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If you plan well, you have better chances of travelling well. It’s that simple.
Every time I travel, whether it’s for an overnight or for a sustained travel period, I got through several pre-travel stages of planning. I have found that this both allows for maximum comfort and enjoyment while travelling and mitigates any fuck-ups while away and on one’s own (or with your family without the security net of home).
Once it’s been determined what the circumstances of travel will be (destination, duration, dates of travel, airline, time of travel and reasons for travel) I begin systematic long-distance reconnaissance of my trip in an attempt to learn everything I can about my time away from my home base.
Destination: I first identify where I am flying in to (on a map) and where I will be staying and/or working. I ensure I have a solid understanding of the geography and routes in and out of those specific points, and mark them on a map. I will also identify my lodgings, airports, homeland allied embassies or consulates, nearby hospitals/clinics, police stations and possible hazards (like power plants, military bases, volcanos, etc). When I’ve oriented myself according to prominent features, I’ll have a general understanding of where important points are.
Dates of Travel: What I bring and how I will travel is dependent not only on the purpose of travel, but also the climate and weather of my home base and destination. If it’s winter at home but warmer at my destination, may need to pack a different spread of clothes (winter and warmer) and have to wear while travelling and while away. If both areas are similar, then a single and consistent set of clothes works.
Duration: I usually do everything I can to travel with carry-on only. Checked luggage slows you down (having to wait for your bags to be off-loaded) as well as making it more cumbersome to move about. Pack light, in a 2-3 tiered system while travelling, like an EDC (Every Day Carry) set-up (more on this in a bit). If you are travelling for an extended period of time, pack accordingly, but consider ditching most toiletries and possible consumables at home and buying what you need for your stay once you arrive in-country. That way you will be better prepared with locally acquired supplies and you won’t over pack.
Packing: Like I mentioned in the previous point, I try to travel light and buy consumables (like regular toiletries, additional supplies, maybe even tools) locally when I arrive. I also believe in packing light and smart, the latter allowing you to maximize a few wardrobe pieces across many days and environments. I prefer clothes I can wash by hand in a hotel sink and have it ready the following morning to go. This includes socks and underwear. Buying some quality pieces of versatile clothing is key in your planning cycle. Also, packing light allows you to augment your clothing with locally procured clothes to better blend in with the local populace. This is especially important if you are trying to keep a lower profile while in a foreign land. As an additional to my packing, I try and pack in the following way to support a level of preparedness should some unforeseen issue arise so that I can have a better chance of dealing with it.
This list includes a tiered approach to carriage of what I am taking with me.
(NOTE: This is a recommended list and is not definitive. Pack according to your own requirements, but aim to pack light and with room to spare for souvenirs or other goodies you acquire on your travels.)
On my person ( and in my pockets and otherwise on me AT ALL TIMES include (but aren’t limited to):
Credit cards and CASH (cash is KING – be sure to have US dollars and try to get local currency you’ll be travelling in as soon as possible.)
Charged cell phone with charging cable and adapter plug.
Small EDC flashlight
Small Bic lighter
Small key ring with house key, Tactikey, 1-2 key tools and small lock pick keychain, encrypted USB key (with .
Wallet & decoy wallet (with minimal cash, used for visible purchases at shops for snacks, taxis, etc.
Hat (type dependent on weather)
Small, TSA-approved multi-tool (no knife).
Other items of use (depending on climate & other circumstances).
Bottle of water (empty while going through security, refilled in sterile area)
Photocopies of all my documents and credit cards, emergency contact info for friends and family back home and consular resources while in-country, general map of the area I’ll be staying in (detailing safe zones and escape routes) and copy of my plane tickets.
Sunglasses (and back-up pair of glasses or contacts if you wear them)
Several pens (both Bic and Zebra brands – none of that Tactical pen stuff) and a notepad
True North Tradecraft stickers, patches and business cards (to spread the Good Word).
Pack of gum
Sweater with waterproof shell jacket (either worn by me or in my backpack (next tier).
Pants and appropriate belt
The above items will support me if forced to deplane ANYWHERE and should be able to affect a return to safety. Of course, everything depends on the situation, but having those as a minimum greatly increases my odds of making it to a better place.
As a second tier, that which should go in my “personal item” (i.e. my small backpack), I load the following. (Note, this tier is what I will grab if I have the opportunity and will have to live out of it. It has next-level important stuff. With these items, I can travel for a long time.
Laptop (plus charger, cables, adapter, USB drives, etc)
Change of socks, underwear and extra t-shirt or long-sleeved shirt (or both, if needed).
Copies of all documents and information (just like the set I have on me.
Back-up tools including everything I already have on my person.
Some snacks for the trip
Pens, notebook (double-up as on my person)
Local map, guidebook/phrasebook (if needed).
Books to read (1-2)
First-aid kit (including medications and tourniquet if possible)
Minimalist toiletries (toothbrush, mini toothpaste, mini deodorant, mini hand sanitizer, package of wet wipes, etc.)
A couple of carabiners (climbing quality), a length of paracord, a padlock
With the backpack, and what I have on me, I have moved myself into the zone of “minimalist backpacker” and should be able, with augmented goods procured locally, to sustain myself until I either depart or until I can get help.
Lastly, my carry-on luggage. Stored in the over-head bin, this should round out whatever I need for a comfortable vacation or trip just about anywhere. As it stands now, the list below is what I will likely pack for my next trip.
A rubber door wedge (for securing a hotel room)
Mouse trap (seek out Ed Calderon for more info on this)
2 x underwear
long-sleeved travel shirt & t-shirt
Toiletry kit (expanding on what I have in backpack – Polysporin, sun block, aloe gel, pain meds, Immodium, Gravol, wet wipes, etc)
Extra First Aid Kit supplies
Hank of paracord
2 more carabiners (climbing quality)
Mask, snorkel, fins
GoPro camera and accessories (cables, charger, SD cards, wall adapter, small power bar).
Additional book to read
Tradecraft tools (dependent on circumstances)
Folding & reusable shopping bag (fits in pocket when out walking).
Another copy of documents and emergency contact info, plane tickets, maps and local information
Additional cash, hidden away somewhere.
Air travel-friendly multi-tool
Any other item I think is specifically needed for the trip (clothing, supply, tool, etc).
With the above list of items, and pre-planning taken care of, I feel pretty secure with myself. Adding to this all, maintaining vigilance and situational awareness wherever you go if of paramount importance.
It’s important to ensure that you maintain situational awareness at all times. To read a bit more about this check out the Primer blog post here.
Before I travel, I try to learn all that I can about the area where I will be. I study things like currency, demographics, history, local customs, geography, political and social issues to be aware of, crime and attitudes towards tourists & foreigners. I also try to read up on things like transportation (what’s legit versus scam), local news stories and how to identify legitimate authorities. If I am able, I Google Maps/Earth my accommodations and nearby areas so I can landmark in my mind what it looks like where I should be.
Customs & Immigration agency website for Canada ( CBSA – Canada Border Services Agency ) and for the country (or countries) you’ll be visiting. This will inform you on border-related laws, requirements, processes and exemptions.
Trip Advisor (Access reviews, tips and local information for destinations around the world.)
If flying, be sure to have access to both the website of your airline and the airport you are travelling to & from to ensure accurate scheduling information.
Wikipedia – If you want to know something about your destination, read about it here.
Google is your friend. Use it to learn as much as you can.
Before you go, ensure you leave copies of all your important documents, passports, travel itineraries, destination addresses and contact info with someone you trust and whom can support you in a return home should something happen.
Covert Entry Concepts – Only Canadian Offering! This course will teach Law Enforcement Personnel, Special Operations Forces, and Government employees and security professionals the principles of lock bypassing and making covert entries into buildings or properties.
This class is entirely hands on. From the moment you enter the course you will have tools in your hand and are working to exploit various locking mechanisms. Students will learn to recognize the vulnerabilities in existing hardware, how they are attacked, or sometimes even bypassed entirely. You’ll walk away with the skills needed to compromise most of the locks used in North America today. Students will be much better positioned to provide service in a variety of tactical areas: check welfare calls, search and arrest warrant service, establishing sniper positions, sneak and peak operations, surveillance operations, fire safe opening, and breaking and entering investigations.
Since the techniques taught in this class are largely nondestructive, agencies will also benefit by having a decrease in civil actions due to property damage.
The cost of the course is $865 CAD with a $200 deposit required to hold your place. If taken with Safe Dial Mechanics, the cost is $1150 for both.
Sat May 12: 0800hrs -late (dinner and a appropriately-themed movie to end the evening)
Sun July 30: 0800hrs – 1700hrs
Included in the cost of the course is a comprehensive set of high quality tools that you can use on the job or practice at home to maintain the skills you’ll build in class. • High Quality 12 Piece Pick Set • Set of covert jigglers • Set of warded picks • Bump Hammer • Bump keys • An e-z decoder • Underdoor tool
***Team dinner scheduled and provided for Saturday night.***
DISCLAIMER:*Nothing in the course offering is intended to be used for unlawful purposes. Consult with your local laws prior to employing these techniques in the field. This is intended for lawful use ONLY. True North Tradecraft and its partners do not condone or advocate illegal activities.*
Over the weekend of 9-12 February, 2018, I travelled to Washington, DC & Alexandria, VA to train at District Combatives’ hosting of Ed Calderon (of Ed’s Manifesto), who was conducting a Mixed Skills module of training.
The trip down to DC from Toronto was relatively uneventful. I got in early on Friday and spent the day sightseeing and getting the lay of the land in and around the area where we would be training. I wasn’t sure as to what the training would entail, so with a map from the hotel front desk and my trusty feet, I learned the area around the training location and did some touristy things.
I ended Friday night at a small pizza place which made amazing slices and helped myself to three and a “Mexican Coke” (produced in Mexico, in glass bottles, using sugar, not corn syrup) to top it off.
Saturday morning was smooth. I found my way easily to the training venue in the drizzle. When I arrived, I was warmly greeted by Ben from District Combatives and handed a pile of liability waivers. I was delighted to see a couple of familiar faces from previous training I had attended in the US and immediately took to catching up. I even met a few others whom I’d only known as Instagram followers but quickly bridged to friends. As the only Canadian in the room of almost 30, I felt humbled by the warmth and hospitality with which I was welcomed. At the front, Ed held quiet court with a few people I didn’t recognize. I took a seat and continued catching up with old friends and new.
When the room was packed and the time was right, Ben made introductions and we were immediately passed over to Ed who jumped right in. Throughout the first day ,we covered:
awareness and movement principles,
custody work, and;
a homework assignment to make improvised weapons.
I’m being deliberately vague with the above as if I get into greater detail, I’ll be writing all night and also because it’s better to experience it first-hand for yourself.
There were several takeaways from the day, not the least of which were that I need to do more yoga, focus on Endemics and “always have an escape plan”. Sound advice for anyone.
The evening went well with food and drink around the corner and making new friends and sharing stories. I especially felt humbled that I spent a fair amount of time speaking with Ed himself about the various Mexican mythologies and esoteric symbologies used by criminal groups. Combining the entire evening’s discussions made for an educational, eye-opening and, at times, hilarious time. Let’s just not rehash the saga of Jaramillo…
Entering the training location on Day 2 we were greeted at the door by metal detector and pat-down to see if we had absorbed and followed the previous days lessons and completed our homework. The resulting “found” and “not found” tables displaying weapons of various varieties was quite interesting.
We debriefed and had a chuckle over some stuff (the legendary banana shank and, we even had Tactikey represented!) and then moved right into improvised weapons & Shankology. We covered:
knife work (inside and outside),
urban movement fundamentals and;
various hood rat shit.
By the time we ended on Sunday afternoon, I felt overloaded with new information and lessons learned. So much had been fed to us that it would take me weeks to digest it all.
On a side note, I had come from Toronto (snowy and -10C) to Washington (drizzle and +10C) and was contacted by Air Canada that my flight was cancelled and I had been re-booked to the following morning. This threw off my plans back home, but I made the most of it and spent the evening out for dinner again with Ed, Ben and several others from the course. Many chicken wings and drinks later, we broke off and headed out.
My time over the weekend both training with Ed and Ben as well as socializing with them made me happy to have attended and to get to know them.
Ben was very welcoming and Ed was a wealth of information and selfless in his sharing of knowledge. So much so that I invited him to come to Toronto this year and to put on a similar seminar. It would be an honour if he can make it work with his schedule.
***IF/WHEN WE HAVE A DATE, WE WILL POST IT IMMEDIATELY HERE ON THE BLOG AND ON OUR SOCIAL MEDIA*** (Give us a follow so you don’t miss out!)
I am very happy to have gone and would recommend attending a seminar from Ed if you are able. The training was excellent and the information covered was wide and relevant. If you live in the Washington, DC area, do check out Ben and DC Combatives as the types of violence mitigation methodologies he teaches are grounded in reality and effective. If he was in Toronto, I’d certainly train there.
Thank you to both Ed Calderon and Ben Drader for having me as the lone Canadian at the training seminar.
For further information about the topics and training seminars covered here, see the links below:
No matter how good you are, how skilled, how knowledgeable, at some point you will reach an obstacle you will need help with. This applies to survival, escape and evasion, operations and regular day-to-day life. Sure, your skills and know.how can take you far, but to truly excel, you need a TEAM. A community.
Special Forces operators and secret agents are all incredible individuals, trained to exceptional levels of skill and fitness. But what makes them truly formidable is their ability to leverage all of those strengths to super-humal-like heights to seemingly perform the impossible. That level of mutual support, leveraging of skill-sets and strength in numbers can achieve feats that no individual ever could.
Some of the best “team” shows do this very well. One of my favourites, Burn Notice, for instance, has 3 main characters – Michael (the burned ex-spy), Fiona (Michael’s ex-girlfriend and IRA operative) and Sam (ex-Navy SEAL). By themselves, they are all formidable, capable and able. But when one of them finds themselves in a jam, the other two are able to support the operation in ways that the solo member just couldn’t handle themselves. The show The A Team also does a great job of this in using the team members’ individual skills to achieve the team goal with great efficacy.
This translates to life as well. Regardless if you’re trying to learn something, build a business from scratch in your basement, whether a disaster or start a blog, you’ll only get so far by yourself. Sure, you can learn everything about wilderness survival, but if you fall and break your leg, you will have no one to help you.
In building Tactical Beaver and True North Tradecraft, I have learned more and more that although personal skillets, perseverance, drive, sacrifice, dedication and a bit of luck will do wonders for growing a project, it’s the people you meet and connect with – the ones you build a COMMUNITY with – that will ensure your success in the long run. I am thus very humbled and privileged to continue building our community of amazing people who are all “lone wolves” in their specific ventures, but together we all succeed.
Below, I have listed some of those community partners. It is because of them, and many individuals, that we have been able to grow.
That is the power of team. No individual could have gotten Bin Laden, or Hussein on their own. It was a team effort. There are always exceptions to the rule, but by and large, teams can accomplish feats unattainable by an individual.
So whatever the task, challenge or obstacle, do your best by yourself, learn and train and be the best you can be, and then find a group of like-people. Then become a team. Then you’ll be unstoppable.