Real life can be tough. If you’ve served on deployment, Mother Necessity most definitely birthed some ingenuitive inventions to make living down range a little more comfortable. From wet-sock canteen coolers to terrain based land navigation and the value of a safety pin, tricks of the war trade continue to serve veterans in their civilian lives.
LINER, WET WEATHER, PONCHO
Hands down, the most loved, oft-heralded, never relinquished piece of military issue known to man, or woman, the woobie stands fiercely at the head of the pack of must-haves in the cold, cruel civilian world. Soldier turned firefighter, sailor turned cop, marine turned coach, all have this in common: love for the woobie. This versatile square of quilted bliss was recently upgraded with a built in zipper and improved insulation technology. As if it needed help.
“It’s the most comfortable, awesome, soft, perfect piece of fabric ever invented in the history of military equipment and I love it.” Says Ian Pickett, former marine.
TRI-FOLD ENTRENCHING TOOL (E-TOOL)
Because when it hits the fan, sometimes you’ve got to dig your way out. Whether you’re constructing an emergency latrine or, ahem, covering up evidence… this handy, collapsible tool might be your lifesaver.
Whether you’re still packing your marine issued Ka-Bar, Ontario ASEK, or an MK 3 Navy Issue, you’ll be hard pressed to find a vet who’s done time out of country that isn’t sporting an all-purpose blade of some sort. While most SOF guys go for customized numbers from companies like Benchmade and Gerber there are a growing number of small bladesmith start-ups, many veteran owned and operated. Either way, the consensus is – don’t leave home without one.
OK, so maybe you aren’t packing around a dozen orange glow-sticks in case of sudden blackouts or flash mob raves, but while field going service members might not agree on which form of portable light is the best, they all agree that some form is necessary. The best part about a chemlight is that you can’t accidentally burn out the batteries and they’re cheap.
CORD, FIBROUS, NYLON
Now that everybody’s got their own “survival bracelet” woven out of handy, find-anywhere neon colors, you’ll never be too far out of reach of a decent length of 550, or para cord, another must have in hunting/camping/zombie fighting kits for everyone. We won’t bore you with the millions of applications of this handy stuff. Plus if you’re bored you can braid cute jewelry for gifts.
STOVE, COOKING, GASOLINE
We’ve come a long way since 1942 when the army commissioned the Coleman company to produce 5,000 single burner gas stoves for soldiers on the African front. But even then, World War II correspondent Ernie Pyle said the “G.I. Stove” was second only to the Jeep in frontline usefulness. Modern operators enjoy a variety of personal camp stoves, and leading the charge is the JetBoil, a lightweight, rapid cooking system that is as hardy as it is practical.
FIRST AID KIT, GENERAL PURPOSE
Any soldier worth his mettle will tell you how important it is to be ready for medical emergencies, but it’s the tried and true warriors that know what really matters when it comes to life saving. Advancements in lifesaving equipment have come a long way since the gauze, iodine and ammonia that soldiers carried in World War I. Tourniquets new on the market like the RATs tourniquet are fast and easy for self or one-handed application, and most seasoned vets will tell you that there’s nothing that you can’t fix with contractor grade trash bags and safety pins. And every good first aid kid needs a sharpie for marking tourniquet application times. The best part about this bare-bones doctor’s bag is that it’s multipurpose. Throw in some Benadryl, baby wipes and duct tape and you’re ready for anything.
BOX, MATCH, WATERPROOF
If you weren’t lucky enough to get your hands on a Black Crackle Zippo lighter in WWII, you probably had one of these. Matches or a windproof lighter are always a good thing to have on hand.
But it’s really the mental flexibility that military service demands that is the most useful takeaway from time in any branch. Army Ranger turned Hunting Guide Kyle Kowalski says that his training has served him more in civilian life than any of his Army issued tools.
“The biggest thing is probably problem-solving, really. Anything can be accomplished. It might be sloppy, but then it will be refined, re-planned rehearsed and re-executed until becoming proficient in that task.” Kowalski says.
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