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Phillosoph

Mess Kits for Bug-Out Bags

I was reading some pretty useful advice on how to collect water while minimizing the chance of sediment and other large materials.
Hold the mouth of your bottle a fist-width below the surface to avoid floating debris (and mosquito larvae!). Hold it off the bottom to avoid stirring up silt. If the water is flowing, point the nozzle downstream to reduce the change of solids being washed in.
Cover the water bottle neck with a section of bandanna to filter water going in. Use a clove hitch or slip knot to secure the bandanna. This also puts a safety lead on your bottle to avoid loss!
Cover your canteen cup with another part of the bandanna and pour the water in the bottle through the bandanna into your cup to filter it a second time. Pour a little of this water into the bottle, to rinse out any particles that got in. Now sterilize your water.
The flaw in these instructions is that most water bottles are at least a quart or a litre, and canteen cups generally about half that! Biggest that springs to mind is the British Crusader MK.II cup at 800 mls.
I will come back to this topic presently.
After you have filtered your water, you still need to sterilize/pasteurize it. One of the most effective ways to ensure water is safe is to bring it to a rolling boil. Many foods you will encounter in a survival scenario will need cooking to make them safe or more palatable.
While there are ways to cook and even boil water without a metal vessel, life is a lot easier with one!

What Is Wrong with the Canteen Cup?

In his recommendations for SERE, Robert DePugh notes “Such cooking as may be essential can be done in the canteen cup.”
Many preppers and soldiers wishing to lighter their load are of a similar opinion.
The catch is that as they come, most canteen cups are wanting in certain respects.
The most obvious of these is most lack a lid. Lids save fuel and time. They keep bugs, dirt, dust and rain out of your food. In an escape and evasion situation, a lid may reduce tell-tale cooking odours.
Most canteen cups also require a stove. If you have to cook over a fire, you will need to jerry-rig some form of pot-support, or wait until the fire dies down to coals.
Not only do the side handles get hot, but your hand comes dangerously close to the fire.
How simpler things would be if your cooking vessel had a bail handle so you could hang it over a heat source!
It is possible to make or buy lids for your canteen cup. Similarly, there are a number of ways to add a bail handle.


I currently have three canteen cups sitting on the work table awaiting conversion. Each month I do not seem to have either the money or the time to gather the necessary tools and materials.
There is an obvious need for a low bulk cooking vessel. Can we do better than a canteen cup?
Suppose I told you that there is a superior alternative that is widely available and ready to use off the shelf, complete with bail handle and lid?

“European” Mess Kits

Instead of a canteen cup, why not carry a mess kit?
Specifically, I am suggesting the sort of military mess kit that looks like a binocular case, being either oval or kidney shaped in cross-section. I have seen these called “European” mess kits, although the Chinese and Imperial Japanese Army seem to have used the design too.
The bottom portion of the kit is a billy, with a bail handle. The upper part typically is a small pan with a side handle. This pan also serves as a lid during cooking or transport.
Many of you will have a passing familiarity with these mess kits. Their potential may have escaped you.
For a camping trip, I typically prefer a more versatile cooking outfit.
For a bug-out bag, where most of your cooking will simply be boiling or reheating, a mess kit of this configuration is ideal.
I have used my Swedish set for winter day hikes, since it fits nicely inside a daysac. With the snow thick on the ground, I have paused to cook myself some hot noodles.
Swedish Mess Kit
The familiar British and American designs of mess kit are actually atypical. The British Army used a “D-shaped” mess kit during the First World War and back through most of the nineteenth century.
The armies of most nations have used “binocular case” mess kits at one time or another. Many nations continue to use this design.
Most of the kits of this type available are described as German or Austrian, or “M31 pattern”. Do not confuse these with the pair of cups that fit outside of the German Army M59 water canteen.
German M31 Mess Tin
The more recent Bundeswehr mess kit variants are to be preferred, since these have handles that can be locked upright or out to one side, away from the flames.
The German kit (and some other examples) includes a third part which is a metal bowl/insert. The hook at the end of the lid handle engages a slot in the bowl, so the two may be carried together, or the pair balanced across the top of the billy.
German Mess Kit with Indert
There are also Chinese manufactured kits that appear to be the same design as the German. These appear to be of new manufacture, rather than military surplus.
Russian, Romanian, Hungarian and Polish surplus examples are also stocked by some suppliers.
At time of writing, prices are comparable to those of many metal canteen cups that come without lids.
Most of these kits must be brought army surplus, so you roll the dice on condition and actual design. If you want something unused, the Chinese-made copies of the German sets are an option.
To these options, I will add the Swedish M40 AL/M44 mess kit set that includes a windshield and spirit burner.
The Swedish kits have become more widely known and popular in recent years. Prices have skyrocketed since I bought mine, decades ago. I am not sure if these are still issued or in production. One company makes a stainless steel copy of the Swedish kit. An aluminium version with a non-stick coating would be very welcome.

The Case Against:

• Let us get one objection to this idea out of the way! This is that a mess kit will not fit neatly around a water bottle in a belt pouch like a canteen cup will.
Firstly, while carrying some water on your person is prudent, you should minimize unnecessary weight. To my mind it is more sensible to carry a canteen cup or equivalent in your pack, not on your belt.
Secondly, water is better carried in a bladder than a bottle. Water in a bottle may slosh around, and that noise may give you away while hunting, nature-watching or in a tactical situation. Excess airspace is seldom a problem with a bladder.
If you do carry water in a bottle, repurposed soda bottles work fine, and are lighter and cheaper than military style rigid water bottles. Soda bottles are much more flexible than thicker bottles. If the contents of a bottle freeze, the ice can be broken up without damaging the bottle.
In sub-zero conditions, carry your water bottles and bladders in the warmest part of your pack. Invert them so that the drinking tube or cap is lowest. Ice floats, so the lowest part of a container will be the last to freeze solid. Ice expands, so leave some airspace within a container if freezing is likely.
If you expect freezing temperatures overnight, pour some of your water into a cooking vessel. Ice in a pot is easier to melt than snow or ice within a bottle.
In very cold conditions, when you heat water, use what you do not use to top-up/warm-up your water containers.
If you do not carry a canteen cup on your belt, and you do not carry a military canteen, it does not matter that your cooking vessel will not nest around a canteen!
• Second objection is that most of these vessels have bare aluminium interiors. If you wade through the media sensationalism, groundless opinion and scare-mongering, you will find the evidence on possible health risks of using aluminium cookware is still inconclusive.
The surface of a cooking vessel is actually aluminium oxide, which serves as a protective coating. Prudence suggests that if you avoid cooking anything particularly acidic in an aluminium vessel, avoid prolonged cooking, or a combination of the two, you should be safe. If you use a very abrasive cleaner on your cookware, leave a short interval for the oxide coating to reform.
For a cooking vessel in an emergency kit, or one that is only used occasionally for trips out, bare aluminium is a legitimate choice. Remember that actual cooking in a survival or E&E scenario will be fairly basic and unsophisticated. Mainly just heating and boiling.
• Third objection to the mess kit is that it is larger than a canteen cup.
In a survival or E&E situation, most of your food will be from plants. These tend to be low in calories, so you will need to eat a lot of them. Bear in mind that in a survival situation, you may have to also cook for someone other than yourself. A cooking vessel larger than a canteen cup may be an advantage.
As my introduction has suggested, being able to heat treat more than half a litre of water at once is useful.
While it has more bulk, a European-style mess kit is still compact enough to fit in most daysacs. The interior space of a mess kit may be packed with food and other useful items, so effectively becomes zero bulk.
Generally, a mess kit is heavier than a canteen cup too, but bear in mind this is for two or three cooking vessels rather than a single one. My German mess kit is 400 g. 350 g if the metal bowl/insert is left at home. My Swedish five piece kit is 875 g, including windshield, burner and empty fuel bottle. Billy and lid on their own are 450 g.
The billy of my Swedish mess kit has a capacity of about 1.3 litres. The equivalent part of the M31 is 1.5 litres. It includes a measuring indent each 500 mls. Oddly, the German kit looks slightly smaller than the Swedish. Both kits can boil more than a litre of water to sterilize it.
For completeness, the lid of my Swedish Kit holds 550 mls. Both the lid and the insert/bowl of the German kit hold 400 mls each.
My Polish mess kit resembles the German model but is smaller. There is no insert and the bail handle lacks any locking mechanism. The billy has a capacity of one litre and the lid 500 mls. It masses 300 g. There is a measuring indent at half a litre.
One odd quirk of the Polish set is that it is top heavy when empty.
To put these masses and volumes in context, my 650 ml Crusader Mk 1 cup alone is 250 g!
Note that masses and volumes on this page were measured using items I personally own. Figures may differ from those given by vendors.

The Case For:

To my mind, it is not a billy if it does not have a bail handle. The bail handle is a simple feature that makes a camping cooking vessel infinitely more practical and versatile.
The bail handle of a billy lets you hang it over a fire. If your stove is a bit wobbly, you can use a tripod or crane for added security of your vessel.
In a previous post, we looked at how useful a bucket might be. A billy is essentially a bucket you can cook in. It may be used to fetch water or to gather berries. You can use it to transport a meal, even while the food is still hot. If you expect rain, leave it outside your shelter to collect fresh water.
An effective cooking vessel should be one of the foundations of your bug-out bag, 72-hour pack or survival kit.
The capacity of a European mess kit makes it more useful and versatile than a canteen cup, yet still compact enough to fit inside a relatively modest capacity bag. Or, looked at another way, it leaves room for something else you will need.
The lid of a European mess kit serves as a pot. This is often described by reviewers as a “frying pan”. It will hold a rasher of bacon, a couple of sausages, or a small piece of fish! More practically, the lid may be used as a drinking vessel, saucepan, plate or bowl. It could also be used as a ladle for bailing water out of an Indian well, or as a snow scoop for adding the final touches to a winter shelter.
The handle of my German kit lid folds easily, so care must be taken when drinking from it. Perhaps hitting the rivets would tighten this up. but I doubt it. Alternatively, drink from the insert/bowl. The handle of the Polish kit is better, but will still fold if held at the wrong angle.
If your cooking ability is limited to warming a can, a mess kit is wide enough to accommodate at least one. Discard the water used to warm a can this way. It will be contaminated with whatever was on the outside of the can, the glue from the label etc.
There are ways to warm a can without using a vessel, but that is outside the scope of this article.
Swedish soldiers call their mess kit a “Snuskburk”, which translates roughly as “dirty bucket”, “filthy jar” or similar. Apparently soldiers often neglect cleaning them after use. I do not really see why this should be the case.
If you have large hands. you may find it difficult to clean the inside of a canteen cup. This is another advantage of the larger capacity of a mess kit.
Your cooking kits should include a small sponge, such as the sort with a nylon scourer page on one side. You can also use this sponge to mop up dew if you are short of water.
With the sponge, have a small bottle of washing-up liquid. I use a 50ml centrifuge tube such as a skirted Falcon.
If you have read my blog on a more efficient way to wash-up, you will know you only need a couple of drops of detergent and a few splashes of water to keep the inside of a mess tin clean. Should you lose your detergent, ashes from the fire may be used instead.
Since the main parts of the mess kit do not nest in anything, keeping the outsides pristine is not a priority. Once cooled, just give the outside a rub with some grass or similar to dislodge any loose soot.
Another advantage of a mess tin is that you get much more bang for your buck. For a similar outlay to a canteen cup, you get a pair of larger capacity cooking vessels. You do not need to buy a lid as an accessory, nor source a hanging device.

Packing and Carrying

Traditionally, a European mess tin is held together with a strap and carried on the outside of a pack or belt kit. Some armies issue pouches, but these generally follow the tradition of “an elephant is a horse built to mil-spec”.
A more effective solution is to make or buy a suitably dimensioned stuff sack. This sack can carry associated items you do not want to carry inside the mess kit, such as your stove and fuel bottle. Double-plastic bag the latter in case of leakage.
To this, add your container of washing-up liquid and your sponge.
Add a spork for eating with and stirring the pot. Since the mess kit does not have a non-stick coating, I use a metal spork that can also be used to lift a hot bail handle. The spork also serves as a can-opener, but I have these on my keyring and Swiss Army knife too.
A triangular bandage, bandanna, tenugui, or piece of old tee-shirt may be used to stop any parts rattling. This also serves as an “oven glove”, water filter and drying cloth.
Fill the interior of your mess tin with items such as a brew kit, packet soup, instant noodles, hot chocolate mix, quick-cook rice, porridge, OXO cubes, water purification tablets, a lighter or fire kit and so on. A bit of variety in your diet will always be welcome.

Stoves

There will be times when you cannot use an open fire to cook on.
The Swedish mess kit comes with its own stove in the form of a spirit burner and a windshield/stove.
Do not store fuel in the burner. It will eventually eat through the seals and leak into your bag.
The German mess tin is too big to use in the Swedish windshield. It will fit, but be too tight. Trying to remove the hot billy from the burning stove is not recommended!
European mess kits will work with a wide variety of other stove types. Some may need to be turned down a little to compensate for the pots' non-circular shape.
A hobo-stove made from a soup can will be of a good size for a European mess tin. Spirit burners may be easily made from aluminium cans, such as shown here and here. Some other homemade stove designs are shown by my pages here.
Many of the designs of stove intended for use with canteen cups or other designs of mess tin will work well with European mess kits. For example, the Crusader Mk II stove, which can use either hexamine solid fuel blocks or alcohol gel. The stove is designed so that the canteen cup nests slightly inside when in use. The mess billy is a little too big for this but will sit comfortably on top.

Improvements

As I have discussed in a previous blog, mess tins are not as widely used by the military as they once were. Many soldiers now make do with just a canteen cup. Most of us, however, do not enjoy the extensive logistical support most soldiers have.
One company is already offering a stainless steel copy of the Swedish mess kit, so I think there is a good case for commercial versions of the European style mess tins.
I think many of us would be interested in an aluminium version of the Swedish kit with a non-stick or hard anodized coating. Essentially, the same materials and finish as the Crusader Mk. II cup.
Some of us would probably prefer a Swedish mess kit that was a little more compact. On the other hand, I think there would also be potential users that want it a little bigger.
An improved version should probably be available in one litre and 1.5 litre variants. The most practical way to do this would be to have two billies which only differ in depth. All other components would be the same for both variants.
Features I like from the German mess kit are the measuring indents, the locking mechanism on the bail handle and the insert. An insert for the Swedish mess kit might be useful, particularly if available in alternate materials such as plastic.
The stove for the improved mess kit should be capable of taking several fuel types. For example, hexamine, alcohol gel and spirits. Something along the lines of a scaled up Crusader Mk II stove, perhaps.

 

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Phillosoph

Three New Knots?

When I was reading “Bushcraft 101” for its review, I came across a knot the author calls a “Jam Knot”.
Jam, Knot
According to various videos and websites, this is also known as the arbor knot or Canadian jam knot.
According to most of these sites, the knot is the greatest thing since Silvia Saint first took her clothes off.
Silvia Saint with Revolver. Credit to Action Girls
I was currently in the process of updating my free book on knots, “Scrapboard Knots” I will admit, I was baffled.
Every depiction of this knot I have seen looks like a slip knot with an overhand tied in the running end.
Slip Knot from Scrapboard Knots
Bushcraft 101 tells me: “The jam knot is a slipknot that, when used in conjunction with a stop knot, jams a loop of line to tighten around an object. This knot is easily released by pulling the tail on the stop knot portion of the line. This is one of the most useful knots for its adaptability.”
Which does not help. I cannot see how that overhand stop knot is contributing anything other than stopping the end of the rope fraying. The running end of a slip knot is subjected to very little force, all of it being applied to the loop and the eye.
You can use a jam knot to keep a sleeping bag rolled! You can use a slip knot for that too. I tend to use a killick hitch.
I am none the wiser as to what the big deal is! I feel like the little boy watching the naked emperor!: “It's a slip knot!”
It did get me thinking, however.
Suppose you tied a slip knot with an overhand stop knot within the bight?
You would have a noose that you could tighten but would not restrict under a certain diameter.
Slip Knot with Stopper Knot
Slip Knot with Stopper in the Bight (Not Tightened)
I call this the “Slip Knot with Stopper in the Bight”. Not the catchiest name, but describes exactly what it is!
I had my copy of Kephart handy, so I had a look at what he had to say about slip knots.
There I came across a knot he logically calls the “Fisherman's Eye” knot. It looks a little like the slip knot, but is structurally closer to a Fisherman's knot.
Fisherman's Eye Knot
Kephart notes: “The strain is divided equally between the two knots, and the loop will stand until the line parts. This is one of the best ways to make an eye on a fishing line or gut”.
Fisherman's Eye Knot
Fisherman's Eye (not tightened)
Unlike a slip knot, the first overhand is tied in the standing part (like the non-slip knot). The running end is passed through this knot. The running end is then tied around the standing part with a second overhand.
This creates a loop that may be reduced, but cannot be pulled wider than a certain diameter. In this respect, the fisherman's eye is the opposite of the the slip knot with stopper in the bight.
If I tie a slip knot and knot the running end around the standing part I get a sluggish slip knot.
The next step was obvious. Make a fisherman's eye with a stop knot tied in the bight.
Three Brothers Knot, Variation One
Three Brothers Knot (Not Tightened)
I have not seen this variant anywhere else. The fisherman's eye seems to be relatively unknown itself.
I call the variant of the fisherman's eye with an additional stop knot the “three brothers”.
The three brother's knot gives you a fixed loop. There are lots of other knots that can do this, of course.
The three brothers has the merit that it easy to remember when you are too stressed to recall the finer points of a bowline, for example.
Incidentally, the Wikipedia illustration for the bowline is wrong. The running end should finish on the inside or the knot will be less secure.
The three brothers knot is also easy to adjust for size.
Three Brothers Knot Second Variation
Variation of the Three Brothers Knot (Not Tightened)
An alternate version of the three brothers may be tied by first tying a slip knot with a long running end. Tie a second overhand in the standing part behind the slip knot. Pass the running end through the second overhand, then tie the running end in an overhand around the standing part. Adjust the three overhands to get a loop of the desired size.
Three Brothers Knot Tightened
Tightened Three Brothers Knot
All of which raises the question: When is a knot new? Are these new knots, or just overhand knots in different configurations?
You saw them here first!

 

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Phillosoph

Survival Library: Chapter 2, Bushcraft 101

Continuing my suggestions for a survival library.
Today I will look at a title that is relatively new to me. Some other reviewers consider it a “must have”.
The book is “Bushcraft 101” by Dave Canterbury.
Cover of Bushcraft 101
I quite liked this book.
The early section on safe and effective ways to use your knife and other tools is particularly good, and possibly worth the price alone.
It is a good book for rending topics down to a simply grasped form.
An interesting aide memoire Canterbury uses is “the Five Cs”: Cutting, Cover, Combustion, Containers and Cordage. Personally, I would advise adding “Consumables” and “Compass” to that list.
Another useful aide memoire is the “Four Ws”, used for selecting a good campsite: Wood, Water, Wind and Widowmakers.
To the advice given in the book, I will remind the reader that water sources often come with biting insects, so a camp should not be too near. Under the same category, one should consider watercourses. If you camp in a dried river bed or runoff, a storm miles away may result in your camp literally being washed away.
A third handy memory aid is “LURD”, used to determine the direction viewed by star movement. I recommend memorizing it as “LURD:NESW”. If a star is moving upward, you are looking east, and so on.
Determine direction of facking by star movement
The section on maps and compass is much more straight forward than in some publications:
“The most important reason to carry a compass is so that we can walk a straight line over distance.”
• Here I will insert a useful tip not given in this book. To walk in a straight line, align three objects. Tree trunks in a forest are ideal.
As you reach the first object, align the next two objects with a fourth, and keep repeating this process as necessary.
While applying a calculation to compensated for difference between magnetic and grid north is mentioned in Bushcraft 101, the actual method (LARS) is not detailed.
Perhaps it was felt that in a survival situation the difference is not significant, only a general orientation of the map being adequate. A similar approach is taken in the SAS Survival Handbook.
In some parts of the world, or for more general navigation, magnetic declination may be significant.
I would recommend regarding the navigation section of Bushcraft 101 as a useful primer and follow it with some more detailed reading on the topic.
The above brings me to one of the shortcomings of Bushcraft 101.
The book is very much written for a North American audience, and mainly geared for travel or emergencies in woodland.
If you frequent the prairies or deserts, you may wish the book had mentioned some tent poles to rig the suggested tarp. Similarly, some of the advice given may not be so valid for other parts of the world.
That said, my impressions of this book are very positive.
Once you have the suggested titles by Kephart, Greenbank and Wiseman (and my own books, of course!), Bushcraft 101 is worth considering as a useful addition. 

 

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Phillosoph

Knots to Save Your Glasses

The other day I had to escort an engineer.
He managed to set off the alarm he was servicing, and was unable to get it to stop.
He had forgotten to bring the handle for his screwdriver bits.Girl in Sunglasses
Such farces are actually not that uncommon at this institution.
As the minutes rolled by and I sat there in the noise, it occurred to me I had some ear plugs on me. Actually the noise was not too bad, and using hearing protection to ignore an emergency alarm is probably setting a bad example!
Eventually the alarm was silenced by using the end of the nail file on my Swiss Army Classic. I have better screwdrivers on my tools, but the Classic on my keyring was most readily to hand.
The engineer was also having trouble with his spectacles. The rubber loops on the retaining cord he was using kept slipping off, and he was cursing the well known website he had brought them from.
All this reminded me of a topic I was thinking about when I was writing about ear plugs.
Ear plugs are a simple thing that can make all the difference if you have them with you.
Obviously, my penknives may be included in this.

Tweezers

Tweezers are another item I thought of, possibly because at the time I had been reviewing how to deal with biting ticks.
I carry a Swiss Army Ranger and a Classic, and each has a pair of tweezers slotted into a grip panel.
One pair has been ground to a point, as shown in this video.

If, for some bizarre reason, you do not carry a Swiss Army Knife (!), the tweezers may be brought separately.
So small and so cheap there is not really any good reason not to have a pair. Your main problem may be finding a good place to carry them so you can find them when needed!

Don't Forget Your Toothbrush

Personally, I do not have a toothbrush in my EDC. If I was heading to the wilds, I might rethink this.
If your lifestyle often finds you sleeping at someone else's house, platonically or otherwise, you may find it handy to have a toothbrush with you.
There are guards you may fit over the bristles, and two-part brushes, some of which have room for a tiny tube of paste.

Glasses Save Eyes!

The next “simple thing” did not immediately occur to me since I wear spectacles, and mine have photochromic lenses.
My girlfriend mentioned a Christmas she spent in Scotland. The snow made everything so bright she wore sunglasses whenever outside.
If you do not wear photochromic glasses, a pair of sunglasses is a worthy addition to your EDC or bug-out bag.
Excessive sun glare may occur in any season. See the “Too Bright” section of Greenbank's “The Survival Handbook”.
Protecting Eyes from Glare
Glasses also protect your eyes from branches when moving through the woods, and other threats. That, incidentally, is one of the reasons I do not switch to contacts.
My glasses have saved my eyes from injury several times.
Spectacles or sunglasses are important and useful. When climbing, biking or during other activities there is an increased risk that you and your lenses may part company.
Which brings us back to the engineer and his malfunctioning retention cord.

Retaining Glasses

My left hip pocket contains a lighter, bandana and a collection of cordage.
Included in the latter is a retention cord I may use with my spectacles.
I literally found this lying in the street, the irony that something to prevent loss was lost not lost on me.
I have not had cause to use this retention cord yet, but it seems well suited for purpose.
The cord is tubular and fits over the arms of my spectacles, giving a long contact area. A sliding piece of plastic allows the cord to be drawn snug against the back of the head.
An effective retaining cord is a prudent thing to carry with you if you wear glasses or have sunglasses, even if, like me, you only fit it when the chance or consequence of losing your glasses is serious.
Suppose you do not have a retaining cord, or have lost it.
If you have been visiting this blog, you will probably have some paracord or other cordage available. A draw cord from your anorak could be used.
Here are two suggestions on how to improvise a retention cord for your glasses:

Instructables Glasses Lanyard

Comments

Both of these methods use slip knots to attach the cord to the arms.
One method uses a double overhand to form the slip knot, the other uses an extra couple of turns to form the overhand knot portion.
The video uses a double fisherman's knot to tighten and loosen the cord. A single fisherman's knot would be easier to adjust when needed. Perhaps he wanted all the knotted sections to match?
A slip bend would be a good knot for this application. This could be made with double overhands if desired.
How to tie aSlip-Bend
The “cobra knot” used in the Instructables' method is actually multiple overhands tied in the centre of a second piece of cord. This would have been clearer if a different coloured piece of cord was used for demonstrating this part.
The simplest way to adjust a retaining cord is probably to tie a lapped overhand loop in the doubled cord. This is probably one of the few knots that may be easily adjusted when your hands are behind your head.
The other methods may be more secure, however.
All this talk of knots brings me to my final topic.
I have rewritten Scrapboard Knots, adding more content, more knots and tweaking the format to use less paper.
All of the knots mentioned in this blog may be learnt from this booklet.
Scrapboard Knots is free, but donations and tips are welcome, and much needed at the moment.

 

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Phillosoph

Build Your Survival Library: Chapter One

My girlfriend was telling me how her sister in Brazil had managed to acquire a piece of land. Living on her own land is something that my girlfriend has often said that she would like to do.
“You will have to teach me survival”, she added.
I admit I was a little surprised by that request. She is an incredibly practical person.
When she was a little girl, she would escape her toxic home environment and live on the beach, catching fish. I suspect there is quite a bit she could teach me.
However, she is a very wise lady, and part of wisdom is knowing what you do not know!
What should I put on her reading list, I pondered?

Camping and Woodcraft (Kephart)

My first thought was “Camping and Woodcraft” by Horace Kephart. Photo of Hoeace Kephart
Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to know this is one of my favourite books. I prize my old 1927 reprint of the 1921 edition. Around 884 pages, yet fits in an M65 jacket pocket.
This book is definitely something I will save, come the apocalypse.
It is rightly called a classic and a title that every outdoorsman should read.
The book is out of copyright, so I have a number of alternate editions in PDF, found for free on-line.
Camping and Woodcraft may have been written over a century ago (1906/1916), but is still a wealth of useful knowledge. It is no bad thing to know how things may be done without Gore-tex and GPS.

The Survival Handbook (Greenbank)

Cover of The Survival Handbook, Greenbank
The first book I actually sent my girlfriend was “The Survival Handbook” by Anthony Greenbank. This may also be encountered with the alternate title of “The Book of Survival”.
Greenbank's book seldom appears in recommendations for survival libraries. It seems to be relatively unknown.
It is an excellent book and is a must-have in my opinion.
The Survival Handbook is a great book since it includes many possible emergency situations that other manuals neglect.
Packed with useful information and easy to read and navigate. Even readers “not into survival” will find something of worth within its pages.
This book was first published back in 1967, long before the “survival craze” when many manuals were produced. Consequently, there are a few minor points that need updating.
For example: current advice is to remove ticks by gently pulling them with tweezers, rather than the older approaches in this and many other books. Fisherman's Knot
I would also stress that you should not join different ropes with a reef knot, even with a couple of half-hitches added. Always use the fisherman's knot, as is later recommended by Greenbank. A fisherman's knot is a pair of overhands, so is probably easier to learn and remember than a reinforced reef.
Scorpion claws are not poisonous. Claw size is generally inversely proportional to potency of sting.
I am also dubious as to whether any coat worthy of the name would make a good signalling kite. It seems more prudent to keep your coat on and use your shirt for a use where a garment may be potentially lost.
Of course, no book is perfect and remains perpetuatlly up to date. This is why we should read more than one book on any topic. The more angles you look at something from, the better you will know it.
These very minor points aside, I would wholeheartedly recommend a copy of Greenbanks's Survival Handbook for any survival library.
Usefully, the Survival Handbook is a standard sized paperback, so there is no reason that one could not put it in a ziploc bag and carry it with you in a rucksack pocket.

The SAS Survival Handbook (Wiseman)

Cover of The SAS Survival Handbook, Wiseman
For a more “conventional” bushcraft/survival manual, Greenbank's book is nicely complimented by “The SAS Survival Handbook” by John “Lofty” Wiseman. Also available with the alternate title of “The SAS Survival Guide” or “SAS Survival Guide”.
A revised edition was published in 2009.
Probably the only thing wrong with this book is the title. Even way back in 1986 when this book was published, it was already a cliché that nearly every other survival-orientated item was claimed to be either SAS, Special Forces or Green Beret. I will stress that John Wiseman is a verified genuine former member of the SAS, however.
The SAS Survival Handbook is an excellent choice for any survival library. It is easy to read, yet very detailed. Copies may be found at very reasonable prices.
The original book was nearly a foot square (228 x 238 x 22mm). I remember looking at my copy and wishing for an edited-down smaller version more suited to carrying in the field. Someone else obviously felt the same, because a few years later a Collins Gem edition was released. Amazingly, this was pocket-sized yet preserved all of the original content!Collins Gem edition of SA Survival Guide, Wiseman
My Gem edition has spent several decades in a ziploc bag in a side pocket of my rucksack. It has travelled from Hong Kong to Brazil and up to Iceland. If nothing else, it has served as an educational way to spend my time while waiting for a bus.
Both sizes of SAS Survival Guide include a coloured section illustrating various edible plants. Other Collins Gem titles may also be of interest, such as “Food for Free”.
The SAS Survival Guide/Handbook is another “must-have” for any survival library. In fact, get the large version for your bookshelf and the Gem for your pack.
Between Kephart, Greenbank and Wiseman you now have a pretty sound foundation for your survival library. It does not hurt that your survival library happens to be relatively compact and lightweight.
If you brought the Gem edition of the SAS Guide, all three books should fit in your bug-out bag.
If you buy the titles recommended above, you have acquired a lot of useful information for a relatively modest outlay.
I suggest that at least some of your library is hardcopy, for when the power is out.
How about some free books to supplement these?

US Field Manuals

Many readers will be familiar with “FM 21-76”, the US military survival manual.Cover of FM 21-76
On-line copies are freely available from a number of sites, there being no copyright on US field manuals. Many on-line copies lack the appendixes, such as the extensive illustrated appendix of edible plants, for example.
FM 21-76-1 was a related publication about SERE.
The current version of FM 21-76 has been redesignated FM 3-05.70.
Many of the sites you can download FM21-76/FM 3-05.70 from will have other field manuals on topics of interests such as navigation, hygiene and first aid.
If you want a printed copy of a field manual, these are available from a number of publishers. Price, cover and sometimes title will vary.
While these survival manuals are now described as “all services”, they were originally written as advice for downed aircrews, and this should be remembered when reading certain sections.
US field manuals tend to be clearly written but are not necessarily concise: FM 3-05.70 is 676 pages long.
There is also sometimes a tendency in field manuals for information to become institutionalized. New content may get in, but older, possibly no longer accurate content is slow to be removed.Air Force Handbook 10-644
Also worth a look are the Air Force manuals AFM 64-3, AFR 64-4 or AFH 64-5. Latest version is AFH 10-644. These are a little harder to locate on-line.
The manuals are not as “easily digestible” as Kephart, Greenbanks or Wiseman. They are, however, “information dense” and provide excellent background and context for the other books, at a price that cannot be beat, free!
The above recommendations will have given you a pretty comprehensive survival/bushcraft library.
In later blogs I will review other titles, including those that are more specialized in their field.
You will also need some books on self-defence. For these, scroll down and follow the links.
I am very short of money at the moment, so you custom or donations will be very much appreciated!

 

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Phillosoph

Lock Picks for Everyday Carry (EDC)

When you start a new hobby, it is highly likely that you will buy a number of items that ultimately are seldom used.
This is certainly true of lock picking. One of the first purchases most beginners make is a cheap set of picks, often Chinese made.
I was no exception to this, although I had already decided I wanted a set of Bogota rakes too.
Such cheap kits are actually a useful step on your learning curve. These kits have a wide variety of designs. and give you a chance to experiment and discover what kind of picks and turning tools you like.
As I have gained better and more suitable collections of tools, that Chinese kit has seldom been used.
Like others, in my early days I also acquired a number of items that I have seldom, if ever, found an actual use for.
Lock Picking Legend recently posted a video on comb picks.
I won’t bother to explain how comb picks work, since the following two videos clearly explain this, as do many other videos and pages.

I have a set of comb picks. Comb picks top my list of lock picking gear I have never needed.
Even the perspex practice locks are immune to comb picking.
As Lock Picking Legend notes, unless you frequently encounter very old, low quality locks, your comb picks are going to sit unused. Comb pick sets often come with a high price tag, so save your money and put it towards some Bogotas, or one of my books.
If comb picks are one of the things I would not buy if I had my time again, what would I get?
I have talked about my Serenity Plus collection and the Polaris Rakes elsewhere.
Today, I am going to share a look at what I think of as my “EDC kit”. These are the items I am most likely to have with me if I encounter a lock that requires opening.
As part of my usual duties I sometimes encounter items that have been locked that should not be, or more commonly, locks for which the key has been misplaced.
I do this, however, with caution. Some colleagues are likely to shift the blame for the lock not opening to myself.
EDC lock pick collection
Central to my EDC collection are a pair of Bogota Rakes, shown beside their home-made carrying sleeve (far left). This latter item may be pinned to clothing if I want to keep the picks handy.
The set consists of a single hump Bogota and a triple hump, both with handles designed to also function as turning tools. I recommend you get the “euro-twist” versions so the handles point away from each other when you use both to open a lock.
The handles of these Bogotas have been “bowed” so they can be used as turning tools in a wider variety of keyway widths.
Sometime in their history, the handles got bent at ninety degrees and shortened from about 27mm to 15mm. I have been able to bend them back to close to the original angle of 60 degrees. In hindsight, I should have left them alone, since a longer 60 degree turning tool might be handy for recessed locks and tulip knobs.
Most locks I have been called upon to open in real life have succumbed to raking using the Bogotas.
Often the key (pun intended) to picking a lock is how you apply the turning tool. My kit therefore includes a couple of turning tools in addition to the Bogota handles.
This article suggests creating a tapered thickness turning tool of 0.7 to 1.5mm thickness. I do not currently have the materials for this, being mainly limited to wiper blade inserts of about 0.4mm thickness.
That said, the turning tool I have used most is the one on the far right of the photo, which was made from wiper-blade insert. It has proved to be both useful and versatile.
The longer (13 to 14mm) nose is bent at ninety degrees to the shank and slightly bowed. The corners have been rounded off. It is approximately 2.7mm wide. With the ends bent, it is a little over 60mm long.
Ends of home-made turing tool
Since I tend to favour raking, I tend to primarily use bottom of the keyway (BOK) applied turning tools.
The shorter (6 to 6.4mm) end is also rounded off. The width has also been reduced to just under 2mm, the shank starting to be reduced just before the bend.
This shorter hook may be used as a TOK turning tool or a BOK for small padlocks.
I should probably add a SERE pin to this kit, since it may also be used as a turning tool for very small locks. I have a SERE pin elsewhere in my EDC, but another in this kit would be handy
The other turning tool at the bottom of the main photo is taken from a cheap Chinese set, and is a round 1.5mm section rod with flattened 2.9 to 3mm ends, 0.7mm thick. This is a handy tool for wider keyways.
The Bogota rake is usually the first tool I reach for when attempting to pick a lock. In most cases so far, this has been all that is needed.
Many of the locks I have encountered that have resisted the Bogota have opened with a snake pick. Not surprisingly, I like to have a snake pick in my kits, and my EDC kit is no exception.
This particular snake pick was taken from a “James Bond Credit Card” set. These kits also include a city rake. When they work, city rakes work very fast, so I decided to include the city rake too.
As I have noted elsewhere, the credit card kits vary a lot in quality. The first I brought was very nice, while the second had much thicker picks, with a poorer finish. Some grinding, filing and sanding made them more useful.
Drilling a hole in them, however, proved surprisingly problematic. Turned out these “poor quality” picks were made from very tough steel! It took at least an hour using a low-rpm carbide bit and oil.
Having read Christine Holler’s lock pick recommendations in this article, I wanted to add a cycloid and sinusoid rake to my kit. Luckily, UKBumpkeys has started selling individual Polaris rakes. I decided on the No.4, four-hump cycloid, and the No.7, five-hump sinusoid.
I shortened the handles so the tools were all about 75mm long.
I then went about adding a hole. I had little doubt the Polaris are made from high quality material. Given the trouble I had had drilling the snake and city rake, I tried a different approach.
Since these picks had thinner handles, I was able to hole them using a punch and hammer. These holes were then enlarged using the conical grinding stone of a Dremel Tool. This took a fraction of the time that drilling the others had taken!
My local hardware store had no idea what a tubular rivet was. Fortunately, I remembered some brass tubing I had. I cut a short length and a few minutes work with a ball-peen hammer rivetted the four picks together.
Lock picking requires a light touch, so it is not unusual to drop tools when working in the field. To counter this I have added cord loops to a couple of tools.
The two turning tools are supposed to be joined, but the wiper blade tool usually works itself loose. I have left them apart since it makes a clearer photo.
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Phillosoph

Never Travel without Your Ear Plugs

Sometimes it is the little details that can make all the difference!
In my travelling kit I have an item I jokingly refer to as my “bedside table”.
My Bedside Table when Travelling
This is a small cloth pouch with a ribbon attached, The pouch holds my glasses when I sleep. The ribbon lets me tie the pouch onto a bedframe or tent pole.
Sewn to the outside are two pockets. The larger holds my travel alarm clock. There is room for the battery, since I take it out when I am not using the clock.
The smaller pocket holds a small plastic container containing a pair of foam ear plugs. Actually, it now contains two pairs since I seem to have acquired another set somewhere during my adventures.
If memory serves correctly, (which I cannot take for granted these days), I brought my first pair in Holland. This is why one of the few Dutch phrases I can recall is “oordoppen” and why the container is labelled “Herrie Stoppers”.
Ear plugs really are the traveller’s friend! They weigh virtually nothing, cost very little but can make all the difference between a great trip and an ordeal.
Someone else in the hostel room snoring? Idiots in the next tent playing loud bland pop music into the night? Screaming baby on the overnight flight? Local dustmen decide the middle of the night is when to collect the bins? All have had me reaching for the container of ear plugs in the pocket of my “bedside table”.
Are ear plugs a “survival item”? Not really, but they can be the difference between being well rested and being tired, irritable and unfocused, which can lead to all sorts of trouble!
I have even been known to use the ear plugs in my own home when a noisy party or the sounds of city life just get too intrusive.
I was watching something on TV recently, and it occurred to me that a protagonist would not have the problems they had if they had a simple set of ear plugs. Always willing to learn from the mistakes of others, I decided to add some ear plugs to my EDC.
I have a small belt pouch I use for money and cards. One compartment holds my Suunto Clipper compass and a small magnifier that I use when the small print on labels proves just too small for my aging eyes. A container of ear plugs would fit easily in the remaining space.
I probably have some more foam ear plugs somewhere around the place. I brought a pack of them for my girlfriend when she was having to make long overnight coach-trips.
Polymer Ear Plugs
For variety, I brought some polymer ear plugs, although admittedly a factor was that these came in a little plastic case well suited to where I intended to carry them.
Actually I got a set of ten pairs for a very reasonable price.
I am sure some time in the future my girlfriend or her son will need some.
A colleague saw me looking at options on ebay, and insisted on bringing me three pairs of foam ear plugs from the ten pairs he had at home. It is not just me that bulk buys on things like this!
There is just room inside the case of the polymer ear plugs to squeeze in a pair of these foam plugs too. Why carry two pairs? The foam may be better than the polymer for some noises. Although the more likely reason is my girlfriend may need a set at the same time that I do.
As with so many things, prices for ear plugs range from very reasonable to incredibly high.
Matador Ear Pluga
The Matador set are at the higher end of reasonable, and come with a nice container that can be fitted to a keyring. My keys probably have enough gadgets already, however, and I got ten sets of polymer ear plugs for less than half the money!
I know from considerable experience that the low cost ear plugs work fine. Price is so low that there really is no reason not to own some. Often they are sold as multiple pairs, and having some spares is no bad thing.
Military or civilian, traveller or stay-at-home, all would be prudent to have a few ear plugs within easy reach. Even if you don’t carry them in your EDC, they should have a place in your travel kit, handbag, bug-out bag or bedside drawer.

 

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Phillosoph

A Different Angle on Accuracy and Precision

The other night, I had a dream that insisited that I should go back and re-read a webpage I had encountered about a week ago. This article was the key to a new way to look at accuracy, my dream told me. (Even my subconscious tries to sell me on clickbait, it seems!)

Firing from a squat position

I am not sure this article actually does that, but it makes for interesting reading, the little that I think I understand. Since I do not read Cyrillic and some of the translation choices are unusual, I am missing certain parts.
AKM Golden Ratio
One part that was very clear was:

…monograph of the Central Research Institute of Information “The effectiveness of automatic firing weapons”:“ 3.5. The degree of combining the midpoint of hits with the center of the target ..determines the accuracy of shooting”

This reminds me that the effective range of a weapon system is a product of target size and weapon system accuracy and precision.
Accuracy and Precision Explained

How Accurate Do You Need?

For an example, let us consider a system of a shooter, firearm and ammunition.
Firing semi-automatically, this system manages groups of about two and three-quarter minutes of angle/arc (MOA). This will not impress many of you, but we are considering this system shooting in combat conditions rather than on the target range.
2.75 MOA may be treated as three inches at 100 metres. (It is actually 2.858 inches at 100 yards/91 metres, but we will treat it as the former for purposes of illustration)
A human head is about six inches wide. Providing our shooter can aim and shoot competently, we can expect our shooter to make most head shots within 200 metres. Not too shabby!
Most decisive rifle combat takes place at under 200 metres. Most likely targets will not expose an area much larger than a head. Our three MOA shooter’s accuracy and precision is quite adequate.
As an aside, would it not be more realistic to make all combat targets head-sized? Since targets would only need to be A4-size, this would save paper and money!
The vital area of a deer is also around six inches or more. And most hunters try to take deer at well under 200 metres.
Make things even simpler for yourself by zeroing your rifle to 200 metres. 72% of rifle engagements occur at 200 metres or less.
Learn the correct holdover/aiming point for the rare times you will need a longer shot. There is unlikely to be time to fiddle with your sights and dial up the range.
What about torso shots? A human is about 18 inches across the shoulders, about three times the width of the head. Our shooter should be able to put bullets within a torso out to about 600 metres. 
It is worth remembering, however, that a bullet takes around a second to reach 600 metres. Even if you are a trained sniper, you will have to make a shot like this as a surprise attack.
If the enemy is aware of you and dodging, ducking and dashing, hits are going to be more a product of luck than skill. Might be better to save ammo until it may be used more effectively?
Shots against active, distant targets are best left to the machine guns, mortars and artillery. A machine gun that was firing at 2.75 MOA would probably be well regarded. At 600 metres it would put most of its burst into an area less than man-sized.
Full frontal torso shots may actually be rare under certain combat conditions. Many targets will be in cover and not exposing much more than their heads. What torso shots can be made, will be against targets crossing your line of sight or moving obliquely.
If we consider the apparent average torso width here as about twelve inches, we can expect our shooter to make hits out to 400 metres, should targets be actually visible at this distance. 97% of rifle engagements do not exceed 400 metres.
Our shooter should keep his rifle at a 200 metre zero and aim somewhere between armpit- and chin-height. This will produce a hit somewhere on the torso from 200 metres+. A higher aim point may be needed as range approaches 400 metres and beyond. The bullet will hit about 30 cm low of the aim point at 300 metres, three-quarters of a metre low at 400 metres.
Time of flight to 300 or 400 metres will be about a third of a second, so he should lead his target a little, but not too much.
So far we have only considered semi-automatic fire. If our shooter fires on fully automatic and measures the diameter of the group produced, effective range for automatic fire against head and torso targets may be calculated.

Conclusion

The Russian article makes the point that there is little point in adopting a more accurate/precise rifle if the sights are flawed.
The small group the AN-94’s hyperburst produces just makes it more probable for both rounds to miss the intended target if the aim point is wrong.
Generally, it is the shooter rather than the weapon or ammo that is the limiting factor.
Many of you reading this are capable of shooting a rifle better than 2.75 MOA.
If so, you are have adequate precision for realistic combat/defensive scenarios, which are most likely at less than 200 metres.
The ideal iron sight for combat would probably be an L-flip sight with a 5mm aperture zeroed to 200m and a 1.75mm aperture zeroed to 400m.
But, for such an application, does even higher precision actually contribute to a real increase in functionality?
As long as the group we shoot is smaller than the area of the likely target, at likely engagement ranges, is a smaller group actually a practical advantage?
Is it even possible that a tighter group may decrease our chances of hitting the intended target if our aim is slightly off?
Something to ponder before you hand over your hard-earned cash for the latest customization or accessory to give your defensive or deer rifle even greater sub-MOA performance?
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Phillosoph

Camping Frying Pan Set

Today, I thought I would have a little show and tell:
In a previous post I showed one half of my Kephart-inspired cook-set. Today, the other part.

First Photo:

The first photo shows the kit partially packed up.
Camping Frying Pan Kit  Packed
To the left is a heavy duty stuff sack that just happens to be ideal for carrying a plate-like object.
The frying pan sits on a repurposed, out-of-date triangular bandage. This has various uses, including as a tenugu-type dishcloth. In transit it is wrapped around the outside of the pan.
To the right are two bottles, one for detergent, the other for cooking oil.
In the pan we can see a spork and spatula resting on top of the cutting board. The white is the eating plate, and the green of the cleaning pad can be seen showing through.

Second photo:

The kit unpacked.
Camping Frying Pan Kit Unpacked
Top left, the cutting board, cut to shape to fit in the frying pan. This is a thin plastic cutting board sold as part of a set of several for kitchen use. Resting on this is a combined sponge and scrubber.
Top right, the spork and spatula rest on the plate. The plate is enamelled metal, and deep enough to hold liquids. Inverted it may be used as a lid or cover for the frying pan.
Botton, a view of the frying pan itself. Most frying pans sold for camping use are way too small.
Mine was made from a cheap non-stick item, and is just under nine inches in diameter.
The original handle was removed and replaced with a square-section fitting. This socket may be used to fit the frying pan to a pole or branch. It is also the mounting for the folding and detachable handle, which locks in the open position.

Third Photo:

The spatula and the inverted plate.
Camping Frying Pan Kit Spatula and Plate
The edge of the plate was drilled with a ceramic bit, and a hole made through the metal. This was used to add two wire loops made from paper-clips. These loops are used to lift the plate when it is used as a cover or lid.
The spatula serves as a turner, stirrer, scraper, server and many other roles. It is a cheap beechwood item that has been modified and treated with boiled linseed oil. Since the pan is non-stick, sport and spatula must be non-metal.
The handle has been shortened so that the item fits within the frying pan when packed. The cut end was reshaped for increased functionality. The cut notch may be used to lift billy lids or pick up hot billies.
A loop and hole was added so that the spatula may be hung up to keep it out of the dirt.
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Phillosoph

Poncho-Liner Improvement: Pops and Zip

In my blog on foundation survival equipment, two of the items were a rain poncho and a blanket. Given how expensive good blankets are these days, many of you will have opted for a poncho-liner (aka “woobie”) instead.
Why a blanket/poncho-liner rather than a sleeping bag? A good sleeping bag is well worth having. In warmer conditions, however, a poncho-liner may be a better choice than that bulky five-season expedition bag you just had to buy, “just in case”. In colder conditions, a poncho-liner may be combined with a sleeping bag of more modest (and more practical) capabilities.
In case you have not worked it out, a more practical sleeping bag purchase would have been a two or three-season bag that can be combined with other items in colder weather, including another sleeping bag. Generally, several thinner layers trap more warm air than one very thick one.
The poncho-liner was designed to be part of a warm weather sleeping system. The instructions are that the poncho-liner is to be tied to a GI-issue rain poncho, with the rain poncho outermost. The soldier lies on one half of the combination and folds the other half over themselves. The snaps (poppers) on the rain poncho should not be used to fasten the opening if sleeping in a combat zone.
Tying the liner to the poncho may not be necessary. Threading the tapes through the eyelets may keep things together by friction alone.
Easiest knot is to make a loop at the base of the cord and pass it up through the eyelet. Make a loop higher in the cord and take it over the edge of the pooncho and pass the loop through the first. Hold the free end and pull the other side of the second loop to pull the first loop snug. This is very easy to tie and easy to undo with cold, wet hands. This is “two-thirds of a Highwayman's Hitch”.
Easy knot for attaching poncho to liner
The above method of using rain poncho and liner together has become known as a “ranger roll”, not to be confused with the packing method of the same name. It has been pointed out to me that this system resembles an Australian swag, with the obvious difference a swag uses heavier but breathable canvas,
Ironically, the best way I have found to pack a poncho roll is the other kind of ranger roll.
The poncho and liner (presumably as a ranger-roll configuration) is designated as a sleeping system for temperatures above 50°F (10°C). Put another way, if your breath is fogging, make more elaborate sleeping arrangements.
Rigging your rain poncho as a shelter, such as a ridge tent or lean-to, will trap a layer of air above while you sleep wrapped in your liner. You will be better ventilated and more comfortable than the ranger-roll. Where tactically possible, a fire may be built before a lean-to.
Insulating yourself from ground-chill will also facilitate sleeping at lower temperatures. Place hay, browse, bracken etc between yourself and the ground. Wreckage such as seat cushions may be used. If you have an insulated kip-mat, it may be used instead of or in addition to the previous measures.
If you want to use your poncho as a shelter you will need to carry some cordage, pegs and possibly poles. The two hanks of cord I recommended adding to your EDC will do fine. Since most ponchos or liners do not have a waist cord such cord may be knotted around the waist when wearing a rain-poncho and/or poncho-liner. Bungee cords are an alternative to cordage for shelters, and may also be used around the waist if your brought them long enough.

Pocho Shelters

Some ponchos only have eyelets at the corners, or even lack these. Fit eyelets to each corner and the centre of each edge.
There are alternate options, of course. One of them is a bivi-bag and a pair of poncho-liners.
 
A poncho-liner is a sensible thing to acquire, even if most of the time you just throw it over yourself when watching telly in the colder months.
Useful though the poncho-liner is, there is room for improvement.
Below is a video of “Green-Craft's” poncho-liner improvements:

Personally, I found some of the modifications described hard to fully comprehend. Long, verbal descriptions on a video are not the best means of communicating information. The video could have benefited from some more illustrations and written lists.
I decided not to use many of these suggested modifications.
For one thing, I do not like “hand-warmer” pockets. Move with your hands in your pockets and you cannot defend yourself nor save yourself if you fall. Essentially, hand-warmer pockets are diametrically the opposite of what this blog is about.
I also had concerns that some of these modifications would affect the packability of my poncho-liner.
And I am short on funds, so cannot afford all the bits needed for the modifications even if I did want them.

The Head Hole

Why did the inventors of the poncho-liner not include a head hole so that it could be worn under a rain-poncho?
Perhaps it was something to do with the commitment to the war in Vietnam? Warm clothing was not seen as a high priority?
Modifying your poncho-liner so that it can be worn as a real poncho is probably the most useful modification you can make, and it is relatively simple.
You will need:
• A 40 cm open-ended zip of suitable colour and finish
• About a metre of suitably coloured double-fold bias tape
• Sewing supplies. A needle, suitably coloured thread, pins, chalk, scissors/shears, a tape measure.
You do not want a zipper with shiny nor reflective teeth, so you will probably get a plastic zip. Colour and shades should be one that blends well with the basic appearance of your poncho-liner.
My poncho-liner is in German Tropentarn desert camo (aka “desert flecktarn” or “fleckdesert”), which is actually quite a good general-purpose pattern. Thus I brought a zipper described as beige.
I brought my double bias tape and the colour was described as “stone”.
If you have some scraps of suitably coloured or patterned material you can make your own bias tape by cutting it diagonally. Using different scraps will enhance the disruptive effect.
There are videos on how to make bias tape and how to join the different sections. You will need and iron and possibly a former.

The Cut

Decide which side of your poncho-liner will be the “outer” and which the “inside.” Also decide which part will be “front” and which “back”. My poncho-liner has a label in one corner so I arranged it so that this would be inside and at the back.
As evenly as possible, fold your poncho-liner width-wise. Then fold it lengthwise. The corner of the folds should be the centre of your poncho-liner.
Many blogs ago, I advised you to buy some chalk and add it to your EDC. You probably had several sticks left. Add some to your home sewing kit, it is times such as these it comes in useful.
Measure down from the centre corner 8 cm and mark a spot with your chalk. Make an 8cm cut through both thicknesses of the poncho-liner. Note that the cut you are making is lengthwise, going from back to front.
Unfold the poncho-liner. From the edge of the cut measure 19 cm and mark a point with chalk. I used a set-square here to ensure the line was perpendicular to a width-wise fold. Cut down the front 19 cm.
You now have a poncho-liner with a 35 cm hole in the centre. Check this fits easily over your head. Make it a shade bigger if necessary.

Fitting the Zip and Collar

Unzip your zipper into separate halves.
On the outermost side of the poncho-liner, place your zipper parts on either side of the head-hole.
Position them so that for each the teeth are on the opposite side to the opening.
You should be looking at the “back side” of the zipper and the puller should be on the front-side of the poncho-liner when fully down.
Pin each of the zipper halves so that the toothless edge is flush with the cut edge of the head-hole.
Note that your zipper is longer than the hole you cut. Make sure they are closely aligned. Try closing the zipper while it is still only pinned in position and adjust as necessary.

Fitting the Double Bias Tape

Once you are happy with the position of your zipper, you need to pin the bias tape into position.
I suggest you watch a few videos to familiarize yourself with how this tape is used. We are going to fold it all the way over the edge of the head-hole. If you look at the outer edges of your poncho-liner you will see a similar method has already been used to finish that edge.
Cut two lengths of bias tape about the same length as your zipper. Unfold the tape so that you are looking at its “inside”.
Place the tape, inside uppermost, over your zipper half. Align the inner edge of the tape so that it is flush with the cut-edge of the poncho and the toothless edge of the zipper. Pin in position and repeat for the other side.
You can remove the pins you put in to hold the zipper.
There should be pins securing both tape and zipper to the poncho-liner.
Note that if I was to do this again, I would use short lengths of bias tape to cover the top and bottom of the cut before adding the zipper. What I have done does not look too bad (on the outside!), but it could have been neater.

Sewing

I started off trying to use a “mini-sewing machine”. This was very cheap when I brought it. I notice the price is creeping up now!
After attaching the first zipper half I got sick of repeatably rethreading the thing, and realized I could probably do a neater job hand-sewing. Some sections would need to be hand-sewn anyway.
Sew along the crease of the bias tape that is closer to the hole.
Once this is done, fold the tape so that it completely covers the cut edge of the liner and the other crease touches the inside of the poncho-liner, the far edge of the tape tucked in.
Both creases of the tape are thus folded and both edges of the tape tucked in.
Sew just inside the edge of the tape so your thread passes through all four layers of tape, the zipper and the poncho-liner.

Finishing the Zipper

Close your zipper and tuck each end through the cut to the inner side of the poncho-liner.
Finish the ends of the bias tape so they are sewn to the zipper.
Since the top and bottom of my head-hole was untaped, I put a few stiches through the zipper and through the poncho-liner to close off any opening that remained.
Lastly, add a length of cord or tape to your zipper-puller.
This will stop it rattling. It also lets you easily work the zipper if your hands are cold and numb or wearing thick gloves.
If you can get some bootlace that matches the ties on your poncho-liner, that would be cool. I used a length of “desert-camo” 3mm budget paracord, which does not look out of place.

The Zipper Explained

Why use this configuration for your zipper?
When used as a garment, the teeth of the opened parts of the zipper will not contact your bare neck. You can roll the edges of the opening outward if you wish. This is shown in the photo immediately below.
There are other ways to prevent the teeth rubbing the neck, but the above method is one of the simplest and involves very little sewing.
Poncho-liner with zippered neck opening
The puller of the zipper is at the front when opened so that you can adjust the neck opening to vary ventilation or retain more heat.
The zipper I brought was described as beige but the actual colour was lighter and more yellow than I had hoped. Because very little of the zipper is visible on the outside, I got lucky and it blends very nicely with the rest of the poncho-liner. I think it may work better than the dark green zipper I also considered.
In practice, the zipper will usually be covered by a scarf or shemagh.
The zipper I brought was missing a tooth at the very top. This caused the puller to jam if the zip is fully closed. Fortunately, by tucking the very bottom and top of the zip, the last few centimetres of each end are not used, yet the opening can be fully closed. A combination of luck and improvisation!
Poncho-liner with zipper opening fully open
The bias tape I brought was described as “stone” in colour. I was expecting something with a hint of brown, but it proved to be a light, very neutral-looking grey. Not surprisingly, this colour and shade goes very well with both the zipper and the poncho-liner in general.
The camera flash probably creates a greater contrast than the naked eye sees.

Poppers

Once I had fitted the zipper, I went about installing some plastic poppers (aka “snaps”, “snap-fasteners”). These may need special pliers to fit.
You will need something that can poke a small hole through the poncho-liner. I used a stout sailmaker's needle I have in my home sewing kit. A set of these is worth having. The smaller ones go in you EDC or travel kits, the larger into your home sewing and/or repair kit.
You can chalk the needle to make the holes easier to locate.

Getting the Poppers Right

Lay-out your poncho with the inner side upwards.
Mentally divide it into quarters. We will be installing poppers using the following rules. The reason for this will be explained later:
• Each quarter will have the popper halves all of the same time. A quarter will only contain “male” poppers or “female”.
• If a quarter at the top has male poppers, the quarter immediately below will have female, and vice versa.
• If a quarter on the left has male poppers, that on the immediate right will have female, and vice versa.
• Quarters that are diagonally opposite will contain the same type of popper half.
I started off by installing the corner-most popper halves. Concentrate on getting these right and then it is just a matter of using the same popper type for each quarter.
I installed the corner poppers 40mm in from the side edge of the poncho-liner and 190mm from the top or bottom edge. If you are on the large side, place the poppers closer to the edge.
Next, fold your poncho-liner width-wise. Use the top and bottom poppers you have just added if you wish.
From the width-wise fold, measure down 240 to 250mm and install a popper 40mm in from the side. Make sure each quarter of the poncho-liner has the same type popper-half.
When you are wearing the poncho-liner, using this popper forms a sort of sleeve. The opening is generous enough to allow for bulky cold weather clothing. You can also slip your hand in and use it as a hand-warmer, “Fu Manchu”-style.
You will want to add a few more poppers down the side between the “sleeve” popper. I chose to add three more to each side.
With your poncho-liner still folded width-wise, fasten the sleeve and corner poppers. Make another width-wise fold so the corner popper touches the sleeve popper. Mark where the fold is and install a popper. As always, make sure each quarter of the poncho-liner has the same type popper-half.
Install additional poppers between the sleeve and corner poppers and the middle popper you just fitted.

Finishing the Poppers

The poppers I had purchased were supposedly “beige”. They turned out to be way lighter than expected, and had a gloss finish! When installed on the poncho-liner they appeared like they were white.
Luckily, I have some enamel model paints, several in colours close to that of the poncho-liner. I used these to paint the outer sides of the popper halves. I did not bother to paint the inners. I suspect the paint on the inners will either wear off too quickly or affect functionality, but try it if you wish.
Painted poncho-liner poppers.
For the record, the colours I used were Humbrol no.84 Stone and Revell no.83 Leather Brown. None of the poppers passed through green areas of the camouflage, so I did not use any of my green paints. These are not exact colour matches for the poncho-liner, but if someone is close enough to see the difference camouflage is no longer an option!
Like most painting, a second coat will improve it. You can stipple the surface to produce a more matt-effect, or even sprinkle a little sand on the first coat. However, given that the surface of the poncho-liner is quite smooth, the practical value of this is moot.
While you are at it, see if the poppers on your rain-poncho could use some paint. 
Again, the flash on my camera probably shows them up more than the naked eye can discern them.
Below is a shot taken without flash.
Modified poncho-liner photographed without flash
You may not be able to avoid painting your poppers, but start off with some that are matt, medium shade and a natural or neutral colour if you can.

The Poppers Explained

Why did I insist such attention be paid to which popper half went in which quarter?
If you want to sleep in your poncho-liner, fold it lengthwise and tuck under the foot-end. You will find you can use the poppers to fasten the free long edges. Much more compact and less bulk than fitting a long zip on this edge!
Personally, I find sleeping like this a little restrictive and am more likely to use the liner like a conventional blanket. Part of the appeal of the liner as a warm weather sleeping system is that it does not confine you like a sleeping bag. Best way to turn the poncho-liner into a cold weather system is use it with a sleeping bag!
Obviously, if the poppers of the rain poncho on a ranger-roll should not be fastened in a threat environment, the same goes for the poppers you fitted to your liner when sleeping.
Wearing your poncho-liner? Two sets of poppers line up to create a sleeve-type opening. Those below can be used to close up the sides.
These simple modifications will take you less than a day, even if you have to hand-sew.