Travel Wash Kit

Once, while I was in Saltzberg, an American lad asked me to pass him his daysac. It nearly wrenched my arm from its socket with the unexpected weight.
“This is heavier than my entire kit!” I complained “What have you got in here?”
“Just my gel and moose and shampoo and conditioner and…”
You get the idea!
Choice of wash kit is personal, but I'll describe mine as a guide.
Like many travelers, I used to use a washroll or zippered bag for my wash kit.
The last one I used was quite an ingenious in that it had lots of pockets and compartments, a hook it could be hung up by and a little mirror that attached to a pad of Velcro.
One day it occurred to me just how much unnecessary bulk and weight all those thicknesses of condura contributed.
Now I just use a mesh drawcord bag.
I can hang the bag from the cord, or knot the cord around a pipe if there is nothing to hook it over.


        • A screw topped plastic bottle of shampoo. I use a 50 ml plastic screw-topped tube. I’ve taken trips of a month or more and never managed to use up all this shampoo. Older I get, the less hair that needs washing!
        • A flannel, though half of one will do. Always give this a good wringing out before packing away. In actuality I seldom use a flannel, so this is an item that could be omitted. I mainly use mine for scrubbing stains on clothing. My old cotton flannel seems to have survived the decades, but you might like to consider the more recent microfibre face cloths if you are creating your own new kit.
        • A bar of soap. Soap can be used as an antiseptic, laundry agent and for shaving. Hence I have no need to carry a shaving brush nor foam. Many of the soap cases available in the shops are made of too brittle a plastic and therefore are of little use for travelling. Nowadays I keep the bar of soap in a small PU nylon drawcord bag, which is simpler and lighter. Unlike most soap cases, I can hang the bag up in the shower. Making such a bag should be within anyone's sewing skills. The soap bag often ends up outside the mesh bag so the soap can dry.
        • A disposable razor or two, depending on the length of the trip. I have a beard these days but still pack a couple of razors to keep the stubble down on my neck and throat.

  • One of the most useful things I've carried on my travels is a little nail brush, just an inch or so long and brought for a few pence in a supermarket or cosmetics shop. I think my second one was from Body Shop. I don't think I've ever used it for my nails. What it has been used for includes:
    • Brushing dried mud off my canvas and suede summer boots: a lot easier than washing them and scrounging newspaper to pack in them to dry.
    • Using with hand soap to scrub away collar grime or food stains. Laundry is then simply done in a wash basin or shower, for free!
    • Brushing dried mud out of clothes. One of the most popular clubs with travelers in Jerusalem has a floor not unlike a farmyard. Every morning in the hostel my little brush would pass through a score of hands as garments were restored to a more presentable condition. So appreciated was this item that someone stole it from me!
  • A “fit anyhole” sink plug. You often encounter sinks without plugs. This is such a useful item I have had them stolen from me by other travelers. I have seldom used it myself. Shaving and washing under a running tap, and turning the tap off when not needed uses less water and is actually simpler, so I would not replace this if it was lost or perished.

  • A small mirror. The one that came with the wash roll broke, being glass. My current one is made from a piece of polished door finger plate, brought from a hardware store. Acrylic camping mirrors are an alternative. Shop around since price varies considerably for what is essentially the same thing. Add a short length of fishing line or rot-proof cord so you can hang it up or tie it around something. Mine also has a blob of blu tac on the back.
  • A spare comb.
  • A packet of dental floss. I have mainly used this as heavy thread for repairs. If you look at my self-built rucksac you can spot some dental floss repairs!
  • A couple of moist napkins in foil packets. These are used to freshen up when washing is not possible.
These are the contents of my mesh bag. There are a couple of associated items, several of which can be found in the same rucksack pocket.
For a very long trip I might consider taking my electric beard trimmer. This fits in a pencil case with its attachments, cleaning brush and oil.
An associated item I always carry is a mesh pencil case holding a toothbrush, toothpaste and deodorant. I found that I tended to need these items at different times to the rest of the wash kit, so it was handier to have them separate in a side pocket of the rucksack.
  • Deodorant/Antiperspirant. I generally use gels or soft sticks. These are a lot less bulky than aerosols and probably last longer.
  • A toothbrush and paste. You can get folding travel models of toothbrush, but I just use a normal one. I intend to replace this with a child-size brush.


Also with the wash kits is a travel towel.
Travel towels made from Pertex are not only small packing but dry very rapidly. I think I acquired my actual towel on a trip. It seems to be made from something like polyester. Not as fast drying as Pertex, I expect, but still quicker and less bulky than cotton.
There are other options if you cannot get a towel of high-tech modern material . In the article on ninja rokugu, we encountered the tenugui. Towels do not need to be the big fluffy things you use at home. Tenugui are unhemmed, supposedly making them easier to wring out. Thin cloth and frayed edges make it quicker drying. Put another way, anyone with some thin cotton or linen can make themselves a travelling tenugui. You probably have an old shirt, pillowcase or bedsheet you can re-purpose. Wikipedia says a tenugui is 35 by 90 cm, but for a travelling item you can shave a few centimetres of either of these dimensions in interests of packability.
A thin cloth such as a bandanna, tea-towel or shemagh can be used instead.
Whatever your choice of travel towel, add a loop of cord, ribbon or string to your towel and make the loop big enough to pass the towel through or to knot around something. This lets you attach the towel to a rucksac hand-loop or strap to dry in the breeze.
If a low profile is desired, use a neutral or natural coloured cloth.
In addition to these items, my daysac has a toilet roll and hand-sanitizer in a plastic bag.
You can improvise to overcome the loss of several of these items. Soap is mainly a lubricant so a lot of the dirt can be removed with just water and more scrubbing. In the past sand or oils have been used, and certain leaves, grass or straw may make good scrubbers. In cold dry conditions you can wash yourself with handfuls of snow. Snow is very absorbent so can be used to dry you but should not be kept on the skin too long. It is cold so you wouldn't want to do this!
Salt has been used in place of toothpaste but in fact it is the mechanical action of brushing that is more important for cleaning. Using a fingertip is well known but chewing a stick and using the frayed end is more effective.
Some hikers clean their teeth with baking soda or a mix of baking soda and salt. Apparently this does not attract bears like flavoured toothpaste can.
Plug holes can be plugged with blobs of toilet paper.
Splashing around in a river can be great fun but it’s better you carry some water away to wash with. Your soap may be biodegradable but before it degrades it's still contaminating a water supply and many creatures, environment. Better to pour it on the soil where the organisms there can degrade it more usefully.

And That Is a Good Way Too!

An idea I have recently encountered is to carry your wash kit in something such as a plastic sandwich or ice cream box. The mirror may be attached to the inside of the lid (I suggest blu tac).
The advantage of this approach is that the bottom of the box may be used as a water bowl, should you need one.
It also provides a little more protection to your wash kit should it be rattling around in the main compartment rather than in its own side pocket.
A potential problem is that a box may keep your items from drying out, which may be undesirable under certain conditions. If this proves to be the case, consider adding some ventilation holes to the lid.
A cord run through a pair of holes could be used to hang-up the lid and mirror.
Best of both worlds would be to find a box that will hold your mesh bag. If you are travelling very light or expect accommodations that will not need you to provide your own bowl, take just the mesh bag. If living a little rougher, carry your mesh bag in the box.

Candle Holders

Today’s topic is candles.
Candles can be a very useful part of your fire kit. Whenever you light a match or lighter use it to light a candle. Use the candle flame to ignite your tinder and kindling. This strategy helps conserve your supply of matches and fuel. A couple of birthday cake candles will fit into a compact fire kit.
Today, however, I am looking at the use of candles for illumination. In a long term survival situation candles or other sources of light such as oil lamps or rush-lights can conserve your supply of batteries.

The first item of interest is a Japanese device called a “Gando” . This resembles a small bucket with two hinged hoops inside. The bucket directs the light while the hoops ensure the candle (or other light source) remains upright. If you place the bucket rim down will the candle extinguish or keep burning? I don’t know. There are doubtless ways to construct the device so the light can be hidden without being lost.

The second item of interest is this candle holder, designed with a spike so it can be driven into a post. It happens to resemble a socket bayonet and many readers will be aware such bayonets were often driven into trench walls to be used as candle supports. This candle holder could be used as a push dagger or as an awl for less aggressive tasks.
That brings me nicely to the third item. Serge Mol’s “Classical Weapons of Japan” calls this a “kittate” and attributes it to the ninja. I have been unable to find a photo of this on the internet so I have scanned one. This is another candle holder. The long point can be driven into a wall or tree trunk and a candle placed on the smaller spike. Like many ninja items it can also be used for more aggressive purposes. Essentially it is a small kama or push dagger. The addition of a cord and weight  turns it into a compact kusarigama. The handle end can also be used as a kongo for striking. Such an implement readily lends itself to many of the sentry stalking techniques I describe in “Crash Combat”.

YEC and the Cognitive Dissonance Trap.

In general I try to avoid political posts on this blog. I try to avoid attacking the beliefs of others. This blog is about dealing with life and some of the problems that it may send against you. There are times, however, when established mindsets can come into conflict with dealing with problems. Some of you may stop reading my blog because of today’s post, which is not my intention. My intention is that this post will give you some pause for thought and change your priorities a little to give you better tools for problem management.
Every now and then I come across some meme that is trying to disprove evolution. Why does this matter?
Firstly, constantly trying to “prove” the Bible in actuality displays a lack of faith. The Bible has many useful lessons we can all learn from but constantly trying to prove it by dubious means causes people to neglect these. You are missing the important parts of the Bible and driving others away from them.
“They're making the mistake of linking their belief in faith, in their religion, to actual factual tenets. These are not factual stories to be taken as historical events, they're really stories about how we should live our lives. They're moral homilies. What can I personally get out of the Bible for me, today. That's what those stories are about. And to take them literally is; you're missing the point of the Bible!
Secondly, you do not “believe in evolution”. This is a relatively unsubtle manipulation designed to make you think in an unrealistic either/or mode. Evolution is not a religion or faith, it is a body of evidence supporting a hypothesis. Evidence denial is a very dangerous mindset. Evolution-denial is akin to holocaust-denial but more insidious since its effects are more widespread. Many of the world’s current problems are due to the encouragement of cognitive dissonance. We need leaders that make the best decisions based on available evidence, not that ignore what they do not like, understand or agree with. This is how we ourselves need to deal with what life throws at us.
Thirdly, if your support of Young Earth Creationism is that the Bible is literal you do not get to cherry pick which other bits you hold to be true. If the Earth was made in six days then it is also flat, with corners, as the Bible tells you. It is the centre of the universe and the sun circles it. You do not get to eat pork, shrimp or oysters, do not get to have tattoos and are to support slavery. You must hold that certain insects have only four legs and must perform calculations using a value of 3 for π. Nuclear weapons do not exists since radioactive decay is not constant. Most sciences, including astronomy, geology, mathematics and physics are all false so you should not be using their products. You need to believe in not one, but two different creation stories as literal truth! (Chapter one and chapter two of Genesis have conflicting details!) If you are a women you should be silent, obedient, submissive and not try to teach or have authority over men.

Vast amounts of money, effort and time are wasted on evolution denial. Money and effort that could be put towards far better causes. Young Earth Creationism is missing the point of the Bible and is counter-productive.
If faith or any other belief makes you a better person it is a good thing. Any belief that blinkers you to things that may harm you is not.

Soviet Soldier Simplicity

The other day I was reading an article about small unit actions. In the introduction it was explained that the men and women recruited as Soviet soldiers were used to living close to nature and tolerated and even thrived under conditions that would defeat German soldiers.
The questions that spring to mind are how was this done and how can this be applied to modern soldiers? I made a few posts on the Soviet soldier’s equipment some months back. It is apparent that the Soviet soldier of the Great Patriotic War got by with relatively little equipment. Let us start by looking at his clothing.
The basic Soviet field dress was a pull-over tunic and a pair of long breeches. This was an outfit that European fighters have used for many centuries. The Soviet tunic and loose trousers would not seem that unfamiliar to a Viking, Celt, Saxon or a medieval peasant.
Like many uniforms of the Second World War, it was constructed of wool, which has the advantage that it does not chill the wearer that much if wet. The Soviets also had a cotton version for summer use.
The tunic and trousers were worn directly over the underwear. The underwear seems to have been a long-sleeved undershirt and long johns for both summer and winter use. Both of these items were issued in summer and winter forms. Both forms were made from cotton, the difference being the winter version was fustian with a fluffy nap on the inside. The use of cotton for both the summer and winter underwear is interesting. I suspect this may have been selected to simplify mass laundering of items. Theoretically the Soviet soldier exchanged his underwear for a fresh set every ten days.
There were relatively few items for use in sub-zero temperatures. Each soldier had a greatcoat, which was also used instead of a blanket when sleeping so was carried all year. When not worn the greatcoat was usually carried rolled up and worn across the chest
The distinctive telogreika padded jacket and vatnie sharovari trousers were made from cotton and filled with cotton wool. It was cheap and simple to manufacture and very effective. Its thickness and wearing the garment over woollen clothing helped counter some of the disadvantages of cotton if it got wet. Below zero conditions meant that rain was seldom a problem. Telogreika and vatnie sharovari are often seen as outermost garments but were intended to be used under the greatcoat or sheepskin coats.
I am unsure as to how the telogreika and vatnie sharovari were carried if they were not being worn. They look like they would be too bulky to carry in the soldier’s backpack. Perhaps they were rolled up inside the greatcoat. Possibly they were treated as baggage items and only issued when the winter tunics were. Sheepskin coats might be worn in winter instead of the greatcoat. Some books claim the sheepskin coats were for cavalry and tankers but photographs prove that many other units acquired them. The greatcoat or sheepskin and telogreika were worn with ushanka fur hats, balaclavas, mittens/gloves and valenki felt overboots. With these few items the Soviet soldier operated in minus 50 conditions.
The rest of the Soviet soldier’s equipment also forms a relatively short list.
• A weapon and ammunition and grenades.
• An entrenching tool: numerous uses including as a close combat weapon.
• A canteen.
• Gas mask case and contents.
• A rain cape (plashch palatka)
• A simple haversack (myeshok).
The haversack contained a bag of tent pegs and a pole-section for constructing shelters. Contents also including a mess pail, shaving kit, soap, toothbrush and weapon-cleaning kit. There is no bayonet scabbard since bayonets were always carried fixed to the weapon.

The rain cape might be carried folded up in the haversack. It could also be rolled around the outside of the greatcoat roll or carried as a roll instead of the greatcoat. These rolls were also used to carry items. The cape is another item that would be familiar to a viking etc. Effectively it is a rain-resistant cloak and thus could be used for warmth as well as protection from the rain. The rain cape was a heavier item than modern ponchos but was also more robust. It could be used to drag a wounded man to safety, for example. One cape could be used as a shelter and another as a ground-cloth to accommodate two men, who slept together in their greatcoats. Capes could be combined to form larger shelters.
The haversack also carried rations. While I have found descriptions of what a Soviet soldier would carry, I have yet to find indications of the quantities.
Other notable items used were one or two-piece camouflage outfits designed to be worn over the field uniform. Generally these were used by scouts, snipers and engineers. White coveralls were used for camouflage in winter.
Post-war, a few interesting wrinkles were added to this basic equipment. In another post I have detailed the spetsnaz use of cotton string vests and coats with a “skirt” extension piece.
The equipment listed above is very brief compared to that of a modern soldier or outdoorsman. Part of the reason for this is that some items such as the greatcoat and raincape were multipurpose. The list above is probably incomplete. Historical sources often do not mention items such as tinderboxes and matches since it was inconceivable to the author that a peasant or outdoorsman would need to be told to carry these.
Some items we have now simply did not exist then.
Personal night-vision equipment and radio communicators had not yet been developed. The use of flashlights was restricted in the Soviet army, whilst the modern soldier often finds himself searching dark places. There is no compass and map-case in the standard Soviet field kit since navigation was for NCOs and officers.
Very often the Soviet soldier did without many of the things we regard as essentials such as kipmats, blankets, sleeping bags and tents.
The last sentence brings me to another thing that should be considered. What items on your equipment list are truly essential and what are just useful and nice to have?

Simple Russian Ration Pack Stove.

I have just come across this article on Russian ration packs. Included in the sundries was a pouch of moist-wipes, a small pack of storm matches and a pack of fuel blocks.

I could not make out what the item packaged with the fuel blocks was so searched for other images. I think it is a can-opener, which would be logical given many of the ration pack items are canned. Discovered that a stove is also included in the pack of fuel blocks. A simple piece of metal that can be folded into a raised platform with pot support. Probably not that efficient, but ingenious!