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Phillosoph

Kidney Warmers and Bellybands

Decades ago, when I first saw “Fists of Fury”, the scene above puzzled me. How did Bruce Lee’s character conclude the chef was Japanese just from seeing his undergarment?
The answer is that the Japanese are known for being fond of haramaki or “bellybands”.
Kidney Warmer/ Bellyband
The Germans are also fond of a similar garment. I have read of the Afrika Korps being issued “kidney-warmers”. The “Armed Forces of World War Two” by Andrew Molo clarifies:
“With the rapid drop in temperature at night, personnel wore a knitted woollen waist protector next to their skin, and a woollen greatcoat over their other clothing.”
I used to work with a colleague who had a German wife. I was apparently “mother’s wisdom” that you should wear a kidney warmer to keep your feet warm. Similarly, running around without socks could cause kidney and bladder problems.
Kidney warmer
It is interesting that diverse cultures in different parts of the world maintain that there is a link between kidneys and feet!
In a previous blog I mentioned that some American Civil War soldiers wore a flannel belt next to the skin.
Bellyband side view
“So what?” you may be asking. Many readers will own at least one set of long underwear. And sometimes the undershirt rides up and exposes the small of your back. A kidney warmer would have prevented this and also proved extra insulation.
Or perhaps, you are wearing a loose tee-shirt and find things can get a little drafty when the wind picks up.
Suppose you have to improvise cold weather clothing due to an unexpected change in the weather. Wrapping a spare scarf, keffiyeh or strip of material around your midriff could make all the difference.
Button around bellyband
There are a variety of styles of bellyband available. Some are elasticated tubes you either step into or pull over. Others are wrap-around and utilize velcro or other means.
If you have a snug-fitting tee-shirt or jumper that has seen better days, it should be easy to make your own kidney warmer to try the idea out.
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Phillosoph

Dressing for Bug-Out

When you reach for your bug-out bag (BOB), there are two questions that you should be asking yourself.
The first is: “Do I really need to go?” Escaping to safety is a meme that Hollywood has drummed into us. It makes a great movies, but in reality “stay put” is usually a more prudent survival strategy than “bug-out”.
That said, if the answer was yes, your second question should be: “What is the weather like?”

Clothes Maketh the Survivor

Your chances are going to be much better if you are dressed for the conditions that you are likely to encounter. With your bag should be a selection of clothing items that you may possibly need.
Let us work on the assumption that the survivor must fend for themselves for 72 hours.
Sadly, there is no single outfit of clothing that can handle all possible conditions, hence the selection.

Underwear: Unmentionables for the Unthinkable

Let us start at the foundation, the underwear:

Hot Weather Undies

Shorts

If the weather or climate is hot, your underwear can simply be shorts and t-shirt.
Swimming shorts are a good choice. Those made from synthetics dry very fast, simplifying laundry. I like the ones with a mesh-lining that keeps things in place and under control. If it is really hot, the shorts also function as outerwear. Wearing them is also handy if you have to ford a stream. A useful tip for underwear of all sorts is to have each set a different colour. This helps you keep track of which has been worn and which is clean. Two pairs are sufficient. A third pair is handy in case things go more than a couple of days.

Tee-Shirts

For the t-shirts, it is worth acquiring them in coolmax, since it is fast drying. Again, get two or three, and have them in different colours.
A pair of t-shirts in string-vest material are useful additions. In hot weather they stop cloth pasting to your sweating flesh. In cold weather they add an extra layer of warmth for very little additional load.
Sports Bra
A bra will be needed for them that needs them. I would imagine a sports bra would be a good choice for a bug-out situation. I have no experience wearing bras, so will offer no further advice.

Temperate Climate Underwear

For temperate conditions, we will need more underwear. We need to keep comfortable at night and on the rainy days, so will need something more substantial than what we usually wear at home or working indoors.

Long-Johns

You will need two pairs of long-johns. Polycotton are probably fine. You do not want underwear that is too hot in temperate conditions. Polycotton is relatively easy to launder.
Polycotton Long-Johns

Long-Sleeve Undershirts

You will need a pair of undershirts, preferably long-sleeved. Since your torso sweats more than your legs, have these in coolmax if you can. If you cannot get these, the same place that sold you the long-johns probably has long-sleeved tops in polycotton. Have each set of your long underwear a different colour.
Coolmax Long Sleeve
You can wear your temperate underwear with, or instead of, your hot weather items. If it gets colder than expected, wear both sets of long undies.

Underwear for Cold Conditions

If the mercury has dropped, you will need “proper” thermal underwear. In previous eras this meant wool. This is not so easy to find these days and may be beyond your budget. Modern synthetics are much easier to wash. My personal choice is a set of Brynje long-johns and a matching long-sleeve top. These have a mesh construction, and seem more tolerant of extended (multi-day) wear than more conventional construction.
If you are on a budget, you may be able to get along with a single set of thermals. If you live where winters can be expected to be cold, two sets are a good investment. On the other hand, if you live near the equator, thermal long-johns may be low on your list of priorities.
Your thermals can be combined with one or more sets of your temperate and hot weather underwear.
Not strictly “underwear”, a wool or fleece shirt or a thin jumper may be worn over the underwear.
During the Second World War and Korean War, American soldiers would wear their woollen uniform trousers under their cotton field trousers. The modern equivalent are quilted trouser liners. A variety of these can be found on army surplus sites.

Organizing Your Undies

These underwear items are fairly low bulk, so a set of each of the hot and temperate kit should be packed in your bag. Bagged up, this probably makes a comfortable pillow at night.
The set(s) of thermals, and the second set of hot and temperate underwear should be stored close to your BOB. Put on what is suitable for the day. Decide if you want to take the rest or leave some behind. Trouser-liners are more bulky, so only pack or wear them if you think they are really needed.

Outerwear

Ok, now you are in your undies. What else to put on?
This will depend on whether you expect the weather to be hot, temperate or cold.

Hot Weather Outerwear

For hot weather, your outer layer should be something like a medium-weight shirt. Lighter shades handle strong sunlight better. The shirt should be of generous cut, for air circulation. This also allows warmer clothing to be worn beneath it. It should be of a tight weave to resist mosquitoes and the wind. It should have long-sleeves that can be rolled down for protection from insects. Cotton or poly-cotton are acceptable for hot weather. Some of the newish synthetic microfibres may be sufficiently comfortable too. A combat jacket can be worn instead of a shirt, but you do not want something that is too heavy or too hot. Probably best to avoid lined garments. Have a spare shirt in your bag. The two may be worn together, as described previously.
For the legs, cargo trousers are good. They should be roomy enough to fit over trouser-liners and long underwear. Cargo pockets take your skin-level EDC kit. If these trousers are always with your BOB, your SHTF survival knife/ knives may already be threaded onto the belt. Whether to pack spare trousers is up to you. 
If the weather is likely to be variable, it may be prudent to pack a thin jumper and possibly a light jacket or field coat.

Temperate Outerwear

For temperate conditions, outerwear is the same as for hot weather with the addition that something like a field jacket is more likely to be being worn. The jacket should be large enough to fit over a fleece jacket and any additional layers of insulation you might don. Field jackets such as the M65 can be fitted with a detachable liner, which is worth having.
Fleeces are often seen worn as the outermost layer. They work much better if they are under something more windproof, such as a field jacket, waterproof or even just under a shirt.
Items such as tracksuit tops, hoodies and bomber jackets may be worn under or instead of the field jacket. The order of these may be varied to vary your appearance, which may be useful in certain conditions. Several thin layers of insulation are more versatile than a lesser number of thick ones.

Cold Weather Outerwear

If it is cold out, ensure that you have the liner for your field jacket. If a bomber jacket or similar has a liner too, so much the better. If it is cold, your field jacket will probably not be your outermost layer. Have a parka, and buy it big so that it will fit over your field jacket and anything else likely to be under it.

Insulation

I have talked about insulation. A common mistake is to use too much. A good rule of thumb is that what you are wearing should leave you feeling slightly chilly when you are stationary. You will warm up once you are under way.
The suggestions above constitute a layer system. A layer system is a useful way to customize your insulation level before you set out. Adding or removing items when under way may not be as practical as some writers make out. Try it halfway up an Icelandic mountain in a 60mph wind!
When on the move, frequently vent your clothing to remove humid air. When you stop, you can put on additional clothing or wrap yourself in a blanket, sleeping bag or poncho-liner.

Colours and Camouflage

In general, your bug-out clothing should be in natural or neutral shades. Camouflage gear may attract unwelcome attention in some parts of the world. Choose greys, browns, tans and dull greens. Do not buy underwear items in white. Avoid black items for outerwear, it tends to stand-out and gets hot in the sun.
Of course, in an emergency you may want to attract attention. Your BOB should include a hi-viz tabard or jerkin, preferably the type with reflectors. One of your shemagh, and possibly one of your warm hats, should be brightly coloured. On the subject of reflectors, a reflective device that can be fitted to the back of your rucksac is useful if you find yourself hiking down a dark road. Bicycle stores are a good place to look for suitable items.
German Desert Parka
If I do need camouflage, I have a German desert parka. Being designed for desert use, it is comfortable in fairly hot weather. It is unlined and has ventilation zips under the arms. I brought the biggest I could find so there is room for both air circulation and insulation. It is in Tropentarn, which is one of the better modern off-the-shelf camouflage patterns. It is long enough to cover most things I might wear under it. It is a valid alternative to a field jacket. Jackets like the M65 can be too warm for milder conditions. The desert parka can use the same liner as the German cold weather parka, so the garment is camouflage cover, field jacket and CW parka.
German Parka Liner
I can wear the desert parka when I need camouflage. It is easily exchanged for another jacket and stowed in a pack when I do not.

And When It Rains

That covers hot, cold and temperate. What about wet?
Every bug-out-bag should include a rain parka.
These have numerous uses. They are reasonably priced and will often keep both you and your pack dry. They are easily vented. They are quick to put on, although this can become interesting if there is a bit of a wind!
There are some situations where a raincoat is preferable. A raincoat is in addition to the poncho rather than an alternative. A good raincoat packs up small when not in use, yet is large enough to cover and keep dry all the clothing that is serving as insulation. For me, this means it should be large enough to fit over my desert parka in winter mode. In a tactical scenario a raincoat would fit under the camouflage layer but over the insulation. This is quieter, and also protects the rainproof from damage.
On the subject of insulation, remember a rainproof garment traps air so acts as both a windproof and an insulator. If you put a rainproof on you may have to take something else off if you are to avoid overheating. It is a good idea to vent clothing, even if using breathable waterproofs.
Simple, small-packing waterproofs became difficult to find for a while. Outdoor shops much preferred to sell more substantial and expensive breathable items. “Pac-a-macs” seem to be making a comeback on the internet, although many are in garish colours!
I have never had a problem with non-breathable waterproofs, since I understood about venting. I also discovered that even expensive breathable fabrics have a finite life. The way you discover that is up is you get wet!

Boots

It is possible you own more than one pair of walking boots. The pair you have with your bug-out bag should be suited to all-weathers and all-seasons. You may have to traverse rubble and debris. Save the lightweight walkers for summer trips. Boots should be already broken in. Personally, I like gaiters if I will be going cross-country.

Socks

You will need at least two pairs of socks, with three pairs preferable. Your feet are important. It is worth investing in good quality woollen socks for your BOB.
Sew a loop of ribbon to each so you can hang them on the outside of your bag to dry. Choose neutral or natural colours. You could use different coloured loops for each pair, although your nose will often tell you which set needs washing. Spare socks can be used as mittens or carrying pouches.

Gloves

You will want several pairs of gloves. Fingerless gloves provide protection when in the brush or scrambling over rubble. These can be used with merkalon or silk glove liners. Work gloves can provide additional protection or another layer of insulation.
In cold weather, better insulated gloves and/or mittens may be required. The pockets of my outdoor jackets usually carry at least one pair of gloves. Keep your other gloves in an external pocket of your pack, where they can be easily accessed.

Hats and Scarves

You will need a hat to keep the sun off. I like a boonie hat, myself. Whatever your choice, add a cord so the wind does not steal it from you.
For cold weather, I tend to favour a watch-cap or folded headover. It is worth carrying more than one of these. If it is really cold, you can double up on hats.
A tennis-headband may be useful in hot weather. A bandanna worn across the forehead is a possible substitute.
Bandannas, shemagh, neck-gaiters and a woollen scarf also have a place in your BOB or coat pockets.

Protection

A bug-out bag is there for emergencies and disasters. A dust mask may prove useful, as may goggles. Sunglasses also protect against snowglare. Kneepads should fit under the trousers. This is better for camouflage and air circulation.
In certain situations, head protection may be prudent. This may be a lightweight hockey or skateboard helmet, or a construction hard-hat.
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Phillosoph

Musketeer Cloak for Survival

Another night where the only good stuff on TV I have seen before. I remembered that the BBC series “The Musketeers” had been added to box sets. I think I had missed the early episodes when they were first shown, so I downloaded episode one and started watching.
As it turned out, I remembered quite a bit of the first episode, so must have started watching part way through the first one. Good fun, however.
According to some sources, a cloak with arm-vents is called a “mandelion”. This is often also defined as being waist-length. The cloaks in the series appear to be around knee length.
The costumes of the musketeers in this series is interesting. It features a pauldron on the right shoulder and is mainly leather. Think “Mad Max” meets Dumas! No idea as to the historical accuracy, but looks good. I wonder how uncomfortable it was in the sunnier scenes.
What did grab my attention this watch through was the design of the cloaks worn by the musketeers. According to some web-sources there were at least two different cloaks used. A lighter weight, light blue cloak was used in “parade” scenes, a heavier, darker blue in other scenes. In some scenes the cloaks appear to be hooded. In the episode set in the “Court of Miracles” Portos wears a brown cloak sharing some design features with the musketeer cloak. Cloaks with similar features appear worn by other characters in later episodes.
The distinctive feature of the cloak is that it has two long arm vents so the cloak resembles a long tabard. These are usually shown open, but the long line of buttons suggest they can be closed so the cloak can be worn in a more conventional fashion. Presumably these slits can be partially unbuttoned too. Unlike the tabard, the cloak has a full length opening down the front. This too has a long line of buttons, and the fold-over of cloth suggests when closed it may share some of the features of a double-breasted greatcoat. While it is hard to make out, the rear part of the cloak may have a waist-height buttoned vent for use when riding. As one might expect, the collar of the cloak is substantial and can be turned up to protect the neck. In warmer conditions the cloak is shown worn on the left shoulder, with a cord passing under the right armpit.
Some patterns. I suggest the rear side of the side pieces be sewn to the back part. The wearing of a rapier seemed to necessitate a second side vent. A cloak could be constructed by joining a semi-circular back piece to a rectangular front section. In such an instance it may be prudent to continue the top of the front section back to create a vented yoke, rather like a trench coat.
The merits and possibilities of a cloak for survival have been discussed on previous posts. One advantage is that it is sufficiently roomy that any of your other cold weather items can fit beneath it. For a modern version two-way zips might be utilized. For the arm vents I would suggest poppers be used, allowing a closed vent to be more easily opened. Seventeenth century clothing often featured closely spaded buttons, so a modern cloak may need less poppers than the buttons used on the costume items.
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Phillosoph

Bush Shirts.

You may have an emergency kit or bug-out bag ready packed, but what clothing do you have stored with it? Your emergency kit should include an outfit of clothes suitable for travelling. This must include underwear, outerwear, footwear, headgear and insulation suited to any season. There are many possible choices, some better than others. What are our best options, particularly if on a budget?
For most of the nineteeth century the US Army wore a dark blue woollen uniform. This was considered suitable for all climates, regions and seasons within the US. In practice the material and colour were uncomfortable and impractical for the hotter months and latitudes. Durability was also an issue. Troops often returned from campaign with uniforms in a very poor state. The blue woollen uniform was also poorly suited for the various menial tasks a soldier might be called on to perform.
Troops on campaign were, however, allowed considerable latitude when it came to clothing. During the Geronimo campaign some infantry in Mexico and Arizona are known to have marched wearing only their army underwear of undershirts and cotton drawers. (Uniforms, Arms, and Equipment: Headgear, Clothing, and Footwear by Douglas C. McChristian) Historical accounts mention soldiers on campaign wearing their “overalls” as an alternative or replacement for uniforms. The overalls in question were a two-piece alternative to the stable frocks mounted troops were issued. Mounted troops were required to conduct stable duties twice a day. Horse hair and dust would have rapidly fouled the blue wool uniforms so troops on stable duty wore either frocks or overalls of white cotton duck garments over their blue uniforms. These overalls and smocks saw use as campaign wear or unofficial uniforms. The white colour was less than ideal, but a few weeks of campaign often turned them another shade.
Officially, the US Army remained resistant to issuing a summer uniform. When regulations were relaxed to permit the wearing of a white summer uniform, the soldier was expected to pay for the garments out of his own pocket at whatever prices sutlers asked. It was not until the 1880s that a summer uniform was issued. Quartermaster General Holabird ordered surplus shelter tents to be made into coats and trousers. Experiments with dying the canvas brown also proved successful. The uniform was clearly intended to serve as a summer uniform and campaign wear. The jacket was of blouse or sack-coat style, rather than a stable frock coverall. I have seen it suggested that the canvas uniform was designated a fatigue item so troops would not have to pay for them from their clothing allowance.
Jump forward about half a century and things come full circle. World War Two saw fatigue-duty clothing being used as hot weather combat wear. By the Korean War this had become common practice and “fatigues” became synonymous with hot-weather combat dress.
When selecting outdoor gear it may seem logical to copy what the army uses. After all, the army spends millions developing and testing gear, and surely wants our troops to have the best possible. Sadly, no! If this hypothesis was true, why do different armies produce different solutions to the same problem? Why is gear changed and replaced with such frequency?
If you study the history of, say, US combat/ field jackets, you observe a repeating cycle. Something practical is designed. After a few years in service it is noted the practical item is not that smart looking. A new, smarter replacement is adopted. Troops complain the smarter item is not that practical, so a replacement is designed, and so on. This cycle dates back well into the blue woollen uniform era. The army wants practical field and work wear that still looks soldierly. (This trend can be seen in a number of books on the history of US Army uniforms. Several of the “U.S. Army Uniforms of…” series by Shelby L Stanton are a good starting point) The US Army currently seems to be in a “non-practical” phase. Trousers are cut too narrow to fit over knee-pads or to allow good air circulation. Shirts intended to be worn under body armour have no camouflage on the torso, with tight-fitting sleeves that do nothing for shape disruption and air circulation. Camouflage that does little to hide the wearer.
As preppers, survivalists or outdoors-people, looking neat and soldierly is low on our list of priorities. We want versatile, practical gear that hopefully will not break the bank.
As I have mentioned in the previous post, for many conditions, jackets are too warm, particularly if lined. This holds true for many designs of combat jacket. As might be expected from the introductory passages, an unlined fatigue jacket is a possible option, if you can find such a thing at a reasonable price. More readily available are medium or heavyweight shirts, which we will designate “bush shirts”. A pair of cargo trousers and a bush shirt over suitable underwear is the start of a very practical clothing system. Notable is that the upper garment of US Army fatigues was originally designated a jacket, but troops were usually required to tuck it into their trousers. Eventually it was re-designated a “utility shirt” and redesigned with shirt-type cuffs.
If you now jump to googling “camouflage shirt” you will discover most of your hits are tee-shirts, which are not what we are looking for. Those that are not tee-shirts tend to be pricey!
Forget about camouflage patterns for a while. Smocks and other camouflage measures will be dealt with in other posts. For the moment we will be satisfied if our bush shirt(s) is a low-signature “neutral or natural” colour. Google “khaki shirt” and you should discover a wide variety of choices and colour shades. The true green coloured are best reserved for summer or jungle use. Similarly, very light khaki shades may be best kept for bright environments such as desert. This still leaves us a wide choice ranging from light tans to olive-brown. Mid to light greys and possibly pale olive are also acceptable shades.
Whatever shirt you opt for, buy it larger than you would usually wear. In cold weather that space allows you to wear more insulation under the shirt. In hot weather that space allows air to more freely circulate. Your shirt should also be long-sleeved, for when insects bite and thorns come scratching. Here is a good place to repeat a piece of advice from the Victorian explorer Francis Galton: “When you have occasion to tuck up your shirt­sleeves, recollect that the way of doing so is, not to begin by turning the cuffs inside out, but outside in-the sleeves must be rolled up inwards, towards the arm, and not the reverse way. In the one case, the sleeves will remain tucked up for hours without being touched; in the other, they become loose every five minutes.” Try it! He is right!
Most of the potential bush shirts you will encounter will be cotton or poly-cotton.  Microfibre shirts are becoming more widely available and often with a similar price tag to cotton. These are breathable synthetics, so should be quicker drying.
Other features are up to the buyer. A pair of practical breast pockets are useful, although your trouser pockets should be where your primary EDC gear is carried. The shirt is also your nightshirt, so overfilled pockets may be uncomfortable. A “traditional” shirt collar can be turned up to further protect the back of the neck, although since your outfit should include a neckerchief, shemagh or scarf this is probably moot.
Your bush shirt(s) can be customized, should you feel so inclined. Reinforcements can be added to the elbows and possibly the shoulder area too. Elbow patches should not hinder the sleeve’s ability to be rolled up or stay up. Breast pockets may be covered by pack straps, so sleeve pockets are a useful addition. These should be long enough to hold a pen or pencil. Poppers may be preferable to buttons. Vent zips or holes under the armpits can be added for increased ventilation. Additional pockets can be added to the lower part of the shirt, although these will not be accessible if the shirt is worn inside the waistband. If the shirt is worn outside the waistband the sides may be vented to allow access to a belt-worn knife or pistol. If desired, a bush shirt can be converted to a pullover style by sewing up the lower half of the front opening. This can reduce drafts around the midriff and keeps biting insects out.
In many conditions your bush shirt will be your outermost garment. When it gets colder it is an additional mid-layer beneath a jacket or coat. It may also be your nightshirt.
While I was planning this article, I came across the following passage in the Boy Scout Handbook (1911) “It is well to carry a spare shirt hanging down the back with the sleeves tied around the neck. Change when the shirt you are wearing becomes too wet with perspiration.”
Tying a jumper around your waist was standard practice when I was a schoolboy. The jumper tied and draped over your shoulders is a familiar 1980s icon. Carrying and using a second shirt this way is something quite different, and potentially very useful. If not worn in this way the spare bush shirt should be kept somewhere easily accessible, such as the outer pocket of a pack. The merits of being able to change out of sweaty gear were addressed in the last post. If the weather turns colder you can wear both shirts. The spare shirt can also serve as an emergency face or head covering or as a scarf. A wet shirt can be hung down the back, or the back of the pack, to dry. This is one of the reasons we choose neutral or natural tones for clothing, even undergarments. Drying laundry can act like a signal flag!
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Phillosoph

The Layer System

I plan to make some posts on clothing. Before I do so it is appropriate that I address the commonly encountered concept of “the Layering System”.
Many websites and books pay lip service to the Layering System. The problem is that this is usually oversimplified into a “lie to children” that omits important facets.
The typical version goes something like: “Your clothing needs to be in three layers. The under layer (buy some wicking underwear), the mid-layer (we sell really nice fleeces!) and the outer layer (have you seen our Gore-tex range?)
Not technically false, but also lacking a lot of information you should also know.
The most important concept to grasp is that it is not the clothing that keeps you warm, but the air that the clothing traps. Several layers of thin garments may keep you much warmer than a single thicker (and possibly heavier) layer. The best insulation is still, dry air. Most materials that we call insulators serve to catch and hold such air.
Underwear.
I have addressed the topic of underwear in a number of other posts, so I will be brief here. Underwear is not just for wicking sweat off your skin surface. It is also there to prevent your body soiling the outer layers of clothing. Clean clothing traps air more effectively than that clogged up with oils, salt and other crud. Undergarments should be selected with of washing and quick drying properties in mind. Thin items will dry quicker than thicker. If it is very cold wear multiple thin layers of underwear. Carry a spare set of underwear. Depending on climate this may be simply a tee-shirt/ vest and a pair of underpants. Kephart tells us to change into our cleaner set for sleeping. If your underwear becomes sodden from exhaustion, change into the drier set. Use the dirty set to give your body a rub-down before donning the cleaner. Whenever practical, give the set your are not wearing a rinse or a wash. It may be prudent to change first if the set you are wearing is the dirtier.
Mid-layer.
This should actually be “mid-layers!”. A thick fleece jacket or jumper can only be on or off. This may mean a choice of too-cold or too-hot. Many of the mid-layer garments sold in outdoor shops tend toward being overly insulated. If your mid-layer is actually several layers of thin garments you have a more versatile system. This is likely to be warmer and lighter. Individual layers will be easier to wash and quicker to dry. Chances are you have a number of old shirts or thin jumpers that can be combined as very effective mid-layers. Minor damage or marks are not a problem in this role. Shirts may be more comfortable as mid-layers with the collars removed.
Your body may be sweating as well as producing heat. You want to get rid of this water vapour before it can condense, or even freeze. Even if there is metre-thick snow on the ground, vent your clothing occasionally to remove humid air.
Outer Layer.
The mid-layer(s) trap a layer of air that your body warms up. The outer layer prevents the wind blowing this warm air away, or the rain soaking into the mid-layers and displacing the air. Fleece jackets are often seen worn as the outermost garment. While this works with some models or under certain conditions, you will also find in other situations the wind will cut right through them.
You actually need a choice of outer layers. A rainproof is great if it is actually raining. In other conditions, even the breathable models may become clammy inside. Regularly venting your mid-layers is an important habit to acquire, even if you have top of the range breathables.
The more you wear rainproofs, the greater the likelihood they will be holed by thorns or other hazards. A few decades back “pac-a-macs” were fairly common. Rainproof garments that folded up into a small pocket or pouch when not required. These now seem hard to find and modern rainproofs tend to be more substantial, bulkier and more expensive. I have to think this may be a step backwards. On the other hand, some of the rain-ponchos on offer seem to be very light, compact and reasonable in price. They can also be used as groundsheets, shelters and so.
If you are not wearing your rainproof, you still need an outer layer that will retain the air your mid-layers are holding. Most cloths of a sufficiently tight weave can serve as a windproof. Most of your likely options are going to be cotton.
Cotton is not ideal as an outdoor material. If wool gets wet it retains most of its heat. Wet cotton is cold, and drains the body of heat trying to dry. While this is relatively well known, outdoor shops are full of cotton items they will try to sell you. Most military surplus items you may consider will be cotton. Cotton is easier to print in camouflage patterns, although the wide use of cotton in certain armies predates their adoption of camouflage. Most civilian, non-specialist items you might use instead of the above are also likely to be cotton.
You probably cannot avoid having some cotton items as your windproof layer. Sensible precautions are keeping a fire kit and rain-poncho on you. A change of clothing, carried in a waterproof bag, is also prudent.
For the lower body, cargo trousers and gaiters are a reasonable choice. The former can be modified as suggested elsewhere.
Combat jackets may seem a logical choice for the upper body. Their main problem is that in many conditions they tend to be too warm. You may be better basing your clothing system around a couple of bush-shirts, much as Kephart did. Field jackets and parkas can be added if the mercury drops.
A good bush-shirt may be cotton, but may also be found in fast-drying microfibres. Bush-shirts are a topic I will discuss in more depth in a future post. Relevant to today’s subject is that any shirt (or jacket) you plan to use as an outermost layer should be selected with room to wear several layers of insulation underneath. It should be at least a size larger than your usually wear. You should be able to comfortably wear it over a fleece jacket or NATO sweater, or their equivalent in thinner layers. In hot weather that space lets more air circulate.
As an aside, wearing a shirt over any insulation is a useful dodge to remember should you become separated from your jacket. A similar idea was to wear a combat jacket or bush-shirt over a waterproof jacket. This protected the waterproof from damage and reduced the noise that such a garment might make. It also might contribute to visual camouflage too. Although the outermost layer of clothing might get soaked, the waterproof kept the inner layers and wearer dry.
A few final points about the Layer System. The idea is that you can regulate or comfort and temperature by removing or donning garments as needed. Some means to carry unworn items will be needed. Stopping to change may not be practical. The rest of the platoon may not want to stand around while you redress, especially if your garment is under a mass of LBE and body armour! A common error in cold climates is to over-dress/ over-layer. If you are mobile, your level of clothing should ideally feel slightly chilly when standing around. Static roles such as sentry duty or manning foxholes will need more insulation. In any climate, do not neglect ventilation.
Categories
Phillosoph

Battle of Jangsari: Camouflage

Recently I watched the movie “Battle of Jangsari”, set in the Korean War. I enjoyed it, and many of my readers may do so too. So as not to spoil your enjoyment, I will try to avoid any possible spoilers that I can in the following passages.
The photo below shows the North Korean troops that are sent as reinforcements. Notable on their first appearance is the bundles of grass/ straw/ rushes that each infantryman has sprouting from his back.
At first glance I thought this might be an earlier example of the device described as in a previous post as the Vietnamese Camo Ring. Subsequent scenes show the foliage attached directly to their shirt/ blouses. The intention is the same, however. If an enemy aircraft had appeared these infantrymen would disappear.
“Osprey Men-at-Arms 174: The Korean War 1950-53” includes the following passage (p.37) on the North Korean summer field uniform:
“The uniform had reinforcing patches on the elbows, trouser seat and knees, and frequently single or double rows of horizontal ‘zigzag’ stitching around the cap and across the shoulders, chest and upper sleeves, which were used to hold leaf camouflage. ”
For some of the movie the South Korean (ROK) soldiers wear captured North Korean uniforms. They do not use camouflage materials, but the means by which they can be attached are clearly seen in some shots. In these examples the “stitching” appears to be relatively substantial cord.
A side view of foliage attached to a machine-gunner’s back. Some North Korean troops also have foliage attached to their upper arms, although the means of doing this is not clear in the film. Presumably loops might also be sew to the sleeves. Many of the North Korean soldiers are also wearing short capes of what appears to be camouflage net. In the movie this was not clear and appeared as an irregular shape of mossy green-grey on the upper chest. In the stills this is much more clearly seen to be net.
The Russian-style shoulder-boards worn with the North Korean uniforms appear fairly impractical. Men-at-Arms 174 notes that these shoulder-boards tended to fade less than the rest of the uniform, making them stand out as regular shapes and thus detrimental to camouflage.
Also note that none of the actors have camouflaged their helmets, leaving a distinctive, recognizable shape. As I have pointed out in recent posts, shape disruption and texture contribute far more to camouflage than colour. Notable in this movie is that the North Korean uniforms work far better in the terrain shown than the green American fatigues worn by some characters. The Osprey publication states that the North Korean summer field uniforms was “olive khaki shade faded rapidly to a light yellowish hue”. Actual appearance varies in the photos since the soldiers of both sides get realistically dirty.
Minor spoiler follows: In one scene the first sergeant stamps on a mine several times and chides the student soldiers, telling them it is an anti-tank mine and ten of them could run across it without setting it off. This is not strictly true. The mine shown is an American M15 that is claimed to need a force 159 to 340 kg (350 to 750 lb) on pressure plate to set it off. “Taming the Landmine” (p.51) by Peter Stiff describes how repeated passages over an anti-tank mine would “settle” the trigger mechanism of some models until they became sensitive enough to be set off by a pedestrian, donkey cart or bicycle tire.

Categories
Phillosoph

In Praise of Shemagh and Keffiyeh.

Previously, I wrote about the fallacy that most face masks would protect you from infection. Inevitably, most of humanity has ignored the facts and taken comfort in superstition. Somewhere along the way members of our kleptocracies have realized just how much money can be made selling ineffective protective measures to the gullible.
Wearing face covering has become a requirement on public transport and in certain buildings. The stated purpose is to prevent carriers infecting other people, which admittedly has some merit. My objection here is in the lack of enforcement. As a microbiologist and a scientist I believe any safety equipment should be used properly. Masks serve no purpose if they do not cover the nostrils or are worn on your chin! I also, unreasonably, believe that laws and rules should apply to everyone. Being overweight and being unable to stop stuffiing your face on the bus is not a legitimate reason to go unmasked.
I have taken to wearing a shemagh/ keffiyeh when I travel on public transport. Looking like a pissed-off Palestinian shows my contempt for the farcical handling of the situation. Does it look intimidating? Probably, but I don’t really want people getting close anyway. Perhaps I should carry a rucksac too; I might get the whole carriage to my self!
On a more practical note, I have discovered a new respect for the shemagh. I had been thinking of it as a large banana, (or possibly a tea-towel!). The weave of my shemaghs is very loose, allowing the easy passage of breath or perspiration. On one particularly sunny day I kept my shemagh on when back on the street. It successfully kept the sun off my bald dome, and I was not bothered by perspiration running down into my eyes. It also helped keep my earphones in. Being cotton, dunking the shemagh in water may be a good way to keep cool in hot weather.
I have discussed the need for facial camouflage on other pages. I believe I have also mentioned one of the purposes of the ninja ensemble is to muffle the sound of breathing. The shemagh can meet these needs. In cold weather the shemagh may help prevent your condensed breath revealing your position. Something to experiment once it gets colder.
A brightly coloured shemagh might be used for signalling. One of mine is red and black, although in honesty this a bit dull in colour for signalling or location. Might be good in snow. Most shemaghs are white and have little virtue as camouflage save in snow. Dying them more tactical colours may be possible. Most “tactical” shemaghs are green/ olive drab, but except in jungle this is not as versatile and useful a practical colour as brown. I have one of brown and black, but ideally brown and sand or brown and grey would be most useful.

Tying the Shemagh

You will find a number of videos on how to tie a shemagh on-line. My usual method is to take the short, right end up near my left temple. Take the long end round the front, round the back and tie the ends together. I have been using a reef knot, but may experiment with a simpler overhand (half a reef!). This may be easier to untie when necessary. Tied correctly, the shemagh forms a hood and face-covering that can easily be lowered or raised. Down, it makes a useful neck gaiter. Position the part over your head so it does not expose a large area of forehead.
Another simple tying method can be used if you just need to cover your lower face, such as in the event of a dust storm. Fold your shemagh diagonally and place the widest/ tallest part over your mouth and nose. Take the ends behind your head and bring them around the front and tie them together under your chin. This gives your lower face area an irregular texture that contributes to shape disruption.
You should always have a bandanna or two on your person. A shemagh is a very worthy addition to a coat pocket or rucksac.
I am prone to migraine attacks, and one of the remedies is to breath in carbon dioxide-rich air. Carbon dioxide is a vasodilator so this increased blood flow to the brain. Note that this is not the same as re-breathing from a paper bag. You need to take in fresh oxygen as well as an increased CO2 level. One way to achieve this is to cover your mouth and nose with your hands. This is a little inconvenient, and my fingers get in the way of my glasses. Last night I grabbed my shemagh and knotted it around by lower face. As the migraine attack eased off, I was amused to note that I was wearing the two garments that pretty much summed up my lockdown: a dressing gown and a shemagh.