Letter Re: Ghillie Suits, NBC Protective Masks, and Southern Arizona

Dear James,
Thank you so much for taking the time to respond to my questions. I know there are hundreds of letters that come in. My brother Paul in Seattle and my “adopted son” John in Iraq are daily readers. I am building a ghillie suit. Would you suggest a poncho or a coat with an extension to cover the legs? I also plan on lining the suit with mylar or similar heat hiding material. On the subject of gas masks. I have Israeli military units for me and my wife. I have M17 models for back up or friends. Can you tell me how someone can change both cheek filters in an M17 in a tactical situation and survive. Even the standard spin-on can my other two have would let in poison if you changed it in the field. Lastly I am considering moving from Phoenix to the Tombstone area. How do you feel about that area? Thanks again, – Grampa R.

JWR Replies:

Regarding Ghillie Suits: I recommend a poncho, because they are the most versatile. They are also best in hot climates. (Coverall-type ghillie suits are sweltering in hot climates.) Because you can bundle up the front of the poncho when high crawling, I’ve found that poncho hangs up on brush less than a traditional ghillie made out of BDUs or coveralls. Although I can’t imagine that you’d be crawling around much in Cholla cactus country!

Regarding Protective Masks: There is no way to change filters in an M17-style (“cheek filter”) mask in a contaminated environment. The only practical way to change them is inside of a sealed room, after going through a transition room with decontamination shower. And even then, that takes about 10 minutes of tugging on those blasted plastic filter retainer buttons. It is simply a lousy design. (Off on a tangent, I can remember laughing out loud when I saw a picture of the Soviet copy of the M17 mask for the first time. (“Ha ha, fool! You’ve fallen for one the classic blunders! The best well known is ‘Never get involved in a land war in Asia.’… “) The difficulties that I cited are the main reasons why the U.S. military switched back to screw-on filter canisters for their NBC masks. The latter, BTW, can be changed in a contaminated environment by exhaling during the canister swap. (The only exception would be a very contaminated area, where you would probably be dead anyway, due to suit leakage.) OBTW, JRH Enterprises has the best prices that I’ve found for mask components including screw-on filter canisters.

Regarding Southern Arizona: The Tombstone area is typical for the terrain and hydrology of the region, and hence doesn’t have a lot going for it. If you must stay in southern Arizona, you are better off in the edge of the Chiracahua or Huachuca mountain ranges where there is some surface water. Go take a look at Ramsey Canyon and Garden Canyon, (both are east of Sierra Vista.) You will be amazed! BTW, there are similar verdant canyons elsewhere on the periphery of the Chiracahua and Huachuca ranges. If you haven’t ever taken the drive through the Chiracahua over to Portal (near the New Mexico state line), I recommend it. There is some private land in that region. I recommend that you talk to real estate agents in Sierra Vista and Bisbee. Tell them that you are looking for a place with a year-round spring and are willing to wait until one comes on the market A place with a well will suffice (with a photovoltaic-powered pump system, as sold by Solarjack, but that is a poor second choice compared to a reliable spring.