Thursday, February 15, 2018

That's not a knife....that's a knife.

That's not a knife....that's a knife.

A lot of us that claim membership to the gun and prepper communities consider a knife to be an essential part of our EDC gear.  Whether intended for defensive use, camp chores, or more mundane uses around a white collar office, a knife is almost never far from my hand.  What I carry, and where, and why, are subject to a broader conversation.

Bottom to top, my Gerber Paraframe clip point is certainly diminuitive.  With a blade length under 2", most serious knife users would consider it cute.  Unfortunately, my workplace absolutely prohibits the carry of any knife with a blade over 2" (punishable by prison time) so this is the letter of the law for me.  On an average day, this knife plays letter opener, box cutter, and serves to poke holes in the wrapper of a Lean Cuisine or Smart Ones.  In an emergency, I keep it plenty sharp enough that slashing a seat belt or popping an air bag would be little chore....or if I forgot to shave in the morning.

Next up is my Kershaw/Emerson CQC-8K.  A joint effort between the two companies, with the Wave feature allowing quick single handed deployment of the knife, and with the tip strength typical of tanto blades, I'd consider this to be a fairly sturdy knife....for a folder.  Carrying a large fixed blade knife in my typical environment in the suburbs attracts far too much attention, while a folder attracts exactly none.  This is my every day knockaround knife when I'm away from the office, perfectly content to slice just about anything within reason.  If I had to do it over again, and with a generous brain dump from our resident knife guru Matt Kritzberg, I'd have chosen a clip point over the tanto and gained some slicing ability without giving up much if anything in the stabbing category.  Regardless, it does a good job for a reasonable price.

Overshadowing the other two is my recent addition from Matt Kritzberg, a custom built modern Bowie knife hewn out of 01 Tool steel with G10 scales and a full tang, according to it's maker anything short of chopping down trees should be doable with this blade.  It features a 1/4" thick spine, 6" long clip point blade, and an absence of contouring or beveling on the clip point to encourage additional strength. It's the knife I strap onto my belt when concealability and blending in aren't priorities, and I need a large sturdy knife by my side. This is my camp knife, my woods knife, my zombie apocalypse knife.

Each of these knives serves multiple utility purposes in my daily life, but (at least the latter two) also has a deeper purpose.  These are my last line of defense, another tool in the tool box of self defense.  At arm reach, a knife is every inch as dangerous an implement as a handgun, and often more so.  When in constricted spaces, when your opponent is already on top of you, when things have gone seriously bad, a knife could save your life.  What's important from my perspective, is to match your gear to it's use and your environment.  Carrying a Bowie in the office isn't going to fly very far, neither would it make sense to carry my Paraframe out into the woods.  Take a look at what you carry, why you carry it, and where you are carrying it and ask if you have selected the correct tool for the job. - Phil Rabalais

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Look Down, Not Up! - Heat Loss In Regards to Shelter by Joe Adkins

Look Down, Not Up!
Heat Loss In Regards To Shelter
by Joe Adkins

     When talking about shelter in a survival situation, the rule of threes states that three hours in extreme temperatures can result in death from exposure; exposure being hypothermia (low body temperature) or hyperthermia (high body temperature). Depending upon the environment and other circumstances (adding in wind or dehydration), that three hours can be significantly reduced and so too can the idea that an extreme environment is necessary to succumb to exposure. By taking some of the following information in mind, you can not only improve your chances as a survivor but you can also make your typical “primitive” (in this instance meaning tent, tarp, hammock, etc.) camping trip more comfortable.

     Certainly, in regards to heat loss clothing must be addressed; however, that will be covered in a future article.  After clothing, we should look at our shelters.  Before we do, first we must understand how heat is lost or transferred.  With this knowledge, we can utilize clothing and sheltering systems to full advantage.      It is worth pointing out that heat transference is not a process that can be stopped, only slowed.  Heat is transferred from the body in five ways.  They are:  conduction, convection, radiation, evaporation and respiration.

     Conduction is the transfer of heat from neighboring molecules, i.e. direct contact.  This happens when, for example, a person lies directly on the ground.  The human body is, at average, 98.6?F.  When the body is directly touching a surface that is either higher or lower in temperature heat is transferred through conduction.  In a desert, the much hotter sand can burn or heat the body; likewise, in the eastern woodlands on a cool October night, the ground can suck the heat from you.

     Convection is the transfer of heat through air currents and/or liquids.  When a person falls overboard into frigid waters, the heat is sapped from their body.  In a high heat environment, wind is great to whisk the heat from you.  Hammock campers know all to well that the wind can be a significant factor in their ability to stay warm or cool.

     Radiation is infrared and ultra violet radiation trying to move from a warmer area to a cooler area.  For our purposes, there are two types of radiation; long wave radiation, our bodies infrared radiation and short-wave radiation, the sun’s UV rays.  Ever snuggle up to someone on a cold winter night to get a little warmer?  That warmth is the body radiating infrared heat.  It is important to know that the sun can heat in three ways:  directly, indirectly by reflecting through particulate matter (think glass or plastic) or indirectly by reflection from the ground (water, snow, ice or sand).

     Evaporation is heat loss by converting a liquid to a gas.  When we sweat, we are trying to produce a cooling effect by evaporating that sweat away from our bodies.  This is important to know.  In some environments controlling this concept is important.  We want to control our perspiration in cold weather to keep us from getting wet and ruining or degrading the insulation value of our clothing.  In a very hot and dry environment, we want to slow this process to maintain moisture and to allow our perspiration to cool us over time.  That is why most desert dwelling peoples wear light, lose clothing covering the majority of their skin.

     Respiration causes us to lose heat.  We humidify the air that we breathe in and out.  This results in heat loss and moisture loss.  In extremely cold and hot environments it is important to breathe through the nose and to keep your mouth closed as much as possible.  Respiration accounts for more than a pint of water loss per day.

     Now that we know how our body transfers and loses or gains heat we can begin to examine our shelters.  Most people look to the sky when they consider sheltering options.  That is understandable and important because, as we discussed earlier, moisture can aid in heat loss.  However, most people don’t look down and there in lies the danger.  When sleeping in the wild the first enemy is the ground.  The ground will conduct heat either to or away from you.  Get off the ground, you need a barrier.  In a cold environment, this means insulation from the ground (could be necessary in a hot environment too if you can’t dig and don’t have a means of overhead cover).  Depending upon how cold of an environment you are in will dictate how much insulation is required.  In our classes, which are in the Eastern US woodlands, we teach a minimum of four inches of compressed material; however, if you can do more you will be warmer.  In a desert environment, finding shade or an overhead cover from the sun is important.  Once that is established if you can dig in the ground try to get at least 8 inches from the surface where the ground is cooler.  If you are camping with a tent or tarpaulin, foam pads and an inflatable mattress are wonderful, you can even pile up debris under these to get warmer.  Think outside the box.  If you carry trash bags in your kit (you should, you know) fill these with debris to make a quite comfortable improvised mattress.  Obviously, if you are camping, your sleeping system should be adequate for the environment that you are in.  In an emergency, remember dead air space is your insulation, pack debris in your clothing or around you to stay warm.

     Convection is the bane of those that like to hang in the winter.  Hammock campers, if you are doing cold weather camping, invest in good quality under-quilts.  Again, the sleep system that you bring should be sufficient for the environment.  We recommend synthetic fill but if you can keep your down filled sleeping bags dry they are very warm.  When camping or selecting a site for your shelter, remember to look for loose limbs or trees that may come down on you in the night.  Try to get on the leeward side of the hill or mountain and if its cold avoid the ridgelines where wind is worse.  In the summer, deeper in the valleys stay cooler as heat rises.

     Radiation from the body is slowed by the dead air space of our clothing and to an extent, our shelters if they are small.  In cool environments, a reflector wall of stone or wood can act as a heat reflector but mostly absorbs radiant heat from a fire and releases it slowly.  The wall will also deflect wind.  In warm environments, seek the shade where possible to avoid direct and the indirect radiation of the sun.  Insulation can help cooling as well.  A light loose layer that protects the skin and allows air flow will slow evaporation and allow your sweat to do a better job.  Don’t forget sunblock if on the water, in the snow and obviously when in the sun!

     Evaporative cooling is avoided in winter time by controlling perspiration and with moisture wicking materials in clothing.  In warm environments, as mentioned above a loose layer can facilitate your evaporative cooling system.  Additionally, cotton can be an aid to cooling in warmer environments for exactly the same reason as it is a poor choice in cold environments.

     Loosing heat and moisture from respiration is controlled by trying to keep your mouth closed in both environments.  Controlling your work/rest cycles can keep you from breathing harder and avoid more moisture loss; however, in cold in environments exercise can keep you warmer than the heat lost from respiration.

     Now that you understand how our bodies lose heat, you can make better decisions in regards to your shelter set-up and make your camping trips more comfortable.  Remember that you want to be off the ground.  Make shelters small in cold environments.  Avoid the wind to stay warm and take advantage of it to cool.  Cotton can be advantageous in a hot weather environment and aid in evaporative cooling.  One final trick to staying warm or cool is obvious but is sometimes overlooked.  Our bodies have to warm cool fluids.  In the cold, drink warm liquids to help warm the body and in hot environments drink cooler liquids to facilitate heat transfer.  Have fun in the woods and prepare for even a short hike or trip in the wild lands.  Prepare, Survive, Thrive!

The Mountaineer Institute for Self-Reliance is a school located in West Virginia.  Its mission is to provide quality self-reliance education for individuals, businesses and organizations.  They are known for their thorough and intensive curricula.

Joe Adkins is the founder of The Mountaineer Institute for Self-Reliance.  He is a life-long outdoors man.  Joe has over 13 years military experience as an ARMY combat medic & nurse.  Additionally, he is a certified Level 1 Sigma III instructor, a WV Master Naturalist candidate and a certified Basic Man-Tracker by a local law enforcement agency.  He lives in Wayne, Co., WV with his family and his two dogs.

Thursday, February 8, 2018

Minuteman: When it's time to shrug off anonymity and get ready to fight.

Last week, we talked about the philosophy of being a Grey Man; how to be a wolf in sheep's clothing.  Now, we're looking at a very opposite philosophy: the Minuteman.  This idea goes back to the 18th century and the Revolutionary War.  The Minutemen (the original ones) were the men who road from town to town to warn the citizenry of the impending threat of violence presented by the British Army to the colonials.  They were also the first citizens to rally against them, long before George Washington assembled his army and sailed over the Potomac in that famous engagement.  The Minutemen are also cited as being the original National Guard, the original citizen soldier.

In this context, the Minuteman is a philosophy that eschews anonymity and blending in for a show of force and maximum aggression.  This would be a posture that would be reserved for the most severe of situations, such as the breakdown of law and order following a large scale natural disaster, a riot, or a Red Dawn scenario (slightly tongue in cheek, but you get the point.)  When all bets are off and the rule of law has broken down, you're in the Minuteman's territory.

Part and parcel to this philosophy is that you are intentionally abandoning blending in and displaying your intention to use force.  Body armor and open carrying would be the two most obvious signs of this, carrying a rifle in addition to your handgun would be another.  You aren't concealing anything, it's all out in the open, your ability and intention to use force are on display.  YOU BEING IN PLAIN SIGHT is a display of force.  You aren't blending in, and you aren't hiding.  You are making it clear by your appearance and your posture that you intend to make it rain if trouble comes your way.

This has two functions: hopefully your display of force convinces the wolves to find easier prey, but you're also readying yourself for a fight if that comes.  You're handgun is now a secondary weapon.  Your rifle gives you dramatically greater range and firepower.  Your plate carrier enhances your survivability and ability to carry more ammo.  You should (in my opinion) also plan for restraints and an IFAK on your plate carrier, things difficult to carry while blending in but useful in a more serious engagement.

Your posture and demeaner should also be substantially altered.  If you are presented with a potential hostile, that rifle should be in your hands at a low ready.  Your eyes keep moving, mostly glancing between their eyes and their hands. Your posture should indicate your intention (if you have ever had formal training in shooting, or martial arts, I don't have to tell you what that means.) Everything about your physical appearance is broadcasting loud and clear "I am going to hurt you if you force me to."

Now, if all of the above sounds mighty excessive, I'd agree with you 98% of the time.  When would I espouse any and all of the above?  One word: Katrina.  What I witnessed during Hurricane Katrina (listen to that episode), had I not ALREADY been in uniform and well armed as a member of the Louisiana National Guard, would have sent me straight for my armor and rifle.  City streets turned into the Wild West, LEO response time was measured in hours or DAYS, if you got into trouble you were probably on your own.  In such a situation where the rule of law has broken down and violence is open and rampant, it's time to throw off the sheep costume and make obvious your intention to fight if a fight comes to you.

It's time to be a Minuteman. - Phil Rabalais

Thursday, February 1, 2018

Grey Man: how to be the wolf in sheep's clothing?

Much is often made in the Prepper and Gun Guy communities of falling into two camps: to be either The Grey Man, or to be a Minuteman.  Both methodologies have legitimate uses, and in my mind are complimentary.  Each of us should strive to be The Grey Man when the time is appropriate, and transition to the Minuteman when the time has come.

The Grey Man is the person you never see, or the one you see and never remember.  He's not dressed in any particular attention grabbing way, is cordial but not overly friendly, the ones that blends into a crowd.  He's not the one constantly reaching for his belt to make sure his concealed handgun has magically escaped from his holster.  He isn't the standoffish one that's "mean mugging" everyone that makes eye contact with him.  He isn't the one that puffs his chest out and walks around like he's out looking for a fight.  The Grey Man may be able to swing like Mike Tyson, or shoot like Jerry Miculek, but he blends in like an average Joe.  That's the point.

Being the Grey Man allows you to slip between the throngs of humanity you encounter on a daily basis and not attract attention to yourself.  Note that the basic rules of situational awareness apply, your head should be up and eyes moving, but try to appear casual about it.  Check hands and eyes, but keep your eyes moving and glance at street signs or billboards so that it just looks like you're looking for something or taking in the scenery.  Yes, a pro will still spot you (the fact you aren't staring numbly into a cell phone will ring most alarm bells) but the uninitiated will walk right by you.

Your clothing, with some allowance for personal taste and style, should be likewise chosen to blend in.  Leave the TAPOUT shirts and GLOCK hats at home.  What you want is a tee shirt/button down/hoody/etc. that is either devoid of prominent branding OR at the least has no branding that has anything to do with firearms.  If you're going to an event in which EVERYONE ELSE is wearing a certain type of dress, that would be a great choice.  Despite that, take care that your dress is appropriate to conceal your EDC, and wear good close toed shoes in case running becomes necessary.

Your EDC may have to be compromised to keep this ruse going.  When I'm at my workplace, I'm legally barred from bringing a firearm onto the premises.  I also can't bring a knife with a blade longer than 2" into the building.  I have a Gerber Paraframe clip point that just barely meets that length limit, and that's what I keep on my person.  I also have my IFAK in my vehicle, and keep my Streamlight Protac 1L on my person.  You may have to leave the Glock 19 at home and trade out for a 43 or other sub compact depending on how deep you need to conceal.  Strapping a Bowie knife onto your side wearing dress clothes isn't the right direction if you're following what I'm saying.

At the end of the day, your goal is to be forgettable.  You want to blend in, you don't want to look threatening.  You are the wolf in sheep's clothing, fortunately you're on the sheep's side (or at least not looking to harm the sheep). Next week, we'll look at the Minuteman philosophy. - Phil Rabalais