13 August 2012

A newly-discovered shortcoming in my gear-planning equation

I'm an open advocate of the three-line method of layering tactical gear and equipment. Slightly less known, but I would assume inferred, is the reality that I don't walk out the front door, even to run out to the truck for something, without tucking my Glock 19, Benchmade folder, and Streamlight light in my pockets. I certainly don't get in the truck to drive anywhere without all of my EDC gear, plus my fighting load and M4 in the truck (seriously, we're at the point where I never leave home without halfway expecting to have to fight my way back), with the occasional exception of a particular tasking at work that precludes it, and even then, I've got my EDC load and a go-bag.

I've recently been using my go-bag as a combination go-bag and "Ah shit, we're going to have to walk our asses out of here" bag. For the most part, when I travel without HH6 and the Morale Officer, this is not a major issue. I keep some basic survival gear in there, and know how to leverage it for comfort and sustenance. Unfortunately, I've gotten into the habit of focusing on the comfort side of the equation when packing it. To begin the trip we are currently on, I dumped most of the sustainment gear out, leaving only a few basic survival necessities in it, in order to pack extra clothes for the trip. HH6, meanwhile, has a go-bag set up as the "walk-out" bag, that she never modifies (and honestly, I'm not sure even knows what's in it, more than an hour after we inspect it or do some specific training with it). This led to a major headache Saturday night, but also opened up some very useful training opportunities for my family (and yes, even myself), as well as some necessary modifications to logistics, that offer the ancillary benefit of allowing us to save money.

I've never been a fan of the concept of "vehicle-specific" bags. I carry my go-bag, know exactly what is in it (more or less), and it's seldom more than a short sprint away from me. Recent regular-life jobs have involved occupations that meant I'm in other people's vehicles as often as I'm in my own. A vehicle-specific bag just never seemed to fit. Until Saturday.
While driving through one of the western mountain states, we stopped around 0300 for the night, to find a hotel room, in a mid-sized city (for the western mountains) with a small state university. We weren't aware that it was "Rush Week" for this college, since it's not the state we've currently been living in. Whoops. There was not a single room available in the entire city. None. Zilch. Nada. Shit. The next place to find a hotel was another two hours of driving away, and I was getting to that point where I was tired enough that I didn't want to drive anymore, with my family in the truck, for safety's sake.

Fortunately, this city was also largely surrounded by National Forest. Being the hard-core former SOF soldier and survivalist that I am, with a wife who is fully on-board our preparations, I decided we'd just stop in the forest somewhere, on a USFS road, toss the sleeping bags we keep in the truck down, and sleep. The Morale Officer could sleep in her car seat, since she was already there, doing that. Then reality (the evil bitch) boot-stomped me in the face.

HH6 you see, grew up camping in the mountains with her avid outdoorsman dad and brother. Unfortunately, while she'd told me numerous times in the past, I'd failed to listen and hear; she'd never camped out without being in a tent. Ever (if you're anything at all like me, your response was something along the lines of, "the fuck you say!"). Folks, outside of FOBs, I've never slept IN a tent...ever. I've used poncho hooches and shit, and lived in GP larges and GP mediums in the military, but a backpacking tent? That shit is GAY (and I'm not referring to the "cool," socially-acceptable, "I take it in the ass" sense of the word. I mean, it's fucking GAY!).

As we drove through the backroads of the nearby mountains in the dark, looking for a cut-off (I only had highway maps of the local area), to "cache" ourselves in for a few hours, HH6 informed me that she and the Morale Officer (hereafter referred to as TMO) were not sleeping outdoors for the fucking bears to eat. They'd sleep in the truck (apparently, she overlooked the fact that I had to bear sprays: one 9mm, the other 5.56, not that I particularly care to get in a gunfight with a bear with either caliber)

My response? "What the fuck are you gonna do when we HAVE to sleep outside, on the run?"

Her response? "I'm sleeping in the truck, or you're buying a tent."

So, I lay in my sleeping bag, under the firs and pines, watching the meteors streak through the sky, thinking about this issue.

As this blog has taken off, following my offer to travel to people and conduct training, at very reasonable cost (after all, our expenses are minimal, since I only charge for fuel, lodging at the local area, and food), we've been on the road a lot; like every weekend or two, a lot. I can use this to my distinct advantage by leveraging our road trips into "bug-out training."

So, as I informed HH6 this morning, after the current trip, from now on, anytime we're on the road traveling, regardless of where we're going, we camp out. No more hotel rooms, except the final night before we show up at a location, so we can be showered and presentable. The rest of the time, we use it as a training opportunity. She was worried about hygiene issues. No sweat. I can teach her canteen cup and Camelback shower hygiene. Food? No prob. We'll fix it on the MSR stove, or we'll get it on the go. Takin' a shit? Let me introduce you to my old friend, Mr. Cat Hole.

I woke up this morning, more refreshed than I've been in a long time, since the only time I ever sleep outside is on training weekends, and those are far too stressful for me as the instructor to really relax and enjoy the quiet time with God. HH6, on the other hand, woke up sore, stiff, and not very refreshed, since she was crammed in the back of an SUV.

Activating this planned CoA however, will require some changes to my load-out structuring (thus the other reason I'm sharing it on this blog...you guys don't read this blog to find out what I ate for lunch, and what movie I saw last week, right?).

Instead of our go-bags, which are really pretty much EDC items (since HH6's doubles as a diaper bag expansion--I carry TMO), we need dedicated truck bags. I will set them up as "backpacking packs," with tactical specific needs met, and leave them in the back of the truck. I'm talking full-on, "we're living out of these bags for the next month" type backpacking bags. After all, ultimately, they are designed for us to live out of if we have to walk cross-country, to get home, or somewhere else, when shit gets hot.

Our go-bags will have extremely limited, basic survival gear in them; two fire-starting methods, two methods to produce shelter, two methods to purify and collect water, and two methods of collecting/harvesting and preparing food, plus some long-term, easily prepared foodstuffs, and a medical trauma kit (basically, a souped-up blow-out kit). The rest of the space in the go-bags is for whatever we personally want/need to carry on any given day, from lunch to a spare rain jacket, to snacks for TMO, or whatever books I'm reading at the time; enough survival gear to get home, in a pinch, and the shit we need to have to accomplish a day's tasks.

In addition to the opportunities this gives me to better train HH6 (including the comfort of sleeping outdoors without a tent, which she has now agreed to learn), it will introduce TMO to the woods and wilderness at a very early age. One thing that occurred to me last night, is the fact that, far more than any town, state, or even building, the woods have always been my safe haven home. When I was growing up, in a very, uhm, physically... uncomfortable...home life, the woods were my escape. To this day, sleeping under the stars puts me at ease like nothing else in the world (with the POSSIBLE--not absolute--exception of good sex).

Further, it provides me leverage to get HH6 to incorporate ruck marches in her personal PT program, instead of just jogging (God, I HATE that term! If you're doing PT, you should be running, not "jogging." It's not a difference of speed, but of intensity and mindset) or walking.

So, while I hate posting too much daily personal bullshit on this blog, as it detracts from the underlying training focus, in this case, it relates. I found, and offered, a way to incorporate further, real-world applicable training into our lives, and determined what modifications were going to have to be made to my family's gear, to effect that training.

Go forth and do likewise, young Padwans!

I do however, have an information request for any readers with kids, who have taken them into the woods, as toddlers...

TMO is at the very beginning of the toddler stage. She doesn't really walk yet, more than a couple of steps, when she really, really, really feels like it, but she's mobile enough now that I can't just put her in her own sleeping bag between us and expect her to stay there, without trying to crawl out of it, and away. If she's lying with either of us within arm's reach, she just won't go to sleep, period. She'd rather 'talk.'

So, does anyone have an experientially-proven solution? I thought about a jungle hammock, where I can zip the mosquito netting closed to hold her in, and I thought about just packing along a "pack-n-play" playpen-type thing that I can fabricate a method of covering with mosquito netting, but surely someone has a better answer.

Nous Defions!
John Mosby
In the Mountains, traveling


  1. Nice post.

    Regarding the kid...You don't want 'em wandering off or makin' a buncha racket in the middle of the night whilst zombies are about.

    As the father of three, I heartily recommend and endorse Children's Tylenol.

    Shuts 'em up and calms 'em down most satisfyingly so they won't give your position away, and it's good for when they're teething and junk too.

    I hope I have been helpful.

  2. Yeah... you know what works, other than drugging them with Children's Tylenol? Get her into one o them gay tents. You can safety pin the zipper shut and then you know where she is all night long.

  3. Of course we read for your movie picks, because somehow it will make us all better prepared. I have to confess, I've never camped outside of a tent either. The closest I ever got was an old Army style tent at a Boy Scout camp. I woke up with ants all over me. I understand the necessity of this, but my only question is how you plan to keep the venomous spiders and snakes out of your sack since they both gravitate towards heat and confined spaces?

  4. You could invest in a 1 person tent, the low profile kind, for HH6 and TMO. Something like this:


    I can't speak about them though as I've never invested in one, but I may in the near future.

    If anything, it could provide some comfort in a long term SHTF scenario which would help with morale.

  5. Mine are 5 and 8 now but when they were smaller and we were in sleeping bags (or other times when they "need" to be asleep) we would put the littlest kid in our two person bag with the wife and then zap the kids with 1/4 of a 3mg melatonin tablet. Totally zonks them out and what kid under 5 is going to want to get out of the nice warm sleeping bag where mommy is?

    I prefer melatonin over other stuff as it is 100% natural.

    Possibility of needing to shoot a bear with 5.56? Get some ammo loaded with Barnes bullets. I'd say wolves are beginning to be the real worry though. I ran into a pair of those "reintroduced" Canadian wolves last elk season... Whoa those things are big, smart and mean...

  6. I suppose the good part of gunfights with bears is that they do not have guns. However the bad side is that they are frickin bears.

    1. I have an office document made up entirely of my favourite quotes.
      Jefferson, Rand, etc.
      After I stopped laughing I pasted this one in there pronto...

      Anyway. Where I'm from we've only got to worry 'bout dingos gettin' our babies...

  7. I used a child leash to hook both of them to my pack when hiking and sleeping when they turned 2.

  8. As an eagle scout I've slept many a night under a tent. A few hundred if I could guess right. But now when I go on 15 mile training trips I prefer to sleep in a bivy sack/sleeping bag combo with a hooch over my head. I'm not carrying a freaking heavy tent although I have a nice tent. When the temp is above 60 I use a small hammock that I can set up in three minutes. Still trying to get my wife in a tent and gonna start taking the 6 year old camping if e can stop talking for 3 seconds. My 3 year old would be bossing me around if she went so she will stay at home for now.

  9. I'd give the hammock a shot. Gives the sleeper a lot more location options when the ground isn't flat or is sopping wet for example. In cold country, they are cold to sleep in. The good thing - they are compact and multi-use items (look 'em up). Way less time or space then a tent.

    I don't get a full night of sound sleep from them. I sleep really well for about 4 hours, then the rest is sort of drifting in and out.

  10. I think flex cuffs, a couple meters of 550 dummy-cord, and duct tape should take care of things. Just kidding. Sort of.. ;)

    Yapping kids will definately give away your position in an SHTF, but for regular camping, their noise should help to keep the animals away.

    I once hiked up Mt. Washington with a female friend of mine. I made her pack a sleeping bag 'just in case'. We headed down a little late and it was dark while we were exfilling on the trail. We heard walking/smashing noises, figured they were bears, so decided to head back up the trail 100 meters or so where we set up a cheapo two-person tent and hauled the food-bag into a tree. Bears kept coming around all night. They were so close I could hear their breathing as they circled the tent. I didn't dare wake up my friend because I knew she'd freak and I was afraid that would trigger a feeding frenzy. I figured, if they attacked, at least she wouldn't know what hit her, so I didn't wake her. She eventually woke up and had to pee, so I told her to just go in her sleeping bag. She eventually fell back asleep, but I layed awake, imagining how we'd get chewed up and no one would know. I've jumped out of planes and helicopters, and climbed/rappelled mountains at night, and I've never felt to helpless and scared in my life. To us, that cheapo 2 person tent was a huge psychological barrier between us and the bears. To the bears, that tent might as well have been the Great Wall of China.

    1. On the other hand, once recently, my son and I were camping near Camp Merrill in north Georgia. I've had a tent for years and either slept in it, or the truck. My son wanted to sleep in his new tent on this occasion. I woke up about an hour after going to bed. Yo know how sometimes you wake up and it takes a second to figure out where you are? Well, this was exaclty opposite of that. I woke up wide awake, knowing I heard somebody walking around the tent. My AR was next to me, loaded and chambered. I laid there a second thinking of what to do. Being inside that tent wasn't a phsychological barrier for protection, but a trap. The person outside knew where I was, and I only had basic info about their location- to my left. I must have made a noise because they were quickly gone. I faced getting up and out of the tent, into God knows what. Were there more than one? What was/were his/their intentions? Was it just a squad of Rangers passing through on orienteering training? Did they know the tent was there before they go there? Too much unknown stuff, so I decided then and there that I'd do one of two things. First was to consider seting up a false camp with a tent. Second was to locate my sleeping spot away from the camp with a view of the area. Finally, it was to stay out of a tent.

  11. Check out the Kidco Peapod. It's basically a screened bivy for toddlers. Some models even have a little air mattress attached. Zip them in, and they're set. Friends of mine have one for their toddler and they've used it for camping, but she likes it so much that she uses it for nap time at home.

  12. Actually the playpen is the best answer until she is running around, then a leash is best. You can get netting covers for playpens. She will stay clean as will her toys that she will always have in her mouth.
    When she starts really walking she will just walk off and you can lose her in just a few seconds. Seriously. She will just walk a straight line at some object in the distance and will not know how to get back. She'll get behind some trees and then she's gone and any nearby animal can get here easily. If you are seriously taking her into the woods she needs to be kept within a few feet of you constantly.
    I took my eye off my son once for just a few seconds and he wandered out into the middle of a busy street. 15 seconds he just walked a straight line off my property into the street. I just about shit myself and the look I got from a woman who stopped her car and came running to get him....MEN!!!
    You can just imagine....
    Go with the playpen, net cover, washable, secure. Easy.

  13. JM,
    Dad of 2 here. You're entering the worst age in terms of managing TMOs movement/sleeping on the road or in the woods. At this first stage, the Pack N Play with netting is your least worst option. You can't control TMO at all, and confinement is unfortunately necessary. When TMO gets a little bigger the Peapod rocks, but mine didn't tend to wander or talk at bedtime. If yours does, you're basically screwed until she's grown out of it. One of mine was the ideal kid for camping, one was as far from ideal as you can get until he was a little older. I thought I had it all figured out until #2 came along and then I realized how wrong I was. You just have to ride it out - logic and reason have no place with a toddler.

  14. One of my difficulties...it seems we have one in common.
    I'm not new to the preparing part. However, I'm relatively new to the "more than just guns and a pile of ammo" part. I'd got my feet wet before meeting the mother of my child...and when she took off when he was 5 weeks old having drained my wallet and bank account almost dry, I was basically starting over again.

    So, I've got your difficulty times two...or, divided by two, as it's just me and him and he's 3. Fortunately I have full custody...but that wasn't cheap either. Working on "beans and bandaids"...am decent on blasters and bullets.

    Is work in progress.

  15. i tried to get hh6 to understand that sleeping out under the stars was awesome, stars and falling stars and such. but growing up. she wanted the tent security. i love sleeping under the stars.good luck . you will get her to enjoy it. and the tmo.i know she will love it , her dad does..

  16. hummmmmmmmmmmmmm..... in my humble oppinion, with a youngin' that small it seems to me that a two man pop-up tent thats light and easy to pack/carry/set-up would be something to seriously consider..... TMO can sleep in own sleeping bag and have HH6 sleeping in hers next to the zipped up door. it prevents escapes by TMO and prevents crawley things (rattle snakes, scorpins, etc) from coming in and snuggling up to a nice warm body in the night..... ever seen someone try to remove a coiled up rattler on someones chest while they were in a sleeping bags???? i think HH6's mom must have had something to do with the sleeping in tents thing when she was growing up???? and you can have the whole open sky thing to yourself..... and everyones happy and rested in the morning... both of ya though need to sleep with your pistols though....for bigger invasive critters.... JMO

  17. "seriously, we're at the point where I never leave home without halfway expecting to have to fight my way back"

    I am with ya there. I have increased gear with the increased threat level.

  18. Two words

    ENO Hammock

    Get the skeeter net to go over it.
    Get the bigger two person one for the HH6 and TMO to share

    My son and I have them and I dont intend to ever sleep in a tent again.


  19. Depending on weather/temp: hammock, USGI Therm-a-Rest pad, USGI Gore-Tex Ft.Lewis camo bivy (were $40 at CTD, now $90, still a deal), 10x10' tarp with 550 cord combo shelter/ground-cover for dirt/water/wind control, GI bug net, 4x8' 3M lightweight metallized tarp (burns easy!). Each item is part of the system and does several jobs. An extra 100' of OD 550 cord can be most useful. Add fleece liner inside bivy for high-40's temps, add 2# summer bag for 3-season/low-altitude comfortable warm sleeping, add heavier/more expensive bag and more fuel for winter/above tree line that I avoid. All of this stuff is magically lightweight compared to wet wool/canvas/steel/wood technology of the of WWII surplus era. That leaves more weight capacity for water/weapons or moving fast/far. My tuning is for damp/33 degree PNW including Cascade/Olympic sub-Alpine forests, your milage will vary in hot-dry/hot-wet/very-cold & other places.

    Have pretty-light, stripped-down 2-man half-dome tent in yellow/orange nylon sold by REI in the late 1970's, but never seem to use it. Keep for car-camping decoy sleeping area. Weight down, leave LED light burning inside, and observe from comfortable concealed position. Honey pot.


    1. I know this is an old topic but I just ran across a good deal on the full up MSS for $49 plus shipping. I bought 4 of them. The bivy looked brand spanky new, the fart sacks were in great shape, clean etc but obviously not new. No tears or anything just 'used', the compression sack looked new/

      The store is here http://www.armygear.net under "Outdoor/Field Gear -> Sleeping and Camping then select "Sleeping Bags, Pads...."

      The front page has a similar deal with the compression pad for $79.. That's a lot just to add a pad that you don't want anyway.

      Here's the direct link http://www.armygear.net/ag/store/00148.html if you decide to get one, go to the "Special Deals" page and you can "buy" a 10% discount for a penny.

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