Category Archives: Preps

Product Review: Nikwax Cotton Proof

Updated at AP on 15 June 18.

I’ve used this product in all seasons, hot, wet, and cold.  Still have enough left in the large container to either re-impregnate the items below or to put in a few other things.

  • Survival Smock
  • M-65 Field Jacket
  • 2 Pr BDU pants
  • 2 Winter Camouflage Over Jackets
  • 1 Pr Winter Camouflage Over pants

So far, everything has held out beautifully when it comes to repelling water/snow.  In the rain, it takes a very heavy downpour for the material to start taking on any water (the NYCO mix is what weakens the waterproofing property because it’s for 100% cotton…).  When it comes to snow, when body heat starts melting the snow, it flicks off as small water droplets leaving the material dry.  All in all, staying drier keeps me warmer longer.  This is a great product!

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Originally published on 11 April 2017.

In the quest for staying dry as long as possible in cold, wet weather, while looking for a Goretex rejuvenator, I happened upon a product by Nikwax, called, “Cotton Proof.”  Now, truth be told, I’m always skeptical of the ‘magic pill’ offered by various companies, but, as I wear a lot of Nyco things, to include field jackets and smocks, I figured, ‘what the hell, it might just be worth trying out.’  After all, cotton is known as ‘the cloth of death’ in anything but warm weather, once it gets wet.

Here’s their video on the product:

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So, I go ahead and watch the video and decide to order it and give it a shot.  I bought mine on Amazon.

Once it arrived, I read the directions and followed them explicitly.  One thing many don’t do is to remove all soap residue from their washing machine prior to treating their items.  The instructions will tell you explicitly to do just that.  So, that’s what I did by running three ‘heavy load’ cycles with only hot/warm water and two ounces white vinegar in each cycle.

Once the machine was clean, I washed the items I was going to experiment with in ‘Sport Wash’ twice, as I noticed residue in the first rinse from previous washings.  I’ve got some Nikwax Tech Wash on the way for next time, but hey, this was an experiment.

The directions will tell you that you don’t need to dry the items once pre-washed, and that’s true.  For 3 to 4 medium & large mixed items, you need to put 7 ounces (I estimated between 3/4 of a cup and a full cup, so I could have been a smidge off) in the washer after it’s completely full.  So, place the items in the washer, start the fill,, and once all items are submerged and completely under the surface, put the Cotton Proof in.  Once you do that, you run the ‘heavy’ cycle as normal, to include the rinse and spin cycles.

When it’s done, put them in the dryer with no softeners on delicate/low.  I put the timer on max, for 60 minutes; everything was dry in about 40.

After everything cooled, the first thing I did was take an item over to the mud sink faucet and turn on the water, letting it pour on the material.

The water bounced off for about 45 seconds with a steady stream hitting the material at a perpendicular angle before the tiniest wet spot was visible!  So, I shut the water off, shook off the item, and it was completely dry again in about 90 seconds or less.  Not bad for a 50/50 Nyco item!  From what their instructions/adds/videos say, it works better on 100% cotton, but will suffice with nylon blends.  Man does it!

So, I give this product 5 stars for those who like to walk around in the bush or rain or whatever and want to stay dry as long as possible.  I’m actually looking forward to a ruck walk in the rain in the next week for a minimum of 5 miles to see how it performs.

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General Purpose Load Outs – Pt III

Updated at AP on 21 Sep 18.

Parts 1 & II

On this installment, we’ll look at what would be Level III, or the ‘Existence Load.’  Please note that brands are not what is being recommended here (everyone seems to have their own favorites); only the category/type of item.  For purposes of this post, a pistol is a pistol, a fixed blade knife is a fixed blade knife, etc.  Most importantly, your mileage may vary on what you need as Level 1 in your own AO.  Remember to not over do on item selection for any of the levels.  You have to carry it all….that said, this is what we recommend for baseline gear/equipment leveling:

Level 1 Contents in no particular order (and some are not included in the pictures):

  • Presume you have AO/Season appropriate clothing on your person, so we won’t go into that.
  • Cotton Balls or some other very light fire starter
  • Signalling Whistle
  • Stabilized Oxygen (water purification)
  • AO Map – Usually a state map showing major roads, cities, etc, (this would be in addition to any topographical or aerial photograph maps you have in your level 2 or 3 list.
  • Water proof bag to keep small L1 items together (should fit in a cargo or pants pocket)
  • ‘Space’ Blanket’
  • Magnesium or Ferro Rod fire starter (I prefer the ferro rod; others like the magnesium – I keep my ferro rod on a piece of 550 cord around my neck…works for me.)
  • 12 inches of 100 mph tape
  • 1 unlubricated prophylactic – relax – it’s an emergency water container
  • Fixed blade knife of 6 to 8 inches
  • Small sharpening stone – in the picture below, that is kept in the snow sealed, riveted sheath
  • Compass – As seen, this one is in the knife cap
  • Small, individual survival kit – in the knife handle; can include a few fish hooks, a few matches, etc.
  • Side arm & one magazine
  • Holster – in this case, the owner is using a simple trigger guard with belt attachment for IWB carry.  I prefer either a belt or should holster.  In any event, the pistol is on your person 24/7, even when you’re sleeping – never out of reach, always ready in an instant.
  • Small bag with a couple packets of MRE toilet paper and a couple disinfectant wipes (even in dire straights, keeping yourself clean as possible will keep you going longer as your body won’t have to fight an illness while using its energy reserves you’re counting on).
  • A high quality multi-tool in a pouch on your knife sheath or belt or in a pocket.  This is just as important as your fixed blade knife and pistol.  This item, really, depending on what’s chosen, one of those things you’ll find you really need.  DTG actually carries two; one affixed to the knife sheath and one in my accessory pouch.  One is a Leatherman MUT, and the other a Gerber 600 one hand opening needle nose.  In. De. Spensible.
  • One quart size plastic bag to keep things in (can also double as another water container).
  • Other items can be easily added, such as
    • 10X monocular, kept in a shirt pocket
    • Lighter (highly recommended)
    • Wrist Watch – On your wrist, obviously, and one might consider a self-winder or manual wind (EMP, you know).

As you can see from the second picture below, it all goes very nicely in the dry bag, and its scale/weight will do very nicely in a cargo or even a large shirt pocket.  Knife goes on the belt, and the pistol goes into an appendix carry in this case.  If you use a belt holster for your pistol, make sure to balance your belt with the pistol on one side and the knife on the other.

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Level 2 Contents in no particular order:

  • Carbine & primary magazine – the carbine should be set up as a practical combat carbine w/optics and possibly a weapon mounted light, depending on product.  Remember, a ‘negligent light up’ in the dark could get you killed.
  • H-Harness or LBV – Remember DTG does not recommend chest rigs as ‘general purpose’ gear.  They’re great for specific applications, but, at least in our opinion, don’t fit the definition used for selection as general purpose.  As always, your mileage may vary.
  • Ammo pouches to hold six standard capacity (30 rounds) magazines with appropriate ammunition.
  • Compass pouch w/primary compass.
  • Accessory pouch with those accessories a NPT member might need for security operations.  Could contain things like:  Headlamp, earplugs, 3 or 4 inch blade folding knife (for small chores like opening food packets), eating utensil, spare batteries, small bottle of CLP, 4 way spigot key (can turn on a lot of faucets if needed in an urban/suburban environment, etc.  Your call, as it’s what you believe you’ll need and will be on your harness/LBE.
  • CAT (Combat Application Tourniquet) –  DTG carries an additional one taped to the outboard side of the carbine stock in order to have two; one of which is immediately available,  DO NOT use 100 mph tape!!  You’ll never get your CAT off the rifle in time to use it.  1.5 wraps of electrical tape on each end of the CAT will do it.
  • BOK – AKA, ‘Blow Out Kit’ or Traumatic Hemorrhage Kit complete with coagulants, chest seals, etc.  It all depends on what kind of care you think you can get post use of the BOK.
  • Mini-IFAK – Includes band aids, triangular bandages, snake bit kits, etc, again, depending on your AO  (if you’re narrow waisted, and don’t have a lot of ‘real estate’ on your LBE, you might consider a cargo pocket or a shirt/jacket pocket.  In cooler weather, a British Windproof Smock or similar jacket with many pockets would help on this.  DTG uses a smock for L1 add ons and L2 items that won’t fit on the LBE, and it works – make sure you test what you come up with).
  • Radio – Make sure you check out Brushbeater’s radio series if you’re not quite sure what you should have or how you’d use what you do have.

Level 3 Contents:

These are what old-schooler’s refer to as ‘Existence Load’ items.  Again, in no particular order:

  • Entrenching tool
  • 6 additional loaded standard capacity magazines in bandoleer
  • Water bladder (additional or primary – depends on what you can carry)
  • Lean to (tarp, poncho, etc) – The USMC field tarp, British Basha, Aqua Quest Defender, Noah’s Tarp, etc, seem to be very popular and work well.  DTG has used all the listed examples.
  • Sleeping bag/poncho liner & additional tarp (depending on season/AO)
  • 30 ft 1/2 inch rope
  • Carabiners
  • 3 Duke 110 traps
  • 3 ‘Yo Yo’ reels
  • Naglene water container
  • Utility pot (canteen cup – DTG prefers the WWII/Korea models with the solid handle vice the ‘butterfly grips’)
  • 1 spare set of pants/shirt
  • 3 spare sets of socks
  • 1 pair thermal underwear
  • Spare batteries
  • Spare compass
  • Four 50 ft hanks of 550 cord
  • Tinder packet
  • Sharpening stone
  • 3 day pack
  • “MAC” sacks (one way valve waterproofing bags)
  • Kukri or Machete (not pictured) – personally, DTG likes the Kukri – it can take a LOT of use/abuse for survival situations
  • Equipment Repair Kit – Heavy Material Stitcher, Goo, 100mph tape, or whatever you think you’ll use to repair gear that becomes damaged in the field
  • 6 full meals (that doesn’t mean MRE’s, either, unless you ‘field strip’ them.  DTG does a mix of Mountain House vacuum packed, field stripped MRE’s, and other small items that equate to 4 days of meals.

Add what you need, but the trick here is to have what you really need in the Existence Load, but not over pack, and BE ABLE TO CARRY FOR AT LEAST 5 MILES what you have without falling over, and then still being able to set up a RON (Remain Over Night) location when you get to your way point.

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And there you have it.  The image below shows a NPT member with all Levels mounted.  Again, these photos are for demonstration, and therefore, no field clothing is being used by the model.

Instant Response Set Up – A Suggestion

We’ve all got our SHTF set ups and they most likely include, our harness, our multitude of ammo and mags, and the kitchen sink.  And, if we’ve done it right, we’ve bought the highest quality we can afford, meaning it might not be ‘Top Shelf’ equipment, but it’s not going to fall apart with rough use, either.

One thing that many don’t have is an “instant Response Kit” that might entail basic NPT* member requirements for, say, 24 to 48 hours in the event of an imminent threat or actual attack.  In essence, a ‘grab and go’ set up that will see you through the initial stages of a ‘bad thing’ until you can either get your standard SHTF existence load and equipment.  Necessarily so, this equipment won’t be at the top line of expenditures, either, and surplus equipment might be the way to go.

So, for discussion, what might that look like?

Again, this set up should be of reasonable quality to be used in scenario based training and the real McCoy if necessary, but would only have an expected life that would be much more protracted than the really good stuff you’ve made your ‘SHTF I’m not coming back’ set up from.

This example is for an AR set up because it’s ubiquitous, and these days, really inexpensive to get a decent copy.  So….you 7.62NATO fans are going to have to find something similar that takes your mags and spare ammo, if you decide to go with the concept.

Now nothing says your ‘instant response’ or “IR” set up can’t actually BE your SHTF set up, so long as it meets the criteria.  If you’ve got your current SHTF set up in modules, where you can easily pick up something and leave some other thing behind instantly, than you may be good to go.  That means what you might consider  ‘Line 1’ items must be contained in the set up.  Pistol, spare mags, knife, mini-survival kit have to be on it, unless you actually have them already in your pants/on your person when you grab the IR kit.

Remember, the definition I’m going to use here for an ‘IR Kit’ means exactly that:  INSTANT RESPONSE.  No sorting, no digging through stuff, no anything save grabbing your AR and your IR Kit and going out the door.

The IR Kit is comprised of 2 modules that include anything determined to be necessary to operate independently of a support base/group for up to 72 hours maximum that when donned, needs nothing added to complete the set up.

Module 1:  Zero’d AR with one full magazine – it should be painted to break up the shape and outline, with a pallet of colors that match most conditions of your area.

Example of camouflaged AR – outline broken up; does not stand out

Module 2:  IR Kit consisting of the following components:

 

  • Harness:  Suggested is the USGI Gen II LBV.  Why a surplus USGI 2nd Gen?  Because A: it’s cheap.  Mine cost me $13 shipped.  B:  Because it is versatile enough to haul your required gear/weapons/support with the addition of a USGI web belt that’s also ‘soooper cheep,’ and C: because it’ll hold 8 mags or 6 mags if you use one pouch for ‘stuff’ (jury’s out on that right now due to balance – time will tell).  To keep costs down, I’m also using spares I’ve got on hand so the dollar outlay is as little as possible.  For those of you who might not have spares, remember your local garage sales and flea markets.  New isn’t what you’re after – ‘serviceable’ is what you need.  In fact, a bit faded is good.  So, look for the belts and, while you’re at it, if you don’t have one, get a USGI M84 or M12 Holster to go on your belt for your service pistol.  These holsters really protect your service pistol from a lot of things, including mud, debris, and other items that can impact your successful employment of the pistol when necessary.

  • Fixed blade knife:  One suggestion if you don’t have a spare to throw on your IR Kit, is a Camillus ‘combat’ knife or similar.  Used is also good here, so long as the edge looks serviceable, and the sheath is ok, too.  You can always improve the edge as well as sno-seal or beeswax the sheath,  You could also get a ‘Glock Field Knife’ or other similar knife that meets your preferences. The important thing is to have a good fixed blade knife.

  • Spare Magazines: Determine whether you want 6 or 8 on your person and pre-load them to be stored in the harness.  Not to worry, you can leave mags loaded for years without damaging the magazine spring, contrary to conventional wisdom – metallurgy will tell you that over compression of the spring is what damages mags, not leaving fully loaded for years.   Personally, I like 6 on the vest, because with one mag in the AR, you’ve got a total of 210 rounds which is a basic load taken right from my super old school training.  Unless you’re dealing with a human wave style attack, 210 rounds ought to be good to go for 48 hours, especially if you’re an, ‘aimed, deliberate, accurate, deadly fire’ proponent.  If there’s a chance you might not get back to your primary SHTF equipment for a couple more days, you can always load 6 more magazines (180 rounds) in a bandoleer to provide an added measure of ‘peace of mind.’  The USGI surplus is better than the aftermarket hook and loop closure models – the USGI version has hardcore snaps on it.

  • Support Items:  Then we need to add to the mix some sundry items like water, food, map, compass (even if you’re only going to the end of your block, you should ALWAYS have a map & compass to plot out where the bad guys are or have come from), space blanket, fire kit, canteen cup (universal use pot), fire starter, These might be kept in a small ruck, an accessory pouch, or an old school ‘butt pack.’   A cleaning kit is purposely not included, as you would not necessarily be a position to take down your piece/pistol for cleaning.

The primary objective is to have the harness set up so that everything you need to ‘go now’ for anything extremely short term up to a 48 hour stint away from your primary existence and fighting load is at your fingertips.  This could also serve as a superb ‘mobile’ set up that one might put in his/her vehicle prior to going on a long trip.  2 items:  Rifle & IR Kit.  Not bad.

Once I get mine together, I’ll be doing some experimenting on wearing it and see how the basic idea seems to fit.

 

General Purpose Gear Load Outs – Pt II

Updated at AP on 21 July 18.

Gear Layering

What is gear layering? As described in other posts here and on other sites, such as Mason Dixon Tactical, American Partisan, and WRSA, gear layering is arranging equipment in lines, layers, and levels, to achieve the same thing. It is a technique for prioritizing the carriage of the most essential gear for the specific job over gear that may still be important, but not as high on the priority list as other items. Many sources divided their levels of gear into 3 or 4 layers. DTG recommends and uses the 3 layer approach.  Why address it again?  Because it works!

A quick description:

Level 1: Gear that is essential to survival and ALWAYS on your person, even when you’re sleeping (remember, you will fight like you train, and if a SHTF situation presents itself, you no longer have the luxury of ‘total comfort’.) If all else fails and an individual loses their harness and ruck, they still will have their level one items with them to help them survive until they can reach support.

Level 2: Gear is for NPT security tasks and is on your person the significant majority of the time. Only items that are needed for conducting continuing security tasks are carried on this level with respect to the SMOLES packing concept. Following this methodology, the NPT member stays light and has the freedom of movement essential to do their job.

Level 3: Gear is comprised of sustainment items, which serves as one’s “home away from home.” Usually, this is a “patrol pack”, ruck or combination of both. Items at this level are needed for task completion while on a job, or for long term survivability in the field. If in contact with a threat, more than likely this level is shed so that the NPT member can maneuver more easily to counteract the threat. So, there is a possibility that items in this layer may be lost in contact. On the other hand, if the NPT is successful in its task, the NPT members can always retrieve their Level 3 gear.

Here are a few visual examples of gear that layered for an NPT member:

Example Level 1: Here you can see a NPT member wearing a big knife, a pistol, (and the bulge in the pocket is a survival kit).  He’s always got these on.

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Example Level 2: Here you can see a NPT team member’s Load Bearing Harness. It contains all the necessary items to conduct security tasks in a SHTF/WROL situation. The harness weighs about 25 pounds complete with all equipment.

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Example Level 3: Option 1: As you can see here, the level 3 gear is a “patrol pack” or small ruck, dedicated to sustainment items for a short trip in the field. The pack weighs about 22 lbs loaded with the items we recommend for general purpose carry.

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Example Level 3 – Option 2: And lastly we have a large ruck in combination with the small ruck as the full load out for one’s home away from home in the field. Together they weigh about 65 lbs.

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So there you have it, an overview for gear layering. It’s not a complicated concept, but it does help one prioritize their gear for the purpose it was intended. The layer concept also makes sure you have your “oh crap” tools always on hand.

In the next post we will take a look at general NPT security member kit contents in each layer.

General Purpose Gear Load Outs

Updated at AP on 9 July 18.

Part 1: Load Bearing Equipment (LBE) Selection

There are many gear options out there today for one’s fighting load and sustainment ruck. As our overall goal is to show the NPT how to protect their neighborhood in the event of disaster, we want to do this as efficiently as possible.  One way to achieve efficiency is to provide information that equates to much less time needs to be spent worrying over which LBE set up or ruck is better and using that time instead for training and study.

As you most likely know,  a person can spend anywhere from a few hundred bucks setting up LBE and rucks with military surplus items to upwards of several thousand on the latest and greatest ‘special-ops’ equipment in the latest and greatest camouflage pattern.  It’s safe to say that American preppers virtually have the greatest availability and choices of military/paramilitary gear in the world, and as neat as that is, it does tend to complicate gear selection for people who are new to the point of becoming overwhelming.  Even when asking, “expert” advice, the tendency is to see the advice given based upon personal tastes versus objective analysis based upon the specified purpose for the selection.

So, when you’re helping the new NPT member to get equipped, you, as the NPT leader, must be able to quickly outline the best return on investment of potential gear selections so the new member can get focused on training as soon as possible.

With that said, DTG recommends a “general purpose” approach when selecting gear.  The definition is offered for clarity, as we try to stick to the definition closely in 98% of all circumstances.

gen•er•al-pur•pose / adjective
general-purpose

1. Having a range of potential uses; not specialized in function or design.  “a general-purpose detergent”

For the requirements of the NPT, general purpose load bearing equipment should facilitate “normal” (that is, ‘routine’) NPT security tasks.   To be considered ‘General Purpose, the LBE you choose should have the following attributes:

  • Capable of mounting all necessary pouches/equipment holders without being so front loaded so that one cannot get very low to the ground, (think H-harness / Battle-belt).  Chest rigs are great for the right circumstances, but they really don’t fit the GP parameters.
  • Comfortable enough to be worn to complete daily grid down chores without extra fatigue.
  • Capable of being put on and taken off without any discernable noise (think of the loud “SKWAAAAP!!!” sound that some Velcro pouches, plate carriers or chest rigs make).  Buckles and snaps are your friend when it comes to quiet.
  • Capable of being put on with or without the use of a low profile plate carrier (the H-harness/battle belt set up work very well in this regard), should that be one of your choices to augment your equipment.

Remember, what works for elite soldiers doing specialized missions might be different than the day to day gear needs of Mom and Pop providing security in their NPA while going about daily chores.  Available cash may also be a constraining factor when it comes to choosing gear.  To preclude the loss of precious time and money when NPT members experiment through trial and error what works best in most situations, and for what cost, the NPT leader should provide all the lessons learned possible so the ‘noobs’ don’t have to go through all the things the veteran NPT leader or member did.   Remember, unless Mom and Pop are in superb physical shape, they might have a hard time with 12 mags hanging off their tummy trying to get into a prone firing position, or low crawling to cover after being encouraged to get a chest rig or plate carrier set up.  (An aside, helping Mom and Pop do reasonable PT helps, too, but you, NPT Leader, need to be busting your ass on PT.)

How do you get the ‘most bang for your buck’ in relation to time saved when learning about gear?

Have new NPT members get some training in SUT with one of the trainers or schools offered by writers on this site.  Their courses are structured to show students, through the performance, if gear is incorrectly set up or can be tweaked a bit.

When you’re home, if appropriate to your AO (meaning you won’t bring a stack down on you after a terrified neighbor calls the local PD on 911) wear your LBE around the house doing normal tasks, yard work, etc. Nothing teaches you how to wear your gear like performing daily chores or the occasional SUT drill!

Any time you attend the training, check out how the instructors set up their gear.  If it seems to work, and it’s possible for you to mimic their set up, test it when you train with your group or family.  If you don’t understand why something is set up a particular way, ask!  Remember, the instructors have tailored their LBE set ups used during their experience in the military to that of citizens training to defend their families. Pick their brains; they know what works and what doesn’t work so well. If you have a question, drop them a line.

DTG’s LBE and Ruck Suggestions:

General Purpose Option 1: “I have an extremely limited budget, but need all the quality I can find!”:

Get an ALICE H-harness/web belt and an Enhanced ALICE Large Ruck. My good friend JC Dodge provides some great advice on modernizing the ALICE:  Get a CFP-90 patrol pack to add to the top of the ruck. With mag pouches and canteen’s, etc, you’re looking at about $200 give or take, maybe less depending on what you find or where you shop. Example: In the not too distant past, I was at a flea market and found 4 M1956 canvas M-14 pouches for a buck each. ALICE frames for $20 (US, not knock offs.)  Below you can see two typical ‘old school’ examples that still work very, very well.

LBE

ALICE Pack

General Purpose Option 2: “I’ve got some cash” option:

Get an Eagle Industries RLCS harness (ebay $100 new, $50 to $75 used) with molle pouches ($15 ea) and a USMC FILBE ruck with attachable small patrol pack ($325 new). You’re looking at about $400 to $600 after pouches for your LBE, if you want to go the surplus route.  I’ve had a set up very similar to the one below for the last 5 years – haven’t had an issue with it, and I routinely ruck.  The harness is bomb proof, and it will accommodate flotation pads if you think you’ll need to cross a river.

Eagle Ind. H Harness

Eagle Industries H Harness

 

USMC FILBE Pack

USMC FILBE Pack

*Note these estimations do not include the cost to fill your LBE or Ruck with actual field gear.

The next post will be on gear layering. The idea is not to get into all the supporting theory behind layering as much as it is to give a good example for general purpose gear placement so that (if you like it), you can show an example to new people how/where to wear their gear for security tasks.

Re-Post: Shelter – Why Tents Suck

Originally posted on 1 June 2016.

Bottom line first:  As the title indicates, DTG is no fan of tents for survivalist or mobile NPT scenarios that may require sheltering from weather.  Look at the graphic above:  Do you think the occupants saw/heard this guest coming into their camp?  Of course, the photo indicates this was a ‘simple’ camping trip, and other factors are sure to be present that drew the uninvited guest in to check things out, but the main point is the apparent haste in which the occupants left the tent….and all their belongings because they were blind to their environment.

Another reason we don’t recommend any tent, to include individual ‘bivy’ shelters are due to the logistics involved:  Shelter is hauled on your back.  Any shelter that has rigid support structure (poles or springs, such as ‘instant’ pop-up shelters/tents) tend to make the load being carried unbalanced (more or less), and once set up, blocks vision, restricts movement, or retains moisture from condensation, or all of the foregoing.  Don’t agree?  Try your small signature tactical tent in deep winter, and when you settle in for the night, turn on a flashlight and watch your breath rise to the ceiling, freeze, and begin to drift down as micro-snow.  You may find in the morning that your sleeping cap is covered with a thin layer of “snow”, as well as the top of your bag.  This is not speculation – yours truly has had this happen.

Additionally, this post is not about hiding one’s IR signature, either.  Different subject; different tools; different employment of the tools available for an entirely different purpose.  I’m sure you can find plenty of other sites available that will provide more than enough justification necessary to validate the purchase of their $200 tarp with a reflective liner.  Most likely with various camouflage patterns to meet your specific needs.  If that’s what you’re after, this is not the post for you.

This post is also not about sheltering when you know or have reason to believe you’re being actively hunted.  Another entirely different subject where different tools and methods are employed for an entirely different purpose.  The frame of reference here is simply sheltering in the elements to (in no particular order) rest, dry out, eat, hydrate, perform hygiene, etc.

The focus will simply be:

  • Tarp Shelter Purpose
  • Optimum Size & Weight
  • Shelter Siting
  • Knots to use
  • Setting it Up
  • And whatever else crosses our minds on the subject.

Tarp Shelter purpose:  Simply put, a shelter is to get you out of the sun/wind and rain/snow.  As most know, that’s where the debilitation of your physical condition occurs is in the elements.  You can stay cooler or warmer, dehydrate less, and become much more comfortable if you have a tarp shelter big enough to get you out of the elements.  Here’s what you need:

Tarp Shelter, 550 cord, basic knot knoweldge (trucker’s hitch, figure 8, and Prusik will do nicely), your field knife or tomahawk (to make stakes), bungee cords (if you’re going 1st class), and wind consciousness.

Optimum Size & Weight:  Again, bottom line:  Ideally, no more than 3 pounds and size should be 7 X 8 feet, and completely waterproof.  It has to be large enough, ideally, to shelter you, your personal defense carbine, and your ruck.  If your ruck is guaranteed to be waterproof, you can leave it out if needs be, but if not, you don’t want to carry the extra weight from the material becoming saturated.  If you’re alone, or each in your group has their own, you can use your poncho if you have one.  Below is a picture of a student shelter with a standard issue Woodland pattern poncho.  Note the mandatory ‘goose neck’ to keep out water.  And yes, the ruck, hawk and carbine belongs to the student, who wanted to show them in the photo.

DTG Student Hootch

As to size, there are a group of newer shelters, such as the Aqua Quest Defender (shown below) that are about 10X7 feet, and have all sorts of great innovations like up to 20 loops around the perimeter and even one or more loops on the center spine.  They are a bit spendy, but you get what you pay for.  This one weighs in at just over 2 pounds, but has the tried and true woodland pattern.  So far, I really like mine – it works very very well!aqua questAnother great one, if you’re traveling in a team of two or three at most, and distribute the shelter building load among yourselves, is any 10X10 ft waterproof tarp, such as the Snugpak All Weather Shelter, as sold here by Great Lake Survival and weighs about 2 pounds.  I’ve got one and used it regularly until it was edged out by the Aqua Quest. So much so that each time I hit the bush on a training run, it was ‘home.’  Very nice, and when not with a partner, it’s like having a mansion.  I can make my fire right at the edge without endangering the tarp so long as I keep the fire at a reasonable level to heat my food or water for coffee.  The image below is only one configuration possible.

GLSC shelter

If you like MARPAT, and you shop around, you can get almost new USMC Field Tarps, with Coyote Brown on one side and MARPAT on the other.  It’s bigger than a poncho, has no hood, and is solid.  It’s a bit heavier at about 3 pounds, but some folks swear by it.  I have one of these as well, and have used it with no complaints, other than the additional weight.  Here’s one set up in the ubiquitous ‘shelter half’ configuration.

shelter USMC field tarp

One feature you want to look for, especially if you’re going to get an individual sized tarp, is the ability to snap them together (did we mention that your team needs to have standardized equipment?  Here’s one more reason why) in order to make a larger shelter when appropriate.  It’s a nice capability to have available, but not essential for efficient sheltering.

Next time: Shelter Siting, cordage, and knots that lend themselves to efficient set up and tear down.

Winchester 670 Range Performance

Posted at AP on 31 Oct 18.

In part 1, here, I described the Winchester 670 and a little bit of its history along with some of the unique features I found:

  • Completely unbedded action.
  • Original ‘Tip Off’ scope ring mounts.
  • A 3X9 X 40 once inch ‘tee vee’ screen scope.
  • Factory iron sights.
  • 19 inch carbine barrel.
  • Exceptional trigger (for an ‘economy’ rifle).

On the weekend of 26 October 2018, I took it to my KDR (Known Distance Range) to check out it’s accuracy potential on a bench.  I took two different brands of ammo with me that had some common characteristics (besides being .30-06).  Both had a 165gr Sierra HPBT Game King mounted on very nicely polished brass.  Brands:  Omega Ammo (now apparently out of business – their link loads with ‘we’re down for maintenance’ and has been doing that since February 19) & Fiocchi; and both loaded to, or close to, match specs.  Temps were in the mid 40’s and it was raining most of the time I was there.  So, it was good weather to check how it’d perform during a hunt.

Generally, the Omega had better (tighter) groups and the Fiocchi was a bit hotter, as it’s point of impact with the same aiming point was about 2 inches higher than the Omega.  I was pretty pleased with both brands, but the Omega edged out the Fiocchi.  You used to be able to find out more about Omega ammo, here, if you wish.

The next image is of the iron sight check out at 25 AFTER the scope was sighted in.  I did this so that when I went to 100 yards, the scope would have been taken off its original zero, and would be prone, if the mounts/rings weren’t solid, of having a different point of impact.

To continue, the upper holes outside of the ‘X’ indicate what I did to bring it center and down on the ‘X’.  The very tight group in the ‘X’ is how it fired at 25 yards with semi-quickly bolted rounds, simulating rapid fire on say, a bear, or something, coming at the shooter.

Now, remembering that this target was shot at 25 yards, I was still pretty happy.  I don’t have the eyesight anymore to shoot iron accurately beyond that, so that’s where it’ll stay for anytime I need to flip the scope out of the way.  And, yes, the scope was tipped off to the left, and re-secured before I went to 100 yards.

Stealing my own thunder, I was amazed at how it kept its zero at 100 after being tipped over.  Very solid mounts, and great performance from a scope that’s about as old as the rifle.

The first target is two groups of 3.  You might find the points of impact as interesting as I did.  The second target with blue lines indicating the group was the first 3 rounds; the second target with the yellow lines was the second string of 3 rounds.

The red dot is about 1 1/4 inches or so in diameter, so all in all, I find this rifle to be a keeper.  One thing I always look for to confirm inherent accuracy potential is the ‘triangle’ shaped group.  It means the barrel harmonics are consistent with the cone of fire; the closer the group, the more consistent the harmonics.  For an economy rifle, this one has superb harmonics, especially when taking into account the lack of bedding and stock features.

All in all, I fired 40 rounds of both Omega and Fiocchi through this neat little rifle.  Its performance, with no custom work on it at all, convinced me that back in the ’60’s, even an economy rifle could perform to match levels.

This one made the trip last November and didn’t need to be used, but it was ready…

Your Rifle and You – Squeezing the Best Performance from Your ‘Go To’

Disclaimer:  This is not a post about building a ‘sniper’ rifle.  There are a myriad of articles and posts out there on turning your economy poodle shooter into a super accurate ‘sniper’ rifles or, at the very least, long range super accurate SAR’s (Surgical Asshole Remover).   Why?  I’d be willing to bet that 99.99% or more of the readership here and elsewhere are not, ‘snipers.’  Anything offered here that a trained, qualified, and certified ‘sniper’ would read wouldn’t be anything more than basic information.

So, this post is about squeezing the most accuracy from your chosen platform and what, in fact, determines a rifle’s ‘inherent’ (as in already present the rifle based on how it was built and the quality of the parts from the original build) accuracy.  It’s also not how to do it on the cheap, either.  Bottom line is that you get what you pay for in all endeavors in life, 99.99% of the time, and the more quality you can afford, the more you’re lessening the chances that your rifle will take a dump at a most inopportune moment.  Notice that I wrote, ‘lessening the chances’ and not, ‘removing the chances.’  Remember that anything man-made will break over time and use, and that quality is the key to lowering the odds of when and where.

Ok, on to how to get better performance from your rifle.  The foundation of rifle performance is contained in one word:  Consistency.   The more consistent performance, the more accurate the rifle.  This foundation is comprised of three elements, like a three legged stool.  Take one away, and the stool falls over.  All three have to be there for the stool to stand.  They are:  The platform itself, the shooter, and the ammunition used.  If anyone of the three are not consistently (shot after shot) performing to their potential, accuracy is going to suffer.

Let’s knock out the ammunition first.  Crap ammo makes for crap accuracy.  Sure, in a SHTF situation, “any chair in a bar fight.”  Ammo is ammo, and the worst ammo in the world beats no ammo.   Right now we’re looking at squeezing the most accuracy out of your chosen rifle.  There are two ways to do that with the ammo:  First, buy nothing but match or super match grade ammo.  Yes, it’s expensive, but it’s very consistent.  The other way is to hand load your rounds.  This is also expensive at first, and must be learned.  Single stage presses are the way to go for hand loading extremely accurate ammunition.  Progressive presses don’t have the capability to accurately measure each step of the loading process, such as primer seating depth, bullet seating depth, or powder throws.  The ‘sweet spot’ load for each rifle is going to be different depending on the case (and the preparations performed on the brass prior to loading), the primer, propellant, and projectiles used.  Further, the bullets must all be seated consistently to get to the level of similar performance down range.  That means micrometer bullet seaters.  More money, but worth it if your goal is maximum down range accuracy.

Next up is the shooter.  If the shooter isn’t taught or if taught, doesn’t train on the basic fundamentals of shooting in trigger depression, natural point of aim, wind reading, distance come ups, and follow through, no amount of money spent on ammunition is going to make a difference at longer ranges.  It takes discipline and time to achieve the discipline that leads to consistent habits when one gets behind the sights of a rifle position not withstanding.  If follows, then, that if you are trying to squeeze out every drop of potential accuracy at longer ranges, you must practice dry fire a lot.  Further, when performing your dry fire, you must aim at achieving flawless dry fire to apply during live fire.  Old saying:  Perfect practice makes perfect.  Shooting is a perishable skill.  If you don’t use it, you will lose it.

Lastly is the platform.  First things first on caliber:  For this subject/post, it really doesn’t matter.  All calibers have their advantages and disadvantages and limitations.  In the hands of a shooter who knows what he’s about (has been trained in deliberate, accurate, deadly shooting), has quality ammunition and a quality platform, whatever caliber is being employed will work for the projected down range result.

So let’s get to what needs to be present in the platform in order to squeeze out the most accuracy possible.

 

                              This example is a 1:7 twist. The 1:8 is identical except for the twist rate.

First, the barrel in optimum length for the performance of the caliber.  For some platforms, this can be as little as 16 inches; for some, as long as 26 inches.  Coupled with barrel length is the twist rate of the rifling.  For example, my ‘go to’ AR has a 1/8 twist rate to provide the best stabilization for the ammunition I use.  It’s also a versatile enough twist rate that I can go up or down on the bullet weight and still achieve acceptable performance at various ranges within the limitations of the round itself.  Finish also has a bit to do with it.  Chrome lining has come a long way, (my wife’s AR has a double chromed lined FN MG barrel and is very accurate) but there are also improvements such as Melonite, Nitride, and other barrel finishes that increase barrel life and accuracy while reducing barrel damage from the elements or infrequent cleaning like chromoly barrels are subjected to during their life.  Bottom line:  Get the best barrel you can afford – look for sales.  I was able to get a 1/8 twist 16 inch barrel mid length Nitride finished barrel assembly for $134.99 ($152 shipped) from Palmetto State Armory.  They’re still on sale if you’re so inclined – down from $169.99 before tax/shipping.  It was a very good deal!

Barrel Mounting – On any platform, you’re going to need to ensure the barrel is mounted properly (trued) to the receiver (aka ‘action’) so that when checking the head-space for the bolt, there is no error.Bolt runs and inner receiver – should be gently (very gently) polished to reduce bolt lug, bolt body, or gas key friction during the bolt’s travels during extracting, ejecting, and stripping a new round to load into the chamber.  Suggest jeweler’s rouge or JB’s Bore Bright polishing.  Remember, gentle action is what the doctor ordered.  You can always polish more, but once material is removed, you can’t put it back.  On chromoly barrels, I use the JB’s to condition the barrel when new to remove any factory residue from the manufacturing process, burrs, and other imperfections.  It does make a difference!

 

               AR Feed Ramps

 

                           M1A Feed Ramps

Feed ramps – Polished as described above.

And now, the trigger.  You can spend a lot of money on a really good trigger; it all depends on what you’re after.  Me?  I like the Geissele Super Dynamic strain of triggers as shown below, but there are other really good triggers out there that don’t cost as much – again, it’s all about what you’re after.  Some don’t like the flat trigger, but for me, it makes consistent trigger depression straight to the rear of the trigger well pretty much a given.

                                 Geissle Flat SDE

Lastly are the sights.  You can spend a lot of money on optics or irons, your choice.  I’ve owned ACOGS, Leupolds, Vortex, Primary Arms, Aimpoint, and a few really cheap ones.  Right now I’m pretty much settled on, depending on the purpose of the rifle, as all of the above except ACOG.  the eye relief is too short for my comfort.  If you choose to go with optics, remember that the scope base and rings are just as important, even more so, than the choice of scope.  If you go with iron sights, and they’re going to be your primary sighting system, make sure they are designed and constructed for the use you’re preparing for.  Match sights, such as diopters are really that adaptable to SHTF or survival roles.  Then again, if that’s all you got, “any chair in a bar fight.”  Bottom line is that you want to always buy the best you can afford for the capability your’e after.

And that is pretty much it.  Follow the road map above, and you’ll wring out the best accuracy possible from your chosen platform, caliber notwithstanding.

 

Book Review: The Naked Truth: The Naked Communist Revisited, by J.C. Bowers, Sc. D.

Updated and Posted at AP 29 March 19.

This ‘must have’ book was written in 2012, and is an analysis of the section in W. Cleon Skousen’s book, ‘The Naked Communist,’ who, in 1958, documented the top 45 goals of the communist party for the United States as of that year.  You can get it on Amazon for less than $3, if you don’t mind used, and about $13 new.   I would suggest, though, getting the original, “The Naked Communist,” by W. Cleon Skousen and read it first, if you really want to see the whole picture.  You can get it for under $15, new.  So, all told, less than $30 invested.  Worth. Every. Penny.

The two works explain exactly why our country is in the state it’s in today, and that it’s no accident.  It has been by design.  It should also prove to the doubter that Joe McCarthy was right.  There were communists in the government; some up to some very, very high levels.

As background, Skousen had a long stint of service in the FBI, and back then, post WWII, the US was very (and rightfully so) concerned with communist infiltration of the US culture and government.  Some folks, unlike FDR, actually saw the danger of getting all cuddly with Stalin.  He analyzed what he saw and came up with 45 goals of the communists when it came to the US before it could become a communist state.  Unlike others, though, he didn’t see a Marxist invasion or outright take over; he saw our federal republic and our enshrined freedoms from government infringement as listed in our Bill of Rights being slowly chipped away by radicals (aka communist sympathizers, agents, or useful idiots) employing Antonio Gramsci’s theory of, “cultural hegemony” that has been very, very effective.  Basically, Gramsci’s theory said that communism could not win against a religious-based (read Christian), Western style country unless that country first had its culture and behavioral mores (morality) undermined and destroyed.  This had to be accomplished by intellectuals and elites working from inside the country’s institutions and culture to change the way people thought about culture and morals to more easily erode those same foundations of society.

The original goals were written in 1958, and looking back, as Bowers does in his analysis of what has happened since, it’s easy to see that Skousen knew exactly what he was about and provided a clear clarion call for the real, ‘cold war,’ which was waged on campuses, in churches both Protestant and Catholic, work places, and especially the home, with the, ‘new permissiveness’ of the 60’s (which was nothing compared to today!).

When reading Skousen and Bowers, you may find yourself thinking (correctly so, in my opinion) that we are witnessing the pre-victory mop up operation fueled and assisted by ‘big tech,’ the conquered democratic party (that happened in Chicago in 1968, in this writer’s opinion), the societal acceptance of Bill Ayers, Bernadette Dorn, and the election of an unvetted candidate for president in 2008, and the license perceived in 1973 to murder a child in utero that’s only crime was the parent(s) didn’t want the child.  46 years later, children can now be born and left to die on a table.  We are also witnessing the congressional acceptance of known communists as representatives of various districts as well as initiatives to destroy our national boundaries, dismantle the electoral college, and reduce the voting age so minor children of 16 years may vote in elections.  This ‘mop up’ is also why we see the meltdowns of ‘the Left’ when anything, and I mean, anything, is put forward to reverse the process and restore American culture, morals, and constitutional governance.

Here are the 45 goals that were written in 1958:

  1.  U.S. acceptance of co-existence as the only alternative to atomic war.
  2. U.S. willingness to capitulate in preference to engaging in atomic war.
  3. Develop the illusion that total disarmament by the United States would be a demonstration of moral strength.
  4. Permit free trade between all nations regardless of Communist affiliation and regardless of whether or not items could be used for war.
  5. Extension of long-term loans to Russia and Soviet satellites.
  6. Provide American aid to all nations regardless of Communist domination.
  7. Grant recognition of Red China. Admission of Red China to the UN.
  8. Set up East and West Germany as separate states in spite of Khrushchev’s promise in 1955 to settle the Germany question by free elections under supervision of the UN.
  9. Prolong the Conferences to ban atomic tests, because the U.S. has agreed to suspend tests as long as negotiations are in progress.
  10. Allow all Soviet satellites individual representation in the UN.
  11. Promote the UN as the only hope for mankind. If its charter is rewritten, demand that it be set up as one-world government with its own independent armed forces. (Some Communist leaders believe the world can be taken over as easily by the UN as by Moscow. Sometimes these two centers compete with each other.)
  12. Resist any attempt to outlaw the Communist Party.
  13. Do away with all loyalty oaths.
  14. Continue giving Russia access to the U.S. Patent Office.
  15. Capture one or both of the political parties in the U.S.
  16. Use technical decisions of the courts to weaken basic American institutions by claiming their activities violate civil rights.
  17. Get control of the schools. Use them as transmission belts for socialism and current Communist propaganda. Soften the curriculum. Get control of teachers’ associations. Put the party line in text-books.
  18. Gain control of all student newspapers.
  19. Use student riots to foment public protests against programs or organizations which are under Communist attack.
  20. Infiltrate the press. Get control of book-review assignments, editorial writing, policy-making positions.
  21. Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
  22. Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression. An American Communist cell was told to “eliminate all good sculpture from parks and buildings; substitute shapeless, awkward, and meaningless forms.”
  23. Control art critics and directors of art museums. “Our plan is to promote ugliness, repulsive, meaning-less art.”
  24. Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.
  25. Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
  26. Present homo-sexuality, degeneracy, and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”
  27. Infiltrate the churches and replace revealed religion with “social religion.” Discredit the Bible and emphasize the need for intellectual maturity which does not need a “religious crutch.”
  28. Eliminate prayer or any phase of religious expression in the schools on the ground that it violates the principle of “separation of church and state.”
  29. Discredit the American Constitution by calling it inadequate, old-fashioned, out of step with modern needs, a hindrance to co-operation between nations on a worldwide basis.
  30. Discredit the American founding fathers. Present them as selfish aristocrats who had no concern for the”common man.”
  31. Belittle all forms of American culture and discourage the teaching of American history on the ground that it was only a minor part of “the big picture.” Give more emphasis to Russian history since the Communists took over.
  32. Support any Socialist movement to give centralized control over any part of the culture — education, social agencies, welfare programs, mental health clinics, etc.
  33. Eliminate all laws or procedures which interfere with the operation of the Communist apparatus.
  34. Eliminate the House Committee on Un-American Activities.
  35. Discredit and eventually dismantle the FBI.
  36. Infiltrate and gain control of more unions.
  37. Infiltrate and gain control of big business.
  38. Transfer some of the powers of arrest from the police to social agencies. Treat all behavioral problems as psychiatric disorders which no one but psychiatrists can understand or treat.
  39. Dominate the psychiatric profession and use mental health laws as a means of gaining coercive control over those who oppose Communist goals.
  40. Discredit the family as an institution. Encourage promiscuity and easy divorce.
  41. Emphasize the need to raise children away from the negative influence of parents. Attribute prejudices, mental blocks, and retarding of children to suppressive influence of parents.
  42. Create the impression that violence and insurrection are legitimate aspects of the American tradition; that students and special-interest groups should rise up and use “united force” to solve economic, political or social problems.
  43. Overthrow all colonial governments before native populations are ready for self-government.
  44. Internationalize the Panama Canal.
  45. Repeal the Connally Reservation so the United States cannot prevent the World Court from seizing jurisdiction over domestic problems. Give the World Court jurisdiction over nations and individuals alike.

Bowers describes each goal’s progress; some grouped, some singly, throughout the 27 chapters in his book.  Most interesting is his ‘Conclusions’ chapter where he singles out Barack Obama as someone who should be known by the company he kept and still keeps:  Hard leftists.  He also identifies that most Americans cannot fathom that an actual Marxist was in the White House for (4 years, then; all told 8) and, who also was extremely sympathetic to Muslim extremism (“I will stand with the Muslims should the political winds shift in an ugly direction.” The quote comes from page 261 of the paperback edition of “The Audacity of Hope) over American constitutional or cultural issues.

He finishes up nicely by identifying why American society has allowed, albeit unknowingly, itself to go along with these communist initiatives.  The sad fact is that the communists are united by the common goal of destroying the American Constitution and liberty that comes with living in a free country.  Interestingly enough, he also discusses Obama’s campaign pledge to, “…fundamentally change America,” which, when I personally saw the applause, I was in disbelief, simply because it seemed nobody listening understood the context of the word, ‘fundamentally.’

Bowers is also very transparent in his own background, a Goldwater supporter and conservative, he discloses that his parents were card carrying communists that referred to themselves as ‘progressives,’ which also fits:  Liberals = Progressives = Socialists = Communists.  It just works that way.

I’ll conclude by quoting Bowers as to why these books are important, and why I did this review:  “…an informed people are the only danger to their long term Socialist dreams.”  Can we pull out?  Only God in Heaven knows; will we try?  That’s up to each of us.

Reading this book, and Skousen’s, is a major step to accepting how far this war against the US has gone, and how little time we really have left to stem the tide.

Snow Shoe Comparison & Out of the Box Review – Northern Lites and MSR Military Surplus

Posted on AP 9 Jan 19.

This will be an out of the box first impressions review and comparison with my tried and true Northern Lites Tundra.  I’ll do a follow up post once I get enough snow to do some field trials.  Fortunately, I have a friendly golf course nearby that allows snowshoeing once the snow gets above 6 inches, so that’ll be great!

For the last 6 years, I’ve had a pair of Northern Lites Tundra trail shoes that I’ve used for hauling sleds & equipment through deep snow in the North country.  They cost about $250, and are worth every penny!  They are THE lightest shoe on the market (3 pounds per pair) compared for size and deck surface area (9.5 inches X 32 inches = 258 Sq Inches of displacement) and are rated for loads that can exceed 250 lbs.  Think of how your weight can go up if you are, say 175 pounds, add winter clothing, add LBE, add whatever long gun you choose, ammo, mags, and so on.  250 pounds is not hard to achieve (personally, I like the fact that they keep virtually any load floating on the surface of the snow). This will keep you, your pack (if you carry one), your carbine, and anything else floating in any snow condition you can think of.  Really, these shoes float better than any shoe I’ve ever tried with or without carrying a load, the bindings are easy on/easy off, are durable, and do not get phased by quick changes from extreme barely cold to back again.  The decking is especially noteworthy, in that it’s made from the material that White Water Rafts are made from, and will not tear.  I painted mine using a pattern similar to the original ASAT (All Season All Terrain) to blend in with the winter landscape, especially when I was in camp and stuck them into a snow bank near my shelter.  As you can see, the paint will wear off the bottom, but the top stays nice and camouflaged wherever the boots don’t rub it off.  This Spring will see them getting touched up.

Here’s a pic of my Tundras as they are now:

Here’s their site for you to review some of the advantages if you’d like.

The one weakness they have is that once you get into deep woods that a lot of trees close together along with semi-deep snow, they’re too long (almost a yard – 32 inches) to maneuver well, and you may have to take them off, strap them on your back, and break trail.  So, I’ve been looking for something I can use in the woods that’s light, can easily be stowed in my sled, are maneuverable, and usable on the trail if necessary, and so on.  Basically, the best of all worlds.

I’ve been researching various brands/types/kinds of shoes by various manufacturers, and I’ve settled on what I think will be they answer.  They’re made by Mountain Safety Research, aka ‘MSR.’  Specifically, it’s their USGI MSR Denali snow shoes with the 8 inch trail extensions.  They could be called a ‘convertible’ in that when you take the tails off, they’re only 22 inches long, and are just right fore tight maneuvering forest or brush.  They usually run about $250 – $280 from known retailers, but I found a pair for less than $135, new!  That’s about the best deal I’ve found and am like many folks refusing suggested retail on anything, including snowshoes.  So, I snapped them up.

These are slightly less robust, in that they handle “up to” 250 lbs with the 8 inch tails attached.  They’re also narrower by an inch and a half (8 inchs v 9.5 inches) and two inches shorter (30 inches – w/tails v 32 inches).  They’re also a tad heavier by 5 ounces per shoe without the tails.  I’m willing to take the trade off for the 22 inch capability in the woods coupled with the 30 inch trail capability.  We’ll see how this works out once I get some decent snow on the ground.

Here’s the out of the box pic of the MSR shoes:

The tails can be attached with little effort and secure nicely with the retaining screw.  Nice and snug is the way to go; you don’t have to use a lot of force.  The bindings are virtually identical to the Northern Lites, and I found through use they’re very, very easy to snug up when putting your shoes on.

The pictures immediately above and below this text show the aggressive cleating on the shoes for walking on icy terrain, climbing or traversing slopes.  Not a bad thing to have!

Beyond good snowshoes, something else to ensure you have is a good set of trekking poles whether you’re carrying a pack or pulling a sled.  The picture above of my Northern Lites shows how I covered mine with burlap because I didn’t have time to paint them when I first purchased them, and since then, the burlap worked out well.  However, I plan on painting them in the same pattern I put on my Tundra’s when it gets warm again (on the April through June project list).  So, if you don’t have any, make sure you get a pair. They are indispensable in keeping your balance and assisting you when going through snow.  The newer models are also extremely light, so when you get into very shallow or no snow, they can be easily tied to your ruck without adding significant weight.  The picture below demonstrates even in 18 inches of snow poles can help you even when you’re not breaking trail.  Yours truly was 3rd in line and was using the Northern Lites.

 

An aside on winter camouflage:  Too many people take a smock, poncho, or plain sheet and drape it over the top half of their body with dark patterns on their pants.  Doing so actually works against the person trying to move through snow country as the patterns are reversed.  Dark pants against white snow and white jacket covers against dark trees.  Try doing just the opposite:  Wear your white, grey, or very light tan snow camouflage from the waist down and the darker colors from the waist up when moving if one wishes to blend into the surrounding terrain.  Look at the lead man in the line:  All dark and he stands out.  Number 2, 3 & 4 all have their light camouflage over their pants and the darker colors on top.  Simply more effective.

What’s your favorite shoe and set up?