Hiking Boots: How To Select the Best Pair

Hiking BootsHiking Boots: How To Select the Best Pair

If you are planning to spend some time on any nature trail, you need to get the best hiking boots that you can afford. This does not mean the most expensive boots, but the hiking boots that meet all of your needs and are made of quality materials. Many people, especially those who may be new to hiking, may not know what to look for when selecting the right footwear. Here are some valuable tips to help you get started.

Where Are You Going with Your Hiking Boots?

This is the first question to ask. Many folks believe that they have to buy the biggest, toughest hiking boots on the shelf. This is not true. For those who are going on short, fairly easy hikes, lightweight hiking boots will work just fine. On the other hand, if you plan to hike up steep hills or travel over a variety of different terrain types, then a beefier hiking boot will be a better option for you.

There are four categories of hiking boots from which you can choose:

Light hiking shoes look a lot like running shoes and have a low cut design. These are a good choice for short hikes over maintained trails that are not too hilly or rocky. They are also very affordable and come in a huge variety of styles and colors.

The next category falls under the traditional hiking boot label. These come in either mid- or high cut designs and are an excellent option for challenging day hikes or longer hikes of several days. The important aspects found in these boots are that they provide a good deal of ankle support while also providing a great deal of flexibility once they are broken in properly. They also make a good “all around” boot for just about any use.

The third category is the backpacking boot line. These rugged hiking boots are made for long (day wise) hikes where carrying heavy loads is anticipated. They are very durable and provide a great deal of flex and support.  While they are heavier (in weight) than hiking boots, they are also much stronger and perform well on virtually any terrain.

The last type of boot is the mountaineering boot. As you might imagine, these are designed for tough terrains and rocky ground. They are the weightiest of all the hiking boots and are not a good option for those who want to walk or hike only. They are designed for climbing and quality brands can take on crampons for icy conditions.

There is no reason that everyone who wants to enjoy the outdoors cannot do so in comfort. The key, of course, is matching your type of hike to the right type of hiking boots. The best news is you can find a variety of good-quality hiking boots online these days. Just make sure that you get the right fit for your foot whether you buy online or off. When shopping for your hiking boots remember that you will need some extra room to handle thicker socks.

Check out our line of hiking boots at Patriot Surplus today!

The Call to Serve

The Call to ServeThe Call to Serve

The urge to enlist and the call to serve in the military is hard for many people to understand. In a world that has become so centered on the needs of the individual instead of the needs of the many, it can be hard for those who have never served to understand. It can be even harder on those who served themselves when a child seeks to serve during a time of war. Families of those who have made the ultimate sacrifice deserve our utmost support.

The following is an incredibly moving short film. Get your tissues.

Lt. Alonzo Cushing: Lost But Not Forgotten

Lt. Alonzo CushingLt. Alonzo Cushing: Lost But Not Forgotten

The Medal of Honor is the highest award that the United States can offer our military personnel. Only those who have shown “gallantry above and beyond the call of duty” will be honored with this prestigious award. On November 6 of this year, President Obama presented the Medal of Honor to the descendants of First Lt. Alonzo Cushing.

Lt. Cushing was killed during the Battle of Gettysburg, dying on 3 July 1863, as he commanded an artillery battery that was overrun by Confederate forces. It took over 150 years to being this young soldier’s heroism to light, culminating in receiving the nation’s highest military award. The brutal fighting that took place over this three-day battle in Pennsylvania is often cited as being a major turning point in the Civil War. Cushing was 22 at the time of his death, commanding six cannons and 126 men, with his battery positioned on Cemetery Ridge, facing thousands of opposing soldiers during  Pickett’s Charge.

The award ceremony took place in the White House, with Helen Ensign, 86, a distant cousin of Lt. Alonzo Cushing, accepting the medal on his behalf. President Obama said to the gathering: “This medal is a reminder that, no matter how long it takes, it’s never too late to do the right thing.”

This award was exceptional, also, in that it took so long for it to be granted. Generally, the Medal of Honor recommendation takes place within 2 years of the heroic act, with the medal presented with 3 years. As mentioned above, Cushing’s took over 150 years. In fact, an exemption had to be granted by the U.S. Congress. Obama went on to say: “Sometimes even the most extraordinary stories can get lost in the passage of time.”

In the case of Lt. Cushing, his Battery A, 4th Artillery, was facing an estimated 13,000 advancing soldiers on the last day of the battle. With his battery under intense artillery fire, Cushing continued to fight even though he was wounded in the shoulder and stomach by artillery fragments, refusing to move to the rear for treatment. A bullet to his head finally brought him down.

Recognition of Lt. Cushing’s valor required the sustained efforts of his family who spent decades writing letter on Cushing’s behalf. Additionally, it also involved the efforts of Wisconsin representatives Ron Kind and Jim Sensenbrenner who were at the forefront of seeing this honor bestowed.

Our nation salutes all of our past, present and future military who so often are called upon to give that “last, full measure of devotion”.

Fitting Your Hiking Boots: What You Need to Know

Fitting Your Hiking BootsFitting Your Hiking Boots: What You Need to Know

So, you have decided on the type of hiking boot that you need and want. The next step is fitting your hiking boots. It should be noted that fitting a hiking boot is not the same as fitting a regular shoe. Here are some tips on how you can get the best fit for the hiking boots that you want.

Socks! It is always a good idea to wear good-quality hiking socks when on the trails. It is also an excellent idea to wear cold weather socks if you are out in the winter. These types of socks are thicker than normal socks, and that added thickness needs to be accounted for when you fit your hiking boots.

The best way to get the best fit is to wear a pair of appropriate socks when trying on your boots. In fact, this is the only way to know for sure if you are getting a boot that will be large enough to hold your foot and the sock comfortably.

The next step is to put the boots on make sure that the weight of the boots is to your liking. Keep in mind that rugged hiking boots are often heavier than other types of shoes, and they may take some getting used to over time. Lightweight hiking boots usually do not feel much heavier than, say, running shoes. However, backpacking boots and mountain boots will feel different. If the boot is just too heavy, choose another style or brand.

Once you have the boots on your feet, see if you can slip one finger behind your heel (before you lace the boot). You will need this added space for sock room. Your toes should not come into direct contact with the front of the boot. Remember, you need more room in hiking boots than in other types of shoes.

Lace up the boots and take a short walk around. You want to pay attention to whether or not your heel slips around. It should not slip around. This type of movement is what causes painful blisters on the foot. Also, make sure that your ankles have the support you need while you do your walk-about. Good-quality boots will need to be broken in a bit so do not be too critical if the boots feel a bit tight at this point. You should also move about in different ways. For instance, squat down, kneel down, tiptoe, etc. If you feel any pinching, you may need to select another boot.

Tip: If you find a great online deal on the hiking boots that you want but are concerned about the fit, jot down the boot’s information and go to a brick-and-mortar sporting or tactical store. Find that boot and go through the steps noted above. When you find the proper size and fit, jot down the information on the boot and go home and order it online. No, this is not cheating. It is simply smart shopping.

Identifying Poisonous Berries

Identifying Poisonous BerriesIdentifying Poisonous Berries

Can I eat that berry? Identifying poisonous berries can be difficult. There are many parts of the US (and the globe at large, for that matter) where wild berries flourish at certain times of the year. It is not at all uncommon for hikers, campers, and those lost in the woods to be tempted to eat those berries, especially if no other food source is available. The problem, of course, is that some berries are poisonous and can make you very sick or even kill you if you eat enough of them or if you are allergic to them. This article offers some useful (albeit general) tips on wild berries and how to stay away from the dangerous ones.

Tip 1: Don’t trust your eyes

There are many types of dangerous berries found in various types of terrain, and many of these look very delectable. Chances are you will not be able to determine all of the “bad” berries in any particular area unless you are an expert in berry identification. The easier way to approach this is to learn which berries in your area are “good” berries, those that are edible. It is much safer (and easier) to learn about blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, etc. than it is to memorize every dangerous type of berry that may be in your area.

Tip 2: Color often matters

Berries that are blue or black are usually edible. Berries that are red are often NOT safe to eat. There are, of course, exceptions to this rule. Strawberries are red and are safe to eat (unless you are allergic to them) while poinsettia berries (red as well) are not safe at all to eat. You should NEVER eat white berries unless you know for sure it safe to do so.

Tip 3: Don’t eat that

While it may be difficult to memorize all of the dubious berries that thrive in your area, it is possible to memorize the main ones that you are likely to encounter. These would include berries and plants such as mistletoe, holly, yew, nightshade, and jasmine for example. It is good to teach this to your kids as well. If you are out in the wilds a lot, consider buying a pocket-size plant identification booklet.

Tip 4: Bits and Pieces

Do not assume you can eat a berry just because you see birds eating them. Do not eat berries that you do not recognize if they have a bitter taste; spit it out. Poisonous berries, in general, will only harm you if you swallow them. Always watch your kids while in the woods. Children are notoriously curious about berries and have been known to gobble down a handful of whatever they happen upon without a second thought.

The best course of action should someone eat suspicious berries is to encourage vomiting as soon as possible. It takes a bit of time before the stomach can begin digesting the berries, so the faster you get the material out of a person’s stomach the better. You can promote vomiting by sticking a finger down the person’s throat, engaging the gag reflex. If a person shows any symptoms of distress, get to a medical facility ASAP.

Identifying poisonous berries is an extremely important skill to learn if you plan on spending an extended amount of time outdoors. Want to learn more about what is edible and and what is not edible? Mother Earth News has a fantastic, in depth, guide that is very helpful when identifying poisonous berries. Signup below to download the guide.

How to Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac

Treat poion oak

How Do You Treat Poison Oak, Poison Ivy, and Sumac

If you spend any time at all out in nature, chances are very good you are going to run into poison oak, poison ivy, or poison sumac. These green, leafy plants thrive throughout most of the U.S., and virtually all people will have reactions to them if they come into contact with these plants. All three of these plants can cause what it known as contact dermatitis with symptoms that include redness, rashes, and itching. The compound urushiol is what causes this misery, and it is so powerfully toxic that a pinhead amount can affect up to 500 individuals!

It should be noted that over the course of any given year, nearly half of the population of the US will present with symptoms of these plants. You can also find urushiol in other plants as well such as cashew nut trees, mango, and ginkgo trees to name a few.


So, what should you do if you come into contact with these plants while you are out in the wilds? How do you treat poison oak and these other ailments?

The first treatment aid you should do is to wash/flush the area with plenty of water. This should be done as soon as possible before the reaction can take full effect.

The second treatment option you can perform is to use a baking soda paste. Mix about 3 teaspoons of soda with 1 teaspoon of water into a paste and then apply this paste to the area. You can easily carry a small bag of baking soda in your pack and is worth having on hand.

Another item you may want to carry in your pack is witch hazel. This liquid works well on relieving the itching. It will not affect the rash, but it can help with that awful itch until you get back to civilization.

Tea tree oil is another item that can help if you come into contact with these plants. Tea tree oil is a natural anti-inflammatory what can help reduce the rash symptoms as well as reduce swelling and itching.

Most people have heard of aloe vera, and this compound can be found in many over-the-counter products. It can reduce the itching and helps to speed overall recovery for those suffering from poison ivy contact. Aloe vera is also good for treating many types of wounds, making it a good pack item.

where-does-poison-growWe medics in the Army were told over and again that the best cure is prevention. That applies here, too. Take some time to learn what these plants look like, where they grow, and wear protective clothing and boots when you are trampling around in their territory. Stay away from these pesky plants, and you will not have to worry about treating yourself or others for their effects.

Important Note! Never, ever burn these plants. Inhaling the smoke can kill you, and getting the smoke on you and your clothing can literally cover you with urushiol. These dangers are present even if the leaves and vines are dried out. Be safe and never burn these plants.


What To Do When You are Lost


What to do when you're lost

What To Do When You are Lost

Getting lost in the wilderness is bad, but it happens all the time. What to do when you are lost starts before you leave on an adventure. By knowing a few tips, you can reduce your chances of becoming lost and increase your chances of getting out alive and well.

The first rule is always to tell someone where you are planning to go. This is true if you are planning a hike, a camping trip, or just exploring. You need to give map coordinates if possible. You must also tell them when you expect to be back. This information is needed in order for this person to direct rescue teams should you become lost or injured and not make it out on your own.

The second rule if you get lost is to stay where you are if you are close to the point you left with your friend. It is usually NOT a good idea to simply start wandering around if you discover you are lost. Now, if you did not tell anyone where you would be, then disregard this rule. Sitting down when you are lost is not going to get you out of trouble.

Rule three applies to those who need to move because no one is coming for them. First, do not panic. Relax and think about where you are and how you got there. You may be able to backtrack your way out of trouble. Here are some other things you can do:

Listen for signs of people. This usually comes in the form of traffic noise, but it could be any noise that people make such as church bells, trains, or factory noise.

Head for Higher Ground: If you do not hear anything, head for high ground where you can get a better look at your surroundings. Once you find a good spot, look for buildings or towns and forest ranger towers. Also, look carefully for roads. Unless you are truly in the wilds, you should be able to spot at least one road, and this is where you want to head as you may be able to flag down a vehicle. If there are no roads or anything else that looks man-made, look for rivers or lakes. Many times you can find humans on or close to rivers and lakes or at least be able to flag down a passing boat. This will also provide you with water if you need it.

When you decide on a direction to travel, keep yourself on track by spotting a fixed object ahead of you and travelling to that object. Then pick out another object and travel to it. Make sure that the object you choose is not too far away, or you may lose sight of it.

Of course, the way to handle these problems is to not get lost in the first place. Buy a compass, learn how to use it, and remember to always tell someone where you are going and when you expect to be back. The few minutes it takes to do this can save you hours, if not days, of trouble and worry.

Understanding Insect and Spider Bites

Insect and Spider Bites

It is virtually impossible to go out into the wilds and not get insect and spider bites. The wilds are their environment, and you are an intruder. Some bugs bite for defense and others bite as a way of getting nourishment (i.e., your blood). In all cases, however, it is good to know about insect bites and how to treat them.

Generally speaking, insect and spider bites will bring about some amount of swelling, usually minor in nature. Bites will also bring about pain, redness in the area, and itching in most cases. These are the most common symptoms and are usually mild, lasting from a few hours to a few days. Treatment for minor bug bites can include putting ice on the site, applying anti-itch medication, or doing nothing. That is the good news. Now, the bad news.

Symptoms of Insect and Spider Bites

Symptoms of Insect and Spider Bites

There are many people who will have allergic reactions to insect and spider bites. In some cases, the person may not even know that they are allergic until they are bitten. The medical term for severe allergic reactions is anaphylaxis. While these reactions are not very common, they can be deadly when they do occur. Look for the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Lightheadedness and confusion
  • Shock
  • Sudden cough or wheezing
  • Obstructed airway
  • Unusual swelling
  • Nausea, diarrhea, and/or stomach cramps

The insects and spiders that can cause a reaction in anyone, not just those allergic to them, include:

  • Brown recluse spider
  • Black widow spider
  • Most types of scorpions
  • Wooly slug (aka the puss caterpillar)

Also, there are other insects that can cause reactions as well, mostly because they involve numerous bites at one time. This would include insects such as:

  • Wasps, hornets, and yellow jackets
  • Fire ants
  • African bees

The signs and symptoms of these types of bites can include all of the above-mentioned reactions plus large areas of swelling that come on quickly. This area can encompass a whole limb (such as an arm or leg) within minutes of being bitten. There is also an intense redness at the area as well.

Treatment for Insect and Spider Bites

It is imperative that you keep the airway open so the person can breathe. Loss of oxygen, even for a few minutes, can lead to permanent brain damage; any longer than that and death will occur. You may need to do artificial respiration to keep the person alive.

Monitor the person’s heartbeat (pulse). Cardiac arrest (heart stopping) can occur in severe cases. You may need to do CPR.

Treat for shock by elevating the person’s feet and keeping the person warm.

Get medical help ASAP. For the most part, this person must be treated by professional medical personnel. You can do your part to help keep the person alive, but you will not be able to treat the symptoms fully.

Because insect bites (and occasionally spider bites) are common in the wilds, carrying a well-stocked first aid kit (with bite-treatment supplies) is a very good idea. The chances of being bitten while on the trail are much higher than any other type of injury you may encounter, so be prepared.


Converting Boot Sizes: What Size Men’s Boot Should a Woman Purchase?


All women have been there: You have your heart set on a specific set of boots, yet your size is out of stock. Frustratingly, you cannot seem to find your size anywhere, yet you notice that the men’s version of the boot is, in fact, in stock.  However, wait, what size do you wear in men’s boots? This predicament can not only be frustrating, but it often leads to incorrect size purchases and the pain of returning footwear you purchased online, often at an additional investment of time and energy for you. So how do you convert men’s boot sizes to women’s? We will cover that and more as we examine women’s boot sizes and the process of converting between genders.


When discussing boots, the reality is that the vast majority of boot styles are made exclusively for men, and of course in men’s sizes only. This is a classic case of supply and demand: More men purchase boots, more men wear boots, so, therefore, more boots are produced for men. Without women’s boot sizes, or limited availability for women’s sizes, what is the next step to get what you want? While most boots are labeled as “men’s”, women can, in fact, wear the boots; however a size conversion is in order. The standard adage is for a woman to subtract two sizes off of her standard shoe size to calculate her shoe size in men’s footwear. For example, a woman who wears a size 8 in women’s shoes would, generally speaking, wear a size 6 in men’s shoes.

size conversion chart


Simple enough right? While the two size subtraction method generally works, it is important to recognize that there are sizing differences between shoe brands as well as shoe styles. For instance, when purchasing boots, ordering two sizes down holds true more often than not, but this is because heavier socks are typically worn in conjunction with boots. When purchasing sneakers or tennis shoes, which are generally worn tighter, it is recommended that women purchase a size and a half smaller than their female size for male shoes. Furthermore, certain brands run small while others generally run large, so it is important to do some research about the brand’s sizing in order to select the correct size on the first try.


So, what does all of this information mean? Well for starters, women’s boot sizes and the conversion from men’s to women’s can be awfully tricky. If you are in a pinch and don’t have time to do extensive research, go with the “tried and true” two size subtraction method. The best course of action, however, involves trying the boot or something similar on for size. If at all possible, find a local store that offers the brand of footwear you plan to purchase online. Locate a similar style of boot and try it on for size. For boots, a proper fit is slightly on the snug side. A loose boot will slide as you walk and can lead to blisters, pain and discomfort over time, while an overly tight boot will do the same. Once you have found the proper size for the brand you intend to purchase, it is safe to use the two size conversion method with relative confidence when purchasing online.

Purchasing boots does not have to be a hassle. While the process may seem overly complicated, ensuring a proper fit is of the utmost importance because getting caught in a combat setting with improper footwear can slow you down. It can also cause pain, and may even compromise your mission. A few simple “steps” now will help you when you have “boots on the ground”!

The Ragged Old Flag of The United States of America

ragged old flag

The Ragged Old Flag

This morning, like many early mornings, I sat at my computer flipping through Facebook with a cup of coffee. This typically takes very little time because most of the drivel that emanates from my Facebook feed is virtually worthless. No, I do not care that you got a bikini wax or that you “Like” some post from a Facebook friend you probably wouldn’t be able to have a conversation with in real life.

However, today was different. A buddy of mine shared a video on his wall that caught my attention. It was entitled The Ragged Old Flag. We are friends on Facebook and in real life. He is a true warrior. My friend is a long time US Army Special Forces operator, a Green Beret. He has been on multiple deployments to Afghanistan, Iraq and a few other places he cannot really talk about. He did this well into his late forties until his body finally gave out on him. To me, he is not only a warrior and a hero, he is the embodiment of the American spirit. My friend joined the Army late in life. In his late twenties, he enlisted in the US Army and later volunteered for, was accepted into and earned his place among the elite US Army Green Berets.

The United States Army Special Forces are known as the Green Berets because of their distinctive service headgear. They are a special operations force with five primary missions. They conduct unconventional warfare, foreign internal defense, special reconnaissance, direct action, and counter-terrorism missions. My buddy has pretty much done it all. And he doesn’t talk about it at bars bragging of his bravado. He is a silent warrior. Like all true warriors, he doesn’t want or need the recognition.

My friend posted a video that I have embedded at the bottom of this article. It is an old gritty Johnny Cash video where Cash relates the story of the American Flag in a small rural town that has become ragged and worn. It is a story as much about our flag as much as it is about my friend and all service members after years of service and dedication to the homeland that I love. It reminded me of how sickened I am by all of the politicians in our country who have hijacked my homeland and perverted politics to cater to their special interest cause of the day. Democrats, Republicans, Tea Partiers, I am talking to all of you. You make my stomach turn. You’ve stolen the America I grew up in and turned it into a freak show of politics.

Forget the Republican and Democratic parties. Forget the Tea Party. Whatever happened to the American Party? When I was growing up there were people of opposing views just like today. Some of my friend’s parents were democrats. My own parents were and still are democrats. Some of my friend’s parents were republicans. However, you know what? I would never have known that. Heck, I did not even know what I believed in politically until I was in my late twenties. To me, all of my friends were just Americans. I had Black, white, Asian and Hispanic friends growing up. Their skin color never mattered to me. It was who they were on the inside that mattered. To this day, I couldn’t care less what color your skin is. It is the color of your integrity that matters to me.

The media have become that proverbial middle child many families have that gets drunk at the holidays and proceeds to gossip about and criticize everyone under the sun just because deep down inside, they are not at peace with themselves. Sure, it garners good ratings to spread gossip and denigrate those who have opposing views, but it does no good for anyone. For all that attention you are getting at that moment; know that when you aren’t looking, we think your actions are idiotic. We are Americans and we need to start acting like it. We need to stop pushing each other down trying to force the agenda of the day in which we happen to believe. We need to start acting like the Americans who fought and died for the Ragged Old Flag. We need to come together as one and be Americans again. We cannot lift each other up if we keep pushing each other down.

To the politicians of all political parties, I have this to say to you. Fuck you. We are your constituents. If government were a business, we would be your customers. I know it is hard for you to understand at times. But you need to start acting like you give a damn about your customers. Stop telling us one thing to get elected and then doing the exact opposite once you are in office. In my world, we call that lying. In the business world, we call that bait and switch. You’ve cheated the American people and I for one am sick and tired of it. Don’t tell me you are going to fundamentally change the country for the better when you are trying to tear down the Ragged Old Flag and raise one for a country I don’t fundamentally recognize anymore.

Like Johnny Cash states in the video, I thank God for all the freedoms we have in this country. When I enlisted in the Marine Corps I knew that I was willing to lay my life on the line in defense of my homeland and fellow countrymen. I still would today, even for someone’s right to be stupid in America. Because, if we lived in Iraq or Afghanistan or any other oppressed nation, stupidity is not tolerated, it is murdered. Just like the homosexuals, Christians and people merely fighting for freedom that are being martyred, crucified and beheaded by ISIS (or ISIL or whatever flavor of radical perverted Islam they are claiming today.)

Freedom is not free. It never has been. It was won by the bloodshed of our ancestors as they fought the Revolutionary War. It was won as the ocean waters of Normandy ran red with the blood of my countrymen. It was won in Korea and Vietnam. Freedom was fought for in Iraq and Afghanistan. History will judge whether our causes were just, but I believe all of these wars were fought in the name of Freedom. I will always feel our cause was just.

It is time to wake up America. It is time for the American party to rise from the ashes like a phoenix and lead America back to her greatness. Like the Ragged Old Flag, Americans have been “abused, burned, dishonored, denied an’ refused” by the very government for which she stands. Americans are being scandalized throughout the world. We have liberated oppressed people and asked for nothing more than a plot to bury our dead soldiers. We may be thread bare and wearing thin, but I still believe in America. As Americans, we can survive Presidents with whom we disagree. We can survive corrupt politicians of all parties. We’ve been through fire before and we shall prevail because we are one nation under God. We are Americans and I am still mighty proud of that Ragged Old Flag.