moisture like a sponge. A good grade sheds rain so long as the nap is not worn off; then it can be waterproofed by the lanolin process. It is noiseless, and stands rough usage. The natural gray color is best, except where the law requires you to wear red for protection against gun-bearing fools. (About this, saith our friend Crossman: “Yes, some fellow might take you for a deer if you wore an inconspicuous color in the woods, but what would you? He’d take you for a zebra if you wore green and yellow, or shoot you for a forest fire it you wore flaming crimson.”)
In the previous section referenced to above Kephart writes:
Rubber Footwear.— I never wear waders for summer trout fishing, but early spring fishing is a different matter. Wading stockings require special hobnailed shoes to go over them. I prefer a pair of light hip boots and separate wading sandals studded with nails. This combination costs less than the other, is more durable, and the boots by themselves are serviceable for general wet weather wear, marsh shooting, and the like. Light rubber boots of first-class quality will last as long as the common heavy ones, and have the advantage that the legs can be turned inside out clear to the ankle for drying. They need not weigh over 3 or 3½ pounds to the pair, and the sandals a pound more — together no more than the high-topped leather boots that I have been objurgating. Have them large enough for both socks and oversocks, then your feet are not likely to get “scalded”. Carry a couple of “eezy-quick” menders, and have a rubber repair kit among your possibles in camp.
For hunting big game In wet snow and slush the best footwear is a pair of rubber shoes with ten-inch leather uppers, weighing a bit over two pounds. They should have heels, if you go into a hilly country, and rough corrugated soles. Dress the feet with soft woolen socks, and over these draw a pair of long, thick “German socks” that strap at the top. The latter are warmer than the loose felt boots worn by lumbermen, lighter, more flexible, fit better, and are easier to dry out. The rubbers should fit properly over the heavy socks, neither too tight nor too loose, but especially not too tight or you risk frostbite! Thus equipped, a still-hunter is “shod with silence.” For cold weather the vital necessity is suppleness of the foot, and here you have it.


When it comes to the Indian Wars, it is the cavalry that gets the glory and screen-time. In reality, the infantry or “walk-a-heaps” (as Sioux are reported to have called them) played a significant role. Prolonged travel tires horses. Over a period of weeks seasoned infantry can outdistance cavalry or other horse-mounted raiders.
It seems some of the lessons learnt during the War between States were retained. I came across this interesting passage in the Osprey book “Men-at-Arms 063: The American Indian Wars 1860-1890”
An 18th Infantry captain, Anson Mills, at Fort Bridger in 1866 had his post saddler make leather looped belts for his men, personally obtaining a patent on the idea. In late 1876 the Ordnance Department, which had consistently preferred boxes to belts, finally gave in to popular pressure and had 30,000 canvas and leather ‘prairie’ cartridge belts made at 1sWatervliet Arsenal. By then virtually no cartridge boxes had been used out West for a number of years.
This light-weight belt had another advantage, besides bringing in a fair sum of royalties to Captain Mills. It reduced the fighting man’s load. The Indian-fighting infantryman became one of the lightest loaded soldiers in the world. Lieutenant W B. Weir in 1877 listed an infantryman’s full field equipment load as:
60 rounds ammunition and belt 5.40 lbs
overcoat 5.25 lbs
blanket (grey wool) 5.13 lbs
rubber blanket (ground cloth) 3.00 lbs
Springfield rifle and sling (bayonet ommitted from this list) 8.40 lbs
extra clothes 2.00 lbs
full canteen (one quart) 3.84 lbs
five rations: 3/4 lbs meat and 1 1b hardtack per day 8.75 lbs
Total 41.77 lbs (18.79 kg)
Officers, who generally carried a pistol and often some sort of rifle, carried about the same weight. Sometimes the men went even lighter, as shown in General Field Orders No. 2. Department of Dakota, 10 August 1876, in an anti-Sioux campaign: ‘No tents whatever will be carried, no companv property, no cooking utensils except tin cups, no. bedding (except one blanket per man) … 100 rounds of ammunition (per man) …Everv infantry officer and man will carry with him two days’ cooked rations.’
Osprey “Men-at-Arms 438: US Infantry in the Indian Wars 1865-91” notes: “Most infantrymen on campaign preferred to leave their packs behind at barracks, and carried personal items rolled in blankets slung around their bodies. When the 5th Infantry were ordered on campaign in July 1876. each soldier took only a blanket, a shelter-half, an extra pair of shoes and one change of underwear, plus weapons and ammunition. Sibley tents, iron stoves and other unit gear were carried in company wagons; more lightly equipped columns used pack mules.”
No information on how many wagons a company had is given, but “Hardtack and Coffee” informs us that each ACW Union Infantry company would have two wagons and five for the Regimental HQ.
Men at Arms 438 provides the information that companies were small units compared to modern versions:

Each of the post-July 1866 regiments of infantry was to be composed of one colonel, one lieutenant-colonel, one major, one adjutant and one regimental quartermaster (both of the latter being extra first or second lieutenants), one sergeant-major, one quartermaster sergeant, one commissary sergeant, one hospital steward, two principal musicians, and ten companies. Each infantry company consisted of one captain, one first lieutenant, one second lieutenant, one first sergeant, one quartermaster sergeant, four sergeants, eight corporals, two artificers, two musicians, one wagoner and 50 privates. The number of privates in a company could be increased to 100 when needed.

Note that only one wagoner is listed. Later on in this section it is stated the average size of a company would be 35 men. The company was the key operational unit. If a company was relatively small, the platoon level was omitted. A platoon had two sections, each of two or more squads. Typically a squad would be a corporal and seven privates. Interestingly, military reformer Emory Upton proposed soldiers manoeuvre and skirmish in units of four, so squads might be further divided.


Kephart’s Autumn Outfit.

I was certain I had posted Kephart’s list for cold weather trips. Apparently not, so here it is. For many decades I unsuccessfully tried to find out what “German socks” were. Thanks to the catalogue here the mystery is finally solved!
This version of the Autumn outfit is taken from the 1921 version of Camping and Woodcraft, Vol.2 p.143-6:

Kephart: The man who goes out alone for a week or so in the fall of the year, or at an altitude where the nights always are cold, should be fit to carry on his back from 40 to 50 pounds at the outset—of course the pack lightens as he consumes rations. I am not including weight of gun, cleaning implements, and ammunition. He should wear woolen underwear of medium weight, thick and soft woolen socks, army overshirt, kersey or moleskin trousers, leather belt with pockets (not loops) for clips [sic. more likely chargers or stripper-clips than clips] or loose cartridges, hunting shoes of medium height for ordinary use, felt hat, and, at times, buckskin gloves.

In his pack there would be a spare suit of underwear and hose, a cruiser or “stag” shirt of best Mackinaw, moccasins or leather-topped rubbers, and German socks.
In pockets and on the belt he would carry the same articles mentioned in my summer* hiking list.
A mere shelter cloth is too breezy for this season (there will be no opportunity to build a thatched camp, as the hunter will be on the move from day to day). He needs a half-pyramid tent, say of the Royce pattern (Vol.I., pp.85-91) but somewhat smaller, and weighing not over 4 pounds.

Bedding is the problem; a man carrying his all upon his back, in cold weather, must study compactness as well as lightness of outfit. Here the points are in favor of sleeping-bag vs. blankets, because, for a given insulation against cold and draughts, it may be so made as to save bulk as well as weight. For a pedestrian it need not be so roomy as the standard ones, especially at the foot end. Better design one to suit yourself, and have an outfitter make it up to order, if you have no skill with the needle. An inner bag of woolen blanketing, an outer one of knotted wool batting, and a separate cover of cravenetted khaki or Tanalite—the weight need not be over 8 pounds complete. Your campfire will do the rest.
A browse bag is dispensed with, for you will carry an axe and can cut small logs to hold in place a deep layer of such soft stuff as the location affords.
The short axe may be of Hudson Bay or Damascus pattern. There should be a small mill file to keep it in order, besides the whetstone.
The ration list is based on. the assumption that the hunter’s rifle will supply him, after the first day or two, with at least a pound of fresh meat a day. If it does not, go elsewhere.
There are plenty of good ways to cook without boiling, stewing, or roasting in an oven (see Vol.I.), which are processes that require vessels too bulky for a foot traveler to bother with.

Either the Whelen pack sack or a large Duluth one will carry the whole outfit. Both have the advantage that they can be drawn up to smaller dimensions as the pack decreases in size, or for carrying the day’s supplies when most of the outfit is cached at or near camp.
The following outfit is complete, save for gun, ammunition and cleaning implements.
For a longer trip than one week, a reserve of provisions can be cached at some central point in the hunting district.

Pack sack, with tump strap…2lb 12oz
Pillow bag*…3oz
Rubber cape*…1lb 5oz
Mackinaw stag shirt…1lb 8oz
Spare underwear, 1 suit…1lb 8oz
Spare socks, 2 pairs…5oz
German socks…12oz
Axe and muzzle…1lb 12oz
Cooking kit, dish towel, tin cup*…2lb 2oz
Cheese cloth…2oz
Mill file, 6 in…2oz
Wallet, fitted*…6oz
Toilet articles*…6oz
Talcum powder*…2oz
Toilet paper*…1oz
First aid kit*…5oz
Spare matches, in tin…6oz
Alpina folding lantern…8oz
Candles, ½ doz…8oz
Emergency ration [probably the “camper’s emergency ration” mentioned on p.167]…8oz
Tobacco, in wpf. bag…8
Spare pipe…3

Total pack without provisions …28lb 120z

One Week’s Rations (not including fresh meat)
Baking powder…4oz
Meal, cereal…1lb oz8
Milk powder…8oz
Egg powder…8oz
Dried apricots, prunes…1lb
Total [weight of food]…13lb 6oz
Provision bags, etc…10oz

Pack complete…42lb 12oz

The articles starred (*) are same as in summer hiking list already given.
Moccasins are to be large enough to fit over the German socks. This foot-gear is used in still hunting in dry weather, and on cold nights. The camper sleeps, when it is frosty, in fresh underwear and socks, army shirt (dried before the fire after the day’s use), trousers, stag shirt, neckerchief rigged as hood, German socks, and moccasins. When he has to get up to replenish the fire, or in case of any alarm, he springs from his bed attired cap-a-pie.


Camouflage: Does Size Matter?

This particular train of thought probably started as I was watching Westworld. In one scene we see a parked truck, as shown below:

Geometric urban camouflage patterns are nothing new, of course. What is notable about this example is the use of obliques, and the size of the elements used. The pattern appeared even more effective on the show than it does in the still. My eye kept losing parts of the shape and I had to remind myself that I was looking at a truck.
I have reached the conclusion that shape-disruption is one of the most important properties of a camouflage, and that this is where so many modern camouflage schemes fail. To hide a man we must first stop him appearing man-shaped.
The other day I happened across a booklet I have called “Camouflage Simply Explained” by Lt.-Col. Cyril H. Smith. Leafing through it I came across a statement that hiding an objects shape required bold patterns. The section on personal camouflage draws from Langdon-Davies, but the pattern illustrated by Smith is different from the one Langdon-Davies suggests for field and forest. As you can see, it uses large, bold elements.

This pattern is similar to those given by Langdon-Davies for rocky and urban terrain. Bold patterns, using proportional large elements.
Smith also addresses the camouflage of RAF aircraft, which also shows bold, large elements. These patterns were used well into the jet age. Similar patterns are used by some Russian ground vehicles. 

RAF patterns were painted adhering to a template, so all aircraft of the same type should have an identical pattern (although in the early part of the Second World War the pattern was mirrored for even-numbered aircraft).
I don’t know how these schemes were arrived at, but observe:
  • Band width loosely approximates the height of the fuselage.
  • Bands may branch.
  • Bands are oblique
  • Bands typically divide a wing or fuselage into between four and eight parts. This may be more on long-bodied aircraft.
Looking for similar camouflage schemes turned up some interesting images:

The last three are interesting, since they may be the first ever camouflage jackets known by the term. Created by the artist Louis Guingot, the pattern was called “Léopard”. Only five examples were made. Shows good contrast between the elements and uses natural-looking hues of green and brown. Could teach many latter efforts a thing or two!

Some charming attempts at Langdon-Davies’ sniper suits. He would not approve of the separate eyeholes and pink flesh visible, however!
Curious, I performed a little experiment using a pattern I generated. Like most modern camouflages, the pattern is too green, but will serve to investigate the effects of element size. The same pattern was resized so that it was 250, 350, 500, 600, 750 and 1000 pixels square. Results suggest that even larger elements may be more effective.