September 08, 2014

HEAT IS THE REAL ENEMY

PLAYING IN A GHILLIE SUIT IN THE HEAT




I am running a little behind on this entry because I have been getting ready for  (and away playing at) a game (Lunatics: Welcome to the Asylum) in Oroville, California at Combat Zone.  For those who know the area, Oroville is generally a place I stay away from in August because of the heat, which can easily be in excess of 100 degrees. That's because wearing any kind of ghillie suit is just plain uncomfortable in that kind of weather.  On top of that, I am a Northern California coastal dweller and I am used to temperatures in the low 70s, so when you add 25-30 degrees on to that, I tend to wilt, 

Normally, I will pass on the high-heat games, but I decided that Oroville in August was a perfect chance to test out a number of ideas I had about playing in a 3d/ghillie hybrid type of suit.  I have been gathering various items for awhile now for exactly this purpose.  

I won't keep you in suspense.  The temperatures were in the mid-90s for the game and I wore my hybrid ghillie suit all day, often not even taking it off during the breaks called by the event promoter to let people leave the field and rehydrate.  I have never really been able to contemplate doing that in the past.  I won't tell you that it wasn't warm.  What I can say is that I played relatively comfortably all day and, because of a lot of reasons (team balance, terrain, and rifle choice) I was moving much, much more than I normally like to do. 

I am going to present this information in distinct pieces. Some parts of this article are found elsewhere on this Blog, and other things that I mention are common sense that experienced players will just know. I happen to believe, however, that when the information is taken in its totality, it might prove useful to a new player (of which there were an astounding number at the Combat Zone event), or someone who has never tried playing in temperatures over 90 degrees.   I don't mean to tell you that you must do each and everything I did.  As always, take from this what would work for you and discard the rest.   

WHAT TO DRINK BEFORE, DURING, AND AFTER THE GAME:

BEFORE
Drink water, lots of it.  Yeah, I know - duh!  I have to tell you though, I have played this game awhile.  I have seen a lot of really experienced guys violate this rule in a number of ways.  Here is one classic example. When I was playing on a scenario team, we attended a game in the same general area as Oroville. Temperatures were well over 90 degrees.  None of us were going to be wearing anything like ghillie suits though, and everyone on the team had been playing for lots and lots of years.  

It was hot and the night before the game the beer started flowing in our interconnected motel rooms. Two of the guys were really knocking them down.  Despite my best efforts to convince them that getting dehydrated before the game wasn't a good idea, they continued to party.  Shakespeare said it best in Macbeth, when the porter says that alcohol promotes "nose-painting, sleep, and urine."  

Alcohol has a lot of complex effects on the human body and I don't want to turn this into a human biology lesson. Suffice it to say that alcohol consumption increases your urine output. My teammates, responding to my admonitions about getting dehydrated, decided they could easily just compensate by drinking more water along with the beer.  That doesn't work.  It is just more water that the body gets rids of.  Besides, despite their best intentions, I don't thing, as the night wore on, that they were paying much attention to consuming water.  

The next day after playing for several hours, both of them were out of the game. One suffered heat exhaustion and the other was a borderline case of heat stroke. They were dehydrated in the morning and no matter how much water they took in, they couldn't get it into their systems fast enough.  It ended up just sloshing around in their stomachs.  

Start pumping water into your system the day before.  Get your hydration level up before the game ever starts.  Your urine color on the morning before the game is your best indicator of your hydration level. Straw or lemonade colored urine is the goal.  Urine the color of apple juice indicates dehydration.  Make no mistake, it's water you need at this point, not a sports drink.

About 2 hours before the game take in about 6-12 ounces of water to top off your hydration.  Stay away from sports drink (and anything with a high sugar content) before the start of the game.  There are studies out that show that sports drinks consumed before intense exercise can actually lead to more fatigue during the event.  

DURING
Your goal during the game is to minimize dehydration.  Dehydration that goes beyond about 2% of your body weight starts to impair your performance.  Know too, that a high level of fitness doesn't mean you are going to be sweating less.  On the contrary, a very fit person will perspire more because his/her body is better conditioned to the physical stress and does a better job of sweating to cool itself.  

So what should you drink? After about an hour of sustained exercise the body needs to start replacing the sugars and electrolytes that it has lost.  Plain water won't give you that.  Drinking just a sports drink, like Gatorade, isn't the answer either though.  That's because the sugar and electrolytes contained in the sports drink slows down the rate at which your body can absorb it, and until it is absorbed it isn't doing you any good. Nothing is absorbed faster than good old water.

The answer is a diluted sports drink.  This gives you the best of both worlds.  The water is absorbed more quickly and helps with reducing dehydration, and the sports drink replaces those lost sugars and electrolytes. The only way to do that while you are on the field is with a hydration system.  If you are wearing a ghillie suit or trying to reduce how much you move around on the field, then the only answer is a water bladder on your back.  During the event in Oroville, I spent a lot of time with the hydration hose in my mouth while I waiting for something to happen on the field.  Later in his article I'll show you am using.  

The event organizers were very worried about the effects of heat on the players so they stopped the event at regular intervals so players would leave the field and hydrate.  During those breaks, I rehydrated by drinking one small bottle of water for every small bottle of Gatorade I consumed.  I drank constantly.  

One tip that I can't emphasize strongly enough is to bring along a sun canopy and a camp chair.  Being able to get out of the sun was just such a relief.  I broke the Co2 piercing pin on my SR1 while at the game.  Bill Holstein, the owner of CCM, was at the event and we spent some time diagnosing the issue.  If we would have had to stand out in the blazing sun it would have been plain miserable.  On top of that, sitting down in the shade during the breaks proved to be key to staying in the game all day.  

Bill Holstein from CCM and DJ Matt at Combat Zone under the shade canopy.


Watch for the symptoms of heat exhaustion.  Many of us are too macho to give in easily on the field.  That's why I end up helping players off the field who are stumbling around and confused.  Constantly self-check for dizziness, weakness, and a reduction in your mental acuity.  If you even think that you are beginning to experience heat exhaustion, leave the field.  It won't get better or go away.  At that point, if your physical exertion continues your body won't be able to absorb enough water to rehydrate you on the field.  It's time for a break.  Let your system catch up and absorb some of that water that is just sitting in your stomach.  

One of the tip-offs as to whether you are getting the right amount of water is whether you are actually urinating during the day.  During the game at Combat Zone, I drank an incredible amount of plain water, Gatorade, and a diluted mixture in my water bladder.  Despite that, I never had to visit the Porta-Potties at all until after the game when my fluid consumption actually began to catch up to optimum levels.  That's probably because I had rivers of sweat rolling off my body the entire day so I was losing fluid that way.  That tells me that despite all my efforts, I needed to drink even more than I did. 

AFTER
DJ Matt and I at the end of the day at Combat Zone

Once you finish playing for the day, it's time for your body to recover. Water, or even a diluted sports drink, is not enough.  Now its time for a straight sports drink and maybe a little protein along with it. My version of that was Gatorade and a steak dinner.  

EQUIPMENT THAT HELPS YOU AVOID OVERHEATING ON THE FIELD

CHILLY PAD BY FROG TOGS

Just soak it with some water and wrap it around your neck.  For me, it takes the place of my throat protector.  I cross it in front and tuck the ends under my vest.  It keeps the blood running through the arteries in your neck just a bit cooler.

ARCTIC HEAT COOL VEST



The Arctic Heat cool vest has gel pockets sewn into the white pockets on the front and back of the vest.  To activate the gel, you first soak the vest in water for about 10 minutes.  Shake off the excess water and then freeze it overnight.  Take it out of the freezer and wear it next to your skin.  Yes, that takes a little getting used to, but after you have done it a few times it is no big deal. Wearing it next to the skin provides you with the vest's maximum cooling effect.

I have two of them and I found that switching into the second one (kept in an ice chest to keep it frozen) at lunch kept me cool for the entire day.  Yes, it really works.  You immediately feel your core temperature dropping down. The vest weighs just over two pounds and is built for wearing during athletic activities.  I wear an Under Armour HeatGear shirt over it and under my vest.

DJMatt has created his own gel cooling pockets that he attaches to his vest.  His contain more gel, are far less expensive, and a bit heavier.  I think they actually cool a somewhat longer and freeze easier than my vests. Stay tuned for more information on his version of the cooling vest.  Soon he will have his own page here. More on that later in the post.

MASK FANS

I have three fans in my mask.  There are two EZ Creations Fanz located on the grill near my mouth. They are set to pull air into the mask.  The third fan is a Flexr (also my EZ Creations) and it is mounted on the top of the mask.  It can blow air in or out of the mask, but mine is set to suck air out of the mask.  I have to say that this arrangement worked really well in the heat.  I could actually feel the hot, outside air coming into the mask but the movement of the air kept my face a lot cooler than I expected and I had no fogging whatsoever.

HEADBAND

The ultimate in low tech but, to me invaluable.  It stopped the sweat from my hairline from rolling down into my mask.  Have at least two, and preferably three, and rotate them out throughout the day.  

CABELLA'S HYBRID 3D CAMOUFLAGE BOONIE HAT AND PANTS



Cabella's hybrid 3d camouflage gear can be seen on the far right.  This is the Western pattern and it is pretty brown.  After having played the day in these things I am a convert.  For a long time, I have favored wearing 3d gear when it is simply too hot wear a traditional ghillie suit.  These pants are just mesh netting.  What makes them different than the rest of the 3d stuff out there is the thread built into the pattern.


Here is a close-up of what I mean.  The Hybrid pattern is on the right.  It adds another dimension of material that does even a better job of concealing my shape and, in addition, I can tie grass or other vegetation right into the suit.

Because they are so light and made of mesh, I had some durability concerns.  After playing the day at Combat Zone, those concerns are gone.  I low crawled through stuff so thick that it caught on my remote line and pulled my air tank out of its pouch.  In addition, the briers snagged the bottom of the Dye magazine in my gun and tore off the bottom plate.  The pants, though, came through all of that without any signs of wear, other than getting very dirty.

I also wanted to vent the heat from my head so I went with Cabella's Hybrid boonie hat.

The Hybrid hat is on the left.  The hat on the left is Cabella's regular 3d gear in the same pattern.  Again, these are built on mesh and vent heat very nicely.


Here is a close-up of Cabella's Hybrid (on the left) and Cabella's tradional 3d hat on the right.

UNDER ARMOUR HEAT GEAR TIGHTS AND SHIRT


I toyed with the idea of just wearing sliding shorts and Dye knee pads under the 3d pants, but in the end, decided that because of briars and other stuff on the ground I wanted a very light layer under the Hybrid pants.  I am not a guy who is comfortable wearing tights, but I have to say these were just amazing.  I wore my kneepads over the top of them and I was simply shocked at how cool this whole arrangement felt on my legs.  There wasn't much wind in Oroville, but when we did get a light breeze, I could actually feel it on my legs because it blew through the Hybrid pants.  Very nice.  I will be picking up more of these things.

I have come to love these shirts in the heat.  They are infinitely cooler than any type of military camouflage shirt.  They also feel nicer against the skin.  The main reason I tried the Under Armour HeatGear tights was because how much I liked the shirts.  Despite the heat, there wasn't one moment when I wished I was wearing short sleeves.

TACTICAL CONCEALMENT COBRA VEST



The Cobra Vest replaced my traditional ghillie jacket.  It is much like the Web-Tex Concealment Vest.  The Cobra Vest, however, has netting attached to the vest instead of just elastic vegetation bands.  I wore it to Combat Zone because it is set up to be more brown than my Web-Tex Vest.  The photo above shows the vest stripped down before I regarnished it for Combat Zone.  The vest is made of mesh and vents heat very nicely.

HYDRATION SYSTEM

I used the Camelbak 1.5 liter water bladder because I wanted to test it.  Normally, it would reside on the back of my Condor Battle Belt under my full ghillie suit. It worked well. For real heat like I was playing in, however, I will probably go with something a bit bigger in the future.  I drained this one pretty quickly at Combat Zone, which is unusual for me because I normally don't drink much water while I am playing.

EXERCISE HYDRATION MIX
There are lots of sports drink mixtures out there.  I have used a good many because I participate in a lot of activities that involve extended physical activity and require hydration.  I like to use either a powder or tablets that I can easily add right to my hydration bladder. Over the years, I have been on the hunt for the best hydration mix I could find.  I wanted something that had no artificial color or preservatives.  It had to set well on my stomach and taste good so I would keep drinking the stuff. This is what I have settled on.



It's an all-natural sports drink.  I am partial to the one with the orange flavoring.  It gets its flavor usual small pieces of actual orange fruit which you can see in the powder.  It is sold at REI and costs about $20.00, I like that because it means I can find it anywhere I happen to be.  This stuff is always in my gear bag. It has an expiration period of about 2 years.  To use it, I add one scoop of the stuff for every liter of water in the bladder I am using.  The taste is good and just faintly orange tasting.  Best of all, my stomach tolerates it without complaint.  Remember, proper hydration isn't just important in the heat.  To keep playing at maximum effectiveness, regardless of how warm it is, you need to be hydrated.  Playing in temperatures over 90 degrees, however, converts proper  hydration from being just an important factor to a critical one.

CONCLUSION:

So there you have it.  That's how a coastal-dwelling, cool-weather-loving guy managed to play all day in 95 degree heat in a ghillie suit. It is good to know that no matter what the weather might be, I can show up and play hard wearing what I want to wear.

I am using all the equipment I talked about here.  Now, I may further refine what I have, but I am really happy with how all of it performed in the last game.  Expect to see some changes in equipment on my Gear Page in the near future.

NEW PAGES

NO SNIPERS CLUB:
You may have noticed that in the last few weeks, I have added a page titled, "NO SNIPERS CLUB." The Hustle Paintball Blog writer was the first recipient of my prestigious "No Snipers Club Award."

The purpose of this page, and the award that goes with it, is to point out that there is still some very strong opposition to snipers in some small segments of the general paintball community.  Their comments demonstrate that they either don't like having snipers on the field, or that they still don't believe that there is such a position on a paintball field. I wanted to have a place where I could address the arguments that are made against snipers, but I don't want to devote a main blog article just to refuting a bunch of silly assertions made my someone with an axe to grind.  Mostly, it is just a matter of dealing with factual inaccuracies and ignorance concerning what a sniper can and can't do.  

Years ago, there was lots more of this stuff than there is now, but just because there is far less of it doesn't mean it has gone away.  Its existence is amply demonstrated by the fact that a writer on the Hustle Paintball Blog posted a piece that squarely falls in the snipers-don't-exist category.  Know too, that I will always go to the source and leave my comments if that is possible. In fact, I did leave my comments on the Hustle Paintball Blog, and a link to my page, but comments can only be left there after moderator approval.  My comments were not welcome so you won't see them posted on Hustle's Blog page. 

This is another area where I can't read everything out there on the Internet.  If you see something concerning paintball snipers that needs to be challenged or rebutted, please let me know with a comment or email.  Remember, I am not looking to respond to every goofy post made by some player on some forum. Individual players are entitled to state their opinion no matter how uniformed or poorly reasoned they may be.  What I am trying to hone in on with this page is a posting or article from a blog or other credible source (like Hustle Paintball) that would, because of that writer's association, seemingly endow the words with a special kind of experience or expertise.  That's important because someone who is new to paintball or to the sniping position might place weight on that writer's opinion if it is not addressed.  Looking for help here guys.

THE MAD DOCTOR'S LAB:
My partner on the field is DJMatt.  He is an experienced player and an excellent sniper, but he much more than that.  He is constantly working on innovations for his paintball gear.  Anyone who hasn't read the article on the creation of glasses that permit him to use a Gopro camera on his scope should take a minute to read it.  Every time I see him, he has improved on his design.  I got to see them last week at Combat Zone and they just keep getting better.  

Another example is his work on the larger dial for the HHA Optimizer.  Because of that, my SR1 is now capable of being sighted in from 20 yards to 120 yards with a flick of the dial.  For long-range shooting, his idea quite simply shames every other adjustable picatinny rail out there and I have used one of the best real-steel, long-range rails on the market.      

I have taken to calling him the Mad Doctor.  He has a never-ending supply of ideas and modified equipment that he is using and they all relate to paintball sniping or precision shooting. On top of that he is, in my opinion, the unquestioned master of the workings of the Dye Dam.  I have so many ideas and concepts from him that I, initially, thought I would just roll them all together and include them in one posting. After a bit more thought, I realized that really isn't enough.  He needs his own page where I can corral all his ideas in one easy to find place so that you guys can easily reference them.  I am working up that page now.  I will start by replicating his Gopro glasses article but there will be lots more coming after that.  In the next week, I will be creating that page.  Stay tuned because you are going to really like all the stuff circling around in the Mad Doctor's brain.  


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