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Central War Gaming Blog


Thursday, February 27, 2020

Sleeping in Comfort and Safety at Swift Fox 22

It's not always nice weather in Oklahoma in April. And, is awfully unpredictable, with pretty solid temperature changes just moving downhill a few hundred yards.

We want to make sure you are safe, comfortable, and effective through the entire time Swift Fox 23 (sign up today!) is running, so as for all our events we have some requirements around sleep systems to help you get there:

Sleep System

You must bring a complete sleep system, consisting of a sleeping bag suitable for use in below-freezing conditions, and a waterproof cover such as a bivy sack to keep it dry.
The bivy cover must be a military camouflage color or pattern, but does not need to match the uniform color.

There are a couple things going on here, so let's review in detail what a tactical, all weather sleep system consists of:

Sleeping Bag

A sleeping bag keeps you warm in the cold, but like many things, they have limits that are tradeoffs. More weight and bulk will give you lower temps. Of course, money can also be traded for lower temperature ratings with less weight and bulk.

Warmth is a direct result of "loft" or the amount of air trapped in the bag. If it's not puffy, it's not warm. This all degrades over time, and I for one have been very cold because the lovely sleeping bag I have used hard for 10 years simply wore out. Surplus gear can be the same; don't assume it works, but check, and plan for the original rating being at least 10° off.

Some of the warmth can be recovered with cleaning, but that's a complex topic, so read up carefully and follow directions scrupulously or you can end up ruining a sleeping bag.

You also don't have to carry a sleeping bag at all. I for one now run a blanket, or quilt. For the military a woobie is a common name for these. The theory is that half of a sleeping bag is laid on by your body, squished so it has no loft and therefore can't keep you warm; you just don't carry the bottom half, only the top. Same warmth with less weight (and cost!) or much more warmth for the same size/weight.

If you roll around a lot, these may not be for you, and they have to integrate into the rest of your system, but are worth knowing about, and we officially don't care what you use as long as you have an effective warmth layer.

Ground Pad

You can't heat the earth with body heat, so the most important thing in your system is not the bag or blanket but a good insulating pad. There are a huge variety of these, inflated, rolling, or folding, with many options. Make sure it is comfortable, and insulates you well. The thinnest and cheapest ones won't work so well. Some even carry a second pad for very cold weather, ground insulation is so important.

This might be a good time to talk about color. One of the more common cheap pads are brightly colored roll up ones. They are hard to hide, in camp or when rolled up on your ruck. You will likely have to camp out where the enemy can see you, and don't forget there are drones; you need to stay camouflaged from every angle, at pretty much all times.

So think if maybe you want to invest in something smaller, lighter, more effective, and also not bright colored. Or, cover it up. 

My foam pad is a very good, lightweight consumer camping one, so is bright red. But it lives permanently inside a camouflaged bivy, so you can't see it, ever. That's a fine plan to keep camouflaged also.

I also keep a second foam folding pad, partly for the below rest padding, work pad, muddy conditions but also because the ground pad is so important that I sleep on them both when it is very cold. It helps a lot. 


You really, really need to be able to not get wet when it rains or snows. Getting wet and then going to sleep is a sure fire way to be uncomfortable, and takes you a few steps closer to risking death. We don't like hypothermia, at all. 

Sleep systems are also less effective — or entirely ineffective, depending on the filling — when even a tiny bit damp. You have to keep yourself, and your sleeping bag dry. 

The classic, easiest, and probably best way is the bivy sack. It's just a tube a bit larger than your sleeping bag you put that, and maybe the ground pad, into. The bivy is waterproof, but usually Goretex or has vent panels, so you don't fill it with moisture as you breathe and sweat. They are usually sturdy enough to be laid directly on the ground, which is good for our purposes. 

If you want, though, it's also possible to simply use a tarp or other waterproof sheet. Lay it down, lay your sleep system on one half, and then flop the rest over you. As long as you sleep calmly, it's not too windy, etc. you will stay in place, and the gap in the tarp will let moisture out even if you are as closed up as  you can be. 

But back to color: your bivy really, really needs to be a muted or camouflage color or pattern. No, it doesn't have to match the uniform, just anything that will blend in will do fine. 

Keeping Warm

Sleep comfort, in the cold, is all about layers. You can add more layers easily. The bivy is one, even without moisture. You can also get sleeping bag liners, which also keep it clean if you are jumping in with all your clothes on. 

Or you can bring sleep clothing. If there's time and space, this helps a lot. You put on fresh, dry and looser fitting warmth layers, then get in the sleeping bag. Then take them of and change to fresh (or yesterday's freshly aired-out) hiking around clothing when you wake up. 

And always wear a hat to bed.

You also may find yourself needing to sit, rest, or nap without being able to deploy your whole sleep system. OPs, guard posts, ambushes, halts in patrols, and so on may make you very cold as you are static. Popular recommendations are to carry a small or cut-down sleeping pad to sit (or kneel) on, and a woobie to wrap yourself in.

These can be used as add-ons for when sleeping as well. Aside from my full sleep system I have a folding german sleeping mat and a Jungle Blanket (a woobie) which I carry as much as I can for quick comfort and warmth. But when it's really cold, I also use the folding mat under my sleep system, and will lay the blanket over the top of  the bivy. It works.


You can also add additional layers to the system by bringing a shelter. Tents can be hard to move when entirely on foot, but if you expect your unit to have some fixed bases, then you can leave one in the Ready Bag. At least Kitoy and the GDL will have fixed bases — unless they get attacked and displaced! — so should bring tents if they wish.

Tarps and other small shelters are also useful. Tipis are popular now, and there are many other combo ponco/shelter systems that work well. I pretty much always carry the fly from the Army ICS tent, with some poles and stakes to allow it to be a free-standing 3 sided shelter. I have slept under this in deep snow, keeping my head and gear dry and out of  the wind, while the bivy sticks out and gets snowed on.

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Wednesday, February 26, 2020

Food at Swift Fox 22

One of the things we have decided not to provide to participants at CWG events like the upcoming Swift Fox 20 in April is meals. For a number of reasons, not least individual preferences, you will have to provide your own.

However, this is another area where our event format may test your plans. You can do a day, or maybe a bit more, off willpower and candy bars, but at the end of a 2-3 day event like Swift Fox 20, you will be ineffective at best if you don't eat, and eat well.


Most people default to purchasing ration packs, with the US MRE (Meal, Ready to Eat) being the most common, basically because we are in the US and they are available. 

We have MREs for sale this year

We normally do not provide meals, even for extra money, but this year we have a sealed case of 12 USGI surplus XXX expiration MREs, complete with heaters and all.  
No shipping, pay for them now or on site if any are spare, and we'll give it to you at check in. This is all "milsim" so no choice, the one you are handed is the one you get :)

Buy MREs now  

The MRE is... exactly what it says it is. A Meal, Ready to Eat. They can be eaten cold, no cooking required, though they are much, much better when warm or hot.

They are also meals. The US issues three a day to troops in the field, when needed. Most other armies issue 24-hour ration packs, or one per day which have about the same amount of food, just packed differently, and often organized a bit more like breakfast/lunch/dinner. MREs just sort of are what they are, with most meals being dinner-oriented.

These are all rations. They are intended to be used for the short term, not to live off for weeks or months, so when you go crazy hermit in a shack to write your manifesto, don't try to live off MREs.

All rations are packed for surviving transport and distribution, but are therefore large, boxy, full of packaging and often full of stuff you do not want or need. Some disagree with this principle, but in most armies, most troops "strip" or "break them down" once issued, meaning removing it from the package to fit better and to remove the drink mixes, hot sauce, or whatever you do not need or want. Don't ever get rid of actual food items, as you need those to survive. 

Break down is usually done as a group; keep the MRE cardboard case or some other box, and toss all the stuff you don't like or want in there in a central location. You never throw anything away, but leave it in the box as others on the team may want your spares, so you end up trading. Dump your stuff, and take what you like, need, or are missing out of it that others have discarded. 

For US MREs, also note that the brown over bag is supposed to pull apart; try that instead of cutting it open. If you manage to do that, you can keep using it to store the stuff you keep, or which you haven't eaten yet, as it will sorta go back together also. It's not sealed well enough to be wet trash storage, but it's got some usage. 

Complete Nutrition

Eat it all. Do not eat the main course of an MRE, and toss the tortillas or rice. Don't just subsist on tubes of pimento "cheese." Good nutrition is about a balance of attributes; one food will not just give you a different energy type (quick vs long-term), but will help aid in the other foods working better for you. Ration packs like MREs are designed by nutritionists with this in mind, so even if you think you hate one component of the meal, pretend your mom is here and eat it anyway. 

If putting together your own meals, from either grocery store or camping items that travel and reconstitute well, plan the meal out so you get complete nutrition as well. Don't try to subsist on meal replacement shakes or bars, or only eat carbs or meat.

Snacks in ration packs are less important to the overall meal plan nutrition, so use your own intelligence to decide when to use them. Don't eat an energy bar as dessert, but save it for when away from the base, to eat on the go when you need it. Don't save the Skittles to eat when you won't have another meal for hours, as you may have a sugar crash.

When supplementing either your own meal or adding to the MRE for more snacks away from base, buy smartly. Nut packs and other more balanced, low-sugar items will be better than candy bars, always.

Eat Enough, But Not Too Much 

At Swift Fox you will likely have a much higher pace of activity than you do normally. Walking around, especially with load and hills, and the stress even for a "game" event will result in higher caloric needs.

Be sure to actually stop and eat your meals, at approximately meal times. Team leaders especially need to keep this in mind, and not always say "yes" to all orders, or to push the team for one more hill or one more objective. If you give everyone time to rest, rehydrate, and eat, you can get more out of them for longer.

Also think carefully about when you are active. Breakfast is so called because you break the fasting you did overnight. Fine, when sleeping overnight like normal people. But most of you will have to pull a middle-of-the-night guard shift, or may even spend much of the night time moving — and attacking — enemy forces. Don't assume you can last the 10-12 hours between meals when active, and plan on at least nutritious snacks, shift your meal schedule to match up to your sleep/activity schedule, or plan for a fourth meal. 

Many people think MREs are bit large for a meal, and three a day is too much food. I am one of those, and usually use more like two a day with maybe a few of my own snacks just in case. Do be sure to sit down, and eat 3-4 times a day, to snack in between, but do not force yourself to eat the entire MRE every 8 hours if it doesn't feel like you need it. Also pay attention to your activity level; if you are in an OP, or a camp, or otherwise largely static all day you don't need a 5,000 calorie active warfighter sort of intake. 

Trust your body, when it tells you that you are full, or hungry. And don't keep it to yourself; if you are starting to lag because of food, tell your team. There may be time for a rest, or someone else will offer you a snack to keep going until you can get to your real meal.

When You Are Hungry, Drink

This is a longstanding trick, used to make you fat and poor. The food court in the mall is there because walking around makes you thirsty. But you can easily be persuaded to eat when you just need a drink. 

Aside from the usual cries we have that you drink more, drink on the go, drink at every listening halt, when you are hungry first drink and see how that goes. 

Also, drink with meals! Way too many people don't drink with their normal civilized life meals, but it is important for digestion and more important in the field. Aside from your increased activity and using any chance to get more water into you, rations tend to be dense and low-moisture. Dry food in your stomach takes a lot longer to digest and risks not being as fully processed so you get less out of it. You need water with your meal, more than at home. 

Eat (or Drink) Something Hot

Hot food, or at least hot liquids like soups, teas, and coffee, warm you up, make it easier to digest in some cases, and have enormous morale effects. Go out of your way to eat at least one hot meal a day, even if it is hot outside, and to drink warm liquids for morning, or when out on cold evening watches or patrols.

MRE heaters are... pretty awful. They often do not heat very well, but if that is all you have, don't use it as an excuse to not heat. Warm food is more disappointing than hot, but much, much better than cold. Many civilian "MREs", for shipping safety purposes, do not include the heater, so read closely and plan accordingly.

There are replacment MRE heaters available, and other types of much more effective flameless heaters, which is the term of art so you can search — or we can have a separate discussion if you are interested. Triox, Esbit, Dragonfuel (and others) are fuel gels or tablets that burn independent of other fuel sources, and do not even need a stove as long as you are careful to not burn the forest down; the floor of a forest or meadow is made up of organic matter so DO be careful when using even small fuel sources on what you think is dirt.

Bring a cup suitable for heating liquids, something metal that can be exposed to direct flames like heater tablets or stoves. Don't try to heat rations over direct flame as the bags will melt or catch on fire. They are heated with flameless heaters, or by immersing the bag in boiling water.

Stoves generally make noise, and cannot be hidden from view so easily, so flameless heaters, and heat tablets are good to carry regardless, as they can be hidden (dig a little hole in the dirt and your Triox or Esbit pellet is almost invisible when on fire). If you plan to eat a meal while out on patrol, in the middle of a cold night, plan for heating it tactically.

While everyone should bring at least some heat source, you don't all necessarily have to break it out in the morning. Talk amongst yourselves, and very often one person will be happy to share the fuel of their stove for everyone to have coffee in the morning. This can at least speed things up, and if packing out as a group for a patrol, can reduce the load on the whole team if you plan ahead.

Freeze Dried Meals

Another common alternative is the "Mountain House." That's actually just one brand, but there are many others, of freeze-dried camping foods. Freeze drying removes all the water, so the meals are very very light. Of course, you must add water, and heat them. Usually, you must add boiling water, stir, and let sit. So think of the total system weight, the time and equipment required to do that. 

Freeze dried meals are generally one course meals, and often rather large. Read the label carefully, as they often are designed for splitting with another, or with a larger group. That's a lot to eat in one sitting, but if you will be coordinating food with a battle buddy, or fire team, that may work well. You can all have ready to eat rations but also plan to cook one freeze dried meal a day together, for example. 

Freeze dried meals, properly prepared, are often much tastier than military rations because they are individually bought by consumers. Bad food would not be bought again, so they try hard to make it tasty and so on. It is not ready to eat, even in an emergency; you must add hot water. These are also single — and usually single component, soup or stew like — meals, so you'll need some source of snacks as well. 

Make Your Own Rations

Some of us supplement ration packs or even make our own. The principles of MRE — fully cooked, sealed bags of food — is pretty common now and easy to find at the grocery store. Me, I like the ethnic sections. Tasty Bite has a variety of Indian dishes, which go down well, heat well and are edible if the heater is indifferent. 

For breakfast, things like oatmeal packets work well, and are easy to heat. I like squeezeable packs of pureed fruits. Yes, I mean baby food. Actually, others have found they work well like I do, so they aren't all in the baby department, but they also offer them with more ingredients as more complete nutrition so can be pretty good breakfast or snack items. They also have screw tops so can be closed up and eaten a little later (but remember, they become perishable once open!) and also don't leak when you are done with them, so can simply be stuffed in a pocket, so aren't dirty trash. 

Many people like coffee so you are pretty likely to be able to boil water as a team in the morning, borrow some water for the oatmeal. Soups are the same, and always good to have around for when it's cold especially. 

It can be good to save the hot meals for breakfast and dinner, both to reduce the logistics load and the time it takes to eat. Tuna can be had in various sizes of foil flat packs, making them easy to eat (with a fork or spork), carry, and dispose of vs the old cans. Peanut butter can be had or repacked into squeeze tubes, then applied to crackers or bread if that's more your speed. 

Snacks should be focused on the least-processed foods you can. Start with nuts, dried fruits, granola and trail mixes (but go light on the candy and chocolate!), and even fresh fruits. Fruits have their own package so are easy to bring along. Oranges are not as prone to damage (bruising) as apples and bananas and the smaller offshoot clementines (cuties, etc) are an even more convenient size to stick in spare pouches and pockets. If you like veggies, same thing there. Carrot sticks for example, travel pretty well if you repack in small quantites. 

For the next step up in caloric needs for hard work, think of individually packaged jerky, or meat and cheese sticks. 

Only bring granola and snack bars for convenience like using them on the move; making granola a bar shape adds other stuff and the binders are often sugary or otherwise not good for you. Do NOT use this as an excuse to buy sugary or otherwise bad for you snacks. Candies, cookies, chips and the like must be used sparingly or not at all. Also be careful to read labels for energy bars and drinks. Many now have enormous amounts of single elements like caffeine or protein, that aren't what you need in a snack. 

Meal replacement bars can be useful in the field, but as meal replacements. I keep one in my LBE along with smaller (fewer calories, natural or balanced) snacks for when I am going to miss a meal, or there's lots of activity like hours and hours of sneaking around at night with no chance to sit and eat. 

Also think hard about packaging. Make sure it's not too bright, not too loud (a lot of bags are very noisy), and the packaging/food combo will survive being stuffed in your ruck, and abused all weekend. 

Lots of non-perishables are in cans, but that can be hard to open, and bulky to keep around when you are done with them, so think about that while purchasing. For an example of a not too great nutritional balance (needs a lot more starches) here's a video of some Ukrainian volunteers going over what they were given as rations. 

They are clearly just ready-to-eat things pulled off store shelves for them. Could be worse, and they do have their own issues of what is available but it could be better. 

If you like cans, meals in a can also exist. It's hard to suggest things like noodles and meatballs sold in the US as they are full of sugar and other additives, but you can sometimes find things like this Polish... I am not sure what it is called, but sort of a compressed stew of vegetables, potatoes, other vegetables, and meats. 

Crack it open to heat directly, which is a nice benefit of cans; unlike foil and plastic bagged food you must put in another container, or can only hat with boiling, cans can be heated directly on an open flame, as with this little titanium stove fired with Dragon Fuel and wood. 

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

What CWG Brings and Provides for Swift Fox

We talk a lot about how you should prepare for CWG events like operation Swift Fox coming up in April, but now let's remind you what we provide as well, so you don't over-pack, and don't worry about stuff too much


We provide all the airsoft pellets for you, to assure that you use darker pellets and have to aim, and otherwise as part of the logistics and operational planning nature of the event.

No need to bring any for rifles or machine guns. Ask us if brining other types of weapons. They even come in cans marked for your country of origin!


We will have potable water in 5 gallon jugs, and some smaller, easier-to-dispense containers, funnels and so on, at the Aid Stations, supply points and — if static — likely your campsite. Do fill your bladders and bottles before you go, but no need to carry spare or be stingy and get dehydrated, we can provide water.


Actual military radios will be issued for the Ardean and Kitoy sides. You can bring your own headsets if you want, and they have a 5/6 pin military connector, but no junky consumer radios that will break under rain and gunfire.

Well, unless the GDL. Then you may — as long as it doesn't jam or conflict with other radios in use — use anything you want, even just your mobile phones.


Every maneuver element, usually a fire team, will get a proper, accurate, and authentic-looking topo map of the region for planning, and navigation. Paper isn't too waterproof, so if you will be a team leader, bring a map case.


We'll have to do a count, but I think we still have a case of spare pea grenades and will give out one to each player until we run out. When you see the enemy, use them! And, that's our gift to you; unless flying back or you otherwise can't have them, no need to turn in, this is yours.


We may also issue out some orange maritime signal smokes and fireworks (needs a lighter) smokes you can use to obscure the battlefield when attacking, or defending. Don't have a full count, but should have some.

Vehicle Kill Smoke

When your vehicle it hit, and the card says it is dead, you light a smoke grenade so everyone knows. We give you these, black and white depending on damage.


Partly because the region is often under fire hazard so we cannot use pyrotechnic flares, we have a large inventory of Cyalume lightsticks.

For mission specific purposes we may provide IR or visible (in multiple colors) 8-12 hour sticks, but will provide everyone one or two of the Ultra Bright 5 and 30 minute sticks, to provide safe battlefield illumination. Carry them with you and use liberally.

NOTE that opening a lightstick wrapper makes it go bad within months, so keep them sealed until you need it, then you can take it home and use it later if you don't. We'll sell you more if you want a few for later as well.

More Lightsticks

We also will issue out some mini lightsticks of various sizes you can use for marking trails, and campsites, to avoid getting lost or tripping over tent cords. They are super useful, and some of our minis are expired (so you need a handful to break to find a good one) so feel free to bring your own as well.

Medic Supplies

The medic supplies used to treat wounds per the rules are provided so no worries about using up too many splints or slings. Also, the medic books, to say what injury happened from a hit.

Real Medic Supplies

We also will have some kit bags to handle most any real world injury, and where that's located will be part of your safety brief. Several attendees are real world medical personnel and they will also be identified, and take charge if there's a need. No CWG event has had an injury demanding evacuation yet though!


Other paper products are provided including printed orders, and often intelligence briefings or other documents.


If you bring a vehicle, you'll be coordinating with us a lot, and one way is to make sure no one has to run back to town to refuel because they spent too much time bopping around the field. We can provide spare fuel, and make sure it's all stored so no one confuses diesel with gas!


If killed, the aid stations have shelter, water as we mentioned, and sleeping bags and pads. You can rest and recover from your death even if it is cold and wet.


We'll provide directions to the field, maps, suggested hotels and so on, and even plant signs on the side of the road to help you find it!

And More!

All kinds of fun! We will bring our own personal machine guns, grenade launchers, night vision and thermal, and more to enhance the overall experience and give you a chance to see and use some of this equipment.

Sign Up Today

Swift Fox 22 registration is open! Sign up today to get your spot!

Operation Swift Fox 23
21 - 23 April 2023
Force-on-Force FTX, Airsoft
D-Day Adventure Park Oklahoma

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