Saturday, July 21, 2012

The new stove from Heatgear

For Bug Out Bags and Hiking Bags Gas Stoves provides one of the easiest and fastest ways to boil water and prepare a meal. Most Gas Stoves are built on the same principle; you have the gas bottle in the bottom of the stove; a burner on top of the gas bottle and a pot on top of the burner. There are many different type of stoves on the market that use this principle; the stoves from JetBoil, Optimus, Soto and Primus.
The Danish company Heatgear has developed a stove that does not follow this conventional approach and is instead based around a water bottle that is heated by small gas tubes. The stove called Heatstick comes in two different sizes; 0,5 liter and 1 liter. ´

The company Heatgear promise many advantages:
• High efficiency and compact, and light weight design
• Stealthy performance that does not produce much heat or light compared to gas stoves and multi fuel stoves; something that can be important for hunters and military units.
• Safe since it does not produce and open flame that can ignite surrounding materials.
• Standard wide mouth so that the water bottles are compatible with water filters from Katadyn and MSR.

Some of the aspects that makes the stove a less interesting option
• The Heatstick stove currently has a price that is more than double the regular price of a compact Gas Stove.
• Other Gas Stoves have standardized Gas Bottles making easy to find replacements at most stores that sell outdoors equipment; the special Gas Bottles for this stove called Fuelsticks can make this more complicated for owners of this stove.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Bug Out Bag built on Ultra Light Weight Equipment

In some previous articles I have discussed some possible ways to approach the subject of Bug Out Bags from a light weight perspective. In this article I will focus on Ultra Light Weight Equipment and what type of gear you can go for if you want to build an Ultra Light Weight pack for outdoor activities or as a BOB. The Ultra Light Weight Hiking movement has become very popular and new equipment becomes available all the time. In this article I will give some examples of equipment that is available.
All Bug Out Bags must be adapted to the person that uses the setup, the local climate, seasonal variations and terrain. One Size Do Not fit All and this article is only intended to provide the reader with some inspirations for their own setups. For some of the considerations that should be included see the article Building the right Bug Out Bag for You.

Suggestion for an Ultra Light Bug Out Bag

Weight: 4,155kg without water, 7,235kg including water (around 16 pounds including 3 liter of Water)

Backpack 0,891kg
[ ] Terra Nova Voyager 55 Liter 891g

Shelter and Clothing 1,33kg
[ ] Terra Nova Ultra 1 Tarp 2,5m x 1,5m 70g
[ ] 20m (5 x 4m) meters of Dyneema cord 30g
[ ] Montane Light-Speed H20 Jacket 155g
[ ] Montane Atomic Pants 200g
[ ] Western Mountaineering Summer Light Sleeping Bag (180cm length) 525g
[ ] Thermarest NeoAir XLite Sleeping Pad 350g

Survival Knife 0,107kg
[ ] Mora Companion MG Fixed Blade Knife 107g

Fire 0,021kg
[ ] FireSteel Pup 7g
[ ] BIC Lighter 14 g

Light 0.082kg
[ ] Petzl Tikka Plus 2 Headlamp (Including 3 AA Batteries) 81g

Pocket Survival Kit 0,1kg
[ ] Zip Lock Bag
[ ] Fishing line, hooks and sinks
[ ] Snare Wire
[ ] Safety Pins
[ ] Sewing Kit
[ ] Wire Saw
[ ] Anti Diarrheal Tablets
[ ] Water Purification Tablets
[ ] Pen
[ ] Vargo Titanium Whistle 3g
[ ] Fällkniven U-4 Folding Knife 22g

Water 3,080kg
[ ] 2 1,5 liter Soda Bottles (40g+40g + 1500g+1500g) 3080g

Food and Cooking 1,215kg
[ ] Jetboil SOL Gas Stove 300g
[ ] Jetboil Pot Support and Stabilizer 57g
[ ] 100g Gas Bottle 198g
[ ] 6 Freeze Dried Meals from DryTech 660g

First Aid and Hygiene 0,25kg
[ ] Lifesystems Light + Dry Micro 114g
[ ] Compact bottle of Soap
[ ] Tooth Brush, Dental Floss and Tooth Paste
[ ] Half a roll of Toilet Paper in a Waterproof Bag 100g

Navigation 0.123kg
[ ] Topographical Map 100g
[ ] Compass: Silva Ranger SL 23g

Other 0,036kg
[ ] Rite In The Rain 3x5 Notebook 36g


In this Ultra Light Weight setup there is still clothing and shelter included to help shield you from the elements in the form of a Ultra Light Rain clothing, a Sleeping Bag, Sleeping Matress and a Tarp. The Tarp is extremely light with a weight of only 70 grams and made from the same material as the ultra light tents from Terra Nova; it is however very expensive. A light weight tarp in the same size from a hardware store has a weight of around 200g-240g and price of only a few dollars. In this setup instead of paracord a cord made of Dyneema was included; this cord is lighter than paracord and has a strength than can hold around 300kg.

If you are looking for a light weight tent I would recommend looking at the Hillberg Akto, Helsport Ringstind Superlight and Terra Nova Laser Ultra 1. The Ultra Light model from Hennessey Hammock can be another alternative worth checking out.

The Survival Knife in this setup; The Mora Companion is a light weight alternative that does not have a full tang; but I would argue that this knife is one of the absolutely best knives that can be found for this price; cheap, very sharp and sturdy enough for most tasks in the outdoors. The knife can also be found in a number of colors; from forest green to safety orange. If you want a Mora Knife with a sturdier blade you can check out the Mora Bushcraft Triflex. As a secondary knife the super light weight folding knife Fällkniven U-4 is included in the Pocket Survival Kit; this knife is also excellent for Every Day Carry (EDC).

Two tools are included to start a fire; a compact Fire Steel from and a simple lighter from BIC giving you two reliable options to get a fire going. If you want to have more options you can include some tinder like cotton balls soaked with Vaseline and some matches in waterproof bag.

The Tikka 2 Headlamp from Petzl is a headlamp with one red and one white LED; the red LED can be useful in situations when you don’t want to attract attention or preserve your night vision. A headlamp many advantages over a flashlight since they allow you to perform repairs, first aid, raise tents and other work during the night and low light conditions and still use both of your hands. If you want a compact Flashlight instead the Fenix LD-12 or 4Sevens Quark Tactical QTA provides a high amount light in a compact and light format.

Normally Pocket Survival Kits comes in a relatively heavy metal or plastic container; in order to save some weight you can simply pack a small kit by yourself in a waterproof zip lock bag like an AlokSak.

Water is one of the most critical aspects of survival in any climate and the access to water in combination with the climate must be a central aspect of your planning and setup. Water is very heavy so if the access to water is good you can get along with carrying just a little water; but if not you must adjust accordingly. For water normal Soda Bottles that can you clean carefully provides one of the lightest alternatives you can find even if they are not as sturdy as a bottle from Nalgene or Klean Kanteen. If the water in your area is relatively clean in your area you can get along with just brining Water Purification Tablets, but if the quality of the water requires more treatment a compact filter or a water bottle that has a filter included can be worth considering.

For cooking a light weight Gas Stove provides a method of cooking that is fast, effective and light weight. The JetBoil SOL is a suitable system for one person that includes the burner and a pot. All small gas stoves really benefits from having a stabilizer that is attached to bottom of the stove; this makes the stove more reliable and reduce the risk that you accidently tip the stove over and spill boiling water over yourself or lose a meal. A 100g container of gas provides enough heat to boil around 10-12 liters of water. Freeze dried food is an excellent source of food in combination with a gas stove if there is access to water in your area since its light weight and has a long shelf life. There are many different companies that make freeze dried food; find the company that you personally like the best. The rations from the Norwegian Company Drytech are used by military units in Scandinavia; they are vacuumed pack to reduce weight, increase shelf life and reduce the amount of space they take up in your kit.

The First Aid Kit is quite basic and minimalistic; just intended to deal with minor cuts and problems like blisters. For hygiene a tooth brush and some tooth paste is included; in order to save a few grams you can cut the handle of the tooth brush making it a little shorter. For hygiene a little soap can help you stay clean and avoid infections. Normal soap in the size you can find from hotels provides a light weight alternative.

The Backpack in this setup is relatively big for a light weight pack making it possible to add a little extra equipment like a few pieces of clothing, documents like and ID-Card, Immunization Card, Passport, navigation tools like a GPS, Snacks and Tea Bags etc. The lightweight packs from Osprey, the Jam 50 or Jam 70 from GoLite and the Mariposa 2012 can be alternatives to the suggested pack.


This setup is centered on different types of Ultra Light Equipment but still provides a comprehensive setup with a weight of around 7 kilograms including 3 liters of Water. Some personal equipment and clothing would most likely have to be included as well but the weight of the pack is still low. A Bug Out Bag does not have to consist of only Ultra Light Weight equipment as in this setup; but by incorporating some Ultra Light Items you can reduce the weight of regular setup or a regular hiking pack.

Since Ultra Light Weight Equipment does not provide the same amount of insulation and protection from the elements as thicker fabrics the clothing you carry is extra important in order to avoid hypothermia. In cold weather settings this approach is not as effective since it leaves you vulnerable to the elements; an Ultra Light Approach can however be a successful concept during the summers even in Northern Regions. The critical aspect is that you know the limitations of the gear and adapt accordingly; experience, knowledge and skills becomes extra important and you must handle the gear with more care.

• A lighter pack makes it easier to move around; especially if you are suffering from problems with your back or knees.
• You can generally move faster and longer distances with a lighter bag; something that can be crucial during an evacuation if you have to move by foot.
• Carrying as light bag helps to conserve energy and allows you to stay more alert and can thereby help avoiding dangers and injuries during travel.

• Ultra Light Equipment has thinner fabrics and is less sturdy than regular equipment making them more likely to break and be affected by wear.
• High Quality Ultra Light Equipment tend to be very expensive making it a big investment; especially if you don’t intend on using the equipment for your regular outdoor activities
• Ultra light sleeping bags and sleeping mattresses tend to be less comfortable and not provide the same amount of insulation and comfort as thicker and sturdier models. Knowing your equipment, your own terrain and climate is extra important for this type of equipment; you must know how to utilize it and what limitations your gear has. In general I would not recommend the ultra light approach for settings with very cold or extreme weather.

Also see
Light Weight Bug Out Bag
Light Weight Bug Out Bags - Examples of Setups
Building the right Bug Out Bag for You

Saturday, July 14, 2012

Former Director of Intelligence Schlesinger on Peak Oil

I would like to take the opportunity and recommend an interview with the former Director of Intelligence at the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) James R. Schlesinger on the subject of Peak Oil. Schlesinger has had a number of different high posts in the US including Secretary of Defense and Secretary of Energy.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gathering Information during Crisis and Survival Situation – HumInt and Interviews

In order to understand the world around us and be able to identify potential threats Intelligence Agencies and other organizations around the world engage in the collection of information through various channels. Today the vast majority of information is gathered by intercepting electronic communications like internet traffic and radio traffic but other technical tools like satellites are also being utilized. New tools like Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV:s) have been introduced and allows operators to collect information without having to risk lives and some models like the Predator and the Reaper can also engage targets directly. UAV:s have initially been used by Military Forces and Intelligence Agencies but are starting to be employed by civilian actors as well.

Information gathered from Human Sources is often referred to as HumInt. The use of HumInt varies between different actors like police, military, intelligence agencies, diplomats and businesses. Sometimes human source are treated in a way that is not in the best interest of the source. This can be the case for police informers and other more extreme cases like the massive killings in the Soviet Union in the 1930:s. Torture and other cruel treatments have been used in totalitarian regimes as a way to collect information but similar methods have also been employed by more and less democratic states. In some cases sources can be used without them being aware that the information their collecting is being used by others.

During Disasters and Crisis Situations information can often be provided by groups like

·         Refugees and Displaced People – what areas do they have firsthand knowledge about and what areas do they only know indirectly?

·         Locals; Taxi Drivers, Bus Drivers, people working in the restaurant business etc

·         Tourists and Travelers

·         Journalists
Interviewing people and asking questions
Needless to say all interviews must be adapted to the situation and context where they take place; it’s one thing to interview a high level official during in the office of this person a calm day and another trying to get information from someone that has escaped after a natural disaster in the middle of the crisis. In this article I use the term “interview”, this can be a formal process but it can also be as simple as meeting someone and starting a conversation in order to get some information. 

There are many problems with collecting information from Human Sources; one of the major problems is what an individual actually knows and how well this actually represents the situation in an area. Refugees can have lived in a small local area in a country and traveled through areas that haven’t been that affected by natural disasters or conflict. If this is the case the information may not represent the entire picture so it is important to understand what time and place specific information comes from. Rumors and contradicting information often circulate so it is important to understand

·         What has the person experienced and seen firsthand

·         What has the person heard through rumors, family members, friends, the Media etc? The more people a piece of information has passed by the larger are the chance it has been altered or misunderstood. It’s also common that specific stories can be told by many people without them actually having experienced it.

This can be particularly problematic after a natural disaster or for refugees after a civil war since the people you encounter may be very random and from different areas and different social backgrounds. Another major problem with getting information from people is that questions shape the answers. This is probably the biggest challenge for interviews; asking the right questions. The more precise the question – the more precise the answer will be. In many cases it can just as important get information about an phenomena or development as it is to know that it not there. The presence of hostile troops in a certain area can be an example.
Sensitive issues are often extra problematic. One example is unpopular activities or phenomena’s. If asked is an unpopular phenomena should be allowed or not more people tend to say it shouldn’t than if the question is formulated so that it asks if an unpopular activity should be forbidden. Words and formulations affect the answers.

It can also be problematic to interview people in a group; in this case the individuals may affect each other and the answers given. If it’s possible it can be a good idea to try to interview people separately instead of doing so in groups.

Refugees can expect to get advantages if they provide the information someone wants to hear and thereby shape their answers accordingly if they can notice a theme in the questions that is being asked. This can also be a problem for interrogators; if the subject start realizing what the interrogators is looking for they can adjust their answers accordingly.
If asking a person a serious of question regarding what they have experienced or regarding the situation in a particular area it can be a good idea to also ask follow up question like if the informant have something to add that you haven’t asked about. This opens up the possibility to get vital information that falls outside your own expectations and increase the chance you will receive unexpected answers. 

In some cases information from people can be collected face-to-face but it’s also possible to collect information using cell phones, satellite phones, text messages, radio, e-mail, written letters and other tools like social networks. Many Intelligence Agencies and Crisis Management Organizations use their own platforms in order to share and distribute information; using specific groups in Social Networks can an alternative way for people without these resources to use web-based solution to share information but also provide the option of sharing pictures and video. For sensitive information encryption can be used to protect the information or it can be passed on using method like dead drops.

Making Contact
The first step of being able to interview someone for information is making contact; if you are interviewing someone I suggest that you introduce yourself and tell them how you are and why you would like to know more about what’s going on. Often it can be advantage being introduced by someone the person you would like to interview knows if this sis possible. If you’re just asking as private individual or if you’re working for an organization managing a crisis let this be known. Be friendly and polite.

The scene of the interview

One important aspect when conducting an interview is where the interview or talk takes place. It can be good if you can find some place where you can talk privately since the presence of many people can affect the answers. The nature of the situation affects how important this is; it is one thing to interview someone after a natural disaster and very different thing to interview someone in a collapsed state if the interviewed person fears for their life. Your own appearance is also important; how you are dressed and behave can affect if someone choose to give you information or not.

Problems with conducting interviews

There are many forms of problems than limit the amount of information that can be collected from human sources; one common barrier is language. This was a big problem for Intelligence Agencies after the terrorist attacks after 9/11 when many agencies had a limited or no capacity at all to handle this problem; a problem that was also enhanced by the need for secrecy and problems with recruiting new personnel. Language can also be problematic since it might require a great knowledge in order to detect the exact meaning of phrases; especially if there are differences in culture as well.

When asking questions one thing to look out for is that many people often tend to agree with statements rather than disagree. It can therefore be wise to avoid leading questions when you ask a person if they agree with a statement or not; by using more open questions this problem can be reduced.

Another common problem is how the language is used; it can be difficult to understand a question asked in your own language if question is asked in way that makes it hard to understand what the question really is about. This includes specific terms used in professions, slang and “big” words. Another problem can be is if you use vague words when the meaning of the word can be interpreted in many ways. One way to minimize this problem is to test questions on a friend or someone you know before you use them.

·        Try to keep the questions short and precise

·        Take your time and don’t stress through and interview; it’s important to you allow the person you’re talking to finish their answers. Also avoid asking about two separate issues in the same question; it makes it hard for the interviewed person to remember the question. One question at a time.

Finding and getting access to translators is a problematic process and even if you can get a translator it’s hard to know if the translation is correct and if some points are being lost in translation. Another problem is the potential loyalty of the translators; especially for military forces working in locations they are not familiar with.

After an Interview

When you have completed an interview it can be a good idea to ask for the person’s name and contact information if you would have to get in contact with them. It can be hard time to remember all the details of an interview afterwards so when you completed an interview write down the details; if you feel that you have to write down details under the interview or record the conversation I suggest that you ask for the persons permission to do so; especially when it comes to recordings. If you record an conversation with someone without their knowledge it is serious breach of trust; especially if the person you interview discover this during or after the interview.

·         When did the interview take place and where did it take place?

·         How did you interview? If you don’t know the name what other characteristics did you notice; age, hair, clothing etc.

·         What did you ask and what did you learn?

·         Personal impressions

Collapsed States and Civil Wars

In collapsed states and civil wars some of the refugees may be fleeing for political reasons, away from ethnic cleansing or from precaution; the information you collect could possibly put someone’s life at risk if it falls into the wrong hands so make sure that you do all you can in order to protect it and the source you collect it from.

In conflict zones and collapsed states information can sometimes be acquired from

·         Different types of Militias and Resistance Groups in the country

·         Non Government Organizations (NGO:s) working in the area

·         UN Officials or Peacekeeping Forces working in the area

·         Political Groups in exile

·         Maintenance and service personnel

Source Criticism         

One question that can be very hard to determine is if a Human Source is reliable? Some aspects that can be worth thinking about is

·         Loyalty – How is the source and what motivates the source to share information?

·         What type of Knowledge, Experience and Education does the source have?

·         Psychological traits

Some human sources can prove to have great worth; some of the most important sources of information are often people; especially when it comes to understanding the motivation, goals and plans of an adversary since this information can be impossible to gather by other means.  Human sources like individual located in the top of other intelligence agencies can be ultimate sources; a singular source of this nature can often be more valuable than all other sources combined. The secrecy surrounding intelligence agencies often makes the best sources the one that is hardest to get access to since information is shared on a need to know basis and low level personnel might not even know why they perform certain tasks.  
During Crisis Situations it’s important to also take the psychological reactions of individuals into consideration; during high stress situations affects perception in different way, something that can often be referred to as tunnel vision; and it can be a factor even for experienced personal within the police or military. The change of perception does not only have to be what a person focus on; it can also be other things like the sense of time meaning that an event may have passed slower or faster than an individual think it did and they might have missed details that would have been easy to detect for a neutral observer. 


For Intelligence Agencies and Military Actors one potential problem is disinformation. Disinformation can be used to gain advantages in military operations both on a tactical but also on a strategic level. Disinformation can be false information that is being planted or true information that has been altered to create confusion or make an adversary draw incorrect assumptions. The importance of disinformation and deception is nothing new; this is one of the central parts of Sun Tzu:s “The Art of War”. In the Soviet Union this was known as Maskirovka; something that was being utilized on all levels in order to cloak intentions and capability. Disinformation can often be particularly effective if used to reinforce the existing perception of an adversary.

Disinformation can be used to

·         Make an adversary draw the wrong conclusions regarding the capacity of an individual, military force or business.

·         Mask the intentions of an actor

·         Delay actions of an adversary

·         Create confusion or fear

·         Make it harder for an adversary to regain the initiative 

These factors are often more important to actors that are inferior to their counterparts since it can allow the focus their efforts on specific areas. One problem with disinformation campaigns is that the information can get a life of its own; one example of this is when KGB spread the rumor that the HIV/AIDS virus was invented as biological weapon in US. Even if proof that the disease could not have been produced by the US and that it existed before the belief spread still exists among some parts of the public around the world.

Lie Spotting

Knowing if what somebody tells us is the truth or not is not easy. Most adults can only detect a lie around 50% of the time; almost the same rate as if you are simply flipping a coin. If you’re working in a Business it can be vital for detecting fraud and for Intelligence Agencies to detect disinformation.

During Crisis and Disaster Situations its can be especially hard trying to verify information so your own assessment becomes extra important. Detecting lies simply by looking for signs in the person you’re talking to is often known as Lie Spotting. Pamela Mayer is one of those how have worked to develop this field and her research and tips can be found her book “Lie Spotting: Proven Techniques to Detect Deception”. You also view Mayer on TED where she had a talk about her research.


In this article I have discussed some of the aspects related to gathering information from Human Sources. There are of course much more that could be discussed regarding this field but I hope that the reader has gotten some new ideas and perspectives that can be of help.

Other Articles
Risk Assessments
The Mediain Crisis and Survival Situations