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Have you ever looked at your issued gear and wondered how “military-grade” came to be such a low bar to clear? Maybe it was those boot socks that leave your toes poking holes in them after being worn twice. We’ve all exorcised demons in the field after torturing our bodies with MREs for days on end. As luck would have it, the internet had delivered when supply could not.
Hundreds of respondents answered the call to this awesome Reddit thread asking U.S. service members which inexpensive purchase made Army life substantially better or worse. It’s definitely worth a read, upvote, and contribution. In the meantime, we gathered up the highlights so you can start hating life just a tiny bit less.
Was there something we missed? Thought of another essential piece of gear worth bringing into the field? Let us know in the comments.
If you’re going to wear that thing all day, it better be comfortable. Several soldiers consider these aftermarket ACH pads to be unsung heroes.
“Underrated,” wrote Reddit user IDcfoxco. “The issued helmet pads made my head so damn itchy; dealt with it for like two years before buying some soft ones. Complete game changer.”
These Condor helmet pads are soft, supportive, and–unlike the ones you’re currently using–haven’t been crammed inside dirty helmets since the push to Baghdad in 2003.
Take care of your feet so they can take care of you. These socks are an Army favorite (and yes, we know they’re two dollars overe the limit).
“They’re fucking awesome,” wrote Reddit user Sk8matt123. “Dropped $100 for like five pairs and wear them throughout the week.”
How can the U.S. military take something as harmless as a sock and make it feel like tar paper covered in shards of broken glass after the first time you wash it? It’s one of life’s great mysteries. All we know is that you need to replace those shitty boot socks with these Darn Tough cushioned boot socks as soon as possible.
Eye protection is a good idea and it’s also required (those two don’t always go hand-in-hand).
“Nice eye pro,” wrote Reddit user Backalack. “You look cool and feel good.”
Supply is going to make you pay for those safety glasses if you return them with so much as a smudge on the lenses. Our advice? Tuck those things away and replace them with a pair of your own. These Venture Gear shooting glasses comply with MIL-PRF 32432 and cost less to replace, anyway.
Sure, multitools are everywhere, but at least one reader swears by his Swiss Army Knife.
“I use it way more than my Gerber,” wrote Reddit user AgentJ691. “Helps with MRE’s, has scissors, has a screw driver, and can help me have a good time with alcohol. Heck, it even helped me at the range when I had to make adjustments on weapons. People tease me until they need my help with it.”
If you’re looking for a solid Swiss Army Knife, the Task & Purpose gear team recommends the original gangster: the Tinker pocket knife from Victorinox. It’s smaller than a multitool, way less expensive, and still has the tools you use most in the field.
Uncle Sam wants you to shave at least once a day, but he certainly isn’t going to foot the bill for all those expensive name-brand cartridges.
“Stop using Gillette, save shit tons of money, and swap to a double-edge safety razor,” wrote Reddit user Phrophecy07. “Twenty bucks gets me razor blades for one to three years, depending on brand of the blade.”
Kick it old-school with one of these Shaving Revolution safety razors. You’ll get a closer shave, less razor burn, and way more cash in your wallet.
Sure, you could use your boots as a pillow, but those in the know carry something even more luxurious.
“Totally changed my quality of sleep in the field,” wrote Reddit user andysto2.
You might only get a few hours of sleep per night in the field, so make the most of it with this RikkiTikki inflatable pillow. Sweet dreams!
Heaven help you if your phone and other electronic goodies die in the field.
“An Anker power bank,” wrote Reddit user BoJacksBurnerAcc. “Can’t ever have enough juice, especially if you’re stuck somewhere on a static post.”
This Anker battery bank can provide an iPhone 13 with two full charges. It’s drop-tested and temperature-controlled to preven self-destruction.
You may not be facing the enemy in the field, but mosquitos are absolutely out for blood.
“A Thermacell because mosquitos will ruin your night,” wrote Reddit user TroubelshootenSOB
This Thermacell MR300 creates a 15-foot no-fly zone for 12 hours and doesn’t require batteries or an open flame like some of the other options out there.
This one should go without saying, but you need a Rite in the Rain notepad. Period.
“Rite in the rain seems like its for geardos until you’re trying to relay a message under a helicopters engines in the rain or that super important note you wrote down got left in your pocket when you washed your uniform,” wrote Reddit user TroubelshootenSOB.
This little notebook has been a mainstay of field exercises and deployments for ages. We’re pretty sure the Romans used these to write about how pissed off they were about Pyrrhus’ war elephants. You can use your Rite in the Rain to track all kinds of information through rain, snow, mud, or sweat. And don’t forget the pen!