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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.

Do you have the four essential hand tools for your vehicle? The official winter solstice is just a few days away. Cold weather, ice, snow, blizzards, and extreme temperatures are the experience of this season. Many people in the northern parts of our nation ready themselves for this time of the year. Furthermore, a person driving on the roads in these conditions can find themselves stuck on the side of the road. There are four hand-tools that you can store in your vehicle that can help you to self-recover when you are stranded on the side of the road if you are mired in a rut.

The U.S. Army requires the operators of wheeled-vehicles to carry these four items on their vehicles at all times. They are accountable items. Moreover, many soldiers have lost some of their pay because of losing this equipment. These essential hand-tools have a name associated with them. They are called pioneer tools. The main reason for this designation is that the early pioneers carried these tools in their covered wagons as they moved to settle the western United States. A recent experience of mine reminded me of the value of bringing such tools in your vehicle.

1. Shovel

The first of the essential hand-tools that you should consider storing in your car is a shovel. The size of your vehicle will determine the size and type of shovel that will work for your vehicle. For example, the standard military d-handle shovel would be too large for a small compact car. Moreover, a standard military entrenching tool might be too small for an SUV. Shovels come in various sizes and styles. However, the best shovel for emergency roadside vehicle recovery is the d-handle, round-tip. By contrast, military folding shovels (aka. entrenching tools) are not designed for this type of application. Therefore, I would not recommend them for this purpose.

The best shovel for smaller vehicles is the ANViL® D-Handle Utility Shovel or something similar. Utility shovels are miniature d-handle shovels. They are small enough that they can be stored in the trunk of most sedan-type vehicles, such as the Chevy® Cruze or Nissan® Sentra. The best shovel for larger vehicles is the regular d-handle shovel, such as the Razor-Back® 30-inch, Wood D-Handle Digging Shovel. The digging shovel works best with mid and full-sized pickup trucks and SUVs such as the Chevy® Traverse or Toyota® 4Runner.

Furthermore, the value of carrying a shovel in your car cannot be overstated. A shovel allows you to dig out your stuck vehicle. A shovel can be used to place gravel or dry dirt in front of your tires to help with traction. Also, they can be employed to dig a fire pit or fire trough for building an emergency fire. They also can be used to construct a hasty shelter or windbreak.

2. Ax or Saw

Another of these essential hand-tools to carry in your vehicle is an ax or saw. We could collectively call them wood-processing tools. However, the value of carrying an ax or saw in your car is immense. The saw or ax is useful to cut wood. Wood logs can be laid in front of the tires of your stuck vehicle to provide some traction for your tires. Moreover, a saw or ax can be used, along with the shovel, to build a hasty shelter, build an emergency fire, or any number of other uses or needs in an emergency.

Axes

There are several sizes of and types of axes, as there are saws. You can read my article on woodcutters for more information on axes. The best kind of ax for a small sedan or economy car is the Estwing® 26-in., Camper’s Axe. It is not as heavy or bulky as a regular woodsman’s ax, but in an emergency roadside situation, it will be handy. Yet, the best ax for SUV’s and pickup trucks is the regular woodsman’s ax. The best ax of this type is the Hults® Bruk Akka Forest Axe. Those who are looking for a budget-friendly and dependable ax, there is the Echo® 28-in., Hickory Handle Limbing Axe.

Hatchets

Many people do not travel in large SUVs or pickup trucks. Therefore, storage space is limited in many sedans and hatchback vehicles. If you own such a car, then a hatchet is a good option if your car is too small to carry an ax. Hults® and Estwing® have great hatchets to consider as an alternative to the ax. Hatchets are smaller than axes. However, they give some chopping capability that can be useful if you are stuck on the side of the road.

Ax Principles

The working principle for finding a good ax is the material of the handle, type of bit, and weight of the bit. Remember that in a roadside emergency, you do not need a dedicated heavy-duty wood-splitting ax. Wood-splitting axes are not good choppers. They are most efficient using vertical strikes. They are inefficient for striking at angles or swinging horizontally.

Saws

Another consideration for these essential hand tools is a saw. The best kind of saw for roadside emergency applications is a folding saw. The best folding saws on the market are made by Silky® or Bahco®. I would recommend the Silky® Big Boy or the Bahco Laplander. However, the Fiskars® Power Tooth 10-in., Steel Bade, Folding Pruning Saw is an excellent option to consider. Saws tend to be more efficient in processing wood for emergency fires and building shelters. However, with a good ax and a folding saw, most wood processing needs during a roadside emergency can be accomplished.

3. Pick Mattock

The pick mattock is the classic pioneer and miner tool and one of the essential hand tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are digging tools. These tools break up hard and rocky ground. The ability to dig around wheels stuck in mud or softened dirt is essential. Shovels are not effective in breaking up icy, rocky, or dry, densely compacted soil. Troops fighting in the Battle of the Bulge and at the Chosin Reservoir found out the hard way that a small entrenching tool is inadequate to break up the frozen ground. Therefore, a good pick mattock is a great asset to keep in your vehicle, if possible.

Pick Mattocks come in two sizes, miniature and regular size. A miniature pick mattock is an option if you are driving a smaller car. However, remember, that like the hatchet, a miniature pick mattock has its limitations. A good pick mattock to consider is the Husky 2.5 lb. Pick Mattock with 36-in., Hardwood Handle. The miniature pick mattock that can be a good option is the V&B Manufacturing Mattock & Pick Combo, 26-In. Hickory Handle, or something similar.

4. Sledgehammer

Sledgehammers are part of the essential tools that you should carry in your vehicle. They are excellent tools for larger vehicles. However, they also should be a consideration for smaller vehicles. The value of a sledgehammer is the ability to drive wooden logs into the ground or heavy stakes. In a roadside emergency, these hammers can be used for several applications. They are great for helping dislodge or breaking up large rocks. Yet, their most common use is to help with securing logs in front of your vehicle tires. Additionally, a sledgehammer can be used to break windshields to get an injured person out of a car. Yet, the most common sledgehammer used for roadside emergency use is the 2.5 or 3-pound sledgehammer. Smaller vehicles can store miniature sledgehammers or a heavy-duty hammer.

Final Thoughts

The storage of pioneer tools (shovel, ax, pick Mattock, and sledgehammer) in your vehicle will pay dividends in a roadside emergency. The size of your vehicle storage space will determine the dimensions of such tools. Your full-sized pioneer toolset can be stored in a military surplus duffel or seabag or your truck bed utility box. Moreover, a smaller version of these tools can be stored in a medium or large gym-type bag. I would also recommend purchasing a military HMMWV pioneer tool rack and mounting your pioneer tools in that manner on your bug-out truck or SUV if you can do so. So, be prepared, be safe, and consider storing some of these tools in your vehicle.