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Phillosoph

Foundation Survival Kits: The Next Level

One of the blogs that I have often referred back to has been that on Foundation Survival Kits.
In that article, I suggested seven items that formed the foundation of a useful emergency kit.
These were:
• A water bottle
• A canteen cup or mess kit
• A fire kit
• A survival knife
• A blanket or poncho‑liner
• A rain‑poncho
Each of these items may also be seen to represent a theme.
In this blog, I would like to expand on these themes and reflect on what further items may be acquired to expand these capabilities.

Water

Water is the cheapest category to address. Buy a couple of bottles of soda. Once you have drunk the soda, use the bottles for water.
Soda bottles are incredibly tough and flexible. If water freezes in a bottle you can bash it around to break up the ice, with very little chance of damaging the bottle enough for it to leak.
When there is a chance that water will freeze, carry any water containers with the cap or drinking tube downwards. Ice floats, so the lowest part of an inverted bottle will be the last to freeze solid.
The soda bottle is a superior choice to more expensive, smaller, heavier and more rigid military plastic canteens. Unlike a military canteen, you can squeeze some of the air out of a soda bottle to reduce the noise of water sloshing around.
The only thing wrong with most soda bottles is the small diameter cap. It needs a little more care when refilling. It also makes it a little harder to shake broken up ice out of the bottle.
The alternative or supplement to a soda bottle is a hydration bladder. Most of these come with drinking tubes, allowing you to drink while on the move. There are drinking tubes for soda and other plastic bottles, but the ones I have seen seem to cost as much as some models of bladder with a tube.
Being very flexible, water bladders allow air to be squeezed out of them to reduce any sloshing noises. This is useful if you want to move tactically, are hunting, nature-watching or just want some peace and quiet.
Soda bottles and large hydration bladders are a great means for carrying water in your pack.
You will need some means to carry water with you when you are not wearing your pack. However, you do not want to constantly carry such a weight of water that the effort increases your water consumption.
There are hydration bladders that can be worn as an independent backpack. You cannot wear these when wearing another pack. Switching to them usually involves some unpacking or detachment.
Depending on conditions, one or two litres on your person will be about right. This may be a soda bottle or smaller, or one or two of the smaller capacity hydration bladders or bottles.
Ideal would be a bumbag/waistpack with a bladder of about 1.5 litres. Sadly, these seem rare at the moment and the examples you can find have a high price tag and are not offered in neutral or natural colours.
See the knots book for a method to construct a carrier for a soda bottle.
“Work from the outside in”. Use the water in your pack in preference to the supply you carry on your person. This policy also applies to other consumables, such as matches, emergency food and so on.
You should invest in some water purification tablets for times when you cannot heat‑treat your drinking water. It is a good idea to have a good stock of these.
There are various brands of water sterilization pumps. Given the importance of clean water, these are worth considering if they are within your means. Viruses may pass through filter systems. Water so produced may still need to be heat or chemically treated.

Cooking and Food

The topic of heat-treating water brings us to the item of a cooking vessel. I have recently written on the subject of cooking vessels, so have little to add about them here.
A cooking vessel will be more useful if you also have some form of stove.
This theme also takes us to considering the provision of food, be it rations or that procured by hunting, fishing, trapping and gathering.
An emergency is no time to worry about the diet! The food in your bug-out bag should be rich in calories, carbs and sugars. It should require very little water, cooking or preparation. It should have a long shelf life when stowed in the bag.
Ideas along these lines have been discussed on various pages on this blog.
If the 72-hour timeline of an emergency is accepted, theoretically your bug-out bag only needs half a dozen MREs or three HDRs, if you have access to them. Obviously, discard unnecessary mass such as the gum or duplicate cutlery. This is, however, an expensive option!
Your food may need to be in a bag or net that can be hung from a tree out of reach of bears. Other items that will attract their interest, such as toothpaste, cooking vessel and refuse will also need to be cached with the food. Keep about 16 metres of suitable cord with your bear bag/net.
MREs may include flameless heating pouches. You will still need your mess kit for water treatment.
Going without a cup of tea for a couple of days will not kill you, but a small brew kit may be good for morale. A hot drink may make the difference in cold weather. In addition to tea and coffee bags (vacuum-packed?), add some variety such as instant hot chocolate, soup and stock cubes.
Inside your mess tin is a logical place to carry a brew-kit.
Living on wild foods is more likely during a longer duration survival scenario.
After plant matter, fish are your most likely source of wild food.
If venturing into the wilds, carry at least ten metres of braided fishing line and a dozen or so no.12 hooks, each already attached to a foot or more of monofilament line. A third to half of those hooks should have some form of lure, such as mackerel feathers. This fishing kit gives you the capability to set up a night‑line.
If you wish, have a small fishing kit packed into something like a 35mm film container that you can easily add to your EDC. A more extensive kit, including bulkier lures, more line and copper or brass wire may be packed in a small tobacco or Altoids tin and carried in your pack. A frog/fish gig head is worth adding to your larger fishing kit, but may need to be modified so it can be used on a field-made shaft.
For active hunting of small game, your priority purchase should be a catapult/slingshot. Potentially, this could also be used to drive off threats such as feral dogs, or knock fruit or nuts from trees. If you do not have such a device, become a petrobólos and remember the ancient art of throwing sticks and stones.
Do not get a model that is too elaborate or bulky. Regularly inspect your catapult for deterioration of the bands.
Like any weapon, this will be of little use unless you put in the practice.
Your first hunting firearm should be .22 rifle, preferably semi-automatic and suppressed. A useful number of rounds may be carried for very little mass and bulk.
Openly carrying a firearm may not be prudent in certain locations. A takedown design that can be stowed in a pack has merit, if it has adequate accuracy. A small game rifle/shooter/ammo combination needs to be capable of reliably taking squirrel‑sized targets.
Many small game and birds have sharp eyes and are particularly attuned to movement. A semi-automatic allows for less body movements that might spook your target.
If forced to use the .22 defensively, the best tactic is accurate rapid fire, which also favours the semi-auto.
Examine the iron sights that come with your .22 rifle, and invest in a good set of iron-sights if you find them wanting. Learn to use your iron-sights, before you buy a scope. If/when your scope gets damaged, you will need those iron-sights.
A survival .22 may be required to defend its user or in an emergency to take targets larger than is customary for this calibre. Both of these possibilities favour high-penetration performance. Hollow‑point “hyper‑velocity” loads such as CCI Stingers are mainly intended for small game. For the survival weapon, the preference is for more conventional high‑velocity solids. These not only waste less meat, but generally cost less!

Fire

The fire kit is another low cost item, if you are sensible. Hold off from buying fire-starting gadgets and exotic tinder materials.
The best means to light a fire is a naked flame. Buy some disposable lighters.
Have a lighter on your person at all times. I keep mine in my trouser pocket so that it stays warm. Have a couple of lighters in any fire kits you construct. Add a lighter to each of your outdoor coats, handbag, and other bags you commonly carry.
You should have a lighter or fire kit in your car, boat etc. Do not assume the dashboard lighter of a vehicle will work when you most need it. The car battery may be dead.
For each fire kit, have a water‑tight container or two for tinder. Fill one with cotton wool and Vaseline. Some folks prefer wax‑soaked cotton string. The Vaseline and cotton wool that you do not use to make tinder are handy things to have around the house anyway.
To this fire kit, you can add some birthday cake candles and a Fresnel lens. (Remember that your compass may also have a magnifying lens that can be used for fire‑starting).

Toilet Paper and Hygiene

Toilet paper is a low cost, low mass and relatively low-bulk item. Carrying more than one roll is not a bad idea. Better to have it but not need it than…
Toilet paper leads us to the theme of hygiene. I have already written about washing kits and medical kits.
The common mistake with wash kits is to carry too many items, in too complicated a bag or roll.
My wash kit fits in a small mesh bag, with the toothbrush, deodorant and paste in a mesh pencil case, since it is convenient to have these separate.
Travel towel/home-made tenugui, soap in draw-cord pouch, razor(s), container of shampoo, microfibre facecloth, mini-nailbrush, small mirror, spare comb. Very little else is needed.
With medical kits, it is easy to go for two many specialist items and overload your kit.
Insect repellant and sunscreen may be needed. EDC Pouch Contents
You will probably have several medical kits. I have a few items in my EDC pouch, and a more extensive kit with my travel bag. “Intermediate” kits are in various daysacs and the soft‑core bag. You should have a more comprehensive kit at home, in your car, truck, boat, aircraft etc.
Returning to the toilet roll(s). Alcohol hand sanitizer is not the magical panacea that some people think. It is, however, a useful item to keep with your toilet roll(s). You will also need some means to dig a cat‑hole.
This brings us to the theme of tools.

Tools

In the preceding article on foundation survival kits, I recommended the acquisition of a knife with “a full-tang fixed blade that is single-edged and not less than seven inches/18 cm”.
Knives and other tools are heavy, and can be very expensive. It is very important to have a realistic understanding of what you need.
You will see certain survival experts claiming that you do not need a big blade. Buy the little (larger profit margin) knife they use, available from the website… They fail to mention they have an axe with their pack, or a full film crew to support them.
In a survival scenario, the primary role of your knife is efficient shelter and fire construction and the ability to easily work any available materials for these purposes. You need a knife that is an effective multi‑purpose wood‑working tool.
Hence, my primary choice is a kukri.
If on a budget, machetes and billhooks will often do the job as well as any expensive custom knife.
A big knife can be handy when butchering large game, although in a survival situation you are more likely to be living on plants, small game and fish. To supplement my kukri, I carry a fixed-blade Mora knife.
Swiss Army Ranger
Another useful acquisition is a good pocket tool such as a Swiss Army knife. This forms part of your EDC, and may be the only tool you have when you really need one.
You will also need the means to resharpen your tools.

Digging

Digging tools need deeper consideration than they are sometimes accorded.
Hopefully the survivor will not have to be digging foxholes and bomb-proof dugouts.
More likely reasons to dig include:
• Edible roots and other foods
• Catholes and deeper latrines
• Disposal of biodegradable waste.
• Fire pits and trenches
• Pit traps
• Drainage gutters to keep water flooding your campsite: About 20 cm deep and as wide as your shelter
Indian well: Half a metre deep and wide
• Survival stills: About a metre across and nearly that deep. Will probably need two per person.
• Bank‑bunk/Den/Emergency dugout: A shelf to hold a sleeper, dug into the leeward side of a hill or bank. About two metres long, one wide and two thirds deep.
• Various types of snow shelter: Either digging down into snow or building a wall against the wind. When abundant fuel is available, try melting a hole down into the snow rather than digging it out.
Minor digging tasks may be achieved with a digging stick, throwing stick, tent peg, screwdriver etc.
Lightweight trowels are sold for campers and backpackers. Generally, these are either plastic or a high-tech material with a high price tag.
If on a budget, check out the trowels in the gardening centre before the camping store. The toy department is also worth a look, since beach and gardening sets for children are sometimes found.
hori-hori
My digging implement of choice is a hori‑hori. This is compact and relatively light, yet strong and versatile.
Many of the digging tasks listed can be performed with a hori‑hori. The larger excavations are possible in an emergency if you are methodical. For example, with the bank‑bunk, use gravity to your advantage so clods of earth levered out will drop away rather than need to be lifted.
A hori‑hori is a good choice for light and emergency digging. In certain terrain, situations or seasons, larger excavations are more likely.
Trifold Entrenching Tool
Trifold entrenching tools are probably the best off-the-shelf option for deliberate digging in terms of cost, utility and bulk/mass. Sometimes a hoe/mattock is a more useful digging implement than a shovel/spade. Buy a tool where the head can be set at an angle. Some models include a pick‑blade too.
Although used by the military, these folding tools should not be expected to be as sturdy as larger and/or one-piece tools, so use them accordingly.
For deliberate winter travel, lightweight snow shovels are worth considering. These may be aluminium or plastic, and some will disassemble or are telescopic for easier carrying.
Snow shovels are not much use for digging in hard earth, but can move large volumes of snow or leaf-litter. Items such as slabs of wood, skis, snowshoes, mess tins and frying pans may be used to move loose snow.
Knives with long blades can be handy for cutting snow blocks, although some arctic travellers carry crosscut saws from the hardware store for this purpose. These are useful for wood too. They are not as compact as camping saws, but a fraction of the cost. With a covered blade, such a saw may be slipped down the side of a rucksac’s main compartment,
If you live somewhere that is wooded and often cold, an axe such as a three‑quarter or Hudson Bay style may be a wise investment.
In an emergency, you may have to get out or into a location in a hurry. The crowbar may be a very useful addition to your kit.
Crowbars are very reasonably priced.
Wrap the shank in electrical tape to insulate your hands when it is cold. This also provides a source of tape for repairs.
A crow bar may be used like a digging stick or pick to break up hard earth.
For those with far bigger budgets than mine, there are titanium crowbars.
A screwdriver should be carried with your tent pegs. This may help in both inserting and extracting pegs. It is also a potential prying and digging implement.
Like the character in my novel, you will find such a screwdriver may be used for a variety of useful purposes.
Cordage may be considered to come under the umbrella of tools. Invest in a reel of suitably coloured paracord or similar.
In an emergency, some individuals may attempt to steal your food or equipment, or prey on you for other reasons. To ignore this as a potential possibility is to neglect the hard lessons of several thousand years of human history.
Many of the tools already discussed have potential as means of self-defence.
Since the publication of my book “Survival Weapons”, I have been asked which firearm an individual should consider purchasing first? Should it be a shotgun, or the .22 rifle?
Your first weapon should be compact or sub-compact semi-automatic combat handgun. It may be carried in situations where a rifle or shotgun might draw unwelcome reactions. It may be used to defend both your home and your person. In extremis, such a firearm may be used to hunt small and medium game in the absence of a weapon more suitable.

Sleeping

We spend about a third of our lives sleeping. Our performance when awake is often influenced by how well we slept. Sleeping gear is an important component of your emergency kit and in keeping yourself hale and hearty.
Man in Poncho0liner
In the original article, this requirement was met and represented by a poncho-liner or blanket.
Poncho-liners, as they are issued, are mainly intended as bedding. See my previous blog on simple measures that increase the utility of your poncho-liner as a garment.
A silver surivival blanket, or a more robust all-weather blanket, may be combined with a poncho-liner and pomcho for extra warmth..

Kip Mats

Once you have a poncho-liner, the second item on your sleeping wish‑list should be a kip mat.
Quite simply, “ground chill can kill!”
A kip mat is primarily insulation rather than cushioning.
Shop around, you can sometimes find a better deal on items marketed as exercise, yoga or gym mats. The main problem seems to be finding them in neutral or natural colours.
Some folks claim the black ones are inherently warmer, while some mats are offered with a reflective foil coating. No one seems to offer a foil‑coated black foam mat!
Naturally found materials such as grass, bracken, hay, pine boughs etc can insulate you from ground chill. Use your kip mat over the top of these. It will protect you from any damp materials.
Even when you can find one in a useful colour, it will be monochrome and of a regular shape. Kip mats are light but bulky. If you have to carry one on the outside of your pack, buy or make a suitable camouflage stuff sack. Fittings may be added to this so it attaches more securely to the outside of your pack.
You can roll a kip mat up in a camouflage bivi-bag, although potentially having a bivi-bag on the outside of a pack increases the chance of it being damaged and losing water resistance.
You can trim the corners of a mat into a more “mummy” shape if you wish, but this is not going to make much difference in mass and bulk. If you prefer your kip mat inside your bivi-bag, it may fit better if you shape it.

Sleeping Bag Liner

Your next sleeping acquisition should be a sleeping bag liner. Clean, dry insulation works best. A sleeping bag liner provides a little extra warmth, but its main advantage is that it keeps your bedding clean.
I have talked about sleeping bag liners before, so will direct you to that article. If your budget won’t allow you to buy your sleeping bags for a while, you might consider the warmer examples such as pile liners.
If personal security is an issue, you may need to sleep clothed and in your boots. Wearing a pair of sandbags over your boots saves your sleeping system from damage and dirt.

Sleeping Bags

Yes, I did say sleeping bags!
The poncho-liner was designed for sleeping at temperatures of above 10°C.
If your breath is fogging, you will need to make more elaborate sleeping arrangements, such as more ground insulation and a better insulated shelter.
Your sleeping gear will most probably acquire some sleeping bags. Sleeping bags are another topic I have addressed elsewhere.
Rather than buying a super‑duper arctic mountain‑rated bag, your money will be better invested in a one‑to‑two season and a two‑to‑three season bag.
Since we are considering items for your bug‑out bag, sleeping bags should be of mummy configuration for lower bulk and better performance.
Some folks prefer zipless. Personally, I find a zip offers more versatility with respect to comfort and ventilation. Ensure your choice has a two-way zip so that you may vent the foot area.
When you own two bags as suggested, you may use either or both together as local conditions dictate.
Your liner will add a little more warmth, and keep your bags clean and warm for longer.
Your poncho-liner will continue to see service as a supplement to your sleeping bags, or on its own in hot conditions.

Mosquito Nets

In many regions a mosquito net for sleeping under is a prudent investment. Working out how to suspend it may be a challenge you don’t need at the end of a long day, so look into free‑standing variants.

Shelter

Rain-Poncho

The rain‑poncho represents the theme of “cover”, which is appropriate since the rain‑poncho is both a garment and a means of shelter.
I have written elsewhere on the topic of selecting clothing for your “bug‑out outfit”, so I will concentrate on the topic of shelter.
Pocho Shelters
Your poncho probably came with a stuff‑sack. If it did, to this add two three‑metre lengths of paracord or similar. These will prove useful when you rig your poncho as a shelter.
A pair of bungee cords is quicker but less versatile, so may be added later.
If it is particularly windy or cold. one of these cords may be used as a belt around your poncho. The other may be used around your poncho‑liner.
A rain‑poncho and cord is not a complete shelter. You will also need some pegs or stakes. In extremis, your knife lets you carve them from sticks.
There are a number of ways to do without pegs, or for use when pegs won’t hold. I will deal with those some other day.
To your shelter kit add a small bag of pegs. Most shelters you can construct with a poncho or basha need four to six.
Add your screwdriver to this bag. This may be used for covert pegging, or as a spare peg. The screwdriver may also be used as a “T‑handle” to pull pegs up again.
Many of the shelters you may construct with a poncho require some means of support.
You cannot rely on convenient trees or even branches always being present.
Hiking/ski poles and bicycle frames have been used instead.
In addition to the above, your kit should also include a couple of tent poles, each with an extended or assembled length of about one metre.
The rain‑poncho “hooch” is a very basic form of shelter. It is relatively low cost, even more so if you have ponchos issued to you. Some servicemen carry three or four: one for wear, one or two for shelter and another as a groundsheet.

Bashas

A common upgrade is the “basha sheet”, which is a waterproof sheet of around 1.7 by 2.5 metres. It is similar to a lightweight tarp, although tarps tend to be three to four metres square. You will still need the rain‑poncho as rainwear.
Most basha sheets encountered these days have a camouflage print. However, the scale of the print is such they tend to show as a regular pattern.
A poncho/basha/tarp shelter may be improved by rigging two canopies, one below the other.
The inner canopy may be another poncho, a space blanket or even a suitably large non-waterproof cloth.
The double canopy retains more heat in cold conditions. It also insulates the occupant from the heat of the sun in the desert.
In the latter situation, the outer canopy may be a space blanket or similar reflective item. This also makes your shelter highly visible, which may or may not be desired.
This brings me to the topic of security.
One of the reasons the infantry use ponchos or bashas where possible is they give better situational awareness. They are also easier to vacate in an emergency.

Tents

A purpose‑designed tent may be warmer than a poncho/basha hooch, but also may make you more vulnerable to two‑legged predators.
This is something to think about when considering what form of shelter to include in your emergency or outdoor kit.
If you do opt for a tent, make sure that you buy a design that allows you to pitch the flysheet (outer) first and take it down last. Do not let any salesman con you that “flysheet pitches last” is an advantage. I have put up and taken down enough tents in the rain to know better!
When you buy a tent, the fly and inner probably packed in the same bag. Buy another bag and pack them separately. These bags should be distinct so that you know if you are reaching for the inner or the fly.
Avoid single layer tents unless they are made of a material that is both waterproof and breathable, such as Gore-tex. The latter are usually either bivi-bags or one‑man tube tents.
Single layer tents made from other synthetic materials either have condensation problems or let the rain in.
Single layer tents made from canvas/cotton duck etc are better, but tend to be heavy.
If you do opt for a tube‑tent or bivi‑bag. you will probably need a poncho or basha as well to give you a sheltered space you can dress or cook in.

Groundsheets

While not essential, a groundsheet will help protect the bottom of your tent inner. It may make the interior of a hooch more pleasant too.
If you carry your bedding items on the outside of your pack, the groundsheet may be used as an abrasion and water-resistant cover .
A groundsheet for a tent should be no bigger than the tent’s floor. Any material outside this area will channel water underneath. Similarly, a groundsheet for a hooch should be no bigger than the sheltered area.
Currently, several sources are offering cheaply-priced foil-coated sheets that have interesting potential as groundsheets. During the day, these could be staked out as reflector panels to attract attention. The sheets of silver material sold as reflectors behind radiators may also have potential.
These could be combined with a sheet of waterproof, puncture resistant material.
I have, on occassion, used my all-weather blanket as a groundcloth and insulation. When the cheap tent I was in started leaking in the alpine rain, I flipped the extra width over myself and stayed dry for the night.

Bivi-Bags

A bivi-bag may be thought of as a raincoat for your sleeping bag, or a one-man tent without the poles.
Being a single waterproof layer, they need to be of a breathable material such as Gore-tex, which ups their price. Gore-tex items tend to have a finite life until they stop keeping water out.
Bivi-bags are useful when you lack a kip mat or groundsheet to keep the damp out. They may be combined with shelters such as bashas and ponchos.
The bivi-bag provides a little extra insulation, so in warm weather may be used on its own or with a poncho-liner. In very cold weather it adds an extra layer of insulating air.
When inside the rucksack, a bivi-bag may be used as a water-resistant bag to store your sleeping system in. This puts your sleeping system in its own bag, rather than at the bottom of a rucksack-liner with all your other gear.

Conclusion

In this article I have built upon the foundation introduced in my blog on Foundation Survival Kits.
Some of these requirements may be easily met, with very little outlay.
In other cases, I hope this discussion has helped you prioritize your acquisitions.
There are a number of sundry or related topics, but these I will save for another day.
Categories
Phillosoph

Poncho-Liner Improvement: Pops and Zip

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

Pocho Shelters

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

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

The Head Hole

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

The Cut

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

Fitting the Zip and Collar

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

Fitting the Double Bias Tape

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

Sewing

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

Finishing the Zipper

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

The Zipper Explained

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

Poppers

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

Getting the Poppers Right

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

Finishing the Poppers

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

The Poppers Explained

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

Some Thoughts on Possessions and Minimalism

Today I would like to throw out some ideas about minimalism.
This is more a collection of thoughts and ideas rather than a coherent article. I hope some of it will be of use or interest to you.
You may have too much stuff
My blogs have touched on this or related topics several times already.
Creating a capsule wardrobe in neutral and natural colours is an example of minimalism.
My friend Sam had the concept of “Sam’s Van”: that one should not have more than could be moved in a single vanload, an example of quantity-limited minimalism.
In all honesty, I cannot call myself a minimalist. My girlfriend is probably having a hearty laugh at the very notion!
I have, however, attempted to make use of some of its techniques.

Don’t Count!

A very useful piece of advice I came across was “Don’t Count!”
“I only own n number of things” makes for a great blog title, but if many of us try to apply this in practice it can lead to unhealthy obsessiveness, or goal-post shifting.
Well done to those who have reduced their belongings to just n-items, but bear in mind a more productive application of the exercise is to reduce your belongings to only the things you need, rather than an arbitrary number.
Some possessions naturally begat others. I have knives and other edged tools for my kitchen, hobbies, toolbox, camping and EDC. It would be very foolish for me not to own at least one other possession to keep them sharp, for example.
Sometimes a simple single addition may make a lot of difference.
I carry my keys on a carabiner. Not all of my trousers have loops in the best position for this.
I brought myself a robust key-hanger that fits on my belt. The hanger even has a couple of stout press-studs so I am able to place it on my belt without needing to unthread it. Now the keys always hang directly over the pocket. An additional possession well worth having.

Clear the Decks

Another good tip I have encountered is to “clear the decks”.
Ideally, nothing should be on your floor except your furniture.
Once you have relocated or discarded the stuff that was taking up your floor-space, move on to the other horizontal surfaces and declutter them.
How little do you really need?

Minimalism for Preppers

Applying minimalist techniques can be a very useful exercise, especially for preppers.
You can apply them just to your backpacking or bug-out outfit, or to your life in general.
I come across a lot of lists of equipment. Many of the “essentials” are actually only conveniences or “nice to haves”.
I have read a minimalist list where the person owned one bowl, one plate, one mug and one glass. Presumably their mates never came around for a cuppa or a drink. Or perhaps their mates were all minimalists too and were expected to bring their own cups!
The same list included a set of measuring cups for cooking. Perhaps a single measuring jug is more minimalist than a set of cups? Perhaps they could drink out of the measuring jug! I was rather pleased to see someone offering a graduated drinking glass!
Graduated Drinking Glass

Kitchenware

If you are on the move, your minimalist cooking kit is a spork and  canteen cup or mess tin. Many canteen cups now have non-stick coating, so use a non-metallic spork.
For a more leisurely camping kit, have a frying-pan, pair of billies, spork, spatula and a piece of plastic flexible cutting board. The latter is cut to size and shape to fit in your frying-pan. This is not a bad basis for your minimalist home kitchen.
Stephane Reynaud wrote a cookbook called “One Knife, One Pot, One Dish”. Not as minimalist as some would want, since the “pot” in different recipes may be a casserole, frying-pan, saucepan, baking dish, bain-marie or even a food processor.
If you want a very minimalist cooking outfit for home, a frying pan/skillet and a flameproof casserole is not a bad option.
Since you will be spending less money on kitchenware overall, you can probably afford quality examples of what you do select.
The casserole should be of the sort that you can use on either the hob or in the oven. If you use a halogen oven, you will obviously need a casserole that can fit inside of it and when filled is not too heavy for you to lift out.
An oven-baking dish is a useful supplement to the casserole. If you have a halogen oven, make sure your dish is of a size and shape that fits it. Most halogen ovens include a suitable baking dish with their accessories.
Select a spatula that can serve as a turner, server and a stirrer.
I like to cook and get a little creative in the kitchen, so I do not think it is too great a disaster if I have a couple of extra pots and spatulas.
A small saucepan will probably see lots of use. You will probably find you do not need more than two or three of varying size. Two frying pans of different sizes is sometimes convenient, although I use my wok and frying pans a lot less since I got the halogen oven.
If you do use a halogen oven, you will know that tongs are pretty useful for removing or turning hot food. You could use a pair of spatulas, I guess, but chances are your halogen oven came with a set of tongs, so why not keep these?.
You will need a chopping board and/or a set of flexible cutting board sheets for use with your knife.
I would opt for a Chinese cleaver, but you may then need a small knife for those rare jobs the cleaver is not good for. You should also have a serrated knife for cutting bread and fruit.
It is useful to have scissors and a spare penknife in the kitchen. Then again, my kitchen also has a buck-axe and Mora-knife!
I quite like the sets of measuring cups and spoons I have hanging up in the kitchen. I try to use them to stop over-serving myself portions. The minimum is probably a measuring jug.
Have at least one mixing bowl. Perhaps invest in an ovenproof one that may be used in the microwave or halogen oven.
Usually I drain food using the pot lid. A sieve, strainer or colander may sometimes be needed. The perforated steamer and mesh dishes from my halogen oven may substitute.
I could probably use a larger selection of storage boxes for the fridge, and make the ones I have more accessible.
For each person, there should be a bowl, plate, mug and drinking glass.
If you are a big tea drinker, you will want your mug made from glass. A glass mug is a good all-rounder for all kinds of hot or cold drinks.
For cold drinks you may want something taller with more volume and room for ice.
Ideally, have two sets of tableware for each person. You will need to wash-up less frequently and you can accommodate guests. If there are more than two of you, the extra plates and bowls are useful for serving. Bowls also get used for mixing, marinating and microwaving.
For each person, a set of utensils: knife, fork, spoon. All-metal, single-piece sets are more durable. The knife should be of a form that can cut cooked food and spread butter. Have a couple of spare sets for guests.
You may want a steak/cutting knife and teaspoon for each person or guest too. Personally, I like to have at least half a dozen additional teaspoons. A teaspoon is far better for spreading jam or marmalade than a knife, incidentally.
Adopt my methods of quick, economical washing-up and you will find it easy to maintain a stock of clean cutlery and dishes.
I have a dish-drying cloth, but seldom use it since letting washing-up drain and air-dry is cleaner and more convenient. It gets used more often to swat flies. Drying my hands is more common, and this only needs a small hand-towel. Same hand-towel is useful for handling hot dishes and pots.

What Do You Really Need?

It is foolish to think what applies to yourself is true for everyone else. That is quite a useful thing to remember in everyday life. Keep this in mind when you read minimalist lists.
Sometimes I find that I do not need some of the items on minimalist’s lists. Having a good penknife does away with the need for many other implements.
My girlfriend recently tidied-up a bedroom that had been used for storage.
“Transformed” is probably a better term. It was hard to believe it was the same room!
I was looking around for a rug with a two-metre high pile of junk swept under it.
One of the few items she declared surplus to requirements was a desk-lamp. She had absolutely no use for this, she declared. Neither had I, I realized.
My room has never looked quite this bad
I have two desk-lamps, both fitted with daylight bulbs. I only ever use them when I am photographing something.
I mention this, since several minimalist lists of belongings include desk-lamps or floor-lamps as essentials. Perhaps their home is considerably darker than mine and they do actually need them.
Most of us do our writing and reading on computers these days, so I would venture that many of us do not need a separate desk-lamp. I certainly do not need a lamp to “create mood”.
Sometime ago I got rid of a freestanding lamp since I never used it.
I think television shows create a false impression here. Often on the box we see an interior with multiple lamps, all of them lit in the middle of the day!
Don’t use lights you do not need, and reduce your energy bill. Sell or donate lamps you never use.
Another item that is surprisingly common on minimalist lists of “necessities” is bathroom scales. Personally, I have never owned a set of bathroom scales. I do not need a set to tell me I am carrying extra weight, I can see it! Similarly, weight-loss that the scale claims has no value. What matters is that which I and others perceive.
Wastebaskets? I have certain in-laws that cannot grasp not to use a bin without a liner. My rubbish for recycling goes into a repurposed plastic bag. This usually hangs from one corner of a kitchen chair, so I need no bin.
Foodstuff that might attract flies goes into a bag in the freezer until it is thrown out into the bins outside.
Not that I get many flies, since I fitted all the windows I might open for ventilation with insect mesh! Simple addition: big change!
Something I don’t see on many lists is a dressing gown. I spend most of my time at home wearing little else! One of the pleasures of a nice shower is drying off in a snuggly dressing gown!
My older dressing gown has fallen to bits, so I may replace it with a longer, hooded fleece gown for the colder months, and to wear when the other fleece gown is being washed.
The dressing gown is supplemented by a fleece blanket in the lounge. I spend most of my time alone, so heating the whole house if it is a little chilly is stupid. I often watch television or play video games with a blanket thrown over me. If it gets colder, I throw a poncho-liner over this too.

Constructive Minimalism

In an apparent paradox, if I have been reading a minimal list of belongings, it is more usual for me to think about buying something rather than discarding something.
This illustrates how minimalist lists can be a useful tool for making you concentrate on what are your essentials and highlighting where you might make improvements.
I have, however, taken to practicing a self-imposed “cool-down” period. I wait at least 24 hours before I click “buy”. I may miss the occasional bargain, but generally I save more money by avoiding spending it on stuff I can manage without.
Thinking of your possessions as “collections” or “kits” can be productive in rationalizing what you have.

Bedding

Considering bedding, it occurred to me my life would be a lot easier if I had two brand-new sets of sheets and duvet covers. Some of my older stuff did not quite fit the mattress I now have.
Two sets give me one new set on the bed while the other is in the wash.
I have an extra duvet and pillow, so I can use my older stuff for these, again giving a set in use and one in the wash.

Stationary

If I consider the topic of “stationary”, what do I actually need, compared to what I have?
Most writing is now done on the computer, so pens and paper are seldom used.
I have blank A4 paper for the printer (although the printer seldom behaves well enough to print anything! The device is mainly used for scanning.). That blank A4 paper can be used for various other things. A pad of lined paper and/or a notepad or two. Pad of post-it notes.
You may have uses for a highlighter, stapler or some paper-clips.
Seldom do I need envelopes these days. If I do need one, I can fold a piece of paper into one. I do occasionally send packages, so some tape is useful.
Ruler, protractor and a pair of compasses can be handy at times, and also serve in the “tools/DIY” category.
As an aside, the DIY tools I probably use the most are a tape measure and a drill. There are often screw-hooks that need putting up. A awl, gimlet or bradawl is useful for begining drill holes. The one on a penknife is good for many jobs, but the T-handle location means it is awkward in restricted spaces. To start accurately drilling metal, a centrepunch and hammer is useful.
I have plenty of knives, so I could do without a pencil sharpener, although there is little point in discarding the couple that I have.
I have some glue and blu tac, although these reside in my modelling supplies.
Erasers, pens, pencils, of course.
Go through your pens and discard refills or disposable pens that no longer work.
Some forms require you to fill them in in black ink, so make sure that some of your pens are black.
Recently I had to send a parcel and was unable to find a thick pen to write the address with. So I bought a pair of black Sharpies, adding one to my EDC and keeping the other for home use.
Sometimes it is a matter of organization. I had lots of pens and pencils, but distributed in various diverse locations. Pool most of your erasers, pencils and pens into a box or a large pencil case. You can still have a pen and/or pencil in places you are likely to need them, but if you do need something you only have to look in one place.
I have a pen and pencil in a box in the lounge, a pen and pencil in a kitchen drawer, and everything else in a large pencil case in my room. A handful of paper-clips form the zip-pull.

Scan It and Toss It

As mentioned, my printer is also a scanner. It can feed-in and scan whole stacks of papers automatically. Or at least, it did until Epson discontinued the software needed to do this for my model!
A scanner may be very useful for decluttering your life.
When I moved in with my girlfriend, I scanned scores of folders of documents, magazine articles and old papers. This allowed me to throw out several sacks of the old papers and makes it easier to find the information I want when I want it.

Bag and Box

Bag or box stuff when you can. You will save yourself time if these bags and boxes are transparent or mesh.
For example, stick all of your pairs of gloves that are not in jacket pockets in a mesh bag in a drawer or on a wardrobe shelf. When you need gloves, just one place to look, and no hunting for a glove hiding in with the socks.
Things that are wanted but seldom used may be tucked away on a high shelf or bottom of a wardrobe. Conversely, some things that you might make more use of may currently be hidden out of sight and out of mind.
Put your teaspoons in a small jar on the countertop rather than hidden in the bottom of a crowded drawer. Makes them much easier to find.
My final advice is to understand that decluttering is likely to be a “work-in-progress”.
Many times you will think that you are nearly done, but are not! Changing one thing will put other things in a new context.
Scanning the last of my old papers got me thinking about the various plastic and card folders they had been in.
I have lots of books and DVDs. While I like to call the exercise “decluttering”, there is no way my home will ever look uncluttered.
It might be argued that much of my minimalism is “below the surface”.
There is now less in the cupboards and drawers. What is in there is now more logically organized and more easily found.
It is quite probable that no-one will notice the difference except myself.
Psychologically, the place feels calmer.
Categories
Phillosoph

SLA Marshall Soldier's Load

Over the years, this blog has visited the topic of Soldier’s Load several times, and published a number of equipment lists.
What to carry, and what not to, is of interest to any backpacker, outdoorsperson, prepper or survivalist. Although a list may have been written for a military context, understanding the reasons for any differences is often productive.
The following list is something of a “classic”, being taken from SLA Marshall’s book “The Soldier’s Load and the Mobility of a Nation”(1949). It seems to be obligatory to mention this work when writing about Soldier’s Load. How much notice is taken of its suggestions is beyond the scope of today’s blog.
Marshall, and many other sources, had concluded that the optimum marching load for the average man is not more than one-third of body weight. Marshall also maintained that troops would carry more food, more munitions, more everything into combat than there was any reason to believe they would use.
On this basis, Marshall proposed an optimum working combat of around 40 pounds (80% of optimum carried load).
WW2 GI wearing bandoliers
SLA Marshall: “We can do it, as is shown by the following table of weights. Though we had many variations of combat dress in World War II, according to the climate, the present field uniform strikes a good general average insofar as weight is concerned.”
WEIGHT OF CLOTHING
Undershirt, drawers, socks…………..0.62
Shirt, flannel …………..1.13
Trousers, wool…………..1.69
Jacket, wool…………..3.02
Cap, field ………….. 0.25
Boots, combat…………..4.13
Belt, waist…………..0.19
Total for the field uniform…………… 11.03 [lbs]
Belt, cartridge 2/48 Rds M-1 ammunition………….. 2.29
Canteen w/cover and cup…………..2.69
First-aid packet…………..0.40
Helmet w/liner…………..2.82
Rifle M-1 w/o bayonet, w/sling…………..10.30
Two (2) Grenades (Fragmentation)…………..2.62
Light pack w/one (1) K Ration and mess gear………….. 7.79
Includes:
Haversack and carrier…………..2.46
Toilet articles…………..0.92
Change of underwear…………..0.43
Two (2) pairs of socks…………..0.38
One (1) K Ration…………..2.31
Mess gear…………..1.29
Total, field uniform and battle equipment…………..39.94 [lbs]
“On that figure, I am prepared to stand. One blanket, woolen, OD, would add another four pounds; one raincoat, another three pounds. During initial combat in hot weather, it is better to take a chance without them than to put that much extra weight on men just as they are about to undergo fire for the first time.”

Commentary

Unlike many later analysts, Marshall included the weight of the clothing in his estimate. This is often disregarded if the wearers are accustomed to wearing the items.
• Undershirt and drawers of this period are likely to be cotton tee-shirt and boxer shorts. Socks are presumably wool, rather then the cotton worn with service dress. Underwear can, of course, be varied with season and climate.
• “Flannel” is a somewhat ambiguous term these days. A M1937 wool shirt was in service at the time and this is probably that suggested. Woollen clothing is preferable if you are going to get rained on.
Incidentally, the prototype M43 combat dress had featured a “high-neck sweater” to be worn under the field coat or as outerwear in hot weather. The fatigue/utility shirt would become the preferred hot-weather wear.
A friend of mine likened soldiering to an extreme sport, which did make we wonder if field gear should be made to more closely resemble sports and active gear. Something modelled on a tracksuit top or hoodie may be a better intermediate layer than a conventional shirt.
Pocket configuration of hoodies/tracksuit tops is not ideal. Handwarmer pockets are a bad idea, since your hands should be out of them helping and defending you. Extra sleeve pockets and Napoleon chest-pockets are useful, as it a kidney-area pocket for soft items such as hats and scarves.
I prefer hoods that can be stowed away inside a collar. It is easy to snag a hood on a branch when moving through the woods.
Poppers to supplement any zip would allow for more versatility in ventilation. I am undecided as to whether a fully opening or pullover configuration works best as field wear.
• Wool trousers (M1937) are suggested. Cotton cargo trousers had seen widespread introduction with the new 1943 field gear. Cargo trousers are a good modern substitution, since the pockets are ideal for carrying much of your skin-level EDC emergency items.
• “Jacket, Wool”, could be one of several garments. It may be the M1939 wool field coat, or the ETO “Ike” Jacket. The latter had been based on British battledress and had been intended for both field and service wear. In practice they had been in short supply so usually only officers had them and kept them for non-combat use.
By the time of Marshall’s writing the M1939 had been widely replaced by the cotton and wool M41 “Parsons” field jacket and the cotton M43.
Tropentarn Camouflage
My experience with my desert parka makes me suspect that such an item is far more practical than a conventional half-length field jacket. Being uninsulated and lightweight, it can be worn comfortably across a broad range of weather. It appears a single layer, although the inside may have a closely bonded thin lining. Vent zips and a roomy interior allows for good air circulation in hot weather and cooling via bellows-effect. A loose cut allows room for the liner or other insulation when cold. Its larger size covers more of the distinctive human body-shape.
Buy your parka on the big side. Mine is thigh-length.
I have modified the hood of mine so that it rolls into a collar secured by poppers when not in use. The only other modification I might wish for is more and larger pockets.
The desert parka is a reasonably priced item, so is an easy way to modify a soldier’s appearance.
A parka intended for field use would be camouflaged and provided with textilage and attachment points for foliage. Such a field parka can easily be replaced by another more suited in colour and cut for non-combat, service or parade wear. The latter may appear something like the frock coat/greatcoat look that is used in some Japanese anime.
The idea of using a “long” coat as basic combat dress has obvious echoes of the French practice of usually fighting wearing their greatcoats.
• A woollen watchcap, beanie or headover may be a more useful and versatile item than a field-cap. A hat with a brim does keep the rain off my glasses, however.
At least one type of gloves, and something to act as a scarf such as a keffiyah or scrim should also be part of a basic outfit.
• The belt listed is probably the item intended to hold up the trousers, rather than an equipment belt.
M1923 Cartridge Belt
• “Belt, cartridge 2/48 Rds M-1 ammunition… 2.29” did give me pause. The cartridge belt for use with the Garand M1 rifle has ten pockets, each holding an eight-round clip.
With the rifle loaded, the soldier’s basic ammo load was 88 rounds. Marshall advocated soldiers carry less ammo, but only filling six pockets of the belt for 48 rounds seemed odd. And what did “2/” signify? Was it a transcription error in my PDF copy of the book?
Garand Ammunition Bandolier
Eventually, I learnt Garand ammo was issued in a throwaway cloth bandolier. This bandolier had six pockets, each holding one eight-round clip, for 48 rounds total! Soldiers would often carry a pair of bandoliers in addition to a fully loaded cartridge belt, for 23 clips/184 rounds.
It seemed logical that Marshall was suggesting that a soldier just carry a pair of bandoliers instead of a ten-pocket cartridge belt. This would still give the soldier 104 rounds (2 bandoliers of 48 + 8 loaded).
The quoted weight of “2.29 lbs” is still a mystery. A loaded Garand bandolier weighed 3.5 lbs, and a loaded M1923 cartridge belt even more, so the figure might be expected to be either 3.5 or 7 if a pair of bandoliers was intended.
This use of such bandoliers is a practical system for the Garand. I would not, however, recommend the Garand for modern shooters. There are lighter weapons with equivalent performance, and the need to have ammo in clips for the mechanism to fully function is an obvious potential problem.
The bandoliers used for the Garand were also used for the Springfield M1903, each pocket holding a pair of five-round strippers, for total of 60 rounds per bandolier. Thus something similar might be used for a bolt-action rifle or for the loose ammo for a shotgun. The bandolier was also apparently repurposed to hold six 15-round M1 Carbine magazines.
Few modern self-loading rifles can be loaded by strippers, so another arrangement for carrying their ammo must be used. The above does, however, give a useful idea of the number of ready rounds carried that may be practical.
Substantially reducing the weight carried on the waist belt and eliminating the need for tight webbing suspenders would improve both air and blood circulation. This would be very welcome in hot or very cold climates.
• A canteen/water-bottle is a reasonable item to carry on your person. Since a cartridge/equipment belt is not listed, it is not clear how Marshall’s soldier carried it. In a modern context a flexible water-bladder may be preferred to a rigid bottle. Many modern examples have a sip-tube so you can drink without unpacking your water container.
The canteen cup should probably be carried in the pack rather than on the belt.
• The first aid package is probably one area where greater quantities are prudent. Bullets often make exit holes as well as entries. Optimising the CI_IFAK/Trauma kit carried is an entire topic in itself!
• Marshall suggest a pair of fragmentation grenades, rather than the five to eight some units encouraged soldiers to carry. Modern fragmentation grenades are a little lighter than their 1949-era equivalents.
While a civilian would not carry fragmentation grenades, legal smoke bombs have practical applications for defence and signalling.
It is not explained how Marshall’s soldier was to carry his pair of grenades.
The 1943 combat gear had introduced jacket and trouser pockets designed to take several grenades.
In the thigh pockets, grenades were difficult to reach and the weight was uncomfortable. Enough weight and the trousers would not stay up without suspenders.
The lower jacket pockets were difficult to access if wearing belt-gear and cast-iron weights swinging around your genitals was objectionable!
The above items constitute what some authors call a “fighting load”. The combat load is considered to include a fighting load and an approach march load. The approach march load is usually in a small pack that is dropped or cached before closing with the enemy. The haversack Marshall describes is the approach march load.
• The suggested haversack contents are reasonable. Two pairs of spare socks and a spare set of underwear sounds about right.
On other pages, I have described effective wash-kits much lighter than those many soldiers carry. This should include a roll of toilet paper.
The K-ration can be replaced by modern equivalents. Marshall is telling us the combat load need food for a day or so, not a week or more!
Rations such as MREs may include heating pouches, reducing the need for a stove and fuel.
The mess-kit can probably be replaced by a metal canteen cup and an emergency stove, such as the British Crusader or US Natick.
Pack the interior of the cup with packets of instant noodles and other useful items.
The only other eating item needed is a spork.
A plastic sandwich box makes a useful eating bowl. When not used as such, fill the interior with a brew-kit, spork and packet-soup and OXO cubes.
• The poncho-liner can substitute for the wool field blanket suggested.
A set of goggles and a flashlight are worth adding to the pack contents.
• The issue US army raincoat would be replaced by the more versatile and lighter rain-poncho.
Incidentally, another advantage of the desert parka is that it can be worn over a lightweight plastic raincoat, providing protection and camouflage while the waterproof stops water reaching the warm layers below.
Categories
Phillosoph

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.

Daysacs

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.
Categories
Phillosoph

Beyond the Pail: Buckets for Survival

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

Buckets for Preppers

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

What Use Is a Bucket?

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

Green ten litre bucket

Choosing a Bucket

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

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”.
Good use of monotone neutrals. In some shots the actresses blend into the terrain.
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.

Black

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

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.

Blue

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.

Undershadow

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.

Illumination

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.
Below is an example of the Russian Gorka wind-proof outfit. Some of these use camouflage, but they are also used in unpatterned cloth. Note how the two different shades and hues of neutral coloured panels break up the basic human shape.
Gorka two-tone suit
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.
Categories
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 for great movies, but in reality “stay put” is usually a more prudent survival strategy than “bug-out”.
That said, if the answer was genuinely “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 bug-out 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. White tends to show the dirt, however.
Two pairs are sufficient for 72 hours. A wear and a spare. A third pair is handy in case things go more than a couple of days.

Tee-Shirts

For the tee-shirts, it is worth acquiring them in coolmax, since it is fast-drying. Again, get two or three, and have them in different colours.
For a 72 hour scenario, laundry is not a high priority. Plain cotton or polycotton tee-shirts can be found at reasonable prices in multiple packs. These are a good source of undershirts for short trips or your bug-out bag.
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 for mild weather. You do not want underwear that is too hot in temperate conditions. Polycotton is relatively easy to launder in long-term scenarios.
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 my merkalon set of 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

The underwear items suggested above 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 rucksac. Put on what is suitable for the day. Decide if you want to take the rest or leave some behind.
Trouser-liners are 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 a 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 for hot-weather is up to you. If the trousers you are wearing get damaged, there are not many other garments that can substitute for them.
If you have a pair of cargo trousers that are past their prime, I suggest your ranger-roll them and retire them to your BOB as a permanent back-up pair.
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.
A spare pair of trousers lets you double up if it is unexpectedly cold.
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! (Been there, done that!)
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-patterned 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 shemaghs, 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 uninsulated 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.
The garment is long enough to cover most things I might wear under it.
IThe parka is also a valid alternative to a field jacket. Jackets like the M65 can be too warm for milder conditions. (Officially the M65 was a “Cold Weather Field Coat”)
The desert parka can use the same liner as the German flectarn cold-weather parka, so the garment serves as camouflage cover, field jacket and/or 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!
A rain-poncho can also be used to construct a shelter for sleeping.
If your rain-ponch came in a little stuff sack for carrying, add two three-metre lengths of cord to this. The cord may be used for shelter construction or as a belt to stop the parka flapping in a strong 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 with its liner fitted.
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 periodocally 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 for bugging out 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 or more preferable. Your feet are important. It is worth investing in good quality woollen socks for your BOB.
In certain conditions you may need to change socks several times during a day.
Sew a loop of ribbon to each so you can hang them on the outside of your bag to dry.
Choose sock in neutral and 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 leather gloves provide protection with reduced loss of dexterity when in the brush or scrambling over rubble. These can be used with merkalon or silk glove liners.
On a hike in Iceland, an unexpected strongly gusting wind combines with relatively mild sub-sero conditions to create a -30 to -40 windchill. The hand holding my hiking pole was particularly exposed. Wearing fingerless leather gloves over glove liners avoided possibly serious injury.
Knitted gloves, woollen or acrylic, are not very stylish, but work well at keeping your hands warm and preserve some dexterity.
Good colours for gloves are mid-grey, khaki-drab and olive-drab.
Unlined leather work gloves can provide additional protection or another layer of insulation.
Leather work gloves may be used to protect you from thorns and rope burns. They may also be used as an oven glove to handle hot billy handles. They should be sized so they may be worn over woollen gloves and/or glove liners.
If desired, cuff-ribbing may be added to work gloves, or the top of old socks repurposed as such.
In cold weather, better insulated gloves and/or mittens may be required.
Add ribbon or cord loops to each glove so you can stash them on your snaplink when you remove them.
In bad weather, run a cord down your sleeves and tie the ends to your gloves. You may feel like a toddler, but this is better than a gust of wind taking a glove and the risk of frostbite!
The pockets of my outdoor jackets usually carry at least one pair of gloves. Keep your other gloves where they can be easily accessed, such as in an external pocket of your pack. It is not a bad idea to have all of these gloves in their own “glove bag”.

Hats and Scarves

You will need a hat to keep the sun off. I like a boonie hat, myself.
When the weather demands you wear your hood up, a suitably coloured baseball hat will be convenient.
Whatever your personal 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 headover or watch-cap may be combined with a boonie or ball-caps, as needed.
A tennis-headband may be useful in hot weather. A bandanna worn across the forehead is a possible substitute.
“You are not fully dressed without a scarf!” Bandannas, shemagh, neck-gaiters and a long 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. As well as dust and sandstorms, explosions and collapsing building produce lots of dust. This can have immediate and long-term health effects. Sunglasses also protect against snowglare.
Kneepads should fit under the trousers. This is better for camouflage and air circulation.
A headnet against biting insects is well worth the (negligible) weight. It may be uses as an improvised fishing net or carrier bag.
In certain situations, head protection may be prudent. Volcanic activity may make it literally rain rocks. High winds turn roof tiles and other everyfay objects into deadly missiles.  Head protection may be a lightweight hockey or skateboard helmet, or a construction hard-hat.

Checklist

Have a checklist. When you are under stress or in a hurry you are unlikely to remember everything you need.
Some of the items for your bug-out outfit will be permanently packed in your bug-out bag. Items you intend to wear while carrying the bag may be stored near the bag.
For many of us, however, it is not practical to have a full, dedicated bug-out bag and outfit. Some items we need will be in general use. Other items may have been fished out of the BOB for a camping trip or for use during a cold-spell.
Hence, have a checklist of the items you want in your bug-out outfit so you can grab those that may not be there.  
Categories
Phillosoph

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.
The tip of the file/metal saw can also be used on some Phillips or Pozidriv screws.

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 neighboring 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 air-spaces 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 57 mm for the first.
The first and third notch are used to draw a circle of 57 mm 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.
Another addition I have made is to add a needle and thread. Take about a metre of invisible thread and pass one end through the eye of a needle. Tie the ends together and then wrap the thread around the needle. Push it down beneath the saw blade. It should be snug enough that it will not drop out if you invert the knife with the saw open. I used the metal saw rather than the woodsaw, since this is likely to see less use.
While you are at it, wax your woodsaw.
Categories
Phillosoph

Handcarts: AfriCart

Today I am going to talk a little more on handcarts. Researching something quite different, I found myself on a page on USMC TOEs and once again encountered the following illustration. Each machine gun section was provided with a MC-1942 handcart. Each 81mm mortar section was provided with two. The 60mm mortar sections, however, had no handcarts!
Looking for more information on the MC-1942 I instead found myself on this page on US Army handcarts. Notable was the information that such handcarts were intended for motorized troops. A pair of loaded carts fit between the seats of a 212 ton truck. When the truck could go not further, the infantry advanced with their handcarts.

US Army handcart with cover. Note detachably hauling ropes with handles.

Given the bulk and mass of some modern weapons and their ammunition, handcarts could still prove useful.

AfriCart

The marine and army carts use a T-shaped handle. Is this the best configuration? I wondered. A quick look at rickshaws and similar devices suggested that a rectangular arrangement might be better. That, in turn, led me to the following interesting blog:
Note how the bicycle wheels are supported on both sides. Also not the easily adjustable handle and the folding stand legs. The cart bed is 24 x 32" area, exactly the same as used in the US Army cart.
I am sure many of my readers could construct similar carts for their own use. Don’t forget attachment holes for lashings or bungees and drainage holes. A wire-mesh base is a possible option if you can source a suitably sized piece. Non-pneumatic tires may be a sensible investment.