Cleaning Up Blood.

My first post on the relocated blog, and in truth, I wish it left me under happier circumstances. Both the girlfriend and myself are experiencing considerable health problems, compounded with some insidious behavior from several sources. I will spare you the details, but will note that one of the “lighter” incidences in the last week was a cat giving birth, then rejecting and trying to kill its kittens! Luckily one of the other cats stepped up and the kittens are now safe and doing well.
The other cat had decided it wanted to give birth while wandering around the house, often trailing a kitten still attached by its umbilical cord. Blood and other secretions were left around the house, which was not conducive to finding new tenants for vacant rooms.
This situation reminded me of a piece of knowledge that is not as widely known as it deserves. In the past I have been called upon to clean clotted blood from scientific equipment. Often these clots were within very narrow tubing. Anything that would fit down the tubing had insufficient strength to break up the dried blood.
The movie “Carrie” was on last night, so the fates seem to be telling me it was time I passed this knowledge on.
The solution (literally!) is 0.9% (isotonic) saline. Nine grams of common table salt/ sodium chloride dissolved in a litre of tap water. Or 0.9g in 100mls, 4.5g in 500mls or any variation of such.
One advantage of using isotonic saline is that it will dissolve clotted blood without causing further lysis of the blood cells, and releasing the pigment.
A friend of mine once got blood on his jeans and asked on facebook how he should remove it. Luckily for him I responded first and told him about isotonic saline. There then followed numerous other suggestions, many of them exotic or expensive, several of which that would have marked or destroyed his jeans. This was a nice example of what is so often bad about social media. My friend used saline, and his jeans survived.

Many Thanks

The last month has been a tough one, financially. My girlfriend has been allowed to reopen her business, but we had to spend a lot of money to meet new regulations arising from the pandemic. Unfortunately, the lockdown means that there is very little custom, so I suspect it will be a long time before we recover the monies spent. All this has left me so short of money I could not visit my lady. 

Therefore I would like to extend a special and heartfelt thank you to the few of you that brought books over the last couple of months. The IRS took a big bite, as usual, but the little I did receive in royalties was certainly significant in keeping me out of the red. Some of you brought the recently updated new edition of “Crash Combat”. The Global edition of “Attack, Avoid, Survive” also took some takers, which is pleasing. I will keep the original edition on sale, but the Global edition has been significantly extended, so I recommend considering this version. I am a little disappointed that “Survival Weapons” has not seen any recent sales. This is an informative and useful book, and I think it should have received a much wider audience than it has. 

As for my fiction stuff, let us just say level of sales has been consistent. A pity, since those who have read “Anatopismo” have enjoyed it and been very positive about it. Certainly not the worst novella that you will ever need. “Hell-Ay: Angel Town” was always going to be a bit of a niche book, but it seems its potential market has yet to discover it. Perhaps I should have pitched it as a travel book or tourist guide! A friend enjoyed the jokes and satire, so not a total loss.
Once again, thank you to those of you who have made purchases or have been kind enough to donate keep the blog running. If you have enjoyed the books or articles, or found them useful, please spread the word.

Compact Living Revisited

Recently I read a sci-fi where it was described that a single individual’s living space was 200 square feet (just under 19 square metres). In many parts of our world this would be considered quite luxurious. Nevertheless, this got me thinking about strategies for compact living, once again.
In my previous article, I talked about maximizing natural light. I may not use curtains, but I did nag my landlord into fitting blinds in the living room. This room is south-facing, so sunlight is sometimes a problem on my computer and TV screen. I had asked for Venetian blinds (under orders from the girlfriend). Instead, he fitted roller blinds. These fit the criteria I specified in my previous article. They block the light when needed, yet provide no obstruction to lighting when not used.
An area that was not considered in the previous article was the bathroom. Most bathrooms I have known were close to minimum size already. (I imagine in Texas they probably have bathrooms you need to drive around!). As long as one side of the room is more than a metre and a half, I would like a bathtub. Mainly I shower, but sometimes my kidney or back bother me and a soak is welcome. Recently my washing machine broke down and my tub got used for laundry. A bath with a shower takes up little more room than a stand-alone shower. For smaller spaces, a deep, Japanese-style furo bath (with a shower fitting) might be practical. 

All a bathroom really needs is a sink, toilet and a bath and/or shower. Perhaps enough floorspace to undress or redress. You are unlikely to need all three facilities at the same time, so perhaps a folding sink can make more effective use of available space, folding out either over the bath or over the toilet. Some Japanese toilets feature a basin on the top of toilet tank.
The smallest configuration of bathroom has a toilet and sink, with a shower-head. The whole room serves as a shower cubicle, with a floor-mounted drain.
A mirror on the wall is not only useful, but creates the illusion of greater room and improves lighting. A sliding or outward opening door creates room.
A floor-mounted drain is a useful feature for any design of bathroom. A bathroom should also be well-ventilated too. 

A small kitchen can be more efficient; it saves on unnecessary walking and reaching. Ventilation is an issue for small kitchens, however. Rather than a separate, enclosed room it may be better to have an open kitchen area, perhaps with a breakfast bar that can also be used for food and cookware storage. A sliding partition may be used to isolate the kitchen area if necessary. Space-saving features for a kitchen include a sink and stovetop that can be covered by a working surface. Due to the noise, an open kitchen is not a good location for a washing machine. If there is room, this may be better located in the bathroom.

Most places that I have lived have seemed short on storage space, no matter what their size. If you have a small room, rather than thinking of it as a small bedroom or spare room you may be better treating it as a large closet. Chances are you were using it for storage already. Go the full-hog and fit it with shelves, clothes rails, stackable boxes, ceiling hooks for bags and so on. Remove or sell furniture and items in this room that do not contribute to storage space.
This leaves the living area, which may double as the sleeping area. Some options for this were discussed in the previous article. A sofa bed is probably the most space-efficient option. A sofa that provides storage space for a Japanese futon and bedding is another option. A murphy-bed is a possibility, but occupies a large area of wall space that cannot then be used for many other purposes. I have a soft spot for cot beds, which seem to me somewhat more hygenic than traditional mattresses. A cot bed is light enough to be stood on end against a wall or side of a wardrobe when not in use. If beds are packed away during the day, storage space will be needed for bedding.

For a single person’s dwelling, a sofa meets most seating needs. If long enough, it can serve as your bed, even if not a sofa-bed. If extra/ alternate seating is needed, folding chairs are worth considering. Storage boxes, with cushions, can also serve as seats. Cushions should be removable so that boxes can be used as steps to reach high storage areas. Obviously such boxes should be capable of taking your weight. A lightweight step-ladder is a good investment if you utilize the tops of shelving units and cupboards for storage. A folding table maybe useful if you need a desk or want to host a dinner party. Space under non-folding tables can be used for storage boxes.
Fitting shelves with doors gives you space to display paintings and photos without reducing storage space.

A Walk to the Park: Lessons Learned.

The other day I went for a walk. As it turned out, I was overly ambitious. Due to lockdown and other issues, I have not got out of the house much recently, and this has had more of a toll than I anticipated. After about the fourth or fifth mile my feet were aching, and worse, my hip joins were giving me considerable trouble. I was not able to walk properly for several days after.
One of my excuses for making this trip was I wanted to test a pair of shoes for this blog. About halfway into the walk I realized this was not practical. I have flat feet and torn tendons. In other words, my feet are atypical and whatever I experience, good or bad, is not relevant to most readers.
However, the day did yield a few lessons and observations that I thought I would pass on.
One thing I discovered is that I have lost some weight over the past few months. Normally this would be a good thing, but it meant my trousers were loose on me even with the belt drawn to the last notch. The shoes I was using also had less heel than my usual boots, which meant my trouser bottoms were catching and dragging on the ground. Rolled up, they would not stay up! I resorted to the safety pins in my EDC. I only had two, so this was only partially successful. Conclusion: add more safety pins to the EDC kit. At least half a dozen.
I could have used the two long cords in my pocket to improvise braces for my trousers. I was nearly at my destination by the time this occurred to me.
I was running late that morning, and was keen to get out. Thus, I forgot some things that might have been useful. I only realized that I had forgotten my iPod when I heard some idiot sqwarking down their phone. More importantly, perhaps, I should have added some boiled sweets to my bag. I had planned to buy something for breakfast along the way, but with lockdown there were fewer places open and I didn’t seem to get a chance. Keep a stock of sweets for travelling at “base camp”, and don’t eat them all watching the telly!
The second lesson from this is “make a list”! Do not just have a packing list for when the balloon goes up or the zombies arrive, but one for more mundane expeditions too.
If, like me, you have several rucksacs and daysacs, a practical idea is to have a box with your “rucksac things” in. When you get home, empty your rucksac paraphernalia into the box. When you head out, select items from the box and load them into whatever pack you have decided to use. And have a list! Not everything you might want will be in the box; at least one of my water-bottles lives in the fridge. Similarly, you pick and choose from the contents of the list. Warm hat and gloves may be low priority in summer, for example.
What I did remember to add to my pack was a bottle of water, my boonie hat and a rain-poncho. The hat was for if it was really sunny; it wasn’t. The poncho, on the other hand, got used several times. This was my first time trying this particular one out and it came through very well. It is very light (240 g, in stuffsack) and was quick to unpack and put on. I also like that it covers my daysac as well as myself. Another feature that endears it to me is the stuffsack is so sized that it does not take a mastership of origami to get the poncho back in.

Multi-role solid-state communication and repair system.
Incidentally, I have made another modification to my EDC kit. Originally it did not contain a sewing kit. My travel sewing kit has seen a lot of use over the years, so I decided some sewing capability should be in the EDC. The weight of a single needle and thread is negligible, yet potentially very useful. In fact I have added two. One is a standard needle with about a metre of doubled invisible thread already attached. The other is a larger needle with just over half a metre of doubled stouter thread. I would have used dental floss for this normally, but had some kevlar cord from Shomer-tech that I wanted to try out. Both needles have been threaded beforehand and are carried taped to the side of my pencil. I gave them a few score strokes of a magnet so they may also serve as a navigation aid.

The Worlds of James Schmitz

Version 1.1
Science fiction is an important genre. Not only can it speculate on what might be, but often it holds a mirror up to what is.
Being imaginative people, I suspect many of my readers enjoy a good sci-fi.
Various names will spring to mind, but one that many of you may not think of is James Schmitz. That is a shame, since he is well worth a read. I have enjoyed his stories.
His most well-known works are set in a community of planets called the Hub Worlds. The Hub Worlds grew from a long period of strife called “the War Centuries”.
While Schmitz never states it directly, it is probable the Earth was one of the worlds lost during the conflict. A couple of stories mention characters from Earth, but this thread seems to have been dropped.
The structure of the Hub Worlds is not described in great depth.
One gets the impression that planets or regions are allowed to administer themselves, provided certain statutes and laws are observed.
An establishment called the “Overgovernment” exists, and presumably has jurisdiction over interstellar matters, such as exploration, colonization and peacekeeping.
The Overgovernment seems to be concerned with strategy for the Hub Worlds and the humans within it.
One instrument of the Overgovernment that features in many stories is the “Psychology Service”.
The title itself is misdirection, since one of the Psychology Service’s primary concerns is the regulation and control of human psis.
Psi-powers have an unusual status in the Hub Worlds.
Machines that use psionic abilities are well-known, being used in the judicial process or for spaceport security.
It also seems to be accepted that certain animals and aliens have psi-powers. Devices such as mind shields are worn by some.
Officially, human psi-powers do not exist, however. One of the functions of the Psychology Service is to ensure that humans who do have psi-powers do not abuse them nor their fellow citizens.
Refreshingly, Schmitz does not make the Psychology Service the usual two-dimensional Gestapo-witchhunters.
Often, we see the Psychology Service using prudent and subtle measures.
As noted in the essay “The Psychology Service: Immune System of the Hub” by Guy Gordon:
“The Psychology Service is not out to protect society by eliminating psis. Quite the contrary. They will protect the Federation by immunization. To eliminate psis would leave the Federation defenseless against external threats (such as the Elaigar), and internal threats such as undetected psis…instead controlling a serious problem as nondestructively as possible. More than that, they are trying to turn this serious problem into a strength…also pushing the use of psionic machines in the Federation. People with no psi talent of their own will be empowered to deal with psis. Mind shields are available for defense, and powerful mind-reading machines, such as the ones at the Orado City Space Terminal or Transcluster Finance, will provide the advantages of psi to ordinary people.”
Gordon also notes:
“This attitude pervades the top level of the Federation Overgovernment. They treat the human species as an evolving animal and the Federation as an ecology. They aren’t out to create perfection. If survival is a good enough goal for nature, it’s good enough for the Federation and the Psychology Service.”

Unlike some authors, Schmitz does not delve deeply into the nuts and bolts of his scenarios. Many of the themes introduced are thought-provoking, however. 

An interesting discussion of the Overgovernment occurs in the story “The Demon Breed:

The nearest thing to a war the Hub’s known for a long time is when some sub-government decides it’s big enough for autonomy and tries to take on the Federation. And they’re always squelched so- quickly you can hardly call it a fight.”
“So they are,” Ticos agreed. “What do you think of the Federation’s Overgovernment?”

She hesitated. One of the least desirable after effects of a nerve gun charge that failed to kill could be gradually developing mental incoherence. If it wasn’t given prompt attention, it could result in permanent derangement. She suspected Ticos might be now on the verge of rambling. If so, she’d better keep him talking about realities of one kind or another until he was worked safely past that point. She said, “That’s a rather general question, isn’t it? I’d say I simply don’t think about the Overgovernment much.”

“Why not?”

“Well, why should I? It doesn’t bother me and it seems able to do its job—as witness those squelched rebellious subgovernments.”

“It maintains the structure of the Federation,” Ticos said, “because we learned finally that such a structure was absolutely necessary. Tampering with it isn’t tolerated. Even the suggestion of civil war above the planetary level isn’t tolerated. The Overgovernment admittedly does that kind of thing well. But otherwise you do hear a great many complaints. A recurrent one is that it doesn’t do nearly enough to control the criminal elements of the population.”

Nile shook her head. “I don’t agree! I’ve worked with the Federation’s anticrime agencies here. They’re efficient enough. Of course they can’t handle everything. But I don’t think the Overgovernment could accomplish much more along those lines without developing an oppressive bureaucratic structure—which I certainly wouldn’t want.”

“You feel crime control should be left up to the local citizenry?”

“Of course it should, when it’s a local problem. Criminals aren’t basically different from other problems we have around. We can deal with them. We do it regularly.”

Ticos grunted. “Now that,” he remarked, “is an attitude almost no Palach would be able to understand! And it seems typical of our present civilization.” He paused. “You’ll recall I used to wonder why the Federation takes so little obvious interest in longevity programs, eugenics projects and the like.

She gave him a quick glance. Not rambling, after all? “You see a connection?”

“A definite one. When it comes to criminals, the Overgovernment doesn’t actually encourage them. But it maintains a situation in which the private citizen is invited to handle the problems they create. The evident result is that criminality remains a constant threat but is kept within tolerable limits. Which is merely a small part of the overall picture. Our society fosters aggressive competitiveness on almost all levels of activity; and the Overgovernment rarely seems too concerned about the absolute legality of methods used in competition. The limits imposed usually are imposed by agreements among citizen organizations, which also enforce them.”

“You feel all this is a kind of substitute for warfare?”

“It’s really more than a substitute,” Ticos said. “A society under serious war stresses tends to grow rigidly controlled and the scope of the average individual is correspondingly reduced. In the kind of balanced anarchy in which we live now, the individual’s scope is almost as wide as he wants to make it or his peers will tolerate. For the large class of nonaggressive citizens who’d prefer simply to be allowed to go about their business and keep out of trouble, that’s a non-optimum situation. They’re presented with many unpleasant problems they don’t want, are endangered and occasionally harassed or destroyed by human predators. But in the long run the problems never really seem to get out of hand. Because we also have highly aggressive antipredators. Typically, they don’t prey on the harmless citizen. But their hackles go up when they meet their mirror image, the predator—from whom they can be distinguished mainly by their goals. When there are no official restraints on them, they appear to be as a class more than a match for the predators. As you say, you handle your criminals here on Nandy-Cline. Wherever the citizenry is making a real effort, they seem to be similarly handled. On the whole our civilization flourishes.” He added, “There are shadings and variations to all this, of course.

The harmless citizen, the predator and the anti-predator are ideal concepts. But the pattern exists and is being maintained.”

“So what’s the point?” Nile asked. “If it’s maintained deliberately, it seems rather cruel.”

“It has abominably cruel aspects, as a matter of fact. However, as a species,” said Ticos, “man evolved as a very tough, alert and adaptable creature, well qualified to look out for what he considered his interests. The War Centuries honed those qualities. They’re being even more effectively honed today. I think it’s done deliberately. The Overgovernment evidently isn’t interested in establishing a paradisiacal environment for the harmless citizen. Its interest is in the overall quality of the species. And man as a species remains an eminently dangerous creature. The Overgovernment restricts it no more than necessity indicates. So it doesn’t support the search for immortality—immortality would change the creature. In what way, no one can really say. Eugenics should change it, so eugenics projects aren’t really favored, though they aren’t interfered with. I think the Over-government prefers the species to continue to evolve in its own way. On the record, it’s done well. They don’t want to risk eliminating genetic possibilities which may be required eventually to keep it from encountering some competitive species as an inferior.”

This is complemented by a passage in “Glory Day”:
In certain confidential Overgovernment files, Askanam was listed among the Hub's experimental worlds. Officially, it was a world which retained a number of unusual privileges in return for acknowledging the Federation's basic authority and accepting a few balancing restrictions. Most of its surface was taken up by the balaks of the ruling Askabs, ranging in size from something not much larger than a township to great states with teeming populations. It was a colorful world of pomp and splendor, romance, violence, superstition and individualism. The traditionally warlike activities of the Askabs were limited by Federation regulations, which kept Askanam pretty much as it was though individual balaks not infrequently changed hands. Otherwise Federation law didn't extend to the balaks. Hub citizens applying for entry were advised that they were going into areas where they would receive no Federation protection.
Telzey was aware that the arrangement served several purposes for the Overgovernment. Askanam was populated largely by people who liked that kind of life, since nothing prevented them from leaving. They were attracted to it, in fact, from all over the Hub. Since they were a kind of people whose romantic notions could cause problems otherwise, the Overgovernment was glad to see them there. Askanam was one of its laboratories, and its population's ways were more closely studied than they knew.
For individuals, of course, that romantic setup could turn into a dangerous trap.
The societal template that Schmitz seems to be suggesting the Federation has is interesting when viewed alongside the problems for utopian societies that Appleseed raises.
A friend suggested that sport might serve as surrogate warfare, but historically this has proved partially effective at best, and has often provided opportunities for crime.
Major warfare is obviously undesirable, yet utopia is likely unattainable, and possibly undesirable.
Does human nature mean the “simmering pot” is the best we can realistically hope for?
Is criminal and anti-social behavior the price of personal freedom?
In the introduction to “Crash Combat” I noted that most modern conflicts tend to be varieties of low-intensity warfare, local vendettas, guerrilla uprisings, terrorism, sabotage and civil disturbance.
This may be the normal condition of humanity!
Whatever way you interpret this, some individuals will potentially suffer, and those may be your loved ones or yourself. Prudence suggest preparation!

Crash Combat now in Second Edition!

The eagle-eyed will have noticed that the cover of “Crash Combat” recently has acquired the addition “Second Edition”. The epub copy and book was actually updated in late May, but there were a few tweaks and things I wanted to triple check with the print copy so I chose to wait until I got the second proof copy before I made the launch official. This has cost me a bit more but I want readers to get the best quality product that I can provide them with via these mediums.

Crash Combat has gotten even better! Over a thousand words of additional text. New techniques and an extra illustration. Most of the additions are in the first part of the program, but I have gone through the rest of the book and polished a few spots.
There has never been a better time to add Crash Combat to your self-defence library.

Combat Carry: The Hippy Configuration

A friend of mine commented that Canadian troops were wedded to the idea of carrying at least six to seven magazines.
Recently, I was reminded that many water-bottle pouches can hold five or six 30-round magazines.
I also came across a comment pointing out that you do not want your magazine pouches where most troops actually carry them, at the front on the waist.
Lousy to crawl with them at the front, worse to fall on. Not so comfortable if you have to sit down, and many armies now have more drivers than infantry.
The latter is not necessarily a bad thing! A small force, well-supported, can achieve more than a large, poorly supported one. This is how many guerilla, terrorist and clandestine forces operate. There are relatively few “trigger-pullers” and a much larger number of support and intelligence-gatherers. Put the right person, in the right place, at the right time with the right tools.
Load-bearing equipment (LBE) tends to be designed with the infantry in mind, but most of its users will be signallers, engineers, gunners and drivers.
Thinking further, most troops reload with their weak-side hand. (It might be different for some bullpups, but seems true for the M16, AKM and their relatives).
It makes sense to have most of the ammo where the weak hand can easily reach it? Why not have a water-bottle/utility pouch of magazines on the weak side of the belt, at the side?
If you read my blog on chest-rigs. you may recall the four-magazine pouches for the AK issued by some armies.
Someone will object that all the magazines could get tipped out at once, so alternately, a pair of ALICE-type magazine “cases” that hold three magazines each. These would tend to sit at eight and ten “o’clock” on the belt (for right-handers), which may be more comfortable.
Most rifle-magazine pouches available nowadays hold two magazines, and a pair of two-magazine pouches will be less bulky. These four magazines constitute the primary reloads. Additional magazines can be carried in chest or sleeve pockets or other locations.
Some experimentation will be prudent. Pouches for three mags usually sit with the spines of the magazines towards the body. Side-on may be better.
Pouches might be more accessible orientated obliquely or laid horizontally. And we need to remember the soldier may need to reload while prone.
The above arrangement puts 4 to 6 lbs on one side of your belt or harness, but there is a logical way to balance this.
The soldier will use his grenades in his strong hand, so on the strong-side of the belt we put a pouch or pouches holding several grenades.
When throwing prone, you lay on your weak-side, so it is logical to have your primary source of grenades on the strong-side. Perhaps some frags at two o’clock, pouches for one or two cylindrical grenades such as smoke bombs at four.
Actual grenade load-out will depend on combat role and mission.
Alternately, a smoke grenade pouch can carry a 500ml water-bottle.
So far we have one pouch or pouches on one side of the belt, another set on the other.
Our soldier is well-armed, yet front and back areas of the belt region are relatively clear, allowing our soldier to comfortably sit in a vehicle or crawl if someone is shooting at him or he doesn’t want to be seen.
No bulky butt-pack or kidney-pouches at the back that hinder him (or her) carrying a rucksack, or wave at the enemy as they crawl.
The front of the belt can be used for relatively small, low-bulk items, such as a compass pouch and some shell-dressings. With a number of small pouches the front of the belt could end up looking like an old Garand ammo belt! (above)
For non-infantry, the front of the belt will probably end up carrying small specialist tools and items.
For some personnel the grenades and magazines at the side may be replaced by larger utility pouches.
The back of the belt is clear so far. This clearly contributes to comfort when seated in a vehicle or carrying a long pack.
Here I am going to revive my “camelbum” concept and suggest a second belt, mounting two pouches.
One pouch (clearly marked, and marked with blood group) contains an CI-IFAK (Combat Injury-Immediate First Aid Kit) for the soldier.
The other is a pouch containing a two-litre water-bladder dimensioned to fit inside. Having their own belt allows these to be worn rather like a bumbag. They can be added when in high readiness and shunted round the front or to a more convenient position when the soldier is seated or carrying a pack.
An entrenching tool or other tools can be shoved through the belt when needed, carried on the backpack when not.
As I have discussed elsewhere, carrying cases for such tools are superfluous, and have no place on the primary LBE.
A small, fixed-blade utility knife of about 25 cm loa. should be mounted over the weak-side pectorial muscle where it can be reached with either hand. See my books Survival Weapons and Crash Combat for more on this.
If a bayonet is carried, the logical place for it is on the weak-side of the belt, possibly mounted on the side of a magazine pouch in the manner of the British 58 webbing.
A larger survival knife such as a machete or kukri should probably be attached to the trouser belt, so it remains on-person should the LBE need to be discarded in an emergency.
The same is true of a handgun, which will likely be carried on the opposite side of the trouser belt. Field jackets and other garments should be modified/ redesigned so that tools and weapons carried in this manner are accessible.
This arrangement places the survival knife in the space between the magazine pouch(es) and the trouser belt, and the handgun behind/between the grenade pouches.
I have described this equipment configuration as mounted on a conventional LBE belt, but the basic concept should work with other carry systems.
Rather than on the waist, those weak-side magazine pouches might be mounted in the area under the arm, and this gives some possible alternate configurations. For example, three dual-magazine pouches mounted horizontally or obliquely.

Neck Dump Pouches

One currently fashionable item I have not mentioned above is the “dump-pouch” for empty magazines. What to do you do with those empty magazines?
If fitted with a cord pull-loop (as described in Survival Weapons), you can clip them onto a snap-link on your LBE or rucksack strap, although this may admittedly be a challenge while most of your attention is understandably on more pressing concerns.
Back in the day you might drop your magazines down the front of your smock or jacket, but this is difficult with modern combat-wear and armour.
The current solution is to fumble for a belt-mounted “dump pouch”, but the LBE belt is fairly crowded already and there may be more useful things that could use that space.
There is an easier, simpler, more efficient and cheaper option.
Take a sandbag and cut off the bottom foot or so. Save the rest for making textilage.
Hem the new top edge of the bag. You may choose to add a drawcord here at this step, although the cord is not needed for the dump-sack role. Elasticising the mouth will hinder the primary role.
Put a ring or loop at each top corner of the cord so you can tie or snap-link a strap or two to it. Straps should be easily adjustable for length, so should have some form of buckle. You may like to add a length of cord to each lower corner of the bag. These can be tied behind the back to stop the bag flapping around.
A sandbag is good because they are often readily available and the light tan colour is good for most environments. You can, however, make these bags out of any suitably coloured piece of cloth, including discarded or damaged combat wear and old tee-shirts. If you have access to a sewing machine, even a little cheap one, you can knock these bags out in minutes.
You will have to disguise the basic rectangular shape of the bag, so regardless of what you made it from, add some scraps of cloth and sandbag as textilage. Don’t forget the straps.
Some bold blobs of any suitably coloured and contrasting paint you have handy can be added too.
Adjust your strap so the bag hangs from your neck, at about chest level. Use the lower cords to keep it in place if you wish.
When you change magazines you can drop the empty into the open mouth of your neck bag.
The bag also helps camouflage your chest area. Since this area is subject to body-shading it helps that the basic colour of the bag is light. The neck bag will fit over a “reasonably-size” chest-rig while still allowing access to magazines.
The neck bag is a handy place to quickly stow anything else you come across during an operation. Bunch of materials or possessions that might provide intelligence? Drop them down your neck bag and examine them later.
When not in use a bag easily rolls up and can be kept rolled by tying one of the corner cords into a slippery hitch. A quick tug and the bag can be unrolled.
Such simple bags will provide useful for lots of other purposes. They are useful for foraging or supplying extra ammunition to crew-served weapons.
Add a pair of snap-on straps, or use one “Veshmeshok”-style and use as a simple rucksack.

Hori‑Hori for Survival

One of the many things that became apparent after the American Civil War was that the infantryman needed a means to quickly construct earthworks.

“Hardtack and Coffee” informs us that the quartermaster of the army had wagons of intrenching tools [sic] that were supposed to be supplied to units that needed them.

In practice, there was seldom time to send for these tools, and infantrymen resorted to digging with their tin plates or muckets.

As you can see, there were attempts to modify spike bayonets for the role.

One of the solutions offered after the war was the Rice trowel bayonet, which began to see trials in the late 1860s.

Available on-line is a document detailing the findings of the trails.

While a few officers expressed reservations, the opinion of the enlisted men and many other officers was overwhelmingly positive.

The document describes “rifle-proof” parapets being constructed in as little as nine minutes.

This would be impressive, even with larger modern tools.

The trowel bayonet was clearly superior to the improvised means the troops had been using before.

It also had sufficient size, heft and edge that it could be used to cut saplings and branches, something beyond the current spike bayonet.

Many believed the large, spear-like blade would make a better bayonet than the spike bayonet.

Breech-loading rifles were coming into service, and many were of the opinion that the bayonet might be becoming obsolete. If it wasn’t quite as good a bayonet as the weapon it replaced, this was tolerable and its greater utility made up for this.

The main objection to the trowel bayonet was that troops might be tempted to dig with it while it was mounted on the rifle. This was likely to bend the barrel, damage the muzzle or block the bore. (One reviewer does point out that the trowel was a less effective digging tool used in this way, so the practice will be rare. Someone was bound to try it, however).

Shortly after the introduction of the trowel bayonet it was replaced with a trowel knife. This probably had a better grip than the trowel bayonet, but its rounded tip gives it a less war-like appearance and possibly it was of less utility as a hand weapon. 

Bayonets continued to evolve, but along different lines.
The next step was the sword-bayonet, intended to serve as bayonet or hanger.
Some infantry had carried both bayonets and hangers. Napoleon’s guard around 1815 spring to mind as an example.
By the 1880s, most infantry had long since discarded the hanger, so effectively the sword bayonet was replacing an implement that was no longer carried. Nonetheless, many armies entered the 20th century with sword bayonets, and would be using them until the 1940s at least.
The idea of letting the infantry have their very own entrenching tools had taken root, however.
Infantry entrenching tools got bigger and more sophisticated until they reached the form we know today.
As has been discussed before on this blog, some of these tools are overkill for the non-military user.
It is a hygienic cathole, rather than atomic-proof foxhole, that we generally need.
There are little plastic trowels, of course, but these are not much use for anything else. The trowel bayonet suggests a relatively small digging tool can be a useful survival aid. Is there a modern equivalent?

Seeking to answer this took me to discover the hori‑hori.
In another blog I described how I had seen machetes used as jack of all trades by gardeners in Jamaica.
The hori‑hori is a similar device, but more compact. Not surprisingly, these are Japanese.
The ninja put a similar digging tool, the kunai, to various uses.
The hori‑hori were originally used for gathering wild foods, so technically are already survival tools. A variety of models of hori‑hori are available, but the one I have has a 7 inch blade, so more compact than the 10 by 4 inch blade of the original trowel bayonets.
One edge is serrated, the other can be used to chop or cut, or will be once I sharpen it. (The packaging says it comes “razor sharp”, which apparently means “unsharpened”.)
The blade is a broad spearpoint, with one side slightly concave, as suits its digging role.
Mine came with a nice condura sheath.
Unlike many survival knives, this is a tool the makers recommend that you can pry with.
Price is a bit more than a normal trowel, but this can be offset against the fact that many gardeners think they do not need many tools other than their hori‑hori.
On the other hand, compared to many survival knives and tools, the price is very reasonable.
Make sure that you do not buy a mini‑hori‑hori by mistake! Mine has a blade of 18 x 4.5 cm. I also recommend a stainless steel bladed example. The mirror finish on the blade may have applications for signaling.
The hori‑hori seems a pretty useful tool to have along on a trip or stored in an emergency kit. A useful backup or replacement for a survival knife.

LBE, M-1956

My friend Ralph Zumbro had often referenced “the Pentomic division”, so recently I read “The Pentomic Era” by A. C. Bacevich. This provides an interesting insight into the politics and mindset that was behind this phase of Army history.

What the book does not provide is much detail on the actual organization of the Pentomic divisions. Thus, a few nights ago I could be found wading through an on-line copy of “Infantry”, 1957-1958.

One thing I came across was an article (p.34, April-June 1958) on the new “universal, individual load-carrying system.”.
Although the designation is not used, this is the M-1956 system that served in Vietnam and was replaced by what was essentially a nylon version.
What caught my eye was the author divided the soldier’s load into three groupings: Battle load, existence load and protection and comfort load.
“Combat load” was the battle and existence loads,
“Full field load” was all three.
Before entering “close combat” the soldier could jettison the existence load “except bayonet or fighting knife, first-aid pouch and other essential items”.
What were these loads?
The battle load was defined as the individual’s weapon and ammunition and weighed 25 lb. This was still the era of the M1 Garand, although the M14 was just coming into service.
The existence load included emergency rations, medical items, canteen and canteen cup, toilet articles, one pair of socks, poncho and bayonet or fighting knife, and weighed 20 lbs.
The comfort load included a sleeping bag, extra clothing and “personal gear” and weighed 10 lbs.
The existence load was carried in the combat pack. Presumably the protection and comfort items could be stored in the sleeping bag carrier.
An illustration in the article declares that clothing and other personal items can be carried inside the sleeping bag roll.
Oddly, it shows a shaving kit as existence load, which you would think was a toiletry and comfort or personal.
Thus either load could be removed by just releasing a few clips. Full field load was therefore 55 lbs. Compare this to the 1877 load in a previous article.

The idea of dividing and packaging the gear as several categories is interesting, although some of the details can be challenged.

Why is the bayonet/ knife and first-aid pouch not part of the battle load? These would probably be carried on the webbing anyway, so would not be jettisoned with the combat pack/existence load.

One of the canteens on the webbing and part of the battle load makes sense, but the canteen cup is less vital and should be a pack item. 

Essentially this approach has the soldier carrying two packs, the contents of each having different functions and different priorities.
You can create a similar system by having a large pack and one or more smaller packs that clips onto or fits in the larger.
It is a set of ideas to play around with.

Kephart: Dressing for Cold Weather

Following the description on Kephart’s Autumn Outfit, I will add his recommendations for dressing for cold weather:

Cold Weather Clothing.— The main fault of most cold weather rigs is that, paradoxically, they -re too hot. You go out into '“twenty-some-odd” below zero, all muffled up in thick underwear, overshirt, heavy trousers, and a 32-ounce (to the yard) Mackinaw coat. Very nice, until you get your stride. In half an hour the sweat will be streaming from you enough to turn a mill. By and by you may have to stand still for quite a while. Then the moisture begins to freeze, and a buffalo robe wouldn’t keep you warm. Conditions vary ; but for average winter work put on two suits of medium weight all-wool underwear, instead of one heavy one, moleskin trousers (heavy Mackinaws chafe), wool overshirt, Mackinaw shirt worn with tail outside, so it can easily be removed and worn behind you when not needed, the rubber “overs” and socks mentioned above, a Mackinaw cap with visor and ear flaps, large, old kid gloves, and thick, woolen mittens held by a cord around the neck. In buying Mackinaws get none but the best quality. Cheap Mackinaw is shoddy, or part cotton, and soaks up moisture like a sponge. A good grade sheds rain so long as the nap is not worn off; then it can be waterproofed by the lanolin process. It is noiseless, and stands rough usage. The natural gray color is best, except where the law requires you to wear red for protection against gun-bearing fools. (About this, saith our friend Crossman: “Yes, some fellow might take you for a deer if you wore an inconspicuous color in the woods, but what would you? He’d take you for a zebra if you wore green and yellow, or shoot you for a forest fire it you wore flaming crimson.”)
In the previous section referenced to above Kephart writes:
Rubber Footwear.— I never wear waders for summer trout fishing, but early spring fishing is a different matter. Wading stockings require special hobnailed shoes to go over them. I prefer a pair of light hip boots and separate wading sandals studded with nails. This combination costs less than the other, is more durable, and the boots by themselves are serviceable for general wet weather wear, marsh shooting, and the like. Light rubber boots of first-class quality will last as long as the common heavy ones, and have the advantage that the legs can be turned inside out clear to the ankle for drying. They need not weigh over 3 or 3½ pounds to the pair, and the sandals a pound more — together no more than the high-topped leather boots that I have been objurgating. Have them large enough for both socks and oversocks, then your feet are not likely to get “scalded”. Carry a couple of “eezy-quick” menders, and have a rubber repair kit among your possibles in camp.
For hunting big game In wet snow and slush the best footwear is a pair of rubber shoes with ten-inch leather uppers, weighing a bit over two pounds. They should have heels, if you go into a hilly country, and rough corrugated soles. Dress the feet with soft woolen socks, and over these draw a pair of long, thick “German socks” that strap at the top. The latter are warmer than the loose felt boots worn by lumbermen, lighter, more flexible, fit better, and are easier to dry out. The rubbers should fit properly over the heavy socks, neither too tight nor too loose, but especially not too tight or you risk frostbite! Thus equipped, a still-hunter is “shod with silence.” For cold weather the vital necessity is suppleness of the foot, and here you have it.