Showing posts with label bob. Show all posts
Showing posts with label bob. Show all posts

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Assault Packs, Rucks and Sustainment Loads Revisited

I tend to break down these different loads into the fairly well recognized 3 tired system (level 1 survival, level 2 fighting and level 3 sustainment). The primary reason I do this is that due to a lack of common vocabulary different names such as get home bag, assault pack, bug out bag, etc all mean drastically different things to different people. The end result is that unless a common terminology is established we are talking apples, oranges and potatoes instead of apples and apples.

The day pack/ assault pack arena really muddles the waters. Personally I bend convention and call them level 2.5 because they do not cleanly fit in either category. Depending on the use they may be an extension of a fighting load to carry stuff that does not fit in a LBE/ Chest Rig/ whatever or special equipment. This might be machine gun ammo or a spotting scope or whatever. On the other hand this might be a light sustainment setup with a few snacks and a jacket, some extra water and a poncho/ poncho liner to roll up in. Often the load in these bags is some combination of the two or a
murky in the middle item. Anyway right or wrong I call this assault pack range level 2.5.

In recent discussions I have talked about overall tiered gear and specifically my level 2.5 bag a couple of notable comments came up. Specifically I recall comments by River Rider and Alexander Wolfe of TEOTWAWKI Blog.

The main point of their comments was that both ended up going with smaller lighter sustainment setups more akin to my level 2.5 'assault pack' than a larger more traditional rucksack. River Rider mentioned weight as an issue and that he was not as young as he used to be. Alexander Wolfe mentioned the speed of lighter systems and leveraging modern technology to get similar capabilities
(to larger/ heavier items) in smaller and lighter packages. Note I do not mean to disparage either of these fine individuals or their ideas even though we might not agree on everything. It is more that I want to talk about the pro's and con's of lighter vs heavier sustainment loads in no small part because the idea has been stuck in my head for two days.

Personally I went through this struggle myself about 2 years back. I was trying to come up with a 'be all end all' system that covered the capabilities I needed yet was still relatively light and easy to carry. I ended up with more or less the worst of both worlds in a pack that weighted close to 30 pounds but did not really fill all of my goals. To complicate matters I tried to do it in a frame less 'assault pack'. It just didn't work.

The end result is that I personally moved to two different sustainment systems in the form of the level 2.5 assault pack/ get home bag and a true level 3 Rucksack. Furthermore for my concept of use these bags need to be more independent than purely tiered. So instead of items existing in my BOB
and flexing to the assault pack as needed, the pure tiered approach, there is a decent amount of redundancy between the two systems. The reason for this is the lighter level 2.5 bag is compact enough that it often comes with me and is not a hassle to haul around. If I were to start using them together I would likely need to do a marriage style combining of stuff then leave behind/ trade off/ etc the left over redundant items. [I suppose another option would be to treat the level 2.5 bag as an offset of the ruck and get a simple little backpack to roll up and stick in my level 3 bag as it's companion assault pack. Not a bad idea really. Might just do that next time I see a cheap but decent earth tone day pack. Think Chris mentioned something like that] Basically in realizing a system could not meet the top end of capabilities and stay within a weight range that was conducive to moving as fast as I might want to in some situations.

This brings up an interesting point. Weight gives you (at least the ability to have) more capabilities but it also slows you down. If this push pull relationship is not handled carefully you can get to a feedback loop where you are slower so the trip will take longer and since the trip is longer you
need more stuff.

It can be said that you want to pack a certain system/ bag with a specific scenario in mind. In the survivalist speak you could say a bug out bag needs to be designed specifically for the scenario in terms of range, climate, etc it is to be used in. Obviously a long distance trucker driving across the
northern Midwest needs very different gear than a person who lives in Florida and works 4 blocks from home. An individual scenario needs to be taken into account. However I have some concerns that 'if it fits your scenario' can be taken in silly directions and becomes the system equivalent of 'shooters preference' run amok or the tactical equivalent of "everyone gets a trophy" no matter how uninformed or even stupid their setup is. Generally speaking right answers from different smart people look a whole lot alike which sort of goes against the "whatever fits your scenario" argument.

For a specific discrete event it would make sense to look at your kit to add or remove items as needed, obviously within reason. However I find that, especially for kits/bags/systems regularly carried for contingencies, this could rapidly become onerous. I am not going to dump my level 2 bag every day based on the days plans. "Well, I will need to add 2 granola bars for today because I am going an extra 5 miles from home, it is warm outside so I do not need a jacket, yadda, yadda, yadda." That is just not realistic. Honestly if I replace stuff that gets used, make sure nothing goes bad and do the seasonal gear shift I'm doing well. I find that coming up with a solid plan that fills my general perceived needs and just sticking with it is probably the best option for normal every day stuff.

To the discussion of your more assault type bags vs a full sized ruck/ hiking backpack:

In general it is important to prepare not only for the conditions you plan to face but those you could reasonably face. This means more food, clothing, tools and equipment than you know you will need.

Case in point: The winter before last I was hiking up in the Huachuca Mountains kind of a scenic work out as I was carrying my BOB. At the time I was alone in the house and it was a Saturday afternoon. It started to rain then snow. As I was jumping rock to rock across a tributary I casually wondered "what will happen if I break my ankle right now?" There was no way I could get out on one leg. The answer was that in two or three days I would have be found. They would have found me with a nice shelter set up laying in my sleeping bag by a fire, probably sipping a hot beverage and playing solitaire. With a 20 pound assault pack I would have been alive but cold, hungry and pretty unhappy.

Bigger heavier systems are going to have more capabilities than smaller ones assuming you make semi reasonable choices for stuff. It is true leveraging newer lighter items and dual use stuff helps.
However without ridiculously gaming the scenario those gains are not that enormous. The gaps I find most problematic in smaller systems in order are lack of cold weather clothing/ shelter, lack of provisions and lack of tools. Along this line you can get away with a lot lighter systems in warmer
areas. Valid points can be made about the need for some of this stuff. However there is danger of going down the 'capabilities' slippery slope where folks say 'well I have a cutting tool' and somehow convince their self a razor blade has the same capabilities as a full tang 8" survival knife and an ax or that a little tin foil emergency blanket 'shelter' the equivalent to a Swack Shack and a military sleep system.

The consideration of speed/ ease of movement certainly favors lighter systems. I agree with this if it makes sense for the scenario (vs a bigger system with more capabilities). To me in this context making sense would be that the lighter bag meets your perceived needs with a reasonable margin for
error.

I guess my biggest reservations about the smaller sustainment load are a) it is not a replacement for a heavier sustainment load for a variety of realistic situations, especially in cold weather and b) that it could be chosen not because it is the right fit but because it is easier to carry around.

We should not discount the idea of using a larger bag and leaving it in camp, an ORP or caching it for the times we need to move faster. This might let you use a smaller bag in more of a traditional assault pack role filling it up with the items you will need for that day or maybe overnight scout.
Inevitably the 'but a ruck is heavy!" whine comes out. The answer is physical fitness in general and with a particular focus on moving over ground in general and carrying a load. Also while it is not nice to say if you lose 20 pounds of excess butt and or belly that 20 pounds of food/ clothes/ gear you could carry for the same amount of effort. Unfortunately less fit people do not somehow magically require less food/ clothes/ gear than fit people do. Bear this in mind when considering your body weight and physical fitness level.

Like I mentioned earlier I ended up with sustainment type systems in both of these loose categories. To which one I pick for a specific situation there is sort of a loose decision making/ risk assessment, most of the time I choose the smaller of the two. The bigger bag tends to come out when I am
going way out into the hinter boonies or in winter. 

Thoughts?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Large Bug Out Back/ Ruck Conversation

I am looking at purchasing a large backpack/ ruck for my level 2 (sustainment) load. I have a ton of packs but they are split between various modern commercial ones that for one reason or another (size, color, configuration, etc) do not really work to optimally suit my needs and a stack of ALICE's I picked up on a deal. Honestly while the ALICE has a lot of value and is hell for stout (though like anything they do break) they are quite unpleasant to carry and offer limited options for side pockets and such. The ones I have will probably all end up in caches eventually.

Note I know what ALICE packs are and probably have more miles under them than most folks so please don't bother suggesting to carry one. Aside from not being comfortable they do not offer the pocket setup I desire. Yes you can modify them but that turns into spending Ferrari money on a Fiat in a hurry.

Additionally I am disinclined to go with a MILSURP MOLLE ruck due to A) being in blatantly military colors and B) while better than the ALICE not being on par with quality civilian models for comfort and ability to easily carry weight.

Concept of use is a big heavy duty pack with a decent amount of pockets as well as some comparability (MOLLE/ PALS webbing would be a plus) with a modern suspension system IE decent hip belt, shoulder straps, overall fairly comfortable and in an earth tone but not blatantly military (ie ACU/ Multicam/ etc) pattern.

Cost is not a driving factor but the budget  of roughly $330 does not currently allow for uuber high end brands like Eberlestock, Mystery Ranch, Kirafu, etc. Also the idea of dropping $400+ on a pack then payout out the behind a la carte to get some basic side pouches bothers me a lot. I COULD save for another month or two and be in that price range but it would take a compelling argument to justify the additional cost.

The pack I am looking hard at is the Kelty 7850 formerly known as the 128. It is a big, actually huge, pack from a quality modern company that is not completely overtly militaristic. There is a legitimate argument that people should get their stuff together and then get a bag that fits it to avoid the inevitable good idea fairy bag filling. That being said I have been carrying and living out of rucks for a long time so I understand the weight math. Additionally my life situation (specifically kids) is such that I want the ability to flex to add some stuff above my baseline setup.

The new Marine FILBE pack in FDE AKA brown seems to be nice but I haven't  seen them available for sale complete with frame yet without the assault pack and hydration system (both of which are fine kit, that I do not need). Also if prices are close I would take Kelty over .Mil any day.

Am interested if any of you have experiences with these packs or similar alternatives.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Things On My Mind

1) Adjusting my systems to factor in both rural and urban type considerations. Having system(s) that will work if I get stuck in the woods or have to crash land in a city. Obviously regional considerations apply. Zero in Montana does not need subway tokens in his bag and a guy in Arizona probably does not need snow shoes. However to say that everything is situational and individually dependent is a cop out. That is the 'everyone is great' of preparedness.

There are certainly right as well as wrong answers. The real question is how to balance competing demands to fit the various scenarios you may face.

2) Toying with getting some sort of a .40 S&W probably a Glock to beef up the Operational Cache. While the .38/.357 DA revolver is the standard for one group of people I am in at home my friends there seem to have unintentionally standardized to .40 S&W, specifically Glocks. Not high on the list bit it is something on my radar if a deal pops up.

3) Got my hands on some Brad Thor adventure/ spy type books at a garage sale for .50c a piece and am working through them. Enjoyable stuff for sure. Some reviews and thoughts will follow in due time.

4) Think we are taking the first real (not just Walker and I in the back yard) family camping trip next month. Should be an excellent forcing function to get some of our stuff relooked and then test it out.

5) The AR Folding Stock Adapter has intriguing possibilities, especially for a shorter AR. You do have to open it to fire more than 1 shot but still being able to get an AR into a (fairly) normal sized backpack opens up a range of possibilities.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a really productive week here. I packed away all the 7.62x39, 5.56, 9mm and 12 gauge ammo that has been accumulated over the last few months into ammo cans and updated the inventories. Over the years I have learned to do it all at once. I put the ammo into cans, write the contents on a piece of tape on the side with a market, update my inventories, throw in some silica gel and am it's all done. Not doing it this way seems to mean some part of the process gets messed up.

This time I had a few silica gel packs from something that got shipped to us. Recharged them in the oven and they were good to go. You can buy the silica gel packs for a very reasonable price if a free source does not appear. I have also used silica gel cat litter before (though I would absolutely not do so for food or food related products). This step is arguably not necessary but it makes me more comfortable so I do it on everything that is not sealed from the factory or in a spam can.

Also reorganized my level 2.5 gear (assault pack/ get home bag) and bug out bag AKA level 3 sustainment load. Some was an adjustment to a more summer load with fewer warm clothes as it is unlikely I will wear wool gloves or a heavy sweater here in Louisianian for awhile. Another component was balancing the two setups which are in theory complimentary to each other. Big fun was had.

Relooked my vehicle setup too. Tossed out some less useful things for our current situation and added some more that fill holes. Also a way to bring preparedness into cleaning out a vehicle.

Also started the garden. It is later than is ideal but is due to circumstances beyond our control. Still good to get it moving. We are looking at getting a coop and chickens with part of our tax refund.

So what did you do to prepare this week?

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a pretty good week here. I ordered the stuff to move forward with Project 870 which is long overdue. Also picked up a castle nut wrench and a wool blanket. Repacked the Bug Out Bag which is good. While not explicitly blog related I worked to knock off eating out. Right now I'm home alone so it's easy and very tempting to just grab something. Last week I ate out once on Friday night so that was good. Got a chef salad for lunch today because I was craving something fresh and green like crazy. Only halfway went shopping last week so fresh and green haven't been on the menu for awhile. This week I'm going to dial it up a notch and try to keep cooking but work in more veggies n fresh fruits. Suppose this means I do need to go shopping pretty quick here, like tomorrow. Between that stuff, finishing Point of Impact and some projects at home I've been a pretty busy beaver.

This coming week I am going to finish the project at home. Hopefully the stuff for Project 870 arrives this week so I can get going on that over the coming weekend. Other than that it's just sustained excellence on all fronts.

What did you do to prepare this week?


Saturday, January 18, 2014

Saturday Night Ramblings

I found myself in Walmart the other day. Needed a haircut and some light work on the family hauler and there is only one place to do both of those things around here. Turns out everybody else had the same idea! So I was waiting for both things and looking at the ammo situation.

It was actually pretty good. Lots of .223, 7.62x39, .308 and of course all the shotgun shells and hunting type calibers you could want. A guy was talking to the dude working behind the counter. Guy didn't now what type of ammo his SKS shot but wanted to buy some. Dude said 7.62x54R but Guy was not exactly convinced. I said it was 7.62x39. Walmart Dude was happy somebody else was dealing with his problem. Guy was not entirely convinced. He asked if I was sure to which I replied that I was. He asked the same question a similar way. I said I was absolutely positive and would bet him a thousand dollars cash on the matter. Guy was convinced. That narrowed it down to caliber. Dude had both steel cased (Wolf I think) and brass cased ammo. Guy wasn't sure about the difference.

That lead to a 2 minute discussion. Since Guy didn't reload (thank God!) we agreed steel cased would suit his needs at a much more agreeable price. Guy bought 3 boxes and we both went about our days.

Today I had to run some errands and ended up at a surplus store. Got a castle nut wrench which I am long overdue for purchasing and a used USGI wool blanket, picked up the blanket for $10 which I was pretty happy with. After that I went to scout out a place to do some camping. It looks good. In my time driving around the woods here I definitely realized the longest line of site you get here is under 200 meters with under 100 being more common. That's bumped my desire to acquire a precision bolt action rifle, lately boosted by the book I am currently reading Point of Impact (Thanks Zero and Harry Flashman!), down a big notch. Short of improbable shots down a strait road, in a field, etc Project AR could easily dominate any shooting tasks here, hell an iron sighted 30-30 would do around 90% of it just fine and a shotgun could cover 70% or so.

I may go camping tomorrow but it depends on how far I get on a project at home. As a kid and teenager I absolutely loved camping. I went at least monthly forever and for multiple years about every other weekend. Then I joined the Army and subsequently started sleeping outside all the time for work it ceased to be any fun. Since then I could probably count the amount of times I've slept outside on the ground, outside of work,  on one hand. Each time involved family so I was pretty much stuck. Now I am for better or worse at a place in my career where I have been removed from that sort of thing for awhile. I sort of miss it.

That is good because incidentally Walker seems to be expressing an interest in camping. He went with Mother in Law in the drive way a week or so back. Except he noted it wasn't real camping because "the truck didn't move and we didn't sleep in a tent" (She has a camper and it was going to be 20 that night) but he seemed to have fun all the same. So maybe we'll start doing some of that in the yard then ultimately out and about. He is getting towards the right age to start doing more outside stuff. We've got the gear so that is not an issue. Anyway we will see where that goes.

Today while going over my BOB I made some changes. Added a few pouches to give me more readily accessible space. Aside from that mostly it was transitioning to a winter setup admittedly a bit late. Added a pair (top/ bottom) of silk weight long underwear and a wool sweater. I took out a waffle top that had been my sole piece of cold weather gear (for summer in AZ). Swapped a desert pattern goretex for a multicam shell to better fit the area. Also added a pair of wool gloves. If I am smart in the spring when I ditch that stuff I'll put it all in a box or bag to make the transition easy in the future.

I realized some holes that need to be filled today going through our gear. They are going to be listed not so much for you but so I can remember in a month or whatever when I want to fill them:
3x wide mouth stainless steel water bottles (1x ghb, 1x everyday 1x wifey)
1x nesting cup for 1q bottle with carry pouch
3x Louisiana state maps (or a western central LA type map if I can fine one larger than parish but below state sized)
3x eastern Texas maps if available
1x trowel
2 pair wool socks
a kydex belt holster that will hold a Glock 9 with a light yet be reasonably concealable. The big Safariland is great for a battle belt, duty, OC role but I'd like to have a holster (raven concealment, bravo concealment, etc) that could hide under an oversized shirt or a sweatshirt. Should get a pair of good mag pouches along with it.

Tomorrow or the next day I'm going on a monster rant about Bushcrafting. I think bushcrafting is to camping what crossfit is to exercise. They do so many good things but also do some really silly things and take it all so seriously. That should be a fun talk.

I pulled the trigger and ordered the stuff for Project 870. Brownells matte black Alumahyde, Elzetta light mount, GG&G rear sling mount and a half dozen essetac cards. I can procure a light locally and have some slings in my box o gun junk. Think I ultimately want to use a Magpul MS3 to have the 2-1 capability but I'm not sure. Looking forward to getting that all set up.

Realized that one of my not explicitly defined but over arching goals for this year is to have all the guns I currently own set up how I want them to be. Of course there is some evolution as new products come out, we test stuff, yadda yadda yadda but instead of buying another gun or piece of kit I want to get the stuff I have all squared away. Mostly my 642 as it is just a handy little thing. Honestly it is probably too handy for my own good. That little wheel gun is so light and convenient that in moments of weakness or laziness which inevitably occur more than they should I carry it instead of a more potent firearm.

Got some Lone Star beer the other day. One of those cliche Texas things I had to try. It is pretty good straddling the line of being flavorful without too heavy or busy.

Anyway I'm bored of writing now so it's time to wrap this up. Talk to you all later.


Monday, December 2, 2013

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

It was a good week here. Ordered a gun safe, a bunch of AK mags and some shelves for the garage. The gunsafe and shelves were planned, stuff we've been waiting to pull the trigger on for awhile. The AK mags were an impromptu buy based on an excellent price.

Added a few small things to the BOB. Need to get a machete and a mosquito net then it is good to go. Organized some stuff which was good. Split a bit of firewood.

Other than that not a lot happened. Thanksgiving ate up Thursday and Friday. This weekend we didn't do a darn thing which was really needed. Next week I am going to focus on getting some traction on the book. This month was nowhere near as productive as I wanted but given that weekends went to home improvement projects that was to be expected. Honestly we needed to get our residence set up a lot more than I need to finish a book. Hoping to get it done this winter.

Toying with the idea of putting together a nonfiction "best of the blog" type book. It would be a compilation of articles covering my foundational beliefs about different subjects such as weapons, gear, food storage, finances, fitness, insurgencies, etc all. Cost is TBD but would be in the McDonalds value meal to six pack of decent beer range. Does that interest anyone?

What did you do to prepare this week?

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Emergency Use Vs Longer Term Survival, System Compatability and Overall Gear Thoughts

Imagine if you will a continuum between the shortest term emergency we can think of (say an hour or two) all the way to a true Hatchet style long term survival situation.

Shorter term situations inherently lend themselves to carrying just the things we need.

Example, lets say I work 10 miles from home and am a pretty fit guy but not a marathon running champion (a reasonable description of me). Something happens, say a disaster in which a bridge a half mile from work goes down or is blocked. Thankfully this being Louisiana and not near the Mississippi it's not a huge water obstacle. Lets say it is the dry season so the water is shallow enough to walk but vehicles aren't getting through. There are no reasonable alternative routes so I'm walking home. Well what do I need? A comfortable set of seasonally appropriate clothes with a hat, good broken in boots, and a couple quarts of water. Some munchies to replace a meal or four would be nice. A weapon would be good as I just might need it for self protection. A flashlight in case it gets dark before I make it home. Really I do not NEED anything else for this scenario. I'll be home in under 3 hours hoofing it and that's if I can't hitch a ride with somebody.

On the other hand there is a breaking point where you simply cannot carry enough consumables to rely on them. One can't carry enough food to walk hundreds of miles or live for months as well as the other stuff they will need. I hesitate to say there is an exact breaking point but it is more of a gradual transition from consumables to tools and equipment to gather food, traps, fishing stuff, etc all. For example I do not carry trot lines, a cast net, 110 conifer traps, an ax and a cast iron frying pan all the time, though I would if I was going to the woods for a year.

On the low end I still like to be fairly tool heavy (as Dave Canterbury said). To me there are two primary reasons for this. First of all I like to keep a variety of capabilities all the time, cutting stuff, starting fires, carrying water, heating up water/ cooking, etc. The basic stuff to do this is within arms reach at work being a Power Point Ranger getting ready for some briefing. Second short term emergency situations can very easily turn into longer term ones. Situations start out bad then get worse. Lets say a violent conflict makes it so I cannot get back home and there are no good options in other population centers (Partisans in Central/ Eastern Europe during WWII come to mind) so I'm headed to the deepest darkest woods in the area. All of a sudden I need tools more than another box of granola bars.

Based on this my kits tend to include: a good fixed blade knife, some sort of container I could cook in, cordage, flint and steel (lighters too of course), some sort of shelter plan, etc. 

System compatibility is important. All your stuff needs to work together in it's intended pattern of use. This means your holster, fighting load (if applicable), ruck sack, etc all have to fit together. Carrying a handgun with modern type hiking backpacks that rely heavily on a big padded hip belt is difficult. Your options are to put the gun in a fanny pack, strap it to your pack's hip belt, put it in the pack or employ a chest rig/ hill people gear kit bag. A normal holster simply is not in the cards.

Honestly this is what led me to the current tiered system I am employing. I redid my fighting load into a war belt plus a plate carrier with (to be determined) pouches or the TAP. I have an assault pack/ get home bag as my level 2.5. It lives in my car but could be attached to the ALICE (which would suck a lot) or configured as needed based on the mission. Lastly is my Bug Out Bag.

Not saying the way I did it is the only way. There are a lot of ways to skin the proverbial cat. What matters is that your gear is compatible with the stuff it is going to be used with. Testing it is really the way to figure out of it will in fact work together.

Anyway those are my thoughts on that.



Sunday, October 27, 2013

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I was swamped at work this week which hurt the eating healthy (when the boss says "We aren't leaving and we're getting Pizza" it takes a stronger person than I to eat the healthy leftovers in their lunch box with boxes of fresh pizza 6 feet away.) and fitness routines a fair bit. On the fitness side a rest was probably due though so that is OK.

-Got the war belt adjusted and ordered a Safariland 6285 which should finish that system off. Well till I figure out how to stuff another ammo pouch on anyway.

-Put some work into the ALICE Pack that's going to pull Sustainment Load/ BOB duty. Component list here if you are curious. Just cleaning up some corrosion on the metal parts then spray painting it to protect from future occurrences of the same. Other than that I'm looking at some changes for being down here. Skeeter net and juice for starters. Probably going to swap the hawk for a machete. I'm not in swampy Cajun land but lots of brush and small trees seems to be the rule here. Also recently purchased a 2 quart canteen which is going to be added to the side when I get around to sticking it on there.

-Other than that we are still working to get our home set up how we want. Lots of small scale DIY stuff going on here with more to come. Will talk about that later.

-Spent a good chunk of today organizing the garage. Have been working in there off and on for awhile but for whatever reason the efforts today really showed. Instead of stuff EVERYWHERE covering the floor we now have a few piles of like type stuff (tools, camping gear, gun stuff, kid stuff) to sort out and figure what we're going to do with. It's not there yet but I see the probable final solution of a nice organized space which is great. Going to hang some stuff on walls and from the ceiling which should help even more.

-As part of my organizing effort I have a working "to the cache" pile. A couple changes of clothes, a couple blankets, spare Solo Stove that type of stuff. Plan to sort it out, fill any glaring omissions then take it there this week.

So that is what I have been up to. Given that all the action happened this weekend I would say it was a pretty productive week.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Tiered Gear: Bringing It All Together

I've been struggling with this mentally for about a year. I keep putting together more and more kits. I basically had 3 'survivalist' kit as well as 3 militaryish kits (home defense, fighting load, ). I had my EDC, EDC bag,  a get home bag and a Bug out Bag. I also had a home defense setup, a fighting load and a never totally put together but always on the radar full on red dawn/ Doug Carlson type ruck. It has been a big mess for awhile.

Anyway here is where I am going. 

Level 1- Normal Everyday Carry. I keep some extra stuff handy in case a knife/ lighter doesn't get moved from one pair of pants to the other.

Level 2-HSGI War Belt, Chest rig (Probably MOLLE II review to follow), Body Armor as appropriate. It's a decent bet but I'm hoping the war belt works out. If the chest rig which ups my rifle mag count from 2+1 to 10+1 is coming the body armor almost surely would be. There is potential to add a camelback if the situation dictates. Camelbacks (and other hydration systems) are an interesting discussion for another day. Suffice to say I like the option of wearing one but they are a hassle when wearing a ruck or a bulkier assault pack.

Level 2.5-Get Home Bag/ Assault Pack. This is sort of an awkward to define but useful kit as I have talked about before. Mine is primarily set up as a get home bag though since it's mostly empty could easily be set up with mission specific gear in a more assault pack fashion. While it would suck it is compatable with attaching to my ruck. That would put the total weight close to 90 (70-75 w/o armor) pounds which is getting silly but I guess it's good to have options. Also if I ate the food and drank the water in this kit the weight would drop considerably to a more reasonable level. The immediate survival type portion of this kit might live in my Hill People Gear kit bag.

Level 3- Bug Out Bag/ Ruck. Tonight I began the conversion from an excellent civilian backpack to a surplus ALICE bag. The reason is the ALICE is high enough to work with the war belt. Also while I dislike carrying them the damn things last forever. If things go all Mad Max/ Red Dawn this is the uncomfortable bag I want to be carrying.

Do need to pick up a couple more pouches to make the transition work. The ALICE is big enough but most of the space is in the main pouch. I like being able to be a touch more organized than that I will probably pick up some MOLLE sustainment pouches to fit onto the sides. Also maybe a pouch of some type for the bottom. I have plenty of space NOW but probably not enough for a slightly heavier winter module. Anyway I'm working on it.

Discussion- In normal times the war belt will be my bump in the night kit. No real changes needed though I will probably add a burner cell phone and photocopy of my drivers license. Also the level 2.5 will live in the vehicle I drive to and from work.

One of the biggest benefits of simplifying the amount of kits/ systems I am using is that it will let me combine stuff to have overall better setups. This will let me have better gear present without breaking the bank. Also it just makes things simpler which is good.

So that is my thinking for where stuff is going. As always your thoughts are welcome.


Thursday, October 10, 2013

Reader Question: Rucking Weights, Fighting vs Approach March Loads, Afghanistan, etc

Rucking 101 Part 2 Training Plans got a comment that I thought was worth replying to on the main page:
I question the sense, even the rationality of trying to train up to the military 65 lb load. Training should have a purpose. What is the purpose of the 65 lb load? The military does it? So effing what. The military is losing in Afghanistan to poorly trained, poorly equipped light infantry in part because those heavy loads give the Taliban the choice of when to engage. And then when they do engage our troops carrying 65 pounds of gear cannot catch them when they disengage. The bulk and weight of the loads, to a great extent, limits our troops to roads and trails where they can be ambushed or hit with ieds. So why would you want to copy the military when what the military does doesn't work?

Ryan here: I am going to ignore the slightly condescending tone of the reply  so we will just stick to the issue at hand. First I have to say the plan I pretty blatantly stole is the brainchild of John Mosby. I am not going to try putting words into his mouth; all thoughts that follow are my own. In no particular order here we go:

-Let's talk about system levels first.

Level 1 is your survival load. I everyday carry mine.

Level 2 is a fighting load. A way you carry plenty of ammo, some water, a bit of food and medical stuff, etc. Level 2 can vary widely in weight depending on whether or not you choose to wear body armor. Even a stripped down set of plates with a plate carrier weights in the fifteen to seventeen pound range. Add side plates and it will be more. Choose a full on vest with class IIIA soft armor, side plates and front/ back plates and it's going to be more like 30 pounds.This is also called a fighting load.

Level 3 is a subsistence load. This will have food, shelter, water, spare clothes, ammo, etc all. This is a rucksack or something similar. It is also called an approach march load.

-Where you confuse things is by arbitrarily linking 65 pounds being the end weight of this program with what you perceive to be soldiers fighting loads in Afghanistan. These two things are entirely unrelated in my mind.

-As to taking lessons from our combat forces. Who else would you propose taking them from?

-To the single point issue of whether soldiers loads in our current operational environment, particularly high altitude mountainous Afghanistan are too heavy. One can make a legitimate argument, as I noted a couple years back in Thoughts on Insurgencies #1 that the current focus on wearing heavy protective equipment no matter what decreases mobility. Years and a trip to Afghanistan later I would argue in particular that it greatly limits our ability to do the long multi day presence/ movement to contact type patrols and SKT/ ambushes that would really deny the Taliban safe haven everywhere an MRAP/ Cougar can't drive. This means the Taliban have functional control of these areas only needing to worry about SOF types occasionally popping out of the sky to hit an HVT. Day to day that terrain and it's populace are theirs. You just can't haul enough stuff to survive for 3-4 days and wear full on body armor.

If I were El Supremo General Ryan I would delegate authority to forgo protective gear in order to increase mobility to the Company Commander, with review by the first 0-5 in the chain of command which is typically the Battalion Commander. Moving on.

-Beyond that to the larger question of whether our overall success, or very arguable lack thereof in Afghanistan can be attributed to our troops efforts (or even more arbitrarily the weight of their fighting loads).  One could argue that seperating military and political objectives is arbitrary. After all as Clausewitz said "War is a continuation of politics by other means".

The conditions determined to be success and by implication failure, as well as the limits of troops and force allowed being defined by civil leadership largely put success in a venture such as Afghanistan into the political spectrum. For example, our soldiers could stop the Taliban in a couple weeks simply by killing the known bad guys and their major supporters without waiting to catch them in the act with evidence that can convict them and subsequently gathering intel to go kill their buddies but it would not be pretty. In fact it would probably remind one of The Battle of Algiers.

Of course any legitimate effort to route the Taliban would need to include significant incursions if not outright occupation of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and the Federally Administered Tribal areas. Taking it a step further our military would be quite capable of killing every human being in Afghanistan to end the problem that way. However we are not as a society willing to accept those costs; which is probably a good thing.

In closing on this point I'd argue our soldiers are doing a decent, though inherently less than perfect, job in pursuit of what could be argued to be an inadequately resourced, poorly defined and unrealistic, out right fantasy based often changing end state.

-You mentioned training having a purpose. So let us work backwards in terms of how much weight one might want to train up to carrying.

My fighting load including M4agery weights in around 20 pounds. Toss in body armor and it is closer to 35-40.

My sustainment load AKA BOB weights about 42 pounds (wet).

Carrying a light (sans armor) fighting load and my BOB puts me right around the 65 pound weight hack. I don't worry to much about a full on load out of fighting kit, armor and ruck. The reason is I can't see myself realistically carrying that for a prolonged period.  Where I can see myself sucking under a ruck is in some situation trying to get home. Often for long trips I toss my BOB and a rifle into our vehicle. Walking home a long distance would suck but it is my realistic walking worst case scenario.

The point I am trying to get at here is that 65 pounds is not out a crazy weight for a multi day sustainment load and some fighting gear. Instead of being an arguably bloated fighting load it is a lean fighting load and enough stuff to somewhat comfortably live for 3-4 days in realistic field conditions. Really add up the stuff and if your weights come across drastically different I'd recheck the packing list.

While not intentionally planned 65 pounds is just about right for me. Knowing John Mosby that probably isn't a happy coincidence. If you do the same math as I just did and come up with a drastically different weight then adjust accordingly.

That being said as one wise commenter noted "If you can carry 65 you can definitely carry 35" so maybe training hard even if you do not plan to haul a heavy pack has some wisdom after all.

Anyway that's my thinking on that. Hope it helps or entertains somebody.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Knife Sharpening and General Tool Maintenance

Right now we do not have a lot of stuff. Our kitchen stuff is 2 pots, 2 pans, the cast iron beast, a measuring cup, a couple bowls, some silverware, a coffee cup and a single knife. When you have a few things they are inherantly used more often.

Wifey was cutting some meat for dinner today with very poor results. The dull knife was not getting the job done. Pulled out my benchmade as it was handy. The benchmade was just a bit sharper but the blade length left something to be desired. I went to my BOB to grab the knife sharpener. A few strokes for each side got the kitchen knife back into action to finish cutting the meat up.

After the kids went to bed both knives got a bit of love that was overdue. Both knives are sufficiently sharp now. During this time Wifey commented that it was a bit odd I had a knife sharpener handy. I agreed it was slightly unusual. That our BOB's made the cut for the very spartan amount of stuff in our current residence says something about my prioritization for sure. That being said a knife sharpener in that kit is pretty obvious in my mind. Knives which are used a lot can get dull making them harder to use and more dangerous. Also while my kit is generally light on maintenance stuff, as it's design is more about short term sustainment, keeping edged tools servicable is pretty important. Also a knife sharpener is a fairly small/ light tool that enables your other tools which is pretty neat.

Be sure it include knife sharpeners in your kits. They are a pretty handy thing to have.

Friday, September 6, 2013

"Battle Belt" And Overall Tiered Gear Rethinking

Max Velocity's Gear Philosophy Update got me thinking. First it rekindled last year's battle belt/ war belt train of thought. It got me to thinking. The idea of a more modular setup appealed to me. Being able to have a decent setup that can work for home invasions, a Katrina like event, training or as a base for a more substantial setup would be nice.

I used a system similar (a TT rig that was  probably not stiff enough) to a battle belt long ago and found it unnecessarily cumbersome. Granted gear has moved a long way in almost a decade but a big padded belt is still a big padded belt. Without being able to fiddle with one I am concerned the same issues will pop up.

One option I previously considered was just doing it on a rigger belt. The downside of this plan is that your gear does not stay securely in place. Some systems have come along recently that let you retain PALS type gear on standard belts. I fear the cost of that option would get silly fast and it adds another variable to go wrong. So I did some more looking. There are some PALS compatible single row belts out there. This one from SKD seems nice. Others are available from quality makers. Has anyone done a battle belt on a belt like that?

Then again enough really smart people who actually train with their gear (specifically John Mosby and I think Max Velocity) are pro battle belt that there is probably something to the general configuration of a 3 row PALS padded belt.

Regardless of the belt I'd basically do the same thing. My plan would be to put on a pair of HSGI double taco's, a compass, flashlight, pistol, knife, plus a small water bottle. I would probably use suspenders for every use except home defense.

This got me to having an overall gear setup. Right now my BOB/ ruck (Tier 3) is a commercial style hiking backpack. It's integral padded hip belt would not work with a battle belt. The simple solution would be to swap the pack out for an ALICE which is already on inventory. Since it's free that is easy enough. Not as comfortable but it's utilitarian ruggedness has some benefits.

So down the rabbit hole of gear reshuffling I went. Thankfully there are some nice tools and pieces of kit already on inventory. That means instead of a huge shopping list it's more about choosing what goes where. So basically I have no immediate plan to fund this trip down the gear porn road or an idea about what exactly the main component is going to be. Honestly I may have just written about it because so much time was wasted thinking on it.

Of course input is appreciated.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

BOB Weight, Concept of Use and Bag Selection

Editors Note: I received a comment worth talking about here. Seemed easiest to answer it point by point in the letter. My answers will be in italics. End Note

@Ryan, out of curiousity, any idea what your bag weighs to give an idea?

My bag weighted 42 pounds wet (with water) and 38 dry when weighted a few weeks ago.


As well, I'm by no means new to this stuff, but one thing I definitely don't have right now is a BOB. I've got large kits in the car, weapons, and the skills to go with them all from hunting to bush living but I'm trying to understand the purpose of a BOB. Is it solely if you had to ditch somewhere on foot? Basically a dedicated emergency backpacking trip bag in stupid terms? Just trying to figure out the reason behind it so that way I can start building it to my specs!

When it comes to kits there is a serious lack of continuity in naming/ concept of use/ contents within the survivalist community. I talked about this and my thoughts on it as the 'tiers' of gear relate to military and civilian kits not too long ago. To briefly recap I think it is probably more important to talk concept of use and a brief description of the list of components than go by some arbitrary self imposed title. The primary reason I even call this a bug out bag here is because that is what the cool survivalist kids on the interwebz call them and thus what people like to read about. 

My 'BOB' AKA ruck is a 3rd line sustainment load. Concept of use varies person to person based on their own concerns and environment. Personally my primary concerns are 1) Getting Munsoned in the middle of nowhere. 2) A short notice evacuation type of situation like a chemical spill or something. 3) Last is as a ready to go "Grab the backpack and a rifle then run for the woods" type kit. 

My kit is set up so it is man portable for the long walk home or run to the woods scenario because it is possible to have that capability for those unlikely scenarios while covering all of the more likely ones. In reality of we ever "Bug Out" odds are very high all we will need is enough fuel to get clear of a regional disaster and a visa card to get a room in a hotel then order pizza when we get there. That being said things could be worse like a wider scenario, we could get stuck someplace, etc all. The way I look at it we can have a bunch of great survival gear sitting in the corner of a hotel room with the only downside being I need to carry it into the room. On the other hand if we leave with just a visa card and get stuck on the highway in the middle of nowhere we have big issues. Sort of like you said my bag is a dedicated sustainment load geared towards emergency situations.
 
Not to mention, how do you choose the pack, because if you're anything like me you've got some nice packs and a older one as well. I'd rather put it in one of my 2 nice 2500-3k in bags to ruck with rather than the large old, external aluminum frame one I bought from my dad. I use both my medium size good ones for school and mil but the big one is always empty. Anyone/Ryan, do you have this predicament? Thoughts? Thanks!

Choosing a pack is a complicated issue. A bag needs to be durable and in earth tones for sure. Other than that options are almost endless. Using a bag you already have that fits the bill is a fine option.

Between the bags you have I think we need to take a step back to look at concept of use. A kit designed to comfortably sustain a person during winter in rural North Dakota for 4 days is obviously going to be substantially larger than a 2 day kit for summer in the South. I figured out the list of stuff for my kit then put it together to see how much bag was really necessary. Basically if the stuff you want fits in a nice smaller bag, otherwise put it in the larger bag. If you are comfortable using the older bag just keep it, otherwise consider a more modern replacement when finances allow.

As to the bag vs bag dilemma I did have that in building my 'get home bag.' My Tactical Tailor assault pack could not simultaneously fill two roles. The way I solved it was to get a budget but quality (mine is a nicer model bough used but basic Jansport bags run $25ish and are just fine) to carry books, my lunch, etc all leaving the bombproof TT bag for my 'get home bag.'

Hope that helps,
-Ryan

Monday, August 26, 2013

Bug Out Bag Component List

I have been halfway meaning to do something like this for awhile. Part of the reason I haven't is that so many people have done their slightly different take on the same thing that my particular flavor would probably not bring much to the overall conversation. The other part is that it will be a bit of a hassle to pull everything out and catalog it. Honestly the reason this is getting done is that a friend asked me for a list. Not like an internet acquaintance (though I love you all) but a real 3 in the morning shotgun, bag of lime and shovel type friend. So here we are.

Before getting going it is worth touching on my concept of use for this 'Bug Out Bag'. My intent is for a bag that can sustain a person (not including all water) for at least 72 hours under situations they are likely to face. Obviously the winter BOB of a person living in North Dakota will be considerably different than one for a person in Florida. People in all but the mildest climates would be well advised to have a winter module to add to their spring/ summer setup.

 I am going to break this down into different sub systems. Will then list my opinions of what is necessary per sub system. You might disagree with a particular widget but think hard before leaving out a whole sub system.

Carry Containers
-Large bag aprox 3k cubic in size. Mine is an older REI brand model that luckily came out in earth tones. There are tons of great bag options from several hundred dollar brands like Kirafu or Mystery Ranch down to the terrible to carry but durable Alice for $30ish. Just get a good earth tone bag you will practice carrying.
-Hill People Gear kit bag to carry my survival load. Survival load components are bold and put in their individual categories. In a more kinetic situation the stuff currently in my kit bag would go into the fighting load.

Sub Systems

Tools- Pathfinder trade knife in survival load, Cold Steel trail hawk, leatherman multi tool, Lansky diamond rod sharpener.

Fire- Survival load: Lighter with rubber bands around it in small ziplock,  rod and steel. Fire kit containing 1x bic lighter with rubber bands around it, match case full of matches, 4x tea candles

Navigation- Compass in survival load. Maps. 1x 1:50k of my immediate area. 1x state map with as much detail as possible. Protractor and 2x pencils. All in 1 gallon ziplock bag. Wrist compass as backup.

Water- 2x 1qt water bottles, MSR bladder (empty) in ruck, water purification tablets in survival load, Sawyer water filter

Food- 72 hours worth of food broken into 1 day bags, Bag of hard candy

Cooking- Stainless steel canteen cup, Solo Stove with Solo Pot 900 (conspicuously absent from the bag today, MIA from the move I guess)

Shelter- Swack Shack for shelter, woobie for warmth (obviously a light system for summer in Arizona then Louisiana), Heavy duty space blanket just in case.
Spare clothes- Boonie hat, Gore Tex jacket, polypro top (waffle type), long sleeved shirt, short sleeved t shirt, pants, fleece hat, 2 pair of sock, leather gloves

First Aid- My first aid gear is broken up into an IFAK and a boo boo kit. The IFAK is my trauma stuff. The Boo boo kit is more of a kit designed to keep me moving and as comfortable as possible.

IFAK- Tourniquet, Israeli bandage, compressed gauze, Needle for chest decompression, Nasal airway tube, Glow stick in case it is dark when I need this stuff.

Boo boo kit containing bandaids, mole skin, duct tape, pain killers, liquid bandage, athletic tape, neosporin, crazy glue and yet another glow stick

Hygiene- 1x roll of TP in ziplock bag, wash cloth, bar of soap, toothbrush, floss (w/ large needle inside for emergency repairs, chap stick

Lighting- Headlamp in survival load, Glow stick left side pouch, battery powered glow stick in right side pouch, cheapo LED light in top pouch, glow stick in IFAK. Basically every pouch has some sort of light in it just in case.

Signaling- Whistle in survival load, strip of VS-17 panel, weatherproof notebook and pencil

Self Defense- This one gets a lot of play. Honestly aside from wanting to have some spare ammo it doesn't get much play in my bag. I carry 2x G17 magazines, 50 rounds of 9mm ammo and 50 rounds of .22lr. Obviously guns to go with these cartridges are implied and ammo is as a backup. I could certainly add to this admittedly minimalist setup if the situation dictated. That being said the lions share of that would go in a fighting load. At most a couple of spare bandoleers of ammo would go into my ruck.

Misc- Aprox 20ft of 550 cord in survival load, 1x heavy duty contractor type black plastic bag, 6x AAA batteries for my headlamp (2x replacements), 2x replacement batteries for the battery powered glowstick. Also in a bug out type situation I would add our important document folder, emergency cash and precious metals. That stuff does not live in the bag because it goes in the car on long drives and such.

Discussion: First and foremost obviously needs will vary by the scenario(s) you are worried about, your skill level in different areas, region and season. Also there is a reasonable degree of individual preference. For example I currently have a medium sized belt knife and a tomahawk while another person might carry a large knife and a folding saw. You get the idea.

I am not going to say my system is set, let alone perfect. It is sort of an evolving thing that I am not quite done with. Need to add more 550 cord beyond the survival load, build some skills then add a food procurement system of fishing stuff plus some traps. Second this also reminds me to take a look and maybe rotate out some pain meds, etc. Along with this I need to get moving on adapting the kit to Louisiana, getting local maps, probably adding some bug spray, etc.

Hopefully this helps my buddy and maybe a few other people. What is in your bug out bag?

Monday, June 17, 2013

Putting Together Bags and Systems

Alexander Wolfe has been talking about the Good Idea Fairly lately in terms of how it relates to different things, in this case hygiene kits. In choosing what to pack/ carry there are always choices. Sometimes there is an element of personal selection within a given category. A guy I know carries a big knife and a folding saw. Personally I am more of a medium sized knife and hawk/hatchet guy. Both are fine options and personal preference can dictate the choice. Assuming relatively similar capabilities and weight it doesn't matter what people choose.

To some degree I think personal preference can dictate some smaller items that one chooses. Maybe some playing cards, a book, smokes, a pint of booze, whatever. However the amount of weight that goes to discretionary non essential items does need to be seriously managed. 10% probably isn't a bad fraction. 

There are inherently choices to be made. The problem is that inexperienced people who do not actually carry or use their stuff tend to choose everything. Hygiene kits that would take care of a model for 2 weeks, seven cutting tools, 4 full changes of clothes, etc. These folks end up with huge bags full of excessive, redundant stuff, they are too out of shape to actually carry any distance. In a fully catch .22 they never use the stuff to get past the point of inexperience. Implied task, start carrying your stuff and using it!

This discussion combined with Joe Fox's book (which I owe a review on) and my general desire to do something productive got me looking at my bags. Part of the change in my setup was transitioning to summer stuff. Since I'm in Arizona the low's this time of year are not exactly low so one doesn't need much warm stuff. On the plus side the weight dropped down some. It went from almost 60 pounds to 44 wet/ 40 dry. I would like to shave a bit more off so it's closer to 40 wet. Went through things looking at what I would be comfortable taking out and did not come up with anything. Maybe a complete bag dump and relook in the next couple days will help me find some stuff to ditch.

Took the new leaner and meaner bag out for a ruck today. While I could carry the heavier one fine the lower weight was sure appreciated.

Anyway I'm not sure where this is going so it's time to wrap it up. In coming days I will be talking more about my gear. Maybe it will give you some ideas or at least make someone go over their stuff.

Sunday, June 16, 2013

Bug Out Dinner- Ramen Style

As usual this bug out meal starts with the Solo Pot 900. My Solo Stove is sitting this one out as open flames are sort of uncool during the spring/ summer in dry fire prone Arizona.

The convenient measuring marks on the side were helpful. Just don't have enough good things to say about this pot.

Good old Top Ramen. Not what you call peak nutrition but it will fill you up and keep you going.

I substituted an egg for the tuna fish. The reason is those little foil packets are fairly expensive and eggs are cheap. Dinner was good. Had a couple of the little candy bars that live in our food bags for desert.



Dinner was cheap and pretty decent. Would get bored eating it every day but thankfully I do not need to do that. Since dinner and lunch are the same thing this pretty much covers me going through the meals individually. Some day this coming week I will eat a whole day of bug out food as a trial run.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

Been eating my way through the garden which is good. Also got some nets put over the tomatoes so hopefully we can eat the second batch. Seam sealed the Swack Shack. Rotated half the gas cans and filled them back up. Will do the others next week.

My DBAL showed up which is cool. Will talk more about that later.

Meant to swap out some stuff in our bags for lighter items that are more suitable for summer down here. Didn't get to it so it'll happen next week.

Anyway that was my week. What did you do to prepare this week?


Sunday, May 26, 2013

Busy Day

I was a busy beaver today. Spent part of the day chasing down some local maps to finish up out navigation kits. Will talk more about that later. Still cleaning up the new shotgun. It's about as good as it will get in terms of finish. I am going to end up painting it or getting it parkerized. Probably parked, however the situation is not desperate so I can wait a bit.

Put together a few more food bags for our BOBs. Wifey and Walker's food has been put together which is good. Wifey's BOB is pretty much done. Might need a couple little things but it's a 90% solution. Got to do an inventory then dig out of storage or order the missing stuff.

Finished Pastor Joe Fox's book Survivalist Family today. A review will come but the book rocks. Just buy a copy or maybe five. You will not regret it.

Cleaned my Glock 19 also. It was pretty dirty from a few range trips and plenty of dust from getting hauled around. Of course being a Glock it still functioned 100%. Honestly it just got cleaned because I was bored.

Since I was doing all that stuff all of a sudden it was 11 at night with no post done. Can't say I regret the productivity but I probably could have written something earlier before I lost focus for the day, Oops.
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