Sorry for the length, I just can't help myself.

My current job in the Marines is a tester. I just got back from an 8 week weapons test where I worked in the field in literally, every climb and place. Sorry, I canít really talk about the test or what we tested. We tested in the beach/swamp area of North Carolina, the Mojave Desert and the mountains just north of Yosemite.

This gave me a great opportunity to try out a few things that I have made/bought over the past couple of years. It also drove home lessons I have had to relearn each summer. Some of you are going to be saying things like, "man he's stupid" or "he should know better" and you are correct. I wanted to give a snapshot of how things did and different things I observed/messed up on so you can learn from me!

Background: When I was in the field, I was living out of an SUV. We were in the field for about 50-60% of the time, the rest of the time was transit between sites and maintenance time. I had plenty of water and food and I did not have to go looking for either, although I did keep on the look out for both. My EDC was a Spyderco Native III, a fox 40 whistle and Photon Freedom, lighter, and handkerchief as well as a PSP and Swisstool RS in my pockets. I had a camelback MULE on my back in which I had my larger PSK, FAK, collapsible saw, compass, 55 gal drum liners, sponges, surefire 6P, maglite and extra batteries all around. In my truck, I also carried my Maxpedition Jumbo with a Garmin Rhino 120, Nalgene bottle and cup, smaller PSK, junk food, Blackberry (comes with the job) and cell phone, along with power cables and emergency chargers, sunscreen and bug spray. Oh yeah, when I was in the field, I also had on a helmet and flak jacket most of the time.

The Camebak was great as expected, and the Jumbo did well in the field, although I didnít carry it much there. Where it made its money was in the airport. I had all I needed in a small bag which fits right under the seat in front of you without block your foot room. As a side note, I carry this as EDC with my SA 45 XD and other daily use items and it carries great.

I carried my PSP daily through the 8 weeks. It is great as an EDC item as it is flat and I didnít notice it in my cargo pockets at all. One thing I noticed was the pencil lead began to wear down, covering much of the contents in graphite. Also, due to the heat of the desert, the duct tape roll began to leave adhesive on the interior of the pouch. Neither is a big deal, but I am going to take out the pencil and cut off the sharpened end to prevent the dust from getting much worse.

Most of us know this, but for those who have never driven 200 miles cross country a day in an SUV, you will burn a tank of gas a lot faster than you will on the road. I managed my fuel pretty well for the most part, but there was one day I had a close call. We did not have any spare fuel tanks for unleaded for the test. Driving this much is painful, literally, and boring to boot. Give it a shot, and let me know what you think.

I donít want to hit on the bugs too much, as the NC mosquitoes are notorious, but I will comment on Africanized Honey bees (killer bees) which are prevalent through the Mojave. They will come running to any water source PERIOD. If you pour water into a canteen or camelback, they will be there, with their friends before you can close the lid. If you spill water in your car, they will swarm your car. A simple way of dealing with them is to keep your area dry, and place a cup or bottle of water about 30 feet away from your vehicle as bait to keep them away from you. One thing I have learned in dealing with mosquitoes is to buy a head net and wear it, along with ear plugs, at night. This counteracts the mosquitoís natural psychological warfare talent.

Nalgene bottles stink in the desert. Most of us know this, but they have no insulating value at all, even in the shade. The PVC (white) bottles do better than the lexan bottles, but not by much. Freezing them the night before works great as it will give you hours of cold water to sip on, but again, the condensation will bring the bees. Meanwhile a USGI canteen seems to do better retaining some temperature. I had my bottles in pouches or in my cooler to avoid drinking warm or hot water. Some of the Marines put their bottles in socks and soaked the socks in water. This did cool their canteens and bottle a little, but not much.

A Shmegah (sp?) is invaluable, IMHO. During dust storms, large dirt devils, or sleeping at night. Mine has been with me in my Jumbo or pack since I before I went to Iraq two years ago.

You can never drink too much water. I averaged over 2 gallons a day in the desert and the mountains, and my urine was still dark. Eating MREís doesnít help, but the latest meals are very good, although most of the condiments donít seem to be well thought out (i.e. blackberry jelly with fajitas)

If you are like me, you are pale and pasty, and sunscreen is your friend. The first day I was in the field in NC, I was burned very badly. Not being able to go home to soak it in cold water made it worse. Sand adhering to my skin from helicopter ops made it worse still. I know how good sunscreen is, I am just too lazy to put it on. From a survival standpoint, blistered skin on your neck will only make you more miserable. Sunglasses are key as well.

In the desert a compass and map is good, but a GPS is better. I had both, and I am proficient with both. But if you have never been to the desert, one mountain may only look a mile or two away, but in reality, it is ten or twelve! Having two methods of land navigation is key.

Physical Fitness is key. I am in shape, just not great shape. I went from sea level, to about 1000 feet ASL to 6900-10000 feet ASL. At 6900 feet everything, like walking, carrying a pack, especially if itís heavy, or running is hard. If you do much camping in the mountains you know this. But if you have never gone from sea level to 6900 feet, you have no idea how bad it can be. It was a wake up call for me to get my butt back in shape. At times, we were up to 12-15 miles from base, which would have been a long walk home compounded by dramatic temperature shifts (45-100 degrees).

Most of this stuff is well known to us, even myself. But I wanted to use my experience and screw ups a reminder to all of us to think about the simple things (sunscreen, fitness, etc) before they become complications to an already bad situation.

Garrett
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On occasion of every accident that befalls you, remember to turn to yourself and inquire what power you have for turning it to use. - Epictetus