Military surplus for your backcountry needs?

11:19 a.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Comments on a different post got me thinking about this. Do any of you use military surplus for your backcountry gear?

I am not the type of person that feels comfortable dropping hundreds of dollars on a single piece of gear. (I admit I am cheap) So if there is a cheaper alternative, without sacrificing quality, I tend to go that route. Which has lead me to have lots of military surplus for my hiking gear. I am admittingly not a fan of camouflage, which you find with much military surplus, but I have come to deal with it as a trade off for the price. Though military surplus can be heavier and bulkier than its civilian counterpart, I have found that a lot is very comparable and even lighter in some cases. And when it comes to quality and durability, military surplus is hard to beat. Most especially when you look at the quality to price ratio.

So I am curious, do any of you use any military surplus and what do you use?

Below is a list of some of what I currently use.

This is the pack I use. It is current Russian military. It is 85L, weighs 5lb 4oz, and rated to carry 110llbs. Though my base pack weight for a week and a half is 31lbs with the pack only 2/3rd full. Cost me $150 new


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I use US surplus for my sleeping bag. I have the entire sleep system but now that I use a hammock I only use the bag now.

The goretx bivy weighs 2lb 5oz and cost me $50 new
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The 30 degree "patrol bag" weighs 2lbs 8oz and cost me $25 new
patrol-bag.jpg
The -10 degree "intermediate" bag weighs 4lbs 8oz and cost me $30 used in perfect condition
bag.jpg

I switched out my camel back bladder to the Hydramax bladder and saved 4oz. Cost me $16 new


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For rain gear I use German issue goretex rain pants and jacket. They weigh 2lb 13 oz and cost me $56 new
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For shoes I use Bates boots. Cost me $90 new with a blemish

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For pants I use BDU's that I dyed to try and hide the camo. I got these at goodwill for $7 used in perfect condition


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I also have misc base layers, socks, underwear, wool gloves, etc... that cost a fraction of its civilian counterpart.


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Most of this I have had and used for many years and some is newer with little use. But I am pleased with the quality and durability of everything and the price was certainly right.

12:54 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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I have, over the years.  my first winter bag was military - not surplus, purchased used from someone who actually used it.  on the heavy side, but fine.  i have a pair of military surplus polartec pants, pretty much the same fabric as patagonia R1 but with some slightly different features.  and as you observe, a lot less expensive.  the only bivy bag I have ever carried is military surplus gore tex.  

on the other hand, on a lengthy and fairly tough hike last spring, my daughter and i saw a couple on a few occasions carrying an ALICE pack, stuffed pretty full.  i'm sure the price was right, but they looked pretty uncomfortable carrying it.  

4:54 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Check out Bushcraft USA---They love military gear.

http://bushcraftusa.com/forum/forumdisplay.php/144-Backpacking

5:10 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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leadbelly2550 said

"on the other hand, on a lengthy and fairly tough hike last spring, my daughter and i saw a couple on a few occasions carrying an ALICE pack, stuffed pretty full.  i'm sure the price was right, but they looked pretty uncomfortable carrying it.  "

 Yea I have heard from many people that the ALICE pack is very uncomfortable. I lucked out with my Russian pack. I took a chance not being able to try one on before I bought it but it has turned out to be the best and most comfortable pack I have ever owned.

5:13 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Tipi Walter said:

Check out Bushcraft USA---They love military gear.

http://bushcraftusa.com/forum/forumdisplay.php/144-Backpacking

 Interesting link Walter.

8:03 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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Eleven years ago I retired from the U. S. Army after 22 years, 11 months, and 29 days of service.  In that time I used almost no military equipment for recreation in the outdoors.  I still don't.  Though the equipment is tough, it's usually very bulky and much heavier than need be.  I remember humping an ALICE ruck everywhere as an infantryman in the 101st.  Helicopters never seemed to fly.  When they did, they didn't fly us much, and a rifle company in the 101st back then had only two 1/2 ton trucks (jeeps) assigned to it.  So walk you went.  Everywhere.  If the rifle range were 15 miles away you road marched to the range, and it was at least a two day experience to get there, fire, and get back.  Fun times.  One thing is certain.  We knew how to break in boots.  But there was just no breaking in an ALICE pack.  To many the ALICE was known as the BIG TICK.  It dug into you and wouldn't let go.  You knew it had been on your back for quite a while after dropping it.  It left an impression on you.  A LITERAL IMPRESSION.  It fit very few people well (which I think back then was one of the goals of the quartermasters).  One piece of gear I did use was the old quilted field jacket liners.  I'd wear one under my outer shirt.  When my t-shirt became sweaty on ruck marches, on stops I'd pull it out of my pack and wear it under the t-shirt against the skin until the t-shirt dried.  Yes, military gear is in my history.  And part of my past, thankfully.

9:45 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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I use the poncho liner, the field jacket liner, the wool gloves, and the watch cap.

10:00 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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I've always been bugged by having to stuff a round pot in my pack and since I only boil water to throw in MH meals or sometimes boil a pouch, I finally went out and bought an old school military canteen pot. 

It's a tad bit heavier, but slides down the inside of the back a lot easier. My next detail is to buy one of the canteen covers, cut it down and use as a cozy/pot holder. 

otherwise ( also having been in the military ) there's about no way up ever humping any of that stuff again. 

10:19 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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I use a canteen and a kidney cup a lot and I have one of the MSS systems for car camping and my vest is an M-65 field coat liner with the sleeves cut off but what I do like and almost always carry in winter is the new L-7 happy suit pants and jacket; after all they are a direct copy of the Patagonia DAS parka and the old Patagonia bivvy pants and those are one set of clothes that actually benefit from being tough and militarised

Also the new USMC pile jumper seems to be at the cutting edge of high-tech and it is a pullover style which is both lighter and more comfortable

Perhaps the new All-Weather jumper made using Polartek Alpha will also be a worthwhile addition to the inventory if they come on the market at the right price surplus

10:51 p.m. on October 14, 2015 (EDT)
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With preemptive apologies if necessary it sounds a bit in the nature of  "trick question"

If Steve finds that it works for him he should keep using it, it will work o.k. as it was designed to do,  -20 in the open at APO 24 wasn't cool, it was cold!

I've had an issue feather bag in the past as a civilian

I think that the Brits in the Falklands humped their stuff from Carlos Water > Stanley in civi Bergans packs (a switch!)

I'd iike to find a pair of the old issue leather gloves w/ liners

 

 

1:35 a.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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I used to be the military surplus guy. It's all good as long as you know its going to be bulletproof, fairly affordable, and super heavy. I mean close to double the weight of conventional gear heavy. I mean relationship destroying heavy. Put a girlfriend in an alice pack, fill it  with MREs and kiss your girl goodbye heavy. The kind of heavy that makes you wish for war so you can die and get relief from the extra weight kind of heavy. Painfully uncomfortable too.  As long as you are ok with that. Surplus gear can be a great bargain and a great way to start out. It's made to survive WAR; Way more burly than what you use for backpacking where a rude barista at the town on the way to the TH is your worst threat. Cheers!

9:28 a.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Military gear (generally) is great for winter camping and Scouting where for both tough & cheap overcome the weight penalty.

My favorites:

  • Poncho liner as sleeping bag liner
  • Pile coveralls to cover the belly (~$6, from the ECWCS line)
  • Winter boots (Sorels for <$50!)
  • Extreme cold weather sleeping bag
  • Nylon duffel bags for storing gear

btw.... I was Army (Armor, Ranger School, Air Assault, etc.).  My son and I are ultralight backpackers & winter campers now.  I'm a gear junkie too.

9:58 a.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Retired military, still use some of the gear, like many of the other repliers.  Cost savings can be found, at the sacrifice of weight or comfort in some cases.  The ALICE pack, thankfully, went away and was replaced by packs which were designed by companies like Arcteryx, so the "comfort" level increased, but these are packs designed to carry ridiculously heavy loads.  Packs now issued to Marines are tremendous, and get the job done, but I would not recommend them for recreational use.  Gerber entrenching tools, however, is something I seem to not be able to live without.  Outdoor Research is now a supplier of some of the fleece (hats, gloves, glove liners) and SealLine makes waterproofing bags or pack liners (in three different sizes).  Depending on the need, and ones desired level of comfort, military surplus gear can fit the bill.

10:48 a.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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I started woods running in the 1950's and learned the art from ex-GI's who had real-time experience with military surplus gear. The reader should realize that military gear is designed for living (and fighting) outside- period. We're not talking about a weekend jaunt. Solders live outside for a year or more at a time. Most of the gear has about a one year lifespan of continuous use. It has to be super-duty. So, it usually is very heavy and not very "trick". You can easily "customize" to fit your needs. Do not be afraid to integrate military and civilian gear. I also buy Boy Scout and Girl Scout gear that is no longer needed. Bottom line: "You pays your money and take your chances".

10:59 a.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Steven if its working for you and can for others great..I had been through more changes of gear than Most from Alice packs to Kelty to others...I have no problem if people find something to use..Just know there are lighter and better options...Have fun....

12:32 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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When I started out hiking and camping there were no sporting goods stores selling all the brand names like today. I never heard of REI or MEC, its Canadian equivalent, let alone brands like TNF, Marmot, Patagonia, etc. until the mid-1980s, by which time I already had a good 15 years or so of experience under my belt. Growing up we had one army surplus store in a town two hours’ drive from us which sold wool pants, socks, boots, etc. The internet has changed all that of course. So, have the influences of fashion and conspicuous consumption.

I still have and use some of the surplus wool pants, Korean War vintage, which are perfectly serviceable after 30 years of hard use. Just try to get that long a lifespan out of modern products! I also have the Canadian military mukluk; mine are around 30 years old and still good although I have recently replaced them with a modern brand.

I have, for around two years now, been using an older model ECWCS Gen II Brown Bear Jacket. This resembles the old Patagonia pile jacket of the late 70’s and early 80’s. Super lightweight and warm it meets all my needs for insulated clothing. New, it cost me $20.00 CAD. You really can’t go wrong. I posted a review of this jacket on TS.

Another recent acquisition is a Gen III Primaloft jacket which I bought for under $100 CAD. This again is lightweight and warm and layers easily over the pile jacket mentioned above along with a baselayer or two. Altogether, my primary clothing system for warm to extreme cold cost about 200 dollars. Not at all bad considering today’s prices.

The Canadian Army issue snowshoes I have are about 40 years old. Made along the lines of traditional snowshoes in shape and design, they are constructed of aluminum alloy and wire “webbing”. They offer great floatation on powder and I still use them.

Some things I would never use through Army Surplus are sleeping bags and packs. I have seen the old Canadian models of both and found them inadequate. A good sleeping bag is one item I spare no expense on, especially a winter model. I can tolerate subpar clothing when I am hiking all the time, but I need a good, warm nest to burrow into afterwards.

But, my point is that you can often find some great gear at Army Surplus stores at a much more reasonable cost that will often last longer than the Name Brands of today and be totally suitable for most peoples' usage.  

1:03 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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I have the same bivy as you and love it.  With a few mods such as replacing the huge zipper, you can drop a little weight.  

2:41 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Bill Hudson---

I remember the ALICE pack as THE BIG TICK, so true.  Though I learned this experience after the service since I was an Air Force puke and we didn't walk or carry packs.

So, as a civilian backpacker I used the ALICE for many backpacking trips into the Pisgah-Wilson Creek backcountry and the tick sucked all my blood away.

**  Swelling hands.

**  Sore neck and "Pack headaches"; so common with the Alice.  The frame was a joke and so I used it without the frame.

For years all I ever wore was an Army blouse called the OG 107---green cotton with the slanted breast pockets and the two large waist pockets.  Love the thing, bought many.  Cotton?  Too bad.

Then I went with the all cotton fatigue pants (NOT the newer BDUs) with the big thigh pockets, sorta like the old tiger stripe pants (even owned a pair of them---Serious expeditor!!) and of course the fiber fill Army pants liners and jacket liners.  You know the drill.

GI gear is great.  Problem is, when guys dress up and gear up with military gear, a small percentage of them get pumped up in some common way and think they're suddenly jungle qualified Rangers or Green Beanies because they spent so much time out in the woods and love wearing the green. 

I went thru that jungle school mindset-phase (heck I was even stationed in Panama for two years---home of the real Jungle School ('72-'73), but the point is, GI gear has a vibe to it and causes grown men to pretend they're Special Forces.  They ain't.

Anyway, once my living-outdoors-all-the-time matured (when Rangers used to wear Black berets), well here I am wearing a dayglo arcteryx rain jacket and using a bright red Hilleberg tent.  God forbid!!  There's Viet Cong in the treeline!!!

6:27 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Ah, yes the OG107s, aka jungle fatigues.  My favorite field uniform from the early period of me service time.  It was a great warm weather or tropics field uniform, but by the time I was spending a lot of time in the South Pacific and Southeast Asian bush it was out of service.   I never wore them outside of duty.  Just wasn't proper for a soldier to do so.

10:17 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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It is certainly interesting to read everyone's comments. Seems the biggest complaint is about the weight of military surplus, which is important, especially when carrying that weight many miles. But some surplus is comparable to and even lighter than its civilian counterpart.

For instance the 30degree sleeping bag in the pic above weighs 2oz less than the 32degree High Sierra it replaced, and when looking at REI website today, I noticed it is in the mid range of weight with some lighter and some heavier. I noticed the same thing with my 85L backpack, it seemed to fall into the mid range of weight also.

I guess it boils down to what has already been said, use what works for you. I have been very selective in my surplus purchases and even with all that I use my base pack weight for a week and a half, less water, is 31lbs.

10:28 p.m. on October 15, 2015 (EDT)
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Steven you doing better than over zealous shoppers who buy gear just to buy gear..It's working for you..I won't knock what someone is using compared to me..If you were asking a question like what do you think would work well..I would give a recommendation...But your happy your hiking and enjoying it..

8:48 a.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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I hunt in some military apparel, namely pants, fleece hat liners, glove liners, and occasionally a base layer quarter-zip top, but that's all. That gear rarely, if ever, gets used outside of hunting though. 

9:33 a.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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I try all sorts of stuff to see what works including some military items. Function and price are what matter to me more than anything. Some of the cold weather gear is very functional for the cost.

The vapor barrier balaclava makes warm sleepwear and keeps my Mad Bomber from frosting up over night.

The ECWCS mitts are great for hanging out in sub zero camps for hours if the whole system is used all together. Taken apart the quilted mitt liners make a great FB cozy year round and the liner mitts are great for sleeping in deep winter. The wool liner gloves intended to be used inside are super cheap, $5-6, and make great shoulder season sleep or camp gloves.

Try everything, keep using what works for you and have a good time. If other folks don't like it, hike deeper into the woods where they aren't so they stop bothering you  :p

11:34 a.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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Here's a good description of the ECWCS 7-level system:

11:48 a.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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1. (no puffer jacket for me) Field Jacket Liner!!!!.  AWESOME, lightweight, VERY durable. 

2. Poly-pro for warmth.  I was wearing poly-pro duck hunting in December.  Stumbled and entire arm broke through thin ice into the water.  Hunted rest of morning because Poly-Pro retained insulative properties.  Good stuff. 

4:22 p.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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For many years, military surplus was as good as anything out there. It is still durable equipment, but it tends to be heavy. I still would consider some surplus equipment, but rarely see it around here.

7:26 p.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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As an old codger it has been a very long time since I had to deal with a potentially large budget one would anticipate necessary to put together a kit from scratch.  Nowadays my purchases are mostly replacing individual items that are worn out, or can be substituted by significantly lighter gear.  I use these occasions to upgrade, both in term of performance as well as weight.  I now give cost only minor consideration. 

I initially accumulated gear as a youth, with economy given equal consideration to function, EXCEPT for boots and pack.  If those items don't fit, they will dog the entire trip, and you'll end up loathing the experience.  But concessions can be made on other items, for example, add a liner to an army surplus bag to lower its thermal rating another 5 - 10 degrees, or limit trips to weather that the tent and personal layers you have can accommodate.  Back in the day my army surplus purchases were a down sleeping bag, canteen, and heavy winter wool trousers.

I am not sure buying army surplus is still the best way to get cheap gear.  The internet has given us the ability to shop virtually everyone's garage sale - and there is lots of really good used equipment out there for pennies on the dollar.  It is quite possible the non-army surplus stuff is now lighter, better and cheaper than the military gear, but one may have to be patient for suitable gear to post for sale.

Ed

7:50 p.m. on October 16, 2015 (EDT)
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Are there still those old Surplus stores in every city??  Used to be common in the late 1960's and 1970's.  They were great places for young backpackers to visit.  Or not-so-young POOR backpackers.

Usually there was very poor lighting in a series of narrow walkways inside a large old brick building, sometimes in the center of town.  Olive drab ruled the day as gear and clothing was strewn everywhere except for the tight narrow paths leading thru all the crap.

These places had everything, maybe even a bazooka in some corner.  We haggled with the owner and wanted to get a lower price on, say, a pair of fatigue pants and couldn't figure out why he wanted $10 a pair when he had 100,000 pairs of them piled up all around.

We went for the old steel WW2 canteens or the newer 1 quart green plastic canteens or if you were really lucky you could get a 2 quart bladder canteen with the neato snap-top pouch.  In fact, I have a picture of myself getting water out of Upper Creek on a Pisgah trip in 1985:


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Here I am filling up a green bladder canteen with the shoulder strap fleece lined pouch.  Predates Platypus by about 20 years I guess.

Oh, and check out my Air Force boonie hat (wore it 24-7) and yes my worn out jungle boots.  Who could afford Vasque?? 

1:59 p.m. on October 17, 2015 (EDT)
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Tipi, your post made me laugh.  My son recently took an old soft two quart canteen I had out in the garage that I last used in Kuwait and Iraq in 2003.  Something tells me it'll be his dog's water bottle so I won't be surprised when I see it in his dog's pack next year.

1:29 a.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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I started out with military surplus gear. I mean actual, used gear, not the new or fake knockoff stuff sometimes sold as military surplus today.

I took money i made cutting grass and other jobs as a teenager and bought stuff at the Army, Navy store in Charleston SC as often as my mom would give me a ride down there in the late 70's.

I had several pieces from the Vietnam war including a mess kit, canteen, and a beat up ARVN cotton rucksack with a sadistically painful metal X frame in it.

I bought military rations ( in metal cans no less) to eat since i didnt know how to cook much.

I bought a couple "survival" manuals that had little to do with my actual environment, but i didnt realize  that at the time.

I had one of those green flashlights with the colored filters, so on and so forth.

Later in my early twenties i bought a military down sleeping bag, a GI Jungle Hammock, some cold weather gear, some more cookwear, etc.

These days i see lots of new military style or knock off gear for sale in surplus stores.

For example my local "surplus" store sells brand new poly pro underwear made in TN at twice the price you can buy the same garment straight off the manufacturers website.

I think if you are on a budget (Hey I Understand!) or if you dont hike very far and you do some research first, modern military gear is a very doable option.

There is also a lot of very heavy outdated crap on the market too.

Worst purchase i ever made was that Jungle Hammock, i love hammocks and have used them for years, but the old military cotton canvas hammocks are junk.

Second worst was that Vietnam era rucksack, i finally removed the junk metal frame it came with and made my own aluminum frame out of an old lawn chair, huge improvement!

I still own a military stove made in 1965 by Coleman that works fine. It is a large 2 burner, well, actually it is a surgical instrument sterilizer, but i used it as a stove for years before the age of the internet and learned of its true purpose.

I would also add that if someone were instructed to come up with the heaviest and most cunvoluted way to design a backpack it would be called the MOLLE system. I understand its value in a military setting, but for civillian recreational use its just a bunch of floppy pouches and webbing that would better serve as char cloth IMO. (If it was cotton of course)

My goose down bag, while very heavy, kept me very warm during several winters of Appalachian backpacking in cold river gorges until i could afford something nicer.

Over and out.

5:27 a.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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trouthunter said:

I bought military rations ( in metal cans no less) to eat since i didnt know how to cook much.


My last can of what was my favorite.  A paper weight now as it's well over 30 years old now.  Pork Slices, with Juices.  Ingredients:  Pork, water, salt.

 
Pork-Slices.jpg
 

Still carry a P38 can opener on my key ring.


P38.jpg

8:56 a.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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This one is for Bill---


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11:20 a.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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I find this interesting...My father was a Korea and Vietnam veteran and yet all our backpacking gear was start of the art at the time..Kelty to Jansport..Climbing gear the same..We did have canteens that were Plastic and that was about it..I never used my TA -50 when I was active duty and backpacked knor my friends we used commercial gear we all owned...Hmm

11:33 a.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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Military surplus hits a nerve with this group. There is something comforting about the fact that so many people started out and still use military spec gear. It is durable above everything else. As we age it makes sense to make some concessions to lightness. This discussion makes me realize that I have more in common with the folks on this forum than I originally thought.

4:19 p.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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ppine said:

Military surplus hits a nerve with this group. There is something comforting about the fact that so many people started out and still use military spec gear. It is durable above everything else. As we age it makes sense to make some concessions to lightness. This discussion makes me realize that I have more in common with the folks on this forum than I originally thought.

 I will admit to having a love hate relationship with military gear, although I understand why it is designed the way it is.

Despite that, it enabled me to get out in the woods and mountains on a shoestring budget and just being out in the wilderness was well worth putting up with the weight of the gear. I also remember the musty smell of my backpack and sleeping bag with fondness, and now that same smell brings back many memories.

It wasn't until I joined a hiking club in the late 80's that I realized people were using other types of gear, funny now, but I just didn't know how much I didn't know , and that's okay.

If someone needs to start out cheap like I did, I would rather see them buy quality used gear, or military gear, than I would them buy new stuff from the big box stores. 

Getting out there safely and developing good skill sets is more important than having the latest cutting edge gear, IMO.

4:44 p.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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After decades of woods work and fun I still use military surplus-the first three items which come to mind-Swiss Volcano Stove...and the original German Esbit and a German Black Cat knife.

They are my main stoves. The knife shares use with many others but its seventy plus years old and still works like it did when issued in WW2!.

8:27 p.m. on October 18, 2015 (EDT)
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Its interesting to see how many people started out with military surplus when they began hiking. I was the same way many years ago and over the years, as stuff got wore out, got lost, or damaged, I replaced it with name brand gear. Now I find myself doing a 180 and going back to military surplus as my name brand gear becomes unusable. As mentioned above, in some instances mil surplus is in fact comparable in weight to name brand gear, and almost always out shines it in durability and price. Plus in my older years I have become quite the frugal bastard :-)

12:40 a.m. on October 19, 2015 (EDT)
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ppine said:

...This discussion makes me realize that I have more in common with the folks on this forum than I originally thought.

So does this mean you're going to share you list of the ten most difficult eastern Sierra trails? ;)

Ed

12:21 p.m. on October 19, 2015 (EDT)
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steven said:

Its interesting to see how many people started out with military surplus when they began hiking. I was the same way many years ago and over the years, as stuff got wore out, got lost, or damaged, I replaced it with name brand gear. Now I find myself doing a 180 and going back to military surplus as my name brand gear becomes unusable. As mentioned above, in some instances mil surplus is in fact comparable in weight to name brand gear, and almost always out shines it in durability and price. Plus in my older years I have become quite the frugal bastard :-)

 I agree with the durability of the gear.  Some of the military gear is being made by the same companies that make the recreational gear (I know you realize this) so it makes sense that some of it is comparable in weight, and being mass produced for the military at those contract prices it makes sense that you can buy it cheap.


Military gear is most certainly a viable option. I personally prefer the light weight or UL weight recreational gear in order to cut my pack weight, but that's a purely personal choice.

I find that even the UL recreational gear will last a long time IF you take care of it and avoid damaging it. Not everyone has that mindset, or can be that careful with gear (Newbies, Scouts, Etc.) and that's okay.

I don't believe there is a wrong way to get out into the woods as long as you are doing so safely, and responsibly.

It would be nice to see some of the hard core "my way is the right way" folks lighten up a bit. Some of those folks are hard core military gear users who think the recreational gear is just overpriced junk, when in reality it's design is far more efficient in many cases, for the recreational user who needs to cover a lot of ground quick, or needs to be comfortable in a variety of environments.

Just my .02 worth.

I think this is a great topic Stephen, and a helpful discussion.

7:39 p.m. on October 19, 2015 (EDT)
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Other military items I still wear/use. 1. German wool trousers-got 'em from Coleman's Surplus-they aren't dressy like their ads say they are very winter worthy and lighter and much less expensive than Codet/Johnson/Woolrich. I never transitioned to nylon insulated and similar pants for winter. Always had worn one of the above or some European wool military pant and still own a couple pair.

2. US Army overbag and US Army Gore-Tex over bag.

3. Still own and lightly use both a white and a black pair of Mickey Mouse Boots.

4. Wool military sweater.

5. Austrian made Swiss Army ice ax.

6. US Army insulated canteen I'll use occasionally but find others more practical/lighter.

7.US Army compass but I can't even remember last time I truly used it.

8. US Army whistles-metal and plastic-always carry one in my pack.

9. USAF Winter parka and USAF shirt all given as gifts but still worn occasionally.

10. Wool lined European military hat.

11. US Army/Air Force military mittens-most styles...:)

12. My grandson is using British or French snowshoes.

The more I list the more I remember but I don't have any surplus long john tops, do have a set of bottoms if the moths didn't eat them this past summer and no shirts and no socks.

Surplus works and often surplus is brand new. Its less expensive than other suitable modern goods and mixed with the modern is when I find that both excel. Like a good old American made Scout knife, they can bring you home.

9:34 p.m. on October 19, 2015 (EDT)
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About the only gear I still regularly use is the ecwcs goretex pants and parka. I have tons of other stuff, but most of it is delegated to the car camping and loaner piles.

10:00 a.m. on October 20, 2015 (EDT)
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TheRambler said:

About the only gear I still regularly use is the ecwcs goretex pants and parka. I have tons of other stuff, but most of it is delegated to the car camping and loaner piles.

 Are you using those pants for a winter shell or as rain pants? I see a lot of the gen II for sale online or are you using the newer version?

10:17 a.m. on October 20, 2015 (EDT)
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Ed,

Get yourself a map of the eastern Sierra from Lone Pine to Bishop and look carefully at the trailheads. Then examine the relief from the those locations to the passes at the top. Then you will have your answer.

It is worth mentioning that surplus from other companies can be worth looking at. The German and Swiss surplus is good. I still have a machete that is French army surplus that I bought in about 1965.

5:39 p.m. on October 20, 2015 (EDT)
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Old Guide said:

...4. Wool military sweater. ...

 I still have a few of those old 5-button sweaters.  My son was wearing one the other day.

6:58 a.m. on October 21, 2015 (EDT)
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 Are you using those pants for a winter shell or as rain pants? I see a lot of the gen II for sale online or are you using the newer version?

Yes, and yes. I use them as a winter shell, abd will bribg them on many trips as rain pants/wind pants. They only time i dont bring them is the really warm months. They are gen 2. Dont waste money on gen 3. I bought several sets of the gen 2 parkas and pants several years back for like $40-50 a set

8:34 p.m. on October 22, 2015 (EDT)
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I was wrong-I do still have military wool socks, Norwegian and the heavy, white wool US Navy that are sized.

10:35 p.m. on October 22, 2015 (EDT)
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I've camped for several years using the gore teX bivy sleep system and have really liked it.  The only exception has been in hot humid rain.  I've been comfortable sleeping in snowy conditions at around 10 F.  I will say that after a particularly sweaty trip this summer that I have upgraded to a Tarptent Rainbow.  Compared to the bivy, I feel like it will be a palace.

I also have an ILBE pack.  I've only used it a few times, as it is huge and I have a smaller pack that I use regularly.  It will carry a lot of stuff fairly comfortably and feels like it is indestructible.

On a side note, apparently the camo bivy is hard to see.  I was sleeping one morning and heard something rustling around close by.  I jumped up and really scared a couple of people walking down to check out the river and didn't know someone was in the campsite.

12:27 p.m. on October 23, 2015 (EDT)
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I spent 12 1/2 years in, and I'd amassed quite a pile of gear by that time. Over time I got rid of almost all of it - my large ALICE pack with frame that I'd had since around 1987, 1 each of the older intermediate cold & extreme cold sleeping bags, fishtail parka, the heavy 50/50 NyCo "field pants," you name it. The only thing I got rid of that I wish I'd kept was my 10-man arctic tent, which I let someone use and the weight of the snow he didn't clean off it finally ripped the canvas by the pole grommet. Nobody around here repaired canvas that heavy, not even canvas shops (go figure.)

Anyway, I still have Gore-Tex ECWCS parka & trousers (excellent), a Modular Sleep System (very good though definitely not -40 material), a woobie (poncho liner) - the best piece of military gear ever made, and a MOLLE II rucksack that I picked up cheap a few years ago and haven't once actually carried on my back. I still have a pair of the trigger finger mittens (and about 20 pairs of wool liners, which also get used in my big Ganka Expedition mittens), and the silkweight polypro longjohns are nice.

Other than the latest ECWCS, military gear tends to be about 20-30 years behind civilian gear. More durable, without a doubt, but civilian gear won't be thrown out of trucks or strapped to the top of a track in all kinds of weather. I actually used to find ALICE pretty comfortable, but that's only because it was all I really knew. After using a couple GOOD civilian packs I realized what I'd been missing all those years - namely, comfort and the lack of pain at the end of the day. With the exception of the 10-man arctic tent and aluminum cots, I wouldn't even take 95% of that stuff car camping. A lot of searching, along with some luck, will get you used top-of-the-line civilian gear for not much more than you pay for outdated surplus crap.

12:40 p.m. on October 23, 2015 (EDT)
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steven said:

For instance the 30degree sleeping bag in the pic above weighs 2oz less than the 32degree High Sierra it replaced

That patrol bag will keep you ALIVE at 30 degrees, but not anything resembling comfortable. I've used mine down to about 15F with a poncho liner inside, wearing heavyweight GI polypro longjohns, wool socks & hat, and was fairly comfortable most of the night, but in reality I'd say it's a 40-45 degree bag for most people. I'm comfy in it at 40. 

The drawstring tube started separating from the main bag on mine, and I'm probably one of the most careful people around when it comes to my gear. I sewed it back together, but it's pretty flimsy to begin with. 

7:53 p.m. on October 23, 2015 (EDT)
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Hey Phil, military gear isn't really 20-30 years behind civilian gear any more.  Much to do with Iraq and Afghanistan and what was the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Rapid Equipping Force, and the Program Executive Office - Soldier. PEO Soldier  has one primary purpose --- to develop the best equipment and field it as quickly as possible.

9:20 p.m. on October 23, 2015 (EDT)
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Phil Smith said:

steven said:

For instance the 30degree sleeping bag in the pic above weighs 2oz less than the 32degree High Sierra it replaced

That patrol bag will keep you ALIVE at 30 degrees, but not anything resembling comfortable. I've used mine down to about 15F with a poncho liner inside, wearing heavyweight GI polypro longjohns, wool socks & hat, and was fairly comfortable most of the night, but in reality I'd say it's a 40-45 degree bag for most people. I'm comfy in it at 40. 

The drawstring tube started separating from the main bag on mine, and I'm probably one of the most careful people around when it comes to my gear. I sewed it back together, but it's pretty flimsy to begin with. 

 Phil it must be noted that temp ratings are very relative regarding the particular person. You say the 30 degree bed will keep you ALIVE but not comfortable, well that may be true for you but it most certainly is NOT for me. I have slept just fine in freezing temps with just a thin base layer and wool socks.

11:27 p.m. on October 23, 2015 (EDT)
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As for me, I usually bring a P-38 can opener when I'll need one. Otherwise,  this time of year I love my Austrian Army-issue Dachstein wool sweater; I've got the one with the button-up neck that just about covers my nose. I've also waxed the cotton on the shoulders/elbows after soaking in a little more lanolin. It's about 5 pounds, but it's like having a nearly waterproof, breathable 20-degree sleeping bag on.

11:16 a.m. on October 24, 2015 (EDT)
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Bill Hudson said:

Hey Phil, military gear isn't really 20-30 years behind civilian gear any more.  Much to do with Iraq and Afghanistan and what was the Rapid Fielding Initiative, the Rapid Equipping Force, and the Program Executive Office - Soldier. PEO Soldier  has one primary purpose --- to develop the best equipment and field it as quickly as possible.

 

Well, all I can go by is my own experience (not as valuable as it used to be, since I got out 17 years ago), and that of quite a few friends who got out in the last 4 or 5 years. They were still using stuff that had begun being fielded for general use around the time I got out (Dec 98) - MOLLE (20+ years old), MSS (20+ years old),  ECWCS (Gen III is about 10 years old), etc.

MOLLE is really no different than ALICE other than the frame is made of plastic and does sit a little closer to your body. The padding is better and the shoulder straps have load lifters, but it's still a heavy nylon bag on a plastic external frame of dubious strength (even the Gen IV frame I have.) At least MOLLE spreads the load out vertically, unlike ALICE with its center of gravity about 8" behind the middle of your spine.

The MSS is a decent sleep system, but look at what it is - continuous hollow filament insulation in a nylon bag. Isn't that what the Hollofil developed by DuPont in the 70s is? The military just got it 20 years later. 

ECWCS has been awesome all along, even taking into consideration the limitations of Gen 1 that was introduced in the late 80s (still using the quilted nylon coat liner, NyCo "field pants," etc). Gen III seems to be pretty much identical to what's used in expeditions, but from what I understand that's because Patagonia designed and made everything that goes under the parka & trouser shells. Are the Mickey Mouse/bunny boots still in use? 

Most milsurp stuff is definitely still serviceable in certain situations, but with the exception of the ECWCS and MSS there's not much for which you can't find a lighter, better civilian equivalent today, usually for less than what you'll pay for surplus. And even if you manage to find a brand new, unissued extreme cold weather sleeping bag for a killer price, the first time even a little bit of water gets on the crushed waterfowl feather fill you'll have a useless sleeping bag for 2, 3, 4, however many days it takes to dry. 


9DFE8959-A940-44F4-B772-5FA10E3E2440_zps

This sleeping bag was useless for most of a totally miserable week back in Jan 1991, from rain that soaked through before waking me up. After it dried I had to beat the hell out of it with an aluminum camouflage net pole to break up the clumps of feathers. I can't see spending money on something like that, unless it'll be used inside a cabin at hunting camp. In a tent or somewhere else it could possibly get wet? No way. Same goes for a large ALICE or MOLLE, both weighing close to 10lb in basic configuration (no sustainment pouches or patrol pack for MOLLE, just the pack & sleeping bag carrier (for older models.)) 

11:26 a.m. on October 24, 2015 (EDT)
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steven said:

Phil Smith said:

steven said:

For instance the 30degree sleeping bag in the pic above weighs 2oz less than the 32degree High Sierra it replaced

That patrol bag will keep you ALIVE at 30 degrees, but not anything resembling comfortable. I've used mine down to about 15F with a poncho liner inside, wearing heavyweight GI polypro longjohns, wool socks & hat, and was fairly comfortable most of the night, but in reality I'd say it's a 40-45 degree bag for most people. I'm comfy in it at 40. 

The drawstring tube started separating from the main bag on mine, and I'm probably one of the most careful people around when it comes to my gear. I sewed it back together, but it's pretty flimsy to begin with. 

 Phil it must be noted that temp ratings are very relative regarding the particular person. You say the 30 degree bed will keep you ALIVE but not comfortable, well that may be true for you but it most certainly is NOT for me. I have slept just fine in freezing temps with just a thin base layer and wool socks.

 I understand that, and I apologize if I came across as sounding like you didn't know that. I'm just a very warm sleeper, I find most sleeping bag ratings are pretty close to realistic, but the patrol bag is at least 10 degrees optimistic for me. So I assume it's the bag, and not me. I was nearly as comfortable with a poncho liner inside the bivy sack, 2 poncho liners would have been better than the patrol bag. But it belatedly explained to me why all those Marines I saw while at Twentynine Palms for a month of training were using their intermediate (black) bags in September 1997 (my unit still had the old bags then.)

12:26 p.m. on October 24, 2015 (EDT)
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Phil you must be using a different MSS than me. Both my bags are synthetic filled. Are you using an older version?

5:45 p.m. on October 24, 2015 (EDT)
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I was referring to the old, center-zip sleeping bags we used before the MSS came out. Both my MSS bags are synthetic as well.

7:38 p.m. on October 24, 2015 (EDT)
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The center Zip bags with snaps was the Down bag..They were sponges...

During 88 I was on field training problem and 10th Mountain was testing a pack..It was larger than A Large Alice and better than the Molly..I looked it over for about 15 mins..The infantry guys loved it..Distributed weight like a civilian pack and large enough for their needs..I was hoping they would pass it Army wide then,,,No marking who was making it..They told me they had if for about 4 months at that point...

12:21 p.m. on October 25, 2015 (EDT)
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I have an old center zip bag with snaps dated before MSS.  An extreme cold weather sleeping bag.  It is down AND polyester filled.  All right there on the label.


Army-Sleeping-Bag-Label.jpg

12:41 p.m. on October 25, 2015 (EDT)
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I have very little army surplus. Packs? No. I have a couple of pairs of surplus pants, Italian and Austrian breeks. Then the surplus snow and glacier goggles. They fold nicely and the glacier goggles have very dark green lenses and have lasted a very long time. The oldest piece of surplus gear I ever used was a McClellan Saddle when I was in the FS. Not as comfortable for the rider, but light and easy on the horse.

4:38 p.m. on October 25, 2015 (EDT)
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denis daly said:

The center Zip bags with snaps was the Down bag..They were sponges...

During 88 I was on field training problem and 10th Mountain was testing a pack..It was larger than A Large Alice and better than the Molly..I looked it over for about 15 mins..The infantry guys loved it..Distributed weight like a civilian pack and large enough for their needs..I was hoping they would pass it Army wide then,,,No marking who was making it..They told me they had if for about 4 months at that point...

 You're probably talking about the CFP90, I remember seeing some of these being humped around Ft Bragg when I was there 87-89. Never used one myself, I've talked to people who loved them and people who hated them. The biggest problem mentioned by the people who hated them was the "socket" on the waist belt that the pack sat in (at least, that's my understanding of the thing) was a backbreaker.


DSCN4879.jpg

8:16 p.m. on October 25, 2015 (EDT)
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Phil Smith said:

denis daly said:

The center Zip bags with snaps was the Down bag..They were sponges...

During 88 I was on field training problem and 10th Mountain was testing a pack..It was larger than A Large Alice and better than the Molly..I looked it over for about 15 mins..The infantry guys loved it..Distributed weight like a civilian pack and large enough for their needs..I was hoping they would pass it Army wide then,,,No marking who was making it..They told me they had if for about 4 months at that point...

 You're probably talking about the CFP90, I remember seeing some of these being humped around Ft Bragg when I was there 87-89. Never used one myself, I've talked to people who loved them and people who hated them. The biggest problem mentioned by the people who hated them was the "socket" on the waist belt that the pack sat in (at least, that's my understanding of the thing) was a backbreaker.


DSCN4879.jpg

 I am pretty sure that's it...

11:22 p.m. on December 1, 2015 (EST)
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It's hard to say know where camping and hiking gear and military gear start and end. Companies like T.A.D blur the lines as do others. I have Garmont combat boots that are the best boots I've ever put on and Bellville mini mils that are great too! I'm pretty sure the military and tactical companies have got most of their ideas from the hiking and camping industry . 

10:14 a.m. on December 2, 2015 (EST)
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I will never forget the wonder of being a teen-age kid walking into the big surplus store full of stuff from WWII and Korea. It had that characteristic smell, faintly of mothballs, dust and canvas.

11:26 a.m. on December 2, 2015 (EST)
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Yep, I still say "it smells like the army" when I smell that collection of scents. It's a much better smell than the inside of my track after 3 unwashed men spent 2+ weeks in the field. LOL

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