The public is being provided very little information regarding the military’s response to the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. If large numbers of Americans become infected with Ebola, it will be critical to know what works and doesn’t work to protect and decontaminate yourself from Ebola. As such, one of the most critical pieces of information to know is what the US military is currently using as a decontamination agent for Ebola. The public may know about bleach and UV decontamination, but are being told nothing about the military’s latest frontline chemical agent against Ebola. The Department of Defense (DoD) is currently buying this chemical by the tanker. In fact, the DoD has essentially bought up the world’s market of this highly effective chemical and yet, you have probably never heard of HOCL. If you haven’t heard of HOCL, you need to. Read more
Archive for Equipment Reviews
I would estimate that at least once a week I get an email from someone asking me about what is the best bug-out bag. I have apparently, quite noticeably, avoided posting on this topic because there is a ton of commentary already out there on the subject and it honestly just “depends.” However, after looking through “images” of various bug out bags on the internet, I realized just how poorly prepared and informed most people are. From junk gear to ridiculous “essentials,” I reviewed over 100 images and did not see a single kit I would grade as sufficient (of course a smart person won’t post their kit online). As such, the critical need for good information appears as relevant now as it ever was. So, in an attempt to inform our readers and answer your questions I want to make this discussion relevant. To do so, I must get specific to the unique details of each situation. Therefore, I will speak to kits best suited for urban hubs as well as specialized travel situations like at an airport or taking a cruise, both domestically and abroad, where someone could find themselves trapped during a crisis and needing to escape to survive. Due to the specificity of this series of posts, I believe our readers will find this information to be some of the most valuable and relevant tips and advice out there on the net. Further, the kits and my methodology have been proven over and over across the globe not just in combat, but in real life crises and disasters of every sort. As an intro post on this subject, I will cover the general issues, I see most often, to lay a foundation for follow-on posts detailing location and situation specific kits.
“What is the best bug out bag?” is the first question I normally get. The answer is simple; it is the one you have with you at the time when you need it. In both combat and peacetime operations overseas, I repeatedly witnessed the lesson that if it isn’t on you when you need it, you might as well have trashed it before you left. For this reason, I don’t like to refer to a bug out “bag” because it implies this may be something you don’t have immediately on you and left behind. Instead, I prefer the term bug out kit. However, as we will discuss, I do believe in having various preparedness kits that include bags stowed where they are immediately available.
“What should I pack in my kit?” is the second question I normally get. For starters, always use the highest quality items you can acquire. All too often I review a kit of a client and find that they have used cheap, throwaway type items. Ask yourself, how much money is my life worth. This is the gear you will rely on for survival under the worst case conditions. Can you afford not to have the best possible gear? The second part of the answer is put nothing in it you haven’t first thoroughly tested and become proficient with. In this regard I often find brand new water purifiers, radios, and firearms that have never been used. When I ask the owner about how to operate the system, I usually get a blank stare and a scramble for the directions. This is an automatic failure. Know your gear, use it, and master it. I don’t care how sexy your gear is, if you don’t know how to properly operate it, it is a liability.
Perhaps ironically, the third question I usually get is something in regards to the viability of their bug out plan. This tells me immediately that their planning priorities are out of sync and most likely will be flawed. A deep analysis should be done of your bug out options long before a crisis ensues. This allows time for proper rehearsals, testing, and modification of said plan under controlled conditions. Note, in later posts, I will discuss in extremis escape bug out planning. Further, before you can properly prepare your bug out kit, it is essential to know what you are preparing to do. For example, if you have to go through subterranean tunnels, headlamps, batteries, and respirators are a must. However, if your plan takes you through waterways, you better have a way to waterproof your gear and cross bodies of moving water. Finally, your kit must be fully integrated to support your bug out plan. For example, if you staged your kit on the top floor of a downtown high rise building where your office is located, but you spend the majority of your day on the road making sales visits, it is probably not going to help you in an emergency. Nonetheless, in spite of the seemingly endless variables, there are still basic essentials that a prepared person should never leave home without.
This list of items is not prioritized since I consider all items as must have. A prepared person will not only tailor their wardrobe for functionality, but also in a way that allows them to have all of their essential kit with them at all times. Optimally, “one is none and two is one.” I can’t expect you to incur the added weight in many situations for redundant systems, but you should opt for overlap in your gear and planning as much as possible. To make these posts as useful as possible, I will often reference specific products and gear. I have personally used all of the items I recommend and know that when employed properly, the gear will work as advertised. You may read these specific references as product advertising, but I assure you, I have not received any financial gain and am only speaking from my own experience. These products stand on their own quality and I am simply validating the products work well for the purposes I describe based on my real life use and employment of them. Further, there are many other products that are equally suitable or perhaps, better for your specific needs. You need to test and choose what specific items fit “your” needs best. With this understanding, always have:
- A means of communication (cell phone/CB/SatPhone/etc.): If you use a cell, make sure you have important numbers memorized or written down because in the event your phone is lost or destroyed, you may still be able to find and use another. I find that with phones, I can slip a laminated list of emergency numbers inside the battery compartment or protective case. Make sure you harden your phone so that it is stored in a ruggedized, shock and weatherproof case. OtterBox and Pelican make a rugged line of cases that have performed well under tough environments. With all electronic items, you should have a backup power source or spare batteries. I have used both GOALZERO and Solio commercial products for this purpose successfully. Both are well engineered as lightweight, packable, ruggedized chargers that are suitable for bugging out.
- Water: You cannot last more than a few days without water in the best of conditions. Your plan must provide for redundant sources of potable water. Optimally, you will need one gallon of water per day. However, water is one of the heaviest things you carry so for anyone bugging out on foot, it is reasonable to plan to carry as little as two quarts at a time between water resupply points, but your resupply plan must be sound. Many people have transitioned to hydration packs such as those made by Camelbak, which are excellent for hydration on the move. However, I still carry a couple insulated water bottles/canteens. The wide mouth containers are excellent if you plan on traveling in temperatures that will drop below freezing where the water in the hydration bladder tubes will freeze solid. Wide mouth bottles are also much easier to clean and thanks to insulation, keep cold things cold and hot things hot. Finally, depending on the type of purifier you use, a bottle is far easier to use.
- Purifier: If you don’t carry all the water you need with you, you must have the means to purify it as you go. Failure to properly purify water even once could lead to becoming very ill or contracting crippling…even deadly diseases. In fact, clean water in most of the world is virtually unknown. Fortunately, today, there are a wide variety of purification technologies to choose from. However, it is important to get the right information. In particular, most water “filters” are great for purifying relatively clean water or water only likely to contain bacterial (or larger) contaminates, but do not kill or remove viruses. Chemical treatments have similar virus “or” bacteria drawbacks and are prone to only being effective in a narrow water temperature band. As such, I tailor purification equipment to the available water sources in a client’s bug out plan. Dangerously, some of the worst diseases like Hepatitis and Polio thrive in water polluted with human waste, which is quite common during a disaster or grid down situation and would not be neutralized by typical bacterial purifiers using just a filter such as water purifying straws. Thus, for most applications, I recommended a redundant system of a pot or cup to boil water when stationary and a SteriPen to use on the move to effectively kill the full spectrum of microorganisms (viruses, bacteria, protozoans). The application of a few drops of stabilized oxygen can also serve the same purpose. None of these methods add harmful chemicals or a foul taste to the water. Further, few other methods effectively deal with all microorganisms across a broad water temperature range. In special situations where high levels of industrial contaminants are found throughout the region’s water supplies, I will also recommend a water filter that incorporates a carbon filtration cartridge to pre-filter the water and reduce (not eliminate) chemical contaminates.
- Metal pot or cup and a spoon: Whether you are brewing a cup of coffee or boiling water to reconstitute your meal, you need some type of metal pot or cup and a metal spoon. Further, when all other means of water purification fail, boiling water is still your best method to kill the things in your water that will make you sick. When selecting a pot or cup, try to find one that will “nest” with other gear to save space. Often people will take a very lightweight backpacker’s stove and fuel cartridge and store it inside their pot or store their food in their pot. Remember, you will need to handle your cup or pot over a fire when its boiling hot so have some type of tool to grab the pot, a handle, or leather glove. Having a fitted lid will allow you to boil your water faster, keep out debris and bugs, and prevent spills. Finally, make sure you have a couple of sealable plastic bags with a scrub pad to clean your pot. As for the spoon, it is a do it all tool for cooking. Just make sure it is metal so it won’t melt or break. If you want to shave a couple ounces of weight you can purchase a titanium spoon and pot. Otherwise, I prefer to use stainless steel over aluminum even though it is heavier.
- Food: Depending on your bug out plan, you should plan for a minimum of three days of food without resupply. A good kit will have both quick trail foods you can keep in your pockets such as energy bars and more substantial meals such as a dinner entrees in your pack. I have used bars for as long as I can remember to “take the edge off.” Bars, peanut butter, and trail mix are high energy, easy to carry, and reasonably non-perishable foods that will be your first option if you must stay on the move. However, as soon as you get a chance to stop, you will need to eat a high calorie meal. Freeze dried backpacking meals are some of the lightest, most nutritious, and easiest to prepare (just add boiling water), but are also the most expensive. Meals-Ready-to-Eat (MREs) require no preparation, but are heavier because they already have water added. Both are palatable, but I would not class these meals as “good.” Both options also have long shelf lives, which combine to make them your optimum choices for pre-packed emergency food. However, which type of meal is best really depends on whether your plan allows for building a fire and boiling water or laying low and eating a cold meal from a bag.
- An emergency signaling device (whistle, mirror, high visibility panel, flare, etc.): Most people find a way to totally integrate this into their wardrobe. For example, attach a whistle to all of your jacket zippers and have an article of clothing that is brightly colored.
- Ziploc bags: Carry a few heavy duty freezer bags of various sizes to organize and waterproof your gear. Later, these can be used for many things such as carry water or gathering food.
- A weatherproofed fire starter (lighter, matches, fire steel) with some type of weatherproofed tinder (cotton balls dipped in Vaseline are excellent): This is not a time to prove your woodcraft skills. If you need a fire, you don’t want to mess around. Put one lighter in your pocket. Then have a secondary in a small waterproof case that includes tinder independently sealed. I have found small Pelican cases for water sports excellent in the regard. They are tough, float, and remain watertight. Fire starters are one time where redundancy is a must.
- A navigation aid (preferably a liquid filled compass): I have successfully used many different compasses. Suunto, Brunton, and Silva all make great compasses that can be acquired at a reasonable price. A lensatic model will be far more accurate for someone skilled in orienteering. However, don’t waste your money on super small (swallow size) survival compasses unless you plan on hiding it as a POW. They rarely work well and if it comes down to actually needing to navigate with it beyond finding cardinal directions, you will not be served well. A GPS and or electronic compass are also very nice, but remember they are never as robust; especially, in an EMP type event. Nonetheless, I still use a Casio Pathfinder watch with an electronic compass as a tool for acquiring a rapid and reasonably accurate direction and azimuth. If you have electronic devices, use them while they last because they are excellent navigation tools. However, they burn batteries quick. As with cell phones, you will have to plan on some type of recharger that converts renewable energy like solar or thermal to electricity. Also, be cognizant of the fact that in the wrong hands, your data stored on a GPS device could tip off others to your route and location. For example, if your GPS has a secret bug out location stored on it and you ditch it once the batteries die, but someone else later finds and charges it, expect visitors.
- A laminated map of any areas you will be or plan to travel to in an emergency: At minimum, you should have a road map of your local area obtainable at any gas station. As mentioned above, a stand-alone GPS or one on your phone is wonderful when working, but plan for a system failure during a crisis. Also, as with a GPS, be careful not to label your map in a manner that if it is obtained by others, would compromise your bug out plans. The easiest way to protect your information, if you must label the map, is to tape a piece of clear acetate paper over it and use either a wax pencil or alcohol pen to make your annotations. In the event of a possible compromise, you can separate the acetate paper from the map making the information useless.
- A pocket knife and/or multitool: One has a vast choice of knives and tools to choose from so pick what works for you. I found it best to carry both. For quick access and daily use, I carry a sturdy, lightweight, flip-out folder that can be operated with one hand and clipped inside my pocket for the most common tasks. The blades are between 3-4 inches so are still suitable for self-defense, but are better designed for making short work of packaging, game, and other daily chores like cutting bailing twine. Great knives in this category can be found for less than $60, but don’t buy a cheap knock off made in China. The blades are junk. I also have used multitools made by Leathermen, SOG, and Gerber. They are all great tools and each offer some special features and tools so evaluate each based on your unique needs. Further, if space and weight are at a premium, both Gerber and Leatherman have mini-tools that are well-built, very light, and can fit right in your pocket, but still perform most of the functions of their big brothers. I use them in all of my overseas blow out kits. Again, don’t buy junk. It really pays to get a brand name tool that is quality. I also see a lot of pretty massive bowie knives and exotic fighting knives. Generally speaking, leave them at home. For the weight and size, I can carry a pistol and keep it better concealed. Gil Hibben exotics (no offense Gil, I still love your works of art) normally aren’t truly functional tools. However, if your daily life demands or allows you to wear a sheaf knife strapped to your belt, then by all means opt for a fixed blade survival knife. They are tougher, safer, and generally more capable than any flip out folder. I really like the robustness and simplicity of ESEE, Swamp Rat, Gerber, and Cold Steel fixed blades, but for the price, Mora bushcraft knives from Sweden are exceptionally good survival knives for half what others cost. Mora knives are also extremely light and easy to pack so you can get away with one in your kit without the big weight penalty of others. One last note on knives, I often get asked about the old school Swiss Army Knife. They do many things, but none of them well. They are still great little tools and I still occasionally use them when I must be in a suit and tie or less “scary” knives are required, but they are not as user friendly as new flip out folders, not as capable or durable as modern multitools, and not suitable as a fighting knife.
- A flashlight: Flashlights, like fire starters, are an area where redundancy is key. I highly recommend all your lights use high intensity LEDs. LEDs use far less energy and are far more durable than mono-filament bulbs. For starters, I buy Photo LED keychain lights in bulk. I place them on all of my zippers and key rings and have them in various LED colors for signaling and illumination. An LED headlamp is something I always carry and find indispensable for hands free work at night. I also recommend you carry a pocket size, high intensity “tactical” light. These are designed to be waterproof and take enormous shock. Further, they are now very lightweight, put out over 100 lumens (bright), and double as hand held weapons. I have used Surefire lights for years, and still do on my firearms for their proven reliability, but find they eat batteries quickly and are pricey. More recently, I have switched to carrying a Fenix PD32 tactical light that is great. It puts out a blinding 340 lumens, is smaller than most cigars, and has a power adjustment button that allows me to use the brightness I need without burning extra battery life. For a tight budget, Olight does pretty well in this category too and shouldn’t be cast aside for the more popular brands.
- A warming layer: Even in the middle of the summer or in the desert, always have a warming layer to offset cool nights and rainy chills. Choose a garment made from wool or a poly synthetic material that will still insulate even when wet. Fleece tops with an outer weave that stops wind are excellent. If you can find a jacket style top with a hood, you will get even more thermal retention out of a small garment. Any of your major brands such as Marmot, REI, The North Face, and Mountain Hardware have excellent pullovers and jackets to choose from.
- A rain jacket and pants: The ability to stay dry is not only necessary for comfort, but for survival. Many people that die from hypothermia don’t die in the extreme cold, but rather, die in temperatures between 40-60 degrees Fahrenheit after becoming wet. To stay dry, you need both a top and bottom. It is easy to discount rain pants until you actually have to stay out in the pouring rain and walk some distance. With only a top, water will soon be running down your soaked pants and puddling in your boots leaving you chilled with badly blistered feet. Pants don’t take up much space, but are absolutely necessary. Further, when coupled with a warming layer, the rain gear makes an effective light weight coat and windproof pants that are enough to keep you alive in remarkably cold weather. Again, all of your major brands of outdoor apparel make affordable, lightweight, raingear that you can pack into a small corner of your pack.
- Medical kit: At minimum, your medical kit needs to be designed to sustain life at least until higher level treatment can be obtained and should include a few items to allow for disease isolation. If your kit is to sustain more than one person, you should increase the numbers of the items contained. To begin, you need to obtain higher level medical training so that you can correctly and safely use the various medical tools and equipment, which we provide at LMS. With the proper training, the items in this kit will allow you to treat survivable wounds up to and including gunshots and amputations. However, you will need to train any other persons involved in your bug out plan thoroughly to use the medical supplies because it should be obvious that if you are the injured person in need of higher level medical care, you will be in no condition to do it. For treating massive hemorrhaging, carry at least two readily accessible tourniquets, two packages of Celox Gauze, one H-Bandage, a roll of Coban style gauze, and two rolls of ACE wrap. I prefer the SOF-T design for my tourniquets, which is suitable for rapid, one-handed application. For splinting a host of breaks and sprains, carry two SAM Splints with two or three cravat bandages and safety pins. For treating penetrating injuries to the chest, include one HyFin chest seal and two ARS needles for chest decompression will be sufficient. Burns are hard to treat so carry at least one packet of burn gel and a roll of sterile dry gauze. Airways are can be very complex to maintain so carry at least one nasal pharyngeal airway, a sterile scalpel, and a roll of cloth medical tape. For minor cuts and abrasions, carry a tube of anti-microbial cream or ointment and a pack of various size Band-Aids. For blisters add a section of mole skin. You should also have a pair of EMT Shears and a set of tweezers. Make a trauma pill pack (includes powerful antibiotics and pain killers taken immediately after a serious injury) for everyone in your party and then additional medications for diarrhea and nausea, acetaminophen for pain and fever, oral rehydration salts, and ibuprofen for inflammation. For body substance isolation, carry at least one N95 mask and two sets of properly fitting nitrile exam gloves.
- Personal hygiene kit: To stay healthy, you need to keep yourself clean. Your kit should include a toothbrush, toothpaste, dental floss, a small bar of soap, a small washcloth or handkerchief, hand sanitizer, anti-fungal foot powder, lip balm with sunscreen, Glide anti-chafe stick (if you walk a long way and rub the inside of your thighs raw, you will never question adding this again), and nail clippers (this may seem unnecessary too until you deal with an ingrown nail).
- Duct Tape: Don’t leave home without it.
- Cash: During a crisis, the power is often out and banks are closed. This means ATMs and credit card machines will not work. If any money is still being used for transactions, it will likely be cash. During long term power outages, it will only be the people with cash that will be able to buy gas, ice, and other needed supplies until they are sold out. Overseas, it is also cash that can buy your freedom or the emergency airfare out of a collapsing country where the currency has been frozen and is quickly becoming worthless.
- Bug repellent: Some would argue this isn’t essential until they are forced to spend the night outside without a good shelter and get eaten alive by mosquitos, biting flies, and ticks. Good sleep and comfort are essential for long term survival, but only discomforting in the short term. However, more and more mosquitos and ticks in North America are again carrying debilitating and potentially deadly diseases such as West Nile, Malaria, Dengue Fever, Lyme, and Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever, which could be devastating in a survival situation if contracted. To reduce your exposure and risk, carry a small bottle of repellent. I find that Eucalyptus Oil serves well as a non-carcinogenic, natural bug repellent. If you must use DEET, use a formula with a concentration of no more than 30 percent. Higher concentrations do not keep bugs away any better and are just more toxic. Be careful of applying DEET to any synthetic or plastic material because it can dissolve it. Further, do not put DEET directly on your skin or body. Apply it by holding the article of clothing away from your body and spraying it and then wash your hands if possible. Ultimately though, your best bet will be dressing appropriately and covering your body.
- Sunscreen: Like bug spray, many people would write this off as unnecessary. If you truly don’t burn or live in an area that gets no sun, then that is valid. However, for the rest of us, a bad burn is not just possible, but crippling if you suddenly find yourself outdoors all day. For most of us, we spend most of our time indoors and our skin is not prepared for the sudden exposure to the elements. Further, for pale skinned people, a very bad sunburn could occur in just 10-15 minutes so application of strong sunblock is critical before we even venture out on a sunny day. To pack your lotion, find a small travel size squeeze bottle to carry a high SPF, waterproof, sun screen.
- A hat: Prevention of problems is of the utmost importance during a crisis. A simple item such as a hat not only provides shade for your eyes and can prevent your face from becoming sunburned, but it also is critical for maintaining body heat during cold weather. It is also handy for protecting your identity in urban environments continuously monitored by surveillance cameras. For a summer bug out kit, one should always have some type of brimmed hat. For colder seasons, a knit or synthetic watch cap is essential for warmth.
- Gloves: Your hands are critical to your survival. Protect them like you protect the rest of your body. It is quite easy to injure your hands in a manner that they could quickly become dangerously infected so take proper precautions. For example, after a major earthquake, medics were constantly treating patients presenting with deep lacerations to their hands. The quake had shattered windows and left broken glass everywhere. Anytime you need to work with your hands you risk cuts, abrasions, bruises, sticks, and blisters. Blisters are very common if you have to use a shovel or axe for any length of time such as digging food or cutting wood. If working on a car engine or rapidly firing a weapon you can also badly burn your hands. Environmental injuries are also possible in the summer from burns and winter from frost bite if you don’t protect your hands. However, almost all of these injuries are preventable by packing a pair of gloves. If you live in hotter environments, you can get away with leather work gloves or Mechanix type gloves. However, for colder environments, you will need to have either mittens or insulated ski type gloves to properly protect your hands.
- Eye protection: Vision is your most important sense and must be protected. Something as simple as a speck of dust can cause immense pain and blindness. Invest in a good pair of glasses that provide ballistic wrap around protection for your eyes. Try to find a pair that provides interchangeable clear and tinted lenses such as Oakley’s SI series so you can adjust them for all lighting conditions.
- Good shoes: Most people don’t buy shoes thinking about what they would buy if this pair was the last pair they could buy. Further, they often don’t get dressed for work planning to have to walk for miles in their shoes across rough terrain. Bugging out in high heels or smooth soled dress shoes is not an option. You will need to either be wearing the shoes you will bug out in or have a pair with you that you can quickly change into. Fortunately, there are plenty of great options for shoes that are made tough, will carry you for miles, and still look sharp. The best options across the board for bugging out tend to be mid-weight hiking boots or heavier backpacking boots made by companies such as Asolo, Salomon, Merrell, Lowa, and Vasque to name just a few. If you are on a tight budget, you can also find a pair of lightly used combat boots, which today are far better than the combat boots issued just ten years ago. Go to your local outdoor store to try on and find the pair that fits you best.
- Clothing: If you go to work daily in a suit, you need to carry a change of clothes with you. Your high dollar, custom tailored, designer suit is virtually worthless beyond inconspicuously leaving your office building if you need to bug out. Find durable clothes that are comfortable enough to walk for miles in while not standing out. By standing out, I mean that unless your plan absolutely requires you to wear woodland camouflage and look like you robbed the local army surplus, stick with conservative clothes such as some cargo pants and a pullover. You can wear colors like khaki, brown, and green if you need to be low profile without drawing attention. Further, even bright colors will soon take on earth tones from dirt and grime if a grid down situation persists. Ultimately, your clothes just need to be functional and should be suitable for the environment you live in.
- Any medications or eye glasses: How many people carry their medications for more than a few days with them? In the event of a crisis forcing you to bug out, you may not be able to get home to gather your medications. If you have allergic reactions leading to anaphylaxis, you must have at least 2 doses of epinephrine and diphenhydramine (Benadryl). Further, how many people that wear contacts to work have their glasses with them? After just a day without cleaning your contacts, you run the risk of severe eye pain and infection if you are unable to clean them properly. To seriously prepare to bug out, carry at least three weeks’ worth of medications in your kit and if you wear contacts, have your glasses with you. Even better, if your glasses can double as ballistic protection, this is one less thing you need to put in your kit.
- Passport: If you don’t have one, get one. Preferably, get a second passport from another country. Put the passport(s) in a waterproof container and keep on your person.
- A shelter: No matter where you are going, you should have some means of providing shelter. At minimum, two Mylar space blankets and at least 30 feet of strong braided rope should be in any kit. I recommend two space blankets because they tend to rip at the worst times and are never big enough to cover a full grown man. Given the ability to carry more weight, keep the above and add a tarp. With a little practice and good site selection, a tarp is the lightest, most versatile shelter you can carry. However, if you live in an area with swarms of biting insects and/or lots of rain, it is worth a good night’s sleep and dry gear to carry the additional weight of an ultralight backpacking tent. REI’s Halfdome backpacking tent and Big Agnes entire line of lightweight tents are definitely great ultralight buys.
- An insulated sleep pad: If you are like many, your body is not as young and limber as it used to be. Having some type of sleep pad provides a significant improvement in comfort. Unlike others, I recommend carrying slightly more weight if the comfort factor justifies it; especially, in regards to sleep. When you don’t get good sleep, you feel bad, make bad decisions, are less likely to work well as a team, get sick easier, get chilled easier, and don’t heal as well. Sleep is all too often underrated by “experts” and critical during a crisis. As important as providing better sleep, a sleep pad insulates you from the ground. Even on “warm” nights, body heat conducted to the cooler ground can leave you freezing cold if you lay directly on the ground. On cold nights, it is essential to avoid freezing to death. The cheapest sleep pads are closed cell foam pads, which are durable and insulate well. Ridge Rest makes a proven line of refined closed cell sleep pads. For more money, you can buy a self-inflating, insulated sleep pad. Their major selling point is that they pack smaller and are generally more comfortable; however, they can be punctured and can weigh more than simple foam pads. Therma-a-Rest, Big Agnes, Nemo all make great self-inflating, insulated sleep pads.
- And a sleeping bag: Many experts would simply recommend sleeping in your clothes wrapped in a coat or space blanket. I have done this plenty of times and it sucks. You don’t sleep well and feel like you were beat with baseball bats. As noted above, sleep is vital. If you must travel with the absolute minimum of gear or are skilled at building an improvised camp, this is viable. For example, in urban areas you can layer cardboard for a sleep pad and find plenty of unoccupied structures to act as your ready built shelter. In the forest you can lay bows of pine under a rock ledge to act as your sleep pad and shelter. Otherwise, you can get away with a sleep pad and a light synthetic blanket like the classic military poncho liner. Anyone that has served in the infantry will be able to tell you about the many nights they spent wrapped in nothing more than their poncho and liner. I can attest that this arrangement can become very comfortable and works very well for summer nights in the dessert. However, try this in cold weather or during a rain storm and the fun wears off fast. Under these circumstances, you must modify your bug out kit. You will need a good shelter, a well-insulated sleep pad, and a good sleeping bag. Down bags are going to be your warmest for the weight and pack very well; however, they don’t insulate when wet. For wet environments, a synthetic bag is the better option even if bulkier and heavier. Both are going to add weight, but if your conditions require bugging out during cold and or wet weather, you are going to need the extra warmth. You can find a great bag at any good outfitter such as REI. I have found Marmot, REI, The North Face, Eddie Bauer First Ascent Series, and Mountain Hardware brand bags all to be outstanding.
- Binoculars: A set of small, high quality, ruggedized binoculars or other similar magnifying optic will be extremely valuable. This item is one that many forget or forego, but is vital to identifying problems and threats before they identify you. During a bug out situation, it may be necessary to cross areas that could be quite dangerous, gang infested, or otherwise unknown. Binoculars will allow you to safely observe the area in question from a covered and concealed position until you are confident it is safe to travel or can formulate and alternate movement plan.
- Additional items: Depending on your budget and ability to carry additional items you may decide to carry include a solar rechargeable multi-ban weather radio, hand warmers, night vision devices, a firearm, ammunition, and cleaning kit, bolt cutters, copies of vital personal documents, and gear specific to your bug out plan such as climbing equipment and rope, and river dry bags.
Now that you know what you need in a basic bug out kit, you can design your “bag” around it. Make sure you include in your size estimate any additional items you may need or want to carry. Find a bag that you can comfortably carry the items of your kit all day, but make sure the essential small items such as a cell phone, firestarter, pocket knife, flashlight, compass, cash, warming layer or jacket, food ration, and a water bottle are on your person. For all day carry, make sure your pack has a comfortable waist belt. The waist band is key because it is actually where most of the weight is carried. There is a host of military style or “tactical” bags that suit this purpose well, but I don’t recommend them. They tend to be heavy, uncomfortable, draw unnecessary attention, and instantly scream military. Unless that is the image you intend to present, it is best to buy a quality backpacking pack. Again, going to a store like REI and trying out various packs sized to carry the weight and volume of your gear is critical. A backpack is sized to the individual and outfitters specialize in finding you the best fit. These packs are designed to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail and are more than capable of supporting your bug out. REI, Kelty, Gregory, and Osprey are brands that make a variety of excellent packs that will more than suit your purposes.
Where you store your bug out kit is ultimately specific to you, but it must be close by and readily accessible at all times. Another option to constantly transitioning your kit from house to vehicle to place of work is to pack multiple mirrored bug out kits and pre-stage them in key areas. I practice this myself and keep identical bags packed in every vehicle, residence, and place of work I regularly use. This also allows me to move light, react quickly, and not draw a lot of attention. When I deviate from my normal patterns, I make sure I carry my “jump” bag with me so that I never have to remove my pre-staged bags. If you can build your preps to this level, you will be far better prepared in the event of a crisis situation.
Today’s post covered a lot of information. For the beginner, this can be overwhelming. For the seasoned prepper, this information should have helped them refine their plans and gear. If you are serious about preparing your bug out plan and ensuring your kit is ready for the worst, contact us at Last Minute Survival for expert and discrete consulting. We can walk you through building a resilient bug out plan or evaluate your current plan, custom tailor your kit, and teach you the hard survival skills you need to safely evacuate you and your family from any situation.
By Guiles Hendrick
October 12, 2014
If you are looking to update your medical kit with effective and proven products, consider adding hemostatic agents. Over the course of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan trauma medicine has markedly improved with hemostatic gauze being one major advance. These clotting agents have proven so effective; they are standard in every medic’s trauma kit on the battlefield. As such, it is worth comparing the two most popular brands sold under the names QuickClot®Combat Gauze and Celox.
First of all, one should understand that clotting agents have been around for some time and have undergone an evolution in both composition and the mechanisms by which they work. Both Combat Gauze and Celox are the current result of this evolution and are far safer and more effective than their earlier ancestors. For example, the original QuickClot® essentially cauterized a wound with heat from a chemical reaction, which caused serious burns and contraindications. As a result, it was removed from medical kits and replaced with newer and better hemostatic agents. Today’s products are impregnated with hemostatic agents that facilitate blood clotting by complimenting or enhancing the body’s natural clotting faculties to stop massive hemorrhaging. Both Combat Gauze and Celox do this well, but which is best? Both also are used broadly by military, law enforcement, and rescue units around the world. However, these products are not cheap so if one is to invest in only one product, I recommend Celox for your medical kit.
Hemostatic agents in Combat Gauze and Celox allow for the formation of much larger clots than normal, which are more stable and more difficult to dislodge. This is critical for effective stoppage of heavy bleeding, especially, when a patient will have to be moved and clots could be jarred loose such as on the battle field. Further, both require the gauze to be used with constant firm pressure to be effective and allow the clot to form. Both are essentially used in the same manner. The specific location of the massive hemorrhage is located in the wound (usually a severed artery or large vein), is quickly wiped clean so that the wound location is identifiable, and the gauze is placed firmly and directly upon the bleed. For penetrating wounds such as gunshots, the cavity is then packed tightly being careful to maintain constant pressure on the bleed location while completely filling the void with tightly packed gauze. The packing is then held in place with a compression dressing. The gauze should be so tightly packed that it forms a gauze golf ball in the wound channel. The critical aspect for effective application of both products relies on their correct placement on the bleeding vein or artery and the maintenance of constant pressure until the bleeding stops. It is also worth noting that plain sterile gauze packed in a wound in the same manner using direct pressure is also still highly effective for stopping hemorrhaging.
Even though both products essentially are used the same way, Celox has notable advantages. First, in tests and operational employment, the Celox simply worked better at stopping serious bleeds. When similar wounds were unpacked in a surgical setting, it was clear from the degree of blood saturation that far less blood was lost in a patient when Celox was used. Specifically, in like wounds that severed the femoral artery of patients, Combat Gauze was unpacked and laid out showing over 12 yards of blood saturation whereas Celox showed approximately 12 inches before the gauze was blood free. This large difference could mean the difference between decompensated shock induced by severe blood loss and then the death of a patient or the complete prevention of hemorrhagic shock and survival of the patient. Further, the thicker Z-Folded Celox was much easier to handle and pack into wounds than the old school style of rolled Combat Gauze. Nothing is worse than having an entire roll of sterile gauze unwind into the muck on the ground just as you are trying to pack the wound of a severely hemorrhaging patient.
Evaluations of wounds treated with Celox and Combat Gauze also revealed that the clots formed by Celox tended to be larger and more stable. This may be due to how Celox and Combat Gauze clot. With Celox, the clotting agents are inherent in the compound so that they react instantly when they come into contact with blood. However, Combat Gauze relies upon concentrating the body’s own clotting agents (platelets) as they contact, accumulate, and react with the gauze. This is problematic since often, as a body enters shock from blood loss; the body naturally shunts blood flow from the core preventing the critical clotting compounds from reaching the wound site and the gauze. Further, when intravenous fluids are given without the addition of platelets, it reduces the effectiveness of Combat Gauze’s clotting mechanism because the fluid dilutes the blood’s natural clotting compounds.
Celox and Combat Gauze both help blood to begin clotting, but Celox is designed to work across a much broader range of patients. Specifically, Combat Gauze is designed to work with the narrow body chemistry of healthy fighting age patients. Celox on the other hand is designed to be effective across a much greater range of patients to include geriatric, those taking medications, and those taking blood thinners. This alone makes Celox a better “civilian” choice where it is more likely the patient will not fit into the perfect physically fit specimen of a fighting age soldier. In short, Celox employs a hemostatic agent that applies to everyone, whereas Combat Gauze is only designed to be effective in healthy fighting age soldiers.
In the recent DoD comparative study, Celox Gauze had the least overall blood loss, the highest survival and the highest overall hemostasis of all products. This study corresponds to the empiric evidence that I have gathered over the years using a variety of these products operationally.
By Guiles Hendrik
July 8, 2014
All rights reserved.
Machetes come in a wide range of shapes and sizes, which adapt the tool for a variety of chopping and cutting tasks. In particular, machetes are so well adapted for tropical environments that they are considered a necessary tool for basic survival. Being that machetes are used worldwide, I thought I would try out a modern design in the woodlands of North America while hunting in the mountains.
I first had to select a machete. I was able to quickly find a host of different machetes for sale ranging from the very basic to the exotic at a local outdoors store. At the most basic, there were plain steel blades with wood handles. At the other extreme, there were machetes targeting what appeared to be the zombie apocalypse crowd, which sported a rubber neon green handle and radical blade angles. I chose a model that seemed to follow the traditional machete design with an 18” blade, but incorporated modern technologies like a black powder coated steel blade, saw teeth along the top edge, a ballistic nylon sheath, and an ergonomic Kraton handle. The brand I purchased was a SOGFARI 18” Machete. SOG’s website lists this machete for $33.00, which seemed reasonable for what the tool appeared to offer.
The tool felt comfortable in my hand and came with a nice edge so I had high expectations for it going into the wilderness. Once afield, I first ran it through some tests on tasks considered standard for any machete. I used it to cut back dense undergrowth along a river bank to open a path and then to attack high grass obstructing a 100 yard rifle range used to check zeros on our hunting rifles. I found that for the task of clearing brush it performed as one would expect. I was able to get into tight areas and still swing with enough force to completely cleave most brush up to about an inch in diameter. It handled thicker green brush with a few axe like chops. However, when paired against dead, woody brush, the machete seemed to almost bounce or stick, but not chop cleanly. Its performance on high grass was at best par. It was too short to cut the grass without being perpetually bent over and it tended to push the grass (even with a factory sharp edge) rather than cut it. A handheld weed-whacker would be a far superior tool for this task. On a positive note, I did find the handle to provide a comfortable and secure grip when swinging the tool. Nonetheless, I would always recommend wearing gloves when using a machete. The SOGFARI’s performance overall on standard machete tasks such as cutting through green brush, vines, and foliage appears to be par. I certainly wasn’t overwhelmed, but it managed the basic cutting chores.
After the initial machete specific field trials, I decided to test the machete against the forests of North America. Although the machete is essential in the tropics, I was curious to see if that usefulness was as applicable for general tasks confronted by most Americans. As one might have expected, it was of limited use. I was able to cut kindling for a fire, but found it of next to no use trying to chop any dry, dead wood thicker than a couple inches. The blade was simply too thin and light even at 18 inches.
A machete made from thicker steel with a heavier belly may have proved more useful, but would still be far inferior to a good axe for these type chores. I also used it to try and cut some roots and dig out a small fire pit. The rocks in the ground were brutal on the blade even though it performed okay against green roots. For prying tasks it was near useless and too weak. The softer steel bent far too easily. I found that there were at best very few realistic tasks for the saw along the spine of the blade and its cutting performance was subpar. If anything, the saw proved to be a liability because it was all but destroyed if you attempted to hammer the machete’s blade through a log to split the wood and the teeth tended to snag on any piece of fabric within a foot of it. However, I did find that it was suitable for rapid construction of a lean-two shelter in a pine forest. I was able to cut green pine boughs rapidly from larger limbs to use as bedding and thatching for a roof with relative ease. Overall though, the machete was not suited for woodsmen tasks in the North. When weight matters, it was not a tool worth carrying.
The final battery of tests I performed was on actual animal flesh and bone. I wanted to see if it was viable to gut, skin, and butcher large game with a sharp machete. Consequently, it was also a good test of the machete’s potential as a close combat weapon. After making a few attempts to field dress a deer with the machete, I gave up and just used my hunting knife. Although I had low expectations for this and would say it is “possible,” a machete is just too big, dull, and unwieldy to make fine cuts through hide while not nicking the intestines or the stomach and causing a huge mess and potentially ruining good meat. For skinning, I attempted to use the belly of the machete and found that it would be viable in a pinch, but again, definitely not the preferred tool. The machete is simply too long and unwieldy to follow the angles of the meat. In fact, using the machete was only slightly more helpful than simply pulling the hide off by hand. My deep bellied hunting knife performed far better on this task. Next, I used it to quarter the deer. The blade did slice through the large muscle reasonably well, but failed to cut through the bones. When I attempted to chop through the leg, the steel in the blade proved sub-standard. The chop actually bent a quarter size divot into the blade perfectly around the deer’s femur as if the blade was made of clay. The manufacturer claims to have used high quality 3Cr13 steel in the blade, but the facts on the ground suggest weak, recycled, bumper steel. The final test for butchering was to attempt to remove the head from the deer carcass. The machete was able to sever the head nearly completely in one strong chop. In this regard, it would definitely prove to be a vicious weapon against any attacker, but could only be used to slash and chop. The machete offers little to no stabbing qualities.
Overall, unless one is intending to use the machete as a defensive weapon or for cutting some small, green vegetation in tight quarters, I would not include it in my kit. The SOGFARI looked good in its packaging, but proved to be subpar in nearly every task I would conceivably use it for in the woodlands of North America. I also found it subpar in respect to other machetes I have used in the past. To date, the best machetes that I have used were of good quality carbon steel with a thicker spine and deep belly, which shifts the weight and balance of the blade toward the end. For North America, the SOGFARI is just above useless and the steel is junk. I was disappointed in SOG after testing this tool and lost plenty of respect for what used to be a company that produced very high end edged implements. In response to those who would argue that I didn’t use a machete for what it’s intended, I would agree. I did not test it in a tropical jungle. Instead, I tested what has proved to be a very useful tropical tool in an environment I am likely to operate in against tasks I routinely need to accomplish. In this regard, the traditional tools of woodsman such as an axe and deep bellied hunting knife proved far superior to the range of tasks “I” needed to accomplish. The “essential” tool of the jungle is neither designed for, nor adequate for the heavier chopping tasks one routinely faces in northern woodlands.
Manufacturer’s website: http://www.sogknives.com/sogfari-machete-18-black-powder-coated-straight-and-saw-back.html
By Guiles Hendrik
November 2, 2013
All rights reserved.
While reviewing preparedness plans I find consistent oversights respective of properly preparing to maintain gear and equipment. One glaring shortfall is that individuals nearly always fail to have stocked proper tools and supplies for firearms maintenance. This article addresses the issue and provides some simple, improvised solutions that will keep your firearms in top notch working condition.
People are very particular about the type of firearm(s) they select for home defense and survival. They spend countless hours deciding on what mix of firearms will suite their needs best and this is very worthwhile. However, when I ask them how to field strip and maintain the firearm, all too often, I get a blank stare or what amounts to a futile attempt to demonstrate the proper maintenance technique for the firearm. This oversight never ceases to amaze me. A person will spend thousands of dollars for a top of the line rifle, scope, ammo, and extra magazines, but have no idea on how to actually maintain, repair, and care for the weapon. They will also stockpile thousands of rounds, but barely practice with the gun. Owners of AR-15 variants are by far the worst offenders since the AR is a complex firearm that requires thorough cleaning and maintenance after “every” use or it will cease to reliably function. Further, when I ask what supplies they have for cleaning; most people can only produce a small can of gun oil and a few patches. This situation is unacceptable and will lead to a critical failure point in any preparedness plan, but is easily preventable.
To remedy this situation, you must first read your instruction manual for your firearm. Yes, you actually need to do this. The manufacturer will provide you the proper procedures for safely field stripping, cleaning, maintaining, and operating your firearm. For older firearms or ones without instruction manuals, I have been able to find the necessary instructions online for nearly every firearm I have encountered. Often, you are able to download a PDF document directly from the manufacturer. For more complex operating systems such as that found in the AR-15 variants, it may be best to get with a former soldier or Marine and have them show you the proper techniques. In particular, the bolt and bolt carrier group (BCG) in AR-15 style weapons are troublesome and require an inordinate amount of attention and cleaning. Most people simply do not realize the time and labor required to keep a weapon such as this operational under battlefield conditions. In future articles, we will discuss in detail the maintenance procedures for an AR style rifle.
After mastering assembly and disassembly of your weapon there are a few basic tenets of cleaning to know. The first is to clean any major dirt, dust, and debris from your weapon. This is an important first step because any residual dirt, sand, dust, etc. will mix with gun oil and can cause a weapon failure. It can also scar the finish and lead to corrosion and rust. Second, you need to remove carbon and lead/copper fouling that may have accumulated in the firearm. This is usually the worst in the chamber, barrel, bolt, and/or feed ramps. To clean, use solvents to loosen and dissolve the fouling and then scrub the affected area with a stiff plastic or brass brush. Be careful to avoid plastic parts and wood finishes on any firearm when cleaning with solvents. Although many gun solvents claim to be universally safe, it is a best practice to prevent solvents from coming into long term and repeated contact, especially, with plastics and composites. Solvents also tend to be very unhealthy so you should always wear protective gloves and eyewear and use them in a well-ventilated area. Solvents “dry” out the metal and leave it more susceptible to rust, corrosion, and friction. As such, the last step in cleaning is to lightly oil the gun and wipe it down paying special attention to scrub any areas where rust has formed or may form. In wet or humid environments, the liberal use of oil will prevent rust and corrosion; however, in dry, dusty areas, very light oil or dry lubricants are best. For example, in an area like Arizona, a gun that is too “wet” will mix with dust to form a gunk. This paste made of oil and dirt will jam an operating mechanism, especially in semi-automatic style weapons, such as AR variants, and cause them to fail or improperly operate.
Now that you know how to field strip and clean your firearm, you will need to have the materials to clean it with. You can buy a host of gun care products. Names like CLP®, RemOil®, and Hoppes® are well known as leaders in gun cleaning supplies. You can also buy very expensive cleaning kits. Otis produces high quality cleaning kits with specialized brushes and gun oils. When it comes to cleaning solvents and oils, I find it best to stockpile these in bulk and then transfer them to small bottles. However, improvised tools, solvents, and oils can do just as well for far cheaper. They may also be all that’s available during a grid down situation. For a cleaning brush, just use an old stiff bristle toothbrush. Any old t-shirt or cotton cloth can be used as a cleaning rag. Cotton t-shirts can then be cut up to make cleaning patches. For solvent, carburetor cleaner works very well to dissolve carbon, but one must be careful not to get it on plastic or composite parts. Gun oil is by far the easiest to improvise and everything from a light coat of WD-40® to synthetic motor oil can be used in a pinch. However, vehicle transmission oil appears to most closely match actual gun oil and even has a detergent effect. Transmission oil works across a broad range of temperatures, effectively lubricates even under high heat and friction, is dirt cheap, lasts indefinitely, and is available throughout the world. Further, we have tested it on numerous weapons to include M-4/AR-15 style weapons and are aware of numerous major police department SWAT units that regularly lube their pistols and assault rifles with transmission oil with positive results. Having a cleaning rod is usually the most difficult piece to improvise; especially, for small caliber weapons. Nonetheless, one can use commercially produced rods and tips or a BoreSnake® type device, which we found to be an excellent way to quickly clean a rifle bore in seconds. We also were able to improvise effective rods by taking copper wiring (appropriate in size to the bore diameter) and just bending a J-hook in the end to hold a patch and then pulling it through the barrel. Note that you should always clean a firearm from bore to muzzle and pull not push a patch through it. We were also able to find shoelaces and braided rope that fit most calibers and could be used to improvise various BoreSnake® type cleaning devices. Heavy test fishing line also worked well when a non-steel hook was used and bent flat together with pliers to hold a patch.
In conclusion, you must plan and prepare adequately for the maintenance and cleaning of not just your firearms, but all of your gear and equipment. Knowing how to use it is only half of the equation. To get safe, reliable, long-term service from gear and equipment, you must properly maintain it. Knowing how to do this with improvised materials easily found around the world is key to a sustainable and robust preparedness plan. Remember, even the best quality equipment will fail if not properly maintained.
By Guiles Hendrik
All rights reserved.
The popularity of knives is ageless. Edged implements have been a critical tool for mankind from the earliest fossil records. Knives in particular have found great popularity for their utility, portability, concealability, and lethality. However, edged chopping instruments like hatchets and tomahawks still provide valuable, yet often overlooked advantages over knives to both the survivalist and outdoorsman. The point of this article is not to suggest that one tool is superior, but rather to show the advantages inherit in edged chopping tools.
Looking at the earliest stone tools, we find both cutting and chopping tools side by side and for good reason. Anyone planning to survive in the wild needed both. Chopping tools allowed trees to be cut, wood to be split, shelter to be constructed, big game to be processed, and enemies and prey to be quie
tly killed with swift precision. In fact, a single blow from a sharp axe, hatchet, or tomahawk could easily sever limbs, decapitate, crush bone, or shatter a rib cage and slice through vital organs making it even more lethal than a knife. Further, many of these implements can be used at greater distance due to a long handle and the weighted head containing the cutting edge, which magnifies the force created in a swing. Also, with practice, these implements lend themselves well to being thrown. In fact, they are far easier to master than knives in respect to being thrown and can actually be finely tuned into an effective capability with minimal practice.
Today we also face prohibitions on weapons of all types whether carried concealed or in the open. Knives in particular endure an unfair stigma by the general population as a weapon vice tool. However, an axe or hatchet; albeit an incredibly effective weapon, tends to be seen as a tool vice a weapon. As such, law enforcement also tends to look at knives more harshly than an axe or hatchet. A person is able to carry “wood cutting” equipment in their vehicle and not draw unwanted scrutiny, which a person attempting to conceal a Bowie knife or even a small flip out folder in their pocket would generally receive.
Reliability is also a strong suite of chopping tools. They are simple and have almost nothing to fail or break. One only needs
to maintain the handle, which can be easily and repeatedly replaced with improvised materials even in austere conditions with the most basic of tools. The most common problem is the head slipping off the handle, which can be easily remedied by driving a wedge into the handle or purchasing a synthetic handle. These chopping implements also only require a utility edge, which is tough, easy to maintain, and easy to achieve unlike finely honed knife edges. This edge can be achieved with a rough stone, file, or grinder and doesn’t require the use of high end sharpening equipment. Nonetheless, many axes and tomahawks are sharpened to a fine edge on par with any knife.
Chopping tools also lend themselves well for breaching and hammering tasks. Whether trapped inside or outside of a vehicle or structure, chopping tools are far superior to other tools. We tested hatchets on windshields and sheet metal and found they easily penetrated. We also found that they made short work of a variety of doors, drywall, and plywood. Well-constructed all steel implements made by Estwing in particular were also very adaptable to prying tasks. Finally, in a pinch, most of these tools could be used for a variety of hammering tasks depending on their design. We were able to effectively drive nails, smash open nuts, and drive stakes. None of these tasks were effectively performed by knives with the exception of windshields where some folding knives containing a “windshield punch” did an adequate job of spider webbing the window, but usually failed to completely
shatter and remove the coated glass (note that hatchets also provided superior protection to the user due to increased range from the glass shards).
We also were able to test out how well our tools penetrated armor and found them again to be far superior to knives. In fact, the tactical tomahawks ripped through steel helmets with ease and when sharp were able to also penetrate soft body armor. When tested against Kevlar helmets all implements delivered a strong enough strike to most likely knock the wearer unconscious and axes in particular proved to be an overmatch. Knives proved completely ineffective against both steel and Kevlar helmets, but did penetrate soft body armor. We also tested strike force against body armor containing both steel and ceramic plates and would not rate them as effective in penetrating the hard armor, but found the strike force of both axes and heavy hatchets enough to knock down and injure anyone wearing the armor. It is also worth noting that all implements tested have the ability to bypass any armor worn and still easily deliver a lethal strike with a single blow.
Finally, good hatchets, axes, and tomahawks are also very affordable. The demand for them does not command the prices that “tactical” folders and other “sexy” knives rate for price mark-ups. A used axe or hatchet can be found for as little as a few dollars and brand new items rarely cost more than fifty dollars.
After testing various implements our staff has come to some basic conclusions when it comes to selection and purchasing of chopping tools. First of all, it is best to buy items that don’t draw attention like neon green “zombie apocalypse” warhawks. You can get the same items in neutral colors. Second, synthetic handles proved superior to wooden handles for both chopping an
d throwing tasks. Third, most steel in modern middle and low end axes and hatchets were of poor quality. We recommend buying from a reputable dealer and brand or finding “antique” hatchets and axes, which have far better steel. Finally, for throwing, double bla
ded implements are superior as they can stick on both the front and back spin.
When it comes to recommendations, we generally don’t support one brand over another, but will provide you the facts from our field tests. We found that for fighting and throwing, SOG’s Tactical Tomahawk Black / F01TN-CP ( http://www.sogknives.com/tactical-tomahawk-black.html ) is a well-designed lethal implement that when sheathed draws little more attention than a standard hatchet or axe. It is well balanced and a novice can stick this tomahawk at a broad range of rotation angles at about seven paces nearly every throw with a little practice. We threw our Tactical Tomahawks for weeks on end and thousands of times into trees, stu
mps, logs, plywood, steel drums, and slabs of pigs and found the tool held up and could be brought back to a very sharp edge with little effort or skill. However, the tomahawk is not well adapted for more mundane tasks such as chopping and splitting wood. If you are searching for an actual axe or hatchet for chopping and splitting we were impressed with the edge, quality of steel, durability, and performance of both Fiskars and Estwing. Fiskars provides tools with synthetic handles, which are lighter and still extremely rugged. This allowed for faster manipulation and ease of use. They also didn’t seem to transmit shock to the user. Estwing provides all steel tools that are virtually indestructible, but at a tradeoff of being very heavy and slow to manipulate. Estwings will also wear you out if you use them all day due to the weight and shock translation through the handle. Depending on your needs and uses, all of the above brands we found to perform at or above standard.
The Esbit Stove is a light weight, collapsible, tablet powered backpacking stove.
At a mere 3.25 ounces and not much bigger than a deck of cards, the Esbit Pocket Stove is hard to ignore. Also, it’s relatively cheap price of around $15 makes it far more palatable than most of the $50+ stoves available.
It almost sounds too good to be true. This is because it IS too good to be true. If you are camping or backpacking in fair weather for fun then this stove is a good option. Unfortunately, if you find yourself being a last-minute survivor (hint hint) you should consider using this stove as a paper weight, regift, or barter item.
Although it shines in the size, weight, and price departments it will disappoint you in cold weather. I took the Esbit Pocket Stove on my most recent backpacking trip. After carrying a 45 lb. pack across 10 miles of rugged terrain, I sat down and set up to boil some water. The MRE’s issued to me in the past spoiled me rotten in the hot food department. It was easy back then. Just add water, literally. Not so this time friends! With the temperature at 40 degrees F and dropping fast, the Esbit Pocket Stove was unable to reliably provide the boiling water needed to rehydrate my freeze-dried backpacking meals. Pundits hush! Yes! I did use a wind screen! Sadly, the hot water I did end up with didn’t have the energy needed to bring my Mountain House dinner to full flavor. Adding insult to injury would be my fellow backpackers using isobutane/propane mini-stoves. These fancy contraptions allowed them to prepare their dinners and make coffee before I even had hot water.
The bottom line…
Although the Esbit Pocket stove might be cute, it simply won’t cut it in cold weather. Don’t buy it if you want anything more than somewhat hot water. In regards to preparedness, a fuel canister stove is not a good option either. A grid down situation won’t allow for a drive to the local REI to stock up on fuel canisters. As usual we have no silver bullet solution to last-minute survival stoves. Our best bet is to use what we have at hand. Rocket stoves, mentioned earlier on LMS, are a great solution. If you find yourself wanting something a bit prettier then check out the Vargo wood burning backpacking stove. Just add sticks, twigs, and a lit match. Doesn’t that K.I.S.S. rule keep sneaking up on you?
SGT. G, LMS Contributor
For anyone that has traveled extensively in the developing world, they are all too familiar with the fact over a billion people on this planet still prepare their meals over an open fire. Most of these fires are inefficient, waste precious wood, release large amounts of Carbon Dioxide and smoke, and can be hazardous to health when used indoors. To address these problems, many non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and aid organizations such as the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) have sponsored development of cheap, highly efficient, and brutally simple means of making cooking fires. The result has been an explosion of what we popularly know as “rocket stoves.”
Rocket stoves are of particular interest to any outdoor enthusiast and survivor for the same reasons they appeal to many across the world. For starters, they can be built cheaply from everyday materials widely available such as soda or soup cans, sand, and nails. Further, they are highly efficient and when properly constructed, can boil water in less time than a typical backpacking stove with just a handful of readily available twigs and branches. The fact just a few scraps of cardboard and a few sticks can be used to fuel the stove and cook a full dinner makes them infinitely more sustainable for use in a grid down situation when liquid fuel for camp stoves or propane may be unavailable or too expensive. They also can be extremely light weight making them great for travel. Even better is the fact that modern commercial versions take advantage of the heat generated to produce electricity. This heat converted to electricity is then used to power small fans to improve burn efficiency and chargers for cell phones and laptops. Finally, they emit very little smoke making their use very low signature for times when a large smoky fire may draw unwanted attention.
Rocket stoves work better than conventional three stone cooking fires or wood cooking stoves by taking advantage of a super-heated combustion chamber that draws more and more pre-heated air from below as the fire gets hotter and hotter. This principle is the same in modern, highly efficient, high-dollar, sealed wood and pellet stoves. It is also why they seem to be able to burn much longer on far less wood. When maximum efficiency is reached, the fire will be so hot that it burns the fuel nearly completely leaving little smoke. Respective of the smoke, it is drawn through the hot flame and effectively re-burned so that minimal emissions are released by the stove. Many enjoy experimenting with various designs to try and get the optimum efficiency. A simple Google search for “rocket stoves” will yield thousands of examples, pictures, plans, and videos. Mastering the construction of improvised rocket stoves will yield both an excellent skill for your survival portfolio and a useful camp stove on the cheap.
See below images for examples of improvised and commercial rocket stoves.
By Guiles Hendrik
Today, it is hard to not hear of people talking about stockpiling food. The media and markets are loaded with options for non-perishables and foods packaged so that they can be stored for years. This is great and LMS fully supports those that commit to long-term storage and stockpiling of backup food supplies. However, it is equally valuable to know what foods nature readily provides often right in your backyard. This post looks at the little known, native, North American super-fruit known as the pawpaw.
The pawpaw is a native fruit that grows on smaller trees that are almost tropical in appearance. The fruit weighing on average about 8 ounces looks similar to a mango from the outside with a green skin and large, dark, pumpkin like seeds on the inside. The fruit has a custard like yellowish inside that has a taste reminiscent of a banana, mango, and pineapple and ripens between late August and early October. The fruit is super rich in protein, anti-oxidants, and is reported to have cancer fighting qualities. Further, the fruit produces its own insect repellent and in a concentrated form can be used to even treat resistant head lice effectively. The tree is so well adapted, it doesn’t require the use of pesticides, herbicides, or insecticides to grow healthy unlike other non-native fruit trees such as various apple and orange trees. However, the tree does play host to the beautiful Zebra swallowtail butterfly, whose larvae feed exclusively and harmlessly on the tree. The trees are typically found along fertile, well-drained soil lining the banks of streams and rivers stretching from the mid-Atlantic to Michigan.
Pawpaw fruit has a rich history in America even though in recent years it has been nearly forgotten. The pawpaws were so sought after, George Washington and Thomas Jefferson are said to have grown and cultivated them on their farms. Further, not only were they valued by Native Americans, but American history tells us that Lewis and Clark cheated starvation by surviving on the fruit during their return trip along the Missouri River to St. Louis.
By studying a bit online, one can quickly become familiar with the pawpaw and learn to identify it in the wild. For those fortunate enough to have access to one of these bountiful fruit trees, just a few fruits in the late summer/early fall can yield a delightful and refreshing addition to your diet. Further, they make excellent additions to fruit smoothies, yogurts, and ice cream. The fruit puree can also be used to make a host of other items such as jams, wines, breads, and desserts. Just remember, the pawpaw does not keep well once it ripens and must be used or frozen within three days of peak ripeness.
If you are not fortunate enough to have access to one of these trees, you can buy both the pawpaw fruit and the saplings online from a few boutique sources such as http://www.owennativefoods.com/ , which specialize in selling varieties of native super-foods such as the pawpaw in an organic and sustainable manner. Note: Sources such as Owen Native Foods sell the future season’s crop early (usually between December and March) so it is best to place orders far in advance of the harvest season. Under the proper conditions, you can grow your own pawpaw trees and have a sustainable super-food industry right in your backyard.
For additional information on this outstanding, but little known native fruit, visit the Virginia Cooperative Extension, which gives the following information about paw paws on its website: http://pubs.ext.vt.edu/438/438-105/438-105.html
The crop is well adapted to the Eastern U.S. climate and soil conditions. Pawpaw is adapted to humid temperate zone growing conditions. It is hardy to the USDA growing zone 5 (-20°F or -29°C), and needs at least 400 hours in annual chilling requirements (time exposed to 35° to 45°F during winter months, depending on the cultivar). This is a low chill requirement compared to other tree fruit species (apples 800 to 1,700 hours), and once met, the trees will begin to flower early in the spring. A long, warm season is required to mature fruit (2,600 degree days; ~160 frost-free days). From 30 to 35 inches of rainfall is needed annually, with the majority falling in the spring and summer. Contrary to popular belief, pawpaw performs best in full-sun exposure. However, sunlight protection is needed in the first year in the field, as young tree shoots are sensitive to sunlight. In an orchard setting, this is accomplished by using commercially available tree shelters.
The pawpaw is a unique/unusual fruit crop with high nutritional value and potential for both fresh and processed market uses. As a food source, pawpaw exceeds apple, peach, and grapes in vitamin, mineral, amino acid, and food energy values. The current and primary market for fruit is as a fresh product in farmers markets and other direct sales outlets. Though large-scale commercial processing markets do not yet exist, the fruit’s intense flavor and aroma have significant potential in blended fruit drinks, baby food, ice cream, and as a substitute for banana in various baking recipes. In Kentucky, various entrepreneurs are utilizing pawpaw as a local cuisine item for restaurants and in frozen custard and ice cream products.
There are valuable natural compounds in the plant, which have both anti-carcinogenic and pesticidal properties. Aromatic compounds in the fruit have potential for use in cosmetics and home products. Research has shown that pawpaws have a diversity of natural compounds in fruit, leaves, bark, and twigs. One class of compounds known as annoaceous acetogenins occurs in leaves and twigs and has reported anti-tumor properties. Currently, Purdue University has patented an extraction procedure and the development of an herbal formulation is underway by a private company. Commercial drug manufacturers, however, have shown limited interest in the compounds. An alkaloid, asimicin, is found in the seeds, leaves, and bark of pawpaw and is reported to have pesticidal properties. Pawpaws are resistant to insect and disease pressure. This may be due to asimicin and other natural defense compounds. With proper management, organic production of pawpaw is feasible. Aromatic constituents isolated from fruit may hold potential for marketing as well.
By Guiles Hendrik
In LMS’ on-going review of products, today’s article focuses on the water filtration market.
Commercial water purifying units, based on filter technology, have proliferated in many forms primarily catering to the backpacker and world travel market. There are dozens of popular units out there to choose from, but the buyer should understand the pro’s and con’s of these filters. Ultra-light weight, handheld filters are designed for solo backpackers and outdoorsman. These can be very rugged handheld systems, but do not have a high level output capable of providing a long term water solution to multiple people. Nearly all handheld filters use some sort of force such as a hand pump or squeeze bag to force the water through the filter. This can be quite physically taxing in some models. The good thing is that they are readily available in outdoor stores making them feasible to obtain right up until a crisis develops. After that, they will fly off the shelves and will become unobtainable like most other items. You can find great models made under brand names such as MSR®, PUR®, Sawyer®, and Katadyn®, but there are numerous other excellent manufactures so shop around. For now though, they are available and affordable. Other, larger filter systems do not reach the industrial scale, but are well designed to provide safe, potable water for larger groups on a sustained basis. These are much bulkier, more expensive, and also harder to obtain as only specialty stores will stock them. Big Berkey® and ProPur® are two leading manufacturers of this type of big gravity fed filters.
As with all purification technologies, it is very important to understand what they will and will not do. Filters do a good job of removing many of the larger microorganisms that will make you sick such as protozoans like Giardia and life threatening waterborne bacteria. However, they do next to nothing at stopping viruses. This major vulnerability in your filter is the result of an inherit conundrum with filter technology. If you attempt to filter out particles as small as viruses, your filter will clog. So in order to allow a reasonable throughput of filtered water, manufactures have opted for a larger membrane that doesn’t trap viruses. As such, the happy medium has been struck where “most” harmful pathogens are filtered out. Some filters offer an extra iodine or chemical cartridge to kill any pathogens the filter didn’t get, but this treatment adds a nasty taste and potential health side effects. This chemical taste and potential for side effects defeat the inherit benefits of filtering water. The benefits of filtered water are it tastes better and can be used indefinitely as a purifying mechanism or at least as long as the filter lasts. If you are going to add chemicals to the water, you might as well just do that and skip filtering. However, if there is any chance of viruses infecting your source water, it would be better to go ahead and chemically treat or boil the water. It is not worth the risk of severe and possibly life threatening viral illnesses. In urban areas where hygiene and sanitation can break down quickly, this will be a major concern and could mitigate the effectiveness of a filter device. In non-tropical regions, most unpolluted (free of sewage contamination and animal waste) streams, rivers, and lakes would be good candidates for filtration systems since protozoans and bacteria are your primary threats. Considering the above, if your plan is to rely heavily or solely on a water filter for purification during a crisis, choosing the right one will be a vital decision. Durability, dependability, and a system’s proven track record are important factors to consider. Consider whether you need a light portable device for bugging out or a device for producing larger quantities of water for a family. Always practice with your filter to learn its operation, strengths, and weaknesses. Pump type filters can be quite strenuous to use in some models making them unsuitable for physically weaker individuals. Note that if a pump type filter becomes too difficult to pump, it may be a sign your filter is clogged and requires cleaning the filter element. Filter elements usually can be cleaned many times before they wear out. Even with what appears to be clear, clean water, a filter can quickly clog if there are algae or other contaminates.
You should also know how effective the filter is against pathogens. Most will filter larger Giardia protozoans, but not all will filter bacteria, and none do a good job against viruses. For example, the company Aquamira® sells an extremely lightweight, compact emergency filter that looks like a fat straw and is marketed under the name of the Frontier Filter. It would make a great addition to a high end bug out kit designed to sustain someone for 72 hours while moving fast and light by foot. Further, the Frontier Filter is an item included in high quality survival and evasion kits carried by elite US military forces and government agencies making it appear to be the ultimate filter. However, its filtering capability is designed for limited, short-term use and will only reliable remove common, larger pathogens like Giardia and Cryptosporidium from about 20 gallons of water before it is no longer usable. This is certainly a great emergency backup (and that is how it is correctly marketed), but is not something that can be relied upon as a long term or broad spectrum solution. More information on the filter can be found on the manufacturer’s website http://aquamira.com/military and it can be bought from sites like http://preppertactical.com/index.php.
Understand that no filter will be 100 percent effective. There is always some risk. Finally, make sure you can obtain (do obtain) replacement elements and parts for your filter if it will be your long term solution. Eventually, even the best systems will break, O-rings will wear out, and filter elements will need to be replaced.
MAXPEDITION’s Jumbo Law Enforcement Officer S-Type Versipack (~$86.00)
Call it a shoulder bag, go-bag, or man-purse, MAXPEDITION’s Jumbo LEO Versipack is a hit with low profile operators around the world. The bag is designed to provide easy and quick access to essential items you would want to have on your person no matter the venue.
I have used this kit bag for over a year now both stateside and overseas professionally in a variety of environments and find it very simple, user friendly, rugged, and with just enough space to force you take what you need, but only what you need. My team has been provided many different carry bags, but this one tends to be the daily go-to bag. I have found the bag to wear best over one shoulder with the pack resting on your weak side to prevent obstructing quick access to a concealed handgun. Wear in this manner places the radio and phone pouches facing forward so that they are quickly and easily accessible. However, the bag will function in an ambidextrous manner.
The design is well thought out and extremely rugged. It has good retention over the shoulder via an ample padded shoulder strap and has a detachable waist strap that is great if you need to walk or run with the bag for an extended distance hands free. Although, I have seen one quick-release buckle for the flap snap on a previous model (easily repaired with a spare clip kit), mine has performed flawlessly and the plastic is tough. Stitching, material, and workmanship are all high quality and live up to MAXPEDITION’s reputation as a premier maker of tough equipment. The heavy nylon is coated with Teflon so it sheds water and cleans off easily. In fact, my bag still looks relatively new even after being drug through all kinds of dirt, sand, rain, and snow. Note that the bag is not waterproof and any submersion in water will certainly soak everything inside.
The layout of the bag is well thought out. The pouches are the right size for the right items, where you need them. Further, the pouches are all dual purpose. For example, the magazine pouch on the side provides quick access to M4/M16 30 round magazines, but also holds a radio or water bottle equally well. Internally, the bag is nicely compartmentalized and suitable for carrying various items in a host of organized configurations.
Everyone will have their own needs and specific configuration, but I find that any slim line Kydex or leather concealment holster fits nicely inside the zippered or main compartment. The rectangular main compartment stores a host of items nicely to include a laminated street map, extra magazines, a survival kit, an extra water bottle and some power bars. Depending on what I am doing, I usually have a few additional special items I carry in addition to the basic load and often toss in a lightweight windbreaker/rain jacket. The zippered side pouch is perfect size for an individual first aid kit. The zippered top pocket makes a nice storage spot for a GPS without restricting reception and or sunglasses. The front zippered pocket is ideal for storing items like a note pad, reference documents, ID’s, a SureFire style flashlight, a multi-tool, spare batteries, keys, and a lighter with plenty of space to spare. The side magazine pouch makes a good spot to put additional water, a radio, or as intended, two M4 30 round magazines. The cell phone holder has good retention, but is not suitable for larger smart phones. However, it is ideal for slimmer basic cell phones like Nokia, Samsung, and T-Mobile often sell. Finally, you have a few slim pockets that can support additional documents, weapons, pencils, etc.
Tactically speaking, the bag can quickly be shouldered or taken off and doesn’t impede movement when wearing body armor. It allows single hand access to the bag and its contents while keeping your shooting hand free to manipulate a weapon, steering wheel, door, or anything else. Unlike a backpack, the bag can be spun instantly in front of you to quickly access additional magazines/ammo, first aid kits, or even just your radio or water bottle without having to first take it off and while still on the move. The bag has a less tactical look and is appropriate for low-pro operations, but doesn’t sacrifice on the “pro”—tection or functionality. Being less “tactical” in look, it makes this bag completely suitable for running around town without raising eyebrows. Nonetheless, I would like to see MAXPEDITION produce this bag to look completely commercial and perhaps using some colors other than green, brown, and black. For military and police, having the Molle straps for additional gear mounting is great, but for true low visibility activity, I would like to see them removed or appear much less noticeable. The Velcro strip on the flap also has the tactical look making one expect to see an IR reflective American Flag stuck onto it. This should also be removed for a bag to blend in better with the crowd.
For the prepared person, I would recommend this bag as an ideal one person kit to carry anywhere, be it in the mall or while commuting to work. It has enough space to carry the key supplies for survival, but won’t weigh you down or draw unwanted attention making it something you can and will keep on you. After all, a bag not on you when you need it is of no use.
The company’s website lists the below product features:
•Special edition of Maxpedition Jumbo Versipack that has been optimized for use by the Law Enforcement Officer
•Designed based on hundreds of L.E.O. customer feedback
•Excellent for active shooter scenarios
•Better For Left Side Carry
•Main: 9″ x 8″ x 3″ with front and back subdividers; bottom drainage grommet
•Front: 7″ x 6.5″ x 1.5″ with divided 2″ elastic webbing to carry 4 handgun mags; web subdivider
•Side A: Mag pouch with lateral elastic retention; fits two M4/M16 30rnd mags or radio
•Side B: 7″ x 3.5″ x 2″ with double zipper slides, 3 rows & 2 channels of PALS
•Phone pouch: Accommodates up to 5″ cellphone excluding antenna
•Top of lid pocket: 6.5″ x 3″ x 1″ inside lined with loop field; 3/4″ webbing grab handle
•Rear/CCW Compartment: 9″ x 8.5″ with 7″ x 8″ loop field
•Shoulder strap: Integral 2″ quick release (min 33″ strap alone / max 56″ strap alone ; min 45.5″ loop / max 69″ loop) with 2″ non-slip shoulder pad
•Multiple PALS attachment points
•Removable/adjustable waist belt of ¾” webbing; max. waist size 48″ circumference
•Optional accessories (sold separately): #3501 Universal CCW Holster, #3502 Triple Magazine Holder, #3503 Dual Mag. Retention Insert, Grimloc Carabiner D-Ring
•Also #9846 Jumbo L.E.O. (Better for Right Side Carry)
•Tough PU-coated 800-denier nylon fabric for approx. 15% weight reduction
•Teflon® fabric protector for grime resistance and easy maintenance
•high strength zippers and zipper tracks
•UTX-Duraflex nylon buckles for low sound closures
•Triple polyurethane coated for water resistance
•High tensile strength nylon webbing
•High tensile strength composite nylon thread (stronger than ordinary industry standard nylon thread)
•#AS-100 high grade closed-cell foam padding material for superior shock protection
•Internal seams taped and finished
•Paracord zipper pulls
•Stress points double stitched, Bartacked or “Box-and-X” stitched for added strength
•MAXPEDITION’s nylon fabric is treated with Dupont Teflon for superb water and grime resistance.
•To clean, simply wipe down with a damp cloth. Allow gear to dry naturally.
•Do not machine wash.
•Do not use detergent or bleach.