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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.

The best U.S. military wool clothing for your loadout will give you an advantage in the field. Military clothing is popular with outdoorsmen, bushcrafters, and preppers. I was fortunate to serve in the military at a time of transition. The Vietnam Era field gear being changed to the MOLLE field gear. Thus, I was able to use some of the wool clothing that was still issued at that time. Survival experts agree that wool clothing is some of the best attire to wear in the field, especially in cold weather. So what is some of the best military wool clothing for your loadout?

1. Wool Boot Socks

The health of one’s feet is critical in an outdoor environment. My article on keeping your feet healthy in the field will help you in this effort. One of the things that will help you keep your feet from failing you in a survival situation is your footwear. The shoes or boots that you wear along with the right socks, will save your feet. Some of the best military clothing available on the market are the wool cushioned boot socks that are issued by the U.S. Army and U.S. Marine Corps.

The first pair of socks that I was issued as a recruit in the U.S. Army was the olive drab wool boot socks. They were not my favorite socks to wear. The reason for this is that I was not familiar with how to wear them properly. However, after learning of the value of wool in the field, they are the only socks that I take with me on the trail when I go backpacking or on a trip.

2. Wool Watch Cap and Scarf

The wool watch cap and scarf are some of the best gear for cold weather. The wool scarf can be used as a neck gaiter or face cover. Wool clothing has excellent qualities and has been in use with militaries around the world for generations. The natural fibers of wool retain heat even when wet, and they dry out quickly when wet. Therefore keeping the majority of your body heat from escaping through your head will be aided by the wool watch cap and scarf.

Merino wool products are the preference for most outdoor enthusiasts. Yet, military wool clothing stands the test of time for durability in the field. The wool watch cap and scarf are examples of this kind of item. I have used these two pieces of gear many times in the winter when pulling guard duty in the early morning hours during training exercises in the field. The wool watch cap and scarf are part of my winter kit when going outdoors.

3. Wool 5-Button Sweater

The five-button wool sweater is a hold-over item from the Korean War. However, before the U.S. Army adopted the Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS), the wool sweater was used as kind of base layer under the fatigue shirt to help maintain body heat in cold weather conditions. The U.S. Army continued to make them available with acrylic material well into the 1990s due to their popularity with soldiers.

Therefore, if you are looking for this wool sweater, ensure the clothing tag says 100% wool if you purchase one online. Otherwise, you may be buying one made of acrylic. It is better to try and find the 5-button wool sweater in your local surplus store before attempting to purchase one on the internet. Moreover, I wore this sweater throughout my military career, both as an enlisted man and as an officer. The 5-button wool sweater has never let me down.

4. Wool Glove Inserts

The wool glove inserts were issued with the U.S. Army D3A leather work glove shells. Many soldiers complained that these gloves did not keep their hands warm in cold weather. The problem was that the principle of layering was not used with these gloves. For example, a #4 glove insert was being inserted with a #4 glove shell. This created no air space for the body to warm the air around the hands. As a result, the blood flow to the hands was being restricted by these glove shells and inserts.

For example, during my early experience with these inserts, my hands fit a #3 insert, and I would use a #3 glove shell. My hands would get cold in 40°F temperatures. However, when I used a #3 glove insert with a #4 glove shell, my hands would stay warm in sub-freezing temperatures. Additionally, the wool glove inserts are great because they dry out very quickly if they get wet. These wool glove inserts can be used with some of the commercial gloves on the market, such as the Carhartt® work gloves.

5. M-1951 Wool Shirt and Field Pants

Some military wool clothing items that are rare to find but still available on the market are the M-1951 Wool Shirt and Field Pants. These items were part of the updated field clothing and field gear that was approved in 1951 to replace the World War II individual clothing items and field equipment. These items can be seen being used in the M*A*S*H television series.

As stated earlier, wool is a wonderful material because it has flame retardant and heat retention qualities. The U.S. military wool shirt and pants are much cheaper to purchase than some of the more contemporary clothing made of merino wool. Therefore, the purchasing of these items of clothing will be a great addition to your packing list for your field load out. Additionally, be careful when purchasing surplus wool clothing online as it may not be in excellent condition.

Final Thoughts

Clothing that is issued to the U.S. military is some of the best gear on the market. Military clothing goes through an extensive testing process to meet very high standards for durability and reliability in the field. The wool clothing used by our military in times of conflict will aid with keeping you warm and dry in a field environment. These five wool items are some of the best wool gear you can add to your kit as you plan and prepare for an emergency or an outdoor adventure.

There are 3 critical factors in wearing winter clothing of which to be aware. The holiday and winter season is a time of great joy. Many people travel during this time of the year to visit relatives. For example, AAA® estimates that over 54 million people will travel by car over Thanksgiving this year. The winter months are a busy time of the year. Winter clothing is a critical consideration when traveling or outdoors. What are the four essential characteristics to remember about winter clothing?

Proper Fitting

The first notable characteristic to consider about winter clothing is that it fits properly to your body. Winter clothing that fits appropriately will function more efficiently to keep you warm. Clothing that is snug or tight around the body hinders the breathability of the fabric. Clothing that is too loose or long when worn will also lose its ability to keep you warm efficiently. Therefore, it is recommended to get measured, so you know your waist size, inseam length, neck size, and arm length before purchasing winter clothing. It is also important to try clothing on before purchasing if possible. Sizes vary among manufacturers so be careful about sizing when purchasing winter clothing online.

Layering

The concept of layering is critical to the effective functioning of winter clothing. There are three layers of winter clothing: a base layer, an insulating or middle layer, and a shell or outer layer. These categories are: silk weight, mid-weight, and shell. The U.S. Army has seven layers of winter clothing: Lightweight, Middle Weight, High Loft or Fleece, Wind Breaker, Soft Shell, Wet Weather, Extreme Cold Weather. Most layering systems do not count your shirt or pants as part of the layers. However, you should consider it as a layer. Thus, for the average outdoor enthusiast, the primary layers should be the following: Undergarments, Shirt and Trousers, Outer Garments. Your head, face, hands, and feet are covered, as necessary. Why is layering important?

Importance of Layering

The layering concept helps keep your body warm in cold environments. Layering works by creating layers of warm air around the body. The fabric of winter clothing also employs this concept. Winter clothing traps small pockets of air between the fibers. These micro-pockets of air are heated naturally by one’s own body heat. Poor personal hygiene in the field will hinder the efficiency of winter clothing. This is also one of the reasons why mountaineers freeze to death at high altitudes wearing all of that bulky winter clothing. The warming properties of their clothing diminish after days of sweating in this gear. They, then, get caught in a blizzard, and their winter clothing does not help them stay warm, thus precipitating hypothermia and frostbite in concert with fatigue and high altitude sickness. What about the layering of the head, hands, and feet?

Layering of the Head, Hands, and Feet

The covering of your head, hands, and feet is also an area to consider employing the layering concept. However, most winter gloves and shoes use Gore-Tex fabric in them to enable the warming of hands and feet. Some headwear also uses a Gore-Tex membrane to help the head keep warm. Therefore, understanding and practicing the layering concept of wearing winter clothing is an essential factor in staying warm outdoors. Footwear and gloves that use Gore-Tex linings already have the layering concept within them. However, there are glove liners of wool or acrylic that can be complimentary if necessary, to add a second layer of protection to Gore-Tex gloves. Thus, as you consider the wearing of winter clothing, layering is an important concept to remember. What about fabrics for winter clothing?

Fabrics

The primary concern with fabrics in winter clothing is whether or not the fabric retains moisture and keeps you warm. There are only three categories of textiles in winter clothing: natural, synthetic, and blends. All of these categories have their strengths and weaknesses. For example, natural fabrics come from wool or cotton. Synthetic fabrics like acrylic or Gore-Tex come from petroleum processing. They help retain heat and whisk moisture away from the skin and offer some durability over natural fabrics. The blended fabrics are an attempt to combine the best qualities of natural and synthetic fabrics. A common type of blended fabric is rip-stop (60/40 or 50/50 cotton to polyester ratio) material common in modern military fatigues.

Wool Fabrics

Outdoor experts agree that wool winter clothing is the best if you can obtain it. An excellent example of wool clothing is the WeatherWool® All Around Jacket or the WeatherWool® Neck Gaiter. You can purchase both of these products at the Sigma 3 Survival School store. The outstanding qualities of wool clothing are many. Wool is a natural fiber that comes from sheep. It helps keep the moisture off of your skin even when it is wet. It maintains its heating qualities even when wet. Therefore, purchase wool clothing when you can.

Gore-Tex Fabrics

The second best type of winter clothing to purchase are those of Gore-Tex® fabric. Gore-Tex® is a type of fabric that is a derivative of Teflon. It allows water vapor to escape away from the skin while simultaneously not allowing liquid water to come through the fabric to the skin. Thus, various combinations of Gore-Tex® fabrics are in winter clothing. Gore-Tex clothing combines some of the desired qualities of wool with the durability of Teflon. An example of quality outerwear made of Gore-Tex® is the U.S. Army’s Generation III Extended Cold Weather Clothing System (ECWCS) Parkas and trousers. Thus, Gore-Tex® is outerwear is the best on the market for winter clothing made of synthetic fabrics.

Conclusion

These three essential factors of wearing winter clothing are at the core of keeping warm this winter. A person would do well to remember and practice these basic tips for the wear of winter clothing. Whether traveling for the holidays or going on a winter backpacking trip, wearing the right clothing in layers are keys to keeping warm in cold weather conditions. Equally important to remember is that poor personal hygiene while in the outdoors will diminish the warming qualities of winter clothing. Therefore, to get the most benefit from quality winter wear, keep yourself clean as much as possible when outdoors. Quality winter wear should be part of your emergency bag or get-home bag that is in kept in your car. Thus, the proper use and care of winter clothing will save you a big disappointment in an emergency.