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Monday, December 27, 2010

Backpacking and the Art of Bugging Out on Foot

Bug-Out Bags; Bug-Out Vehicles; The process of surviving the unexpected is as complicated in preparation as it is in practice. The idea of self-sufficiency demands that one be able to exist without the means of outside assistance- this includes machinery and vehicles.

Many an article has been written about bugging out when the SHTF. This philosophy demands that one determines that the situation is beyond hope and initiates the bugout before the masses realize that something is amiss.

Naturally the best case scenario would be to leave well before the disaster or collapse occurs. However, most people will not experience this perfect timing scenario and will attempt to bug-out after the proverbial balloon goes up.

There is a saying in the Military that no plan will survive the initial contact with the enemy. What that means is that all of our best laid plans will crumble to pieces the minute you introduce reality to the equation. Regardless of how much we plan; how many lists we check; something is bound to go wrong.

Even though you PMCS your BOV religiously and regardless of the fact that you've stockpiled enough gasoline to make it to your bug out location and back; something unexpected can and will happen that will leave you stranded and on a completely different course of action than you intended.

What would you do if your BOV suddenly failed you and you can no longer use it? Would you be ready to continue, on foot, to your Bug out location?

Backpacking is an awesome sport that relies solely on your own two feet to pursue. It does not require a tremendous amount of expertise to prosper. Aside from selecting and packing a lightweight pack the only thing that is required of you is to place one foot in front of the other. However, this sport can be grueling if your not physically prepared for it. Backpacking is not something that you can pick up only when you need. In order to travel effectively you must condition your body, beforehand, to endure.

While constructing your evacuation plans I urge you to consider the possibility of losing your vehicle. Mechanical failures, popped tires, and better armed thugs can all eliminate this asset from your supply list. However, if your prepared to backpack, your still mobile as long as your healthy enough to walk.

There is an entire industry dedicated to providing hikers with quality, lightweight tools to make the backpacking experience all the more tolerable. Prepping is about planning and I urge you to consider the possibility of winding up, on foot, during an extreme situation.

An excellent resource for the uninitiated is The Backpacker's Field Manual, Revised and Updated: A Comprehensive Guide to Mastering Back country Skills

Fenix LD01R2, 3 Level High Performance CREE LED FlashlightLEDs, batteries and EDC gear.

Flashlights are one of those invaluable pieces of gear that those of us that are into survival and preparedness are never caught without. More often that not I’ll have 3 or 4 LED lights with me at all times. My keychain has a nice Fenix LDO1 and I’ll have a 4Sevens Quark Mini123 in my pants pocket. In my bag there’s another AA and 123 light. Its not a big deal. They are small enough and always come in handy. I fid myself loaning one often during shooting classes at night.

A few days ago after the shooting class we were going to the classroom and had to walk through a patch of dark field. I brought my flashlight out and noticed it wasn’t nearly as bright as it usually is. Maybe around 50 lumens of output or so, but this light gives 200 lumens on high mode. No problem, I keep spare batteries in my bag which I always have with me. Still, this reminded me that most people don’t carry flashlights on daily basis, let alone spare batteries. LEDs have extended the duration of batteries beyond what people could even dream of a few years ago, but they do run out. Good flashlights like the Quark Mini are regulated, so that means it keeps constant output of power until the battery is almost dead. Good for maintaining constant luminosity, but gives little warning time. This is one of the reasons why redundancy is important, as well as carrying spare batteries. The best way of knowing your LED flashlight is about to die is seeing a reduction in brightness. Even if its still pretty bright, in good LED lights this means it can no longer keep the same lumens out the front and has little time left. In LED lights like the Mini123 that have low-medium-high mode, you know you’re running out of battery when the medium and high mode looks pretty similar. When you can’t notice any difference between low-medium-high the battery should be replaced.

At all times

One of the few things all gun instructors agree with is that it matters little if you have the best gun in the world or even being the best shot if you don’t have the firearm with you when you need it. Something similar happens with basic survival tools. If you don’t have them with you at all times, you wont have it when you need it. This is why I emphasize so much on the importance of every day carry (EDC) gear.  You don’t need anything fancy, but you do need the basics. Which tools area  minimum must-haves vary depending on who you ask and the person’s personal experience and background. In my case the following factors come into play.
1)      You need to defend yourself from criminals.
2)      You need to deal with failing infrastructure. This includes power outages but also sectors of the city, buildings or roads that have no maintenance and lack proper street lighting.
3)      You need to be able to perform minor repairs in your vehicle or get yourself out of broken down trains, buses, buildings, etc. Emergency response wont be quick and may sometimes not show up at all.
With this premise, the minimum set of tools you should have include: Your gun where legal to carry with one or two spare magazines, wallet, cell phone, folding knife, multitool, flashlight and lighter. These I’ve carried even in jeans with small pockets,  Levi 501 type pants. Some of the cargo pants used today have more than enough space for these basic tools and more. The 99$ EDC kit post is a good start for those new to preparedness but that are working with a limited budget.

The Extra Step

While the basics are in your pockets or directly attached to you. You can (and should) carry a bit extra gear. For women this is called purse :-)  for guys it may be a suitcase, backpack, satchel, briefcase or messenger bag. Laptop cases and shoulder bags have become so popular, its easy to find something that fits your lifestyle, and carry a bag of some sort without attracting attention. Essentials here would be a bottle of water, a couple snacks or energy bars, an emergency blanket of collapsible jacket and a small survival kit such as an Altoids kit or similar.
The greatest problem here? The mental block guys have regarding carrying a bag with them at all times. Women carry purses practically every single day, parents simply can’t go out without a diaper bag. At first I had to force myself logically to take it with me at all times. After a few weeks I just couldn’t go out without it. Maybe one of the most useful things in my bag from the everyday perspective is the extra empty space. I keep about half of it free. This way I can toss in it whatever I’m carrying or buying that day and avoid the nasty little plastic bags that would end up in the trash anyway.


Unavoidable Maintenance and Repair

Just like flashlights need batteries, the rest of your gear will need proper care as well. The difference between poor and quality craftsmanship is not that one breaks and the other one doesn’t. Everything wears out and eventually fails, the difference is that with quality gear it takes longer and you generally get a bit of warning. Check your gear often and do proper maintenance. As we say around here, if your gun isn’t showing wear, your just not using it enough. Know how to disassemble your firearm, know how to repair it and keep a spare part kit, even with Glocks. Usually a few pins and springs, firing pin extractor and ejector, back plate and that little white plastic piece that jumps out when you remove the back plate. 
When it comes to knives, you just have to know how to sharpen them and clean them after use. It doesn’t matter if you get one that costs hundreds of dollars or is ridiculously hardened steel like you see sometimes (+60rc) It will just be harder to sharpen later on, that’s why I prefer knives that are around 58/59rc. There’s people out there that send their knives to be sharpened to a specialist. Would you be doing that during an emergency? No, you have to know how to do these things yourself. Same thing goes for your multitool. It must be kept sharpened and oiled at the pivot points so as to be in proper working condition when you need it. The Leatherman Charge and Wave which I use and always recommend uses a number 10 security torx screw. Get a  set of safety torxs screwdrivers that includes the number 10 so as to tighten or loosen your Leatherman or disassemble if needed.
After using your knife for working or eating, clean it before putting it away. I use the knife that I carry in my pack for “asados” (Argentine version f BBQ) After eating I’ll clean it with a napkin and store it in its sheath. The grease left protects it from rust but it may leave a few stains because of the fatty acids. Since this is not a showcase piece, I can live with that.
Sometimes when training or after simply getting caught in the rain, all your gear gets wet along with you. What I do is right as soon as I get home I spray everything with WD40. (great stuff, have several cans handy) WD, stands for water displacement, 40th attempt. This was created specially to keep water away and avoid corrosion. It has been used to keep away humidity from submarine batteries and avoid corrosion in Atlas missiles. Victorinox’s manual says to open and close the tool while submerged in hot water. This removes grit and dirt. Afterwards dry and oil.

Just a few thoughts guys, take care and enjoy the rest of your weekend!

FerFAL

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