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Don’t Ruck Around When It Comes To Camping Gear. Your Body Will Thank You
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A recent list of veteran camping gear recommendations published by Task & Purpose was hilarious, but it was also a painful reminder of why so many veterans hate backpacking. Carrying too much gear designed for every possible environment for a mission we don’t fully understand was never anyone’s idea of fun, and yet that’s how most of us transition from exercises at Ft Carson to weekends in our local park.
Well, keep the rucking spirit — but it’s time to let go of the rucking burdens. To that end, here are 12 recommendations that veterans will really enjoy when they’re out in the wilderness.
Trade the cast iron skillet for an outright stove
The Jetboil flash cooking systemJetboil
The military taught us our packs should weigh around 30% of our body weight, and I’ve had lots of vets tell me anything less than a 100 pounds is a daypack.
Bullsh*t. Nowadays, 20% of your body weight is a good target for the average pack, and nothing over 50 pounds for a week’s outing should be your goal. Swap the skillet for a Jetboil flash cooking system, and save what’s left of your back.
Swap a woobie for a Big Boy jacket
Patagonia's Torrent Shell rain jacketPatagonia
I get the sentimental attachment to the woobie, and my inner MacGyver appreciates the versatility, but we are no longer preparing for every possible condition on the planet.
If you are headed to Big Bend in October, leave the woobie in your garage. If you’re going to the Smokies in May, buy some decent rain gear like Patagonia’s Torrent Shell.
Trail running shoes are better than solid boots
Bushwhacking with a 90-pound ruck? Buy some boots. But if you’re hiking on a trail with a 40-pound pack, try a pair of trail running shoes: they're lighter, more comfortable shoes, reduce blisters and foot problems on the trail.
“But my ankles,” you cry! Boots aren’t going to save your ankles; carrying 30 pounds less will. Order a pair of last year’s Brooks Calderas.
Say no to that Camelback
Maybe it was just me, but every Camelbak the military issued me started leaking within two weeks. Some dribbled from the nozzle, some from the fill point, but most of them from someplace I could never find. I just carry plastic bottles now: 1-liter ones on the outside of my pack and 1.5-liter ones on the inside to cook with at night.
Ditch the hammock for a tent — maybe
The REI Co-op Passage 2 TentREI
I camp in a hammock and I love it, but lots of veterans with back problems find it to be a torture device. Be aware if you’re wet weather camping, by the time you add the fly, you might as well carry a tent. Grab one here.
Your e-tool is no trowel
The Sea To Summit pocket trowelSea To Summit
If you’re staying put for a week and eating three MREs a day, maybe you need an e-tool. Otherwise, just bring a classic trowel. There may be some initial panic on the first morning after coffee, but as the trek goes on, you’ll be surprised how little waste you make. The orange plastic trowels break on the hardpan, so order a metal one like the Sea To Summit Pocket Trowel.
Trade your ruck for a pack
An Osprey backpackOsprey
If you buy an 85-liter pack, you’ll fill an 85-liter pack — and you don’t need three survival rifles. If you’re backpacking for a week or less, then don’t buy anything over 65 liters, and the closer you get to 50 liters the better. Osprey makes good stuff.
A Bic is just fine
These lighters are awesome…and kind of expensive…and kind of useless. Between forest fires and campsites that look like a Daisy Cutter cleared the ground, fewer parks allow open flames. Stick a Bic in a ziplock bag; it’s all you need to light your stove.
Swap the Therm-a-rest for an inflatable pad
The Sea To Summit inflatable padSea To Summit
If your point of reference is sleeping directly on the ground in your teens and twenties, then the Z-Lite is a great upgrade. But just because the military didn’t give a sh*t about what you slept on doesn’t mean you have to be equally negligent.
After 25 years with the Z-lite, I upgraded to a Sea To Summit inflatable pad last year, and it was liking going from Jim Beam to Macallan 15. They’re expensive but worth it for a legit night’s sleep.
Leave the whiskey at home
Speaking of a legit night’s sleep, leave the whiskey at home. Fresh air, good cardio, and a fairly comfortable sleeping arrangement can do wonders for insomnia. Alcohol f*cks with the quality of our sleep. If you’re kinder to yourself during the day, there’s less pain to kill in the evening. Bring a cigar or a pipe if you need a ritual with which to unwind.
Military MREs for … civilian MREs
Packit Gourmet foodPackit Gourmet
There really isn’t any good trail food, but some trail food is better than others. Ramen or Knorr gets the job done, but if you want a backcountry fancy feast, try Packit Gourmet.
Swallow your pride and get some trekking poles
Your hands are free now, so put them to good use. You’ll have to swallow some pride, and you’ll look like your grandfather on a birding expedition, but the stress they take off your legs on the uphills and downhills will have you going from 8 to 15 miles a day. Hiking poles are like bourbon: you can spend $20 to $220, and while there is a difference, it’s not that big of a gap.
A big stereotype surrounding U.S. service members and veterans is that they are defined only by their military service, from buying "Dysfunctional Veteran" t-shirts to playing hard-boiled, high-octane first-person shooters like Battlefield and Call of Duty (we honestly have no idea where anyone could get that impression).
But the folks at OSD (formerly called Operation Supply Drop), a non-profit veteran service organization that aims to help troops and vets connect with each other through free video games, service programs and other activities, recently found that most of the gamers they've served actually prefer less military-centric fare like sports games and fantasy RPGs.
A new documentary series about Clint Lorance pits the infantry officer convicted of murder against his former soldiers
The fog of war, just kills, and war crimes are the focus of a new documentary series coming to STARZ. Titled Leavenworth, the six-part series profiles 1st Lt. Clint Lorance, the Army infantry officer who was convicted on murder charges for ordering his soldiers to fire on three unarmed Afghan men on a motorcycle, killing two and wounding the third, while deployed to the Zhari district in Kandahar province, on July 2, 2012.
A Vietnam vet found covered in ant bites is forcing the Atlanta VA to finally reckon with years of dangerous practices
Dawn Brys got an early taste of the crisis unfolding at the largest Veterans Affairs hospital in the Southeast.
The Air Force vet said she went to the Atlanta VA Medical Center in Decatur last year for surgery on a broken foot. But the doctor called it off because the surgical instruments hadn't been properly sterilized.
"The tools had condensation on them," recalled Brys, a 50-year-old Marietta resident. The doctor rescheduled it for the next day.
Now the 400-plus-bed hospital on Clairmont Road that serves about 120,000 military veterans is in a state of emergency. It suspended routine surgeries in late September after a string of incidents that exposed mismanagement and dangerous practices. It hopes to resume normal operations by early November as it struggles to retrain staff and hire new nurses.
The partial shutdown came about two weeks after Joel Marrable, a cancer patient in the same VA complex, was found covered with more than 100 ant bites by his daughter. Also in September, the hospital's canteen was temporarily closed for a pest investigation.
The mounting problems triggered a leadership shakeup Sept. 17, when regional director Leslie Wiggins was put on administrative leave. Dr. Arjay K. Dhawan, the regional medical director, was moved to administrative duties pending an investigation. Seven staff members were reassigned to non-patient care.
The only question for some military veterans and staff is why the VA waited so long. They say problems existed for years under Wiggins' leadership, but little was done.
The former Secretary of the Department of Veterans Affairs thinks that the VA needs to start researching medical marijuana. Not in a bit. Not soon. Right goddamn now.
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Donald Trump's withholding of $391 million in military aid to Ukraine was linked to his request that the Ukrainians look into a claim — debunked as a conspiracy theory — about the 2016 U.S. election, a senior presidential aide said on Thursday, the first time the White House acknowledged such a connection.
Trump and administration officials had denied for weeks that they had demanded a "quid pro quo" - a Latin phrase meaning a favor for a favor - for delivering the U.S. aid, a key part of a controversy that has triggered an impeachment inquiry in the House of Representatives against the Republican president.
But Mick Mulvaney, acting White House chief of staff, acknowledged in a briefing with reporters that the U.S. aid — already approved by Congress — was held up partly over Trump's concerns about a Democratic National Committee (DNC) computer server alleged to be in Ukraine.
"I have news for everybody: Get over it. There is going to be political influence in foreign policy," Mulvaney said.