So I dunno if 2000 can be considered retro, but after finishing 'Stumbling Thru' and writing my last review I was looking for something good to read, but decided to get away from the hiking subject for a bit. Wouldn't want to read them all at once. I some settled on the old Crimson Skies companion novels.
For those who don't know Crimson Skies is an alternate timeline universe where the United States collapses after WWI and air transport becomes the countries primary mean of transporting goods and services, as the railways fell into disrepair and the interstate was still in it's infancy. The massive zeppelins used to carry goods from nation to nation became alluring targets for pirates and fortune hunters. Basically the universe of Crimson Skies is a mix of Pirates of the Caribbean, Indiana Jones, and Top Gun. So it's basically the best thing ever.
There were two video games released under the title Crimson Skies on the PC (and it was ported over to arcade systems at some point) and Crimson Skies: High Road to Revenge on XBOX. There is also a tabletop game from FASA, I grabbed all the rule-books and may post some AAR's here when I actually play.
I read Wings of Fortune: Book One and Wings of Justice: Book 1. There is also a game companion book which features shorter stories, similar to those that used to be found at the Crimson Skies website.
Now each of the two books I read were intended to be a 3 part series making for a total of 6 books. The books themselves were good but both ended with cliffhangers that were intended to be resolved in the next book. However FASA went under before the books were published, interestingly they were written. This will sound ridiculous but they were written in English, and the transcripts were translated into German and published in the German language. Available on amazon.de for a couple bucks.
I love the Crimson Skis universe. I played the games when I was younger and the books were great (I'd like to know how they ended...maybe I'll have them translated...) the rights for Crimson Skies are back with Microsoft I believe. They had been licensed to Smith and Tinker, a company that went under and was headed by the original creator of Crimson Skies. I think a reboot is long overdue, it's really a refreshing 'fantasy/scifi setting'
If I was to recommend one of the books I read it would be Wings of Fortune: Book 1 – Pirate's Gold. The story is less of a cliffhanger and it's all around a better read. While grabbing these books, as well as the old FASA game books, and Spicy Air Tales novels I came across montanaraiders.com, which is a still active Crimson Skies board. They have available for download the 'Zeppelins and Bombers' game book that was originally slated to be released under FASA before it folded. The fans there worked with the author and digitally published it for free, and they have several other fan created resources.
Personally I think the Crimson Skies Universe is in need of a huge reboot, perhaps a game for Xbox One, or re-launching the table top, honestly I'll even take a movie. It's sad to see this great property going stale while games like 'World of Warplanes' thrive in popularity.
In the past year I have been reading quite the collection of long distance hiking books. However the two part series of 'Stumbling Thru' is the first time I have been compelled to write a review or talk about them, outside of complaining about Bill Bryson quitting the trail twice in 'A Walk in the Woods'.
Stumbling Thru is fiction, though undoubtedly many of the situations and scenarios were somewhat based off reality due to the fact that the author completed an AT thru hike in 1999. The stories main character, a man named Walter, was bused to Amicola falls and kicked out onto the trail by his wife Angie, who was hoping the outdoor adventure of a thru hike would bring him back to reality after his business failed and he shut down as a husband.
Walter reluctantly takes to the trail and meets a wealth of characters including some that quit after just one or two days of hiking, weak sauce. However this is where 'Stumbling Thru' begins to shine, the book doesn't focus on Walter finding himself (despite it being the overarching plot of the series) it tackles trail stories and hi-jinks in a broken memory format, reminiscent of how you would tell a story to friends around a bar.
Often times trail books find themselves hanging their laurels on vivid descriptions of the landscape and deep thoughts. Personally as a reader who enjoys a good laugh (basically the saving grace of Bill Bryson's work) all of this ink based self reflection often times can feel like pretentious narcissism (says the guy with a blog where he writes about whatever he feels like).
Stolz however cuts out the majority of this, or limits it to a point where it truly supports the story and isn't the whole story. It is partially due to the fact his story is fictitious. But taking the focus off this type of content and onto the good times of hanging bear bags, fart jokes, and drumming up the most exhaustive list of stand-ins for the word 'fuck' ever, the books were real page turners.
Now I'm not an English major, but I was able to catch a few editing errors in the book and they were truly my only complaint, but it was in no way shape of form a deal breaker.
With both 'Wild' and 'A Walk in the Woods' getting movies this year...and my personal feelings on both see them as less than acceptable to represent hiking in film. I think that 'Stumbling Thru' should be adapted to the screen. With all of the intertwining stories it could easily be cut into a film in the style of 'Love Actually' with all of the characters stories winding in and out of each other until they finally summit. Hollywood are you listening!?
The epilogue was a great touch and a way to give us some insight to how Walter's story ended, however the other characters didn't receive the same treatment. We know how they left Katadhin, but I'm interested in knowing what happened to the other characters (specifically Skunkers and Flutterby, I have to know). Huge thanks to A. Digger Stolz for putting together such a great set of books that is now my go to recommendation for a hiking book to friends and family.
It has been a long while since I have written on the topic of MILSIM, but with my recent increased involvement with the Rushing Russians North East Chapter, and subsequently their affiliation with Mil Sim West (MSW) I have begun planning for more intensive ops ranging from 24 hours upward.
In short that means that more than just a paintball mask and a rental need to be on your body to participate. Recently MSW distributed to players for it's Road to Rostov (RTR) game a gear list which can be found on their facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MilSimWest). Now I have never attended an MSW game however I know RTR is going to be their longest simulation yet, and participants will be 'roughing it' out in the wilderness for the duration of the game.
As you can see there is a whole mess of stuff there. I was discussing with my buddy Kiko what would truly be required on this list as I was finding some things I disagreed with and he asked me to write an article on MilSim Pack weight from the perspective of a backpacker.
Well there's an idea I can hang my hat on, I doubt there's anyone out there writing a similar piece. So here it goes, I'm sure a '24-48 Hour Gear Breakdown Video' will be available in the future here on Going Big.
So I'm going to start with the number one rule of Backpacking after Leave No Trace (LNT):
'If it is yours, it is your to carry'
Basically what that means is that if you want to carry a 10 pound classical lute, because you find it fun to play at night around the camp fire, you carry it...the whole way. Don't try to con it off on your buddy because he's carrying his stuff, that he brought for him. This means 24 hours of the weight of your ruck or assault pack on your back.
90% of players who sign up for 24 hour events truly can't fathom what they've gotten themselves into unless they've do it before and will play themselves into a coma within the first 8-10 hours of play. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and this tiredness gets further compacted and quickened with field sleep and the need to move your bag of classical lutes from outpost to outpost.
That being said there's still essential items on that list, however there are lighter or better alternatives to carrying them. I'll run down a few of my suggestions.
We'll begin with the 'On Your Person' Section
It has underwear as an optional item, if free balling works for you...more power to you, but I chafe pretty bad so I need an undergarment (like the MyPakage underwear I reviewed). Be sure if you wear an undergarment to wear an athletic style, your ratty Hanes tidy whiteys will become soaked with sweat and decimate the skin they touch by chaffing it to bits over the long run of a 48 hour OP.
This brings up the big topic of boots. Please, please, please, I implore you to not just buy boots because they match an impression you are shooting for or whatever else. Go to an outfitter and have your feet sized for hiking boots. What kind of toe box, arch, and heel do you need? If you don't know the answer to this question your feet hate you, and will punish you as you play a long MILSIM Op in crappy boots you bought because Marky Mark was catching the Good Vibrations wearing them in Lone Survivor.
Once you have these well fitting boots, the next step is to toss out the uncomfortable and thin factory insoles and get aftermarket ones (such as Superfeet or Dr, Scholls Active series) and remember if you need anything special in regards to arch to include that in your sole purchase.
Unlike the rims you put on your Honda, these insoles will actually help your boots perform better for you.
Wristwatch is a required item for good reason, leave it off your wrist and place it on a MOLLE loop or belt to avoid sweat rash on your wrist.
Most of the Load Bearing Equipment items are common sense for most players even considering an event of this caliber. However unless a helmet is expressly required by operational or impression guidelines I'd leave it at home. Your neck will get tired. In a similar vein look at ways to reduce the weight of what you have to carry to fight, consider a chest rig or belt harness as they are lighter than plate carriers and cause your ruck to wear less on your shoulders and back.
Now the area of the Assault Pack and Ruck is the one that I feel needs the most defining. I am personally opposed to leaving my gear with other players inside patrol bases or at spawn points. Things have a tendency to disappear, with water being the worst offender...if it's not your water jug don't drink it, the guy it belongs to probably has herpes. So with that I would be fighting with my equipment on my back for 24-48 hours.
'Keeping it light, Keeps you in the fight'
The above saying is my mantra when packing for MILSIM events the lighter my bag is, the more energy I will have to be in the fight, because I have exerted less carrying my load to get to the fight.
Don't forget, your pack has a base weight. The frame, canvas, Cordura, Zippers, ect. Are all things you have to carry. Consider pack weight when buying a new carry solution on always replace metal zipper pulls with 550 cord, little weight savings like that add up in the long run.
Food is the next subject, for backpacking and hiking calories to weight is a hugely important subject. Avoid things with heavy packaging such as cans or the thick outer portion of the issued MRE (Strip it down to the smaller part to save weight). Three hiker favorites for calories are PopTarts, Snickers bars, and Knorr Pasta sides, you're putting out so much energy going up and down hills (or firefighting) the calories in these foods is more important than the health factor to keep you in the fight.
Spare weapons is a tough one. It's a personal choice, I don't like to carry the weight, some may consider it a necessity. I trust the reliability of my favorite main weapons to not crash on me mid-fight.
Cold weather gear is another choice based around where and when you play. If it is going to be cold, bring a hat, balaclava, and gloves. They are the items that will keep you warmest for the weight. If it's going to be really cold add a quality fleece (not that Condor garbage) to that set up and you'll be all set.
Wet Weather bag, Sleeping Pad, Sleeping bag and Poncho are easily rolled into 2 items. A military issued body bag, and a woobie (also known as a poncho liner). With these two items and the aforementioned cold weather gear. You and your equipment will be dry, warm, and comfortable as long as you find a good spot. That change alone will save you pounds of weight in your kit.
Extra socks, though required by the above list are a foolish necessity. Purchase a pair of Darn Tough socks made in Vermont (I recommend the Appalachian Trail Conservation supporting pair in Oatmeal color) and wear them for the whole operation. If they get wet, take your feet out of them, strap them to you pack to dry and go sock-less for a few hours. Underwear is the same way, if necessary swap undergarments to the outside of pack for drying and free ball as they dry. I have worn these socks for weeks at a time with this method, good socks are expensive but worth it in the long run
Cook set is required to make the oh so delicious Knorr pasta sides, but consider a ultralight cooking kit like the MSR Pocket Rocket, and a Titanium Spork and cook cup.
Personal hygiene kit? You mean a camo compact right? Seriously if you're planning on playing 48 hours worth of MILSIM and are worried about hygiene stay at home and play ARMA 3. You are going to get nasty and smelly, embrace it, go to McDonald's afterwards and disgust everyone, then shower the most glorious shower you've ever showered. It will feel awesome I promise.
E-tool is a heavy item. I imagine it is on this list to dig cat holes for taking a dump. Pro Hiker Tip: Leave the E-Tool at home and use rocks or sticks to dig the hole you make you nasty in. The extra effort for the 1-2 times you take a crap will be worth the 2 lbs of weight savings in the long run.
Water weight is the next big issue. Water weighs 5lbs per 2L you carry. So when it comes to weight it is important to carry your water smart. What I mean by this, is I see the habit of MILSIM players using drinking from their water hose as a time passer, or just because their mouth is dry. While it's good to be hydrated drinking yourself dry in the first few hours of a long op won't do you any favors. Also remember to start hydrating 3 days in advance of the OP.
Consider packing a light weight bladder like the Platypus 2L with no hose in your bag with a simple water bottle tip on it, also if the option is available to you run a Nalgine on the outside pocket of the pack. By having to take you pack off to retrieve these items makes you less likely to drink water for the sake of drinking water.
Keep in mind these things are just suggestions, for what works for me. You know your own body best. If you are a cold sleeper, than you may 100% require a sleeping bag for cold nights, for others they might sleep so hot they can cowboy camp in their gear and be just fine. Find what works for you for these long games and don't let others (including pictures of Navy SEALS) tell you whats best for you.
My final bit of advice is pretty common practice. Bring a 'Car Bag' for after the op with sandals and a fresh pair of underwear, shorts, and Hawaiian shirt (that's me...but whatever you're comfortable in). Despite the fact you'll still be grubby and nasty you will catch a second wind when you change into fresh cloths. Packing the extra bag is 100% worth it.
Hopefully this has given you some stuff to think about and gotten you in a better mind set to approach a long tactical MILSIM game such as those put on by MSW, while being weight conscious of whats in your pack.
Welcome to 2015 and the first day of Going Big.
Well it's finally off the ground, blog attempt number two. I somehow have a better feeling about this one versus my last attempt. The idea of keeping my focus loose and simply writing about what I want to talk about is certainly going to make content generation easier, and not having a 'creative team' that has a different idea of where the project is headed.
I decided to launch this project on Jan 1, 2015, simply because it made sense, it's not necessary a resolution or anything of that nature. However when I decided to work up this project the New Year was looming and it made a nice deadline.
My name is Jason, I also go by the callsign/trailname/handle 'Wiki' which is how I'll be signing my post from here on out. In the 'real world' I'm a computer guy and college student, occasionally some of that will leak onto the blog when I do fun projects or events. Outside work I am an avid hiker, airsofter, and obstacle racer; All subjects I'm planning on writing about in the Going Big blog including trip and event break downs and some cool features and media to accompany them.
Obviously each of those hobbies have 'gear' that go with them, so you'll see reviews here for that. I also wear a lot of review worthy gear in 'the real world' from Triple Aught Design, GoRuck, and Prometheus Design Werx; I'll be covering these products in my review segments as well. Basically, as the home page splash screen suggests, this is an 'anything blog', where I'll write about whatever I want to on any given day.
I have already written a few review pieces that I have transferred over from my old blog project to here before I start fresh content.
The final segment I'll address is that Going Big will eventually have a web store. Often I have dreamed up great ideas for t-shirts and Velcro patches, but never brought them to life. I will be doing limited runs of some of these ideas on this blog, more details to follow.
After their announcement of their Tough Mudder style event, the Nasty, the team down at GoRuck HQ added a slick new piece of kit to their store’s offerings, The Bullet Ruck. Since the initial 10L offering which is reviewed here, they added the Hydro Bullet (5L) and the Bullet 15. Like many of GoRuck’s products this fills a very niche part of the markets with packs designed for very particular jobs, yet can be used for everything else too.
It’s no secret that I like GoRuck, their events are great, planning to do several of them going into 2014. Their gear is solid, made in the USA, and their SCARS warranty will knock your socks off. Buying a GoRuck product is buying a bag that will last you forever….and if it doesn’t it will at least last until the company goes under, which I doubt will happen anytime soon. Not to mention, if your GoRuck bag its wrecked in a firefight or shootout, they’ll replace it for free and give you complimentary swag to hear the story.
I purchased this bag shortly after the Nasty on eBay, like I do with many of the high price items I buy. It had yet to surface on the GoRuck web store at that point, so I believe the seller bought it from the swag tent at the event. I was hoping to go to Nasty 001, but due to getting a new job I didn’t have the vacation time.
The GoRuck 10L Bullet Ruck can be found for purchase in several different colors and often camo patterns on the GoRuck gear store:
My eBay seller shipped quick, and if you decide to order from GoRuck I have personally never had any issues with their shipping or packaging.
The pack has 2 individual pockets. the first is actually just a hydro pocket. It does not lay flat like the other pocket pictured above. It is simply a place to hang you water bladder. Its nice and roomy and will easily accept a 3L bladder, but will leave room for nothing else. But isn’t that kinda the point.
The second pocket, pictured above. Follows the typical ‘lay flat’ style that GoRuck prides itself on. And rightfully so, I cannot express how frustrated non-lay flat bags are to me now that I have owned several GoRuck Bags. Inside this second pocket there are also two additional zippered pockets to place snacks, chews, med kits, or bricks. I use them to carry my inhalers during events/hikes.
Supposedly this Pack is capable of the 4 bricks needed for the GoRuck Light Event, however I personally don’t see it. I would use my Echo or GR1 pack for that before I use this. Moving to the other side of the bag the hold for the drink tube has been expertly placed to keep the hydrotube from increasing your profile and generating a snag risk. Also the straps have some MOLLE webbing for small pouches.
The pouch pictured there is a Triple Aught Design iComm pouch in Khaki (Note how similar the colors are). It is an awesome padded pouch, which is great for carrying a phone or music device. This was something I added after receiving the pack based on my needs on using it as a day hiking pack, I don’t plan on doing a review on such a small pouch so I figured I would mention here that it is certainly worth looking at. I will be running my hydro tube over the other shoulder.
Do remember that if you have completed a GoRuck Light you can get awesome deals on patches that go to a great cause. Example below is a patch based around a quote from the Challenge Video on GoRucks site by my 525 Cadre Beaux. Take a look at the GoRuck Skymall on Facebook to find stuff like this. All the money goes to worthy charities.