Last week I was lucky enough to get the opportunity to put three products through their paces while on a military land navigation course. While I’ve owned them all for a little while now it felt like this was a chance to solely focus on how well they helped (or hindered) me when it came to accomplishing a GO/No-GO task, this versus toying around with them while on any old trail. I’ve written about how much value I put in great shoes/boots (specifically the Salomon’s), the same for my Eberlestock pack and I may or may not have touched on the MilGPS app available for both the iPhone and Android devices.
The Task: Land Navigation
I’ve been walking land navigation courses with a map, compass and protractor since I was in JROTC in the early/mid 1990’s. Anyone remember Tenino, Washington? Where is the water tower? Sorry…inside joke. Last week’s land navigation course would be an intermediate course by my standards, not an overly difficult tast but the elevation changes/underbrush and wait-a-minute vines were slightly annoying. I should add that while I do value old school land nav and think it’s a great skill for any prepper and not just the military types, this time old school would take a back seat to technology. I needed to find out if the MilGPS app was legit and could be relied on even with the cell signal fading in and out. I also needed to shun standard mil issued gear for my own swag which often results in one wondering how in the world aftermarket gear can be so much better than issued stuff, but I digress.
Salomon Boots: Just ridiculously good.
First up were the Salomon boots. I’ve been wearing them casually to work and for some light hiking but nothing like what the land nav course would offer, additionally I’ve yet to wear them while carrying somewhere in the neighborhood of 60lbs on my back. To complicate things a bit more I’ve been fighting a very sore/tender Achilles tendon for a few months, a byproduct of age and trying to sprint out of the batter’s box during a beer league softball game.
Salomon Quest Boots
The boots (paired with Smartwool socks) performed flawlessly all day long under all conditions. The footing was uneven and unpredictable for most of the day and the ankle support provided by the boots was superb. Descending into dry river beds or climbing up the side of steep spurs did not present an issue either, grip was fantastic and support was there. My foot did not move around inside the boot and that was definitely a bonus, if you’ve ever had that happen you’ll know it can get very annoying. No hot spots during the entire event and my feet were able to breathe quite nicely. Great boots overall although a longer term test might reveal some shortcomings.
Eberlestock V69 Destroyer: Amazing.
Eberlestock V69 Destroyer
You don’t know what you don’t know, a saying that originated somewhere but has since been repeated through the years. I’ve always been a staunch supporter of the old school ALICE pack and had even continued to use that after being issued the newer model. Yet even with aftermarket shoulder straps and other additions the ALICE pack is like a rusty Ford Pinto when compared to a new supercar: the Eberlestock pack. As a veteran of many, many movements under load I know how the discomfort starts to set in and how to deal with it while wearing an ALICE pack. I can assure you that NONE of this was present while wearing the Eberlestock pack so much so that I wore it all day long. I never took a moment to drop my pack for a breather, I just motored on because the level of comfort was simply amazing. No pressure points at all, it was like the pack was part of my body and moved with me. Truly I believe the combination of their internal frame design, waist strap and shoulder straps really contribute to a world class experience for the wearer. I should add one caveat in that while it was a long day it was only ONE day. To truly get a feel for this pack I would have to wear it every day for a few weeks, so take that in consideration with my endorsement.
Land Nav With Eberlestock V69 Destroyer
You’ll notice in the picture that I have my tent strapped to the outside of my pack, that’s because I took it out to make room for my Kelly Kettle. Look for a review on that soon although The Maj used it with great success on his bugout journey last year.
MilGPS App: Surprisingly Good.
I can hear almost any instructor ever in the history of land navigation right now: “all those gadgets are great but if they fail what will you do then?” I get it. I GET IT. It’s great to know the old school methods but let’s face it, technology is here and the MilGPS App can be a great addition to any prepper plan of action.
I will admit that I did plot all of my points and kept my grids, distances and directions just in case while out on the course but I absolutely did not need them. I punched in the 10 digit grid on my app and hit “navigate to” and just followed the arrow. I saw the distance, direction and in every instance the app brought me to within 10 meters of the point. If there were instances when I did not want to break brush I would skirt it via a ridge line or riverbed and just cut through back to the point when about 100 to 200 meters away. It was excellent and there was no remembering pace count, trying to box obstacles, shooting azimuth’s with the compass. Just type in the destination and start walking. Bingo.
Now I do understand some of the constraints associated with using an app like this. You’d better have a good battery and a way to recharge your battery if out in the woods. While having a cell phone signal is nice according to the developer it isn’t exactly required. Also if you don’t know how to utilize the military grid reference system or have access to maps with that date, that could be a slight problem. More info here under the Land Navigation category of this blog.
I’m not sure how many times I’ve stated this before but you must get out and test your gear in the field. It doesn’t even have to be a week long excursion deep into the Rocky Mountains, maybe an overnight hiking trip or even an all day through your local national forest. It’s at that point when theory turns into practical application, when that fancy piece of equipment starts rubbing you in the wrong spot or doesn’t work as well as you thought. Or maybe you’ll find ways to reconfigure your gear based on how you utilize it, or in many instances you’ll figure out that you can leave certain things home next time.
Nobody says you have to run out and drop $500 on new boots and a new bugout bag which you may or may not use in the next 6 to 12 months, but if you do decide to upgrade you really can’t go wrong with the items I’ve reviewed above. The good news is that the MilGPS app is relatively inexpensive, so start with that!