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The best U.S. military field gear to consider for your loadout can give you an advantage in the outdoors. Military surplus gear is a favorite among many people. Whether you are an urban prepper or an expert outdoor adventurer, military field gear will be part of your loadout in some way. Therefore, as we consider the best U.S. military field gear to consider adding to your packing list, it is acknowledged that there are many opinions about the equipment in this list. Nevertheless, the gear in this list has stood the test of time. The gear is durable, reliable, and available in most military surplus stores.

1. The U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife

The U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife tops the list of U.S. military gear to consider for your kit. The knife is not a favorite of bushcrafters. However, for those with limitations on their spending, the pilot’s survival knife (PSK) is the best way forward in assembling your loadout. Outdoor and survival experts agree that a knife is the most critical tool that you will have at your disposal in a survival situation. You will not go wrong with this knife.

The knife is currently produced by the Ontario Knife Company (OKC) as the 499 Survival Knife. It carries the national stock number (NSN) 7340-00-098-4327. However, the knife is no longer part of the U.S. Government inventory. OKC sells the knife for around $50-60, in most outdoor stores like Cabela’s or Sportsman’s Warehouse. If you are interested in more information about this knife, you can read my article on the history of the U.S. Air Force Pilot’s Survival Knife.

2. The Gore-Tex Bivy from the Modular Sleep System (MSS).

Another piece of field gear to consider for your packing list is the Gore-Tex Bivy sack from the military modular sleep system (MSS) produced by Tennier Industries. There are two versions available on the market, woodland camouflage and Army Combat Uniform (Foliage) camouflage. I prefer the woodland camouflage version. However, the camouflage pattern does not matter because the bivys are identical except for the coloring. As of this writing, I am not sure if they have started producing an operational combat uniform (OCP/Multicam) version.

Gore-Tex is an excellent material for the field as it is waterproof, windproof, and abrasion-resistant. That does not mean that it is immune from tearing. It means that with proper use, it will last a long time before any holes or tears appear. Furthermore, the bivy can be used as a hasty shelter in an emergency in conjunction with an emergency blanket or bivy. Thus, as a piece of survival gear, you will not be disappointed by the Gore-Tex bivy sack from the military modular sleep system.

3. The Medium/Large ALICE Rucksack

Second to knives, backpacks are always a favorite topic of conversation among outdoorsmen, bushcrafters, or preppers. It seems everyone has their preferences about backpacks for everyday carry (EDC), backwoods hunting, through-hiking, a Get-Home bag (GHB), or a bugout bag (BOB). A piece of military gear that has stood the test of time is the U.S. Army and USMC ALICE rucksacks. ALICE is an acronym for All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment. The ALICE rucksack was issued in a medium and large version attached to an LC-2 Rucksack Frame. A small ALICE rucksack was issued, but it was not widely accepted or used, so it was quickly phased out of U.S. Government inventories.

The medium and large ALICE rucksacks have a lot of storage space for their size. They are made of heavy-duty nylon and strapping. The medium ruck has a capacity of roughly 2400 cubic inches or about 39 liters. By contrast, the large ruck has a capacity of approximately 3800 cubic inches or about 60 liters. There are some advantages and disadvantages with these military rucksacks. However, overall, they are an excellent start to your prepping or outdoor adventuring activities.

4. The Gen I ECWCS Parka and Trousers

A third military gear item that you should consider is the Gen I Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) parka and trousers. Some commercial replicas are just as good. However, for the price, the surplus Gen I or Gen II parka and trousers are a bargain. If your budget can only allow for one item, I would recommend purchasing the parka before the trousers. These items are bulky. So, for space and weight considerations, I would take the parka over the trousers.

The Gen I ECWCS park and trousers are durable and reliable. The main difference between the Gen I and Gen II parka is that the Gen I parka has an inner liner. The Gen II parka has no liner allowing it to have a dual function as a rain parka. The primary color of the Gen I parka and trousers are woodland camouflage. The parka has a national stock number of NSN 8415-01-228-1306 to 8415-01-228-1322. The trousers have a national stock number of NSN 8415-01-228-1336 to 8415-01-228-1352. The Gen I ECWCS parka and trousers are becoming more difficult to find. Therefore, if you can find one in your size, purchase it.

5. One-Quart Canteen with Nesting Cup and Stove

Military canteens are favorite items for most people. They are readily available in most surplus stores. The U.S. military 1-quart canteens that are the most common on the market are made of heavy-duty plastic. It is rare to find a U.S. military canteen that is stainless steel. However, there are some companies producing replicas in stainless steel with a narrow mouth. These represent World War II and Korea War versions.
The U.S. canteen comes with a stainless steel nesting cup and a stainless steel stove insert.

Therefore, if you purchase the plastic canteen, I recommend purchasing the canteen cup and stove to make it a complete field worthy kit. One disadvantage with the plastic canteens is that they are more susceptible to getting mold on the inside. Surplus stores do not clean the canteens out before they sell them. Therefore, ensure they are bleached out, washed, and dried before using them. All U.S. 1-quart canteens will fit in the ALICE or MOLLE Canteen cover.

Final Thoughts

Military surplus field gear has been in use for generations. Remember that you have already purchased U.S. military field gear indirectly through your federal income tax. Part of your federal income tax goes to purchasing this rugged and reliable gear for our military service members. You will not go wrong adding some of this excellent gear into your packing list. It has stood the test of time. It is reliable, practical, and will continue to last if it is properly maintained.

Individual survival gear approaches have two common categories: tactical and non-tactical. The two approaches to personal gear feature some common items. However, they also have some stark differences. Therefore, it is essential to have a working understanding of both approaches. It will help you to discern the kinds of resources to purchase and types of kits to build.

In a previous article, we discussed the three popular approaches to survival. The purpose of that article is to familiarize you with the conventional methods of survival in general. In this article, we will close in on the two common approaches people use to purchase and organize their survival gear. There are a few factors to keep in mind when assessing which method to take regarding your survival or prepping loadout.

The first factor influencing your survival gear approach is your experience with your equipment. People tend to fall back on what they are comfortable with in general. How a person organizes their survival or prepping gear is no different. The second factor is knowledge about your survival gear. Most people will only put gear in their survival loadout in which they have knowledge and experience. The final factor governing the approach one takes to survival gear loadout is finances. Some people cannot afford the top-of-the-line survival gear regardless of the approach that they prefer to use to build their kits. Consequently, they look for budget-friendly quality gear to develop their loadout.

1. The Tactical Approach

Overview

The tactical approach centers on finding a military or tactical solution to solving survival and prepping questions. The individual gear that typically identifies this approach is the military surplus items. However, the modern tactical gear designed for the military or law enforcement also falls into this approach. If one prefers the tactical approach to gear and gear organization, then learning how the military or law enforcement personnel use and organize their gear will be of interest. Typically, this approach appeals to those with current or previous military or law enforcement experience.

However, there is a growing interest in this approach among those never associated with military or law enforcement. Military packing lists for various situations helps one to understand this approach. The most common packing list of this type is the ALICE rucksack packing list. Military manuals covering survival gives insight into the tactical approach to survival and preparedness. However, as with anything related to military and law enforcement, gear recommendations and techniques for their organization are directly related to military and law enforcement operations. They are never meant to be duplicated by those not employed in those professions.

Advantages

There are some advantages to the tactical approach. The most significant advantage is the proven reliability and practicality of military gear and its use in the field. Most individual tactical gear in use with the military or law enforcement must meet high standards and pass rigorous testing. Consequently, the tactical gear tends to be of higher quality than its non-military counterparts. Moreover, the way military and law enforcement personnel organize and use their gear also brings some reliability to the tactical approach. For example, many people are interested in how the SOF community approaches survival and prepping. Why? SOF approaches have inherent credibility and reliability. Therefore, desiring to know what gear the SOF community uses and how they organize it is of interest.

Disadvantages:

The main drawback with the tactical approach to gear and gear organization is it can give a false sense of security. A well-known comic artist published a meme several years ago called, Gear-do, a wordplay on the word, weirdo. It shows a soldier all kitted up to kick in doors, who is in an administrative desk job. In essence, the soldier had too much gear for the situation and his good. Furthermore, possessing tactical gear, in-and-of-itself, does not guarantee you will survive an emergency. You have to be proficient in using it.

2. The Non-Tactical Approach

Overview

The second most common way people approach gear purchases and organizing that gear is known as the non-tactical approach. The non-tactical approach to gear and gear organization is a favorite method of bushcrafters and homesteaders. The growing interest in being a “gray man” is also fueling the non-tactical approach. This approach emphasizes gear that reflects the frontier, old west, or everyday carry (EDC) in an urban or suburban setting. Leather and non-camouflage gear is a characteristic of this approach. Weapons preferences also tend to be non-tactical, such as revolvers over semi-automatic pistols. Leather and solid color nylon pouches are a preference over camouflage ones. Furthermore, backpacks tend to be solid colors, like black or grey, without much Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) webbing, if any.

Advantages:

The main advantage of the non-tactical approach to gear and gear organization is that it facilitates stealth. Those looking to blend into their environment and to avoid confrontation should consider a non-tactical approach. Another advantage of this approach is that it tends to simplify backpack organization into dry bags, stuff sacks, or Ziploc bags. Furthermore, the non-tactical approach offers more variety of colors for a piece of gear than the tactical. Kelty, for example, offers various colors for the Redwing 50 non-tactical packs. There is a limited color choice for their tactical line of backpacks, like the Raven 2500.

Disadvantages:

The non-tactical approach brings some difficulties. The most significant weakness in the non-tactical approach is in the durability and reliability of the gear. Generally, non-tactical backpacks do not feature ballistic Cordura® nylon as the primary construction material. Non-tactical pouches have thin ripstop nylon.
Moreover, the non-tactical approach to organizing gear is to put it into dry bags or cinch sacks. Consequently, this approach may cause a waste of time looking for an item inside a backpack. Whereas, that same piece of gear may be stored in an outside pocket of a 5.11 Rush backpack, ALICE rucksack, or Condor Battle Belt Rig.

Final Thoughts

The approach that one takes to gear and organizing gear will occupy much time and thought. Tactical and non-tactical approaches have advantages and disadvantages. The environment in which you will most likely have to operate during a survival emergency will dictate your preferred strategy. Some people use a hybrid approach. They borrow aspects from both the tactical and non-tactical elements and blend them into a personalized method. However, it is wise also to consider your knowledge and experience with gear and gear organization methods. Therefore, it is helpful to take time to review your approach, the gear you use, and how you will organize it.