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.
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.