“Skills Versus Gear” – Guest Writer Greg Wilburn

The following is from our guest writer and speaker on The Curtis Report, Greg Wilburn, founder and CEO of The Organized Prepper.

Skills versus Gear: “You survive out of your pockets, you live out of your kit, you fight out of your rig! TM


Greg Wilburn
The Organized Prepper
Survival at all CostsTM

While I intended to continue the theme from the inaugural column, http://www.thecurtisinitiative.com/2013/10/07/what-is-prepping-and-is-it-for-me-guest-writer-greg-wilburn/, and discuss the Six Pillars of PreparednessTM, I recently had the pleasure of attending a three day “Desert Survival Intensive Field Course”, taught by Tony Nester of Ancient Pathways (http://www.apathways.com/).  To say the class was awesome is an understatement.  However, the awesomeness isn’t the point of this month’s column.  There were four very important concepts highlighted during the class which I must share.


The first principle is planning.  While often overlooked, this is the most important of all of the skills that a “prepper” must develop.  Understanding your environment, survival scenarios, and disaster situations one may encounter is the first step in developing a front line defense to survive.

In Arizona, we have six of the seven recognized geological climate types.  This poses a serious challenge for the day hiker, weekend backpacker or person concerned with surviving a #SHTF or disaster scenario.  This is where skills trump gear.  As an example, what happens when you are hiking for the day in late November, in the mountains around Phoenix, when you suddenly realize you are lost?  After many hours of wandering around you realize you aren’t anywhere close to finding your car or a recognizable landmark.  You must start addressing your immediate survival needs like hydration and shelter given the 20-30 degree temperature drop at night, putting the temperature in the high 30s to low 40s, which is life threatening without the proper skills.  This is where planning comes into play.  Did you leave a travel plan with anyone?  Did you bring your Pocket kit?  Do you even have a Pocket kit?  Did you pack your 24 Hour kit and do you have it with you?  Do you know how to set up a small shelter or start a fire?  Do you know how to collect water or how to pasteurize it if a single night turns into two or three?

Understanding the situation or scenario you are preparing for, researching it and then developing skills for addressing these scenarios will go a long way to helping you survive.  Typical scenarios are natural disasters, terrorist attacks, social unrest, economic collapse or pandemics.  Sitting down and drafting out a plan along with a few responses for each one is critical to framing your options for surviving these types of scenarios.  These examples only scratch the surface of the various topics within planning, but hopefully it gets your ideas flowing.

Colonel John Boyd’s OODA loop is a very important tool for being a #prepper.  According to Boyd, decision-making occurs in a recurring cycle of observe-orient-decide-act.  An entity (whether an individual or an organization) that can process this cycle quickly, observing and reacting to unfolding events more rapidly than an opponent, can thereby “get inside” the opponent’s decision cycle and gain the advantage.  The approach favors agility over raw power in dealing with human opponents in any endeavor.

The OODA Loop also serves to explain the nature of surprise and shaping operations in a way that unifies Gestalt psychology, cognitive science and game theory in a comprehensive theory of strategy.  Utility theory (the basis of game theory) describes how decisions are made, based on the perceived value of taking an action.  The OODA Loop shows that prior to making a decision (the Decide phase), the person will first have to get information (Observe) and determine what it means to him and what he can do about it (Orient).  In this way, the utility sought at the Decide phase can be altered by affecting the information the opponent receives and the cognitive model he applies when orienting upon it.[1]



Layering your kit

The second principle is how to build and organize the four layers of kit types; Pocket kit (survival and medical), 24 Hour/Every Day Carry (EDC) kit, 72 Hour kit/Three Day Assault (3DAP) kit, and INCH/GOOD kit.  Most people ignore the first layer, the Pocket kit, which is the most important layer and the one I will focus on here.  Typically, people focus on the EDC layer, build an EDC bag, carry it for the first few weeks, maybe even a few months, but after a while become complacent in carrying it every day.  It is this tragic mistake which causes many avoidable survival related deaths each year.  With a Pocket kit, you can carry it everywhere without the bulkiness of a dedicated 24 Hour bag.  The Pocket kit should address water purification, shelter, expedient medical, signaling, and fire.

Your Pocket kit should also have a luxury item or two, like a piece of hard candy or individual coffee bag.  The ability to take a breath and enjoy a luxury goes a long way towards increasing your positive mental attitude (PMA).  Consider that the WWII Paratrooper carried the following:

Emergency rations[2]
4 pieces of chewing gum
2 bouillon cubes
2 Nescafe instant coffees, 2 sugar cubes, and creamers
4 Hershey bars
1 pack of Charms candy
1 package pipe tobacco

This illustrates the importance of enabling someone to keep a PMA, even during the worst possible scenario.

Learning how to layer your kit and how to organize your kit will mean the difference between life and death.  In future columns I will focus on the four kit types and the things which are included in each one. For now, developing a solid planning skill and further exploring and expanding its uses is an important aspect of becoming better prepared.  As you learn and grow and become exposed to new skills and gear, you will evolve and rebuild your various kits and refine your planning capabilities.

Learning from the previous generations

The third principle is learning about what the natives from a particular region did 100, 500, or even 1,000 years ago in their daily lives, which we would now consider a survival scenario.  Learning how they hunted, collected, transported, stored and purified water, or made a shelter is very important.  This research will point you to the skill development and gear choice you need for the corresponding region.  There are usually bushcraft instructors who understand and teach skills related to the region you want to learn about because they have spent a long time researching what those regional ancestors did.  It is important to seek out these types of instructors.  Learning bushcraft from someone in Maine may be fun, but if you live in Arizona, it may not be the best choice for developing the right survival skill, just as learning desert bushcraft skills won’t help you much in the temperate climate of Virginia.

Simple really is better

The last principle is “keep it simple”.  While this phrase is often overused, it is very important in survival.  The simplest skills from the Six Pillars of PreparednessTM are the foundation for surviving a long term disaster scenario and are often overlooked.  Yet these simple skills are exactly what you need to learn, the skills our ancestors honed and developed and were responsible for their survival for thousands of years.  It is these skills which should also drive your gear purchase.  Do you buy a $600 bivy system for your 72 Hour bag, or a reliable $40 rugged survival blanket for your Pocket kit which you have with you every day?  Do you pack a $100 poncho and poncho liner combo or a $300 dollar sleeping bag in your EDC kit which you will often leave at home?  Do you carry $40 dollars worth of Iodine tablets and Chlorine Dioxide tablets in your Pocket Kit or a $100-$400 dollar water purification system in your EDC kit?

Understanding the role of your gear and in which layer it should go is important.  By starting with your Pocket layer and moving up the stack, it will allow you to address the most immediate survival needs while controlling your costs.  This may have been the most illuminating aspect of the class.  While I had paired down my pack before heading to the class, I had still heavily over-packed.  There were things in my kit which I simply did not need nor will I ever pack again.  Another good example of this is the difference of our military from WWII compared to today.   WWII paratroopers, the elite soldier of their day, wore 70 pounds of gear[3].  Considering the weight of the old technology as compared to the 72 to 120 lbs. of stuff the average infantry soldier carries today[4], it makes you wonder about the purpose of the new equipment being fielded.  When you consider the added scenario of traveling from Normandy, France all the way to Berlin, Germany, which is 756 miles, and most of that was on foot, you realize the necessity of skill development rather than over burdening your kit with gear you will most likely never use.  In a disaster or SHTF scenario, remember that “ounces countTM”.  Carrying gear you will never use affects your decision-making process as you have to dump weight you can’t carry anymore, not to mention the amount of calories you will be burning carrying junk you didn’t need.  Each of these issues adds to the challenge of survival.

Greg Wilburn

Hopefully this helps information helps.  Feel free to like us on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/theorganizedprepper and follow me on twitter at @gwilburn.

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