Everyone has one tool or piece of equipment they absolutely swear by, whether they’re gearing up for their latest deployment overseas or prepping for a fresh mission around the house. While most tasks don’t require a full-blown loadout like you might carry downrange, just about every service member and veteran has at least one piece of gear that they never leave home without. To that end, we asked Task & Purpose readers what critical pieces of gear they rely on — and the answers did not disappoint.
From boots to woobies, and knives to multitools, here’s a rundown of some of the gear that military veterans rely on at home and abroad, as well as some helpful recommendations from our team of writers and editors.
A decent knife
Folding or fixed blade, a strong, reliable knife is a necessary part of anyone’s kit. While some Task & Purpose readers recommended specialty items like the Cold Steel Black Sable San Mai pocket knife (which, wow) or the Ontario SP16 SPAX knife, other recommended options from knifemakers Benchmade or the Kershaw Emerson collection. If you’re looking for a list of some of the best survival knives on the market, we’ve got you covered — but then again, there’s nothing wrong with a good, solid Swiss Army knife, just in case
A good pair of boots
There’s no sense in going to work if you don’t have a decent pair of boots on your feet, now is there? While plenty of Task & Purpose readers said they still wear their military boots around long after their service, several recommended 5.11 Tactical’s Men Speed 3.0 jungle tactical boot as their go-to footwear of choice. And we totally get why: designed to handle harsh environments and complete with slip-resistant multi-terrain treads, these tough-as-nails boots are ready for almost everything.
A solid multitool
Whether it’s cutting 550 cord or fiddling with components on your standard-issue weapons, a decent multitool is a must-have sidekick for any modern handyman at home and in the field. More specifically, Task & Purpose readers recommend the Gerber MP600 multi-plier and the tried-and-true Leatherman Supertool to help them out of frustrating jams. If you’re looking for a more expansive selection, check out our list of the best multitools on the market here.
A handy GPS tracker
Why worry about land nav when you can get a handle on your position with a flick of your wrist? Indeed, Task & Purpose readers specifically recommended the Garmin Foretrex 401 waterproof hiking GPS as a must-have tracking system for routes, tracks, and waypoints in all manner of extreme environments. Strap one of these bad boys to your arm and never get accidentally lost like some poor dumb second lieutenant ever again.
A clip-on compass
In case your GPS tracker is on the fritz (or you simply decided you didn’t need one), a clip-on compass is a necessary piece of gear ahead of any trek out into the wilderness. The wrist-mounted version from Sun Company is a fine, reliable addition to one’s kit — just try not to lose it in the middle of nowhere.
A woobie, duh
The beloved standard-issue poncho liner, more commonly known as the ‘woobie,’ is a favorite among U.S. troops for a reason. The “liner, wet weather, poncho” as it’s officially called, consists of two layers of nylon surrounding a polyester filling, sewn up along the sides and crosswise to ensure a very tough and durable piece of equipment. You can find versions all over Amazon, but we highly recommend this military surplus version in ACU digital camouflage. If you don’t already have one, we have to ask: what have you been smoking, and where can we find some?
A powerful flashlight
Nothing says “I’m ready to do it in the dark” like a reliable handheld flashlight, and Task & Purpose readers swear by the Streamlight Microstream system for work downrange and at home. Capable of running at 250 lumens for up to 3.5 hours, this powerful flashlight is lightweight and long-lasting for any situation. Plus, it’s fully rechargeable so you never have to worry about spare batteries ever again.
A simple coffee maker
No, not one of those high-tech plug-in machines that folks have littering their countertops at home. We’re talking something stripped-down and easy to use, like this excellent Bodum French press (although if you’re looking for a list of more complicated coffee maker accessories, we’ve got you covered there, too.)
Unfortunately, you can only get one by serving and getting out of the military intact. But hey, it’s the most valuable possession many vets will ever own!
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