A Combat Vet’s Perspective on Bug Out Bag PPE

 A Combat Vets Perspective on Bug Out Bag PPE

bug out bag A Combat Vets Perspective on Bug Out Bag PPE

Image courtesy stock.xchng user vagabond9

This guest post is by  David M and entry in our non-fiction writing contest .

I see these items consistently overlooked in people’s bug out bags and I hope to make your lives more livable in a camp (deployed environment) when you find yourself there. People seem to get it that they need a good fixed blade knife. They know they need 550 cord. They remember that food has to be in the bag (really, it doesn’t, but that’s not what we’re discussing right now). Matches, lighter, tinder quick, that’s all in there too, but what about Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), and I don’t mean your firearms?

When you’re walking through terrain (especially if you haven’t trained to do it) you will be exerting muscles that stabilize your body (that you may not even exist). This excessive stabilization muscle usage tires them quickly and you become more likely to lose your balance. When you lose your balance you step into/onto places that you didn’t intend to go and the results of this are usually a combination of a twisted ankle, poked eyeball, and scratched, scraped, and/or bruised knees and hands/arms, and a plethora of colorful words. For a trained forced marcher its a real liklihood, for an average untrained Joe It’s an inevitability.

As such, there are certain items in your kit (or that should be) that take up little room and weight and will help buffer the suck factor that will invariably accompany your trek through [Your State Here]‘s finest wilderness terrain. Having these items will, at minimum, save you a few minor aggravations, and at best, prevent an immobilizing mechanical injury and save your life.

Item 1: Water Proof 8″ Boots 1/2 size larger than your foot.

Make no mistake about it, a flat tire will stop your vehicle on the road, and jacked up feet will stop your ruck through the woods. Spend $120-150 on a pair of these boots and break them in properly. Then buy a second pair and do it again.. I’m not kidding. Do it!

Item 2: Boot socks.

The boots are great! Now pad your feet from them. Whenever I ruck, I wear three pairs of socks. The first is a polypropylene/cotton mix athletic ankle sock (under armor) because they’re thin and slick and stay warm even wet. The next is a subdued cotton boot sock because they’re thin enough not to add excessive bulk and long enough to come up over my calves to add lower leg protection under the pants (thorns and poison won’t make it through), and the cotton wicks sweat away from the feet to the outer sock. Lastly, I put on some 100% wool combat boot socks (darn tough brand) to fill up the boot with padding and insulation. Foot movement inside your boot equals blisters, blisters equal pain and possible infection, and that equals non-mobility. You’ve been warned!

Item 3: Lace up ankle braces.

This may sound uncomfortable, but if properly broken in and worn with the proper boots and socks these will add miles to your ruck range. Don’t cheap out, they aren’t that expensive to begin with, and the lace up type are the only ones to offer the structural stability that your ankles REQUIRE to support all that added weight over uneven terrain. So buy the good ones and make sure they fit under your hiking/combat boots.

Item 4: Knee Pads

There are lots of uses for Knee Pro, some more manly than others, but uses just the same. What you want is a comfortable durable subdued knee pad. Comfortable: sufficient padding inside and multiple wide clipping elastic straps. Durable: tough padding, straps, and clips, and a hard shell exterior knee cap. Subdued: Black, OD, or Multi Cam. You’ll most likely wear these around your ankles for long term comfort and pull them up to your knee when necessary.

Item 5: Gloves

These aren’t to keep your hands warm, although they will do a moderate job at that. They are designed to protect your hands from the thorns and poisons of the woods and visibility of the eyes (more so for white folks). These should be thick enough to offer protection, but thin enough to offer dexterity required for manipulating gear, including shooting your firearm. Most operators prefer a synthetic nomex flight glove (they’re fire retardant and designed to protect a pilots hand from fire and cold while allowing dexterity of operating flight controls and weapon systems). Neoprene is good too for cold/wet weather, but they start to smell stinky because they make your hands so warm they sweat, your choice to live with…

Item 6: Eye Pro.

Sticks and Branches are a game ended for the eyes. Buy some Oakley M frames in a protective pod. They come with clear, amber, and smoke lenses and a black frame all in a neat little protective pod. Just snap out the ones you don’t need and snap in the ones you do. Then wear them, problem solved!

Item 7: Ear Pro.

On your way to your sanctuary you may have to fire your weapon, and while doing so without hearing protection hurts much less than being shot, it still hurts and can cause hearing degradation and tinnitus. When you get where you’re going there’s bound to be circular saws running and guns firing anyways, so you need them. Sure fire makes a nice polymer molded ear plug system that offers an adjustable 9-24db protection factor. They automatically adjust to increasing volumes. They have a little plug on them that opens for field use. Great for combat conversation and hearing conservation. They’re $12. Buy them, pack the, wear them, that’s it.

I hope this helps make you more comfortable in the field! Psalm91.

This contest will end on December 16 2012 – prizes include:

Well what are you waiting for – email your entries today. But please read the rules first… thumbs up A Combat Vets Perspective on Bug Out Bag PPE

 

Comments

  1. I would add to that a good pair of ventilated full coverage safety goggles. Nothing like losing your eyesight because of a poke from a twig, wind borne sand particles,even a bee sting which I have seen happen.

    • Pineslayer says:

      Hi Harold, I don’t have to wear glasses, yet, but I do carry sunglasses with swap out frames. A set of clear lenses are essential protective gear. One little piece of kit that has my interest are swimming goggles. If you were marching through some tear gas or other irritant, they might protect your site. Something else to carry around.

  2. I agree with your comments on boots. I have bad knees now from using cheap footwear in the service. Quality pays when it comes to equipment, and this really applies to footwear. Try walking 6 miles through sand/loose shale with half dollar size blisters on your heals; I did and had to be half carried by my partner and then I was laid up for 4 days!

  3. The Grey Wolf says:

    I would like to add eyewear protection to the BOB PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) list. Use sunglasses w/100% UV protection always, especially when at altitude when your eyes are more susceptible to UV radiation damage than they are at sea level. Not only will sunglasses protect you from the sun’s damaging rays but also from wind debris and braches when bugging out in dense alpine forrests. There is much to look out for if your on foot in the woods and eventually your senses cant catch to always protect you. Whether its your foot placement, hand placement, blocking branches or tree limbs from brushing against your face, or your eyes staying in tuned with the environment, the senses will fatigue eventually leaving you susceptible, including your eyeballs. Branches and tree limbs can take out an eye if you’re not careful. Certainly the risk is higher the more you hurry or the more you are distracted by something else.

    Wearing eye protection will prove even more worthy when you travel single file with others in the woods. If the person directly in front of you lets go of the tree limb they formerly had control of and is now flying back at your face, you will need protection! You could space out but that may not always be tactically sound. I find that the red driving lenses work best for alpine environments. They draw contrast from the terrain better than typical lenses and can brighten vision while under a shaded tree canopy.

    With dark lenses, Ive notice a dropoff in contrast differential while wearing them in shaded forrests. I point this out because ive found my self tripping on things more often when wearing dark lenses because i didnt notice the hazzards in time. Remember to make sure they are 100% uv protectant, so they can protect your eyes from the sun when you’re not in the shade. Also, add croakies/lanyards to them so they don’t fall off, get lost, or get broken!

  4. MrSpud in ID says:

    Spoken like a fellow warrior!! LOL I could not agree more with your advise brother!! Been there, done that! Ya MUST take care of your feet and ankles people!! They will fail if your not used to humpin! A little preppin goes a LONG way here!!!! Great read!

  5. Pineslayer says:

    +1 on the boots. I break mine around the house first then on the trails. I have wrapped up a thousand ankles as a coach, so I also carry pre-wrap and athletic tape for a multitude of first aid uses. I too have added a lace up ankle brace and have added a strapped knee brace. My families BOB’s have Oakley M-frame glasses also. For gloves I like those mechanic style, leather palms with thinner fabric on the top. Protection where you need it with less hand fatigue. Gosh I love my gear! Lastly, the bandana, look at military issue shemagh’s as an upgrade. Great post, thanks.

    • Pineslayer says:

      Oh yea, knee padding. Those double layered pants, carhartt’s and BDU’s, can be modified easily. Go to the inside, slice thru first layer about halfway across, hem it. get some high density foan, 1/2 thick or so, cut to size, fold in half then insert into the pocket you have made. Cheap easy and great coverage, very comfortable too.

    • The Grey Wolf says:

      +1 on the shemagh Pineslayer! They can provide total sun protection in the desert that a simple ball cap can’t provide, and in wintery conditions provide protection from frostbite and hypothermia.

  6. As far as socks go , Sealskinz are fantastic , they are 100% waterproof and insulated , a bit pricy but worth it .

  7. Thanks for writing the article. We all have different perspectives on the topic you chose to write about, I’ll add mine.

    Boots: I would stay away from Gortex/waterproof boots unless it is absolutely necessary (hiking through thick snow in cold conditions etc). Those don’t breathe as well, and are heavier. A rugged boot that is not too heavy and has drain holes would be a much better choice in my opinion. If you know how to take care of your feet you, wet feet won’t be a problem. While having wet feet (for days on end) does suck, it is not an insurmountable obstacle and one you can learn to deal with. Taking regular breaks, letting your feet get some air, changing socks etc. I’d rather have lighter boots and *sometimes* wet feet than stomp around in gortex boots. Just my humble opinion, to each his own.

    Boot socks. Again to each his own although I’ve never heard of anyone wearing three pair of socks. I have heard of guys wearing a pair of dress socks underneath their wool socks. Cotton socks are a no-go! Personally I can get by with wearing one pair of socks, if doing a long haul changing them out every 10 miles or so seems about right.

    Ankle braces, knee pads. I’ve never found a need for these, for doing long ruck marches that is. Knee pads are good for long patrols when you constantly have to “take a knee” with a ruck on. It seems like there is always a rock or root right where you want to place your knee.

    Gloves, eye protection. I too like wearing thin gloves, or flyers gloves to protect my hands. The same goes for eye protection. Thorns or sharp branches can really mess you up. The only thing about eye protection is that the glasses can easily fog up when temps drop, especially at night.

    I would add that getting out and TRYING the bugout gear is absolutely essential. Setting up the pack/rucksack correctly to include how the weight is distributed, how the straps are set up, making sure to have a good kidney strap as well etc. Putting the stuff on and going for a long walk is crucial, you have to test your equipment. How is your water set up? Do you have a camelback strapped to the side with an accessible hose or will you have to drop your ruck so you can dig out a canteen? Are your socks and foot powder packed near the top, so you can quickly dig them out while on a rest?

    There are lots of nuances to setting one’s self up for success when it comes to planning a successful bugout on foot. This is a good article and a good start, but each person must come up with their own formula for success. What works for the author, or me, might not work for someone else.

    PJ

  8. Encourager says:

    Good article. Would adding a foldable hiking/walking stick be a good idea? As a senior, I am getting more and more unstable walking distances, especially when I am tired.

    • Encourager,

      You don’t have to be a senior to use a walking stick. Trekking poles have been around for a while and many people use them to cover long distances, or just while on a day hike. They are definitely worth looking into.

      Here are some listed for sale (as an example): http://www.backcountry.com/leki-voyager-trekking-poles

      Here is a good article as to their benefits: http://www.hikingreviews.com/hiking-101/123-the-benefits-of-trekking-poles.html

      Good luck with everything.

      PJ

      • My mom uses a good old fashioned ski pole. Cost a couple of bucks and works fine. May not have a trendy name on it ,but it works fine for her.

      • SurvivorDan says:

        Good stuff David M. All the grunts are thumping their chests and raising a beer to you. I do advise everyone to have walking sticks.
        My main walking stick is a screw together 5″ 2″ steel thingy. Vastly increases stability and I like mine ‘cuz it’s an exigent circumstances weapon already in my hand when on the move.
        Nice article and good focus. Thanks.

      • Have to chime in on the walking sticks. I play with some, have one that has a big V on top to steady your shot and it is good in snake country too. My favorite is a simple Bo carved on one end to fit a Cold Steel Bushman. All you Walking Dead fans can see the advantage.

        Tactically they might be a disadvantage, but if you are humping a 20 mile trek or less they help to distribute the work. Worse case is that you ditch them. Wood staff/spears can be a fun project.

  9. Is there something missing? Seems like this got cut off in mid thought in item 5 (Gloves)

    BTW: This prepper is dead on about the feet! You have to take care of them or you’re toast!!

  10. one thing thats still missing is a good sun hat (not just a cap), even if it stays rolled up in your pack till you need it, nothing worse that sunburnt shoulders and neck than putting your pack back on the next day

    • Living in the desert , I have several , I have a regular wide brim hat ,fpr hikes , and a boonie rolled up in one of the pouches for that reason .

      • SurvivorDan says:

        As a desert dweller I just bought a couple more wool hats today to stash in vehicles. The temperature drops so rapidly here. I know! I just went outside for a cig. Brrrrrrr.

  11. Santa Walt says:

    I agree with TheRumpledOne. The article does seem to be cut off before the end. The closing parenthesis is missing as well as the period at the end of the sentence. The entire paragraph about gloves seems rather abrupt and seems to need some more. I sure would like to see the rest if there is more.

  12. GoneWithTheWind says:

    The ankle brace looks like a real problem, you are asking for blisters and poor fitting boots with a bulky ankle brace. I suppose if you already have a ankle or foot problem that some form of orthotic is helpful but as a general prescription for everyone it seems counter productive.

    • You’ll wish you were wearing the ankle braces after your foot flips off to the side over a soft edge or a loose stick or rock with an extra 50-80lbs on board. The ankle braces have enough room due to having gotten your boots a half size larger. Although I realize that not everyone will want to follow my recommendations to a tee, but this is just my perspective after having had to operate in a prolonged, very demanding, cold/hot/snowy, wet/dry/humid/dusty, windy/calm, mountainous high altitude environment. Those are relatively diverse conditions, but if an individual is primarily operating in a swampy or rain forest type environment with strong ankles they will (hopefully) have enough common sense to modify their gear to suit their needs more specifically. It’s free advice from someone with experience in a hostile environment.

      • I like the ankle brace idea. Having a daughter who seems to find every hole known to mankind when outside makes me very familiar with the type you describe. The hubby even had better luck healing from a minor break when using the lace-up brace vs. one of those boots used for broken bones. Worn properly, they can save the ankles from much harm, especially if you’ve had prior problems.

      • GoneWithTheWind says:

        Help me out here David I might learn something. The “soft” ankle braces I see certainly wouldn’t help and the stiff ones are lace up which would certainly create pressure points. So can you show us/me with a link what you have used and what works for you? I’m open to learn something new.

        Having said that I only have turned an ankle with low quarter shoes or sneakers on and this usually in city environs with broken pavement and uneven surfaces. No I love my light low quarter “hiking shoes” because they are light and it’s almost like Red Bull in that they “give you wings”. But when I’m on the trail and off the trail I am really careful where and how I step and I rarely have a problem. I’m still not really sure an ankle brace is something I need.

  13. I like the article. I used to live in the Cascades in Washington state and my chipawa boots were my friend.Being a career civilian I never went on 20 mile marches but working in the forest good boots were a must.I did not use corkers but some coworkers did.I did like the idea of hats, sunglasses and gloves.Not being a combat vet I never had the use for kneepads.

    • livinglife says:

      knee pads are a good idea if you are in rocky terrain, one slip and a gash later or a goose egg on the knee they will seem worth their weight in pain relief. They also make it more comfortable to kneel, maybe thats old age talking too.

  14. Hey guys, seems the last half got cut off. not sure how, but heres the rest:
    Item 5: Gloves
    These aren’t to keep your hands warm, although they will do a moderate job at that. They are designed to protect your hands from the thorns and poisons of the woods and visibility of the eyes (more so for white folks). These should be thick enough to offer protection, but thin enough to offer the dexterity required for manipulating gear, including shooting your firearm. Most operators prefer a synthetic nomex flight glove (they’re fire retardant and designed to protect a pilots hand from fire and cold while allowing dexterity of operating flight controls and weapon systems). Neoprene is good too for cold/wet weather, but they start to smell stinky because they make your hands so warm they sweat, your choice to live with…

    Item 6: Eye Pro.
    Sticks and Branches are a game ended for the eyes. Buy some Oakley M frames in a protective pod. They come with clear, amber, and smoke lenses and a black frame all in a neat little protective pod. Just snap out the ones you don’t need and snap in the ones you do. Then wear them, problem solved!

    Item 7: Ear Pro.
    On your way to your sanctuary you may have to fire your weapon, and while doing so without hearing protection hurts much less than being shot, it still hurts and can cause hearing degradation and tinnitus. When you get where you’re going there’s bound to be circular saws running and guns firing anyways, so you need them. Sure fire makes a nice polymer molded ear plug system that offers an adjustable 9-24db protection factor. They automatically adjust to increasing volumes. They have a little plug on them that opens for field use. Great for combat conversation and hearing conservation. They’re $12. Buy them, pack them, wear them, that’s it.

    I hope this helps make you more comfortable in the field!

    • GoneWithTheWind says:

      Ah tinnitus, that rings a bell. Mine was caused by firing an M16 in the service before they required ear protection. The funny thing about tinnitus is I don’t hear it unless it is quiet but when I do hear it there is actual pain from it. Not serious pain like being shot or something but it hurts. So what I don’t understand is when there is ambient noise and I cannot hear my tinnitus why can’t I feel it like I can when it’s quiet?

  15. livinglife says:

    We used to ‘speed break in’ boots by filling them with hot water and letting them soak. Empty them out and wear them while wet with the socks you will wear. As they dry they will mold to your feet. Once fully dry they stretch a bit but no blistering compared to forcing them to shape to your foot.
    Boots need to be larger because the additional weight of a ruck sack will cause your feet to spread out more. Most of us had field boots and garrison boots for this reason.
    The adjustable ear plugs are great, several of us upland hunters use them so we can stil hear but not have ringing ears. No batteries needed.
    It’s easy to overlook the basics.

    • GoneWithTheWind says:

      I have found the best thing to break in leather boots. Take the walk up the Virgin River in Zion National Park. In the late Summer to early Fall the water you walk through varies in depth from 6″ to 4′. Then try to wear them all day if you can even if you aren’t hiking. After that new boots feel like old friends.

  16. another add -in would be some kind of bug spray! ticks and other insects carry disease! i personally keep a bottle of %100 deet in my bag and vehicles!

  17. I am looking to purchase ready made 72 hour emergency kits for my adult children for Christmas. Would like some info on the best place to purchase several in the $100 each range. I’ve looked at BePrepared and Nitro Pak. Thanks for any suggestions.

    • Lisa,

      Check with the advertisers on this blog – look in the sidebars…

    • I agree with multiple layer of socks. In the USAF I was stationed in Alaska and spent lots of time in the “outback.” I bought expensive leather boots, water proofed them with “Sno-seal,” and 1/2 size large. I wore heavy wool socks on the outside and thin cotton socks underneath. Never had a problem. Plus, the socks seem to rub on one another, and may lesson the chance of blisters…since I never got any. Just my two cents.

  18. riverrider says:

    moleskin!

  19. j.r. guerra in s. tx. says:

    That was a very interesting read – THANK YOU for the write up. I had read everything before except for the hearing protection. Great for the person who sleeps near a loud snorer.

    One comment on hat selection – find a compromise on brim width. A longtime artifact hunter, a long brim will hide an impending collision with a tree branch or rock surface – OUCH!

    Again – thanks.

  20. Thanks for the information.This can come in handy when needed.

  21. @GoneWithTheWind
    I just use the soft ankle braces that lace up and then the Velcro straps wrap under and around. They’re available at Walgreens or wherever sells medical/athletic gear. I buy my boots 1/2 size larger to provide the extra room needed for them. When I lace the braces up I make them tight enough to create good pressure, but not so tight that they create bad pressure on my feet. When I put my feet inside the boots I have to fully loosen the boot laces and feed a little extra slack down towards the portion of the boot that actually bends forward when you squat to get the to fit inside the boots. Once the foot goes into the boot fully I pull all the slack back out of the laces up to the top and tighten them down to comfort. I tie the laces in a standard double loop knot and slide the loops all the way until the end stopper knot hits the loop knot, then double knot it and tuck the long loop ends into the top around my lower calves. Truth be told, until you break the boots and braces in together they will create pressure points, but once they’re broken in fully the pressure they create is “acceptable.” Take breaks to rest your feet and knees and stretch your lower back and hamstrings when rucking. If you’d like a picture send me a message on my APN profile: ageranger361 link: http://www.americanpreppersnetwork.net/memberlist.php?mode=viewprofile&u=15441&sid=546a565957cb68025181b8af024d6b51

  22. I would add a good wide brim hat with a string to go under your chin, sunscreen and bug spray, and a bandanna. Why the bandanna? You can use it as a bandage, a sling, a dust mask for mouth and nose, tuck it under the brim of your hat to protect the back of your neck, and just in case you need to rob a stagecoach :)

  23. For what its worth, I wear an 8.5D in GI issue. This is usually bigger, a 9 maybe, than civilian equiv. As a REMF, this was OK with two boot socks. After I retired, and started hiking and climbing, it took a 10.5D in a lightweight Danner to accommodate liner, cotton, wool, and braces. My advice, take all your paraphernalia with you when you try ‘em on.

  24. Papa Cheese says:

    Moleskin… that’s one way to do it. Duct tape (rigging tape) works even better for preventng those quarter-size blisters. Cheaper (much) and a good thing to have along for lots of other reasons. Its in my kit anyway. Good stuff in the previous posts. Thanks!