The 5 Elements For Mitigating Risk

The five elements for mitigating risk are essential principles for planning your next backpacking adventure. Backpacking season brings an increase in news reports about disappearances and accidents on the trail.  Recently, there was a report from California discusses the disappearance of an experienced hiker at a campsite in the Bristlecone Pine Forest. She was later found alive after four days. The report reveals that she had to flee her location due to a threatening person. Another story relates to the discovery of the body of a missing person on the Snake River in Wyoming. Backpacking and hiking are enjoyable outdoor activities to experience nature. However, they also have inherent risks. It is vital to develop a risk assessment and reduction plan. The following principles can help you build your risk mitigation plan.  

1. Assess the level of wilderness experience and field skills of yourself and others

A person’s lack of experience and skills backpacking in the wilderness should indicate that they are a risk to themselves and others. One way to reduce that kind of risk is to take a more experienced partner on the trail. Their experience and skills will offset your weak areas. For example, I am not proficient in wild edibles and medicinal plants. If I attempt to eat something on the trail that may look edible, the results could be tragic. Yet, if I go on the trail with someone who has more experience in that area, I will learn more about how to recognize safe plants, making the hike more safe and enjoyable. Moreover, it is always better to go on the trail with a partner regardless of your experience or skills. 

2. Know the level of health and physical fitness of yourself and others

It is vital to know your level of health and physical fitness. Health and physical fitness play an important role in determining the class of trail one should be hiking. For example, a person with some health considerations may be limited to hiking fully developed trails versus a minimally developed one. 

Altitude and elevation also will influence decisions about where to go backpacking when one’s level of health or physical fitness is a concern. It may not be wise to take someone on a trail above 8,000 feet in the Rocky Mountains if they have a respiratory issue. Furthermore, someone who has suffered a previous heat injury should probably not be backpacking in the desert Southwest’s summer heat.     

3. Understand the natural or human-made dangers of the area of activity

Many stories about people’s negative experiences in the outdoors reflect a lack of awareness of the risks present in that area. One type of natural hazard involves predatory animals, such as mountain lions or bears. Other inherent threats are those relating to the terrain, such as cliffs, water bodies, areas of deadfall, or unstable ground. Human-made dangers are those of human activity. These can comprise logging areas, areas of construction, or even previous criminal activity. There seems to be an increasing number of stories about backpackers being confronted by criminals on their hike. Thus, it is vital to know the criminal activity of your planned trail.

4. Analyze the local weather and weather anomalies of the area of activity

Weather is a contributor to outdoor risks. There are reports of sudden fog, rain, or dropping of temperatures even in the summer months in some locations. It must be remembered that some local weather patterns cannot be found in a national or local forecast. The people who live in the area can provide useful information on local weather activities such as afternoon thundershowers. Analyzing the local weather traits will help make decisions about what to put in your backpack, such as rain gear or a light fleece jacket. Thankfully, technology, like weather applications on your smartphone, helps sensitize you to weather dangers arising on your hike. 

5. Identify the level of access to emergency help in the area of activity

Sometimes people, who go outdoors, do not take into account the availability of emergency help. It is essential to have a good understanding of what kind of emergency help is available. Additionally, it is crucial to know how to access emergency help in your planned area of activity. The importance of knowing how to contact emergency help is a critical part of your outdoor planning.

For example, one of the areas near me does not have a large number of park rangers. They tell you when you come into the park that most emergency help will be by airlift. They do not have the personnel or transportation available to go to your aid if you call for help. Thus, an expensive life flight to a local hospital awaits, should you dial for assistance. That kind of information influences your activity and what you have in your gear.

Some wilderness areas have no cell phone access. How will you get help in an emergency?

It is recommended that you develop a first-responder contact card. This card should have contact information for park rangers, first responders, and area hospitals. You should include emergency radio channels on the card if you are carrying a handheld radio with you.  

Final Thoughts

Risk reduction is an important skill to develop and exercise for those who love hiking and backpacking. Your risk reduction plan has its limitations. Yet, without one, you may find your activity being less than enjoyable. Once you have identified the risks for your planned wilderness adventure, then develop and implement measures to reduce it. Your risk reduction plan should take into account the kind of activity (Mission), local and area dangers (Enemy), time of day, month or day (Time), the people involved (Troops), location (Terrain), and accesses to emergency help (Civilian Considerations). Once you have your risk mitigation plan complete, give a copy to those you will be making your communication checks while you are on the trail. As you plan your next backpacking adventure, remember these principles for reducing the risks. 

Top 5 U.S. Military Fire Starters

The top five U.S. military fire starters for backpackers are some excellent options for backpackers. An emergency survival fire is an essential element in wilderness survival. The assets to make a fire in an emergency should be part of every backpacker’s loadout. Many survival experts recommend creating a fire starting kit with various methods to make a fire in an emergency. These five U.S. military fire starting methods can be considered for those seeking low-cost options to include in their packing list.   

1. The Zippo® Lighter (NSN 9920-01-598-9704)

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Zippo® products are favorites with many people. The famous Zippo lighter was issued to servicemembers for many decades until the dawn of the disposable lighters. Its official military name is Lighter, Windproof. I recently talked with a gentleman who served in Vietnam, and he got a little gleam in his eye when we talked about how these lighters were issued to soldiers. He remembered being issued one while he served in the U.S. Army. My father, who served in the U.S. Army in the early 1960s, recalls being issued a Zippo lighter.

Zippo lighters typically are associated with smoking tobacco products such as cigarettes, cigars, and pipes. However, they can still be used to start a campfire on the trail or an emergency fire in an emergency survival situation.

One drawback with these lighters is the lighter fluid evaporates more quickly than a disposable lighter. One advantage the Zippo lighter has over the disposable lighter is that one can replace the lighter fluid and the flint for the spark wheel.

One complaint that servicemembers often give about the lighter is that it is labeled as windproof when it is not as windproof as one might expect. With normal usage, the lighter will maintain its flame in windy conditions that are light to moderate.

2. NATO Survival Matches (NSN: 9920-99-966-9432)

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Windproof matches are a common item in most survival kits. UCO® makes some of the best windproof and stormproof matches on the market. However, the concept for these matches reaches back to U.S. military.

American pilots began wearing vests with many pockets. Early survival training for pilots featured starting a fire, as fire is essential for survival. Wooden matches in metal or plastic containers begin to be issued as survival items to pilots. Over the years, technological developments allowed the wooden match to become a unique survival tool for American pilots.

The most current version of these wooden matches is the NATO Survival Matches. They come in a plastic bottle with twenty-five matches or a Ziploc-type bag of ten matches. Best Glide ASE® and BCB International® sell these matches. They are shorter than those sold by UCO®. Best Glide ASE® writes, “NATO Survival Matches are currently used by the U.K. MoD, Red Cross, United States Marine Corps, and Air Force, NATO, GSA, UNICEF, and others.”

If you are looking to add a little militaria to your emergency survival fire starting kit, the NATO Survival Matches are the best consideration for price and reliability.

3. Spark-Lite™ Fire Starting Kit (NSN:1680-01-233-0061)

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Spark-Lite™ fire starting kits are small and compact. They were a standard survival item in a pilot’s aviation life support equipment (ALSE) for many years. The kit comes in a plastic, non-waterproof container that measures 2.5 inches in length, .5 inches in depth, and 1.5 inches in width. Inside the box are eight Tinder-Quik cotton tabs and one sparking wheel on a plastic handle. The more expensive versions have a brass handle on the sparking wheel.

Survive Outdoors Longer (SOL)® produces its version of this kit called The Fire Lite Kit. It comes in a Ziploc-type bag with twenty Tinder Quik tabs, and a plastic handled sparker. The SOL® kit is much bulkier than the Spark-Lite kit.

The Spark-Lite kit is a one-hand fire staring solution for making emergency survival fires. You will not be disappointed if you decide to include this kit in your backpacking fire kit.

4. The Magnesium Bar (NSN: 4240-01-160-5618)

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Survivorman, Les Stroud, demonstrated the magnesium bar’s usefulness for starting fires in the episode, “Canyon Lands” on Survivorman Season One. Many of us have seen those magnesium bars by Coleman® or Coghlan® hanging in the outfitter stores, Walmart®, and other places outdoor gear is sold. However, until a few years ago, I was unaware that the magnesium bar was issued as a survival item in the U.S. military.

The U.S. military version of the magnesium bar is manufactured by the Doan Machinery & Equipment Company, Incorporated® in South Euclid, Ohio. They were issued to pilots as part of their survival kit. However, many soldiers carried and used them in the field.

These magnesium bars represent a fire starting option with both tinder and combustion wedded in a single item. A single bar is three inches long, one inch wide and a half-inch thick. A small ferrocerium rod is embedded on one side of the bar to make the sparks that ignite the magnesium shavings scraped off the bar.

Magnesium bars are a compact capability to have in your pocket should you have to make a fire in an emergency. A magnesium bar is a great item to compliment your fire kit as a backup item if you already have a primary way to start an emergency survival fire.

5. MRE Matches

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The final military fire-starting item to consider is the matches out of the accessory packet of a Meal, Ready to Eat (MRE). These represent the traditional book of paper matches. Most people may not consider these as a survival fire making option. However, if they are all you have in an emergency, you will be grateful for their presence in your loadout.

A couple of soldiers from my unit became lost during a night movement in Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Shield. After thirty-six hours, they were found by a helicopter who spotted them due to a small fire they had started to keep warm and heat their MREs. Afterward, our leaders ordered everyone to carry matches from the MRE.

The MRE matches are an item to consider when looking for a last-ditch method to make an emergency survival fire. These traditional matches will work in dry environments, as long as they do not get wet. To ensure they stay dry, you could add them into your fire starting kit if you use a waterproof container, such as a dry sack or a 4 x 6 Pelican® case. 

Final Thoughts

There is much to be said in favor of the military surplus gear of the United States. People who love the outdoors always are on the lookout for quality gear at a reasonable price. Military surplus meets that criteria. By contrast, I am not interested in looking like someone on patrol in a combat zone on the trail. Thankfully, the fire starting items in the list above are small enough that nobody will know you have them until you use them. You can experiment to see what fits your needs and then decide if you want to carry it on the trail. So, enjoy the journey of discovery with these and other surplus items in your loadout.  

Top 10 U.S. Military Gear For Backpackers

The top ten U.S. military gear for backpackers listed in this article are great options for backpackers to consider.

The top ten U.S. military gear for backpackers listed in this article are great options for backpackers to consider. I am acknowledging at the beginning of this article that most backpackers have their gear choices already set. However, military surplus gear is a favorite among many people. The following list is not meant to suggest that every item be substituted for your favorite gear. By contrast, if you are considering some military surplus gear, the following items are a good starting point for adjusting your packing list. U.S. Army surplus gear is durable, reliable, and available in most military surplus stores.

1. The U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife (NSN 7340-00-098-4327)

Some backpackers like to carry a fixed-blade knife with them on the trail. If that applies to you then, the U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife tops the list of U.S. military gear to consider for your kit. For those with limitations on their spending, the pilot’s survival knife (PSK) is the best high-quality and budget-friendly surplus item for your next hike. Outdoor and survival experts agree that a knife is the most critical tool that you will have at your disposal in a survival situation. You will not go wrong with this knife.

The knife is currently produced by the Ontario Knife Company (OKC) as the 499 Survival Knife. However, the knife is no longer part of the U.S. Government inventory. OKC sells the knife for around $50-60, in most outdoor stores like Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse. If you are interested in more information about this knife, you can read my previous article on the history of the U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife.

2. Gerber MP-600 (USA) Multitool (NSN: 5110-01-394-6252)

Backpackers can always use a good multitool. One of the best military-issued multitools is the Gerber Gear MP-600. It is made in the United States and comes with a Berry-Compliant sheath. There are many detractors of Gerber products. However, I was issued one of these multitools before deploying to Iraq in 2006 as part of our Rapid Fielding Issue (RFI) load out. This multitool is still with me today, and it is as useful as ever when I go backpacking. It is size does works well with most of my loadouts

The Gerber MP-600 is designed to be a one-hand opening multitool. Its folded dimension is 4.9 inches in length and 1.5 inches in width. Thus, this multitool is about the size of a 3 x 5 index card when collapsed and in its sheath. There are multiple versions of the MP-600 (USA). I prefer the standard needle-nose pliers version over the blunt-nosed version. Gerber advertises the multitool as having fourteen tool options. However, it actually has nine tools in the handles. Some of these tools have a dual-use, such as the bottle opener with a flat-tip screwdriver head. The other options that Gerber counts as tools are the standard and metric rulers on the handles. The military-issued MP-600 has replaceable wire cutter heads. Additionally, the MP-600 comes in an oxide black or stainless steel option. However, the MP-600 that is issued to the U.S. servicemember is the black oxide version.

The MP-600 has been on the market long enough to find written and video reviews of it online. Thus, if you are looking for another multitool option, the Gerber MP-600 (USA) is a reasonable consideration.

3. 1-Quart Canteen Set

Military canteens are favorite items for most people. They are readily available in most surplus stores. The U.S. military 1-quart canteens (NSN 8465-01-115-0026) that are the most common on the market are made of heavy-duty plastic. It is rare to find a U.S. military canteen that is stainless steel. However, there are some companies producing replicas in stainless steel with a narrow mouth. These military canteens represent World War II and Korea War versions.

The U.S. canteen comes with a stainless steel nesting cup (NSN 8465-01-314-4282), a canteen cup stand used as a stove (NSN 8465-01-250-3632), that fits into a canteen pouch (NSN 8465-01-525-0585). I call this a set; however, each item must be purchased separately. The military does not issue these four items as a complete set. Nevertheless, if you are buying the plastic canteen, I recommend purchasing the canteen cup and stove to make it a complete backpacking-worthy kit.

One disadvantage of plastic canteens is that they are more susceptible to getting mold on the inside. Surplus stores, usually, do not clean the canteens out before they sell them. Therefore, after purchasing one, ensure it is bleached out, washed, and dried before putting drinking water in it.

4. Watch Cap

The military watch cap has been part of the winter clothing for servicemembers for many decades. Watch caps were made of 100% wool. However, in recent times, the bulky wool and acrylic watch caps have been replaced by the synthetic fleece watch cap. I have been issued both types of watch caps during my military service. Both caps are exceptional clothing items to consider as you prepare for your next outdoor adventure. My personal preference is the wool watch cap. However, for those wanting to save space, the fleece watch cap should be your consideration.

Wool is an efficient clothing material for field use. It retains its ability to keep you warm even if it is wet and also dries quickly when wet. However, some people have allergies to wool. Consequently, the U.S. Army phased out wool material in favor of synthetics such as acrylic, fleece, and Gore-Tex. Moreover, I have provided two options for the watch cap: 100% wool (NSN 8405-01-006-1074) and synthetic fleece (NSN 8405-01-524-2671).

Additionally, remember that national stock numbers are assigned to different colors and sizes of military-issued clothing items. The stock numbers, here, are for the black watch caps. If you desire to have a different color, then follow the links to the vendors. The stock numbers, here, are just a reference for your further investigation and knowledge.

5. Military Cravat Triangular Bandage (NSN: 6510-00-201-1755)

One of the most versatile gear items issued to the military is the triangular bandage. In Vietnam, the infantrymen of the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps called it the “drive-on rag.” Many service members in Vietnam also began to use them as head wraps.

Their dimensions are 37 inches by 37 inches by 52 inches. They come folding in a compact, vacuum-sealed plastic bag that measures 3.5 inches by 3 inches by .75 inches. Two stainless steel safety pins come with each bandage. The size of the folded triangular bandage makes them ideal for backpackers.

The military cravat is primarily a medical first-aid item. However, because it is made of 100% cotton, there are many other survival uses for this item. It has multiple ways it can be utilized as a bandage, head wrap, face mask, camouflage aid, or making charred cloth for making fires. It is larger than a standard bandana. Therefore, it is a better item to carry with you on your next backpacking activity.

6. 3H Lensatic Compass (NSN: 6605-01-196-6971)

Land navigation on the trail is a must to ensure that you arrive home safely. Many backpackers love the Garmin® GPS devices and smartphone applications like All Trails to navigate hiking trails. However, these electronic means of land navigation can fail in the middle of a hike. The analog version for land navigation is a paper map, compass, and map protractor.

The U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps still train using the analog method of land navigation. The compass they use is the 3H Tritium Lensatic Compass produced by Cammenga. The full designation of this compass is the M1950 Lensatic Compass. If you are interested in military compass development, you can read my article on the short history of the military compass. 

The conversation about preferences concerning compasses is varied across the internet. I have found that those who have had a bad experience with the military lensatic compass, usually, do not recommend its use. My spending many hours and days on military land navigation courses reveal that the ex-military people who shy away from the military lensatic compass most likely had a hard time passing the land navigation task using this compass.

However, if you are curious about the use and function of the military lensatic compass, the Cammenga 3H Tritium Compass is one that you should consider for your next backpacking adventure.

7. Gore-Tex Bivy Sack (NSN 8465-01-416-8517)

Another surplus item to consider for your packing list is the Gore-Tex Bivy sack from the military modular sleep system (MSS) produced by Tennier Industries. There are two versions available on the market, woodland camouflage and Army Combat Uniform (Foliage) camouflage. I prefer the woodland camouflage version. However, the camouflage pattern does not matter because the bivys are identical except for the coloring. As of this writing, I am not sure if Tennier is producing an operational combat uniform (OCP/Multicam) version. 

Gore-Tex is an excellent material for the field as it is waterproof, windproof, and abrasion-resistant. That does not mean that it is immune from tearing. It means that it will last a long time before any holes or tears appear with proper use. Furthermore, the bivy can be used as a hasty shelter in an emergency in conjunction with an emergency blanket or bivy. Thus, as a piece of survival gear, you will not be disappointed by the Gore-Tex bivy sack from the military modular sleep system.

8. Military Rain Poncho/Woodland Camouflage (NSN 8405-01-100-0976)

Shelter considerations are a focus for backpackers and other outdoor enthusiasts. The military rain poncho is one that some people have found to be a shelter solution on the trail.

The military rain poncho has been with the U.S. military at least since the U.S. Civil War when they were made of oil-penetrated canvas. However, most people are familiar with the military rain poncho used during the Vietnam War. These ponchos are made of rip-stop nylon. They will fit in the large center pocket of the ALICE rucksack when folded and rolled correctly.

A military rain poncho has several uses in the field. Its primary function is as a piece of wet weather clothing to keep you and your get dry. A secondary role is that it can be used as a tarp shelter or cover after the hood is tied off to prevent leaking. There are many sources of information on using tarps for shelters. These tarp configurations also apply to the military rain poncho. Other options that a military poncho can be used for is a hasty litter, game hauler, or hasty sleeping bag when used with the poncho liner.

9. Military Poncho Liner/Woodland Camouflage (NSN 8405-00-889-3683)

Another versatile piece of military gear for backpackers is the liner for the military rain poncho. The poncho liner is, in essence, a light microfiber-filled blanket. However, it is more than a liner for the rain poncho. It can be used as a liner for your sleeping bag, a hasty shelter, or a blanket. The poncho liner is lightweight and measures around 82 inches by 62 inches. Some poncho liners that you can buy have a zipper that allows you to fold them in half and zip them up for a hasty sleeping bag or sleeping bag liner.

A drawback with the poncho liner is that it does not come with its storage mechanism. Those who want a little more organization to their packs will want to put this in a cinch sack or mesh bag. Another way to store the poncho liner is to roll it up and secure it with a couple of gear straps from Sea-To-Summit or Redpoint. Additionally, the rain poncho also can be stored using a cinch sack or gear straps.

If you are looking for a quality piece of military surplus gear, the military poncho liner is your solution to keeping warm while bivouacking on the trail.

10. M-1966 Jungle Hammock (NSN 8460-00-935-6397)

An interesting military surplus item is the jungle hammock. Many backpackers like to use hammocks. If your shelter and bedding preference is a hammock and tarp, you might want to consider the M-1966 Jungle Hammock. You have to be careful when looking for this item as some people will sell the larger M-1965 Hammock system as the hammock we are discussing in this article. The M-1966 Jungle Hammock is comparable to the Warbonnet Traveler hammock.

It is a little bulky compared to most commercial hammocks, such as those sold by Eno. However, if you are curious about a military hammock, then the M-1966 Jungle Hammock is a great military surplus item.

Final Thoughts

As backpackers, we are all curious about different gear options. Military surplus field gear has been in use for generations. These ten gear options are excellent items to think about substituting in your pack. As mentioned above, these gear recommendations are not intended to swap out any of your preferred items completely. However, if you are looking from some military surplus items to add to your packing list, these surplus items are a place to start thinking through what you want.

Also, when looking for U.S. military surplus make sure that you check it for proper labeling. Genuine issued military surplus gear will have the national stock number and nomenclature on it somewhere, either as a tag or stencil. There are many knock-offs out there on the market. If you want to get the real stuff then you should inspect it before purchasing it.

Remember that you have already purchased U.S. military field gear indirectly through your federal income tax. Part of your federal income tax goes to purchasing this rugged and reliable gear for our military service members. You will not go wrong adding some of this excellent gear into your packing list. It has stood the test of time. It is reliable, practical, and will continue to last if it is properly maintained.

Six Features Of Quality Backpacks

(Note: I previously published this article as “Six Essential Features of Quality Backpacks” on February 3, 2019)

There are six features of quality backpacks. A great backpack is an invaluable piece of gear. An outdoor adventure will not be enjoyable if one’s pack breaks down in the field. It is essential to be able to assess if a backpack will hold up to the rigors of outdoor use. The market is flooded with varying styles and types of packs in a multitude of price ranges. Therefore, it is essential to know what to look for when seeking to purchase a great backpack.  

1. The Fabric Material

The first feature to look for when considering a quality backpack is the quality of the fabric material. There are two primary areas of the backpack of which the fabric will identify it as worthy of purchase: the main compartment and the strapping. Most packs that are manufactured for the outdoors will have straps that function as lashing points (daisy chains), grab handles, gear security, adjustment or compression. The material that comprises the strapping is as important as that which makes up the pack compartments. The denier rating of the fabric is a key to understanding the durability of the material.

There are two favorite fabrics that manufacturers use for backpacks: nylon and Cordura® fabric.  Technically, Cordura® also is nylon. The difference is that Cordura® fabric is a patented and trademarked type of nylon fabric from the Invista Company in Wichita, Kansas. By contrast, denier is not a type of nylon fabric. Instead, the word, denier, is a measurement of fabric density. For example, the Osprey Xenith 88 backpack uses nylon while the current military rucksacks use the Cordura® fabric. Sometimes the nylon fabric is treated so that it is water resistant. The type and density rating of the material that makes up the backpack is what one needs to look for when looking for a quality backpack.

A. Pack-Grade Nylon Fabric

Nylon fabric that is characteristic of backpacks from Osprey® or Kelty® is sometimes advertised as “pack nylon” or “bag nylon.” It is the same type of fabric common in luggage, gym bags, and ultra-light backpacks, gear bags, and stuff sacks. This kind of material has a more smooth texture than Cordura®. Pack-grade nylon fabric can be treated to be water resistant. Some of the nylon that has a higher denier rating has a feel more like furniture upholstery. Pack-grade nylon can be milled to feature a diamond, hexagon, or checkered rip-stop texture. The one weakness with pack-grade nylon is that is less tear and wear resistant. 

B. Cordura® Fabric

Cordura® fabric is a popular material that is characteristic of quality backpacks. Backpacks that are for tactical or rugged outdoor use tend to use this material. The primary indicator that a backpack is using Cordura® fabric is that the manufacturer will stitch a small tag somewhere in an inconspicuous place on the pack that says, “Cordura® fabric” on it. Cordura fabric has the texture of the legacy cotton canvas. It has a more rough feel to it than regular nylon and requires stronger industrial stitching to make products out of it.

Cordura® manufactures several types of their fabric. The most common material in use with military and tactical backpacks is fabric from their Ballistic Fabric line. The company describes Ballistic fabric as, “Based on the original ballistic woven nylon developed for military body armor, dense, rugged Cordura® Ballistic fabrics are made with high tenacity nylon 6,6 filament yarns and offer enhanced tear and abrasion resistance.” Ballistic fabric has high abrasion resistance and a high toughness for tearing. It can be treated to be water repellant.

C. Straps, and PALS Webbing

An additional consideration concerning materials integrated on a quality backpack is the strap material. There are three basic kinds of straps or strapping used on a backpack: shoulder straps, compression straps, and PALS webbing. Grab handles and daisy chain straps are also part of non-military backpack construction.

There are two kinds of material manufacturers use for strappings on quality backpacks: MIL-W-43668 Type III nylon webbing (1” wide) and MIL-W-4088 nylon webbing (1-2.25” wide). The knock-off U.S. military backpacks manufactured overseas tend to use lower quality strapping. An example of this type of backpack is the Outdoor Products Quest Backpack sold at Walmart. The U. S. Army MOLLE 3-Day Assault and Medium Rucksack are examples of packs that use higher quality materials. 

2. Stitching

Another important characteristic to look for in a quality backpack is the stitching used to construct the backpack. The best thread material for sewing is Kevlar thread or heavy-duty industrial strength nylon thread such as that which is in parachute harnesses. It is essential to look for the use of double stitching of the seams. The stitching that connects shoulder straps to the main body of the pack is critical to the pack’s durability in the field. Most backpacks utilize either a reinforced zig-zag stitching pattern or double-stitched boxed-X pattern as is common in parachute harnesses.

3. Closures

A third critical feature to look for in a quality backpack is the closures such as zippers, buckles, and snaps. The most common zipper used on tactical and military packs is YKK VISLON® Fin-Type. The most common fasteners used on tactical and military backpacks are Duraflex® squeeze-type quick-release buckles by the National Molding Company®. These buckles are made of high-impact plastic.  Closure manufacturers also make buckles, snaps, and zippers of stainless steel, aircraft grade aluminum, or titanium. However, these materials are less common due to the need to reduce the cost of manufacturing which keeps quality backpacks within fair retail pricing.

4. Access

A fourth consideration when looking to purchase a quality backpack is the ease of access it allows to your gear. There are many opinions about accessing the contents within a pack. Some prefer top access. Others prefer a clamshell or draw-bridge type access. Still, other people desire multiple ways to access the contents of their backpack. There does not seem to be a consensus about preference on accessing the contents of a pack.

Thus, a quality backpack gives the user easy access to their gear as the outdoorsman perceives it. Gear accessibility is important. Preppers, survivalists, outdoorsman, and bushcrafters will not continue to use a backpack that is more frustrating to use in the field than it is worth. There is nothing more aggravating when you are in the outdoors and getting to your gear becomes problematic. Therefore, how you pack your backpack also determines ease of access and not just the construction characteristics of the pack itself.

5. Modularity

The next critical feature that characterizes quality backpacks is the capability called, modularity. Modularity in a pack allows the user to configure their pack for specific situations. For example, the Alps Outdoor Z Commander X backpack is a pack that features modularity which addresses the needs of big game hunters. Another backpack that offers modularity features is the 5.11 Rush™ series of tactical backpacks that offer the PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing that allows the pack to be configured for military or law enforcement missions.

6. Wear

A final consideration for purchasing a quality backpack is wear. Is the backpack comfortable to wear for long periods? Some backpacks offer the user the ability to adjust the torso length. Other packs have load adjustment straps that connect the shoulder strap with the main compartment or frame. These allow the user to pull the pack closer to their body to shift pack weight off of the hips and onto the frame, whether the frame is internal or external to the pack.

Final Thoughts

It is essential to purchase a quality backpack if you are heading out for an outdoor adventure. These six characteristics of quality backpacks are a starting point for assessing a backpack that meets your outdoor considerations. No pack features all of these characteristics at once. Thus, it is critical that you shop around. The best way to determine if a backpack is a quality pack is to physically examine some packs at your local Cabela’s®, Bass Pro Shop®, REI®, Academy Sports®, or a military surplus store. Take your time and make an informed purchase to ensure years of great use out of your next backpack.

Can These Awesome Items Make A Great Backpack Loadout?

Can these awesome items make a great backpack loadout? Yes they can. Here is my list of recommended equipment should you consider as you restock your kit for the spring hiking and backpacking season.

Can these awesome items make a great backpack loadout? Yes they can. The spring outdoor season is here. The snows are beginning to thaw, temperatures are warming, and the outdoors are exploding with vibrant colors. Spring also brings a time of refreshing and renewal. The traditional spring cleaning period is part of this time of the year. As we ready our gear and load-outs for the season, we sometimes exchange older stuff for the new. Here is my list of recommended equipment should you consider as you restock your kit for the spring hiking and backpacking season.

 

1. Kelty ZYP 48 ($169.95 MSRP)

 

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The Kelty ZYP is the newest line of backpacks from a reputable gear manufacturer. Kelty produces some of the highest quality outdoor gear on the market. The Kelty ZYP line continues that tradition. If you are looking to change out your current pack with something different, a Kelty ZYP could be an option to consider.

Kelty ZYP 28/38/48 Video

2. Morakniv Garberg (Stainless Steel) ($79.99 MSRP)

 

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The Morakniv Garberg (Stainless Steel) is one of the highest quality, yet budget-friendly, fixed blade knives that you can possess. Morakniv manufactures some of the finest cutlery presently on the market. The Garberg is Mora’s contribution to the full tang, fixed blade knife genre. If you are looking for a quality, durability, and practicality, you will not go wrong purchasing the Morakniv Garberg (Stainless Steel).

Morakniv Garberg Video Review

3. Victorinox Swiss Army Huntsman Wood ($68.00 MSRP)

 

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The Swiss Army knives by Victorinox have a long history in the outdoor world. These are some of the most versatile pocket knives on the market. The latest version of their Huntsman pocket knife comes with wood scales. The Huntsman is one of the best pocket knives that one can carry into the field. Although some consider the knife a multitool, it is, in reality, a pocket knife with some added capabilities. There are many great folding knives currently on the market. However, the Swiss Army Huntsman is one of the elites in the pocket knife market.

4. Leatherman® Heritage Rebar® ($69.95 MSRP)

 

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Leatherman® products are favorites among outdoor enthusiasts. The company has built a great heritage of multitools that incorporate quality and durability along with practicality. Recently, Leatherman has re-issued their first favorite multitool, Rebar. It is called the Heritage Rebar. Leatherman’s great multitool that set the industry standard for multitools comes again for another generation of outdoorsman to enjoy.

5. Ontario Knife Company 1-18 Machete ($27.95 MSRP)

 

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The OKC -1-18 Machete is a wood chopping and brush clearing instrument. It was in use with the U.S. military for sixty years. The 1-18 Machete is a versatile and practical tool made of 1095 carbon steel. If you live in areas where an ax is impractical, then the OKC 1-18 Machete may be the solution that you are looking for to tackle your chopping and clearing needs.

OKC 1-18 Machete Video Review

6. Sigma 3 Fire Kit ($62.95 MSRP)

 

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The Sigma 3 Fire Kit is one of the best pre-made fire kits that a backpacker can include in their loadout. It comes with a versatile array of items with which to make fires. It comes in a compact zippered pouch that fits well into any size backpack. If you wish to know more about this product, you can read my review of The Sigma 3 Fire Kit.

7. MSR® 2 Person Mess Kit ($34.95 MSRP)

 

2_Person_Mess_Kit

 

MSR® products are some of the finest that one can purchase in the mountaineering market. However, many of their products are favorites with hikers and backpackers. One of the more innovative mess kits on the market is the MSR 2 Person Mess Kit. It is an excellent addition to your bag if you are an ultralight backpacker. Moreover, this kit can fit just as well into your pack if you are on a hunting expedition in Alaska. 

MSR 2 Person Mess Video Review

8. Sigma 3 Water Kit ($89.95 MSRP)

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The Sigma 3 Water Kit is another innovative product by the Sigma 3 Survival School. This kit is a one-stop kit to meet your water carrying and processing needs. This kit includes a Sawyer Mini Water Filter kit, Aqua Water Purification tablets, and a 32 ounce single-walled Kleen Kanteen stainless steel water bottle. If you want to know more about this product, you can read my review of the Sigma 3 Water Kit.

9. Warbonnet XLC Hammock ($235 MSRP) and Super Fly Tarp System ($140.00)

 

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The Warbonnet XLC Hammock System is one of the best that you can buy on the market. It offers a wide variety of features. This hammock system has some accompanying options for consideration: closed-mosquito net and hammock quilts. The hammock works well with the Warbonnet Tarp. If you are looking to upgrade your hammock system, you can not go wrong with the Warbonnet XLC Hammock. If you want to know more about this hammock, check out Rob Allen’s review of the Warbonnet XLC Hammock on YouTube.

Warbonnet XLC Hammock System Video Review

10. Survival Emergency Solutions (SES) Survival Compact First Aid Kit ($35.95 MSRP)

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The SES Survival Compact First Aid Kit is one of the best that you can buy to upgrade your personal first aid kit needs. This kit overflows with organization. One drawback with this kit is that it does come with a tourniquet. So, if you are looking for a first aid kit that comes with a tourniquet, then you may have to search the military surplus stores for U.S. Army IFAKs. Otherwise, you will not be disappointed with this kit.

SES Promo Video

Final Observations

The spring outdoor season his here: camping, backpacking, hunting, fishing, and boating depending on where you live. The spring also motivates some clearing out of old stuff and making room for new things. Your backpack and outdoor loadout may need a change or upgrade. The items that are listed in this article are a combination of personal use or recommendations from credible sources. The discussion about backpacking gear is one that generates a lot of preferences. For example, some prefer Leatherman® multitools over Gerber® ones. If you want to continue to investigate and research the above items, check out the links throughout this article to help you make better and informed decisions on the gear. Remember to stay safe, stay prepared, and eventually, I want to see you out on the trail.

3 Outstanding Survival Knives For Backpackers

What are the 3 outstanding survival knives for backpackers?

What are the 3 outstanding survival knives for backpackers? The backpacking world has many trekking methods. There is thru-hiking, ultra-light hiking, multi-day hiking, day-hiking, and rucking. All of these styles of backpacking have their associated gear. The common gear items among them is a fixed blade knife, multi-tool, and folding blade knife.
The subject of the best knives or tools for outdoorsman is a matter of opinion and experience. Most articles that one reads reviewing knives and tools often reflect the personal preferences of the authors. Arguments are given for the various reasons as to why a particular knife or multitool gets top billing. Ultimately, settling on the best knife or tool is up to you, the consumer and end-user of the products that are on the market.

Criteria For Selection

The following list of budget-friendly knives reflects my personal use of these knives and my experience with them in the field. There are three basic levels of cost for purchasing knives: budget-friendly or low cost, middle range cost, and high-end or expensive. In this article, I will cover the best budget friendly survival knives for backpackers. The criteria for the selection of the individual knives is: cost (less than $100), quality, and practicality for hiking or backpacking.

1. The Light My Fire® Swedish Fire Knife® (Stainless Steel)

 

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The Swedish Fire Knife is one of the best knives that a backpacker can carry on the trail. The knife is a collaborative effort between Light My Fire® and Morakniv®. This knife is a Morakniv. Morakniv produces some the best budget-friendly knives on the market. Many of the outdoor and survival experts agree that a Morakniv product is a wise choice for those with limited resources. The Swedish Fire Knife is one of the more versatile of the Mora knife products.

 
This knife produced by Morakniv for the Light My Fire® company is a versatile and durable knife for backpackers. Unlike bushcrafters, backpackers carry most of their needs on the trail. Primitive skills or bushcrafting skills are an added bonus if a backpacker has these skills. However, most backpackers carry gear that addresses their needs. Therefore, a standard bushcrafting knife might be overkill for most backpackers. The Swedish Fire Knife is perfect for the needs of the backpacker.

Overall Impressions

There are several great qualities with the Swedish Fire Knife that backpackers should consider. The first positive with the knife is its blade. The blade is made of stainless steel with a satin finish. However, there is a carbon steel blade version of this knife. The characteristics of the blade allow for ease of maintenance in the field. The knife will stay sharp and will not rust or corrode. These qualities in the blade make it an ideal knife for backpackers, especially day-hikers and weekend backpackers.

 
The next positive aspect of the knife is the blade length. The length of the blade is just under 4 inches. The blade length makes the knife ideal as a belt knife that will not be cumbersome around the waist when wearing a backpack or mounted on the shoulder strap of your backpack.

 
Another great quality with the knife is durability. The Swedish Fire Knife has both a stainless steel blade and a rubberized handle. The implications are that Morakniv designed the knife to last in the field under normal use. I have also noticed that the rubber handle reduces slippage on the hand when the knife is being used in wet weather. That is a great quality when you are trying to set up your bivouac area when it is raining.

 
A third great quality of the knife is its practicality for use with backpacking, hiking, and other recreational outdoor applications. The knife has a fire steel (ferro rod) built into the handle. The feature allows for a fire making tool that is not attached to a knife sheath or on a separate lanyard. Because the knife has its own fire steel, the blade is ground to a sharp 90° angle. This blade feature allows for scraping tree bark or using with a larger ferro rod. Additionally, the knife blade is thin enough for processing fish or small game.

2. Morakniv Garberg (Stainless Steel)

 

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The Morakniv® Garberg is Mora’s full tang knife. It was initially marketed with a stainless steel blade. More recently, Mora began offering the knife with a 1095 high carbon steel blade. The stainless steel blade seems to work best for those who spend limited amounts of time outdoors. Therefore, the Garberg with the stainless steel blade is recommended.
Furthermore, Morakniv also offers two different sheaths for the knife: leather and polymer. The polymer sheath is called the Multi-mount Sheath. It allows for a traditional belt mount or PALS mount configuration for MOLLE gear. The Garberg is a great full-tang knife option for those wanting a more traditional, yet budget-friendly, bushcraft survival-type knife.

Overall Impressions

The Garberg is very versatile in the tasks that it can be used for in the field. It can help with making wooden stakes or toggles for setting up your tent or tarp. The knife is good for processing wood for making fires. This knife also is useful for processing fish or game. The blade spine is a robust 90°. Therefore, it is excellent for striking sparks from a ferro rod or scraping tasks to make tinder.

3. Ontario Knife Company® Air Force Survival Knife (499)

 

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The Ontario Knife Company® Air Force Survival Knife (499) is another outstanding knife for backpackers. The Air Force Survival Knife has been around since the late 1950s. It was the standard survival knife issued to U.S. military pilots for almost fifty years. The longevity of the knife’s use by the U.S. military is a testament to its quality. The knife saw its most extensive use in the jungle warfare of Vietnam in the 1960s. Later, it was adopted by many recreational outdoorsman in the 1970s and 1980s. The Air Force Survival Knife is a great addition to your kit if you are looking for a quality, budget-friendly fixed-blade knife. If you want to know more about the Air Force Survival Knife, you can read my article The Short History Of The Air Force Survival Knife.

Overall Impressions

The Air Force Survival Knife is a great knife for backpacking. The blade is not too long. Yet, the blade is made of 1095 carbon steel. This steel allows for making sparks with flint rock. The notched spine is excelling for small notch making tasks. The flat part of the spine near the hand guard is ground to 90°. This feature makes it compatible for use with a ferro rod. The fine edge on the blade makes for ease of sharpening in the field with the accompanying sharpening stone.

One drawback with the knife is that its sheath is only compatible for wearing on a belt. Therefore, for those wanting a MOLLE compatible sheath for a fixed-blade knife will have to seek one from another company. Some critics make complaints about the hand guard between the handle and blade is not necessary. However, those who make that criticism are seeking a bushcrafting knife. The Air Force Survival Knife is not a bushcrafting knife.

Final Thoughts

Backpackers love the outdoors. As such, it is wise to carry a fixed-blade knife with you. There are many great knives on the market at various prices levels. Those wanting to stay within a budget will find that these knives meet that criterion. These are quality knives and will not let you down when you are on the trail. Therefore, consider wisely the knife that you carry on your next adventure.

This Awesome Tool Can Help You Prevent Heat Injuries!

The prevention of heat injuries in hot weather conditions is crucial to enjoying the outdoors in the warmer months of the year. Do you have this awesome tool to help prevent heat injuries?

Do you have this awesome tool to help prevent heat injuries? March 20th marks the official change from winter to spring. Many parts of the nation are still reeling from the effects of the late winter storms. However, spring signals that warmer temperatures and the summer months will soon be here. The warmer temperatures of spring and summer bring with them their own unique weather-related injuries. Heat injuries are just as life-threatening as cold weather injuries. The three common heat injuries are heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. A valuable tool to keep in your kit is the Work-Rest and Water Consumption Table published by the U.S. Army Public Health Command (USAPHC).

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1. The Work to Rest Definition Section

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The work to rest section of this card helps people understand how much work a person can do within a range of temperatures. There are three categories of work annotated on this instrument: Easy Work, Moderate Work, and Hard Work. Each section gives examples of the type of work that a person can do. The critical part of this section for outdoorsman are the walking distances and weights for carrying loads. The reason that this is critical for outdoorsman is that these annotations directly address their particular concerns. Hikers, backpackers, hunters, anglers, and others, who spend time outdoors in the spring and summer, will find that information crucial for their activities. The information annotated in this section comes as a result of decades of research to help soldiers stay healthy, as well as, function safely and effectively in hot weather conditions.

2. Heat Category Section

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The Heat Category Section is a unique numerical and color code system that the U.S. Army developed to alert supervisors of the potential for heat casualties based on the current temperatures. These heat categories are in use throughout the year. However, their relevance increases during the spring and summer months. The types are numbered one through five. Heat Categories 3, 4, and 5 are heat conditions with a higher risk for heat injuries. Heat Categories 1 and 2 have temperature conditions with the lowest risk for heat injuries. Nevertheless, remember that there is always a risk for a heat injury even at Heat Category 1.

3. Wet Bulb Globe Temperature Index (WBGT) Sectionwbgt cats

The next section on the card is the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) Index correlated to the levels of heat categories. The WBGT index offers a more comprehensive assessment of heat conditions than air temperature alone or the Heat Index. The definition of the WBGT Index is that it is a measure of the heat stress in direct sunlight, which takes into account: temperature, humidity, wind speed, sun angle and cloud cover (solar radiation) (https://www.weather.gov/tsa/wbgt). The critical point is heat stress attributable to exposure to direct sunlight.

Thus, the WBGT Index is an indicator of the accumulated effects of weather and heat conditions upon a person working in direct sunlight. Therefore, in Heat Category 4, people working in direct sunlight when WBGT conditions are between 88° and 88.9° are at a dangerous risk of having a heat injury (heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or heat stroke). One way to determine the WBGT for your area is to call your local weather station. Another way to learn the WBGT for your area is to purchase a WBGT Heat Stress Meter.
reed-r6200-wbgt-heat-stress-meter

4. Work-Rest Time Section


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The third section is the Work-Rest Time section. The division is a guide to inform people on the recommended level of work versus rest within the various heat categories. It is based on any given sixty minutes of outdoor activity. This section is one of the more controversial parts of the card. For example, if a unit is provided a training mission to conduct a dismounted movement in the desert in the summer, how is this work/rest cycle implemented without jeopardizing the mission or the health of the soldiers? The answer to that question goes into the required risk assessment of which commanders must sign.

However, outdoorsman, hikers, and backpackers are outside of the constraints of the military application of this chart. Therefore, it is best to follow the work-rest recommendations to increase avoidance of experiencing a heat injury. For example, under the Easy Work column, there are no limitations on easy work until Heat Category 5. Whereas, on the Hard Work column, the work-rest recommendation for Heat Category 1 is 40 minutes of work with 20 minutes of rest. Thus, hiking a trail rated as difficult would fall under the Hard Work column of the chart. Therefore, heed the work-rest cycle in hot weather conditions appropriate for the level of difficulty of your outdoor activity.

5. Water Intake Section


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Another relevant section of this chart is the Water Intake section. The measurements on the Water Intake section are in quarts per hour. A cautionary note on the margin of this chart warns, “Hourly fluid intake should not exceed 1 ½ quarts. Daily fluid intake should not exceed 12 quarts.” These warnings are given for the prevention of the onset of overhydration or water intoxication which can lead to hyponatremia.

Hyponatremia is a dangerous heat-related injury caused by diluting the electrolytes in the bloodstream through too much water intake. In other words, too much water intake will cause your electrolytes to be depleted. Consequently, your body shuts down because the electricity needed to run your body cannot get from your brain to your organs. As a result, your internal organs begin to shut down. Therefore, watch your fluid intake in hot weather and do not over do it.

Final Thoughts

The prevention of heat injuries in hot weather conditions is crucial to enjoying the outdoors in the warmer months of the year. The Work-Rest Water Consumption Table is a valuable tool to employ in your outdoor planning activities during the spring and summer. Additionally, it is essential to read the marginal notes of this card as they help in defining terms and explaining annotations on the card. There is a more comprehensive document that contains this table. It is the Heat Illness Prevention (HIP) Pocket Guide (2018). The document also includes The Work-Rest Water Consumption Table, as well as, other useful information and tips to enable the prevention of heat injuries. Therefore, as you get ready for more outdoor activities in the coming months, remember to consult The Work-Rest Water Consumption Table before leaving on your next outdoor adventure.

What Outstanding Tools Make Quality Disaster Survival Kits?

What outstanding tools make quality disaster survival kits? These tools should be in your home emergency disaster kit.

What outstanding tools make quality disaster survival kits? These tools should be in your home emergency disaster kit. The change of seasons is upon us. The severe weather that marks the shift from winter to spring is here. Are you prepared for tornados, flooding, or severe thunderstorms? The seasonal severe weather the affects our nation makes it prudent to consider the tools that we have available in our home emergency kits.

1. Chain Saw

The number one tool that you should have in your home disaster emergency kit is a chain saw. The chain saw is a top recommendation by the disaster survival experts. The advantage that you have with a chain saw is excellent. A chain saw helps cut through fallen trees, doors, plywood panels, and dry wall. Additionally, it will help cut through wood framing of fallen homes to recover or rescue someone.

 

Several companies sell reliable chain saws: Poulan, Stihl, Husqvarna, Craftsman, and Black & Decker. Chain saws come in three types: gas, electric, and lithium battery. The experts advise keeping a battery powered one. However, a gas powered chainsaw is a good second option. People have their individual preferences on chain saw brands. So do some research and shop around for the chain saw and brand that fits your knowledge, experience, and budget.

 

Recommended Chain Saw

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Husqvarna 120i 40 Chainsaw ($299.94, Lowe’s Home Improvement)

Manufacturers Description

Looking for the perfect small chainsaw? The Husqvarna 120i is a lightweight, easy-to-use battery saw that’s ideal for pruning branches and felling small trees. The intuitive keypad makes getting starting a breeze, while an inertia chain brake promises problem-free handling. The power-conserving savE™ mode ensures you won’t run out of battery, and low noise levels let you work without disturbing the neighbors. (https://www.husqvarna.com/us/products/chainsaws/120i/967098102/). 

2. Fireman’s Ax

Another essential tool to keep in your home emergency disaster kit is a Fireman’s Ax. The fireman’s ax is the standard tool in use with most fire departments. The fireman’s ax has a distinctive head. The ax head has a single-bit blade on one side and a pick poll opposite the blade. This kind of blade bit is a combination bit called a pickhead. Firefighters use the ax to breach doors and walls to rescue people inside a burning building. A fireman’s ax is excellent for chopping wood when necessary, such as fallen trees.

Recommended Fireman’s Ax: 

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Leatherhead Tools 6 lb. Pick Axes with Fiberglass Handles (USA Made) ($44.95, Feld Fire)

Manufacturers Description: 

This rugged Axe is perfect for ventilation, forcible entry or
overhaul. Handle construction is solid Hi-Viz pultruded fiberglass with
non-slip grip. Yellow handle construction is a strong pultruded fiberglass
core with injection molded jacket for added strength. The Axe heads are bonded to the fiberglass handle with strong two part epoxy. The Axe heads are drop forged with high carbon steel (http://leatherheadtools.com/axes). 

3. Limb Saw

A third tool that emergency preparedness experts recommend keeping in your kit is a reliable limb saw. The advantage of having a limb saw after an emergency is clearing brush . The chain saw helps cut the large diameter tree trunks and limbs. However, a good limb saw can effectively cut the smaller diameter limbs not practical for cutting with a chain saw.

There are several styles and brands of limb saws. The most well-known are the folding limb saws in use by outdoorsman. However, the limb saws that will be practical for use in the wake of a weather disaster are the larger bow or pruning saws. The are several types and brands of limb saws. The best brands on the market are Silky and Fiskars. Black & Decker and some other companies make powered limb saws. They look like miniature chain saws on the end of a long pole. Thus, whichever style and brand of limb saw you choose, they are a great tool to keep in your kit.

 

Recommended Limb Saw

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Bahco Tools 10-30-51 – Bow Saw ($34.99 Amazon Prime)

Manufacturers Description

Bowsaw frame developed according to the scientific ERGO™ process. ERGO™ handle with knuckle protector gives ergonomic comfort and safety. Heavy duty bowsaw made from high-quality steel and protected from rust and corrosion by a coating of high-impact enamel paint. Designed for demanding applications and tough environments. (https://www.bahco.com/en/p/bow-saw-green-and-dry-wood/2d-76-71-54-e1-b3-f2-95-88-68-cc-46-fc-cb-f2-82/). 

4. Utilities Shut-Off Wrench

The utility shut-off wrench is one of the more essential tools to hold in one’s home disaster emergency kit. These wrenches will shut off the main valves for water and gas on your home. One of these tools is essential in a post-disaster scenario. The wrench will help you turn off water and gas that may be escaping from a fallen house after a storm. There are many styles of these wrenches. Be sure to purchase one that can shut off both water and gas.

Recommended Utilities Shut-Off Wrench

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The On Duty® 4 in 1 Emergency Tool™ ($17.99, Amazon Prime)

Manufacturers Description

The On Duty® 4 in 1 Emergency Tool™ is available on our colorful retail packaging. This full color retail packaging shows the functions of the On Duty® 4 in 1 Emergency Tool™ on a bright and attractive card. The On Duty® 4 in 1 Emergency Tool™ is used conveniently in the Home, Garage, School, Office, Business, Shop, Warehouse, Government Building, Military Building, etc. (http://www.onduty1.com/product.html).

5. Crow or Pry Bar

A tool that is often recommended by emergency preppers for a home disaster kit is a crow or pry bar. They are different tools with different applications. However, they both give a person the ability to pry and lift debris after a disaster. Most hardware stores sell these tools. The significant difference between these tools is their size and appearance.
Typically, a pry bar is no longer than twenty-four inches, has a flat body with a curved end. The crowbar can be longer (up to four or five feet), has a rounded shape, and has a claw hook at one end, similar to a claw hammer. The crowbar is a tool to give leverage to lift heavy objects. A pry bar is a tool used by carpenters for pulling nails, lifting up sheetrock or wall paneling. Pry bars and crowbars can come in lengths that will fit in most tool boxes. They both have flattened ends with notches for pulling nails at each end of their bodies.

 

Recommended Crow Bar

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Roughneck 36in. Gorilla Pry Bar, Model# 70-303 ($34.99, Northern Tool & Equipment

Recommended Pry Bar

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Vaughan Superbar — 21in. Length ($15.48, Lowes Home Improvement)

6. Sledge Hammer

A sledgehammer is a tool that is often recommended by the experts as an essential item in one’s disaster kit. Sledgehammers come with different handle lengths and hammerhead weights. The most common sledgehammer is one with a eight-pound head and twenty-four-inch handle. Sledgehammers also have handles that come in wood, fiberglass, or steel. Sledgehammers are great for breaking concrete, masonry, and sheetrock.

Recommended Sledge Hammer

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Roughneck Sledgehammer — 8-Lb. Head ($29.99, Amazon Prime)

7. Bolt Cutters

A tool that is not often in the discussion of tools for home emergency disaster kits is the bolt cutter. Bolt cutters come in a few sizes. The most common bolt cutters in use are thirty-six inches and twenty-four inches in length. However, bolt cutters can be as small as fourteen inches.

Bolt cutters are excellent for cutting through fencing, wire, anchor bolts, and padlock shackles. In the wake of an emergency, using a bolt cutter to free someone may be the difference between a rescue and a recovery.

 

Recommended Bolt Cutter

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Klein Steel-Handle Bolt Cutter Model #  63324— 24in. (USA Made) ($108.15, Home Depot)

Manufacturers Description

Handles have heavy vinyl grips with flat grips ends for 90-degree cuts all-purpose, center-cut jaws for soft, medium, and hard metals. Forged, alloy tool steel jaws are precision ground for sure, efficient cutting and long life. Lock plate reinforcement prevents jaw bolts from loosening or turning, keeps jaws in correct alignment. Cutting capacities for soft and medium materials is up to Brinell 300, Rockwell C31. Cutting capacities for hard materials is up to Brinell 400, Rockwell C42 (https://www.kleintools.com/catalog/steel-handled-bolt-cutters/steel-handle-bolt-cutter-24-inch).

More Detailed Description: Product Data Sheet Product Data Sheet

Note: All Klein products are USA Made (https://www.kleintools.com/content/american-manufacturing). 

8. Shovel

The final tool that one should have in their home emergency disaster kit is a shovel. There are two kinds of shovels, a squared end, and round end. They also come with either a wood handle or a fiberglass handle. There are a variety of shovels on the market. The rounded end shovel is primary for digging. The squared end shovel is for scooping. Your situation may require keeping both types in your kit. However, a good shovel will make cleaning up your property or helping others do the same much easier.

Recommended Round Head Shovel

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Ames True Temper Razor-Back Digging Shovel, Wood Handle (USA Made) ($24.64, True Value Hardware Store)

Recommended Squared Head Shovel 3593700_productimage

Ames True Temper Razor-Back Square Point Shovel, Wood Handle (USA Made) ($24.64, True Value Hardware Stores)

Some Concluding Observations

These eight essential tools for one’s disaster emergency kit are important for post-disaster cleanup and recovery. If you have these tools, they will not only help you; they can help your neighbor also after a weather-related disaster. The severe weather tragedies of the past year demonstrate how communities come together to help those affected. The tools that you keep are instruments that facilitate community building relationships as you assist your neighbors. Remember that your location influences your decision on tools. However, you can not go wrong with a well thought out disaster kit containing the proper tools.

Knife Survival System: The Ka-Bar® Becker Champion BK2

My Ka-Bar® Becker Champion BK-2 Knife Survival System is generating interest. Let us find out what is in my knife survival kit.

My Ka-Bar® Becker Champion BK-2 Knife Survival System is generating some interest on my social media accounts. It seems that every time I post a picture of the kit, people send me questions about it. As with most things related to wilderness survival, there is a lot of interest concerning survival gear. Backpackers, hunters, preppers, survivalists, and those who love the outdoors are getting into survival gear. So, let us find out what is in my knife survival kit.

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The Knife: Ka-Bar® Becker Champion BK-2

The Ka-Bar® Becker Champion BK-2 is the standard fixed-blade knife that I carry on the trail when I go backpacking. Most of the time, I wear it on my belt. However, some backpacks are not belt-knife friendly, so the knife goes into one of the outside pockets of that particular pack. For example, when I am using my Kelty® Redwing 50, the knife kit will be stored in one of the large side pockets on the outside of the pack.

 
The BK-2 is the first fixed-blade knife that I purchased after doing some research back in 2015. Most of the survival knife reviews that I read, at that time, had the BK-2 ranked somewhere on their top ten list. Furthermore, the knife is a quality product that also fit into my budget. Thus, it was sensible for me to purchase this knife from a familiar and reputable company. Ka-Bar has an extensive history supplying fighting knives to the U.S. military.

 

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Knife Description

  • Weight: 1 lb.
  • Overall length: 10.5 inches
  • Blade Type: Fixed Blade
  • Blade Length: 5.25 inches
  • Blade Thickness: .25 inches
  • Blade Width: 1.625 inches
  • Blade Shape: Drop Point
  • Blade Material: 1095 Cro-Van
  • Blade Grind: A high Scandi Grind with a beveled edge. Ka-Bar calls it a Flat Grind, but it is not a textbook flat grind.
  • Rockwell Hardness: 56-58
  • Handle Material: Ultramid-B®.

Ultramid-B® is a hardened, unreinforced plastic manufactured by BASF® (Ultramid, BASF.com, 2019, https://products.basf.com/en/Ultramid.html).

Pros

The knife is heavy enough to do some light chopping. It is also proficient at batoning and feather sticking wood. Its thick blade allows it to do the basic bushcraft skills such as carving, chopping, processing, skinning and scraping (with blade edge). This knife is one of the best on the market for outdoorsman and backpackers.

Cons

Some of the criticisms of this knife by others are that the blade comes coated and the standard handle scales are too smooth. These criticisms from bushcrafters are valid if one wants a knife for processing game. The Becker Champion is designed to be an all-around task knife. One con with this knife is that the blade spine is not ground to a sharp 90° angle for use with ferro rods or flint rock. It also limits the knife on scraping bark or hides.

Suggested Improvements

There are two improvements that Ka-Bar could make to this knife to improve it, overall. The first improvement is to replace the powder coating on the blade with a more game processing-friendly coating or a patina. Another option for Ka-Bar would be to offer the knife with no blade coating. The second improvement to the knife is to grind the spine to a sharp 90° angle for more efficient scrapping tasks and use with fire making implements.

The Sheath: Spec-OPS Brand® Combat Master (Short)

The sheath that works well with the Becker BK2 knife is the Spec-Ops Brand® Combat Master (Short) sheath. The Combat Master sheath is the 21st-century version of the leather sheath from the Air Force Survival knife (OKC 499). The sheath is made of 1000 denier Cordura® fabric. It is compatible with MOLLE gear such as MOLLE rucksacks, body armor, and load bearing vests. This sheath works well with the current MOLLE Rifleman’s Kit. The sheath is also compatible with waist belts, such as tactical rigger’s belts or a leather Kore Essentials belt.

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Sheath Description

  • Length: 13 in.
  • Width: 2.875 in.
  • Fits blades up to 6 inches long and 1.25 inches wide.
  • Fully adjustable outside pouch.
  • Diamond Braid cordage laced around the edge of the sheath.
  • KYDEX® liner can be removable for cleaning.
  • Two Belt Loops with snaps and Velcro
  • Web loop at the bottom for tie-down to packs, leg-loop, etc.
  • Double-layered 1000D Cordura® fabric for sheath body
  • Mil-spec. Grommet tie-downs along sides of the sheath body.
  • Snapping Handle Securing Strap

The Sharpening Stone: Gator Finishing Products® Pocket Sharpening Stone

The sharpening stone that works well with this kit is the pocket sharpening stone by Gator Finishing Products®. However, any pocket whetstone or sharpening stone that is 4 in. x 1 in. x .25 in. or smaller will work. This one just happened to be the one that I found first while shopping at a Tru-Value® hardware store in Virginia. The manufacturer recommends using honing oil on the more coarse side of this stone. However, a possible field expedient honing oil could be the CLP oil in your weapon cleaning kit. Nevertheless, I am sure that the knife gurus have better recommendations for pocket sharpening stones.

 

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Stone Description

  • Length: 3.937 in.
  • Width: 1 in.
  • Thickness: .437 in.
  • Grit: One side is 60 grit. The opposite side is 80 grit.

The Ferro Rod: Böker® Plus Fire Starter

The current ferro rod that I use with this system is the Böker® Plus Fire Starter. It has some features that make it a great addition to this system. The Böker® Plus Fire Starter is a longer version of the Aurora Fire Starter. The item has a threaded, aircraft aluminum body with non-slip checkering. It has a small button compass embedded in the handle. The striker is 3 inches long with some interesting features. It has a bottle opener and a hex opening for use with small hex bits. There is a 1/10,000 map measuring tool on one side marked to 5 kilometers. On the opposite side of the scraper is a metric ruler up to 5 centimeters. There is a sharpened single bevel edge that is .5 inches long on the bottle opener side of the tool. The sharp edge gives the ability to cut cordage.

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Description

  • Length: 4.5625 in.
  • Width: .625 in.
  • Ferro Rod Length: 2.25 in.
  • Some optional ferro rod choices for this system would be the Aurora Fire Striker, the Bear Grylls Compact Firestriker, or the Exotac Nanostriker.

Final Thoughts:

My Becker BK-2 Survival Knife System is an attempt to find a one system solution for general outdoor and backpacking activities. There are many other more robust options on the market, such as the TOPS Knives Bushcrafter Kukri 7.0. However, for a budget-friendly option, this system meets my needs in the field. As you consider your field gear options, it is helpful to remember three primary considerations: your gear knowledge, your gear experience, and your gear budget.

 

 

Product Purchase Links

Alternate Fire Strikers

An Outstanding Dry Bag Emergency Kit

An outstanding dry bag emergency kit is a great way to keep your emergency items. Here are the items that I chose for my modified dry bag emergency kit.

An outstanding dry bag emergency kit is a great way to keep your emergency items. The dry bag emergency kit is based on the concept of Dave Canterbury’s 10 Cs of Survivability. I first experimented with Dave’s concept in 2015. I found that his kit is a little bulky for the average backpacker. A more practical application of Dave’s concept for the backpacker is to buy smaller items and put them in a more flexible dry bag, such as the Osprey Ultralight Dry Sack. However, I did modify my dry bag emergency kit with the following items.

Dry Bag Emergency Items

The items for this bag were chosen for being durable, practical, dependable and affordable. It is important that whatever gear you choose for any survival kit or bag that it will not fail you when you need it the most. Thus, here are the items that I chose for my modified dry bag emergency kit based on Dave Canterbury’s 10 Cs of Survivability

Cutting Item

The following items are part of what I call your Tool Kit. Reliable tools are critical to ensuring your survival in a desperate situation. I have found that all of these items will fit in the dry bag emergency kit.  

  • Knife, Fixed Blade Morakniv, Bushcraft, 1 EA.
  • Knife, Folding Victorinox, Swiss Army, Farmer, 1 EA.
  • Multitool Leatherman Wave, 1 EA.
  • Saw, Folding Bahco Laplander Saw, 1 EA.

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Combustion Item

Moreover, not only are tools critical to your being able to do survival tasks in the field, you also need to address one of the core survival categories: fire. The following items make up what I call my Fire Kit. All of these items will fit in the dry bag emergency kit. You may want to place all of these items in a small pouch that will go into the dry bag.

  • Lighter, Disposable Bic® Lighter, 1 EA.
  • Cubes, Wet Fire Wet Fire, 5 EA.
  • Rod, Ferro Titan Fire Striker, 1 EA.

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Covering Item

The next category that is necessary for survival is shelter. The following items are what I call the Shelter Kit. In Dave’s video presentation of his 10 Cs of Survivability, he takes most of these items and rolls them up into the emergency blanket so that they will fit in the dry bag. I have experimented with this configuration and it will fit easily in the dry bag.

  • Blanket, Emergency SOL Heavy Duty Emergency Blanket, 1 EA.
  • Liner, Drum, 3mil, 55 gal. Toughbag Drum Liner, 2 EA.
  • Stakes, Tent MSR Tent Stakes, 5 EA.

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Container Item

The next the essential items for the dry bag emergency kit are what I call the Water Kit. The water kit helps you to procure and process water in the field. Obtaining water is one of the critical tasks that you need to do in order to live in a survival situation. The items listed here will help with get drinkable water in the outdoors.

  • Bottle, Stainless Steel, Single-Walled Klean Kanteen, 40 oz., 1 EA.
  • Cup, Nesting GSI Glacier 24 oz Cup, 1 EA.
  • Filter, Water Straw Sawyer Mini Filter, 1 EA.
  • Tablets, Water Treatment MSR Aqua Tabs, 30 pk., 1 PK.
  • Note: water treatment/filter items can go inside of the water bottle

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Cordage

Cordage is an essential part of any emergency or survival kit. Most of the experts agree that bank line or paracord should be part of any kit. Cordage allows for food procurement (fishing/trapping), shelter construction, primitive weapons (slings/bows), and in extreme circumstances can be used for first aid (lashing splints/sutures), as well as gear and clothing repair. 

  • Paracord, 550 MILSPEC, 50-100 ft.
  • Bankline, 50 ft.-1 Spool
  • Kevlar Line, 25 ft.-1 Roll

 

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These first five categories are considered the essential items that are required to enable any survival situation. Thus, the following five categories are additional considerations to help with other important survival tasks. 

Cotton Item

Cotton is a versatile element in any survival or emergency kit. Cotton cloth allows for use in first aid (bandages/slings), tinder material for fire making (charred cloth), water collection (absorbing dew/water filtering), or communication if a blaze orange material (trail marking/signal flag). 

  • Bandana Levi’s Bandanas, 1 EA.
  • Bandage, Triangular USGI Military Cravat, 1 EA.

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Cargo Tape

Cargo tape or duct tape is a great item to keep in a survival kit. Cargo tape can function effectively as tinder for fire starting, gear and clothing repair, first aid, and other uses depending on a person’s skill level. 

Tape, Cargo Gorilla Tape, 1 in., 1 Roll

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Candling  Device

A candling device is anything that can be used to shine light like a flashlight or headlamp. Candling devices can also function as emergency signals as night. 

  • Headlamp Petzl Bindi Headlamp, 1 EA.

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Compass

A compass is a critical item in a survival or emergency kit. A compass enables land navigation over long distances. It can also be used as a signaling device if it has a mirrored function to its construction. 

  • Compass, Base Plate w/Sighting Mirror K&R Alpin Compass, 1 EA.

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Canvas Needle

The canvas needle is sometimes called a sail needle. The needle functions in the field as part of your sewing kit. The needle can be magnetized to construct a primitive compass. It is useful for gear repair and first aid as well. 

  • Needle, Large, Canvas, Sail Vanguard Marine Sewing Kit, 1 EA.

 

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The final five categories offer capabilities that will enhance a person’s survival chances. Therefore, they are considered to be the next level of emergency gear that will compliment the first five categories. Yet, Dave’s dry bag survival kit is just a start for your survival needs in the field. As such, some additional considerations are offered as optional items to consider if you wish to expand beyond the basic dry bag survival kit. 

Additional Considerations Beyond the Dry Bag

Finally, these additional emergency kit items are added here for you to consider beyond the dry bag emergency kit. Remember that the dry bag carries only the basic essential items that will help you survive in the outdoors. The following items can be part of your larger emergency bag (BOB, Go Bag, GHB, INCH, 72 Hr. Emergency Bag).

Sleeping or Bedding Kit

The following sleeping items are what I call my Sleeping Kit. These will not fit into the 10 or 15 liter dry bag. However, I have added them here as a consideration.

  • Bivy, Emergency SOL Emergency Bivy, 1 EA.
  • Bivy, Gore-Tex Tennier Woodland Bivy, 1 EA.
  • Bag, Sleeping Snugpak Jungle Sleeping Bag, 1 EA.
  • Pad, Sleeping Mat USGI Sleeping Mat, 1 EA.

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Food Kit Pouch

  • Freeze Dried Mountain House Food Pouch, 3 EA.
  • Bars, Energy Cliff Bar Energy Bar, 3 EA.
  • Meat, Dried Jerky Jack Links Beef Jerky, 1 EA.

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First Aid 

  • First Aid Kit, General Purpose Adventure Medical Kits 1.0, 1 EA.
  • Kit, First Aid, Trauma US Army IFAK, 1 EA.

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Communications 

  • Whistle, Emergency SOL Emergency Howler Whistle, 1 EA.

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Food Procurement Kit

  • Kit, Fishing, Emergency Best Glide ASE Emergency Fishing Kit, 1 EA.

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Self-Defense Kit

  • Spray, Pepper Sabre Pepper Spray, 1 EA.
  • Sling Shot

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Clothing Needs

Clothing is considered your first level of shelter based on the concept that your clothing insulates one from the affects of body heat loss. Therefore, the type and quality of the clothing is an essential part of your emergency gear considerations.

  • 1 Day Change of Clothes

    • Socks, Wool Omni Wool Boot Socks. 1 PR.
    • Shirt, Underwear, T-Shirt Coolmax T-Shirt, 1 EA.
    • Trousers, Hiking/Travel Fjallraven Vidda Pro Trousers Regular Solid Sandstone, 1 EA.
    • Shirt, Hiking/Travel Fjallraven Greenland Shirt, 1 EA.
    • Gloves, Work Petzl K53 Gloves, 1 PR.

 

  • Seasonal Gear (Cold Weather)

    • Jacket, Fleece Columbia Fleece Jacket, 1 EA.
    • Gloves, Winter, Gore-Tex Carhartt Waterproof Work Gloves, 1 PR.
    • Scarf, Wool Winter Wool Scarf, 1 EA.
    • Cap, Wool, Watch Army Universe Wool Watch Cap, 1 EA.
    • Baselayer Bottom Meriwool Baselayer Bottoms, 1 EA.
    • Baselayer Top Meriwool Baselayer Top, 1 EA.

 

  • Seasonal Gear (Wet Weather)

    • Jacket, Rain, Packable Columbia Rain Jacket, 1 EA.
    • Trouser, Rain, Packable Columbia Rain Pants, 1 EA.