Every grunt and their mother has that one piece of equipment they cannot live without. Forget ultra complicated or batshit insane everyday carry kit: that one essential piece of gear that U.S. military veterans rely on is, as Tim O’Brien put it in The Things They Carry, is “largely determined by necessity” — and typically the best tool to accomplish those necessary challenges is the simplest one.
We asked our community of veterans about the gear they rely on in their day-to-day lives. Here are their top picks (and some suggestions from our staff):
There’s a reason Leatherman is synonymous with “multi-tool,” much to the chagrin of Swiss Army knife maker Victorinox AG: The stainless steel tools are durable and versatile. The Wave model, in particular, is a Leatherman fan favorite with a history of reliability. In 1998, a Michigan firefighter even used his Wave to save a child’s life without amputating his leg when he was pinned beneath a car.
Army vet Jason Cantrell put it best:
A hand truck
If you’ve spent years rucking a heavy pack for miles on miles, why wouldn’t you make the rest of your life easier on your back, knees, hips, waist, and sanity?
You don’t want to just randomly buy one though: Handling and durability are just as essential, especially since you’ll be bumping into walls and doors like it’s nobody’s business. Therefore, we recommend the Welcom MC2S Magna Cart Elite 200lb Capacity or the Cosco 3-in-1 Aluminium hand trucks.
I’m just going to leave this here:
Personally, we’d recommend the Multi-Plier 600 Bluntnose stainless steel multi-tool that’s beloved in the U.S. military. Nothing fits better than familiarity — and I guess it’s just as good as your field knife!
Do I really need to explain all the ways that this nylon poncho liner is way, way more than just a nylon poncho liner? No, but Angry Staff Officer can and will:
It can be used as a blanket, pillow, shelter, hammock, camo hide for concealment, jacket liner, seat cushion, mattress — when you are sleeping on the ground, anything helps — and something soft to hold onto when you’re far away from home and everything’s going to … well, you know, the stuff that hits the fan. It is remarkably resilient to extreme heat and cold, dries quickly when wet, and most importantly, can be squished up into a tiny ball that takes up barely any room in your rucksack and adds virtually no weight. I am still convinced it is magical.
F*ck, now I want one. And you can score one for a (relative) steal at on Amazon.
A knife — an actual GOOD knife
Yes yes yes, a single blade is as useful as a fancy multitool in the right hands, and not all knives are created equal. If you’re going to get something made special, we recommend talking to Marine vet and Brooklyn-based Chapman Knifes proprietor Joel R. Chapman.
But if you’re just looking for something off the shelf, we’re partial to benchmade knives — and our friends at U.S. Elite Tactical will give you 10% off a new one with the discount code taskandpurpose.
BONUS: Your DD-214
This won’t cost you a dime, just several years of your life and most of your sanity.