“However, when the people of Gibeon heard what Joshua had done to Jericho and Ai, they resorted to a ruse: They went as a delegation whose donkeys were loaded with worn-out sacks and old wineskins, cracked and mended. They put worn and patched sandals on their feet and wore old clothes. All the bread in their food supply was dry and moldy. Then they went to Joshua in the camp at Gilgal and said to him and the Israelites, “We have come from a distant country; make a treaty with us.”
~ Joshua 9:3-6 (NIV)
The people of Gibeon pulled a fast one on Joshua and, in the process, subjected themselves to a lifetime of service to the Israelites. This scenario could have just as quickly ended up with the Israelites slaughtering them as they had been doing with other tribes living within the borders of their promised land. There are times when the fight should at all costs be avoided. This was one of those times. Similarly, we must have enough awareness to know whether or not an area is permissive or non-permissive. A nonpermissive area may be hostile, patrolled, or otherwise unfriendly. Traveling through such areas should be done with caution, and camouflage and, ditch kits, survival kits that can be thrown away or confiscated are generally the best to use while in such areas.
When passing through such environments, look for common ground with those you may encounter, such as common ethnicity, sports teams, or vices such as smoking, all work to lower the guard of potential unknown aggressors. Carrying items to gift them, such as a pack of smokes, a lighter, or a small alcohol bottle, further aid in building this repour. When a repour cannot be garnered, disruption may be your best approach; manipulate the environment or the people within it to create a new normal based on your set of parameters. Disruption may come from a distraction device you set in advance (noise, smoke, or fire), a backstory you create with a false narrative (people being attacked three blocks over), or whatever else is necessary to gain access to what you need or the area you have to cross.
Theatricality & deception. Powerful agents to the uninitiated…
~ Bane, The Dark Knight Rises
The ability to move undetected or conceal gear in a cache requires camouflage. There are seven principles to camouflage.
Movement, the eyes are naturally drawn to movement. Movement combined with bright colors is the quickest way to be seen.
Shape, a shape that does not fit into the surroundings, is noticeable to the eye. In an urban setting, square, straight lines are the norm and blend in. Match the shape of the environment. It would be best if you broke up the shape of your head and shoulders.
Shine, new reflective gear shines in the sun. Paint, soot, dirt, and charcoal reduce the brightness. Caches should be painted a drab color to eliminate shine.
Surface, a synthetic surface, regardless of color, doesn't blend into a natural setting. Natural materials or netting help blend the surface into the surroundings.
Silhouette, by back-lighting yourself with natural or artificial light, the human silhouette is instantly recognizable. Terrain will also cause you to silhouette yourself. Avoid crossing the peaks of hilltops. Pay attention to temporarily silhouetting yourself with flashlights, passing cars, or opening a door of a lit room at night.
Shadow, sun, moon, and artificial light can cast your shadow. This shadowing is of significant concern if your shadow extends beyond a corner, wall, or door.
Spacing is an invention of man. Evenly space telephone poles look normal to the eye. Breaking this human-made pattern draws the eye and is instantly noticeable. This subtlety is paramount in an urban setting where trees, bushes, houses, and cars are in nice neat rows.
Building a Ditch Kit
A Ditch Kit or nonpermissive environment kit is a no-excuses kit that is currently legal to carry. You can take this type of gear on an airplane, or go to a sporting event or concert, courthouse, school, or federal building. Don’t carry anything that you are not willing to have confiscated on the spot. Consider that it may be easier to create key kit components past points of inspection. Carry a small enough kit that is unobtrusive. Always avoid things tactical in appearance. Attempting to get tactical defensive pens, flashlights, or nonmagnetic blades past a checkpoint and failing will cause the rest of your gear to be closely scrutinized.
The Basic Ditch Kit includes:
• A TSA-friendly version of a keychain kit.
◦ A keychain kit would include Ferro rod, a non-bladed multi-tool like the Gerber Dime, a small flashlight, 2 key-rings for a tourniquet, and an inexpensive non-climbing grade carabiner.
• Standard ink pen
• Standard rear cap switch flashlight
• Cotton bandana
• Bic lighter
• Fresnel lens
• 12 to 18 feet of bankline or non-military colored paracord
• Credit card
• Optional if space is available: a clean metal water bottle, 2 drum liners, small 1st kit with Band-Aids, Tylenol, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, and Benadryl.
Defensive weapons are easily procured or created past inspection points. Should you desire a knife for utilitarian or self-defense capability, the Emerson-designed Kershaw is an excellent choice for ditch kit purposes. They are affordable at under thirty dollars and have a solid lock for self-defense needs. They also make a trainer version of the knife (sold separately) to practice deployment and defensive techniques so you can get the most from the knife design.
You might also consider a standard bottle/can opener. The pointed can opener edge may be sharpened to work as an impromptu blade and effective defensive weapon. Currently, bottle openers such as this are routinely not considered dangerous.
In one of my ditch kits, I carry 18 feet of Titan Survival’s SurvivorCordTM, a type of 550 paracord that includes as part of its inner strands a waterproof fire starter, fishing line, and snare wire. I also carry the cord in a reflective orange, so it’s not drawing any suspicious looks. I have this coiled in a cargo pocket as part of my bracelet. When deployed in a real emergency, I could quickly run some dirt, oil, or charcoal over the length of the rope to better hide the color. This cordage option permits me several different uses and advantages. My paracord bracelet includes SurvivorCordTM and standard paracord and is about 12 feet long. All in, I have around 30ft of cordage on me, not counting boot laces, depending on the day.
My bracelet includes a mini compass, whistle, and Ferro rod in the clasp. These bracelets are so standard nowadays, and I’ve not yet had an issue with it being flagged. I also carry a 5-cent coin knife. This knife has passed through unnoticed many times through security as it’s just a regular coin. Without close inspection, you would not notice it. These are available from DSG Laboratories and work well for cutting through cordage zip ties and utility purposes.
My wallet was made for me by my wife several years ago. Besides my cash and cards, I have a mini handcuff key stashed in one of the edges. You can empty the wallet and still not feel or find it without intense scrutiny. Finally, I carry a 100% cotton scarf and, post-COVID-19, a face mask. Do you notice that multi-layered cloth face masks have pockets? Those pockets can also store escape and evasion tools, cash, or medication.
Alternatively, a ditch kit may be a Survival Tin. Within these small tins, you can carry a lot of gear for various uses ranging from urban needs to fishing and first aid. I have even seen a 24-inch-long bucksaw blade wrapped around the interior of one of these tins. By keeping all components in the container and having a band around it, you can toss it to the side to be picked up later.
In the Fundamentals of Urban Survival online course, Jamie Boggs and I unpack all these ideas and more- check it out here.