National Winter BoB Exercise - Viking Edition
The Seventh Annual National Winter BoB Exercise – Viking Edition was a success.
Conceived by a good friend of mine well…SEVEN years ago – the exercise is designed to test oneself and one’s gear in a winter setting.
The concept is simple: On a designated winter weekend (we get to designate it because we invented it) take your BoB out of your closet, head off to the nearest patch of wilderness and survive for three or so days with just what you have packed. Bring extra gear in your vehicle so that if you make mistakes they are not fatal. If you have to go back to the vehicle you “fail” but you live and learn. Go with friends if you can for the same reason and because it is a lot more fun that way.
In years past, we did this exercise in the Ozarks – there are several writes ups on this blog. Quite frankly, I tired of walking into or out of our training area in t-shirts (despite choosing dates in “deep winter” the temperatures were frequently in the 40s or 50s in the Ozarks) so I moved the Viking edition of the exercise north a couple hundred miles to northeastern Kansas. This year, week prior to our exercise, the temperatures were below zero and I was a bit concerned for those who regularly attend from the Deep South. Yes, we have people who drive hundreds of miles and more than half a day to attend these events.
When we linked up at the training area at noon on Thursday the temperature was probably somewhere around 15 degrees or so – it was COLD. We rucked up (or is that BoBed up?) and walked over hill and dale, through the snow to a preselected area. Enroute we had to cross barbed wire fences, horse jumps, downed limbs, creeks and all manner of terrain. New folks discovered what more experienced folks had also learned the hard way during past events – BoBs were too heavy to carry all day across terrain, and people were dressed to heavily for conditions. We stopped after about 15 minutes of hiking to allow folks to take off layers so as not to sweat. Sweating in cold weather is a bad thing as it condenses in clothing and makes one COLD once exertion ceases.
We saw several trails made by what appeared to be a mountain lion – very clear, very large cat tracks in the snow – pictures will undoubtedly show up in the forums…
We set up camp which consisted of folks picking out individual areas to set up their shelters, clearing snow, building fires and what not. Most grabbed a bite to eat and by then it was sundown. We had a group campfire where we attempted to solve the world’s problems and most folks turned in early – it was cold and they were tired.
The next morning we woke up, made breakfast (I ate instant oatmeal made with water from melted snow), broke camp and moved BACK to the link up area to pick up some folks who just could not get off work on Thursday (or who saw that the weather was supposed to steadily get warmer and decided to wait a day….just kidding)
We then moved to a different campsite even deeper in the woods and set up camp again. Later that afternoon, four other intrepid souls joined us (the girl in the party could not miss class that day so they waited for her) and easily tracked us to our camp site. It is difficult to “leave no trace” when moving in snow…. All in all, we had 14 people on this venture including a 10 year old boy and an 18 year old woman – both of whom “had never done anything like this before” and both of whom had a blast.
On Saturday we had range time where we fired various weapons at various distances and had a class on snares. That does not sound like a lot of activity to those who have not camped in cold snowy conditions but no one was bored. Just living in those conditions takes time. This was the second Winter BoB Exercise where I did not use my water purifier. The first was because it never stopped raining so I just gathered water off my tarp and this time I just melted snow the entire time.
O Most folks built fire reflectors and open-sided lean tos and this seemed to work well.
O Those without stools or camp chairs wished they had one.
O Clothes got wet (due to melting snow near warm fires) and had to be dried out.
Most folks cleared the snow under their sleeping arrangements which typically consisted of evergreen boughs topped by sleeping pads.
O One fellow did not bring a rifle – but he did bring a snow shovel. He was very popular.
O There was no precipitation while we were out – in fact, it was sunny so I rigged my Swack Shack with a fairly high profile to block the wind but allow me to sit by my fire and reflect heat onto my back – it worked perfectly. I think three people had Swack Shacks and I know some more will be buying one after seeing ours.
O Two guys had cook kits fashioned from #10 cans and picture hanging chain – they were the best things going for melting snow due to their size.
O I only ate one of my meals the entire time I was out there – but when I got back, I was hungry. We walked a lot but not all day so I’m sure I’d have eaten more if we were exercising more.
O I’ll say it again because it bears repeating – most BoBs were too heavy. Things were made more difficult by moving overland through snow. The only way you can truly appreciate how difficult is by getting out there yourself. I encourage you to do so.
I hope to see some of you next year for the EIGHTH Annual Winter BoB Exercise!
But pray ye that your flight be not in the winter, neither on the sabbath day: For then shall be great tribulation, such as was not since the beginning of the world to this time, no, nor ever shall be. – Matthew 24:20 - 21
If you have any comments I’d love to hear them.
If they really interest me, I may even post them.
You can reach me at Joe
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