Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Gear Review: LA Police Gear 3day pack

About two years ago I bought an inexpensive 3day sized pack from LA police gear for 29.99 plus shipping. I expected it to be a thin, cheapo bag for stuffing extra gear in. What I received was a very durable material backpack with good stitching and thick padded straps. I looked the unit over very well and decided to utilize it as a primary unit, retiring the light weight pack I've grown out of.

I decided to do some research on the pack before I invested the energy to personalize it. I found widely varying reviews and opinions on the pack so I was adamant about deciding for myself. Upon the first evaluation, I was still undecided due to the cut and bulk of the pack. At first the zippers were very hard to operate and caught on the lining very easily. Once broken in, the bag sculpted to my back and the zippers became far more user friendly. The first addition I made the the pack was a 102oz water beast bladder system from Camelbak. It fit perfectly and even came in OD like the pack I chose. As I've added equipment and accessory pouches all over it to make an extended sustainment pack. This brought it's capabilities from 3 days to a month or so fairly quickly. The molle system made adding the pouches very easy. The pack itself full loaded weighs in at 36 pounds before water is added to the bladder.

The interior of the pack has a pvc coating making the pack water resistant. The external compression straps make it easy to attach a bed roll, rope or backpacking tent. I've also added a tomahawk to the exterior compression strap. Instead of buying a ready made system that you have to deal with how it's made, this system allows for easy customization. The drink tube can be routed left or right due to the pack having 2 gusseted outlet tabs with hook and loop closures. I haven't tried rucking the unit for extended days, but it works great and is fairly comfortable for a weekend pack trip. I usually use it for car camping trips and extended range trips where it would take 3 or more days to walk home.

Overall, the pack gets 2 thumbs up. One for being fairly inexpensive and one for being robust for it's price. I'm not saying this unit is equal to anything made by Blackhawk, Eagle, Maxpedition or other name brands. The packs strength is it's price. It doesn't have the best zippers or hook and loop. It doesn't have a name brand's warranty or backing. I've kept this pack loaded for almost 2 years now and I've car camped, hiked, rendezvous, and bugged out with this pack on numerous occasions. There isn't a single rip, tear, hole, zipper issue or even a worn strap. Solid performance at a budget price. The only reason I'm changing is so I can have a modular sleep system in my pack during winter and to have a better suspension system.

Let's take a look at mine:

I've added a Condor extra large bottom pouch that was made to be a stand alone satchel. A few Blackhawk pouches of different types, a Condor Tool carrier pouch and smaller flashlight/admin pouch on the front. Each pouch has it's purpose. Food, first aid, hygiene, Pens and paper, tools and such. The outside Molle webbing has held up tremendously well. Not a single stitch has come loose, nor has a zipper had to be reset. It's holding together my menagerie of pouches like a champ!

The modular nature of the pack allows me to customize the setup depending on what I'm planning. I can attach my shotgun scabbard to the side and now I have a pack hunting rig! Another couple additions I made are a SOG tactical tomahawk in a custom made kydex sheath and Blackhawk TaTang knife in a custom sheath.

The pack has been complete for about 6 months now, so I guess it's time to replace it with something designed to do what I'm forcing this pack to do and return this pack to a 3 day pack and pass it on to my son.
Here's what the pack holds right now, minus food. I keep a small food bag prepped and ready for a hasty exit. I can lash it to my pack in a second so the food isn't in there right now.

Gear list:
8x12 tarp, heavy duty tent stakes, Skeeter Beeter Hammock, Precut tarp lines, Sleeping bag, Rope, Cook pots and stove kit, rain gear, dopp kit, mess kit, Stainless mug, tea/coffee/juice kit, playing cards, Med kit, sam splint and shears,Katadyn hiker pro filter, Poncho and garbage bags, shemaugh, hat, gloves, wet wipes, zip ties and gorilla tape, head net, microfiber towel, paracord, notebook with info and codes, Night ize figure 9's, writing utensils, mirror, tools, inner tube ranger bands, P51, Blackhawk TaTang knife, SOG tomahawk, 12v solar charger, AA/AAA charger, CR123 charger, assorted batteries, chem lites, headlamp, backup battery charger for technology, bladder, map case and compass, GPS, water hose, yoyo fishing kit.

I used to add a pad and 2 man tent under the compression straps when it was cold out, but they are in the trailer and it's freezing cold outside. Not gonna go get them right now. I did notice a few things have come up missing over time. My spare socks are missing, as are the clothes pins I keep in there. Huh, must have needed them elsewhere.

I'll make sure to post a review of my recreational pack, and Osprey Aether 70, when I get a chance. The new Bugout pack, a Marine ILBE and assault pack, will also be coming up for review.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Snowmageddon 2014

It seems that global warming is really getting into high gear with a serious cold blast of arctic air into the midwest for quite a few days now. I think we've has a full week of subzero temps this season. Quite a bit of snow as well. I can't remember the last time we've had this much snow stick around for so long. Reminds me of the winters from the 80's. I figured it was all cyclical until I saw this picture on the news.
Seriously? Snow in Egypt?

I'm enjoying the snow, but the bitter cold temps are just nuts. We are in for below zero temps again this weekend with 2 days of fresh snow as well. Old man winter sure has it in for us. I'm on facebook and found it rather hilarious that people are still hung up on global warming. Yeah, that's the ticket! Or is it climate change now? They can call it whatever they want, I'll call it weather and just plan for it. Weather is cyclic in nature and the sun has far more to do with it than anything. I'm not saying we shouldn't be stewards of the planet, but let's be realistic. Killing the economy, shuttering businesses and dooming our children to debt is far worse than letting a little co2 hit the atmosphere. It's not like the composition of gases in the atmosphere has changed a bit in the last 200 years.

As prepared people, we must be ready to meet the needs of our family in case there is a problem. That problem might happen at any time, in any weather condition so be ready to meet the challenge when it's time.
When 12 inches of snow fell, I thought I was ready. Turns out I wasn't 100%. I keep my generator on the trailer that's next to my house. When I did a service change this year, I installed a generator crossover panel that will run needed power to the gas furnace, kitchen, lights, office, garage, and microwave. The generator plugs in to a 30 amp 240v twist lock receptacle and powers the panel at that amperage, the panel then distributes it. It even has meters to balance the load with. Well, it turns out that the fuel tank on the generator has some water in it. Frozen fuel line stopped it cold when I tried to get it started in -5 degrees when the wife called and told me the power went out. I was out plowing snow but was close so came home and.... failed to help. The power came back on a couple hours later and we resorted to firing up the gas fireplace in the mean time. Had it not, I would have been out there dealing with it when I came home from plowing. While I was out working, I saw no less than 5 transformers blow. It was quite a sight with all the snow and wind, it really lit up the sky with an eerie zombie green glow.

The next day I got out there and drained the water out of the fuel and got the battery charged back up. Everything went fine and the panel tested good so all is well. I did notice that the fuel looked and smelled a bit stale, so I added fresh and some heet fuel line antifreeze. I'm back to ready again.

Another issue I had is that I keep half my stored food in the trailer. Some of that food is in jars that can freeze. During the power outage, some cans and jars froze and popped the lids off, and the food will need to be used before spring hits. The heater I keep in there reset to off, and didn't heat the inside to 50 degrees like it's set to. Another chink in the armor. Need to upgrade my heater to a manual model that comes back on to the same setting as before the power goes out.

And the last issue we've had is issue with mice this year that we've never had before. When I refinished the front door, I tarped it and guarded the entrance the day it was off, but we had an invader in the house after that. I trapped him a day later and haven't had another issue til this winter. I've trapped 2 mice and there is another that seems to be eluding the traps. It's not around but 1 day a week or so. Very odd pattern.

Hopefully the rest of the winter goes well. I'm afraid the market will correct this month, it's long overdue.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Bugging Out. Why?

Both Ryan at TSLRF and then Alex at TEOTWAKI are having a discussion on bugging in and out. When is it best to stay, when is it best to leave? Your personal situation will dictate the need for those decisions.

Personally, I will choose when the time comes for us to leave and how long we shelter in place. We live in a suburban town that is well known for treating big city criminals with an iron fist. The judges rarely give leniency and almost always send real criminals away for hard time. Your upbringing and social situation is no excuse. About every 6 months they are involved in a police action shooting of some sort where the bad guy is assuming room temp long before the ambulance is rolling. I personally like this attitude that keeps the scum at bay. They know better than to come here and make trouble. The ones that don't know better go away for a long time.

These same officers are also the first line of defense in a situation where civil unrest or natural disaster would make our community a target. The community is rather conservative in nature for a town that directly borders the 11th largest city in the US. I personally know many of the administration and can call on them if a need arises and they can call on me to man a roadblock or make infrastructure repairs on demand. That relationship makes me want to stay as long as the golden hoard is kept at bay. I live a few miles from the border of the city in all directions and that would give me enough time to bail out if need be.  My house is on high ground, surrounded by a golf course. There is an easy egress route less than a half mile from my house that lets out into a rural area with no major roads or highways that can reach it. Is it perfect? No. I have 2 apartments nearby and the highway lets out 2 miles away. Many in my neighborhood are elderly or survival deficient next generation lugheads. There are maybe 10 families within the 43 houses here I can count on for a defensive stand. Most are the elderly, one, an old gunny, would be hot stuff with his Garand, but he'd be shooting from the window with his O2 tank next to him.

What events would mandate leaving our castle? There are several. Chemical spill, an explosion like the one last year that I wrote about and JWR published on his blog Indy explosion. The nuke plants in Illinois melting down if the fault line near us blows out. An outbreak of tornadoes that makes living here impossible due to abject conditions or social unrest after the fact (katrina like). A law change that would make me a criminal. A total breakdown of the financial system. Chemical spill on the highway could do it too. Some of these are short term, so not bailout worthy, just lock up and take a bag to a hotel or friends house.

No matter the reason, if you must leave, you have to have a plan to do it successfully. You must have a place to go or a place to bring along with you. You have to be capable of loading an unloading gear under duress and without sentiment making decisions for you. This is about survival, not about who gets grandma's china. If you leave needed equipment behind, consider it a loss. It's doubtful you will be able to salvage anything left behind. Don't let emotions distract you from your current objective. If you're crying because you had to leave your house, you're not in the right state of mind to make decisions and travel. Save it for later, when everyone is safe and the road is behind you. Practice your route and decide alternates. Towns you come to may band together and decide to keep outsiders away or "Pool" resources that they come across.

My major project for this year is to map several routes and alternates that will get me the 197.75 miles to the 2nd house in the hills and hollers. I plan to do so on my motorcycle to look as innocuous as possible. The regular route is mostly raised federal highways, then state highways til the last 30 miles of rural roads. The last 15 miles just got paved a few years ago. ALL the people that live in that enclave are like minded. They have set up a shooting range for everyone at the end of the road and the entire neighborhood is surrounded by a lake, rugged terrain and federal land that you'd need a boat to get there if we blocked off the road. It's nothing but farms from the time you leave the state road and the neighborhood was developed by retired cops. It's about as secure as you can find, with a renewable food source bordering the property.

The original plan is to stay it out at home where we can live in relative comfort.I have put resources and time into a plan to exfil should the situation warrant doing so. Part of being prepared is giving yourself options.

Friday, January 3, 2014

The Greatest Depression.

There are literally thousands of books out there that try to convey what a future depression would be like. Many aren't as sure about the outcome because they think the government will intercede. I'm of the mindset that the Feds will be of little use and Staties will be beneficial but ham stringed by the lack of resources. You have to look at what's in their best interest. Infrastructure and civil defense enclaves are the cogs the feds can't do without so they will guard those to the end. All in all, they will be ineffectual due to their ineptitude and self interest. Unlike the 1920's, this depression will require a pliant populace due to the general public's inability to care for themselves.

More people, more support. The Feds can't feed everyone. They can't even try. Maybe for a week at best. Our current society's disinterest in helping each other and abject self interest will come out and foil the best laid FEMA plans. Our society isn't ready for the loss of economic function and if the Feds further manipulate it to keep it running, they will continue to do irreparable damage.

The American condition is one of disinterest in self preservation. Most have no interest in saving for a rainy day, they have more interest in a new car and 6 years of payments. If the paycheck stops and there's no unemployment money to go around, the feds might print it, devaluing the dollars that do get distributed. The inflation cycles increases and people can't feed themselves with the funny money. The apartment or house goes back to the bank and it all ends for them.

The people have lost the ability to feed themselves. In the 20's they still had large gardens or small farms. Those are gone, traded the toil of fresh food for GMO filled poison found on a shelf, not fertile ground. When the shelf is empty, or the price is too high, then the fun starts. Things will be forever changed. Maybe the people who survive, those that were ready for the eventuality of inflation and unrest, will teach their children (once Again) to respect themselves and be grateful for what they have instead of the lust they have  for the shiny new things they see online.

Get ready, it might be you.

2013, A Year In Review + goals for 2014

I'm not a nostalgic person in any form, but I do recognize the value of history and learning from our mistakes and not so great choices. My biggest regret of 2013? Not selling my 20" REPR during the craziness of the gun control scare last winter. I could have bought a nice truck with the money I made.

Best Choice? That would have to be simplifying my life and paying off my debt. It's nice to not have to all nuts if business is slow or sales are down. I can relax a bit and enjoy myself without worry of where the next meal will come from.

Worst Choice? Not living a healthy lifestyle. I have a ton of work to do to get myself back into fighting shape for the classes I plan to take throughout 2014. I'm for certain that there is a fight brewing. That fight can take several forms and our elitist ruling class isn't going to go quietly into the night.

Changes I made over 2013
-Really started the process of having long term food storage past a few buckets of rice and beans.
-Started a storage and cycling method for fuel and other usable resources
-Got into backpacking and enjoying my boys out in the natural world
-Disconnected the TV from cable
-Purchased a web site for use in an upcoming business venture
-Started gardening for more than just fresh vegetables
-Dehydrated food for storage
-Canned food for storage
-Upgraded my battle rifle to 308
-Purchased enough firearms to arm my family for a lifetime
-Purchased spares and consumables for the firearms
-Created a cache
-Upgraded my security
-Invested in redundant comm gear
-Practiced with firearms more often than the previous year
-Practiced field craft regularly
-Purchased firearm training for my wife
-Purchased a library of books for reference on self sustainment
-Sold off all my gun collection that wasn't based on defensive needs
-Sold off some guy toys I didn't need- who NEEDS 6 motorcycles?
-Built up my primer, powder and bullet stores
-Built up my reputation with local government and law enforcement
-Met more like minded people
-Outfitted the entire family with rugged outdoor gear

My plans for 2014
-Get certified as an NRA Rifle, Shotgun and Pistol instructor- class in Feb
-Get another business off the ground that will enable our self sustaining lifestyle
-Start a solar/battery system to remove some loads from the grid
-Take enough classes to get up to speed in Carbine and Patrol techniques
-Complete the remodel on the house
-Have 100,000 rounds of ammo stored in components or rounds
-Backpack a 100 mile trail
-Build up fuel storage
-Build 2 more cache locations
-Buy a grain mill
-Outfit the B/O trailer with solar power
-Get the HAM up and running
-Buy a Jeep for a 3rd vehicle
-Expand my food storage by 6 months with long term items
-Get my oldest son up to speed with a rifle and pistol
-Clear out the rest of the useless junk in my house
-Install a hidden compartment in the house
-Install an alternate water supply in the house
-Build an observation post
-Read more apocalyptic fiction (good ideas at times)
-Finish a second Blog for gear reviews
-Build window and door covers
-Build a safe room inside the house
-Upgrade the surveillance system

All in all, very doable list for 2014. The major issue is the economy. If it tanks before this year is done, I'm hunkering down and living through it. The rest will wait a few years at best. I have needed skills and I can live on.

Operational planning will stay about the same. I've built some inroads with some like minded people that would be a good addition to the family so I'd like to work them into the plan if they continue to pan out.

Biggest weakness is the lack of food at the bailout location, if I can't drive there, I'm in bad shape. We're fine at home. What's your plan?