4th Annual Winter BoB Exercise
Notional Scenario: An event has occurred forcing you to depart your perfect survival retreat and bug out to an alternate location hundreds of miles away. Enroute, your vehicle becomes inoperable – you must abandon it and the bulk of your supplies forever and continue onwards to your destination on foot with just the equipment you can carry.
And pray ye that your flight be not in the winter. Mark 13:18
Well the Fourth Annual Winter BoB Exercise was a great success. Some of the crew got together again this year to venture forth into the wilderness to test our gear and ourselves in a “winter environment” and to teach, learn, and practice a variety of skills. We do this every year around this time and we hope for coldest weather possible. For people from the Deep South it was cold. For folks in the Northern Tier it was just nice. Temperatures started out in the mid-twenties and fell to the teens the first day/night and then slightly warmed each following day. The folks who attended last year much preferred this year’s weather – no rain!
The adventure started out at oh-dark-thirty when part of the group conducted link up procedures in a cold, dark, lonely parking lot after which they convoyed several hours to a secondary link up sight where the rest of this year’s crew joined the party. We got to practice route planning, inter-vehicle communications, map reading and all of the stuff that goes with trying to move several vehicles down the road in some semblance of order. Whenever we stopped along the way we would maximize the opportunity to top off gas, get drinks/food, visit the restrooms and then get back on the road quickly.
Like a well oiled machine, several hours after starting out the entire crew linked up at the secondary location within a five minute window – this was pretty good considering we had folks coming from four different locations and many hundreds of miles apart. We then convoyed to the drop off point for the weekend. We parked our cars; some changed out of traveling clothing into more “woods friendly attire”, then grabbed our BoBs and started hiking through the moderately difficult terrain. Some learned two valuable lessons in the first fifteen minutes: Their BoBs were too heavy and they were wearing too much clothing.
I’ve seen folks with BoBs that were too heavy many times over the years. Heck, MY BoB feels too heavy to me at times. Adventures like this bring you out the living room and smack dab into reality. All of a sudden those really cool “must-have” high speed items of gear don’t seem so cool any more. You start thinking things like, “do I really need this whatchamacallit in my BoB?” The cool thing is, an exercise like this is where one can learn this lesson fairly painlessly.
When we started our hike it was around 25 degrees. Some were wearing two layers of long underwear, sweaters and the like. I told folks they might want to start out chilly but this is another one of those lessons one has to learn on one’s own. About 15 minutes into the hike we stopped so folks could remove layers. You don’t want to get sweaty in a cold environment.
We moved into an area with plenty of firewood and good shelter areas. Many built lean-tos with tarps and incorporated stone reflectors for their individual camp fires. Most also built deep leaf beds under their sleeping pads. This combination is a good arrangement and makes a world of difference when trying to stay warm with minimal gear. We built a large group campfire up against a rock cliff and the heat that bounced off that rock and the large rocks in the area helped to create something of micro climate where we could sit around and be significantly warmer that just a few feet out into the dark woods.
During the few days we spent in the timber we set traps for raccoon, fired a variety of weapons, hunted (unsuccessfully) coyotes, did land navigation, practiced general camp living and demonstrated and exchanged information about a variety of gear. We also solved all of the world’s problems around campfires at night. Talk ranged from the upcoming election to politics in general, to various aspects of Christianity, to survivalism, to UFOs, to gear, to wives and kids, to “ropes”, to dogs to…. You get the idea.
It was wonderful getting together with others of like mind, exchanging ideas, joking, discussing and just “getting away from it all.” The stated purpose of the National Winter BoB Exercise is to test our gear in a cold weather environment. We did that. We now know how our gear works, how it doesn’t, how to make ourselves more comfortable in the winter woods and we are just generally all the more comfortable with the equipment we carry. I encourage each and every one of you to join us next year for the Fifth Annual Winter BoB Exercise. The rules are simple – take your BoB and go camping around this time of year. You can only use what you can carry. Of course, you can have “extra stuff” in your vehicle – but using it should not feel good – it means you didn’t plan properly. That’s okay – learn from the mistake and resolve to do better next time.
And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared of God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and threescore days. Revelation 12:6
See you out there.
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Prepared Americans for a Strong America