Showing posts with label cold weather. Show all posts
Showing posts with label cold weather. Show all posts

Monday, February 23, 2015

Ice Storm and Max Velociity Talks M855 Alternatives

Down here in Louisiana we are finally getting a shot of winter. It is cold (35 when I got  home) and there is an 80% chance of rain. School was canceled today and is also for tomorrow. We had a late call today and have a later one tomorrow. Paw Paw shared a picture that pretty much sums up the situation.

 Max Velocity talks alternatives to M855.  Putting my money where my mouth is that case of 55gr M193 5.56 I just ordered showed up today. I need to get a 50 cal ammo can to store it in. Also need one for that case of 7.62x39 I bought when the Ukraine really kicked off. I probably need to order about 4 ammo cans.

500 rounds of Remington 110gr SJHP for $250. Fifty cents a round for any .357 mag ammo is a good deal. For Remington hollow points it is a darn good deal.

500 rounds of Independence 55gr M193 for $164.99 (.33 a rd). With the nature of 5.56 right now this is a good deal. If you are short, or just want a few months of training ammo this is a good way to get squared away.

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

7 Layer ECWCS System- My Thoughts

The 7 layer ECWCS system is the Armies newest answer to cold weather clothing. It was first fielded in 2007. It consists of a light 'silk weight' set of long underwear, a 'medium' weight set of long underwear known for one side having ridges like a waffle, a fleece top, a light wind jacket, a set of 'soft shell' top and bottom, a gore tex top and bottom and a cold weather top and bottom referred to as the marshmallow suit.

These systems seem to be making their way onto the surplus market and Commander Zero asked about my thoughts on them. For background I have used various components of this system over several years in Central Europe, Afghanistan and Kyrgyzstan. I have used it in a variety of weather from 40 degrees and rainy to 0 degrees (ambient not including wind chill) with snow, sleet and hail during training and deployment

Taking a step back we should briefly discuss the fundamentals of dressingfor cold weather. You need to layer with moisture wicking fabrics that stay (relatively) warm when wet and during precipitation have an outer layer that repels moisture from the outside yet lets moisture escape from the inside. Start with a good set of long underwear that are synthetic or wool on the inside, have gore tex (or non patented equivalent) for when it rains and put insulating layers in the middle as needed. Also you need hats (at least 1x sun like a ball cap or boonie and 1x cold like a fleece beanie) and gloves. More on that can be covered in previous posts (insert links)

Also we should compare, in generalities, this system with various civilian offerings from the outdoor community. Military stuff is going to take abuse and be more durable than most general use civilian offerings. Military gear will (and this relates to the wear) usually be a tiny bit heavier though this stuff is pretty good about that. To get a corresponding level of durability in civilian gear you would probably need to look at legitimate expedition weight stuff from serious use companies like North Face. Generally speaking civilian gear tends to put a higher premium on comfort and ergonomics though this stuff is pretty good and largely an exception.

I will talk through the layers of the system sharing my thoughts on each.

Level I Lightweight Undershirt and Drawers
-I love these. The basic design has been around for awhile (I have some from ’04) and was originally black and made by Polartech. These very thin long underwear are suprisingly warm for their weight. They have handy little thumb holes you can slip your thumb through to keep this underlayer in place while sliding into other layers. It also prevents the cold skin gap between your gloves, which are another article entirely, and the end of your sleeve. I wear these consistently when outside at temperatures below 40 or so. These are also suprisingly durable, especially considering they are so light. I have a couple sets of the old black ones that were used hard for several years and show no noticable wear. Often I wear only the top but if I will be doing moderate to low intensity activity the bottoms will be added also. These compact small enough there isn’t a reason not to keep a set handy.

Level II Mid Weight shirt and Drawers
-These are good for when it is pretty cold. They are nowhere near as compact as the lightweight set but are significantly warmer. They have a waffle like appearance on the inside and are refered to as ‘waffle tops’. They zip up which is nice for venting or if it is quite cold you can zip them up and they cover the bottom half of the neck. I often use the top(s) and consider them very valuable. I wear them consistently when it is below 30 degrees outside. The bottom’s I do not use so much as it is easy to overheat in them; they would be good for moderate activity in very cold weather or light activity in under 30 degree weather. Often I wear the mid weight top and the light bottoms.

Level III High Loft Fleece Jacket
-Not a whole ton to say about this, it’s a fleece. I would describe it as a light to mid weight fleece as compared to all of the different commercial offerings. It is noticeably less warm than the older Army fleece (the black one) which was thick and heavy but it also compacts significantly smaller so that’s something. This is pretty warm, especially when combined with other layers but it is not especially windproof.

Level IV Wind Jacket
-This is a thin, light jacket that squishes down to be quite small. It is wind proof (otherwise the name would be kind of awkward) and water resistant. I say water resistant intentionally. This will not keep you dry standing around all day in a torrential downpour but is good for a drizzle or short trips out in all but the heaviest rain. It does not have a hood so you really need to pair it with a brimmed hat. Due to being adequate for most decent weather conditions (especially spring/ summer) and being quite compact this is a coat I carry/ use a lot.

Level V Soft Shell Cold Weather Jacket and Trousers
-These are a bit more packable, strechier and breathable than gore tex but not quite as water proof. This breakdown from the Arcteryx site explains the difference better than I can

The jackets are nice but I have never really used the pants. I have some doubts about how durable they will be for real use but can’t say for sure. The jackets will take a pretty good downpour so long as you are not out in it too long. They are probably not sufficient for longer durations outside in moderate to heavy rain. That being said since they breathe better than goretex they are nice for spring rainstorms and the like where it is not cold but is wet. I like these but between the wind jacket and the gore tex they are kind of a mushy middle ground.

Level VI Extreme Wet/ Cold Weather Jacket and Trousers
-This is an updated version of the military gore tex top and bottom. They are gore tex so they are basically impermiable to water. Also like their older cousins these are really heavy duty coats and pants as far as gore tex goes. Obviously you would not want to run headlong through an acre of blackberry bushes but this isn’t some thin flimly gear that will tear the first time you bump into a branch. The downside is they retain heat to some degree. I don’t see people wearing them much while active when it is over 60 degrees because they would sweat a lot. Good kit.

Level VII Extreme Cold Weather Parka and Trousers
-AKA the Marshmallow Man Suit. These are very warm. Assuming proper layering they are really only something people use when the temp is below 20 or so and they are going to be pretty sedentary (guard duty, etc). These are bulky items though they compact smaller than one would imagine. Often folks will use just the coat to stay warm in cold temps for short periods (instead of putting on 4 layers they will take off after walking from A to B). These are wind proof. Moisture isn’t an issue as I can’t imagine someone wanting to wear them unless it is well below freezing. As to criticism I wish the jacket was 6 inches longer. They have a hood that folds into the collar which is decent but not a real heavy hood. Honestly maybe I’m being too picky and if those are needed regularly a person should just go buy a real parka. As to the pants they really should be more of a an overall/bib, I stand by that criticism.

Overall Thoughts:
This system has a lot of good components. For whatever reason in the Armies view it is easier to give everyone all the pieces and let them figure out what to use for their situation than give some folks this and some that. Depending on a person’s environment and needs different components of this system could give someone a big start towards having a pretty darn good cold/ wet weather wardrobe.

To the rubber meets the road question of whether you should buy this system. Obviously price matters significantly. Military Surplus is definitely a feast or famine deal so depending on what your local area prices are (the net is helping with this) and the current supply/ demand prices vary wildly. Generally speaking if you can get these items at 65% or less than the price of a comparable civilian offering this stuff is a good deal. If it is over say 80% of the same price I would carefully weigh the individual item in question against earth tone civilian offerings. 
Do you need to buy the whole system? I would say that unless you got it at a substantial discount (over buying all the items individually) there is not a need to have the whole thing. The soft shell and gore tex suits (top/ bottom) are largely redundant and likely to be the two most expensive parts of the system. The fleece is fine (and you really should have a fleece or 5) but fleece is so cheap you could probably beat it for quality to price ratio at Ross or a local outlet. The the Marshmallow Man Suit is good for places with truly cold weather but not needed in the South or other warmer areas.

Assuming reasonable prices across the board for everything if I was going out of pocket for this stuff I would buy: 2x lightweight drawers, 1x medium weight drawers, a fleece; unless I had a green/ brown one already, the wind jacket (I love that thing) and the gore tex. If I was in a cold weather area and didn’t have that well below zero gear squared away I would also purchase the marshmallow suit.

Those are my thoughts on that. Hope they help in deciding what gear is right for you. As always the comments section is open.

Friday, December 12, 2014

Cold Weather Clothing

American Mercenary talks winter clothing. Good stuff from a guy who knows what he is talking about. I did a winter clothing post awhile back so I won't totally rehash. Without rehashing I have some general thoughts:

Obviously you want to layer with moisture wicking, stays warm when wet clothes. The outside layer should be water repellent. This usually means some sort of synthetic clothes but wool works for everything except an outer layer in wet weather.

In some ways the 35-28 degree range where you can get rain and have standing water can be more problematic than 20 degrees or lower where water freezes pretty quickly.

I believe in dressing for the level of activity you will be doing, not the level you are at right now, within reason. This means I will start out a road march, run or high effort type of work a bit cold and warm up as I get moving. The other option would be to shed clothes as you heat up. This poses two problems. The first is sweating which we want to avoid. The second is if you are doing something where stopping to shed clothes is a hassle it is a problem.

I will often keep a fleece hat in my pocket or a jacket at the top of my ruck for when I slow down/ stop. 

Amerc mentioned the Army's almost institutional dislike of base layers AKA long underwear. I fall into this school of thought albeit with some common sense thrown in. If it's ten degrees outside I will be wearing long underwear during high intensity activities. Part of our dislike comes from Newb's tendency to wear too many clothes, get hot and become a heat casualty in cold weather. The other part I think is that in field conditions it is a lot easier to say take off a fleece than long underwear bottoms.

In recent years the availability of synthetic long underwear has really gone up and correspondingly the cost has gone down. For those on a budget either carefully shopping for overruns on ECWS 'silk weight' or hitting up the local Wally World should get you a set of long underwear for not too much over $20. At that price there is really no excuse for wearing cotton.

Fleece has also come down in price considerably. Granted it won't be super heavy well designed North Face but the local China Mart has tops for $15 and pants in the $12 range.

I heard somewhere the patent on Gore Tex expired some time back. Anyway lots of companies are making shell type jackets that are waterproof to anything short of a swim that still let moisture out for not a ton of money. Another option is to check outlet malls. A town I occasionally go through has a gear company outlet. Last time we were there I got a jacket for $40 ish.

The point I'm trying to make is if you shop smart and are a bit flexible on brand/ color, it is very realistic to get decently clothes for cold weather on a tight budget.

Boots I do not have a great work around for. You get what you pay for. For real tight budgets maybe hunt good will or a surplus store for gently used ones.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Crazy Weather Prep

So today I went outside at about 5:30 am and it was a balmy 45 degrees. By mid morning it was probably 55. Then the mercury dropped like Bernie Maddof's hedge fund shares. By 3 it was under 40 and by 5 it was 35. At 3:30 it started to drizzle. Now the mercury is sitting around 34 and it is raining pretty hard.

The weather people say it is going to turn to freezing rain then snow overnight. The expected overnight low is 20ish. As the weather heats up a bit tomorrow (at least to above freezing) but keep raining till at least mid morning. I know those are warm temps for some places in the winter but I live in Louisiana

At 2 or so today both the parishes in the area had preemptively canceled school for tomorrow. After some hemming and hawing work decided to do the same thing. By 4:45 the answer was "get home before sunset and stay there. See you all Monday." So a spontaneous 3 day weekend seems to have occured.

This is nice because the idea of driving in the snow down here does not appeal to me. Now don't get me wrong, I am quite comfortable driving in the snow and have an amply capable vehicle to do so in. The issues that concern me are 1) the lack of snow plows, sanding trucks, etc all and 2) Cleti. Cleti being the plural of Cletus. Cletus, bless his heart, drives a huge truck and if he has ever driven in snow it's been a couple times in his life. Cleti probably haven't figured out that while a 4x4 truck will go like crazy in the snow it isn't very good at turning or stopping. I do not want to be driving nearby when Cleti finds this out.

Anyway the coming bad weather got me a touch worried. Our infrastructure and the people who maintain it are simply not very used to cold weather. Often usual stresses can bring up known weak points or potential issues that a low probability of occurring made not cost effective to prepare for.

So what did I do to better position myself? Filled up the family hauler that was sitting at a half tank and got some groceries. Didn't absolutely NEED to do either of those things but wanted to. Also having the stuff I want for the next couple days will help me avoid the imprudent trip in bad weather because I really want X. When I got home I moved a bunch of firewood so it was easier to get to. Also plugged in the battery pack thingie to make sure it is charged just in case the power goes out.

Now I'm home planning to watch this whole thing unfold. I can be pretty comfortable no matter what happens so simply not leaving is my plan. Could be entertaining.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Smock Discussion Continued

Max Velocity follows up on the Windproof Smock Concept. I got to looking more into it and found this article that explained it pretty well. Light durable, breathable shell type jacket with lots of pockets that is wind proof and fairly water resistant. Seems like a nice idea, I sort of want one.

Friday, November 15, 2013

The Shell Jacket

Max Velocity wrote about his SAS Smock which inspired me to talk about my favorite pieces of kit. I am big into waterproof shell jackets. They are just great. For the uninitiated the correct way to dress for bad weather is in layers. Instead of one mondo coat you might wear a light shell jacket, long underwear (synthetic or light wool) and a wool sweater. That way if it heats up you can ditch the sweater. If it stops raining you could take off the shell. If you start doing physical labor, even in the cold you might strip down to the long underwear top. The point is to be able to adjust to your conditions to avoid being cold OR just as dangerously overheating. Sweating too much due to excessive clothing leads to your body heat going up, your body losing water and that water soaking into your clothes. When you eventually slow down and cool down that means you are in S(*T state. Seriously an absurd percentage of heat injuries happen that way. Smart folks start off cold knowing they will be good when their body heats up. I have done road marches in the snow wearing BDU's with a t shirt underneath and gloves. It was cold for a few minutes but then I was good to go. Anyway getting off that soap box.

The good ole shell jacket takes a lot of forms. Way old school would be some sort of oil skin. Recently the creation of goretex as well as numerous comparable but more affordable jackets have come into creation. The good old coated nylon is also a valid option. The point is to have a comfortable piece of clothing that blocks wind and is strongly water resistant or water proof.

Unlike Max's Smock none of the coats I have are equipped with several huge pockets. Also the smock is bigger if I recall which is nice for wearing with gear or different types of clothing. I really like that idea though I'm not able/ willing to spend a couple hundred bucks on an unknown coat, especially since I'm pretty shell jacket rich.

For the civilian side I like a good gore tex  or associated knock off jackets by any major manufacturer. Mine come from an outlet mall we go to once in awhile. Wifey likes to shop and I go there to see if there are any deals. Think I paid $40 or so for a new brand name jacket a year or so ago. Still got the one I purchased a decade before which is servicable but is dated for everyday wear. I usually keep one in our vehicle. It comes in very handy in warmer places when it rains. Perfect for down here in Louisiana.

On the military side the old answer was a Gore-Tex jacket. Lately the new ECWS Gen III level 5 "Soft Shell" jacket is a great entry to the arena. It is a lot lighter and folds up smaller than the Gore-Tex which is nice. Admittedly it is water resistant vs a truly water proof gore tex but I've used them in some nasty weather without issue. This is my preferred jacket for duty type wear. Toss a poly pro top under it and you are good to go for most weather. If it gets really bad slip a fleece in there too.

So in conclusions there are a lot of ways to go but at the end of the day you would be well advised to purchase a quality water proof/ resistant jacket.

Got your jacket?

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Poncho Discussion Revisited

I asked you all for some help with finding a few good poncho's not too long ago. Between your help and my own research I have realized that prices USGI poncho's are widely and regularly available for are IMO silly. Maybe I'm getting old and inflation is doing its thing but there is just no way a darn poncho should cost $50.

So that leaves me looking at other options. We have other poncho's but none quite fit the bill. I prefer MILSURP for its sheer ruggedness and durability. Also to fit my concept of use a poncho would need to be able to unfold into a big flat piece of materiel to be used for shelter making, covering things, etc. Color would need to be something that works in a variety of environments (basically not ACU or DCU type patterns). Weight and bulk are also considerations. Cost is always a consideration, of course I would like them to cost a buck, be perfect and last forever, but if I could get something in the $25 or less range that would be great.

What sort of poncho's do you like? Any suggestions?

Saturday, May 4, 2013

Looking for a Few Good Poncho's

Hey All, I am in the market for a couple of genuine USGI poncho's in the old woodland camo pattern. Looking for new or used in legitimately good condition at a sane price. If you know a dealer that has these in stock please let me know. Thanks,


Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Snowpocalypse Arizona

Despite the prevalent view otherwise it does in fact snow in Arizona. Well if you are above 4,000 feet or so anyway. Time to bust out some cold weather gear as it is a somewhat cold 34 degrees F outside.

Monday, June 11, 2012

What Did You Do To Prepare This Week?

I picked up some moleskin for the get home bag. Also ordered a pair of black berkey elements for the filter, a couple surplus swiss poncho's, another compass and a Cold Steel Pipe Hawk. Yeah I decided to give the hawk a shot. Worst case it is sort of a cool thing to have anyway.

The biggest thing of last week is that I got back to a pretty normal exercise schedule for the first week after getting sick. Running, sprinting and lifting. Good times.

What did you do to prepare this week?

Sunday, June 10, 2012

So You Wanna Be a G?

The topic of armed paramilitary groups has always been a subset (or maybe they are separate with some overlap but let's not overthink it) of the survivalist movement. In the 70's and 80's folks talked about fighting off Soviet invaders Red Dawn style. After the fall of the Soviet Union the concern shifted to some sort of UN invasion. The latest concern seems to be more domestic in nature. Since I do what I do for a living there are a lot of things I do not talk about. To paraphrase Glen Beck "I believe everything that I say, but I don't say everything that I believe." This topic partly falls into that arena. It directly leads to some areas I choose not to talk about. Also it doesn't especially interest me. Maybe somewhat because of what I do for a living the kinds of skills and attributes needed to conduct small unit unconventional operations are largely already present.

For no particular reason I can think of this topic interests me today. Maybe it is the fact that a capable survivalist and a potential guerilla are both grounded in the same basic skills, I don't know. In any case I got to thinking about the sort of skills and capabilities and logistics one needs to develop in order to be a reasonably viable potential guerilla.

#1 Physical Fitness. I should not have to explain why this is really important. There is no way you are going to be able to fight anybody unless you are in some resemblance of decent physical shape. One of the funniest moments I can recall on this part of the web was when a man who could only be described as morbidly obese talked about how he plans to overwhelm (whoever it was) with "hit and run tactics". His fat ass couldn't hit and run the 2 blocks from his usual super sized ultra McFatty lunch at McDonalds to Baskin and Robbins for a post lunch milkshake; let alone outrun a bunch of 18-25 year old's who run multiple times a week, if not daily. Physical fitness or a lack theirof goes a long way towards establishing legitimacy as a potential or actual guerilla/ partisan or lack theirof. There is a sort of running joke that a militia is a bunch of fat guys sitting around calling each other Colonel. If I was a slightly different person with a very different life looking to join some sort of group and I got there to see they made group buys of extra extra fat multicam uniforms/ body armor/ chest rigs I would do a quick 180 and move on.

Aside from being a foundation for everything a tactical athlete such as soldier or guerilla does the reason I put physical fitness as number #1 is that it takes a long time to develop. There are no shortcuts. Physical fitness is truly a slow cooker concept requiring consistent, if not perfect, effort over months and even years. If you spend a week and a half or so at a premier tactical school you can become pretty good with a pistol and a rifle and probably learn some basic tactics. In a day you could buy a good pistol and rifle, as well as a .22, a shotgun, a "precision rifle", body armor, night vision, a chest rig, a ruck and camping gear, cases of ammo and boxes of mags as well as a years worth of food for your family. It would be a heck of a bill that very few people can afford but it could strictly speaking be done. Physical fitness does not work that way. There is no rush turkey fried/ pressure cooker way to significantly speed it up. When you realize that you need physical fitness there is unfortunately no way you can develop it in a manner timely enough to be useful.

That means you have to start yesterday. If you are too heavy then stop eating junk and have some discipline with portions. Start walking until you can work in some short jogs. Jog a telephone pole/ 100 steps/ a block then walk one. After a bit jog 2 and walk 1. Eventually cut out the walking from all but the longest runs. Take that backpack you bought and fill it with stuff then walk around. Do body weight exercises and lift stuff. In a slow and progressive manner add reps and sets to the body weight stuff and a few pounds at a time to the lifts.

#2 Build basic skills. Learn to shoot. Learn first aid and CPR. Learn some basic camping skills like starting fires, cooking over fires or backpacking stoves, building a shelter, land navigation etc all.

#3 Acquire basic weapons and equipment. We could talk about this one for a dozen blog posts but let's not get bogged down. Buy a fighting rifle and pistol. Get a setup to carry mags and ancillary stuff. At least one .22 is very useful and if you can afford it a shotgun and some sort of scoped precision type rifle are nice to have. Obviously you need plenty of ammo, mags and some prone to fail spare parts. Get sufficient wet and cold weather clothing, gloves, boots and headgear to operate in your region during the worst it has to offer. Get basic camping gear like a backpack/ rucksack, a sleeping bag, some sort of shelter like a bivy or tent, a water filter and all the little stuff in between.

#4 Acquire food, fuel, batteries and other logistical necessities. It is highly unlikely that you will be able to play Guerilla all day long then run out for a pepperoni pizza and a 6 pack of tall boys. If you are worried about running to the hills to play Red Dawn then it would be prudent to have a bunch of food, medical supplies, batteries and some fuel set aside to meet those needs. Also the kind of times when fairly normal folks are shooting at some sort of organized group are chaotic enough that even if you are not a G normal commerce will likely be disrupted.

Once you have this stuff it is prudent to put some consideration into where and how it will be stored. Unlike somebody with a more survivalist outlook your plan is probably not to stay at home (or your alternate location). If things are bad enough that you are playing G a basement full of food, while a great thing to have, may not cut it. Particularly if you have to leave in a hurry be it in a car or on foot having all your stuff in one place is problematic. Having some stuff at your home, more at some sort of bug out location/ basecamp and the rest in a couple caches around the area you plan to operate in is a much better answer.

#5 Build better skills. This was almost part of #2. The reason it is not is that while it is absolutely true that people are more important than stuff without some basic stuff it is pretty hard to do much of anything. I am pretty confident about the outcome of a gunfight between my boringly average self and just about anybody if I have a gun and they do not. If a guerilla war went on long enough there would be some extra stuff floating around but for awhile (and much more so without a convenient outside benefactor) things would be aweful tight. I would not say that a man without a rifle (and all the support stuff he needs) is exactly useless but he is a lot less useful than another shooter. In Afghanistan early on the Muj had to turn away volunteers who did not have weapons because they couldn't arm them. Now is the time to look at filling holes in your skillset's. Anyway.....

Getting some sort of professional firearms training from a fighting oriented school is an aweful good idea if you can possibly afford it. Medical skills are pretty darn important too. The new TC3 training and it's associated spinoffs are very worthwhile quality training.

#6 Find some friends. The whole lone wolf/ Rambo/ Chuck Norris/ Arnold one man army of death and destruction thing makes for a great action movie but that doesn't translate to real life. You need friends who are like minded and can work with you toward some sort of common goals. A sniper needs or at least can really use a spotter and local security. It is pretty hard to ambush a group by yourself, at most you can probably harrass them. Everybody needs somebody to pull security while they sleep and watch their 6 o'clock or help them should they get injured.

#7 Train with your new friends. People without an understanding of basic individual and team movement tactics as well as squad and platoon sized operations likely greatly outnumber those with an understanding of these things in most groups. If you somehow happen to have folks with meaningful experiences in these areas you all need to get onto the same page. Some of the most tragic accidents in military history come from ad hoc groups of otherwise trained individuals working together. If Bob zigs when Jim think he is going to zag or Tom is halfway down the wall when Rob thinks he should be at the corner people get shot. Training together will get everybody onto the same page, work out the kinks and build group cohesion.

#8 Develop plans. Based on your area, the local players and whatever sort of worst case scenario you guys see happening you can start to plan. Like any fight eventually it takes on a life of it's own but right away having a plan is priceless. Also the process of developing a plan leads you to see all sorts of interesting stuff like specific training or equipment or other preparations that should be made. Obviously doing things like making explosives or breaking federal firearms laws would be pretty foolish. However you can do all sorts of other stuff. Walk the terrain in your area to confirm or deny what map recon tells you. If you wonder how long it takes to move from Anderson butte to the ridgeline above Highway 25 then pack a lunch and go find out. If you wonder whether Deer Creek can be crossed on foot during the spring runoff go find out.

#9 Take advantage of your group's purchasing power. Make group buys to save money. I suspect if you call a school and ask them what kind of discount you get for filling the whole class they will work with you. Depending on your group dynamics consider the purchase of expensive or specialized equipment that is not practical for an individual but make sense for a group. Take advantage of the economics of scale which can be achieved. Renting a piece of specialized equipment you will only need for a short time is much more affordable if several folks can use it during the minimum time.

#10 Develop those around you. Some discretion is essential here but the more prepared that your extended family, friends and buddies are the better. Also a few may go whole hog into it and become assets. Also this is a great place to find and develop useful folks who could fill a more auxillary type role.

Note: One and two should be done successively as in one after another. You need to get started in physical fitness today (though you can pursue other things while developing your fitness) and work on basic skills until that requirement has been satisfied. They are really the basis for everything else. Three and four should probably be worked together. Six could really be done whenever but obviously has to be done before seven. The rest are somewhat more flexible, just use common sense.

Monday, January 30, 2012

Winter Gear

It seems Afghanistan has a very hot summer (110+ is common) and a cold winter (averages below freezing) with about 4-6 weeks of nice pleasant weather in between where fall and spring should be.

Today winter seems to have come to my current little piece of this miserable country. That means it was time to pull out cold weather gear from my pile of junk and get them ready to conveniently grab. I am going to tell you what I dug out and briefly discuss a few items. The list is as follows:

-Fleece (This is the piece of outer clothing that gets the most use in the cold, dry or snowy winters I have been in recently. I keep a pair of light gloves and a fleece cap in the pockets so I always have them.)

-Fleece watchcap (Get two, one of mine is always in the laundry or MIA. They are cheap anyway.)
-Insulated puffy jacket (I didn’t use this at all last winter but just pulled it out because I was digging and saw it. These are however a good thing to have if it gets real cold, or if you will be outside and sedentary.)

-Lightweight shell jacket (This doesn’t get a lot of use in the cold dry or snowy winters I’ve been in recently. However in a drizzly and 50 PNW sort of winter these are great.)

-Heavy gloves (my light gloves were already out)

-Silk weight long underwear (These are just so great. I wear them almost every day in the winter. Light enough that you will not roast inside but warm enough to be comfortable outside. Also great for when you will be moderately active in chilly weather or active in cold weather. Since these get worn a lot and are right on your skin getting at least 2 pair so you can have one in the laundry and another to wear or a change if you get wet is prudent.)

-Heavy long underwear. (I use the top semi regularly and rarely use the bottoms unless it is real cold and I will be sedentary. They are WARM.)

-Goretex boots (If you are going to use boots often then getting a boot drier or a second pair is important so you can have dry boots in the morning. Boots are expensive but a second set is probably not a bad thing anyway.)
Note- I did not look for or mention but regularly use a neck gator. They are great for keeping your face and neck warm and can be pulled over your head also if need be. These are good because if you warm up you can just pull it down to your neck and let it hang out.

All of this stuff is issued to us however I listed it as brand/ model nonspecific intentionally. My goal was to let you know the types of gear I use regularly in cold weather instead of getting bogged down in specifics. With a combination of the above clothing I can mix and match to stay as comfortable as possible during a variety of winter weather and activity levels.

As a civilian at home I always keep a full change of real clothes, including boots, a heavy coat, gloves and a hat as well as a sleeping bag in my vehicle during the winter. I do this because occasionally I hop into the car in slippers and pajama pants to run to the store for something Wifey needs for a recipe or whatnot.

The hard part about decent winter clothing is that it is not cheap; particularly good boots which can get pricey in a hurry. If you are regularly outside in the winter, particularly far from shelter and clean, dry clothes for long periods (vs say a construction worker who can go change clothes at lunch and dry everything out after work daily) or overnight it is pretty darn important that you have the right gear. Winter is an unforgiving beast. I do not recommend that you go into debt or put yourself in a state of financial hardship to get winter gear. If you plan in advance and shop around some relatively good deals can be had in the off season. If you ‘can’t afford’ serviceable winter clothes and footwear even at those discounts I would take a holistic look at your spending patterns. Maybe you can shave some fat, at least temporarily, from another place in your budget. For those who are disabled, in school or just barely scraping by and genuinely can’t afford to properly outfit their selves I recommend not intentionally getting into any situation your current gear can’t handle. If you go messing around in the snow in summer boots, cotton and low quality junk gloves you might lose some appendages or worse.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Equipment Soldiers Use

I was asked about this and figured it would be a slam dunk easy post. Everybody likes gear and writing about what I know is just too easy. Wrong, the thing is that when you are so used to something it is just what it is, as opposed to significant or noteworthy. If asked a very specific question about gear I can talk for a long time but looking at our whole organization is difficult because it is what I am used to. In any case I will do my best.
Slings- Almost everyone uses some form of a two point sling. Those who do not go with the generic issue two point typically purchase an adjustable two point sling. There are so many makers and models to choose from that you rarely see the same one twice. No clearly defined trends except two point adjustable. Once in a blue moon (less than 10%) are one points with a few of the two to one type floating around. Some folks who carry M16’s still use the three point but that is mostly because they are issued.

Holsters- The Blackhawk Serpa series is heavily represented and has a distinct majority, I would estimate almost 2/3rds. The rest is split between Fobbit’s with shoulder holsters, various other kydex type holsters, assorted leather and nylon jobs. Some quality products from name brand companies and some generic poorly made junk.

Knives- Almost everyone carries some form of a one hand opening type folder of some make or model on their person. Most are midsized 3-4 inch blades and made by major manufacturers such as Gerber, Spyderco, SOG, Benchmade, etc all. Whatever happens to be selling in the PX/ Clothing and Sales had a slight lead but in terms of knives we are totally all over the place. Of the remainder a few carry piece of junk one hand opening folders, a few carry big (5in+) sheath knives and there is a totally random tiny minority like me and my medium/small belt knife. You see a few more sheath knives attached to body armor or kit but not too many. However I would wager almost every soldier has a decent sized knife (often a KaBar) in a duffel bag or a tuff box.

Multi Tools- Everybody has one (if just because they are issued) and they are usually Gerber’s because that is what sells at the PX and is issued. Some live on belts, others on kit and most in rooms or rucksacks.

Boots- Not as many Danners as a few years back. Maybe it is that we are spending more time in hot climates or maybe that the Army is finally issuing some decent kit to us so folks don’t need to go out and buy that. Lots of light boots with soft soles are worn by Infantry and SOF guys. I wear Altima ExoSpeeds though I have heard the new Nike’s are nice and some folks like Rockies or Oackley boots.

Socks- Some folks wear various commercial hiking type socks but more just use the issue ones.

Bags- The Army really got it right with the new small framed molle ruck. It is an awesome 72 hour type bag. This saves young soldiers a $150+ purchase that was almost a requirement to function and I am happy for that. You still see the odd Blackhawk or Camelback or Tactical Tailor type 72 hour bag carried by someone who has been around more than a couple years though.

Belts- People either wear the standard issue tan belt or go out and purchase a riggers belt from somebody or another. All the ones that are not Chinese junk are functionally equivalent as far as I can tell. For those carrying a holster a stiff riggers belt is very helpful.

Cold Weather Gear- Thankfully again this is an area where the Army has gotten their act together. Soldiers do not need to go out and spend hundreds of dollars any more for the cold weather stuff they need. We are issued lots of fleece, gore tex and thermal clothing to stay as comfortable as possible.

Water carrying- Most folks have a camelback, generally issued but you see an aftermarket pouch (typically the better more molle compatible one) occasionally.

As a disclaimer I should note that products sold in our clothing and sales/ PX get a huge boost in purchases and thus use. Young soldiers often do their shopping within walking distance and because of our busy work hours (and laziness) many folks just get what is convenient. This accounts at least in part for the trend towards Serpa holsters and a Gerber multi tools.

To be honest I can’t really think of anything else but if you have a specific question I can probably go into a lot more detail.
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