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Phillosoph

Beyond the Pail: Buckets for Survival

Why a bucket?
Recently I blogged on the topic of dish-washing. Today, I want you to imagine that you are somewhere far from civilized plumbing. You may want to wash your cookware, clothing or you may want to wash yourself. What do you do?
Some of you, I suspect, may suggest that you head for the nearest body of water and wash there. We will assume you have been prudent and lucky enough to have placed your camp within an easy travel distance of water. Not too close, to limit hassles from insects.
Washing yourself or your dishes in a body of water is not ideal. Even in parts of the world where that water is not inhabited by crocodiles, alligators, mosquitoes, schistosomiasis or similar.
The problem is that your activity generates what is known as “greywater” or “sullage”. Dirty water, soap or detergent, and also suspended fats, grease and food particles.
Even if you use biodegradable products, biodegradation takes time! While this process is on-going, your greywater may have various effects on the body of water, including changes in pH, viscosity and changes in oxygen level.
A much better approach is to cast your greywater on to the soil, some distance from the nearest body of water. The creatures of the soil can deal with greywater much better than those of the water, and any effects are more localized. Choose ground that is absorbent, and do not use the same place on consecutive days.
OK, so you have seen the wisdom of washing some distance from the water source. Just how do you get the water to wash with to the desired location?
Your water bottle or bladder probably only holds a litre or three. You have probably treated the contents to make them safe for drinking, so using this for washing is a little wasteful. Your canteen cup probably only holds half a litre or so. You may have larger cooking pans, but for efficiency these will only be a couple or litres capacity or less. Many modern designs do not have handles suited to carrying a couple of kilos of liquid any distance.
You could fabricate a water carrier from local materials. Kephart has a whole chapter on making utensils from bark. Such crafts take time, and suitable materials will not be available in every environment or season.
Would it not have been useful if you had brought a plastic bucket with you?
Grey Plastic Bucket

Buckets for Preppers

I recall being in a bar decades ago. I had just rented a new place, actually my first real flat with multiple rooms I did not have to share with anyone. I was chatting to a young woman and told her: “I have brought a plastic bucket and bowl, so I am all set!” Many years and many locations later, that same bucket and bowl are still with me. Used the bowl just a few weeks back to soak the grill of my halogen oven.
Some will scoff! “I'm a backpacker! I go ultra-light! There is no room for a bucket!”.
Empty buckets weight very little. Being mass-produced, they cost very little too! Shop around!
If you pack the bucket full of foodstuffs and other stores, it will take up very little room in your pack. It actually provides them with some protection. Oddly, some larger capacity buckets pack better than their smaller cousins. More on capacity later.
Camouflage 5 litre bucket

What Use Is a Bucket?

What uses can we put a bucket to? We have already mentioned carrying water for washing, dish-washing and laundry.
• A friend of mine gave me a folding camping sink that holds about ten litres. Not a priority for the bug-out bag, but he thought it might be useful for more recreational camping trips. I now look at this item and wonder just how I was supposed to fill it. Ten litres of water is around 22 pounds! A filled, folding sink is not something you want to carry from a standpipe. I would have needed a bulk-water carrier, or a bucket.
If you have tried the techniques in my dish-washing article, you will know that you do not need a large capacity vessel to wash most items.
You can use a small bowl or bucket of water to wash a large diameter item such as a plate, frying pan or yourself!
Use a cup, or your hand, as a water ladle to wet and rinse. The dirty water does not go back into the vessel, so it is cleaner and more efficient.
I doubt that folding sink will ever see use. I will find a bucket that fits into my pack. A bucket will probably be more durable than a sink/bowl designed to fold.
• Read through a survival manual or book on woodcraft, and you will probably come across references to soaking things to make them more pliable or more edible. You cannot fit much in a mess-tin!
• Cannot reach the water source? Bucket on a rope may solve that problem.
• Let the water come to you! Place your bucket to collect rainwater.
• Successful day fishing or squirrel shooting? Carry your windfall back to camp in a bucket.
• Find a patch of berries? Your bucket will hold as much as you can carry.
As a quick aside: In one of Ray Mears shows one of his local hosts had an interesting berry-picking technique. She simply swiped the bush with her basket. Enough berries apparently detached and ended up in the basket for this to be a considerable labour-saving. Something to experiment with in berry season!
• An empty bucket can be used as a drum to guide companions back to camp, or just let them know dinner is nearly ready.
• A bucket can be used to dig through soft snow or sand.
• A up-turned bucket makes a useful stool and (if sturdy enough) can be used as a step.
• If you have trouble squatting when attending to “calls of nature” an up-turned bucket can be a useful support while you hang your nether-regions over a “cat-hole”.
• And if it is really nasty outside the shelter, as a vase de nuit.
Any party of more than a couple of individuals should include a bucket in their equipment.
Smaller parties and solo travellers should give them serious consideration.
Any vehicle, be it boat, SUV or APC, should find room for a bucket. The interior of the bucket can be used to store other useful items. In an emergency, grab the bucket and be instantly equipped with useful assets.
Some companies even offer 72-hour kits packed in buckets.

Green ten litre bucket

Choosing a Bucket

For backpackers, cyclists and lightweight travellers, the bucket chosen needs some consideration.
Obviously, we want a bucket that will fit easily into our pack, with little wasted space.
There is little point in my recommending a bucket of a certain capacity. In my kitchen I have two buckets, not counting one for floor-washing. The five litre bucket is too narrow at the bottom. It will fit in a daysack, but it is space-inefficient. The three (Imperial) gallon bucket is about twice the capacity (13.6 litres) but is too wide at the top for even my largest rucksacks.
The interior dimensions of your pack will be more significant than bucket capacity. Taking your pack down to the hardware store and trying some buckets for size is not that bad an idea. Remember the bucket will be riding above your softer pack items, so perhaps put a sleeping bag and a realistic load of clothing in the pack before you hit the hardware store.
Depending on intended role, you may want bright colours or natural and neutral. The outside of a bucket can easily be spray-painted.
Cylindrical buckets, with the bottom of similar diameter to the top, may be a better choice than more conventional tapered designs. Between five and ten litre size may be a good option for these.
If you decide to buy a bucket on-line, bear in mind that perfectly suitable items may be available under various other names, such as “paint kettle” or “storage tub”. There will be bowls and various other containers that can be made into buckets with just the simple addition of a handle.
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Phillosoph

If You Must Wear a Tie…

“It's Christmas in heaven
The snow falls from the sky
But it's nice and warm, and everyone
Looks smart and wears a tie”
The previous blog on neutral and natural colours touched on the topic of capsule wardrobes.
Not all of your clothing can be tactically orientated. You will need some clothes for formal occasions and other instances where you have to “dress-up”.
As a change from the norm, and to compliment my other articles, I would like to offer some personal opinions, specifically on the topic of neck-ties.
It has been many decades since I have had to wear a tie for work. Tee-shirt and cargo trousers is a more usual look for me.
When I do have to smarten up, people are often surprised at how well I “scrub-up”.
I will admit part of this is probably shock, since they are used to me dressing otherwise. Being tall and with long legs also helps. I would like to think part of my successful transformation is attention to detail.
Half a dozen years of wearing school uniform taught me that wearing a tie does not automatically make you smart or presentable. Even if you are James Bond!
James Bond in pink tie
Let us start with a bad example. A still of Sean Connery as James Bond in “Diamonds Are Forever”.
• The one thing about this tie that I do not have a problem with is the colour.
Wearing a tie stylishly is about contrast. How well does your tie compliment or clash with the other garments you are wearing? In later scenes, Bond adds a cream-coloured jacket to this outfit and the pink looks really good with this.
In previous centuries pink was regarded as a strongly masculine colour. A confident man can wear pink and make it work for him. I imagine any woman that comments on Bond's tie colour opens herself to the full Bond charm and wit!
• The obvious flaw with this particular tie is that is looks too short and too wide. Bond looks like an infant dressed up for a wedding.
The Bondsuits website explains this look was deliberate, this being a fashion or trend of the time. This reminds us that style is something distinct from trends and fashion. Just because something is claimed to be fashionable or trendy does not mean it should be followed blindly. Have the confidence to reject what you dislike or what feels wrong.
• Ties work best if worn with a jacket, waistcoat or jumper. Bond is seen here without his jacket and the tie seems to just hang there, not sure what it is doing. Literally, “at a loose end!” If you really must wear a tie with just a shirt, try wearing it GI-tuck style.
• Notice how the tie is irregularly creased where it enters the knot? I recently learnt this is called a “dimple”. Much to my amazement, some people put this in deliberately! Ludicrously, it is even claimed to be elegant and stylish. In my opinion, it is not. The dimple makes the wearer look inexperienced and that they have poor attention to detail. It looks sloppy and slovenly.
If you cannot tie your tie without a dimple, try a different knot or different tie. Dimples are for bums and mugs.
Stacy from TJ Hooker
Another bad example. This time, the uniforms in the series “T. J. Hooker”.
• Primarily, the duty uniform of a police officer should not include a tie. Ties should only be worn for funerals, formal occasions and parades. To avoid a choking hazard most cops wear clip-on ties. Clip-on ties are the antithesis of style. All the arguments for wearing a clip-on are better arguments for not wearing a tie with the daily uniform.
• The tie is worn without a jacket or other outer garment. This looks sloppy and the bottom will dangle into wounds when giving first aid.
• Remember I told you the secret to a stylish tie is contrast? Virtually no contrast for a tie the same colour as the shirt.
• I am undecided on the pros and cons of women wearing ties. The tie tends to draw attention to the bust, which for a female police officer is probably not a good look.

The GI-Tuck

US Army regulations in the 1930s and 40s were that the second button of the shirt was to be undone and the tie tucked into the space between the first and third shirt-buttons.
GI with tucked tie Another GI with tucked tie
Civilians can experiment with tucking it lower.
The required knot specified in regulations was a four-in-hand. This is a slightly asymmetrical knot, so a tucked tie may sit differently depending on which side the fat part of the tie was when the knot was tied.
Another thing to experiment with! Or use a symmetrical knot such as the full Windsor.
A bit of trivia: The four-in-hand knot is actually a buntline hitch. This, in turn, is a variant of a clove hitch. Remember this any time you need a reminder of how to tie a four-in-hand.

The Placket Stripe

Some police departments evidently think the centre of a shirt needs to be made more interesting. Officers in shirtsleeves are made to wear untucked ties.
Space Precinct
A more practical alternative to a tie was used on the TV show “Space Precinct”.
As can be seen, the placket of the shirt has been made as a stripe of a contrasting colour.
It is rather surprising that the fashion, law enforcement and military world has not made greater use of this idea!
If you want to be minimalist, you probably only need two ties:

Black

As I grow older, my list of friends decreases. Black ties are the ones that I have worn the most often in the past few decades.
You will be wearing your black tie for funerals, so it should be suitably sombre and conservative.
On an additional minimalist note. If you own only one suit, have it a dark colour such as charcoal or black. This will be suitable for funerals. With a different tie and accessories it can be used at weddings and most other occasions.
When wearing a suit, avoid putting you hands in the trouser pockets. This ruins the look you should be aiming for.

Burgundy

The burgundy tie is my go-to tie when I want to look good. Burgundy is a rich, dignified colour that goes well with a wide range of other colours.
Burgundy Tie
A useful style rule of thumb: If your burgundy tie does not go with your shirt, change the shirt!
Given how useful and versatile a burgundy tie is, it is worth spending a little extra and getting one that you think looks really good.

Other Colours

If you wear a tie regularly, you may wish to add a few others to your wardrobe.
A dark blue or navy tie is a good solid choice, if not as snazzy as the burgundy.
Bond and Q in grey ties
Being neutral colours, grey and silver ties will go well with many other garments. A colleague of mine had a grey tie with needle thin diagonal stripes of silver. It appeared to glitter in pubs with low lighting. I wish I had brought one back then.
A grey-blue, such as RAF-blue, is another useful neutral shade for a tie.
With bright or primary colours, exercise a bit of caution. Some politicians feel obligated to wear ties in their orange or red party colours. This often looks harsh.
While sand-colour is a useful neutral, most brown shades should be avoided for ties.

Patterns and Combinations

There are just too many ties in different patterns and colour combinations to deal with in any depth.
When in doubt, remember that subtle and understated is often the safer path.
Personally, I would to avoid horizontal lines and checks.
If you often appear on camera or video conference, bear in mind that some patterns will cause interference on the image.
Sadly, in many workplaces the tie is still the symbolic corporate dog-leash. Boldly coloured and jokey ties are often a token gesture of defiance while in actuality rigorously conforming.
Like a baseball cap worn backwards, the joke tie or similar is often a sartorial warning sign that the wearer is trying a little too hard.
If you have to wear a tie, make it work for you so that it actually does make you look smarter.

Other Details

I have three white pocket squares. One has dark blue trim, one has black trim and one has burgundy.
I have one shirt that needs cufflinks. I have one pair of cufflinks, which match my best burgundy tie.
If you use a tie-clip, ensure that it is as wide as the tie at the level where it is worn.