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Phillosoph

Dressing for Bug-Out

When you reach for your bug-out bag (BOB), there are two questions that you should be asking yourself.
The first is: “Do I really need to go?” Escaping to safety is a meme that Hollywood has drummed into us. It makes a great movies, but in reality “stay put” is usually a more prudent survival strategy than “bug-out”.
That said, if the answer was yes, your second question should be: “What is the weather like?”

Clothes Maketh the Survivor

Your chances are going to be much better if you are dressed for the conditions that you are likely to encounter. With your bag should be a selection of clothing items that you may possibly need.
Let us work on the assumption that the survivor must fend for themselves for 72 hours.
Sadly, there is no single outfit of clothing that can handle all possible conditions, hence the selection.

Underwear: Unmentionables for the Unthinkable

Let us start at the foundation, the underwear:

Hot Weather Undies

Shorts

If the weather or climate is hot, your underwear can simply be shorts and t-shirt.
Swimming shorts are a good choice. Those made from synthetics dry very fast, simplifying laundry. I like the ones with a mesh-lining that keeps things in place and under control. If it is really hot, the shorts also function as outerwear. Wearing them is also handy if you have to ford a stream. A useful tip for underwear of all sorts is to have each set a different colour. This helps you keep track of which has been worn and which is clean. Two pairs are sufficient. A third pair is handy in case things go more than a couple of days.

Tee-Shirts

For the t-shirts, it is worth acquiring them in coolmax, since it is fast drying. Again, get two or three, and have them in different colours.
A pair of t-shirts in string-vest material are useful additions. In hot weather they stop cloth pasting to your sweating flesh. In cold weather they add an extra layer of warmth for very little additional load.
Sports Bra
A bra will be needed for them that needs them. I would imagine a sports bra would be a good choice for a bug-out situation. I have no experience wearing bras, so will offer no further advice.

Temperate Climate Underwear

For temperate conditions, we will need more underwear. We need to keep comfortable at night and on the rainy days, so will need something more substantial than what we usually wear at home or working indoors.

Long-Johns

You will need two pairs of long-johns. Polycotton are probably fine. You do not want underwear that is too hot in temperate conditions. Polycotton is relatively easy to launder.
Polycotton Long-Johns

Long-Sleeve Undershirts

You will need a pair of undershirts, preferably long-sleeved. Since your torso sweats more than your legs, have these in coolmax if you can. If you cannot get these, the same place that sold you the long-johns probably has long-sleeved tops in polycotton. Have each set of your long underwear a different colour.
Coolmax Long Sleeve
You can wear your temperate underwear with, or instead of, your hot weather items. If it gets colder than expected, wear both sets of long undies.

Underwear for Cold Conditions

If the mercury has dropped, you will need “proper” thermal underwear. In previous eras this meant wool. This is not so easy to find these days and may be beyond your budget. Modern synthetics are much easier to wash. My personal choice is a set of Brynje long-johns and a matching long-sleeve top. These have a mesh construction, and seem more tolerant of extended (multi-day) wear than more conventional construction.
If you are on a budget, you may be able to get along with a single set of thermals. If you live where winters can be expected to be cold, two sets are a good investment. On the other hand, if you live near the equator, thermal long-johns may be low on your list of priorities.
Your thermals can be combined with one or more sets of your temperate and hot weather underwear.
Not strictly “underwear”, a wool or fleece shirt or a thin jumper may be worn over the underwear.
During the Second World War and Korean War, American soldiers would wear their woollen uniform trousers under their cotton field trousers. The modern equivalent are quilted trouser liners. A variety of these can be found on army surplus sites.

Organizing Your Undies

These underwear items are fairly low bulk, so a set of each of the hot and temperate kit should be packed in your bag. Bagged up, this probably makes a comfortable pillow at night.
The set(s) of thermals, and the second set of hot and temperate underwear should be stored close to your BOB. Put on what is suitable for the day. Decide if you want to take the rest or leave some behind. Trouser-liners are more bulky, so only pack or wear them if you think they are really needed.

Outerwear

Ok, now you are in your undies. What else to put on?
This will depend on whether you expect the weather to be hot, temperate or cold.

Hot Weather Outerwear

For hot weather, your outer layer should be something like a medium-weight shirt. Lighter shades handle strong sunlight better. The shirt should be of generous cut, for air circulation. This also allows warmer clothing to be worn beneath it. It should be of a tight weave to resist mosquitoes and the wind. It should have long-sleeves that can be rolled down for protection from insects. Cotton or poly-cotton are acceptable for hot weather. Some of the newish synthetic microfibres may be sufficiently comfortable too. A combat jacket can be worn instead of a shirt, but you do not want something that is too heavy or too hot. Probably best to avoid lined garments. Have a spare shirt in your bag. The two may be worn together, as described previously.
For the legs, cargo trousers are good. They should be roomy enough to fit over trouser-liners and long underwear. Cargo pockets take your skin-level EDC kit. If these trousers are always with your BOB, your SHTF survival knife/ knives may already be threaded onto the belt. Whether to pack spare trousers is up to you. 
If the weather is likely to be variable, it may be prudent to pack a thin jumper and possibly a light jacket or field coat.

Temperate Outerwear

For temperate conditions, outerwear is the same as for hot weather with the addition that something like a field jacket is more likely to be being worn. The jacket should be large enough to fit over a fleece jacket and any additional layers of insulation you might don. Field jackets such as the M65 can be fitted with a detachable liner, which is worth having.
Fleeces are often seen worn as the outermost layer. They work much better if they are under something more windproof, such as a field jacket, waterproof or even just under a shirt.
Items such as tracksuit tops, hoodies and bomber jackets may be worn under or instead of the field jacket. The order of these may be varied to vary your appearance, which may be useful in certain conditions. Several thin layers of insulation are more versatile than a lesser number of thick ones.

Cold Weather Outerwear

If it is cold out, ensure that you have the liner for your field jacket. If a bomber jacket or similar has a liner too, so much the better. If it is cold, your field jacket will probably not be your outermost layer. Have a parka, and buy it big so that it will fit over your field jacket and anything else likely to be under it.

Insulation

I have talked about insulation. A common mistake is to use too much. A good rule of thumb is that what you are wearing should leave you feeling slightly chilly when you are stationary. You will warm up once you are under way.
The suggestions above constitute a layer system. A layer system is a useful way to customize your insulation level before you set out. Adding or removing items when under way may not be as practical as some writers make out. Try it halfway up an Icelandic mountain in a 60mph wind!
When on the move, frequently vent your clothing to remove humid air. When you stop, you can put on additional clothing or wrap yourself in a blanket, sleeping bag or poncho-liner.

Colours and Camouflage

In general, your bug-out clothing should be in natural or neutral shades. Camouflage gear may attract unwelcome attention in some parts of the world. Choose greys, browns, tans and dull greens. Do not buy underwear items in white. Avoid black items for outerwear, it tends to stand-out and gets hot in the sun.
Of course, in an emergency you may want to attract attention. Your BOB should include a hi-viz tabard or jerkin, preferably the type with reflectors. One of your shemagh, and possibly one of your warm hats, should be brightly coloured. On the subject of reflectors, a reflective device that can be fitted to the back of your rucksac is useful if you find yourself hiking down a dark road. Bicycle stores are a good place to look for suitable items.
German Desert Parka
If I do need camouflage, I have a German desert parka. Being designed for desert use, it is comfortable in fairly hot weather. It is unlined and has ventilation zips under the arms. I brought the biggest I could find so there is room for both air circulation and insulation. It is in Tropentarn, which is one of the better modern off-the-shelf camouflage patterns. It is long enough to cover most things I might wear under it. It is a valid alternative to a field jacket. Jackets like the M65 can be too warm for milder conditions. The desert parka can use the same liner as the German cold weather parka, so the garment is camouflage cover, field jacket and CW parka.
German Parka Liner
I can wear the desert parka when I need camouflage. It is easily exchanged for another jacket and stowed in a pack when I do not.

And When It Rains

That covers hot, cold and temperate. What about wet?
Every bug-out-bag should include a rain parka.
These have numerous uses. They are reasonably priced and will often keep both you and your pack dry. They are easily vented. They are quick to put on, although this can become interesting if there is a bit of a wind!
There are some situations where a raincoat is preferable. A raincoat is in addition to the poncho rather than an alternative. A good raincoat packs up small when not in use, yet is large enough to cover and keep dry all the clothing that is serving as insulation. For me, this means it should be large enough to fit over my desert parka in winter mode. In a tactical scenario a raincoat would fit under the camouflage layer but over the insulation. This is quieter, and also protects the rainproof from damage.
On the subject of insulation, remember a rainproof garment traps air so acts as both a windproof and an insulator. If you put a rainproof on you may have to take something else off if you are to avoid overheating. It is a good idea to vent clothing, even if using breathable waterproofs.
Simple, small-packing waterproofs became difficult to find for a while. Outdoor shops much preferred to sell more substantial and expensive breathable items. “Pac-a-macs” seem to be making a comeback on the internet, although many are in garish colours!
I have never had a problem with non-breathable waterproofs, since I understood about venting. I also discovered that even expensive breathable fabrics have a finite life. The way you discover that is up is you get wet!

Boots

It is possible you own more than one pair of walking boots. The pair you have with your bug-out bag should be suited to all-weathers and all-seasons. You may have to traverse rubble and debris. Save the lightweight walkers for summer trips. Boots should be already broken in. Personally, I like gaiters if I will be going cross-country.

Socks

You will need at least two pairs of socks, with three pairs preferable. Your feet are important. It is worth investing in good quality woollen socks for your BOB.
Sew a loop of ribbon to each so you can hang them on the outside of your bag to dry. Choose neutral or natural colours. You could use different coloured loops for each pair, although your nose will often tell you which set needs washing. Spare socks can be used as mittens or carrying pouches.

Gloves

You will want several pairs of gloves. Fingerless gloves provide protection when in the brush or scrambling over rubble. These can be used with merkalon or silk glove liners. Work gloves can provide additional protection or another layer of insulation.
In cold weather, better insulated gloves and/or mittens may be required. The pockets of my outdoor jackets usually carry at least one pair of gloves. Keep your other gloves in an external pocket of your pack, where they can be easily accessed.

Hats and Scarves

You will need a hat to keep the sun off. I like a boonie hat, myself. Whatever your choice, add a cord so the wind does not steal it from you.
For cold weather, I tend to favour a watch-cap or folded headover. It is worth carrying more than one of these. If it is really cold, you can double up on hats.
A tennis-headband may be useful in hot weather. A bandanna worn across the forehead is a possible substitute.
Bandannas, shemagh, neck-gaiters and a woollen scarf also have a place in your BOB or coat pockets.

Protection

A bug-out bag is there for emergencies and disasters. A dust mask may prove useful, as may goggles. Sunglasses also protect against snowglare. Kneepads should fit under the trousers. This is better for camouflage and air circulation.
In certain situations, head protection may be prudent. This may be a lightweight hockey or skateboard helmet, or a construction hard-hat.
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Phillosoph

Adding a Pin to a Swiss Army Knife

The tools on a Swiss Army Knife sometimes end up performing tasks you never imagined! A few months back I went to unlock my front door, only to have the entire barrel of the lock detach and come away with the key! The metal file/saw proved to be ideal for reaching to the back of the lock and turning the bolt.
My girlfriend’s son had asked me why I always carry my SAK. Exactly for times like the above!

The Early Years

For the first few years of my early adulthood I carried a Chinese-made version of a Swiss Army Knife. I vaguely recall there were actually two, although I do not recall why I had to replace the first. To be fair, these were quite nice knives, with a good assortment of tools. The only problem I actually recall is a time when the corkscrew straightened out as I attempted to open a bottle of wine.
Back in those days, they were all I could afford, and they served well.
Once I had some money, I invested in a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (aka SAK).

Victorinox Champion

The model I selected was called the “Champion”, not to be confused with the “SwissChamp” that had become available a few years previously. The longer named Champion was less bulky than the Champ, lacking the pliers.
Swiss Army Champion
The seven-layer Champion was about the ideal maximum size for a SAK, and had a really useful selection of tools.
Sadly, my Champion was lost in an unfortunate chain of events that do not need to be told here. Even worse, the Champion had been discontinued, so I could not buy a replacement.
There was no ebay back then, so little chance of locating a second-hand one.
All the features of a Champion

Rise of the Ranger

As a replacement of the Champion, I selected a Ranger model. The most obvious difference between the two was the Ranger lacked a magnifying glass, fish scaler and Phillips screwdriver:
Swiss Army Ranger
• The Phillips screwdriver had proved useful at times.
• I don’t recall ever using the fish scaler/ hook disgorger, at least not for its intended purpose.
• I didn’t make much used of the magnifier either, although now that I am older and more decrepit, I suspect it might prove more useful. As an aside, the magnifying glass on the Champion was very cleverly thought out. Its focal length was the same as the magnifying glasses’ height. In other word, if you placed your knife on a map, the detail under the magnifying glass would be in focus. This may have been the case for other models that had the magnifying glass. I wonder if the same applies to the newer pattern of magnifier?
Since I wear glasses, an early addition I made to both the Champion and the later Ranger was to add the mini-screwdriver that fits into the corkscrew. Originally this tool was only included with the SwissChamp. They were sold as spares, however, so I acquired one. This has proved very useful over the years, often coming to the rescue of companions rather than myself. Half a lifetime ago I repaired the glasses of a grateful Swedish beauty in old Jerusalem.
Corkscrew Mini-tools
Victorinox now offer three alternate tools, each with a different coloured end.
I have carried the Ranger for many decades now. The lack of Phillips screwdriver is compensated for by the Leatherman Squirt mini-tool I also carry. If you are in the market for a medium-size (91mm) model SAK, the Ranger must be one of the best options. The Huntsman model is a good choice, but I have often found uses for the file/metal saw of the Ranger.

Swiss Army Knife Wiki

Recently I came across the Swiss Army Knife Wiki. This site is worth a look around.
Some interesting information on how to use the various tools, and some applications for them you may not have known. My Ranger had a Phillips screwdriver all along and I never knew! I discovered that the tip of the can-opener is actually intended for use with Phillips screws as well as slot.

Adding a Pin to a SAK

The original reason I have been thinking about Swiss Army Knives recently is that I came across a blog post discussing the pin carried in the handle scales.
Below is a video on possible uses for “needles” [sic pins]. The channel has many other videos on various features of Swiss Army Knives.


Even before I watched the above video, I was thinking about adding a pin to my Ranger. I own a number of very fine drill bits, so creating a channel for a pin would not be too difficult. I could probably add a pair.
I have lots of cheap pins. I decided to try and find the pins actually used, since they were probably better quality and the head looked a little wider.
A number of ebay vendors offered replacement pins for Swiss Army Knives. The one I chose got my money since they offered another idea. Included with the five pins was a small magnet. This magnet was sized to fit in the can-opener. With such a magnet, a pin could be magnetized as a compass needle.
The bits arrived this morning.

Fitting the Magnet and Pin

The 5.8mm magnet was a perfect fit for the can-opener. The vendor included the advice that the tool next to the can-opener usually needs to be opened before closing the can-opener with the magnet stored in it. If this is not so, the magnet tends to pull out of position, attracted by the neighbouring steel. Although stainless steel, the blades of a Swiss Army Knife are magnetic.
Magnet in Can-Opener
Finding a drill bit small enough for the pin was not a problem. Problem was most were too short to drill a channel as long as the pin. The other problem was my Ranger has solid scales. It lacks the airspaces found on some newer and alternate scales.
Drilling a channel deep enough and straight enough proved problematic, and inevitably the very fine drill curved and the channel exited on the inner side of scale. This actually proved to be fortuitous, allowing me to file a notch on the inner side for end of the pin to rest in.
I settled for adding just one pin for now. Most of the alternate positions for a pin are obstructed by the rivets the scales snap on to.
Ranger Knife Modified
My Ranger with pin added (blue arrow) and notches on scale (green arrows). If the balloon goes up, I am ready!

Other Modifications

Incidentally, the back scale of my Ranger has two additional non-standard features.
One is a chip, where an idiot friend used my knife as a bottle-opener without using the bottle-opener! I could fix this damage, but it is a useful reminder to be more cautious of whom I trust.
More useful are a series of three notches. The second is five millimetres from the first, the third 57mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57mm radius. The first and second are used to mark the circumference in five millimetre increments. Each millimetre of the circumference closely approximates one degree. Such a compass face can be used with various improvised modes of navigation.
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Phillosoph

Handcarts: AfriCart

Today I am going to talk a little more on handcarts. Researching something quite different, I found myself on a page on USMC TOEs and once again encountered the following illustration. Each machine gun section was provided with a MC-1942 handcart. Each 81mm mortar section was provided with two. The 60mm mortar sections, however, had no handcarts!
Looking for more information on the MC-1942 I instead found myself on this page on US Army handcarts. Notable was the information that such handcarts were intended for motorized troops. A pair of loaded carts fit between the seats of a 212 ton truck. When the truck could go not further, the infantry advanced with their handcarts.

US Army handcart with cover. Note detachably hauling ropes with handles.
Given the bulk and mass of some modern weapons and their ammunition, handcarts could still prove useful.

AfriCart

The marine and army carts use a T-shaped handle. Is this the best configuration? I wondered. A quick look at rickshaws and similar devices suggested that a rectangular arrangement might be better. That, in turn, led me to the following interesting blog:
Note how the bicycle wheels are supported on both sides. Also not the easily adjustable handle and the folding stand legs. The cart bed is 24 x 32" area, exactly the same as used in the US Army cart.
I am sure many of my readers could construct similar carts for their own use. Don’t forget attachment holes for lashings or bungees and drainage holes. A wire-mesh base is a possible option if you can source a suitably sized piece. Non-pneumatic tires may be a sensible investment.
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Phillosoph

Pull-Sharpening for Knives and Tools

My recent project with the machete has spurred me to sharpen a few of the tools I have around.
In my book, “Survival Weapons”, I devote an entire chapter to the topic of sharpening. That chapter remains a useful guide to a topic that can sometimes seem cryptic.
At this point I should explain that one of my “virtues” is that I am lazy. According to admiring colleagues, I can be usually be expected to find the simplest, most stress-free method of getting a job done. Over the last week or so have I noticed that how I sharpen some tools now varies somewhat from the techniques described in the book.
Regular readers will know I own a number of kukris, as well as other large blades. There was this period of ill-health where I spent my holiday budget on swords instead! Probably safe to say I have more large blades than the average prepper. Some of these have concave or convex edges, or in the case of kukris, both. Some of the techniques for sharpening you will see on some websites are not ideal for such tools.
A useful stone for pull-sharpening and an angle-er
I have, over the decades, acquired a large number of sharpening systems. The one I have found myself using the most recently is shown above.
I inherited this stone from a deceased colleague. It is most likely an Arkansas stone. The stone itself is about three inches long and a little under an inch wide. It is firmly mounted (glued?) to a wood tray about four and a half inches long by an inch and a half wide. This provides a very nice handle when using the stone. Beneath the base is the matching wooden lid. The stone has just been cleaned. I used a little washing-up liquid and some water to remove most of the grime. A little bathroom cream cleaner took of the remaining residue.

The Angle-er

The device below I call an “angle-er”. Having this nearby helps you visualize the correct angle while sharpening. This particular example has angles of 22.5, 15 and 30 degrees, which are pretty good choices for general usage. Some may prefer 17 or 20 degree and 35 degree angles. Once you have your tool close to the correct angle it is easy to vary it a couple of degrees if desired.
The beauty of this Arkansas stone is that I can move it instead of the blade. Unlike a larger flat stone this one is narrow enough that it can follow a curved edge, rather than attempting to grind it straight.
The method I use is essentially the same as was described for sharpening a machete, only instead of using a file I use a suitably sized stone.

Sharpening Styles

There are a number of ways that a stone or file can engage a blade. In the movies you often see a stone being dragged down a sword edge. Looks good but I have my doubts as to how useful this would be in the real world. Usually we want the sharpener to pass down the edge with some movement across the edge too.
The sharpening technique most often seen in “how to” guides is what may be called “push-sharpening”. If you were using a large, flat stone, you would move the blade as though you were attempting to shave the surface of the blade.
You will also see “push and pull” sharpening where the blade moves back and forth across the stone. I personally don’t use this method much and would not recommend it for the novice. Keeping the angle constant over the different strokes requires skill and it is easy to over-do things. If you can maintain an angle it is useful for quickly establishing a secondary edge.

Pull Sharpening

These days I tend to use pull-sharpening techniques. As you might expect, the blade moves in the opposite direction to push-sharpening. One of the advantages of pull-sharpening is that it is easier to move the sharpener across the blade edge, rather than moving the blade. This is useful when working on large or awkward blades but can be applied to small blades too. One does not need a workbench or similar for pull-sharpening. I usually sit on the sofa, watching the telly and using the advert breaks constructively.
Pull-sharpening is a good technique to use with small triangular-section sharpening stones. It is also suited to the oval stones sold for sharpening tools such as scythes.
lanskey sharpener
When you use a leather strop you are using an action like pull-sharpening. If you did not you would cut the leather!
If you are sharpening a tool using a high-speed device you should be using a pull-sharpening technique. This is so that if the high-speed wheel or belt snags the blade it will throw it away from you rather than at you!
One reason I like pull-sharpening is it is easier to view the angle of contact that sharpener and blade make. It is also easier to give both sides of the blade similar treatment without trying to use your non-dominant hand or run around the table.

Lubrication

Generally, I do not use lubricants such as oil, water or spit, for sharpening. An article I read, written by a professional sharpener, claimed that his experiments had concluded dry sharpening produced superior results. Much to my surprise, this article can still be found on-line! Generally I only apply water if a stone or sharpening system is particularly crumbly or high friction.

Pull Sharpening Technique

For example, hold your blade with the edge to the left. Place your sharpener at the desired angle, and push your sharpener right to left, moving it away from the blade spine or centre. A “pass” starts at the heel of the blade and moves towards the tip. A pass may take several strokes, depending on blade length and sharpener size. Make three to five passes on a side, then change. For the other side, you have two choices. You can flip your blade over so the edge is to the right and stroke the edge left to right; or you can turn the blade upside down and stroke the other edge right to left. Use whichever technique you prefer and better suits the tool being sharpened. Keep changing every three to five passes, reducing the number of passes as your tool approaches the desired sharpness.
Pull sharpening is a good technique if you are not that confident about your sharpening skills. It is easy to check and maintain the desired angle. It is also not a particularly aggressive technique, so you are unlikely to damage your edge. In fact, I recommend you try a very light touch as you make you strokes and passes. Let your stone trace the curves of the blade rather than trying to remove them. You will find that as the edge geometry takes shape, you will be able to feel when the stone or file is at the correct angle. Light pressure also lets your feel where sections of the edge have irregularities and need more work.
So far, the only problem I have had with pull-sharpening was with a particular multi-tool where the blade was unlocked and rather loose in the open position. Pull-sharpening tended to pull the blade closed. This would only have been a danger if I had wrapped my fingers around the grip while sharpening, rather than holding the back of the blade.
Pull-sharpening is a useful technique to add to your repertoire. The knives in my kitchen are kept sharp mainly by a butcher’s steel and a set of crock-sticks I have in a cupboard there. I maintain my assertion that crock-sticks (ceramic rods) are a very good way to teach yourself the fundamentals of sharpening. Crock-sticks are a form of push-sharpening, but pull-sharpening has improved my technique in using these too. Rather than just slicing down, I now use a lighter touch and let the stick surface trace alone the curve of the edge, keeping contact to the very tip and engaging the edge at a better angle throughout its length.
I think one of the most important things I have learnt in decades of sharpening is that it is another of those skills where less is more. You will get much better results maintaining a light contact with the sharpener rather than pressing down.
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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.

Adding a Barong Handle

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.

Sharpening a Machete

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. A round file is useful for major work on tools with a concave edge, such as kukris and billhooks. 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. Sharpening sometimes involves touch, sound, and/or sight. 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

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.