The Orion Woods Brigade
etting Started - What Woods Gear to Buy First

There is a lot of great information on the Internet about equipment - first line, second line, third line, what you need, what's crap - and about a million different opinions on the thousands of dollars worth of kit you absolutely must have to even consider surviving, thriving, or hell, just plain getting into some action (which is a goal in and of itself).

The following are some recommendations for getting started that won't break the bank - and are really just as fine as higher-end gear.

Remember, the key here is that you should start with some basics, use it, abuse it, try it out - and then upgrade. You don't need to start off with the numba one gear, but you definitely need to have the right types of gear. For example, if you don' t have anything to hold water, that GPS isn't going to do you any good.

The below is in the order you should obtain it. For example, if you happen to have item 3, but not items 1 and 2, you should acquire these before moving onto number 4, and so on.

1. A good knife

The key word here is good - not expensive and not the latest cool. A bayonet is not a good woods/utility knife. It's barely a suitable combat knife, much less a survival knife.

A few inexpensive, good knives are:
- USMC Ka-Bar (either Ontario or Camillus)
- Ontario TAK
- Cold Steel SRK
- SOG Government
- ESEE-4, 5 or 6

A knife should be able to skin game, make a shelter, eliminate a sentry, cut your food, open packages, and make snare and deadfall traps. A knife is not a shovel or a prybar and your primary knife should never be a throwing knife. Remember a smaller knife can do some big knife tasks, but a bigger knife usually can't do small knife tasks.

A knife is the most important item in your kit. Do not buy anything else until you get a good knife.

2. Water bottle(s)

Something suitable to hold water.

A good USGI 1-qt canteen can be had for as little as $2 brand-spanking new. You can get them at Brigade Quartermaster or even on eBay.

I would recommend getting a canteen cover (used on eBay) and a canteen cup, which can double as you cooking pot for camping/actioning in the woods. You can get the cup on eBay all day long for about $10. It goes over the canteen and into the cover. Make sure you buy the correct one for the 1-qt GI canteen and not the one for the arctic canteen (a different shape and make of aluminum and not steel).

Buy a second canteen to throw in your ruck.

Camelbaks are fine, but you can do much more with a canteen and they aren't as apt to spring a leak.

3. E & E Kit

Ok, so this is really probably an article onto itself, but think of it as our version of the "10 Essentials" that backpackers and mountaineers recommend.

This is not your bug out bag. This is your basic kit that you carry on your person as part of your 1st-line gear. The BOB is a whole other discussion.

You need to cover the basics here: Fire, Water, Food, Shelter, First Aid, Signaling, Navigation, and Tools.

Fire: Three sources - matches in USGI case; ferrocium or mischmetal fire starter (can either get a magnesium combo from the gunshow, the one they sell at Academy, a Swiss fire steel, or ESEE fire kit); and a Bic lighter. White is better because it allows you to see the fuel level when it's held up to the light. A small candle is good, too - but it needs to be in it's own waterproof bag, as it'll melt in our area of operations!

Water: Water purification tablets (available at Academy), unlubricated condom for water storage (goes into your sock for travel).

Food: Brass snare wire (called "picture hanging wire" at Home Depot), small razor blade, fish kit (misc hooks (small hook can catch big fish and small fish, big hook can only catch big fish), sinkers, 8 ft 5-6 lb test line), spice packets (your preference), energy bar (or two), drink mix, cup of soup packet.

Shelter: Cordage, contractor-grade trash bag or folding "emergency" poncho, space blanket

First aid: Various bandages, gauze pads (2", 4"), small alcohol prep pads, triangular bandage, tylenol, aspirin or ibuprofen, anti-diarrhea meds, allergy meds (bendryl or similar), your meds (epi-pen, etc.), anti-bacterial ointment, hand sanitizer or small soap, tweezers. All of this should go into a waterproof bag. These items can be heisted from the work medical cabinet or bought at the grocery store using your Bene-card.

Signaling: Since we really don't want to be found in the woods, a good whistle and small, unbreakable mirror (or old/blank CD) should suffice here. You can also use the mirror to look around corners without sticking out your melon and can use them to check the bore of your empty rifle by angling it up towards the breech.

Navigation: Small pad and pencil (write-in-the-rain is nice, but not necessary), a good orienteering compass like a Silva Explorer or Silva Starter can be had for less than $20. USGI lensatic compasses are great, but they are heavy and unnecessarily complicated for land navigation. Plus, there are a lot of crap copies out there that look really similar to the real deal.

Tools: Quality multiplier (Leatherman, SOG, Gerber - can be got used and cheap at the gunshow or on eBay), small hacksaw blade, spare folding knife, knife sharpener.

Optional items:
- Bandanna
- Mosquito head net
- Lock picks
- Handcuff key

All of these items can fit into a small fanny pack, Hawke pack, or small surplus pouch.

4. Lightweight Shelter

The simplest, most versatile shelter is a tarp and some cordage. Get a USGI poncho (woodland camo is the latest easily obtainable surplus version) for about $20 at the gunshow or surplus store. With 50 feet of nylon cord (the 7-strand real-deal stuff, not the cotton/poly core crap), you can make a shelter to get you through everything we'll encounter in our base of operations. Add a USGI poncho liner (or one of the nicer aftermarket versions) and you have a sleeping set-up you are not trapped inside of when the zombies come crashing through the woods.

5. Good flashlight and spare batteries

You don't need to have a $100 Surefire to have a good flashlight. Just make sure it's an LED-based light that can handle shock (when dropped - check), could be taped to the side of your rifle, and has some degree of water resistance (nothing is waterproof).

Gerber makes some good ones that can be got at Academy or Dicks. County comm sells a great battery holder, so your batteries will always be available and easy to grab in your kit.

6. Rucksack

The USGI Medium ALICE pack (sans frame) can be got at a gunshow for $20 and fits the bill here nicely.

If you want to fancy it up, there are quite a few 3-day pack options out there - like Blackhawk, Eagle and their clones. These are very nice, but not necessary.

Once you have acquired all of the above, then it's time to start thinking about a rifle.

- Many Rifles

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