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By ChuckFremont Veteran SOF correspondent Chuck Fremonttestsand by oum18845


									                                By Chuck Fremont
                          Veteran SOF correspondent Chuck
                          Fremont tests and evaluates Patrick
                         Smith’s latest system of rugged, modu-
                              lar cold weather equipment.

                                                law enforcement offi-
                                                cers, high country
                                                hunters, and bush pi-
                                                lots flying in cold cli-
                                                mates should take a
 “TRAVEL LIGHT, FREEZE AT                       hard look at Smith’s                           than any recreational cold weather
 NIGHT”                                         Kifaru line.                                   equipment. As Patrick puts it,
    Any soldier, sailor, airman, or ma-           More than just another lightweight           “These are not recreational bags.
 rine who ever did Ranger school, Spe-          sleeping bag, the Modular Over Bag             They’re for LIVING in, for the dura-
 cial Forces Qualification Course               (MOB) sleeping bag system and re-              tion, no matter the circumstances.”
 (SFQC), Basic Underwater Demoli-               lated components will also take the               I first met Patrick Smith in the late
 tion School (BUDS), or Recon, or has           place of the overweight parka you              1980s, while evaluating cold weather
 any light infantry background, knows           are probably packing, at roughly the           equipment for mountain Special
 these words. We’ve wrapped up in               weight of a field jacket liner.                Forces teams. Patrick invited me for
 poncho liners and garbage bags and                                                            a weekend backpack hunting trip in
 huddled with Ranger buddies in sub-            NOT YUPPIE RECREATIONAL                        the Colorado high country. We dined
 freezing temps rather than pack over-          GEAR                                           on marmot and pica stew—Patrick
 weight government-issue sleeping                   “Kifaru” is Swahili for Rhinoc-            got a nice marmot with a custom
 bags. Remain overnight (RON) does-             eros, and this gear honors its name-           Thomas Center .22 Win Mag carbine
 n’t necessarily mean you get to sleep,         sake. Why name modern high-tech                and I got real lucky and hit a pica
 and better to have room in the ruck            field kit after this ancient heavy-            with a scoped M1A. Probably killed
 for extra beans and bullets.                   weight bruiser? Patrick Smith be-              it with stone chips from the boulder
    Things are better now. Patrick              lieves in lightweight gear, but not so         it was sitting on, or there would have
 Smith of Kifaru International makes            light as to compromise survival. No            been zero to eat.
 ultra light gear that will keep you            fat but plenty of muscle.
 warmer than you ever thought pos-                 It’s hard to think of anything              SPECIAL FORCES TEAMS
 sible.                                         much tougher than the African                  SCORE
    Military operators, search and res-         rhino, and the Kifaru gear—while                 Patrick questioned me at length as
 cue (SAR) personnel, backcountry               incredibly light—is also far tougher           to our mission needs and quickly

Top left: Former SF medic for RKB's A-Team in Nam, Robert Bernard, tries out the entire Kifaru Modular OverBag (MOB) being worn in
combat mode. The system is designed for speed, multi-duty, and ultimately as weight (and bulk) saving due to its ability to actually re-
place redundant garments. Can be worn (top) Parka only. Top right: The Kifaru Parka is designed for complete lock-out of the elements
(and interior leakage) as shown by the very high, snug collar and integrated hood. The result is far more wind resistance and ultimately
warmth–the very best warmth-to-weight ratio available. Best-in-category materials assist the design.

produced gear for us that performed
well, at a reasonable price. But his
‘day job’ was designing for the civil-
ian backpacking and mountaineer-
ing market, so there were limits to
what he could do for the military
user, with far different needs. That
changed when Patrick sold his com-
pany Mountainsmith and was free
to produce no-compromise equip-
ment for those of us who are out
there “for the duration.” Thus was
Kifaru born.
  Jump ahead about 20 years to Jan-
uary 2009. Robert K. Brown asked
me to evaluate the Kifaru gear,
knowing that I live outside—tent or
snow shelter—most of the winter, at        The Packlock clothing line-up in Standard Insulation (as compared to Arctic): Parka, in-
right around 10,000 feet. It gets cold.    sulated Pants, insulated Booties, and snow/proof Slip-Overs (for the booties). All are de-
                                           signed to work seamlessly with the Kifaru Sleeping Bags, and dramatically extend the
We hit 20 below zero (–30 Celsius) a       low-temperature range of the bags. Designed for anti-slip-down use with any backpack
couple of times that winter.               as well.
  By February it gets warmer,
maybe 10 below at coldest. Patrick           Plus the 40 degree MOB is wider              prefer to go light, and he agreed,
felt I would be OK with his lightest       than a standard mummy bag, so you              suggesting a Woobie to wrap up in
system, the 40-degree MOB. It might        can get into it with your winter               just in case. It was a good choice.
not work for everyone, but as              clothes on and even boots and body               I’ve packed a GI poncho liner with
Patrick put it, I’m a lot like him—        armor. This is very important for a            me for going on 30 years. It’s now
pretty used to the high, cold country.     military operator. I told him I would                             Continued on page 78

       BLACK HILLS AMMUNITION INC.        PO BOX 3090     RAPID CITY, SD 57709      Phone: 605 . 348. 5150    Fax: 605 . 348 . 9827

                                                                                     SOFMAG.COM                 OCTOBER 2009            77
 KIFARU Continued from page 77
 honorably retired. I’m packing a                                                       “PUP WOOBIE”
 Woobie G2, a 21st century poncho                                                          Dogs get cold too. If you’re a K9
 liner. It’s light, warm, and multi-                                                    operator, check out the Woobie, a
 functional, like the Vietnam-era orig-                                                 go-anywhere item that fits in your
 inal, the Woobie G2 will tie into your                                                 bug-out bag or even a battle-dress
 issue poncho’s grommets, giving                                                        uniform (BDU) cargo pocket. Patrick
 you a waterproof blanket. It weighs                                                    sent an extra Woobie for my dog, a
 1.5 pounds, a little less than a GI                                                    2-year-old German Shepherd train-
 poncho liner, and is easily twice as                                                   ing with me for wilderness SAR
 warm. The color is OD on one side                                                      work. It came with a “Pup Woobie”
 and a low-key sage green on the                                                        tag attached. She approved. “Woof!”
 other.                                                                                    Both MOB and Woobie are insu-
                                                                                        lated with Climashield Combat (CS-
 LISTEN UP, MILITARY                                                                    Combat), a US-manufactured
   I hope those in power to make it                                                     continuous-filament synthetic insu-
 happen see that a Woobie is issued                                                     lation with excellent stability, high
 to every troop in Afghanistan before                                                   thermal efficiency and water resist-
 this winter. It could save lives.                                                      ance. Developed in 2005, this is a
   Teamed with a GI poncho, the                                                         leading edge product designed for
 Woobie is all the sleeping gear one                                                    military use.
 should need for spring and summer                                                         Manufactured as a continuous
 in most of the continental USA                                                         blanket of material, sheets of CS-
 (CONUS) and southern Eurasia,                                                          Combat are cut to the shape needed
 high elevations exempted. Kifaru                                                       to insulate the final Kifaru product.
 even makes a double Woobie, the                                                        Thus the insulation will not clump
 Doobie. I want to be the fly on the      Modular OverBag (MOB). Designed for           or shift and its natural stretch pre-
 wall the first time some troop tells     toughness: to be used WITH boots on, AND
                                          to function as rugged cagoule or Parka, re-   vent tearing inside the garment, un-
 his first sergeant he is taking a Doo-   placing need for carrying standard heavy      like lesser materials. No quilting or
 bie to the field.                        garments. Very lightweight as well.           complex baffles are needed to con-

tain the insulation. CS-Combat will     of the Kifaru 24/7 line of clothing. It      RhinoSkin seems a lot more con-
take repeated compression without       serves as a full-length insulated         fortable than the crinkly, fragile
degrading.                              cagoule (windbreaker), the classic        PTFE to me. That said, I did not test
  Speaking of compressibility, Ki-      mountaineering garment. There is          it in rain—it does not rain a lot in
faru products have built-in compres-    plenty of room to tuck up your feet       Colorado in February. It is not de-
sion sacks in the form of reversible    and close the bottom drawstring for       signed as rain gear and one would
pockets, so you do not have the         an emergency bivouac sack.                probably want specialized rain pro-
weight and hassle of a lot of stuff        The MOB upper’s sleeves are es-        tection in a wet-cold environment.
sacks. Or worries about losing them.    pecially useful for the military oper-       I did not do a lot of bushwhack-
Nice.                                   ator: like the classic Wehrmacht          ing, but the RhinoSkin seemed
                                        sniper bag, you shoot a lot more ac-      rugged enough to me, especially
MOB’S MODULAR DESIGN IN                 curately if you are not shivering.        given the weight, bearing in mind
DETAIL                                  Add a ghillie suit or overwhites and      that anything can be ripped if you
   The MOB is constructed in three      you are set for cold weather target       try hard enough.
zip-together sections—each connec-      interdiction. You arms and hands             Keep in mind the CS-Combat in-
tion baffled to prevent heat loss—the   can be free to shoot, to adjust a camp    sulation will keep you warm even if
MOB functions in multiple roles. Zip    stove, make coffee or whatever, and       it gets damp, so I do not feel the
the top section off in mild weather,    still be warm.                            shell material needs to be com-
utilizing the lower two sections as a      The Kifaru shell fabric RhinoSkin      pletely waterproof.
torso-length footsack.                  is proprietary ultralight, highly tear-
   By itself, the upper section is a    resistant ripstop material Patrick has    THE TEST
warm and windproof anorak, with a       adapted to military use. RhinoSkin          Dog and I slept in a marginal 3-
deep chest zip for easy on–off, use-    outperforms anything I have ever          season tent most of February, at
ful chest pocket and outstanding        experienced: absolutely windproof,        10,000-feet elevations in the central
hood. In fact, the Kifaru hood, tai-    and while Patrick does not claim it       Rockies. This included three nights
lored to cover your nose, is the best   to be as waterproof as material like      bivouacking in snow shelters (one
hood by far I have ever experienced     GoreTex or similar polytetrafluo-         night just in a snow trench) near
on any winter garment. This is          roethylene (PTFE) material, it is         Tennessee Pass, close to Camp Hale,
based on the PackLock Parka, part       highly water repellant.                                  Continued on page 81

                                                                            SOFMAG.COM             OCTOBER 2009       79
KIFARU Continued from page 79
Colorado. This site is best known as        room in MOB for winter clothes. My        slept in one of these on that hunting
the training area of the 10th Moun-         feet get cold thanks to frostbite years   trip ~25 years ago) with 21st century
tain Division during WW II, prior to        ago, so the insulated boots were a        materials, simply called the Kifaru
deployment to Italy and Riva Ridge.         huge help, along with the German          Tipi. These sleep from four to twelve
   Less well known is Camp Hale’s           Shepherd sleeping beside me. Dog          depending on size. He also offers the
use by CIA and Special Forces oper-         wrapped up in the “pup Woobie”            ultralight 1-man ParaHootch, made
ators to train Tibetan guerrillas in        and slept just fine.                      of paraglider material, and a
the early 1960s—the cold weather              So the MOB did have some help,          ParaTipi of the same material which
and high altitude approximated con-         but keep in mind this is a sleeping       will sleep two easily, three or four
ditions back home. All in all it’s an       system—and also a high-mobility           tight.
ideal place to test the MOB and             clothing system—that only claims
Woobie (MOB for me, Woobie for              comfortable sleep to 40 F. I was          BOTTOM LINE
Dog).                                       sleeping in far colder temps. I did         There are not a lot of bells and
   The lowest temperatures in the           get cold the one night in the snow        whistles in the protective, light-
area of operations during this period       trench near Tennessee Pass, but not       weight MOB, which is fine by me—
were right around zero F (–18 Cel-          until the wee hours. I woke up about      simplicity is good. There is not a lot
sius) up to about 20 above (roughly         0400 that morning and decided to          for Murphy to make go wrong here.
–6 Celsius). I slept just fine in the 40-   get up and make coffee. It was a          The zippers are way over-engi-
degree MOB, with a Woobie on                good time to start moving anyway,         neered, workmanship and sewing
colder nights. I wore a wool Aus-           beginning morning nautical twilight       are bulletproof, quality all the way.
trian Army sweater along with Ki-           (BMNT), just before dawn.                 Materials are all first rate.
faru 24/7 parka and pants most                Not tested but worth mentioning
nights, along with long johns and           are several other Kifaru products.          SOFM
Kifaru Combat insulated booties             Patrick Smith has updated his origi-            AG.CO
with overboots. There is plenty of          nal lightweight tipi design (I first                 M

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