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Life Support: My “Go To” Gear

So I’ve gone over individual and professional kit in my previous articles. I’ve show you what gear I carry with me when I need to jet out-of-town and travel light. I’ve also shown you how to work like a boss from the road. Now, it is time to get to the big money stuff. Seriously. This is where I hemorrhage cash. First, here is where I’m coming from. I have suffered for more nights than I can count with crap gear made by the lowest bidder. After my departure from the Army, there was an 8 year hiatus from camping. Don’t laugh – it’s true! I refused to sleep on the ground for nearly a decade.

Thanks to modern design, innovation, and competition, people are now making gear that makes it bearable to go out, enjoy nature, and be comfortable. Enough stalling and pontificating, let’s get to it. Here is the kit list. It is a mix of personal and sponsored gear with the reasons for both. Eric from Team 5 Foundation and I went back on forth on this. The conversation was basically …

Eric, “Use the sponsored gear so that you don’t trash your own kit.”
Me, “This is why I buy good kit.”
Eric, “True.”

In the end, I chose to go with personal kit as I didn’t want to be “that guy” messing with gear alongside professionals with tested gear.

Guat _ El Sal Border 2Load Carriage
Arc’teryx Altra 65 – Yeah, I mentioned in an earlier post that I pack everything in my Osprey Talon 33. Yes, you will fill a big pack if you bring a big pack. Yes, this pack is ridiculously expensive. No, I do not have any buyer’s remorse. This pack is a hoss and the load transfer disc is f&%king magical. I didn’t know if I would have to haul medical kit, so I opted for the bigger bag and transferred the kit from the Talon into the Altra and committed not to add additional gear. Good thing I did as I had to help the XO guys haul the DJI Phantom to the boat over an hour jungle stroll. I don’t care who you are, carrying a pelican case through the jungle sucks. We modified a shemagh, threw it on top, and made the exfil time.

Nemo Obi 2p – If you don’t know about NEMO Equipment, you should. The gear is made by hard-core users that just happen to be amazing designers. Everything about their kit is intuitive, light, and burly. One man tents are awesome for packed size, but I like to be comfortable, keep my kit inside the bug net, and be comfortable. The Obi 2p setup is light, compact, and provides versatility for an on-the-fly setup. The rainforest lived up to its name and pissed on us for a few hours. Not. A. Drop.

Sleeping Pad:
Nemo Astro Light with cover – Long gone are the days of the thermarest style pad. At the same weight, quarter of the packed size, and 5 times as thick when inflated–make the investment in a good night’s sleep. You’ll thank me in the morning. I’m a light sleeper and the sound of any movement across the rip-stop surface bugs me. NEMO, being the awesome company that they are, designed a compact, washable cover that alleviates the situation and protects the mat. Also, learn how to adjust mat inflation to be comfortable. Just because you can inflate it to 25 psi doesn’t mean that you should. I was going to shoot my own video, but then I got sucked in by this guy’s beard and thought you would enjoy it too.

Sleeping Bag
It’s a jungle–I didn’t bring one. Instead, I use the Combat Flip Flops Cover and Concealment in Night Vision. It is blanket length, doubles as a towel, and provides a quick cover for the middle-of-the-night piss breaks. The flowers drew a few looks, but it provided me with opportunity to explain the story behind them.

Stuff Sack
OR Stuff Sack – To be honest, I was given the stuff sack and love it. Lightweight, thin. and fits gear. On the next deployment, the Scrubba stuff sack is going in the kit. The lightweight packing got a little funky after four days and this portable wash system supposedly enables you to stay fresh.

Jetboil Flash – This one didn’t make this trip. Yes, I left my Jetboil. The entirety of the mission was vehicle based, so I opted to shave the weight and space. Plus, having to procure a Jetfoil style canister in Central America is a hassle.

IMG_1081 2Water Filtration
MSR Sweetwater Pump – Ol’ faithful. I’ve been abusing this piece of kit since my first deployment to Afghanistan and it always delivers. Personally, I like a mix of mechanical filtration and chemical purification. Nothing sucks more than being thirsty and having to chug down dirty, treated water.

Pack Cover
Snugpack Pack Cover – Most packs are water-resistant, but we were heading into a rainforest. Not going to take the chance. Plus, the black cover enables quick masking of an orange pack in the middle of a bright green jungle in case things got interesting. Pack covers also work as hasty gear bags and water collection cisterns.

Medical Kit
This is where people tend to go way overboard or way under the minimum accepted gear needed for a trip of this magnitude. I was traveling with a PA, doctor, and a few first responders loaded with medical gear. This is what I consider a minimum medical kit to travel anywhere:

  • Hemorrhage control: SWAT Tourniquet
  • Would Coverage/Pressure Gandage/Occulsive Dressing/Packable Gauze: OLAES Trauma Bandage
  • Allergins: Epi-pen with 6 Benadryl packed in blister packs. Also carried Cetirizine for day-to-day allergies.
  • Would Cleaning: 5 alcohol wipe swabs
  • Antibiotic: 3 triple antibiotic in a blister pack
  • Burn: Waterjel
  • Analgesic: 4x400mg Ibuprofen in Blister Pack. 4x200mg Acetomenophin in a Blister Pack.
  • Coverall: 10′ Gorilla tape rolled the outside of the SWAT-T pack
  • Meds: Azithromycin, Doxycycline, Malarone, Cephalexin, Tylenol 3 with Codeine.
  • Splint Material: Aluminum pack stays, sticks provided by nature, and CFF Shemagh

Petzl Strix – Petzl was kind enough to donate headlamps to the mission and I really enjoyed this one as it was easy to manipulate, ran off a AA, and had a distinctive shape that was easy to find in the pack lid without looking.

Aluminum Coffee MugCoffee/Beer/Water Mug:
This is a commonly overlooked item in most kit. Carry a cup. I do this for a variety of reasons: 1) I hate paper cups and the waste caused by disposable goods. Most of these garden spots have a refuse disposal issue and I don’t want to add to the burden. 2) Never pass up an offer on a warm drink in the field. You never know when you’re going to get your next one. 3) If you carry a cup that keeps a drink warm, it will also keep a drink cold. If you find yourself purchasing a cerveza on a hot day, use your cup to keep it cool longer. For lightweight camping, I use the Snow Peak Titanium Mug. For vehicle use, I carry a generic aluminum mug with a bright red lid. If we made these, would you want one?

Women's Clinic in Mayan Jungle 2Water Bottles
Orion Design Group Liberty Water Bottle – There is only so much drinking you can do from a hydration bladder. Brian at ODG gave me this bottle years ago and it’s been my trusty companion for years. The Liberty lid is my favorite feature as I get a wee bit frustrated screwing and unscrewing water bottle lids, don’t trust the cleanliness of the flippy straw lids, and clip the lid inside my bag if the bottle is going to be open for extended periods of time. Added bonus, they’re made in the USA by an awesome company.

Camelback All Clear – Camelbak is a huge Team 5 Foundation sponsor and they were kind enough to donate the water bottles to the team. I never got a chance to use it, but believe they nailed the instructions on the side of the bottle. I handed the bottle to a few Mayan kids and they were able to figure it out in less than five minutes. Well done Camelbak.

Meal kit
When the Team 5 sponsor box showed up, the Wildo Camp-a-Box provided by Pro Force Gear had me stoked. A truly complete, lightweight camping kit. If you take a look at this product and don’t understand the awesomeness, try it.

Spend money here. Nothing sucks more than being sunburnt on an adventure. Over time, I’ve found the Neutrogena Beach Defender 30+ to be best applying, most reliable sunblock found on shelves worldwide. There are plenty of superior brands, but this is my go-to. I was stoked to find that they made it a deodorant stick-shaves size, weight, and prevents the inevitable explosion inside the pack. I was able to use this once, at the airport, loved it, then loaned it to Doc, and he lost it! It was a bittersweet exchange as I was bummed about the loss, but will hold this over his head for at least six months.

Gas Station SecurityAnti-bug
There are two things that will keep you from getting malaria: Not going or being prepared. If you’re in the jungle, it’s an occupational hazard. Pony up for the Malarone and follow the instructions. For external coverage, I use the Uncle Ben’s roll on 30% DEET. The deodorant applicator makes it easy to apply in the right spots and spread as necessary. The entire crew ended up borrowing it daily, so take that as a sign.

Here is my basic kit: toothbrush, toothpaste, razor, travel sized Axe spray, small nail clippers, tweezers, visine, Murrays Pomade in a lip balm container, and floss.

Carry a few hundred bucks on you spread out across your gear. Remember: If people see you with lots of cash, they will want lots of cash.

Random Head Statue 2Burner Debit Card
Have one bank account with $500 in it. If you get nabbed, chances are you’re in for an ATM rodeo. If you play it right, they’ll take you to the ATM, have you pull cash until it’s empty, then let you go. Carrying a credit/debit card with a huge balance is a liability. If you need more cash, do an online transfer at the next wi-fi hotspot.

That’s it. You more than likely have the majority of these functional items in your home or within a short drive. If you want to see the gear in use, check out my recent trip with Team 5 Foundation and Expedition Overland when we deployed to Central America. You can also learn more in my articles on the Combat Flip Flops blog.

Be Moved. Be Stirred. Be Inspired. Be MOTUS

Written by

Former Ranger, current HMFIC at <a href="http://combatflipflops.com">Combat Flip Flops</a>, and future space traveler. #GetAfterIt

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