NEW BLOG

I am relocating to a new blog address if you are interested in following my inputs or have questions in the future:

I really write better in response to questions people might have, like to share my knowledge and experience if you have any I would really appreciate hearing it!

http://campingandoutdooractivities.blogspot.com/ – Camping and outdoors stuff which should be expanding soon.

http://onwarandpolitics.blogspot.com/ – This has a few papers I have written about global relations and military topics and is quite informative on subjects if you are interested.

 


Wish I would have brought that on this trip!

So the question was asked what do I pack for different trips I go on and how I pack my bag, specifically my Kelty 3500. A lot of the discussion comes down to three big questions, Where are you going/what the weather is supposed to be like? How long are you going to be gone? and what is your comfort level in the region?

Some gear I take on every excursion I go on:

  • Water purification tablets
  • Space Blanket
  • Splint roll
  • General first aid (Bandages, Band-Aids, disinfectant, medical tape, shake ice packs, tourniquet, scissors, Advil, and general antibiotics and quick clot if you can get them)
  • Pocket knife
  • Matches/Flint and steel
  • Compass

Pretty much that stuff is a really nice kit to deal with a crummy situation almost anywhere and doesn’t take up lot of weight or space. Also if you are in a group not everyone needs to be carrying all the first aid stuff listed, one person can bring that and everyone can have a few Band-Aids or something small for themselves.

Gear that is very useful that I usually bring with me (recurring theme is going to be minimize space and weight of equipment):

  • Sleeping bag – many different types, I would get a 20 degree backpacking bag so it handles most situations and is small and lightweight
  • Sleeping pad – I like air mattress ones but foam is good too. You are trying to build some insulation between you and the ground which sucks a lot of your heat out of you.
  • Tent/Tarp – I will take a tent with me if I know it is going to be wet (60% chance of rain or higher) or it is cold weather (30 degrees or below) otherwise a tarp will work great if you have a way to set it up.
  • Water pump
  • Cooking stove – Lot of times I will just cook on an open fire but a lot of places will not allow this especially with current drought conditions across the US
  • Pot/bowl – going to need something to cook in if you aren’t just roasting meet over a fire
  • Backpack cover – poncho for your backpack
  • Water shoes – wear shoes when cross streams, almost cut my toe off once not doing this so take my advice wear something on your feet, nice to take off boots in camp too
  • Rope – always need rope! but seriously good for drying clothes, setting up tarps, hanging bear bags, and have gotten myself into situations where we needed it to get where we were going
  • Bag to put the food and smellables in and hang from a tree, I use a waterproof canoeing dry bag so that if I don’t have a tree I can throw it outside camp and feel better than rodents are going to have a tougher time biting through it
  • Extra socks are a definite and clothes are nice unless you want to pull a “bare grills” until you warm up if your stuff gets soaked
  • Water is obvious and why it hasnt been mentioned earlier but I would recommend a bladder (2-3 liters) and then a water bottle or two
  • Bear mace or a gun – I really need to do this more often but dont, lot of places you are not top of the food chain, bear mace is really the answer but some people would rather have a pistol

I have been a lot of different places and different environments so here are some things to think about.

So what are considerations for different environments?

North American Woods:

  • I think the biggest thing here is respect the woods even though it seems to not have many dangers compared to other places. Don’t scare bears in dense brush (9/10 deaths by bears occur doing this) – I have don’t this and it isn’t fun
  • Snakes can be a factor; babies are most dangerous because they can’t control the amount of venom they release. If you get bitten out there you could be pretty screwed/dead
  • Currents in streams and rivers can be stronger than first anticipated and many people die every year because of this.

Mountains/Cold weather hiking:

  • Think about getting gators to keep your feet and legs dry – these are huge for snow backpacking
  • Be careful of ice, both walking on top of stuff you can fall through and stuff that will send you slipping and sliding right off a cliff (again been there – you probably will not be able to tell how bad it is until it is too late so if you aren’t lucky like me be really careful when you are around that type of stuff)
  • Snow can be dangerous as well. I have found myself walking on tree tops there was so much snow and you need to be careful you don’t fall into a cavity or if the snow isn’t packed well you could just go in and be buried instantly
  • It gets very cold rapidly, use each other for heat, tent is made for 2, put 3-4 guys in there, keep a fire going and don’t let people by themselves, been in a blizzard at 9,000′ with -15 degree weather, not a fun place to be
  • Going to be harder to find dry fire building stuff, look under pine trees which are more prevalent at higher altitudes along with drying and covering wood for the future if you are staying there a while
  • Going to need more food to preserve your body heat so expect to pack more
  • Layer clothes, a lot of paces are going to warm up into the 50-60 during the day but then go way below freezing at night, when you are walking around you will overheat, sweat and then freeze if you don’t take off some clothes
  • Animals are bigger and meaner in the mountains, don’t move at twilight and early morning hours while they are hunting if you can help it and travel in large groups (buddies have been there before with mountain lions and personally seen a black bear with its throat ripped out, whoever did that I don’t think I would want to mess with them!)
  • If someone gets hurt realize it is going to be much harder to get them out of the area and sometime emergency air rescue might be required for an otherwise minor injury
  • Water boils at lower temperature at high altitudes so watch out for getting sick if you don’t boil it longer (think it is an extra minute per thousand feet above 5)
  • Watch out for rock slides or avalanches, always move laterally across the mountain if this happens and try to get behind something that will protect you. Don’t try to outrun it, it isn’t going to work
  • sunglasses are a must with reflection off the sun causing temporary blinding

Desert/Arid areas

  • Water is the big concern and the obvious one, on trips here you really are going to need to carry all the water you intent to drink on the entire trip unless you have resupply points because there will not be any.
  • The temperature is the other big one; it will be very hot during the day and very cold at night. Really want to layer here as well
  • Wind can be a really bad as there is nothing to slow it down and sand will get everywhere. Wear goggles and sunglass as required for the time of day.
  • Not as many big animals but the small ones can be scary too, watch out for snakes and insects which can be poisonous.
  • Sunscreen is important but really you are just going to want to cover your body because of blowing sand as well.
  • Not going to have many materials for fire building so definitely plan on a stove.

Depending on what trip you are going on will determine what you need to bring and how you will need to pack. A lot of this comes down to just getting out there and doing it along with deciding what works for you but few general rules of thumb:

  • Stuff you will need to get to on the trail keep on the outside or near the top of your bag (rain gear, snack/lunch, first aid, tarp depending on expected weather)
  • Stuff that you probably won’t get out unless you are stopping for a while toward the bottom (sleeping bag, sleeping pad, clothes)
  • You want heavier items closer to your back and higher and light bulkier items on the bottom and further away (if anything needs to be but keeping everything close and tight is name of the game)
  • Using compression sacks is a great way to conserve space and is how people can backpack around Europe with just a backpack for a month. Below is a link that shows how helpful they are

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4JqHyag29to

This is obviously not all encompassing and I am sure I forgot to mention stuff out there, probably something glaring! But if you are just getting started this is a pretty good guide to get you off on the right foot. Good luck and happy hiking!

 


Information Warfare: Ask yourself what is NOT in the picture, not what the picture shows

Writing this in frustration over TIMES response to why they published the photo of US troops posing with body parts of dead suicide bombers in Afghanistan. Response is below:

“We considered this very carefully,” Maharaj said. “At the end of the day, our job is to publish information that our readers need to make informed decisions. We have a particular duty to report vigorously and impartially on all aspects of the American mission in Afghanistan. On balance, in this case, we felt that the public interest here was served by publishing a limited, but representative sample of these photos, along with a story explaining the circumstances under which they were taken.”

http://www.latimes.com/news/nation/nationnow/la-na-nn-maharaj-chat-20120418,0,5438409.story

The TIMES is open to report things and they should. The point is not that they are doing their job it is that the United States and US Military specifically choose not to compete in the realm of information warfare which is critically important to the dynamic of global politics and any armed conflict, especially “low-intensity” conflicts like Iraq and Afghanistan.

The US Military say the same thing about the importance of information and says (out of lack of understanding and/or lack of resources) that is competes in this realm of conflict with Public Affairs organization and integrity of its forces in the field. In my mind this is only defensive in nature and reactive to events rather than offensive (this is needed to be successful in any struggle). Defense wins championships but if you don’t have any resemblance of an offense you are never even going to make it to the playoffs!

Organizations which understand this have whole groups dedicated to offensive information operations. The Taliban has groups which do not have guns, bombs, any type of weapons that could cause bodily harm, their primary duty is to get out with the public and push a message and protest in front of media organizations. There is a reason most photos of protests (whether in Afghanistan or DC) only have a few people in them with signs. One is so readers can obviously read signs but a bigger reason is because there are not that many people there. When you saw protests in Egypt during the revolution there you saw pictures of huge crowds, thousands of people, when there are only 30 people or only a couple hundred (a small number when you are talking about millions) you take pictures up close. In fact, looking at enough pictures from the Middle East and protests there, you will see the same faces over and over again! Why? Because they are organized groups doing it, usually not the general public, but “professional” protesters.

Protesting is not all these organizations do. For example, the accidental Koran Burnings a few months ago in Afghanistan wasn’t just a simple mistake; it was an offensive information operation. Korans don’t just accidently end up in a bag that will be burned, the amount of effort put into not messing up cultural relations is critical to the US mission there. Also what are the chances that a group of workers walk by and see it? A small bag of Korans, not a Nazi book burning, but a small amount (no more than a dozen) is spotted from far away by afghan workers that they run over to stop it? Could you tell that a bible was being burned 20 meters away? No…You have people plant Korans, you have guys that are told to run over and stop it and you have media forces ready to see it and you have a prepared statement ready for release about it because you know it is going to happen. That is offensive information operations not releasing a statement that you are sorry it happened and that it won’t happen again, that is damage control and defense.

Beautiful Examples:

http://vimeo.com/29280708#

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P9iTvYfnNyg

It is like any political campaign in the US, why do presidential candidates trying to get millions of votes in a campaign that has maybe 90 days to run spend a whole morning at a town hall meeting with 200 people (again a tiny number when you think of millions and the total amount of events you could have)? It is free publicity which will reach millions on local news stations which will cover the visit. Information warfare is the exact same thing and you could say that that is really what political candidates are running. You protest with thirty people in a small village in Afghanistan in front of fifty reporters and you have just sent your message to billions around the world for free.

If the United States wanted to compete in this realm of conflict they would have an entire covert organization of “troops” dressed in civilian clothes that would be on call to protest and press a certain message. Why does it have to be covert? If people know it is an organized effort they don’t want to hear it or it won’t have the effect it would if a person thought it was a group of concerned citizens. Why are the Taliban groups successful? Because the audience it is entertaining (US population) does not know it. If you don’t think it is for the US Population you have to be crazy, with 95% of the Afghan population illiterate why do you think they have signs written in English and furthermore whoever is writing the signs is a very skilled and educated person in that part of the world.

In warfare (when it comes to information and psychological operations) the relevant population is the representation of the mountain on a battlefield, it is what matters. Knowing what populations/groups matter is half the fight. Similar to political campaigns in the US focusing on ethnic groups, religious groups, or professions (blacks, Catholics, women, iron workers) is the same as an information battlefield. On a macro level it might be the US population, Afghan population, Arab population.  Every time a message is sent in the US media it is a lot of times an offensive operation of Taliban or “terrorist” information warfare divisions. The information campaign for the Afghan people won’t be seen in the US but it happens every day on the streets of Kabul and Kandahar.

The media is correct that their primary mission is to tell the news and let readers decide what to do, but the United States government and military choosing not to attempt to influence this message is a strategy of failure. There are obviously morality and legal issues with the government covertly attempting to influence the US population to support a US mission but if you want to actually win you need to. This is not to say false statements and pure propaganda is a good thing. It absolutely isn’t, but influencing the media does not mean this. It is about pushing stories; it is about inviting the media on key operations, and giving the media a story (protests, events).

Bottom line: shame on the US government for not engaging in information warfare against our competitors around the world and our enemies we are currently fighting and shame on the US media for not understanding their role in the fight for US national interests. Until we understand that we are fighting in this realm of conflict we will continue to lose standing in the world and will not be successful in information operations during armed conflicts we fight in. It is important to remember, in the words of Carl von Clausewitz,” warfare is a continuation of politics by other means”, focus on the continuation, not a halt of politics.


Kelty MAP 3500

I am a very experienced backpacker and have nothing but good things to say about the bag I have been using past three years. As you can see on my other post about backpack selection a bag needs to be chosen in context to the user and the purpose but for me the Kelty MAP 3500 was a great fit.

I had been searching for a good bag for about year and half trying to figure out what I really needed and what features I wanted out of my bag.

  1. Number one was the size. Size is critical to any bag selection and I decided while I want to go on long trips the reality of my situation I was going to have to settle with the schedule of a weekend warrior with warmer weather trips being two night three day events and winter months having less three day weekends (and my lack of fortitude for the cold) was going to come down to one nighters. I wasn’t looking for an artic exploration size backpack but something bigger than a day bag.
  2. I like doing a lot of hiking off trails and have done initial hike idea selection by going on google earth and finding the greenest areas I could find within a few hours drive to stay away from civilization (This can lead to some interesting experiences). For this external frame bags were obviously out the window and I was looking for a tight internal frame bag.
  3. Looking for basic bag compartments for organization (bladder sleeve, multiple pockets). Was not overly concerned about multiple access points as from experience I have found that these aren’t that much more helpful and benefits (in general) can be achieved by just packing smart.
  4. I also was looking for a bag that I could use for short trips (duffle bag) as a secondary purpose.

I looked at a lot of bags and found that the MAP 3500 fit these well for me. I have taken this bag a lot of place and has worked great. MAP 3500 fits tight to your back which is great for climbing or running if that’s what you need to do. It was the right size for my activities but can sometimes be a tight fit depending on how small your gear packs. I love the system of this bag and have posted links to other similar bags which I considered.

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Link to the bag I got.
http://www.kelty.com/p-264-map-3500.aspx

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I considered this bag (MAP 2500) and still wonder if this might have been a better bag. I was concerned that while it is only 200 cubic inches bigger (about size of taping four 4×6 photos together in a square – not that much) it has that large compartment on the front and also large side pockets and was concerned whether its size would be too small or force me to pack a lot more specific than just throwing most of my gear (sleeping bag, tent piece or tarp and ground pad take up most of space) in main section with food on top while I can throw few things I might need toward the outside. I like the idea of the “net-basket” in the back for fast access but have not used it so can’t speak personally to it.

http://www.kelty.com/p-262-raven-41.aspx?category=backpacks

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I think this bag is nice and may get it in the future for a larger bag I can use for my long term trips or winter trips. I really like the MAP style and fit and I think that this at least deserves a look if you are looking at getting a larger bag.

http://www.kelty.com/p-260-eagle-128.aspx?category=backpacks


Wish I Had a Bag to Carry all this Junk In: Choosing a great backpack

I am an avid backpacker and love the outdoors. I have been all over the country and backpacked through over 100 degree heat and -10 degree snow storms. I know what makes a good bag and what to think about when looking for a good bag.

I am not going to go into too much detail here on general bag search but will direct you to great description that REI has laid out on bag selection if you are new to the hobby or just looking for a way to frame your search for a new bag.

http://www.rei.com/expertadvice/articles/backpack.html

Some big picture backpack selection things to think about:

  1. The bag that is perfect for one person is not the perfect bag for someone else even for the same style of use (easy trail walking, short day hikes, running, long trips) because people are different way of organizing their gear or have different types of gear or prefer different amounts of gear for different environments. Whatever you choose it needs to be what you think will work best for you and your purpose.
  2. I am a huge fan of internal frame bags. External frames are not as comfortable on your back but allow better air flow (internal frame expect to lose your shirt when you get into camp to let it dry, layers critical for winter conditions). Something people will also always say is that they can attach stuff to the outside easier and have faster access to gear but I disagree. Really all it comes down to is that the bags frame is bigger than the actual bag, if it wasn’t it would be same situation. Also if your gear isn’t tight it will get stuck on things or get damaged/wear out faster due to rubbing on things as you hike unless you are walking on very open trails/service roads. Internal frames take more planning and probably experience in know what you are planning on needing to get to on the trail and packing your bag well so that it fits snug to your body as a single unit. I have done a lot of off trail hiking where having an external frame would be impossible. Also on rough terrain/steep cliffs an external frame can be more unwieldy causing balance issues which depending on how out there you are could be deadly.
  3. As I sort of dove into in the last point about internal and external you want space for your stuff. The article is pretty close to on. The main bag I am promoting later on is a 38 L bag which is about middle size they recommend for day hike or an overnight. Depending on how many people you have and how you can spread out equipment along with what you need to take. I have a small sleeping bag and will sometimes use a tarp/poncho in 50 degrees or warmer to limit space. I have been able to use my bag for multi-night trips but wasn’t changing cloths and had spread out gear or was using a tarp/poncho shelter at night. You can push sizes little more but it take experience and comfort level with the outdoors. If you are a pretty well experienced outdoorsman then you can push it, if you are new stick with the numbers like they are golden rule.

Article is great hope it helps you select a good bag for you.


Lock and Load Baby: Guns or Ammo?

So every guy with any sense knows how cool it would be to have a basement like Burt Gummer in Tremors but is it really the way to go?

It can be very tempting to buy a few sweet weapons, and by a few I mean a few dozen, so you can have some fun at the range and keep trying new things. Of course it is also really important for that zombie apocalypse to be able to use a few different weapons to keep dropping those brain feeding freaks that use to be your neighbors! I mean seriously the worst part of a zombie apocalypse is pretending you aren’t excited, am i right?!

But seriously, big picture, you really want to buy fewer weapons and more ammo. Get a good platform and perfect it with more practice at the range which is going to take more ammo, time, and focus but is the way to go. Obviously different weapons have different purposes, not going to go hunt white tail with a .22 LR, but as far as your home protection weapons go, you really only want to have one pistol and/or one rifle.

A shooter’s skill and mind is always more important than the weapon being used.

My recommendation: Glock 23 for a pistol (self-defense weapon, you want it to be reliable more than anything, concealment, rule of 3’s), AR15 for an assault rifle (longer range, precision, mobility).


On the Count of Three…DRAW: Why quick draw holsters are probably unnecessary for your conceal carry purposes

Why do people really think they need to draw their concealed weapon and shoot six different banditos on horseback riding out of the sun, 2 cheaters at cards and one drunk bothering a saloon girl in 0.34 seconds? This isn’t the Wild West people!

If you conceal carry you should not be thinking that while you are walking down this dark alley and a guy comes up behind you and puts a knife to your neck and wants your money that you can now spin around and take two well-aimed shots to the chest and one to the head in three seconds and stroll away like nothing happened. Conceal carry in the states is about having the ability to protect life, nothing more. In any situation that you will have a chance to fight for your life and you need to, you will have time to get a concealed weapon from both a hip or wrap holster and engage the target.

Choosing anything whether it is a gun, bag, TV, car, you should really examine what you will use it for and what is the right fit for you not necessarily right for someone else. Holsters are the same way. For me a concealed holster primary purpose is to conceal the weapon not to employ the weapon. If you want to employ a weapon the most important aspect is obviously ease of access/employment. For concealment though, what matters may be less obvious. For concealed carry holsters you want something that is going to conceal the weapon of your choice in the most clothing options (ex. Shorts and a t-shirt not just a long overcoat) well and comfort.

Any situation when you are a bystander or a victim of a crime the first few seconds or minutes, depending what kind of situation it is, should be spent accessing your situation (what is going on? What do these people want?), understanding your environment around you (where are exits? what is around me that could be used as cover? How many people involved? How many adversaries? How many people could be sleeper aggressors?), but more than anything, is it necessary for me to enter into mortal combat to save life (mine or someone else’s) because when a deadly weapon is introduced to a situation you need to be fully prepared to use it and be prepared for the person(s), no matter what their intentions were initially, to rapidly change with the situation to flight or fight and if it is fight should be considered to be to the death from their perspective.

Fully understanding your situation is very important before engaging an adversary, to engage very rapidly where one to two seconds difference matters takes extreme skill and definitely not the situation for 99% of people who conceal carry.

Having a weapon should not change your planning, if you wouldn’t go somewhere without a gun you shouldn’t go there with one. While you should plan like you will not have a weapon, you should still train like you will use your weapon everytime you carry it. Conceal carry gives you a capability to protect yourself and immediate area in a life and death situation, it does not let you be a super hero or famous Wild West gunslinger.

Another important fact is that if someone wants to kill you they are going to kill you if they are professional at all or have no need for escape after the act is committed. If someone already has the drop on you and is prepared to kill you, you are not going to get your gun out fast enough, they will shoot and kill you before your gun is out of the holster!

Any situation that is life and death that you have any chance of surviving will allow you to first analyze the situation and your surroundings, make a decision what your best course of action is, and then finally pull out your weapon and defend yourself. Using a weapon is much more than precision hole punching, it is about how YOU handle the situation and move throughout your environment.

Wrap holsters are great for concealed carry because they conceal the best, hip holsters are best for employment but more limited when it comes to concealment. I have multiple holsters for different purposes, when I have the ability to wear a hip holster (at the range or when I will be wearing a coat the whole day) I will wear it because it lets me have better employment capability but when you need to conceal in a work setting, tucked in shirt, a t-shirt, a good wrap holster is all you can use.

If you want to conceal carry you need a good chest wrap holster.