Monday, February 08, 2016

Hill People Gear Kit Bag Pictures

In my previous post (q.v.), I listed the contents of each pocket of my Hill People Gear Original Kit Bag. Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this post should be worth about 6,000 and change.

First, the zipped up Kit Bag and then the back compartment with my S&W M&P Shield 9 and a spare magazine. When worn, the pistol doesn't move at all, but I will probably buy a kydex holster that covers the trigger guard.

If you click on each pic you should get a full sized version.

Next we have the middle compartment with an assortment of survival gear.

Finally, the outer compartment with a few more items. This is where I stow my keys and iPhone. It provides easy access to the phone without having to worry about everything falling out when I'm consulting the phone's GPS.

Sunday, February 07, 2016

Hill People Gear Kit Bag Loadout

A couple years ago I bought a Hill People Gear Original Kit Bag. This is the gear that lives in it 24x7. I use the bag on day hikes and overnighters. I have found the Kit Bag to be the most comfortable way to carry a pistol while hiking when carrying a pack. It also provides a very convenient and comfortable means of carrying a basic survival kit, and an easily accessible but secure way to carry my car keys and phone when off-pavement.

I augment the contents as dictated by the particular trip. E.g., add a Cliff bar or two.

Rear compartment:

  • Smith & Wesson M&P Shield 9 with 8 round magazine
  • One spare 8 round magazine, held in place with a Maxpedition Universal Holster

(The gun and spare magazine are loaded with Federal XM9001 9mm 115 grain JHP. In PA, I'm not worried about wild animals larger than dogs. The gun is there for defense against people. I've also carried a Beretta M9 and a CZ P-09 but switched to the Shield to reduce weight.)

Middle compartment:

Outside compartment:

Items marked with an asterisk are dummy corded to light aluminum caribiners with bank line. I replaced the Slick Clips that came with the KB with the 'biners because they are easier for me to open and close.

Once I get to the trail, I'll stow my car keys and iPhone 6 in the outside compartment. Depending on the trip I may also bring a larger compass and a Garmin GPSMAP 62 GPS unit, but not necessarily in the KB.

Also, I removed the Grimlocks from the outside of the KB, since I don't use them.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Winter Storm Jonas Gear Report

Thankfully, the impact of Winter Storm Jonas on my area was limited to a crapload of snow. We got about 2 feet, plus or minus. (It's hard to get an accurate measure due to the drifting.) This was the 4th biggest snowstorm to hit the Philadelphia area since they began keeping records.

High winds were predicted for this storm but they didn't hit our area, and our power never went out. Because of the predictions I charged all the batteries for things like drills, radios, lanterns, and cell phone power banks. I also filled a Dietz hurricane lantern with lamp oil, but we didn't need either it or our kerosene heater.

A few things performed well during the cleanup:

1. Troy-Bilt Storm 2410 snow blower. I bought this in the Fall of 2014 as an upgrade from the smaller Troy-Bilt 5524 that I got in 2004. The extra size was very welcome with the amount of snow we got, especially when it came to clearing my driveway apron after the township's plow came through. The 179cc engine started easily even after sitting outside under a tarp in sub-freezing weather, and had plenty of power.

I am going to look into putting chains on the snow blower tires, however. The additional traction would be helpful.

2. ORC PCU Level 5 softshell pants. These remain one of the best items I've ever bought. They kept my legs warm and dry even when I had to wade through snow up to my thighs.

3. Arc'Teryx LEAF Atom SV Hoody + French Army MVP* CCE** surplus parka. The Atom SV provided plenty of insulation down into the teens and twenties when worn under the French parka, which blocked the wind and kept me dry, even when getting drenched with windblown snow from the blower. The French parka is available for $35 from If they have it in your size it's one of the best buys you can make. I'd rate it up there with any of the high end civilian GoreTex parks I've owned from Mountain Hardwear and Arc'Teryx, which cost A LOT more.

A few fails:

1. My father's vintage-2000 MTD snow blower (basically an older version of my Troy-Bilt) kept stalling due to a mix of old gas and new gas. Once it warmed up enough it was able to handle the mix.

2. However, to get to that point it had to be restarted. This was a problem when it stalled at the bottom of the driveway and the pull cord for the recoil starter broke when my brother tried to restart it. I had to drive over with a 100 foot extension cord so that it could be restarted. (My parents live around the block, so it was a short trip.) He'll be buying a suitably long extension cord, and replacing the starter rope.

3. I managed to get my Xterra stuck in front of their house when I pulled as far to the side of the street as I could. However, I remembered to toss a collapsible snow shovel in the back of the truck before I went over, so I was able to dig myself out in a couple minutes.

* MVP = Moisture Vapor Permeable, like Gore-Tex.
* CCE = The French central European camo pattern, similar to US woodland but with more tan.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Aborted Overnighter

With Monday off for MLK Day and the weather being mild for January in Pennsylvania, I thought that Saturday night would be good for a solo overnight camping trip in the Conrad Weiser State Forest Port Clinton Tract. I did an overnighter there with my daughter last Fall and we had a great time.

So Saturday morning I packed my gear and headed up to the forest around lunchtime. It's a little more than hour away. I arrived around 2:00 PM, hoisted my pack, and headed in using the same trail we used in October and when I went back for a day hike a few weeks later.

I hiked in further that our previous campsite, because on my last visit I noticed some standing dead trees a little too close for comfort. It took me about an hour to find a suitable spot off the trail that was level, away from widowmakers, and had two trees the right distance apart to support my tarp, but with enough room to extend the shelter back.

I setup the tarp with the back to the northwest, to block the prevailing wind. Rather than the lean-to pitch I've used before, I rotated the tarp so that I could extend the sides down to more fully enclose it.

I like to pitch the tarp fairly low so it doesn't catch the wind and is stealthier.

For dinner I had some jerky and beef flavored ramen noodles in a cardboard bowl. Afterwards, the bowl went into the fire.

For boiling water I used my Stanley pot and Etekcity canister stove. The stove is light, cheap, and works well at least down to about 30 degrees. But if I'm planning to be out in lower temps, my Kovea Spider will be used instead. It can be run with the canister inverted and I also have an adapter to allow the use of 1 lb. propane cylinders.

The temperature was about 40 degrees F. during my walk in and until sunset.

My bedroll consisted of:

* USGI casualty evacuation blanket for a ground sheet.
* Ridge Rest foam pad.
* Klymit Static V insulated air matress.
* British surplus jungle sleeping bag.
* Hill People Gear Mountain Serape (medium sized).

My plan was to use the Mountain Serape as an overbag with the British jungle bag inside of it. I ran into problems with this, mainly related to the jungle bag. I've used the jungle bag before without issues, but that was in warmer weather. This time, I had on a fleece top that had a lot of friction with the inside of the bag. This made it very difficult to turn over, which is a problem since I'm a side sleeper.

Eventually, I decided to just unzip the jungle bag and the footbox of the Mountain Serape and use them as quilts. This was warm when they stayed on top of me, but the Serape kept slipping off the jungle bag whenever I turned over. I'm going to have to suck it up and get a light 20 degree bag. Suggestions welcome.

To compound matters, the Klymit Static V air mattress sucks for side sleepers. I'm going to return to using my Big Agnes air mattress. My daughter may like the Klymit better.

After tossing and turning for several hours I got up in the middle of the night and fixed myself a cup of hot chicken broth. By this time it was down to about 30 degrees and expected to drop a few more degrees.

The stove is sitting on a Jetboil Fuel Canister Stabilizer. I found mine at REI but there's an Amazon link. It makes the canister stoves a lot more steady, especially when using the small diameter canisters. It will fit large fuel canisters, too.

Following a few minutes of considering what to do, I said <bleep> it and aborted the trip.

Striking camp when it's pitch dark is a bit more difficult than when it's light, but my headlamp worked well during this and the approximately 850 yard walk out.

Although I ended the trip early due to gear failure, the rest of my gear worked fine. A few standouts:

* Arc'Teryx LEAF Atom SV Hoody. I got this last week from SKD Tactical and I think it's my favorite jacket, ever. It was warm and stood up well to thorns. It merits its own post, which will be forthcoming shortly.

* Princeton Tec Remix headlamp. I mostly used the low power setting around camp, but when set to high it throws a nice beam. I used that when I was working my way back to my truck.

Seriously, don't go into the woods without a headlamp. The ability to work with both hands cannot be understated. I also used an inexpensive Cree LED single-AA light but if I could have only one, I'd keep the headlamp.

* Hill People Gear Kit Bag. I've had this now for a couple years and for me it's the most comfortable way to carry a gun in the woods. My S&W Shield with a spare mag is hardly noticeable. The KB also provides a secure, and easily accessed method of carrying a small survival kit, my car keys, and iPhone, which I used as a GPS. I kept the iPhone in the front zippered pocked of the KB and would stop every 25 or 30 yards to check it to make sure I wasn't walking in circles.

* The iPhone app Spyglass. It's a compass and GPS. Since I'm carrying the phone anyway, it's great to be able to use it instead of my Garmin. On our first trip to the CWSF I had marked my parking spot as a waypoint, which facilitated navigating back to the truck in the dark. (Yes, I had a compass and map. Spyglass is a lot easier to use, especially in the dark.)

* Hill People Gear Mountain Serape (medium). Whatever wind leaked around my tarp was stopped by the MS. Although it didn't work out so well as an overbag in concert with the British jungle bag, I can tell it'll make a great bag for 40 and above, or to carry on day hikes when I'm not planning to spend the night, but want something just in case. It's windproof and highly water resistant, so it could serve as both insulation and shelter. Like the Arc jacket, this merits its own post, which I'm working on.

Even though the trip didn't work out as I'd planned it was a good learning experience.

Sunday, January 10, 2016

Campsite Intruder Alarm With Fireworks

This is a neat video from Survival Lilly showing how to create a tripwire-activated campsite alarm using a firecracker/noisemaker, matches, twine, and duct tape.

With a little work, this could be weatherproofed and a better mounting system could be devised. That said, this is a good starting point.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Archery for Preppers?

With my interest in archery having been rekindled of late, naturally I began to consider whether or not including archery in one's preps makes sense. Certainly, archery played a major role in humankind's rise over the animal kingdom, and bows were important military weapons for millennia, but do they have a place in the 21st century prepper's armory?

Searching the Internet for "survival bow," "survival archery," or "bows for preppers" results in a ton of hits. Several prepper oriented sites recommend adding a bow to your equipment. E.g., this article, complete with a pic of Our Hero wearing a hoodie and gas mask and getting ready to loose an arrow.

But, I'm going to go out on a limb and state that for most preppers in the USA, archery equipment should be far down on the list of gear to get, after food, water, shelter, and firearms. If you're in a jurisdiction that does not allow or heavily restricts civilian ownership of guns but does allow archery equipment, a bow or crossbow moves up the list.

A smart prepper will prepare for the most likely events. Trying to live off the land by hunting and fishing is far less likely than surviving a period of unemployment, short duration social disruptions, or natural disasters. Only the latter two situations really require that you be armed.

Even if the end of the world as we know it happens, wild game is likely to be depleted in a short time. Go compare the amount of wild game available in the 1940s after the Great Depression, when the only source of protein for many was wild game, with what's available now, after decades of conservation. Planning to survive TEOTWAWKI by heading for the hills and adopting a hunter/gatherer lifestyle is planning to fail.

IMNSHO, the single most versatile weapon for a prepper is a concealable handgun such as a Glock 19 or S&W M&P Shield. This allows you to be discretely armed in public and can double as a home defense gun. If your finances permit, add a suitable long gun as a dedicated home defense gun.

Further, even firearms which are now considered obsolete replaced bows and arrows as primary weapons, largely due to them being much easier to learn how to shoot well. As much as I love archery, I would take a flintlock musket over a bow for either hunting or defense.

That said, archery gear does have some advantages:

1. Regulations for purchase are typically minimal or non-existent. Even in many areas that heavily restrict firearms ownership, archery equipment is unregulated. If I lived in a a country where civilian gun ownership is banned, I'd definitely have a recurve bow with a good supply of arrows, and practice with them. I'd also learn how to make arrows from hardware store materials. See, e.g., The Dowel Arrow Handbook.

2. Bows and arrows are quiet compared to unsuppressed guns. That means you're less likely to be discovered if you need to shoot. Crossbows are surprisingly loud, however.

3. Traditional bows can be made at home for low cost, from either hardware store lumber or even PVC pipe. Similarly, arrows for traditional bows can be made from carefully selected dowels or bamboo tomato stakes. Lethal arrowheads can be fashioned from sheet steel or old saw blades (YouTube link). Note that this does NOT apply to arrows to be shot from modern compound bows.

35# PVC bow by Backyardboywer

Home Depot tomato stake arrows by "tenbrook" on Primitive Archer.

4. Bows can be used to take game ranging from squirrels and birds up to moose. With the right kind of arrows, you can even take fish.

5. Bows can be used for defense, although they are far from ideal for this. Even short, Asian-style bows are long and cumbersome indoors. If you're outside, they do give you a standoff option if you don't or cannot have a gun.

6. Within limits, arrows are reusable. When shot into game, it's not unusual for wooden arrows to break or aluminum arrows to get bent. Modern carbon shafts will usually be fine afterwards, although they may need refletching and the edges on the broadhead should be resharpened.

7. With a lot of practice, an archery shooting a traditional bow can fire several arrows quickly.

8. Crossbows are almost as easy to shoot as a rifle out to about 50 yards, and can be carried ready to fire.

And of course, archery has some disadvantages:

1. Compound bows that are relatively easy to shoot well are not easy to maintain, once they need repair or periodic maintenance. You need a bow press to work on a compound bow, and you'll need suitable strings and cables to keep it going.

2. Compound bows require modern arrows made from aluminum or carbon fiber.

3. The rate of fire for a modern compound bow is low. Between nocking the arrow and clipping the release to the bow's string or D-loop, rapid fire isn't very feasible. Older compounds that can be shot by drawing with your fingers can be shot faster, of course. Crossbows are even slower.

4. Traditional bows, whether purchased or made at home, require a lot of practice to use effectively. One of the main reasons that early firearms superseded bows on the battlefield is because it takes a lot less training to use a gun effectively.

5. Even expert archers have a shorter effective range than a moderately trained person armed with a rifle or shotgun and slugs. Most traditional archers limit themselves to 20 - 30 yards when hunting deer-sized game. You can stretch this a bit if shooting in defense. An arrow through a non-vital area like a shoulder or leg is likely to at least slow down an assailant even if he isn't put out of commission permanently.

So, having looked at the pros and cons of archery, if you're still looking to add a bow to your preps, what are some good choices?

IMO, the maintenance requirements of modern compounds outweigh their advantages for long term survival use, so strike them from your list, unless you're already an archer and learn to maintain them and stock the required tools and materials.

If you don't have the time to dedicate to learning how to shoot a traditional longbow or recurve, then a recurve crossbow makes sense. There are some inexpensive Chinese made crossbows on Amazon that get good reviews, although I don't have any first hand experience with them. E.g., the SA Sports Fever and the Arrow Precision Fury. Back in April, I bought a Barnett 78615 Recruit recurve crossbow for deer hunting and have been pleased with it. (Still haven't shot any deer with it, though.) On the high end, look at Excalibur crossbows.

My Barnett Recruit recurve crossbow.

Another option is to haunt Craiglist for deals on used crossbows. This is especially true after deer hunting season closes, since a lot of guys like to dump archery gear (not to mention deer rifles) in January. A good choice would be an old, wood-stocked Barnett Wildcat, as long as it's been reasonably well maintained. Dave Canterbury did a good video on that here, showing off one that he sangged at a gun show for a paltry $25.  If you go this route you may need to replace the string, and picking up a couple spares wouldn't be a bad idea, either.

If you're willing to put in the time for practice a used longbow or recurve is a good choice, since they are so simple. A takedown bow can be handy if storage space is limited, and helps when traveling or if it's going into your bugout kit.

My Samick Sage takedown recurve bow.

I recently posted on Blog O'Stuff about the Samick Sage takedown recurve. It is a good choice for a survival bow. The going rate on them is about $139, and for the money it's an excellent buy. Since it's a takedown and Samick sells limbs separately, you can buy limb sets in different weights. E.g., 35# for extended practice sessions and 50# for hunting. As a takedown it can be stored in a compact case complete with arrows, glove or tab, and bow stringer.

In summary, archery gear may have a place in your preps. But when deciding whether or not to include it make sure that you take into account all the legal, technical, and tactical reasons for adding it.