Daysac Backpacks

Recently I have been jotting down some thoughts on minimalism. I will share some of these observations in a future blog.
This is quite a useful exercise, since often it identifies deficiencies in what I have. It also inspired me to organize my current possessions more logically.

A Room of Rucksacs

One field I started thinking about was that of bags.
Part of my bedroom floorspace is taken up by several rucksacs, and more lurk on top of the wardrobe or in a nearby trunk.
Different models for different purposes: The Alaskan Packboard I built that I used to tour Germany, Holland and Austria. The internal-framed pack I acquired for Iceland, since I did not trust airline baggage handling with my packboard. The DPM Northern Ireland Patrol Pack and large Bergen that I treated myself to. The most travelled pack is one that converts into a soft suitcase and has six large external pockets.


A large rucksac is a useful thing to own, and like me, you may own several, each suited for different purposes.
A smaller bag, such as a daysac, is likely to see more use, however. It may be used weekly, or even daily. I notice many women carry small rucksacs in lieu of a handbag.
Smaller packs are less well represented in my collection. The one I have used most recently is rather small, and somewhat tatty. I acquired this from lost property at work (yes, it is amazing what people leave and never come back for). It only has one external pocket and I have had to repair the shoulder strap junction at least twice.
Elsewhere, I have told the story of why my beloved North Face daysac is no longer with me. The multi-pocked pack I brought to replace it proved to be far too small for my trip to Kos.
Given the use it will get, it makes sense to invest in a good quality daysac. Sadly, I have very little budget for such things these days. I have spent several days web-searching for a new daysac, only to find what I did not want or could not afford.
Following my recent article, I wanted something neutral and natural in colour rather than the ubiquitous black. A search for khaki backpacks turned up an item on ebay. Price had dropped and was within my budget. For that money, I would risk it.

The Sunrise Khaki Backpack

The bag arrived several days ago, and I am pleasantly surprised.

Compass and Mil-Tec Daysacs

It is a little bigger than I expected. Dimensions quoted on websites can often be misleading.
Quoted dimensions were 47 x 31 x 21 cm, and size was quoted as 31 litres. That latter figure seems to be external volume rather than internal capacity.
The bag is probably ideal size for a general-purpose daysac. When I am travelling my daysac serves as my cabin baggage or carries the items I may need when sightseeing. This bag is of a size that most airlines will permit as cabin baggage. When moving between locations the daysac needs to be small enough to fit inside my larger rucksac, so I have only one bag to carry and watch.
Colour is a nice khaki-coyote brown shade, not so light that it will show up dirt. The inside is lined with a black nylon/polyester[?], so better finished than I was expecting. This, however, is my single, very minor gripe with this bag. A black interior makes things more difficult to located within a bag. More manufactures should utilize lighter materials such as the bright lime green used inside my girlfriend's theft-resistant bags.
Unlike my old North Face, the main compartment has a padded pocket that can take a laptop computer. I could have used this a few months ago while I was hot-desking!
Interior is large enough to take my soft-core pack with plenty of room left for other items.
The main external pocket is quite large. The interior seems rather bare. This could use some internal pockets for smaller items. One can only expect so much for this price, however. Interior pocket is something I may add when I have time.
On each side is an open-topped, elasticated pocket suitable for carrying a waterbottle or collapsible umbrella.
Very little needed to be done to bring this pack “up to speed”.
The shoulder straps each have a plastic D-ring, so adding a snap-link to the left one took an instant.
The zippers needed pull-tails, and short length of “desert-camo” paracord I had proved to be ideal length and colour. The main compartment zipper is two-way, that of the exterior compartment one-way.
The other addition I made was to coil a wallet chain around the grab-handle. This is a trick I have borrowed from my girlfriend's theft-resistant bags. When stationary, feed the chain around a chair or table leg to deter sneak thieves. Obviously, this precaution does not mean you can wander off to the toilets and leave your bag unattended! Even if you added a lock, a thief could cut through part of a bag if left unwatched.
This is not the highest quality bag you can find. You can easily spend ten times as much on a daysac. Whether or not you will get ten-times the bag is for you to decide.
This is all I can afford at the moment, and nicely demonstrates some of the features you might look for in a bag, and some of the modifications you might consider.
This particular bag is has the brand “Compass, Sunrise Bags” and model number “BPC108-KK”.

Mil-Tec MOLLE Multi-Pocket Backpack

While I was researching this blog, I discovered something new about my small black multi-pocket daysac. Other than its small size, this really is a nice bag, well-made with lots of nice features.
Mil-Tec 20 litre MOLLE backpack
The bag is made by “Mil-Tec” in Germany. I discovered the same design is produced in two different capacities, 20 litres (“small”) and 36 litres (“large”). There is also a 14 litre kid's pack.
A number of sellers offer copies/knock-offs of the Mil-Tec design, many claiming to be “30 litres” The dimensions claimed for some of these suggest that even the exterior volume of the bag is less than 30 litres.
I suspect that I in fact brought the 20 litre version of the Mil-Tec, assuming it was the same as the “30 litre” bags being offered elsewhere.
The genuine 36 litre Mil-Tec can be found for quite a reasonable price, although out of my current budget, sadly. Based on my examination of the 20 litre version, the 36 litre may be a very good choice for anyone looking for a slightly larger daysac or patrol sack.

Camouflage: Light, Dark, Neutral and Natural

Camouflage is about “not being seen”, which is one of the most fundamental of survival strategies. If you cannot become “invisible”, you may be able to appear insignificant, uninteresting or become easily “lost in a crowd”.
You may have spent good money on the latest designer camouflage, but it is of no use to you hanging up at home. The most likely source of threat is other human-beings, and you are most at risk when other people are around.
Miyamoto Musashi tells us in the “Book of Five Rings”:
“In all forms of strategy, it is necessary to maintain the combat stance in everyday life and to make your everyday stance your combat stance. You must research this well.”
In clothing terms, what Musashi tells us means your everyday wear should be selected with a mind to decreasing your “visibility”.
Camouflage-patterned clothing does have a place in a prepper's wardrobe. There are, however, times when using camouflage-patterned clothing may be counter-productive. In cosmopolitan cities, clothing in camouflage or camouflage-like patterns may attract little attention. In other parts of the world, its use may attract unwelcome attention, or get you wrongly identified as military, paramilitary or a poacher.
Even if restricted to unpatterned clothing, there are strategies that we can adopt that will still decrease our visibility.
In previous blogs, I have touched upon a concept that might be called “camouflage without camouflage”. One can make oneself less observable by using a mix of non-camo-pattern clothing.
By using a variety of shades and hues, the basic identifiable human-shape can be broken up and become harder to distinguish. I have advised that you select clothing items in neutral and natural shades and colours.
While this remains good advice, a little more thought needs to be given to the system and some additional explanation may be warranted.

What is a Neutral Colour?

“Neutral colors are muted shades that appear to lack color but often have underlying hues that change with different lighting. Examples of neutral colors include beige, taupe, gray, cream, brown, black, and white. While neutral colors are not on the color wheel, they complement primary and secondary colors.”
On this blog I have stressed “neutral and natural”. Not all colours classed as neutrals are suitable for concealment.


Regular readers should already know that “black is NOT a camouflage colour”.
In the movies, the bad guys, and often the hero will be dressed in black. It looks great on screen, and makes the actors stand out. This is exactly the opposite of the effect we want our clothes to have!
Even at night, black is to be avoided. In many partially lit conditions, black can be too dark, and stand out. Seldom is it dark enough for black clothing.
The special forces in Vietnam who dyed their gear black knew the colour would soon fade to a more useful dark grey.
Pure black clothing also tends to show the dirt, so you might like to rethink its usefulness as general wear.
If you want a dark suit for weddings and funeral, buy charcoal-grey rather than true black.


White is another colour that stands out and should be avoided. Like black, white really shows up any dirt.
The only time to wear white is when there is snow on the ground.
White garments used as snow camouflage should be uninsulated. If they are warm, you will be tempted to wear them all the time, they will quickly become dirty and will no longer be effective as snow camouflage.
Improvised Snow Camo
Obviously snow-camo should be unlined and of a material that is easily laundered.
Avoid white underwear if you can. Outer clothing can get damaged, and being exposed may expose you. Select underwear in neutral and natural tones.
If you have to wear a white shirt at a formal occasion, you may need a white undershirt to avoid the colour of the undergarment showing through.
If you have to wear a white shirt for work, carry a neutral colour scarf  or keffiyah you can cover it with when outdoors.


Not all shades of blue are neutral. Some that are neutral are not that natural. Neutral shades of blue or blue-grey can work in a winter or urban environment.
Light blue is generally a “cold” colour and can be used in the snow. Some snow-camouflage patterns use light blue and white to break up the shape.
Watch some nature footage of polar bears in the snow and ice and note how much the terrain appears blue, grey or blue-grey. Interestingly, the bears often appear yellow-white.
In an urban environment, light blue is often encountered as faded or mid-blue denim. Light blue is a good colour for a button-up shirt.
Darker blues are probably less useful for concealment. A blue blazer is supposedly an essential in a gentleman's wardrobe (I don't have one!). If you want one, select a neutral shade of navy. If nothing else, it will at least go better with whatever other colours you may wear with it.


Many animals have lighter colouration on their undersides. This makes the shadow that their bodies cast less distinctive and is an example of counter-shading. The animal appears less three-dimensional and blends in better with the surface that it is upon. Behaviours such as crouching low further reduce the shadow, and the animal will often remain immobile while it thinks it is observed.
Interestingly, many aquatic or amphibious animals show an abrupt change from light underside to darker upper. When swimming near the surface the dark upper makes the animal very difficult to spot. A predator looking up from beneath will find the light underside difficult to see against the sky seen through the water surface.
A light underbelly, or clothing to simulate it, is of little use to a human, since we spend a significant portion of our time upright and bipedal.
Keeping close to the ground and remaining still is good tactics, however. If you are concerned with being observed you should never be reluctant to crawl if necessary.
An interesting example of trying to apply counter-shading can be found in the book “Second World War British Military Camouflage”, p.27-8 by Isla Forsyth.
Solomon J. Solomon was one of the early pioneers of modern camouflage. During the First World War he proposed “alterations to [British] soldiers’ uniforms to reduce their visibility, such as the darkening of the soldier’s cap and the lightening of his trousers.”
Upper surfaces catch more light, and correspondingly, need to be darker. Body areas that are commonly thrown into shadow need to be lighter.
Watch some videos of soldiers in action, and you will see they often appear as man-shaped blobs, darker than their surroundings. Modern combat gear often uses exactly the same pattern for headgear, torso and legs. The chest area is often shaded by the position of the arms, yet often the equipment worn here is actually darker! Even in desert environments, soldiers wearing black or woodland-pattern body armour or load-bearing gear are still seen.


When considering camouflage, a lot of attention is paid to colours and patterns. More attention should be paid to shade, light and contrast.
I have advised you to select items in natural and neutral shades, but how dark should they be?
If you have to hide in a dense wood, particularly at night, a mix of clothing items in medium or dark shades of natural and neutral colours may serve you. There will be lots of shadows, so use them. Camouflage is about behaviour as well as colouration.
Suppose you leave the wood to move across a neighbouring field. How well will your dark and medium-coloured clothes serve you then?
Even at night, the surfaces you move over may be relatively light. Grass and hay may reflect any available light, even that from the moon and stars. If you go prone, you may appear as a dark blob that attracts investigation. During the day you may be even more conspicuous.
Most of us spend a significant proportion of our time in urban areas. Even at night, this is an environment with many light or medium-shaded surfaces, and many areas are illuminated by artificial lighting. Dark outfits may make you stand out.
Discussions of camouflage often mention shade and shadow. Level of illumination in the surroundings is often not given that much attention. Clearly, if you are in a shadow, you are illuminated less, but it should be clear by now that light level has a much wider significance to camouflage and concealment.
In really deep shadow, what you wear probably matters little. There is no light, or more correctly, there is none escaping. Not all shadows or unlit areas will be this dark, however.
Stronger light can have interesting effects on concealment. Suppose someone is wearing a sand-colour outfit and lays down in a grass field on a sunny day.
You might think that someone in yellow would be easy to spot in a green field. One thing that would prevent this is that shade is more significant than hue. If the sand-coloured clothing appears a similar shade to the grass at the viewing distance, the figure can be over-looked. Another factor is that light materials reflect. Sunlight hitting the grass causes them to reflect green light. This green light may in turn be reflected from the light-coloured cloth, causing it to appear to have a green tint.
Effectively, your world should be viewed one of light and shadows.
Some areas are “shadow-dominant”. These include deep forests and jungles, and poorly-lit building interiors.
“Illuminated” areas include desert, open fields and many urban exterior areas.
This status may be changed by time of day, weather or season. At night, a wood may become even more shadow-dominant, yet in winter it may become better illuminated.
In shadow-dominant areas, clothing of medium-shade, with some dark items may be most effective. In better lit areas, lighter clothing may be less conspicuous.
Your movements may take you from light to dark areas or the reverse, so what should you wear? Having to deal with both light-dominant and shadow-dominant areas may explain why most attempts at a universal camouflage pattern have only ever proved partially effective.
In the early days of camouflage experimentation, a number of double-sided items were fielded or tested. Some had a spring-summer pattern on one side and a autumn/snow pattern on the other. Jungle/desert and green-dominant/brown-dominant were also tried.
The needs for the different patterns were thus either separated by season or by geography. As far as I know, no double-sided garments based on patterns for differing illumination levels have been tried, which is a shame.

Camouflage Patterns

For camouflage patterns for illuminated areas there are a number of options. Some of the patterns designed for desert use may prove useful in a wider range of environments. Make sure the pattern has sufficient element-size and contrast to disrupt shape and outline. Off the shelf, “tropentarn” seems to work well, although I would wish for a grey rather than green in the pattern.
Tropentarn Camouflage
Some urban patterns are good, although some use too much white or are too greyscale and could use some browns and tans.
Some newer patterns such as multicam use lots of colours and small elements, resulting in garments that appear a single colour beyond a few metres. This very much depends on the material and print. I have seen some camouflaged gaiters in these patterns that look like they might work. Polycotton trousers and shirts in the same pattern tend to blob-out at a relatively short distance. Generally I would avoid these patterns. They may be no more effective than cheaper single-colour items. Many of these patterns are also too green-dominant for a multi-terrain pattern.
For shadow-dominant terrain, you should probably consider “older” patterns such as US m81 woodland, flecktarn and British DPM. Canadian Cadpat is presumably intended for deep woods, although the green looks a little bright in some examples I have seen. Unfortunately, these patterns vary considerably. Browns can range from natural-looking shades to chocolate. Greens also vary and the lightest shade may be either light-green or a more useful tan. Contrast between elements and overall darkness may also vary.
Many of these patterns have too much green. While green is good for summer woodland and lush jungle, a pattern with more browns and greys would be better for other dark environments and seasons.
You may also encounter fashion/police patterns consisting of blacks and dark greys. These are too dark and lack sufficient contrast between the shades to disrupt the shape.
Ways to improve camouflage
Personal Camo-min

Camouflage without Camouflage

As was stated earlier, you cannot always wear a camouflage pattern. You may not have a garment such as camouflage parka (see below) with you.
How can you become less distinct wearing monotone clothing or “civvies gear”?
The first step is to mix it up! Different items should be different colours or shades. Obviously, what you select should be in neutral and natural colours suitable for your surroundings. Select medium and light shades unless the illumination level requires different.
Whilst you may not be able to wear a camouflage pattern, other patterns may have a disruptive effect, providing they do not use bright or primary colours. Some garments have pockets, collars or panels in contrasting colours, which may break up the shape.
You probably know that several thin layers of clothing will keep you warmer than a single thick garment. You can also regulate your insulation more easily by removing layers. What many people do not appreciate is that a layered clothing system can be used to change your appearance and for camouflage.
For example, on the street you may be wearing a light-tan hoodie over a dark-grey bomber jacket. If you move into a darker area, you may move the bomber jacket to being your outer layer.
More layers often means more pockets. Thus you can carry a spare scarf or more than one hat, letting you further change your appearance.
Some hoodies or jackets are reversible. Generally I think you are better off with several thin non-reversible garments. They will cost you less and offer you more options.
If your garment is lined, ensure the lining is a neutral and natural colour too.
There is another advantage of having a wardrobe that is mainly neutral colours. Neutral colours go with just about anything. Most suggestions for a capsule wardrobe are based on having a versatile selection of garments in neutral colours.

Face and Hands

When James Bond wants to skulk around at night, he wears a black polo-neck. He never bothers to cover his face nor hands. He must leave a lot of fingerprints!
There is little point using camouflage if you do not cover your face and hands. Irrespective of your skin-shade, human skin can reflect. Hidden troops are often detected from the air since someone always has to look up at the spotter aircraft. Even at several thousand feet, an uncovered human face pops out and cries “Here we are!”.
Skin can be darkened and matted down by various means. Do not overlook local resources such as dirt, soot and soil. These do nothing to conceal your hair. Face-paint or dirt are also difficult to remove easily if you want to later appear innocuous.
You should carry suitable head and face coverings. A full-face balaclava/ski mask in a medium to dark shade of grey or brown would seem a good choice. However, some cops have been know to label these “ninja masks” and treat their possession as intent if they feel inclined.
Various face and head coverings can be constructed by combinations of suitably coloured and patterned bandannas, neck gaiters, scarves and knit-caps.
Gloves will be needed, and of a suitable shade and colour. Olive meraklon glove liners are a good start. Fingerless leather gloves (aka “recondo gloves”) are worth considering in milder climates. They provide some protection to the hands when climbing or crawling, so you may be more inclined to “go low” when needed. They can be found in tan-brown, or you can cut down old gloves that are surplus to requirements.

The Lower Body

There is no reason why your lower body has to wear a camouflage pattern that matches that of the upper body. The legs are a different shape to the torso and larger than the arms, so may need a different pattern to disrupt their identifiable shape. Using a different pattern for the legs may help break-up your overall recognisable human shape.
How well the concept of countershading can be applied to the human form probably warrants further investigation. Having your trousers lighter than your upper body is worth considering.
Desert patterns are suitable for trousers. UCP/ACU might also be worth trying for leg camouflage.
If we are considering monotone garments, our choices are probably various neutral tones of light-blues, greens, tans and greys.
Many style guides for capsule wardrobes recommend trousers that are lighter than the jacket.
Personally, I am wary of light-blue outside urban or winter environments. I actually don't own any jeans, wearing cargo trousers instead. Much of my EDC is in the pockets,
Greens are good for many rural settings, but may stand-out a little more than some other colours in urban areas. Some shades of green will stand-out in rural areas. Even neutral shades of green are less common in certain rural areas or seasons that one might expect.
Tans and greys are your most versatile choices for monotones. Tans and browns have the advantage that mud does not show up so much on them. On the other hand, the contrast of mud on grey trousers probably has a disruptive effect that breaks up the leg's shape.
Gaiters should be of a suitable camouflage pattern or neutral and natural colour. Since these are seldom worn in town, bows of textilage can be added to break up the shape. Ensure any materials used for textilage will not soak-up water.
Langdon-Davis had a lot to say about the distinctive appearance of black army boots. Footwear should be natural and neutral colours and matt finish when possible.
Black socks are supposed to make your legs look longer. I am not sure that works without black shoes and dark trousers. I generally wear boots so the socks are not visible.
Update: Recently I attended a funeral and noticed my boot tops were visible when seated, at least when wearing my suit trousers. Own at least one long pair of black socks for formal occasions. 
In town I often wear white cotton sport socks since they are cheaply available in quantity. In the field, spare socks may be used as extra carrying pouches tied to the outside of a pack. These should be neutral and natural colours.

Camouflaging Gear

The institutional military mind likes uniform, regular and symmetrical.
This may be part of the reason why personal camouflage has waxed and waned as a priority for soldiers.
Improving the camouflage of an item becomes unpopular when the additions must be stripped off for every parade or inspection. If you are outside of the military, then such restrictions will not limit you.
Previous blogs have discussed methods to improve the camouflage of your backpack. Similar methods can be applied to a chest-rig, contributing to the camouflage of your torso. Base colour for a chest-rig should be light or a desert pattern, since this area will often be shaded.

Camouflage Smock

A useful technique is to have a “camo-smock”. You put it on when you need a camouflage pattern. Roll it up and carry it when you want to appear non-military. You can carry more than one, and wear the most appropriate for the conditions.
Your bug-out outfit should include an item that can be used as a camo-smock.
My main camouflage item is a German Tropentarn desert-parka. Get this as big as possible so that it can form a camouflaged outermost layer over anything you may be wearing. There is a nice liner for it that makes it into a nice cold weather coat.
Without the liner, it is unlined so can be worn for camouflage in relatively hot weather. There are vent zips under the arms.
Being a parka, it comes down to mid-thigh so will fit over anything I might wear under it and partially conceals my legs and body shape.
Sleeves are long enough to conceal my hands and keep the wind and rain off them.
If this is a “field only” item, add some bows of textilage to the sleeves and shoulders.
How to add camoflage bows of textilage
The pockets of the smock/parka include items that can be used camouflage my hands, neck, face and head. Little point in camouflaging yourself without covering your extremities!
For darker conditions, I have a several metres of camouflaged scrimm that can be worn over the parka like a poncho. Bows of suitably covered material or scraps of camouflage cloth have been tied to the scrimm.

Tools for Wafer Locks

Decades ago, someone got locked out of their desk. My name was volunteered as “someone who knows about that sort of thing”. Not sure what that actually says about how my colleagues thought of me!
I had never actually picked a lock at the time, but I had read about how it was done so was game to give it a go. I gathered a selection of screwdrivers, paperclips and small allen keys and set off to see what I could do.
My first experimental jiggle of the lock caused the entire plug to separate from the lock. I used a long screwdriver to turn the catch at the back of the lock and the desk was opened.
This doesn't really count as my first lock picking, but it was a useful experience. A couple of years ago the plug of the front door did the same thing. I didn't have a long screwdriver, but the metal/nail file of my Swiss Army Knife was long enough to reach the back of the lock and open the door.
The reason this story has come to mind is that recently I was once again asked to use my knowledge in an official capacity. An important item was locked in a drawer and the key-holder was home sick. I was asked to get the item, no matter what damage was incurred by the cabinet.
Naturally, I reached for my EDC picks, not having any other tools available. Much to my annoyance, my bogotas and snake-rake had no effect. No feedback from the lock, and I could not feel any pins moving. I managed to open the cabinet by levering the top with a screwdriver. It got the job done with surprisingly little damage.
Personally, I was a little miffed thatI had been unable to pick the lock. On the other hand, I had gained considerable kudos from my colleague and manager that I had managed to retrieve the vital item. A nice example of the positive uses of entry techniques?
The challenge and mystery of this lock remained. Was I simply having an “off-day”? I have done little picking recently, and what little I have done is with familiar locks. The next day I tried by skeleton keys on the lock, suspecting it might be a warded design.

Know Your Enemy

With my colleague recovered, I asked to see the actual key. The lock is a wafer lock, the key with teeth on either side.
I have never knowingly picked a wafer lock. I suspect a couple of locks I have successfully raked have been wafers. General opinion seems to be wafers can be picked the same way as pin-tumbler locks. They supposedly have lower manufacturing tolerances, so should be easier. I have even seen them dismissed as “pickable by paperclips” or as obsolete (although still commonly used).
None of this made me feel any better about being beaten by this lock. When I had the chance, I would try and pick this lock again, and try some of the other tools I have acquired.
As chance would have it, the video channel of ukbumpkeys ran an item on the KLOM Wafer Rake kit, which is available at a very reasonable price. This has just arrived today and is very nice. This has a turning tool, 14 double-sided rakes and a fifteenth tool that looks like a half-diamond. The turning tool has a coated handle and the other tools each have a plastic grip. The tools can be used with the turning tool or on their own like jiggler keys.
KLOM Wafer Rakes
I will let you know how they work on the wafer lock.

Gathering My Forces

While I was enjoying my morning coffee I was looking at other potential solutions to this lock. Several years back I purchased a set of jiggler keys that I had found virtually no use for. What is not made clear on many sites is that jiggler keys are mainly intended for use on wafer locks. Other keyway types tend to include wards that prevent them entering, or worse still, prevent them being removed after.
The cabinet wafer lock is double-sided, which suggested that a full snowman pick might be useful. I had forgotten about it, but my first cheap Chinese lock pick set included a full snowman. (My Serentiy Plus kit included a half-snowman that I had ground down from a full double-ball rake)
Some lock pickers list snake-rakes as their go-to tool for wafer locks. I was tempted by this Rytan Rp-14 tool, but alas, horrendous overcharging  for international postage!
Rytan RP-14

Buyer Beware!

While looking for other ideas, my search engine threw up some surprising results.
One item, described as a “40-piece lock picking set” has the following illustration:
Mystery lock pick sets
Absolutely no attempt to show or describe what is inside the cases! The closest you get is this photo:
Not a useful photo of a lock pick set
This shows the ends of the picks, but not the ends most lock pickers would be interested in!
Even more worrying was that searching for lock picking kits threw up these as options:
Not lock picks
Lock picks barely included
Most of the tools shown in these photos are for key-removal. Admittedly, the description does mention that the set has key-removal tools, but it also mentions lock picks, of which their appear to be none. Just to add to confusion, the set of key-removal tools includes a training padlock and set of turning tools.
The kit in the second photo does include some lock picks, although they are hidden inside the credit-card shaped container. I have several of these credit card kits, and they tend to be variable. The first set that I brought from a UK supplier is actually very nice. Other sets I have since acquired are of lower quality, being poorly finished or made from thick (yet surprisingly tough!) steel. They can be nice picks if you are prepared to put in the time to grind and polish them, but a newcomer to lock picking may not know this.
I have to wonder how many would-be lock pickers buy the above kits and waste hours of their time trying to pick with key-removal tools!

Morse Code Memory Card

A short blog today, reminiscent of the “free gift”-editions of the comics of my youth.
How likely are you to need Morse code in the modern world? Probably not very much! But as preppers we like to prepare, just in case.
As I have aged, my memory has got demonstrably worse. Also, stress can do odd things to your recall. Therefore it is not a bad thing to have a printed copy of the Morse code, no matter how well you can remember it on a good day.
Morse Code Tree
Morse Code list and Sun Navigation
The Morse code “tree” was taken from here. I like this particular version better than some of the alternates. The tree is useful when translating from Morse code.
The alphabetical list is more useful when converting a message into code. The large and bold print of this version makes it easy to use.
Also included is an aide memoir for navigating by the sun with a watch. While I have figured direction by the sun and time on several occasions, I can seldom remember the modifications for the hemispheres.
I suggest you print both images out, paste them back to back and laminate them.
They can be sized with art programs such as GIMP. I made mine 7 cm high so the laminated card could fit inside the red pouch that is part of my EDC.
EDC Pouch Contents
The card could also be used as a fan to nurture the beginnings of a camp fire.
As a bonus, a Morse code table using peaks rather than dots and dashes.Mountain Morse Code


SERE Pin and EDC Bypass Knife

I have been promising to write about the SERE pin for some time.
SERE Pin and EDC Bypass Knife


The SERE Pin is an implement for escape and evasion applications. It is very easily concealed. You can push the shaft down the seam of a garment, for example.
The SERE Pin has four applications:
• It acts like a key to lift the pawl of handcuffs.
• It can disengage the double lock mechanism of handcuffs.
• It can serve as a shank to separate the teeth of a ratchet mechanism of handcuffs.
• It can be used to shim or lift the pawl of a zip/cable tie.Handcuff Internal Mechanism

For an explanation of these terms I will direct you to my older posts on double-locking and shimming.
To disengage the double-lock or handcuffs, use the long, curved end of the tool. In the illustration, one would introduce it at around the 4:30 position on the keyhole and use it to push the double-locking mechanism (the red part in the image) upward.
Once the double lock is disengaged, the pawl can be shimmed or lifted.
To lift the pawl, insert the short hooked end of the SERE pin at around the 11 o'clock position and use it to lift the lock bar (green component) inward.
To shim, insert the long part of the tool between the teeth. You may need to tighten the bracelet a little to achieve this. If the shim becomes caught you may have to straighten it a little.
SERE pins are easily fabricated from bobby pins. Do not make the short hook too long. I recommend rounding off the corners and bevelling the tips.

EDC Bypass Knife

The second item on today’s “show and tell” is a work in progress.
After I wrote yesterday’s blog, I set about creating a bypass knife that was compatible with my EDC kit.
Basic design requirement is that it should fit within the pouch that carries part of my EDC. Whether this is where I will carry it, I have yet to decide.
EDC Pouch Contents
As a lock picker, I acquire any windscreen-wiper inserts whenever I come across them. For this project I selected a narrow one that already ended in a partial point at one end. Width is about 3 mm.
The point was tapered further with a hand-file and a Dremel tool. One side was left reasonably straight, the other tapered more so the point is offset.
Once the point was formed, the end of the insert was cut 10 cm from its end. The butt end was rounded and smoothed.
The point was smoothed and polished with several grades of glass-paper.
It is possible that the point needs to be made more acute. The only bypass knife I have is a cheap Chinese one. My tool is already better finished than that! Also, I lack any bypass-knife-vulnerable locks to try it out on.
How often will I encounter a vulnerable lock I might need to use the tool on? I don’t know. This did get me thinking about other functions it may have. (Using it as a nail-cleaner probably shouldn’t count!)
The butt end may serve as a skeleton key. The width is virtually the same as the shanks of my bunch of skeleton keys. It has already opened a small warded luggage lock I have.
The pointed end could be used on the pawl of a zip-tie.
I can also confirm that the tool makes an effective handcuff shim. Worked better than I expected, if I am honest. It might be prudent to polish and smooth the rest of the shaft for such applications.

EDC Lock Picking and Bypass Kits

As regular readers will know, the lock picking contingent of my EDC is rather small:
— A pair of Bogotas.
— A small snake rake.
— A double-ended turning tool.
Bogota Lock Picks
Other items, such as the three-inch pocket prybar, may have applications in bypassing locks. When the barrel of my doorlock came out with my key, it was the long file on my Swiss Army Knife that was needed to open the door.
Today I will bring you two interesting videos on lock picking and bypass tools for EDC. Credit to Dean for directing me to the first one.
While I have done a bit of lock picking, I don’t have as much experience with bypass techniques as I might wish. When the zombies come, I will be grabbing my kukri, crowbar and brick hammer. Those will bypass a few obstacles!
Some thoughts on the suggestions:
— The plastic shim seems like a very prudent choice.
— I have never used them, but padlock shims might be worth having. I seem to recall padlock shims can be cut from soda or beer can material. The edges of these will probably be surprisingly sharp, so take care.
— I have a number of bobby pins in my general EDC pouch. These are in a bag with some paper clips and about a dozen safety pins. A few weeks back some of these safety pins were used to repair my girlfriend’s jeans.
— I have some comb-picks, but have not been able to open any locks with them. The same can be said of my set of jiggler keys, although I suspect the latter are intended for car doors since they are too large for all my locks. Most keyways I encounter have kinks in them, so the straight combs and jigglers would be difficult to insert or move within them. I think my Bogottas and snake are a more effective and versatile option.
— Similarly, my set of skeleton keys stays at home since large warded locks seem to be relatively uncommon. If long enough, a bypass knife may serve instead. The small warded locks often used on luggage can be popped by a variety of implements, including sturdy picks like the Bogotas.
Bunch of Skeleton Keys and Decoder
— My bunch of skeleton keys includes a decoder I made from a cut-out shape of soda can (top). I do not think I have tried it out, since I seldom encounter combination locks. There are ways to crack combination padlocks without a decoder tool, and I have used these at least once.
— A bypass knife seems worth having. My Serenity Plus kit includes one that came with a set of my Chinese picks. I cannot recall if I have ever opened anything with it. Most of my padlocks are not vulnerable to this technique. I plan to try making a bypass knife that will fit in my EDC.
Mini-Slim-Jim Dimensions
— The mini-slim-jim is interesting. Obviously this is too short to be used to open car doors. That is probably not a drawback given the number of vehicle vulnerable to slim-jims is probably decreasing every year. The mini-slim-jim is actually intended to bypass the latches of doors. The large notch on the tool is probably a legacy of its ancestry. Sparrows makes several sizes of slim-jim. They also make the “Hall Pass”, which is a credit-card-shaped tool in either metal or plastic. Southern Specialities offers their own design of tool for latches, the “Multipass”.
Sparrow's Hall Pass Southern Specialities Multipass Sparrow's Orion Hall Pass
I have tried making something similar out of an old plastic card. I didn’t have any success opening a door, but at the time I had yet to locate the correct dimensions. I am also now more familiar with the manual technique needed, so it might work better in future.
I have, however, managed to pop a latch using a TOK turning tool. This experiment seemed to indicate that a traveller hook hook may be a better way to attack a latch than a slim-jim. Being able to rotate the tool would have advantages. This is what the bent piece of music wire in the first video is intended for.
Sparrow's Traveller Hooks
I may try to fabricate a traveller hook hook that can fit in my EDC. Sparrows sell two sizes of traveller hook (also called traveller’s, travellers, shrum tool or travelling hooks). Auto-stores sell something similar as “O-ring pullers”. Skewers, ejector pins and music/piano wire can be used to fabricate traveller hook hooks. For reference, the Sparrow hooks use shanks 2.6mm (0.1 inch) thick.
Latches can sometimes be opened by threading a cord or wire behind them.

Adding a Pin to a Swiss Army Knife

The tools on a Swiss Army Knife sometimes end up performing tasks you never imagined! A few months back I went to unlock my front door, only to have the entire barrel of the lock detach and come away with the key! The metal file/saw proved to be ideal for reaching to the back of the lock and turning the bolt.
My girlfriend’s son had asked me why I always carry my SAK. Exactly for times like the above!

The Early Years

For the first few years of my early adulthood I carried a Chinese-made version of a Swiss Army Knife. I vaguely recall there were actually two, although I do not recall why I had to replace the first. To be fair, these were quite nice knives, with a good assortment of tools. The only problem I actually recall is a time when the corkscrew straightened out as I attempted to open a bottle of wine.
Back in those days, they were all I could afford, and they served well.
Once I had some money, I invested in a genuine Victorinox Swiss Army Knife (aka SAK).

Victorinox Champion

The model I selected was called the “Champion”, not to be confused with the “SwissChamp” that had become available a few years previously. The longer named Champion was less bulky than the Champ, lacking the pliers.
Swiss Army Champion
The seven-layer Champion was about the ideal maximum size for a SAK, and had a really useful selection of tools.
Sadly, my Champion was lost in an unfortunate chain of events that do not need to be told here. Even worse, the Champion had been discontinued, so I could not buy a replacement.
There was no ebay back then, so little chance of locating a second-hand one.
All the features of a Champion

Rise of the Ranger

As a replacement of the Champion, I selected a Ranger model. The most obvious difference between the two was the Ranger lacked a magnifying glass, fish scaler and Phillips screwdriver:
Swiss Army Ranger
• The Phillips screwdriver had proved useful at times.
• I don’t recall ever using the fish scaler/ hook disgorger, at least not for its intended purpose.
• I didn’t make much used of the magnifier either, although now that I am older and more decrepit, I suspect it might prove more useful. As an aside, the magnifying glass on the Champion was very cleverly thought out. Its focal length was the same as the magnifying glasses’ height. In other word, if you placed your knife on a map, the detail under the magnifying glass would be in focus. This may have been the case for other models that had the magnifying glass. I wonder if the same applies to the newer pattern of magnifier?
Since I wear glasses, an early addition I made to both the Champion and the later Ranger was to add the mini-screwdriver that fits into the corkscrew. Originally this tool was only included with the SwissChamp. They were sold as spares, however, so I acquired one. This has proved very useful over the years, often coming to the rescue of companions rather than myself. Half a lifetime ago I repaired the glasses of a grateful Swedish beauty in old Jerusalem.
Corkscrew Mini-tools
Victorinox now offer three alternate tools, each with a different coloured end.
I have carried the Ranger for many decades now. The lack of Phillips screwdriver is compensated for by the Leatherman Squirt mini-tool I also carry. If you are in the market for a medium-size (91mm) model SAK, the Ranger must be one of the best options. The Huntsman model is a good choice, but I have often found uses for the file/metal saw of the Ranger.

Swiss Army Knife Wiki

Recently I came across the Swiss Army Knife Wiki. This site is worth a look around.
Some interesting information on how to use the various tools, and some applications for them you may not have known. My Ranger had a Phillips screwdriver all along and I never knew! I discovered that the tip of the can-opener is actually intended for use with Phillips screws as well as slot.

Adding a Pin to a SAK

The original reason I have been thinking about Swiss Army Knives recently is that I came across a blog post discussing the pin carried in the handle scales.
Below is a video on possible uses for “needles” [sic pins]. The channel has many other videos on various features of Swiss Army Knives.

Even before I watched the above video, I was thinking about adding a pin to my Ranger. I own a number of very fine drill bits, so creating a channel for a pin would not be too difficult. I could probably add a pair.
I have lots of cheap pins. I decided to try and find the pins actually used, since they were probably better quality and the head looked a little wider.
A number of ebay vendors offered replacement pins for Swiss Army Knives. The one I chose got my money since they offered another idea. Included with the five pins was a small magnet. This magnet was sized to fit in the can-opener. With such a magnet, a pin could be magnetized as a compass needle.
The bits arrived this morning.

Fitting the Magnet and Pin

The 5.8mm magnet was a perfect fit for the can-opener. The vendor included the advice that the tool next to the can-opener usually needs to be opened before closing the can-opener with the magnet stored in it. If this is not so, the magnet tends to pull out of position, attracted by the neighbouring steel. Although stainless steel, the blades of a Swiss Army Knife are magnetic.
Magnet in Can-Opener
Finding a drill bit small enough for the pin was not a problem. Problem was most were too short to drill a channel as long as the pin. The other problem was my Ranger has solid scales. It lacks the airspaces found on some newer and alternate scales.
Drilling a channel deep enough and straight enough proved problematic, and inevitably the very fine drill curved and the channel exited on the inner side of scale. This actually proved to be fortuitous, allowing me to file a notch on the inner side for end of the pin to rest in.
I settled for adding just one pin for now. Most of the alternate positions for a pin are obstructed by the rivets the scales snap on to.
Ranger Knife Modified
My Ranger with pin added (blue arrow) and notches on scale (green arrows). If the balloon goes up, I am ready!

Other Modifications

Incidentally, the back scale of my Ranger has two additional non-standard features.
One is a chip, where an idiot friend used my knife as a bottle-opener without using the bottle-opener! I could fix this damage, but it is a useful reminder to be more cautious of whom I trust.
More useful are a series of three notches. The second is five millimetres from the first, the third 57mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57mm radius. The first and second are used to mark the circumference in five millimetre increments. Each millimetre of the circumference closely approximates one degree. Such a compass face can be used with various improvised modes of navigation.

The Soft-Core Bag

Today I am going to introduce what I call my “soft-core bag”. This is not a “bug-out bag”, although it could be included in the contents of one.
I have a number of bags and rucksacs, and there are certain items that I would invariably want in one if I was carrying it.
Stocking each pack with necessary items is not economically practical, however.
Perhaps, I thought, I should have a box containing the necessary items and potential alternatives. This was part of the solution, but I quickly realized many items could be packed together so they could easily be grabbed in one go.
I drew on the lists given in the previous post to select the current loadout.

  • Top left: A small first aid kit. This supplements the items I carry in my skin-level EDC.
  • Directly below the first aid kit in a dark brown camouflage bag is a rain poncho.
  • The white plastic bag beside the poncho contains a toilet roll. This has subsequently been replaced with a clear ziploc bag.
  • Middle top can be seen a bag of boiled sweets and a pair of warm gloves. These are sitting on top of a dark green all-weather (AW) blanket. You can see some of the shoelaces that are tied to the grommets of this. I intend to add a pair of silver space blankets too.
  • Top right, a red and black shemagh. This is a spare/additional shemagh, since I am often wearing one these days.
  • Bottom centre is my Advantage-camouflaged boonie hat.
  • Sitting on the boonie hat is a plastic bag carrying a small fire kit. This has two butane lighters, two nightlights, a 35mm film container filled with Vaseline-soaked cotton wool and a Fresnel lens.
  • Below the fire kit and to the left is an ACU-patterned headover which can serve various roles, including as warm headgear.
  • Bottom right is a one-litre Playtpus waterbottle. Sitting on it are a shoelace, hank of general purpose string, hank of green paracord and some braided fishing line wrapped around a piece of plastic (yoghurt carton) or a small tube.
  • Not shown: two supermarket carrier bags. I wear photochromic spectacles. If you do not, a pair of cheap sunglasses may be a prudent addition.

The whole collection packs into a draw-cord bag, as shown. Note snap-link added to one carrying cord.
This bag is lined with another plastic bag to provide better water resistance. Everything except the AW blanket, space blankets, shopping bags, poncho and water-bottle fit inside the waterproof liner bag.
The headover is folded into a pouch and used to contain some of the smaller items. This pouch, in turn, is placed inside the boonie hat. The folded shemagh is place with this.
Most of the pack contents are soft and crushable so no great genius at packing is really needed. Put the blanket in first and add the plastic bag of other contents. Put your water-bottle away from your back and ensure your poncho rides near the top of your bag.
Packed, but without water, the soft-core bag weighs about 1.3 kg. The volume of water I will carry and which water-bottle I will carry will vary with climate and anticipated conditions.
The soft-core pack is easily stuffed into a larger bag, immediately adding a collection of very useful items. On its own, it is a good bag to have for trips where you do not want to be bothered by a bag. It is light and low-density, and makes a pretty good pillow.
A quick glance inside the first aid kit. Items in this kit are consumed in preference to those in the skin-level EDC. Vaseline is good for chapped lips and other ailments.
The soft-core bag probably has more cordage than it needs, but I had some hanks already made up. This is a nice example of paracord carried using hojo-jitsu configuration.

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.

My Left Pocket

A common piece of advice is to re-lace your boots with paracord. The more thoughtful of you may have wondered about the wisdom of being in a survival situation with unlaced boots!
What is usually omitted is that in an emergency you are supposed to take the cores out of the cord, then re-lace your boots with the empty outer or some of the core cords. This assumes you did not buy the budget cord that doesn’t have particularly good cores!
Re-lacing your boots with paracord isn’t a bad idea. It cannot hurt. One day you may find yourself cold, tired and wet, your numb hands trying to unlace your boots, gut the paracord and then re-lace your boots. That sounds like something you may want to avoid if possible!
In my post on an EDC shopping list I suggested you add about two metres/a fathom/an armspan of paracord to your everyday carry (EDC). Or a pair of long, strong bootlaces, whichever you can acquire more easily.
The utility of this was expanded on in one of the links from my 4-4-4-4 article. In the event you missed it:

I had a quick look in the left front pocket of my trousers. The contents were:
  • One bandanna, various uses.
  • Disposable lighter, for emergencies.
  • A hank of paracord, roughly two metres.
  • A actual length of shoelace. I tend to pick up potentially useful bits of cordage! Useful for stuff that does not require the paracord.
  • A tubular spectacle safety cord. My habit of acquiring cordage paid off here. What I thought was a bit of shoelace turned out to be something very useful to me. If the situation requires, I can retrieve this from my pocket and add it to my glasses.
  • A couple of metres of cotton string. Saves the paracord for important jobs. Potentially could be used as tinder.