EXPAT SURVIVAL: The Expat E&E/BOB Bag

While living or traveling in the 3rd world If you look out your window and see this you better grab your Expat E&E Bag and get the hell out of dodge

This is a supplemental article for: URBAN SURVIVAL: Do You Really Need a Bug Out Bag? Part – 2; Yes Some People do Need a BOB, But Not Everyone (if you have not read it please do before you read this article).

NOTE: I have changed the title of this article to “The Expat E&E Bag” because I feel that that better represents what it is used for. E&E = Escape and Evasion

For those of us who travel, live or work in the 3rd world having an Expat E&E Bag is a necessity. In the 3rd world things like nationwide civil unrest, famine inducing food shortages and civil war are regular occurrences.

I personally spend a good amount of my off-time living in a country that has had a dozen natural disasters, a major regime change, nationwide famine, several small civil wars and weekly occurrences of civil unrest – all this just in the past 10 years.

And when I am working it is always in some tin-pot 3rd world country on the verge of civil or all out regional war. The few 3rd world countries where I don’t need an AK-47 just to take a dump are still ass-backwards shit-holes.

They may not have IED’s going off every 10 minutes but if I accidentally bump into a lady at the local gaudy shopping mall I could end up in jail getting man-raped by my cellmate Ali Abdul. Even in paradises like Thailand where I used to go fishing on R&R they seem to be on the verge of a coup every other week.

If you need a visual example of how most of the 3rd world is, just watch the movie “Soylent Green” – that’s pretty much the way it is in all large 3rd world cities.

Considering the unique circumstances of having to bug out in the 3rd world the standard “Swedish fire-tool and ammo” list isn’t appropriate. So below I have listed out the items and miscellaneous stuff that any Expat should have in their Expat E&E Bag.

THE BAG

To avoid people noticing your Expat E&E Bag you should go with whatever types of bags the locals regularly use. Backpacks are out because of problems with theft, one trick robbers use in the 3rd world is to slice your backpack with a razor and ether discreetly take stuff out or have a ‘piñata free for all’ as your shit dumps onto the sidewalk.

For the Middle East (non hostile regions) I use a black courier bag like the local students use. In Southeast Asia I use a medium sized fake Louis Vuitton backpack (worn in the front).

Military style bags with PALS webbing and moral patches are obviously not good choices. You can use a Maxpedition versipack if you toss a towel or sweatshirt over it. But whatever bag you choose get one with extremely sturdy straps (so someone cant tear it off), have it triple sewn at a local tailor if needed.

Medical

Considering the complete lack of sanitation in the 3rd world the chances of you becoming ill wile bugging out is high if not practically guaranteed. If you combine stress, poor nutrition and hygiene with running around in the 3rd world = The Shits.

Even if you can eat rare pork kabobs from a street vendor in Cambodia like I can, adding extreme stress to the equation will turn your steel stomach into Jello.

In addition to medicine you will need the minimal basics that one would have in a FAK (first aid kit) just in-case you get injured.

Medicine

- Loperamide – (commonly known as Imodium) in liquid form
- Ciprofloxacin – One nice thing about the 3rd world is you can usually buy Cipro over the counter. Start taking as soon as you go in the run.
- Powdered Headache Medicine – something like BC Powder, this stuff will knock out a headache or other pain in 10 minutes. Tastes like shit.

FAK Stuff

- Syringes – yes, they still reuse syringes in some countries.
- QuikClot or any brand of Antihemorrhagic – in case you have a bleeding wound, depending on the injury it should help you hold out until you are able to leave the country or get to the embassy.
- Israeli bandage – or any other type of sealed military bandage
- Alcohol wipes – the individually wrapped ones.
- Hand Sanitizer – Not a mini bottle, get a medium sized one because everyone will ask for a squirt.
- Eye Drops – Like visine
- Medical tape – one roll

Food

- Energy Bars – This will be the heaviest thing you carry, you will need 9. and don’t get the energy bars that they sell in the grocery store, get the high calorie and high protein ones from GNC. Also tastes like shit.

Water

It is doubtful that you will use the below stuff, even with rioters on the streets you can buy bottles of water. So pack all this stuff into the Nalgene bottle and stuff it in the bottom of your Expat E&E Bag.

- Nalgene Bottle – these have wide mouths so you can draw water from just about any source.
- Cheesecloth – for filtering the big chunks out, just a small 2 foot by 2 foot piece.
- Water purification tablets – you will need 15
- Water purification pump or UV water purifier – up to you witch one you use, I use the UV water purifier but it really doesn’t make any difference.

Commutations

- SIM Cards – During an emergency the cell networks will be over capacity, but some providers will work better than others. Grab a SIM from the 5 major cell providers, activate them, add 100 bucks on each and check them every month to ensure they are still active.

Miscellaneous stuff

- Tissue pack – the small packs of Kleenex, pack 3 in case you have to do a #2 (no TP in most bathrooms in the 3rd world)
- Baby Wipes – The pocket packs with a resealable opening
- Hotel Shampoo Bottle and soap bar – if you end up in the Embassy or a staging center they won’t have any soap of shampoo. It may not seem like a big deal but after being on the run for 3 days there isn’t anything better than getting clean.
- Toothbrush and Toothpaste – I use the ones you can get for free at a hotel or in an airplane bathroom.
- Toothpicks – the individually wrapped ones. It is not a life threatening thing but having something stuck in your tooth wile bugging out is extremely annoying.
- Cigarette Lighter – even if you don’t smoke, the torch style is the best
- Cigarettes – Don’t buy the locally produced brands, buy the expensive imported ones (that have an import stamp). Everyone smokes in the 3rd world, the import smokes have a higher perceived value.
- Folding Knife – any brand will do, don’t buy anything too expensive because you will have to dump it once you get on a plane or to the embassy. Get 2 so you can give one away as a gift to cops or security guards.
- Copies of your ID documents – if you cant prove your ID good luck getting on the last chopper out. Also scan all of your ID’s and email them to yourself just in case you show up at the embassy buck ass naked (this has happened to people overseas).
- Underwear – have an extra pair of skivvies for when you reach safety, you will thank me for that advice
- Small Flashlight – only get one that uses common batteries like AA
- Flip-Flops – the heavy duty beach kind, in case someone snags your kicks

The most important item

- Cash – you could literally leave your Expat BOB at home if you have a pocket full of USD’s. 5K should be the minimum amount in your Expat E&E Bag, no matter how bad things are in the 3rd world you can buy whatever you need. Also pack a hidden wallet that holds the cash in your crotch area.

The last time they had an all-out government change (not voluntary) in Indonesia most expats and wealthy locals bought seats on military aircraft to get out. The same thing happened in Lebanon last year, if you had the bread you could get out.

Weapons

This one is entirely up to you, I can’t make that decision for you because of the serious consequences of being caught with an unlicensed weapon in the 3rd world.

If you can legally purchase weapons then I would say yes – after you have received proper training. If the only way to get a weapon is to buy on the black market, well, that’s on you dude. But if you end up shooting a local there will be a reckoning like you wont believe if you get caught.

Pepper spray is probably the best choice, it won’t kill someone and getting caught with it (if it is illegal in that country) won’t be a life sentence.

But the whole weapon thing in the 3rd world is a “Hmmmm…?” thing. No “real” answer exists on the subject of packing weapons (especially guns) in the 3rd world.

One thing you should take into consideration, the majority of westerners who have Bugged Out from a 3rd world country during a crisis in the past did it unarmed.

Notes

The Expat BOB is meant to be used wile literally running through riots full of thousands of people, during armed civil war on the streets, after a devastating natural disaster or if the local cops are looking for you. This is a “true” Bug Out/E&E Bag, meaning this will be the only thing you will have on your person besides the clothes on your back.

The item list may appear like I have forgotten things that would normally be in a E&E Bag – I have not. Things like a tourniquet are just dead weight because if you are injured that bad in hellholeastan you won’t make it to the local hospital that just upgraded to 1903 medical standards in time anyway.

This bag is only meant for someone to use for 3 days max, which is usually the amount of time it would take a person to reach the embassy, bribe their way onto a plane or boat or reach a friend who lives in a guarded expat enclave.

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~James G
Founder – Editor in Chief

James G is a Veteran Civilian Contractor who has worked in the Middle East and Southeast Asia for way too long. He spends his off time in Indonesia and Virginia getting drunk, shooting guns, writing poorly written articles and eating the Energy Bars in his BOB.

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28 thoughts on “EXPAT SURVIVAL: The Expat E&E/BOB Bag”

  1. Great write up! In particular about the cash. IMO, that is probably the most important thing. As an expat, that will always be the hardest thing to get your hands on if things started falling apart and you had to Dee-Dee-Mao. I keep ample cash in USD, Euro and Dinar.

    Additionally, there are limits to what you can withdraw from your accounts on a daily basis, usually about $600 a day. Added precautions would be to ensure you have enough extra funds in your checking just in case you can’t get online to transfer funds, and can withdraw from an ATM.

    I had a family emergency several years back and the BOB/GOOD bag served me very well. I didn’t waste anytime packing and departed work immediately. About 3 hours was saved getting to the airport. That got me out in time to catch a flight I would have otherwise missed.

    Conclusion, you don’t have to be an operator/shooter/PSD/trunk monkey for this to have a place in your hooch/apartment. This should be a must for ALL expats working and living overseas.

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  2. Yep, cash is king in the 3rd world –

    Another tip is to have 3 bank accounts with ATM cards so you can pull out a few grand a day if needed. Also some banks will western union you cash from your account to anywhere in the world, all you have to do is ask.

    But good luck hitting an ATM after a tsunami in Sri lanka

    The Expat BOB is specifically geared to all Expats or people that travel in the 3rd world regardless if they work in the high-risk industry or not.

    ~James G

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  3. Great no-nonsense article as usual…

    I’ve added to mine:

    – Iridium 9505A (post-paid SIM deactivated until next big trip; pre-paid available anytime on eBay)
    – Tuk-Tuk folding blade
    – Coal-tablets (taste like, uhm, coal, but THEY HELP!)
    – OLD, unused (e.g. 1yr. left on exp. date) concealable body-armor in LIIIA. Don’t bring the brand-new Safariland vest for several hundred bucks, unless you have a license (and daily need) for this lovely place!!! (Funny story about PMCs forgetting to get a license for VIP in Iraq…)

    (Also, if asked I’d prefer a ALS/DefTec Maximum Smoke or OC grenade over carrying an illegal weapon. Easy to ditch and can help you to create plan B, when trapped in a passage/one-way street. Can scare locals if you know how to use them.)

    I personally prefer less-lethal over lethal weapons, but that is my preference I have to live with.

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  4. Question for the EMT trained: Are there any issues with using duct tape in place of medical tape?

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    1. Carlos, heck no! Duct tape is just about the only way to keep dressings/band-aids on while in the jungle, and other environments. Just don’t wrap the tape completely around a limb or finger. Could create a tourniquet effect.

      I also have some in my packs and/or aid bag. Very multipurpose.

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  5. Great article. Solid stuff. A great deal of it is stuff I carry daily. Especially the flashlight and a simple knife. Even in 2nd world countries where that is a no no, like the UK. (no offense to anyone in the UK).

    For underwear and clothes I try to use the new antimicrobial kind. Tends to reduce the smell if you are out for a few days without shower or washing. Some climbing pants, preferably nylon based so that if any unfortunate liquids get on them it is easily washed off. I prefer Duct Tape; I have my EMT and as long as it isn’t funky I have never had any problems with it. I will reduce a roll down on a pencil or small stick and carry as much as I can. I also like to throw in a few 550 cord survival bracelets just in case.

    I agree with Lo about the coal tablets. For the flashlight I prefer Fenix, something small that one battery can last a long time. Also they are pretty sturdy and can be used as a fist load if necessary. And a red filter if you are going to be walking around at night.

    Great idea about the sim cards. Has anyone had any experience with so called “global” sim cards. To me they seem too good to be true. Also great idea about the Smokes, not a smoker so I never even thought of that. Also food wise, has anybody any experience with survival food tabs?

    I also carry a Kelly Worden Travel Wrench wherever I go. It is innocuous, I have passed through airport security with it, embassies and what have you. And it is something with enough training can be a equalizer.

    Just my two cents. Great article.

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  6. I would not go too much into detail about what brand to carry. My preference as a business-traveler might differ from the reality of a contractor. For example I prefer the latest and brightest in LED flashlights (usually SureFire but others as well) — not because I want the biggest, meanest light, but simply the best in its class. Right now I carry an USD 120 AAA flashlight around my neck. WTF, really? Your Fenix may be better for you from the price-performance standpoint, for me as a collector it is not. Will I cry if I lose it? Not really, but somebody else might.

    I agree on items, but as seen on other forums there will never be a general opinion what THE best brand really is. It’s tricky to disucss lights, knives, and watches, because everybody is an expert and nobody admits being a collector.

    And, again, while you make fun of the guy owning a custom gadget, you just spent more than the average on your home-cinema system, etc.

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  7. Re global SIM cards: overpriced.

    Pick up a pre-paid card in the country at airports or train-stations. Avoid official stores, but go the nice not-from-here guy selling use cell phones: he will sell you a pre-paid without asking for ID. Also, playing stupid tourist — geez, forgot my wallet in the hotel safe but I got some cash — will get you a SIM card without registration in most places.

    Usually I ask my local people to get me a pre-paid SIM card in advance. They love to do this, because arranging appointments is cheaper, when they don’t have to call your expensive roaming number.

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  8. For lights myself as pertaining to BOBs I usually adhere to battery life and low weight whatever brand they may be. Thanks for the info on the sim cards.

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  9. Re: Folding Knives. Ka-Bar makes a line of good durable folders that sell for $20 or less. Just a green G-10 handle, black blade (made from pretty good steel, actually) in various designs depending on what you want. For a knife that actually works but you won’t cry about having to ditch I don’t think you can go wrong. A third world cop could probably be bribed to think that it’s the latest in tactical knives, too.

    Another very good article on the subject. Beware of any “urban survivalist” whose kit looks like a packing list for a wilderness camp out.

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  10. You are not kidding about the baby wipes. I had to take many ” Hobo ” baths with baby wipes while i was in new orleans after Katrina. Crotch rot is a terrible thing to have.

    Also some ass wipe ” toilet paper ” i could have got a blow job for a roll of TP.

    Yeah, and money, money and more money.

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  11. As always, first-rate stuff, James. I have had a similar kit for years.

    One site I’ve used before is http://www.telestial.com. It’s a good place to start if you don’t know much about overseas comms. But you can also buy/rent sat phones and other gear. I have in the past bought SIM cards from them for my target country before I left and had them sent to me. You pay a premium, no doubt, but I have the local number I’m going to use before I get there (so I can give it out to people stateside) plus you don’t have to worry about the hassle of buying one at your destination. Some countries are worse than others. In Colombia, they wanted to make a copy of my passport before I could buy a local SIM card. No gracias, jefe. Again, there’s a premium for this service, so you have to decide.

    Here’s another iffy suggestion–you have to make sure they aren’t illegal, or at least be willing to risk it–but I’ve used just a pair of regular old handcuffs to get me through lines, security and everything at an airport. The third world cops (latin countries especially) are surprisingly short on these things even though they’d all love to have a pair. I gave a cop a pair and he became my personal bodyguard. These are like $30 here in the States for a good pair. Cheaper than a carton of Malboros and more effective in my opinion.

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  12. Great no bullshit article, the standard we start to get used to here.
    The only stuff I can think of adding to the original list is dental floss + a sturdy needle (my very own ICE repair kit), small emergency compass, a pair of socks (if I’m going to do alot of walking) and depending on region extra anti-malaria pills.

    Re the global SIM card, mine works in most countries…..I leave it at home and use local ones. And spend the money on getting out or in case of no emergency on drinks and girls.

    About brands and stuff, I like a good surefire light or benchmade knife as much as any other man. But if it’s a no band product that does the job and I don’t have to cry over when I dump it or get relieved of it. Fine by me.

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  13. Excellent ideas. I would also suggest super glue gel or regular super glue. You can sometimes find it in multiple small single use packets, which are less of a loss when the stuff dries up after opening.

    This can be used on most superficial clean incisions if stitches don’t need to be placed deeper and there are no nerves to repair or tendons to connect, and is great for occasional tears of the skin as well as those pesky paper cuts.

    Anything infected or potentially infected should not be closed up with superglue or stiches. Clean it, slap some raw honey into the wound and dress it up.

    It is also handy for those oddball repairs you might need: Last summer in the middle of skeet shooting, part of my folding stock just fell off! This was not a no-name folder! But, some superglue gel and a few rubber bands (also good to have) and I was back on the line.

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  14. I also like to throw in a few 550 cord survival bracelets just in case  (Quote This Comment)

    Dang, I forgot about the 550 cord, its one of those “no braner” things so I forgot to list it

    Has anyone had any experience with so called “global” sim cards..  (Quote This Comment)

    No need for the “Global SIM” cards unless you travel allot (like 4+ times a month internationally) they are cheap to buy but when you use them… DAMN, expect to get man-raped on the bill.

    Also some ass wipe ” toilet paper ” i could have got a blow job for a roll of TP..  (Quote This Comment)

    LOL!

    Here’s another iffy suggestion–you have to make sure they aren’t illegal, or at least be willing to risk it–but I’ve used just a pair of regular old handcuffs to get me through lines, security and everything at an airport. The third world cops (latin countries especially) are surprisingly short on these things even though they’d all love to have a pair. I gave a cop a pair and he became my personal bodyguard. These are like $30 here in the States for a good pair. Cheaper than a carton of Malboros and more effective in my opinion.  (Quote This Comment)

    Ha! I have also used “American” handcuffs as gifts for cops in the 3rd world

    small emergency compass,   (Quote This Comment)

    No need for the compass – you will be in an Urban environment wit street signs and Taxi Drivers and local folks for hire. Plus – as an expat you should have already done a “Dry Run” on your bug out plan.

    ~James G

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  15. TITLE CHANGE:

    I have changed the title of this article to “The Expat E&E/BOB Bag” because I feel that that better represents what it is used for. E&E = Escape and Evasion + BOB

    THIS ARTICLE IS FOR ANY 3rd WORLD TRAVELER

    This article isn’t necessarily for the High Risk Contractor like some people think.

    It is written for the “regular Joe” that may travel or live in the 3rd world

    The Civilian Contractor BOB or E&E Bag is a whole different subject that I will write about later

    CONCERNING FLASHLIGHTS

    The reason I chose a flashlight that uses regular batters is the Expat BOB is actually more of an E&E Bag for the 3rd world. You can find specialized batteries in the nice shopping malls in the 3rd world – but good luck finding them on the streets.

    That’s why I say (for the uses of this BOB) you should have an AA or AAA mini-light

    ITEMS NOT INCLUDED:

    Thanks for the great suggestions for things like Super Glue, but the point of this is to make the bag as light as possible. Now a single bottle of super glue doesn’t weigh much but like many survivalists (including myself) once you toss one small thing in, then you add another, and another = 20 pound Expat E&E Bag

    The 5K is for any incidentals you may need wile on the move + bribes, plane/boat tickets, ect…

    Read over the article: URBAN SURVIVAL: Do You Really Need a Bug Out Bag? Part – 2; Yes Some People do Need a BOB, But Not Everyone

    The situations I have listed there are the reasons why you don’t have time to pack – the local cops looking for you, tanks in the streets, tsunami, ect..

    So for the Expat E&E/BOB you only need to carry what you cant buy or stop to buy

    Thanks for the great discussion – and sorry if I didn’t make it more clear as to the actual use of this bag, I hope I cleared it up a bit.

    P.S.

    I have had to “Pop Smoke” from a 3rd world country with nothing but my ass twice so this article is written from a “I did it” perspective.

    ~James G

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  16. I forgot to add:

    You should also keep one or two cheap 20 or 30 dollar cell phones in your Expat BOB, you can buy them at any used mobile shop in the 3rd world

    ~James G

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  17. I forgot to add:You should also keep one or two cheap 20 or 30 dollar cell phones in your Expat BOB, you can buy them at any used mobile shop in the 3rd world
    ~James G  

    Why? As bribes or as back-ups for yours?

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  18. Just as bacl-ups

    ~James G

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    1. Hi Terry lovely wiirtng, I enjoy reading your blog I visited Ankara several times around 2000 to 2002 while my Turkish beau was serving his military service there we subsequently married, lived in the UK, got divorced, and now I’m a singleton living in Turkey (previously Bodrum, now Kusadasi) so I enjoy your discoveries, your insight, your loves and laughs keep wiirtng, keep sharing

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  19. I got two bags. One poorly equipped pouch from the glorious 3rd world backpacking days collecting dust somewhere in the basement, and now an E&E breakaway pack. It consists of the two side-pockets of my issued Berghaus Cyclops (some gigantic British SAS alpine special kickass commando thing that I have to drag around with me) that you can zip off the main pack and then zip together, and with those tiny shoulder straps it makes an odd-looking but practical daypack.

    It contains pretty much the usual stuff that everyone has in it (including a ‘survival tin’ pretty much as described in John Wiseman’s Survival Handbook – I did find something useful in there lol) plus gore-tex waterproofs, barbecue fire starters (which we get issued) and a small bottle of water. Not only a good option for infantry guys but also for backpackers who want to make a day trip from where they stay for some days.

    The thinking behind this concept is that you can’t fight with a huge backpack that weighs 30 kilo or more (if that happens, we do a peelback, dump the heavy gear and then start contact again), and in the event of an E&E situation you also have to abandon your 3rd line and have your E&E pack transferred to you 2nd or 1st line.

    In the best case you have your E&E kit in your first line anyway, split up into the pockets of your smock. That’s the European approach on the eternal question “what gear do I take and when do I carry it where and how”. I personally try to keep the pack as small and lightweight as possible because the other gear seems to be already too much sometimes.

    If we are only out for the day I usually use a 35 litre backpack (I guess it would be called ‘assault pack’ in the US, tacticalshmactical) with all the stuff mentioned above plus a camelbak, energybars and a gore-tex bivvy bag as emergency shelter.

    There’s still room enough for a helmet, snow-shovel, warm clothing or whatever you have just been decided to carry, be it ancient oversized commos, spare link box, climbing ropes, or NV scopes.

    Great site here, discovered it a few days ago. Keep the good work going! I love the articles, they are quite useful while at the same time very entertaining to read. A good contrast to what’s usually found on the internet, especially the broad variety of topics. A big thanks!

    Cheers

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    1. Arctelis like this just make me want to visit your website even more.

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  20. Glad you like DVM man, spread the word!

    ~James G

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  21. Have been in indonesia a lot. You can add one of those tubular sarong in the kit. Probably the most versatile piece of fabric i’ve seen so far.

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    1. Those are way handy – especially at camp

      Indo is my second home – where have you been there?

      ~James G

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  22. Giving the situation in Egypt this would make a good article to revisit or perhaps a new article on Egypt’s current situation with references back to this post (among many others).

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  23. Hello, Neat post. There is an issue along with your website in internet explorer, could test this? IE still is the marketplace chief and a large section of other people will pass over your great writing due to this problem.

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  24. Appreciation for each alternate educational site. Where in addition can I am that style of details coded in a real great process? I’ve a difficult task that I am only currently working with, so i happen to be with the glimpse out intended for this sort of details.

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