Back from the Big Bend Camo Comparison
Just a quick update on what we’ve been up to for the last few days. I headed out to Big Bend National Park Sunday with my good friend Jack Spirko from The Survival Podcast to complete the second round of the ITS Camo Comparison.
As we continue to complete these comparisons I feel like we just keep getting better and better at refining testing procedures and location. The Big Bend area is truly beautiful country and hope that everyone will mark it down as someplace to visit eventually.
From the D/FW area it was a long 10-hour drive and I was glad to have Jack’s company to laugh and make fun of the ridiculousness that occurred along the way. I’m not sure if it’s just us, but Jack and I decided that changing lanes is about a 1/3 of a Truck Driver’s job, yet many of them had a hard time even doing that!
We’ve definitely found a great place to shoot future Camo Comparisons at Big Bend, the terrain matched Afghanistan even better than I’d hoped. Even though it’s the end of July, Big Bend had great weather. Virtually no humidity, and cool nights. The area also offers a wide range of terrain, with the exception of snow. This is Texas after all.
We chose to stay in a little town called Marathon which is about an hour north of the park and around 40 miles from anything else in every direction. Little isn’t really the best way to describe it, it’s more miniature. They had less than 10 restaurants, one mom & pop grocery store, a post office, one school (that we could see), two hotels, two gas stations and one hell of a place for dining and drinks called The Famous Burro.
Don’t get me wrong, Jack and I both liked Marathon a lot. It was definitely a cozy town where everyone was friendly and waved. It was a nice and relaxing way to spend the downtime from shooting photos all day. If you ever do happen to make it down there, The Famous Burro is closed on Monday and Tuesday which was a bit disappointing as Jack wrote in his recount of the trip. (Also check out Jack’s Podcast today for the hilarious antics!)
As we got into town Sunday afternoon, we checked into our hotel and headed into Big Bend to scout the locations where we’d shoot the comparison images. It was truly a tough choice on where to shoot as everything looked like a good place. The outer park area proved to be a better match for Afghanistan terrain than the interior, as everything was really green.
The park had definitely gotten a lot of rain recently and we could tell that moisture was held in the interior of the park by the mountains which added to the vibrant plant life. There are definitely lush green areas of Afghanistan and we tried to incorporate a bit of that into one of our four shooting locations.
Much like the last comparison, we had location Alpha thru Delta, yet incorporated different distances at each location. I’ll explain the process in detail once we process all the images and release the results.
Apparently we made the mistake when paying for a park pass, of not being more persistent with the Park Ranger working the desk at the interpretive center. When I paid for the entrance fee I let the Park Ranger know exactly what we’d be doing at the park so we wouldn’t have any trouble running around with a bag full of camouflage and shooting photos.
The Park Ranger didn’t seem to concerned with what we’d be doing and said that would be just fine. After finishing our scouting trip on Sunday, we had a killer meal and margaritas at The Famous Burro, and got a good night sleep.
At first light Monday morning we were fresh and ready to shoot at the park, it was about an hour drive south to reach the park. Our shoots in the four locations went really well, despite a hairy situation where we climbed a large mountain side to get that perfect shot on the first location.
Jack ran the camera while I played “dress-up with my Ken doll,” as he put it. The goal was to change out the twelve different uniforms on the torso mannequin as quickly as possible to ensure the same lighting for each uniform. This proved to be a crappy job all around as I nearly fell down the side of the mountain a few times getting out of the way of the shot.
On another hillside location the cactus was overwhelming and we wound up pulling out many 1-inch cactus spines from our calves. We’d clear the cactus and then catch it with our rear foot and kick it into our calves! I can honestly say that our blood and sweat went into these photos!
After we’d just finished wrapping up the shooting for the day, we saw a Park Ranger pull up and start looking in Jack’s truck that we’d drove down. He seemed to not see us in the distance walking toward him. As we approached he asked what we were doing and we proceeded to tell him about the Camo Comparision.
He hadn’t received any pass-down that we’d be in the area doing the comparison. I let him know about the conversation I’d had with the Park Ranger when I paid for the pass. He said the issue is that those Park Rangers don’t ever relay anything to the guys in the field. While my first thought was that they need to get better at the communication between the different divisions, we asked what we could do better next time to ensure everyone knows what we’re doing.
His response was to just let the center know to pass the information to the guys in the field, and possibly get a press pass next time so it’s officially known we’ll be out taking pictures. While he was off running our driver’s licenses, another Ranger pulled up. I immediately hit it off with the Ranger, who was a prior service Marine. Once I explained what we were doing, he was immediately interested and we started talking about MultiCam and how the A-TACS pattern had been doing in the comparison.
I truly appreciated his interest in the project and after showing him our bag of camo I passed him some ITS business cards and stickers. I completely forgot your name brother, but if you’re reading this, shoot me an email!
We completely understood the Park Rangers checking up on us, and they told us they had two reports of guys running around in camouflage and carrying a big black bag. It’s understandable why that would raise suspicions in an area so close to the Mexican Border. Border Patrol was very active in the area and had a lot of vehicles driving around that Jack and I dubbed “Dog Catchers” as the back of the trucks had an enclosed holding cell that resembled a dog catching vehicle.
After being questioned by the Park Rangers we loaded up the truck, called it a day and headed back to Marathon for more Famous Burro Margaritas. Marathon lies about 80 miles from the Mexican Border at the closest point, yet the Border Patrol has a checkpoint right before you enter Marathon.
While we’d driven through the checkpoint already on Sunday, today the Agent that asked us a few questions when we stopped, saw the black bag with all the camo sitting in the back seat of the truck. After asking what our nationality was and where we were coming from, he asked what was in the bag.
My immediate thought was to say “A small Mexican,” but I proceeded to tell him about the comparison and that there were camo uniforms and a mannequin in the bag. I’m sure he thought that it was such a complicated story that we couldn’t have thought that up if we tried, but he asked me to open the bag. I rolled down the back window as I reached to the back seat so the Agent on the passenger side could also see inside the vehicle, which he seemed to appreciate.
After they confirmed that the bag contained the uniforms and mannequin we continued talking for a bit and told them we were headed to The Famous Burro for dinner and drinks. Jack invited them to join us for some drinks after they got off. This was before we knew the Burro was closed on Monday and Tuesdays!
It’s a Wrap
Dinner wound up being at The Gage Hotel restaurant called CafÃ© Cenizo. The food rivaled some of the best restaurants in Dallas, but unfortunately the bar was being remodeled and margaritas were out of the question. While pricey it was literally the only option in town for dinner other than the grocery store. It turned out to be a great choice and fantastic food!
While we only officially shot photos for one full day, we amazingly got everything we needed knocked out and headed back first thing yesterday morning. I had a great time being able to work in some of the most beautiful county in the United States and sincerely appreciated having Jack along to help with the comparison.
It may take a few days to process the photos and compile the results, but I know you’ll enjoy the next Camo Comparison. We’ll get the orders that have recently come in to our store out soon and get all our newest Crew Leaders the proper forum permissions, thanks for your patience.
Stay tuned for the results and thank you to everyone for your support to make this comparison possible!
p.s. The good news is that while we didn’t catch any stray rounds coming over from the Cartel in Mexico, I not only had an ITS Tactical ETA Kit and tourniquet just in case, but it felt great to be able to legally carry in the National Park!