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.
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.