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4 military surplus items you can use every day

I am a connoisseur of all things military. I absolutely love to go to the military surplus store and buy any and everything I can get my grubs on; however, most of these things end up getting pushed into my shed or garage, and forgotten about.

Now I’m not talking about the bug things, like my military surplus tent, or the humvee that was sold because it didn’t meet military standards anymore. Those of course have their uses, but today I want to talk specifically about those pieces of military surplus that you can and should use every single day.

Here are four specific items, (and where to get them), that I use every single day.

  1. A military surplus web belt. The good news is that khaki goes with everything. And if you are at all like me, then you need to wear a belt everywhere you go regardless of whether you are in BDUs or not. (If for no other reason than to anchor your inside the pants holster appropriately).
  2. A military surplus backpack with frame. I love MOLLE gear. You can do anything you want with that stuff, and I use my pack in place of luggage and a purse. Not that I ever carried a purse, but the concept is sound.
  3. A camelbak hydration pack. In case you haven’t noticed, you have a tendency to drink water everyday. And the beauty of one of these packs is that you can mix your tea, or add a squirt of MIO to your water in this pack and have it with you wherever you go. No need to use the cupholder in your car, etc…
  4. GI combat harness. I’m a photographer and a survivalist. I always have the need to have a piece of equipment handy in order to perform whatever function is at hand.
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Traveling in the snow: 3 must have tips for driving in the snow

If you live anywhere above the Mason-Dixon Line, or are traveling there for any reason then chances are you are finding it necessary to navigate in the snow. Previously we discussed how to survive if you inadvertently leave the road and find yourself stranded in icy conditions, But in this section I would like to discuss some measures that you can take to ensure that you don’t even go there in the first place. Basically we’re going to discuss how to drive in the snow and on icy roads.

I generally make it a point to own either a four wheel drive vehicle or an all wheel drive vehicle, just because basic physics tell us that it is easier for a vehicle to operate on volatile surfaces if the co-efficient of friction is uniform in at least four points of contact, providing those points of contact are each bearing equal and significant sums of the total weight of the vehicle… In layman’s terms, the car will drive better if all four wheels are pulling and pushing in tandem.

However, you can get by with two wheel drive vehicles in snowy conditions as well. I spent one harsh winter driving a 1992 Ford Mustang 4.0 Fox body sedan in the snow for example. There are simply three rules you must follow to get the best performance from your car in the snow:

  1. Use your momentum. Quite often snowy roads aren’t uniform in their obstruction. If you take for example, the photo I include here you will see that there are both patches of ice and patches of asphalt. You want to use momentum to get you over the patches of snow, and torsion to get you through the patches of asphalt. In other words gun it when your drive wheels are on the pavement and let it ride over the snow.
  2. Use your engine as a brake. How many times have you ever been on an icy road and applied your brakes, only to have the car move faster and stop steering? This is because once the wheels stop moving you are in a different plane of motion and this is how most people end up in the ditch… foot pushed firmly on the brake and wheel turned uselessly to either side. A better option is to shift your car into 1st gear when you have to go down a steep icy hill. Then, let it creep, allowing the engine to control how fast the wheel can spin instead of the brake shoe. This will allow you to still be able to turn the wheel effectively. If it is super slick put it in reverse and then you can use the gas pedal to slow your descent as well.
  3. Take it slow, but keep moving. Whenever you get in trouble, your first reaction is to want to stop; however, that’s not always your best option when driving in snow and on ice. If you’re moving just keep moving.
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There was blood in the leaves: lessons in tracking wounded game

It was a typical Saturday afternoon when I looked up from where I was working on the tractor tire to see Carl, dressed all in camouflage, come in to my shed with a serious look on his face.

“I need your help” he said seriously as he pulled a bloody shred of something out of his coveralls pocket and thrust it in my general direction meaningfully.

I took the tidbit trepidatiously and saw that it was two strands of bloody fat, each about three inches long… very strange item to have in one’s pockets.

I noticed that Carl was now looking at me hopefully, which was a welcome relief from all of the meaningful seriousness that I had been confronted with earlier.

“Well, what do you need?” I asked handing him back his fat.

“I need you to help me track this deer!” he exclaimed as if I were simple.

“What deer?” I asked…

Well, Carl had shot this huge buck, he said, and had found lots of blood and these two strands of fat. He had followed the blood for a distance of maybe a quarter of a mile and it had diminished and finally petered out. He had fallen asleep in his blind and had awoken to find this deer standing about twenty yards away and with it’s rear end towards him looking towards some does standing on a distant hillside. He had taken a quick shot with a Barrett crossbow equipped with carbon fiber bolts and Zwickey broad-heads. The fat told me the story. It was fall and the fields were ripe with corn and beans. The fat was rib fat, (I knew this from having butchered several hundred deer over the years). The reason the blood trail stopped was because the superficial wound had dried up… I wasn’t about to track that deer until he died of old age!

I only tell this story to introduce you to an aspect of hunting that is very important to any sportsman, hunter, survivalist, or prepper; that of reading sign. And in this instance, reading sign left by wounded game. So over the next several entries, let’s discuss tracking methods that will help you find the game you have lethally wounded, and disregard those you have merely inconvenienced… stay tuned.

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Playing with baby skunks, (and dealing with the aftermath)

If you have never had the pleasure of holding or playing with a tiny baby skunk, then my heart goes out to you because you have really missed out on something. This is because skunks are adorable, especially baby ones.

I remember seeing a group of baby skunks once on the college campus I was working on with my old buddy Jaybird Young.

“I’d love to hold one of those” I gushed as the little line of furballs marched past, following their seemingly serious-minded mom.

Jaybird thought quietly for a moment, one hand resting on his chin as he contemplated. “You know”, he finally replied, “they can’t spray when they’re young like that I’ve heard”.

“You sure?” I asked suspiciously, “I never heard that before.”

“Positive!” he said.

That was the day that I discovered Jaybird Young to be a liar and a fool; or maybe I was the fool. In any event, one thing you need to know is that little skunks can spray just as well as big skunks can. And let me tell you that there is a reason that skunks only have one natural predator known of, (great horned owls), can you guess why?

Here’s a little biological information regarding skunks. First of all, the chemical that they secrete to make that smell is called mercaptons and they are the same exact substances that are found in tubers such as wild onion and garlic. This is why sometimes the aroma given off from a skunk spray is often enticing in a strange way, and sweet smelling. That is, when they are experienced from a distance, the experience is quite different when experienced up close.

If your experience with baby skunks somehow goes south, here’s a no nonsense recipe for knocking the edge off of the assaultive odor, (there is no “cure” and I really can’t be bothered with that “tomato juice” nonsense). Here’s the winning recipe:

Measure out 1/4 cup of baking soda and mix it thoroughly with about a quart of hydrogen peroxide. Add a couple of tablespoons of your favorite smelling dishsoap, (preferably something that goes well with garlic). And then wash well the contaminated areas.

 

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USMC: 7 new boots that are on the list

Do you remember the good old days when you were issued one pair of uniform boots of the same exact style as everyone else in your branch of the service? Well, those days are over, at least as far as it goes for the United States Marine Corps. In a recent article written for Military.com, the Marine Corps has, in an effort to continually improve the equipment and clothing of the branch, approved 7 new brands of combat service boots. “”

According to the article, “Marines can now choose from 16 different combat, rugged all-terrain or optional boots. The list of approved styles was released in a service-wide administrative message last week, which was signed by Lt. Gen. David Berger, the head of Marine Corps Combat Development Command.”.

The article, written by journalist Gina Hawkins goes on to give a brief description of the merits of the new approved footwear, as well as a detailed listing of them and their manufacturer.
“These are the boots that were added to the list of officially approved footwear:

Combat:

  • Bates style No. E30502 (hot weather)

RAT:

  • Bates style No. 29502 (hot weather)
  • Wellco style No. E114 (temperate weather)

Optional:

  • Danner Reckoning boot style No. 53221
  • Bates lightweight style No. E50501 for men and E57501 for women
  • Danner’s Marine Expeditionary Boot style No. 53111 (temperate weather)
  • Danner’s MEB style No. 53110 (hot weather)

The Marine Corps first authorized Danner’s Reckoning hot-weather boot last year. Even though it wasn’t formally publicized, word spread quickly when the service started selling the boots in the exchanges, Hamby said.

The last time the list of authorized boots had been formally updated was in March 2016″.
What this means for the civilian military surplus community is that these same boots will at some point in time be made available as surplus. Because, even though the individual soldier will often purchase the footwear of his or her choice directly from the manufacturer, the military will still buy mass quanities of same for research, testing, deployment, etc…

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Military surplus camouflage: Flecktarn vs Digital

Flecktarn is a term derived from two German words, Fleck and Tarnung, which mean speckled and camouflaged respectively. This pattern was developed by German engineers in the 1970’s and replaced the more floral pattern of Germany that was popular during WWII.

What’s interesting is the comparison of modern American military digital camouflage, adopted in 1992, to its European counterpart.

There are as many styles of camouflage as there are tastes in women. And the fact of the matter is that each one has its own use and advantages, depending on the environment and situation that one finds oneself in. Some of the styles of military grade camouflage are as follows:

  1. Brushstroke. Developed by British during WWII using large brushes to paint different swaths of colour over their khakis before jumping into enemy territory.
  2. Tigerstripe. Very similar to brushstroke and popularized in the jungle warfare experienced in Vietnam, these cammies were highly sought after but rare, being used mostly by elite special forces and supply clerks.
  3. Duck Hunter. Used mainly by US Marines fighting the Japanese in the Pacific Theatre of WWII. This style became popular amongst American outdoorsman and was prolific in early department megastores like K-mart.
  4. Engineer Research and Development Lab, (ERDL). This pattern was much like the Duck Hunter pattern in the fact that it was popular with hunters.
  5. Woodland Camo. This was by the far the most popular of all of the camouflage patterns, at least until the early 2000s when the digital camouflage came on the scene.

The end result of all of this has culminated in the modern American digital camouflage. The United States Marine Corps was the first military branch to adopt the micro-pattern camouflage, finding that the small dot pattern was more inherent to camouflaging than any of the larger pattern, blob style patterns.

And in the end, even though the German style of Flecktarn is stylish, sporty,  and sustainable, it is not as effective at hiding you in the bushes as is the American digital pattern.

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Sportsman’s ambiance: 3 must do steps for getting a hornet’s nest for your den

 

If you are a hunter, outdoorsman, sportsman, or even a survivalist or a prepper then it is most likely that you have a man cave somewhere. One of the aspects of having a man cave is having manly, out-doorsie things hanging up in it. An old snowshoe for instance, or a wretched old Coleman lantern. Anything that will put you in mind of an old Jack London style trapper cabin located on the tundra in the wilds of Alaska.

One of my favorite wall hangings is a deserted, (and completely vacated), hornet’s nest. The good news is that a hornet’s nest is not hard to find; the bad news? It’s difficult to vacate. The other good news is that nature and the changing environments will help you to get that perfect decoration.

Typically a bald-faced hornet’s nest is usually the size of a football or sometimes a basketball. They can, however, get much larger than that and of course you can find them much smaller as well. This nest is usually built over a period of half a year and is always started by the queen who emerges from hibernation in the spring and gets the business started by chewing wood pulp into paper, making brood cells and laying eggs in each cell. The workers are then hatched and take over the menial tasks while she lays eggs over the summer creating an army of workers which build and inhabit the nest.

Winter drives the queen back into hibernation while the workers all freeze to death until the next spring when the process starts all over again.

The nest that is left will never be inhabited by bald-faced hornets again!

Here are three things you must do to ensure you don’t have any hornets left in your nest before you take it into your man cave:

  1. Gather it in the winter. And if you have spotted a likely hornet’s nest, make sure that you gather it after the very coldest part of the winter. These workers have to get very cold to die and even then if they are still around they can be revived by warmth. Don’t be afraid to inspect the nest very closely before you take it inside.
  2. Smoke it. In the old days, people would get a smoky smoldering ember and let the smoke permeate the nest to ensure that the inhabitants had vacated it completely.
  3. Seal it. My favorite answer to this quandary is to seal the nest in shellac and make sure that whatever is in there will stay in there, and it will also make it a bit more durable to be used as a wall hanging. It is made out of rustic papers after all.
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Survival 201: How to make meat in dire straits

 

 

 

Have you ever been in a survivalists dire straits? I’m not talking about the British rock band, but instead I’m speaking of, as Merriam-Webster puts it: “In a very bad or difficult situation”.  Dire Straits works like this: Imagine that you are on a five days fishing trip on Loon Lake in the North Woods of Maine. On the first day, as you are kayaking north along one of the many tributaries, you are suddenly overturned by a young cow moose who has ventured out into the lake for reasons known only to young cow moose, and your bungee strap, (which you had just unlooped to retrieve your camera to take a photograph of a different cow moose who was also swimming in the stream), snags around the moose’s neck and she swims off with your kayak, bedroll, rifle, and pack. You are left with your camera in one hand, (water soaked), and your kayak paddle in the other. It suddenly occurs to you that the last time you checked your GPS, you were 15 miles from your truck. You, my friend, are now in Dire Straits.

There are many issues here, but in this writing I want to address the problem of gathering emergency rations in the form of meat. Understand in this scenario we are only trying to get back to a place of restorability so that we can go from a survival situation to one of modern comfort. Hopefully you had the wherewithal to have a backup blade in your boot or strapped to your floatation vest. If not, better find some sharp rocks…

I like to kill two birds with one stone. So, if I’m trying to make my way to my car, and if I know I have to travel along a stream, I will generally travel at night and walk in the stream. I do this for several reasons, not the least is so that I can hunt while I’m traveling.  For some reason, I’ve always found that animals such as frogs, muskrats, raccoons, and waterfowl – creatures which are active at night – are more susceptible to  hunting because they don’t expect danger to come from the middle of the stream, they expect it to come from the forest. A homemade two prong spear, or gig is my tool of preference for this type of hunting because it’s easy to make and works great for frogs and fish if you drive them into the mud to hold them there until you can grab them The trick is to wedge them into the “V” of the spear.

 

 

 

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Junk food survival: 3 reasons you need to include corn chips in your bugout bag

By: Mr X, Survivalist

 

I have been assailed lately by health food nuts. My wife, for instance, has gotten onto this grassfed beef movement. Well, that’s all well and good, and the fact of the matter is that I can see the intelligence in eating food that has been prepared in accordance with the plan of the One who created it; however, that doesn’t mean that the schemes of man can’t sometimes be beneficial, especially in a survival situation.

And so, it is this humble survivalist’s opinion that you should take the time to throw a couple of bags of corn or potato chips into your bug out bag, because they actually come in quit handy for certain situations. Here are three prime examples of times when you will be glad you have them and some practical uses that you can put them to. Not to mention that they are cheap and easy to come by, at least in this day and time.

Prepared chips are highly caloric and high in carbs.

If just taken at face value, and used for nothing more than a prepared and individually packaged food  source, these small bags of chips are excellent for short term survival needs. They are salty and filling  and will give a much needed burst of energy and warmth by their very nature.

They are salty.

Not only is that salt beneficial to you, but it is also attractive to other creatures of the wilderness and    is therefore beneficial for use as bait. This has been one of the most confounding aspects of survival that I have experienced whenever I have tried to lure game into a trap or ambush area, finding a bait source that would attract them that wasn’t available somewhere else.

They are highly flammable.

In a survival situation, this is much more exciting than it might seem right now, especially if you are caught in a rainy or foggy environment. They are also waterproof while they are sealed in their bag; however, I would recommend that you open them under cover if you plan to use them as a fuel source for a fire.

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Making a legacy: How military surplus carries on tradition

It was with mixed emotions that I drove the boy to the Armed Forces Career Center for the final time.

He is, as I write this, in the process of becoming a United States Marine. I couldn’t be more proud of him and I was assaulted with a plethora of memories during that long final drive as I tried to offer him my advice on how to survive boot camp, forgetting for the time being that if he is at all like me, he wasn’t paying a bit more attention to what I was saying than the man in the moon. That’s because he is the type that wants to sort things out for himself, and he also knows that the boot camp I experienced in 1992 is not the same boot camp that he will experience on Parris Island in 2018.

However, we did have a great opportunity to relive some exciting moments that we shared together over the last 22 years.

His first deer for instance. This was a three day deer camp that culminated in his shooting the biggest doe I have ever seen straight through the heart with his brand new Mossburg 20 gauge shotgun that he had gotten for Christmas that year. I had just watched him allow a much smaller doe to creep past us, right underneath the deer stand we were sitting in. He had simply watched her go by, unable to move fast enough to click the safety off and fire the shot that would have made meat for the family for the winter. I was quietly chewing his ass, when he suddenly snapped off the safety, threw the shotgun to his shoulder, and blasted past my ear without a word of explanation. I was a little pissed, thinking that he had simply done that for dramatic effect in response to my chastisement, and then I saw the blood spatter in the snow. A spatter which ended in a steaming pile of nearly a hundred and fifty pounds of fresh venison. That was a great day for me, because being squeamish,  I offered him the chance to clean all the guns when we shoot in exchange for my dressing the game that we shoot. He soon discovered that we shot much more than we hit.

 

And so I look forward to the times that we can spend in his deer camp, telling his war stories to his sons as we sit in his grandfathers old military surplus army tent. This is what memories are made of.

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