Uncle Phil’s List

Today’s blog leads on loosely from the previous ones and introduces a very useful tool.
Decades ago I created what was to become known as “Uncle Phil’s List”. The list can be used to create a bug-out bag, survival kit or pack for a long holiday or just a weekend away. The list gives you a number of categories, each of which you consider in turn. Chances are you will not need an item for each category and some categories will have multiple items. The power of the list is that it makes you consider each individual category for a few seconds which really helps you clarify what you do and don’t need.
The list has nineteen categories but memorising them all is unnecessary. Part of real knowledge is knowing something exists and where to find it when you need it rather holding it in memory. Cut and paste the list, print it out and laminate it to use when you are planning and packing. Copy it into the front of your notebook if you wish.
Uncle Phil’s List.
  1. Shelter.
  2. Sleeping
  3. Clothing
  4. Fire
  5. Water
  6. Food
  7. Hunting and Fishing
  8. Cooking Equipment
  9. Medical. First Aid items. Necessary Medication. Sun-cream and Insect Repellent.
  10. Tools
  11. Navigation
  12. Signalling
  13. Light
  14. Toiletries/Wash kit
  15. Documentation. Passport, Visa, Books, Tickets, Money and writing material
  16. Rope and Cordage.
  17. Repairs -sewing kit, tape, glue, spares
  18. Specialist items: Defensive weapons, climbing gear, cameras, gift for hosts etc.
  19. Packs -i.e. how the items are carried and bags that can be used for carrying found food etc.
For example, the first category, “Shelter” can cover everything from having a plastic rubbish bag or poncho in your bag to protect from the rain to making sure your tent is not missing any parts or confirming the hotel reservations. “Sleeping” might also make you think about your accommodations but should also make you consider if you need bedding and related items. On many trips, particularly to more civilized areas, your answer to many of the categories will be “no, don’t need anything for that” or “I can use the credit card for that”. The important thing is that you have actually spent a few seconds thinking about this and coming to that conclusion rather than assuming, and assumption is the mother of all muck-ups!
Future blogs will cover how this list can be used to assemble various useful kits for a number of purposes.

All Weather Blanket Rainwear Trick.

A friend of mine asked me the other night about alternatives to ponchos. That leads on nicely from yesterday’s blog post since I mentioned my All Weather Blanket.
An All Weather Blanket is a more robust version of the Space Blanket. Appropriately enough I brought mine at the Kennedy Space Centre in 1991-2. Since then it has been a permanent addition to my daysac and has travelled with me from Hong-Kong to L.A and from Iceland to Brazil. One of the reasons that it has lasted so long is I loosely roll and scrunch it up rather than folding it up neatly. Folding it tightly causes wear on the corners and folds I have been told and my experience seems to verify this.

An All Weather Blanket can perform a number of useful functions but today’s post is about how to effectively use it as rainwear.
Firstly, preparation. When you are cold, wet and the light is failing is no time to fiddle around with knots. While you are snug at home tie a length of cordage to each of the grommets on your All Weather Blanket. I have used old nylon shoelace from some trainers for this. Your All Weather Blanket is now ready. Scrunch it up and place it in your daysac.
This method of making an All Weather Blanket into a rain cape is relatively unknown. I discovered it when researching Scottish plaids and even in Scotland this trick seemed to have been only used by women in the Inverness region if I recall correctly.
Take your All Weather Blanket and drape the centre of the top edge over your head like a shawl. Hold the top corners, one in each hand. Bring the two corners together and tie the shoelaces that you fitted earlier together. Use a simple reef knot, nothing complicated.
Holding the corners once again, cross your right forearm over your left. You have created a big loop which you now pass over your head so that the knot is behind your neck. The section of blanket that was draped over your head has now become a hood. Let your arms fall to your side and the cloak you have created will fall closed. Adjust the hood a little and you are now protected from the rain from head to knee. The reflective interior of the cape will warm you while the open front allows you to easily vent humid air or pick things up.
That is it really. Very simple if you know the trick, but it is a trick that is virtually unknown.

Six Items for Travelling

The publication of my book on Survival Weapons gives me the excuse to diversify a bit more on this blog, as some readers have requested.
Today's post nicely covers the aspects of both survival and marital arts and I hope will be of interest.
It seems odd these days, but once information about ninja was hard to come by. One of the best sources was (and still is) Donn F. Draeger's Comprehensive Asian Fighting Arts.
In the discussion of the ninja Draeger mentions the “Six tools of Travelling” or Shinobi-rokugu (p.127). Six items that a ninja would never leave on a mission without.

Draeger’s descriptions of the items were not as clear as one might wish, however. Last night, while researching a quite different topic I was able to clarify a few things. Items 4 to 9 in the illustration below represent Shinobi-rokugu.

Amigasa. Amigash was a broad brimmed straw hat, the Japanese version of what is commonly called a coolie hat.
A hat is obviously good protection from the sun and the rain but for the ninja has the useful property that it can also conceal the face without the attempt being obvious.
A hat such as this can also be used as an improvised buckler to fend off an attack with a knife.
In the movies, such hats are sometimes thrown like frisbees. While this would not do the damage shown in such movies, it would be a useful distraction.
Below is a photo that is reproduced in a couple of my Japanese language books. I originally thought that the arrows shown here were either hand-thrown weapons or darts for a blowgun.
Hand missiles this size made predominately from wood and feather would be rather light, while such large fletchings on a blowpipe dart would be unnecessary and less than efficient. Possibly these arrows were a hybrid for both than throwing and blowgun.
I now see these are actually arrows intended for a bow and what was visible in my books was just the tail section of the arrow. Each extends across the width of the hat, the rest of the shaft in a pocket of some kind so it resembles a supporting rib.
Doubtless other weapons were concealed in the hats. Bo-shuriken could be placed radially like the arrows and this would be a good hiding place of a garrotte/spare bowstring.
The floppy hats favoured by 17th century cavalry such as the English Cavaliers often concealed a metal structure called a “Secret” to protect from blows and it is possible that some amigasa also had a metal cap or framework within.

Kaginawa. A rope with a hook. ninja were known for climbing so it is hardly surprising that this would be an essential item. A length of cordage is always useful anyway.

Tenugui. Draeger calls this a towel, which conjures the “Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” to mind.
The tenugui is actually made from thin cloth and is better understood as resembling a bandanna of about three foot by one foot size.
Kendo fighters will know the tenugui as a headscarf to be worn under the helmet, but it was originally a multi-purpose item, used as a bandanna in the fields and a handcloth in the home.
It could also be used as a bandage or sling, or as a mask to protect from smoke or conceal the identity. 
Sekihitsu. Draeger just calls this a “stone pencil”, which does not tell us much. In fact this was a portable writing kit ("Yatate"), which was not an uncommon item for feudal Japanese to carry on their person.
Ninja were spies as well as assassins and some means to record information and leave messages was essential to their task.
One of my Japanese language books shows this as something resembling Popeye’s pipe. The “bowl” is in fact an inkwell and the stem contains a brush. There is even a vent cut in the stem to allow the bristles to dry and air. Such kits could be used to conceal various weapons, and even the ink might be poisoned
Even standard yatate were sturdy enough to be passable clubbing weapons. Underneath this item in the photo is what looks like pieces of pointed chalk. This may be either chalk or a slate pencil. Both would be useful and this may explain Draeger’s use of the term “stone pencil”.
Kusuri. Medicines. Ninja are known to have produced special pills intended to staving off the effects of thirst or hunger. Various salves, ointments and insect repellents might also have been carried.
Doubtless the ninja also carried a few poisons and hid them in plain sight within their medicine kit.
Carrying a few medicines on your person was by no means unusual in feudal Japan.
Shown in the photo is a typical Japanese medical kit (“inro”) which is rather neat. It has a number of small trays which act as compartments moving up and down the cords. The whole thing can be pulled together and hung from a belt. Quite practical and worth copying.

Uchitake. Draeger describes this as a short bamboo pole.
In Eric Van Lustbader’s novel “The Miko”, the uchitake isdescribed as a long bamboo pole that can be used as a walking staff. The other five Shinobi-rokugu items are packed into the pole, which can doubtless also be used as a fighting staff.
The sixth item of the rokugu is in fact a short tube of bamboo filled with gunpowder and is mainly intended for firelighting. Since the Shinobi-rokugu is intended as a basic survival kit some means of making fire would be needed and this makes much more sense.
Below is an illustration found in several of my books, but since I do not read Japanese I am little the wiser. The C-shaped item is obviously a striking steel but how the other items are used exactly I am unsure. The tube it is attached to resembles a flute, but has holes evenly spaced around it. Obviously this cannot be a container for gunpowder.
The lower item is apparently a charcoal/ char-cloth body warmer or donohi which could provide a ready source of ignition for lighting fuses, arson etc. Possibly the flute-like tube is the central part of the donohi around which the char-cloth is wrapped. This could be blown down to produce more heat when needed. A perforated tube could alternately be used to transport a lit slow-match.
How to make a Donohi

Some of you may note something is conspicuous by its absence. There is no mention of a knife. It may have been considered redundant to tell a ninja to bring a knife. In feudal societies, most people carried a knife as a matter of routine, using it for all manner of everyday tasks.

Shinobi-rokugu in the Modern Day

A few months back I brought a new daysac. Once I had it I began to add a few useful things to it, and now that I think about it my choices did parallel the Shinobi-rokugu.

  • One of the first things I added was a hat. In fact I added two. One is my much traveled broad-brimmed boonie hat. The second is a lightweight synthetic headover that can serve as a cold weather hat, neck warmer and so forth.
  • I’ve not added a rope and grappling hook, but I did add a ball of string to provide useful cordage. Perhaps I should add a hank of paracord too.
  • I put a bandanna in the bag too, and usually carry one in my pocket, so that is my Tenugui equivalent.
  • Not yet added, but when travelling my daysac usually carries a notepad and spare pen in a plastic bag. Perhaps I should consider some chalk.
  • Medicines. I will be adding a few aspirin, plasters and dicholorfenic. When I travel with this bag a bottle of insect repellent and sunscreen will doubtless be added.
  • My fire kit is a spare disposable lighter and a couple of nightlight candles. The latter can be used to get a fire going and can also be used for illumination.
For completeness, other items added to the daysac included an All-Weather Blanket, “pak-a-mac”, lever-powered torch, pair of woollen gloves and my Platypus Water Bottle.

Desert Eagles

Recently I have been viewing some footage from a certain video game I have become interested in. One of the many things that amused me about this game was how nearly everyone you encounter seems to be packing a Desert Eagle! No wimpy 9mm Glocks and Berettas in this town! If you do not have a Desert Eagle it is because you have a shotgun, M16 or rocket launcher.
Desert Eagles are common in action movies and possibly the game is satirizing this. The Desert Eagle (aka “Deagle”) is an interesting weapon in many respects. It is commonly assumed that it was created as a hunting handgun. To quote an old Jewish saying with a considerable element of truth “Jews don’t hunt” so it would be unusual for an Israeli company to develop a hunting handgun. The real origin of the Desert Eagle is more martial. In military operations such as house searches for terrorist caches, pistols are often an important weapon, since a free hand may be needed to open doors and cupboards and for other duties. For some reason it seems to have been decided that a weapon with more power and penetration than a 9mm was needed for such situations and the Desert Eagle was developed. Its application as a hunting weapon for the American market seems to have come later.
Many years back I got to shoot a Desert Eagle belonging to a friend. This was “just” a .357 model and I doubt the .50 AE was available way back then. I recall it had a very nice and smooth trigger. I also seem to recollect I needed to shift my grip to engage and disengage the safety. If a pistol must have a safety I prefer a design such as the frame-mounted safety of a M1911A1, where it is disengaged by a quick downward sweep of the thumb. The Desert Eagle has the safety high up on the slide and needs to be moved up to fire. I have not handled the newer models of Desert Eagle but I suspect that the safety is still on the slow side to operate. Carry the Deagle hammer down, safety off? When the Desert Eagle first came out this was apparently not recommended. Current models are described as “drop-safe” so this may have changed. Being capable of being brought into action quickly does not seem to have been a requirement of the original Desert Eagle, it doubtless being envisioned that the weapon would be drawn, cocked and readied before commencing on a search operation. It does however amuse me that in the movies you so commonly see the Desert Eagle used as a carry gun when in reality it would take several seconds to get it ready for firing, not to mention the weight and bulk of the thing tucked under your armpit all day.
Here is a link to a rather nice article on the Desert Eagle. If you wish to know about more practical options for a self-defence carry weapon please buy my book.


The Harry Solomon Scenario

The other night my girlfriend was talking to me and I was being a good boyfriend and mainly listening attentively. At one point I commented “So what are you going to do?”
As I listened to the answer another part of my brain processed why those words sounded so familiar and significant. Scroll back about 15 years or more when “Third Rock from the Sun” was the newest show on TV. In one episode Harry Solomon (French Stewart) becomes a barman. People attempt to tell Harry their problems and Harry just continues to polish a glass and sigh philosophically “So what are you going to do?” The joke was people would consider this question, causing them to consider all their options and play out the possible consequences and reach a conclusion. Typically an exchange would go something like:
“So, what are you going to do?”
“I should tell my boss to kiss it! But if I do that I might lose my job and then we would have to cancel our vacation. I’m going to have to put in the overtime. Perhaps it won’t be so bad and I could use the money. Thanks Harry, you have been a real help!”
Harry, a usual, would be essentially oblivious to the real world and what was happening around him but establishes a reputation as being an excellent barman and a great guy to tell your problems to.
Once I had identified the origin and significance of the phrase the temptation became too much. A couple more times during the conversation I ask my girlfriend “So what are you going to do?” and watch with interest as this kick-starts her keen mind into problem solving and planning her course of action.
Sometimes, take time to ask yourself or others this important question. The answers may surprise you.

Survival Weapons. Contents.

For those of you who are considering buying my latest book, a quick rundown of what you will find within its attractive green cover should you be wise enough to make the modest investment.

This should need no introduction!
What is survivalism?
A brief account of what survivalism (with a small s) is and what is often mistaken for it.
The Amorality of Gun Control
An updated and improved version of my blog post with a similar title. This has been described as “the facts without the political posturing” and should be required reading for anyone who thinks they have an opinion on gun control.
Gun 101
A very practical and comprehensive chapter on exterior ballistics and other related technical issues a shooter should know about.
Deer Hunting Rifles
A guide to choosing a large game hunting rifle and calibre and load choices. With some information on using a bolt-action weapon for self-protection thrown in too.
A chapter on shotguns, explaining the sometimes complex seeming topics of shot size, choke, barrel length, pellet numbers and conversion from lead to steel shot. Information on shotguns both for hunting and defence. Includes numerous very useful tables of information.
Handguns for Defence
A chapter on selection and use of handguns for defence against both two legged and four legged aggressors. Includes information on snap, point and other sightless methods of fast shooting.
Defensive Rifles
Rifles for self-defence purposes, included fast target acquisition methods. Includes a discussion of common types and selecting the accessories that are most useful. This chapter includes a detailed history of the intermediate round.
A chapter on the essential .22 discussing takedowns, full size rifles and handguns. Includes a discussion of the .22 as an unconventional weapon.
Rifle and Shotgun Slings
A short but useful chapter on how to make the carrying sling of your weapon lighter and quieter. Also includes a discussion on ways to use a sling to improve the accuracy of your shooting.
Accuracy and Sighting
How to sight in your weapon and zeroing range for various weapons. How to adjust fixed or adjustable sights. Types of iron sights and why they are sometimes preferable to scopes. Selecting a scope. Occluded sights, laser sights and removing scope flash.
Survival Knives
The blades you should really be spending your hard earned money on. A handful of knives that will do nearly any job and won’t break the bank. Other useful implements.
Using Knives
How to use bladed tools more effectively and safely.
A detailed chapter on how to sharpen you tools and keep them sharp.
Tactics and Strategy
Because a weapon is of no use if you do not know how to employ it. Some notes and tips on concealment, moving quietly, communicating without words and avoiding the bad guys.
Improvised and Miscellaneous Weapons
Hunting weapons that can be built from found materials and that can keep you alive when your store-brought items are out of reach.
As you can see, terrific value! Buy your copy now at:

Protein Supplements: Save Your Money

Our society programs us to be consumers.
If we take up a new hobby or interest often our first reaction is to search for what things we need to buy to partake in that activity.
The problem for business is that certain activities such as exercising with weights or running do not need that many material things, so the solution is to create things that seem they may help.
Specialist foods seem to be a very successful niche.
I came across this article the other day, which pretty much confirms what I had suspected about protein supplements.
Since I originally wrote this, having added protein in nearly every possible food has become a trend. Was no one else awake in school?
Your normal everyday diet contains ample protein for your needs. If your diet did not contain protein, which is highly unlikely, your body can make proteins from amino acids which it can synthesise from the citric acid cycle using glucose and body fats which you probably wanted to reduce anyway.
You only need a few ounces/75-100g of protein a day, much more than you probably eat. A portion of meat or other protein-rich food should be about the size of your palm. If eating white (non-oily) fish the portion may be as big as your palm and fingers.
Measure food portion with hand Hand measures of food
Save your money and buy my books instead.

Machetes for Gardeners.

Many years ago someone who was interested in some of my writings invited me to visit him in Austria. This was my second visit to Austria but my first in the area of Kitzbühel. Famous for its winter sports, it is also a very pleasant place to visit in other seasons. Ultimately that association led to me writing my first book. One memory that sticks with me is how often you would see a scythe hanging on the outside of a house. These were more than rustic decorations, however. On several occasions I saw homeowners using these scythes to trim the edges of their lawns. A much more elegant choice of tool than the noisy strimmers so often used in other countries. 

Jumping forward a few years and I was holidaying on a certain Caribbean island. There on several occasions I witnessed gardeners or municipal workers at work and often the only tool they would have was a battered machete, the handle invariably replaced with electrical tape. They only had a machete since this was all they needed. If planting flowers in a flowerbed the end of the machete would serve to dig the necessary a hole a few inches deep. The flat of the blade would then pat the earth flat again. The edges of lawns were trimmed by deft swipes of the machete. Moss and grass was cleared from between paving stones by grubbing it out with the blunt back edge of the point.
If you are a gardener you may have a whole shed full of tools and my observations above make me wonder how many you really need? The machetes I saw in use were the fairly typical “GI-pattern” but being of a certain ilk I began to wonder if about a specific design of gardening machete.

Here is one possible design. The blade is about a foot long and the long handle allows a variety of grips for fine control or long slashing actions. The end is designed to serve as a trowel and a blunt hook like extension serves several uses including grubbing. Perhaps I should make the butt serve as a digging stick?