Friday, August 6, 2010

Preppers, Survivalists, and Military Equipment

Welcome Preppers and Survivalists,

The military is a unique organization when I say unique I mean strange, very strange. First, there are two militaries, there are the non-combat related jobs then there are the combat related job. The non-combat related jobs are the folks that have a 9 to 5 job, kind of. They move supplies, fill out paperwork, repair equipment, treat water, work in hospitals, operate bulldozers, and et cetera. The combat related jobs have folks blowing up stuff, dropping bombs, shooting at people with rifles, machine guns, cannons, 16-inch guns, missiles, ...

You get the idea, killers and non-killers.

Now, both groups use common equipment that they use to survive warfare.

Protective Equipment

The first item I am going to write about is the helmet. There are three types, the M-1 helmet (the steel pot), the PASGT helmet (kelvar or k-pot), and the 3rd generation helmets  (Modular Integrated Communications Helmet, Advance Combat Helmet, and Light Weight Helmet)

The steel pot is a steel shell with a fiberglass liner. It protects a person from shrapnel, pieces of bombs, artillery shells, and hand grenades. A rifle bullet will go right through it. (See the beginning of "Saving Private Ryan") This is the same for the kelvar helmet. It is only though luck that a person survives a rifle shot, to the head, when wearing a k-pot. The  MICH and ACH have only been designed to stop a 9 millimeter round, a handgun round.

The next protective item is body armour. Just like the helmet, there are three generations of modern body armour. OK, there are really four, but I'm not going to include World War One steel plate. The first is the flak vest. It was used from World War Two until the 1980s; the flak vest/jacket was designed to stop shrapnel but not bullets, just like the M-1 helmet. In the late 80s, the military issued the PASGT vest; it is also known as a flak vest. This vest is only designed to stop shrapnel, too. The Interceptor Body Armor, a third generation protective vest, is designed to stop rifle bullets.

So, which one should a prepper buy?

First, you have to ask yourself, do you really need one? Remember, military gear may be inappropriate for preppers because we should be leaving places of danger, not running towards danger.

Next, you have to ask, does my threat analysis require me to have tactical gear such as helmets and body armour?

Lastly, do you have the money? A MICH helmet runs about $400 and a tactical vest start at say $600, plus another $400 for two rifle plates, $1400 for one person. $1400 will buy a lot of food.

Load Carrying Equipment

Just like the name says, this equipment carries a military person's combat gear such as magazines, canteens, and hand grenades. Just like helmets and protective vests, load carrying equipment comes in three generations. The first generation is from World War Two. The next generation is called TA-50, web gear, LBE, or ALICE gear. The next generation is what you see soldiers wearing, today; it's called MOLLE gear.

The World War Two gear is made out of cotton canvas. It is rugged but the gear is more difficult to maintain. The gear will rot, if it is poorly maintained. Plus, it has very little padding and uses metal hooks to hold the pieces together. These metal hooks allow canteens and other gear to unnecessarily flop around.

The TA-50, web gear, LBE, or ALICE gear was also originally made out of canvas, this caused problems during the Vietnam War. About half way through that war, the military transitioned to nylon. As you probably know, nylon will not rot like cotton canvas, and it is lighter in weight. The military also changed the hook attachment system to a metal clip system. The metal clips will prohibit accessories from flopping around, but they will rub on you and cause "hot-spots." Plus, they can unexpectedly open that is the reason for smart-cords and other modifications.

The military currently uses MOLLE gear made out of nylon and other human-made material. MOLLE gear is very modular because the gear uses rows of wedding, sewn to vests and plate carriers, and plastic clips to attach stuff.

So, which one should a prepper buy, ALICE or MOLLE?

I'm going to ask some of the same questions that I did before.

First, you have to ask yourself, do you really need this? Remember, military gear may be inappropriate for preppers because we should be leaving places of danger, not running towards danger. Plus, which is more important, food or gear?

Next, you have to ask, does my threat analysis require me to have tactical gear such as load carrying equipment?

Lastly, you have to ask yourself, how big is your budget? A set of ALICE gear (belt, suspenders, two canteens with carriers, two ammo pouches, and a butt pack will run $35 to $75. A set of MOLLE, the sky is the limit. Just so you know, some quality names are Practical Tactical, Blackhawk, Tactical Tailor, and many others. Just make sure you shop around, and remember, if it's to good to be true, it probably is.

Note: Practical Tactical is going out of business. He is offering a 15% discount on in-stock gear 'til it's gone.

Load carrying equipment is more then LBE or MOLLE; it includes packs, big and small. The World War Two canvas packs are collector items. They are rugged, made of canvas, and uncomfortable because there is little padding in the shoulder straps.

The ALICE nylon rucksacks, medium and large, are rugged and some what comfortable. The medium rucksack has three outside pockets and one inside pocket; it also has webbing on the sides to add one and two quart canteens. The canteens need carriers that can use either the hook system from WW2 or the clips from after the Vietnam War. The large rucksack has basically the same set up, but it has three small pockets just above the three outside pockets. Plus, the large ruck holds a lot more gear and will need a frame because the shoulder straps do not attach directly to the pack like the medium rucksack.

MOLLE-type packs are too numerous to write about. There are small, medium, and large packs. There are probably even extra-large MOLLE packs, but one thing they all have are rows and rows of webbing to attach stuff to the outside of the pack.

So which one for the prepper?

I'm not going to ask any questions, this time, because I am going to make some observations/recommendations to help you make a selection.

First, don't buy a big pack because you will want to fill it up. Try and buy the smallest pack that you can.

Next, stay away from camouflage packs. Buy your pack in a single subdued color such as O.D. green, coyote brown, or gray. Black is an OK color for the city or suburbs, because it seems everyone has a black bag, but not for the wilderness because it won't blend in with a wooded or desert environment.

Lastly, look at your budget because you can spend a lot of money for a MOLLE-type pack you may never use.


The military has two types of tents; they are either too small or too big for the prepper. (I'm joking; it just seems that way.) The first is the shelter-half or better known as the pup tent. It is the classic two-person canvas tent. It is rugged and inexpensive, but the shelter half has some problems. You have to crawl into the tent; there is no floor in the tent, it is made of canvas, and you need two halves to use it

Note: I will be writing an article, within the next few months, illustrating how to make shelters with such items as a shelter half, military poncho, or a blue tarp.

The next tents are a little bigger. They are considered squad or crew tents; they hold from 4 to 10 people. They have names like Combat Tent, Extreme Cold Weather Tent, and Crew Tent. These tents are made in a variety of material, and they have a variety of prices, plus, an assortment of styles.

The next size up are the larger tents; these tents can get huge. Some folks call these tents 'walled-tents.' The military calls them GP medium, GP large, Temper tent, to name a few. Unlike the previous tents, these tents are tall enough for a 6 feet tall person to stand straight and not hit their head, except when going through the doorway.

If you are interested in doing more research, you will need to do an internet search for "Military Tents" or "Army Tents," to get you started in your search.

I don't have any specific suggestions. From personal experience, the canvas tents are rugged and will last for a few months when erected. Don't put them away wet; they will mold and stink. Use aluminum or steel tent stakes to hold the tent down. If you are going to hide in the woods, you are going to need a few camouflage nets with the specialized spreaders and poles.

Night Vision

Just like all of the other gear, there are three generations of night vision. Wikipedia says there are five. I'm not counting Gen Zero (Crap) and Gen 3+/Gen 4 (hype)

First Generation (Gen One) night vision is primitive. It really only works on a bright moonlit night. They are limited to scopes, and they are bulky. An example is the PVS-2 night vision scope. The official name is AN/PVS-2 Starlight scope. OK, it's really Scope, Starlight, AN/PVS-2.

A warning: Be careful of the hype. At four to five hundred dollars, make sure (in writing!!!) that you can return them after an inspection period. Make sure you try the night vision gear and return it if it sucks for you. Don't let the salesman tell you it's your fault, send it back immediately!!! Lastly, the military doesn't use this stuff any more for a reason. They suck.

The next is Gen Two night vision gear. The US military used (some military units still use) the AN/PVS-4 Individual Weapon Night Sight and the AN/PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles. The PVS-4 has various reticules (they provided the 'cross hairs' for the scope). Both the PVS-4 and the PVS-5, if I remember correctly, used a special battery to power the gear, but the military soon modified them to use standard AA batteries. These are very good units, but they have problems. The PVS-4 sight is bulky; the goggles will slip on your face. Plus, they won't work in complete darkness.

Be warned: Some folks are selling units that use a different type of battery, instead of AA, to power the PVS-4 sight and the PVS-5 goggles. If you decide to buy one, please make sure you can get a supply of these non-standard batteries for your sight or goggles.

Third generation goggles and sights are awesome, and expensive. The AN/PVS-7 goggles and the AN/PVS-14 monocular/weapon night sight will work in almost complete darkness. They are great, but you have to train with them.

Be warned: Folks are trying to sell inferior models as authentic PVS-7s and PVS-14s. Plus, be careful. Some of the pictures, at a website, may be exaggerations; the night vision gear just turns a black night to green.

Heck, any generation of night vision gear you buy, you will have to train with it. The military commanders thought they could get away from training with these very expensive sights and goggles; they were wrong. They quickly found out that soldiers tripped over trees because they had little or no depth perception. Natural night vision was lost for 30 to 60 minute after using the night vision goggles, and the soldiers just didn't know how to use them.

Sleeping Bags

The military has had many different types of sleeping bags in the last three decades. This section is going to be limited to four of them, the most common available for the prepper.

The Mountain Bag (Bag, Sleeping, Mountain, M1949) is a down and feather mummy-style sleeping bag. It is designed for temperatures as low as 14 degrees Fahrenheit (°F) to as high as 50 °F (-10 degrees Celsius (°C) to 10 °C). If you plan to sleep in 14 °F (-10 °C) weather, you will need to wear long johns, socks, a close fitting hat, and maybe thin gloves to be comfortable. As you get closer to 32 °F (0 °C), the less clothes you will need to wear for extra insulation. At around 50 °F (10 °C), you may want to open the sleeping bag and cover yourself with a poncho liner or thin blanket to avoid overheating while you sleep.

The above general guidelines may not work for you because I was a fit, slim, and exhausted soldier the last time I used a mountain bag.

For arctic conditions, the Mountain Bag would be inserted into the Arctic Sleeping Bag (Bag, Sleeping, Arctic). I have only heard of an arctic bag once. Yep, it was during a trip to Alaska.

The Intermediate Cold Weather sleeping bag (Bag, Sleeping, Intermediate Cold-Weather) was the 1980s replacement for the mountain bag. It has a polyester fill, instead of down and feathers. It is temperature rated down to 15 °F (-9 °C). The guidelines from above for extra clothing also apply for the intermediate sleeping bag.

The Extreme Cold Weather sleeping bag (Bag, Sleeping, Extreme Cold) is a down bag good to temperatures to -20 °F (-28 °C). Don't forget the long johns and other clothing, it will be warmer that way, especially at -20 °F (-28 °C)

All three bags should be covered with a cover. The military called it: Case, Water-repellent, for Bag, Sleeping. It is a cotton cover that protects the outside of the bag from dirt and moisture, not rain. It has eyelets that allowed the cover to be laced to the mountain sleeping bag but not the intermediate or extreme cold weather sleeping bags.

The current sleeping is a system of three pieces, a gore-tex bivy bag, a patrol sleeping bag, and an intermediate cold weather sleeping bag. The bivy bag provides protection from the rain. The patrol sleeping bag uses a synthetic fill good for 50°F to 30°F, and the intermediate cold weather bag can be snapped into the patrol bag for use down to -10°F (if properly dressed in long john, socks, gloves, and a knit skull cap.

So what should a prepper buy?

It will depend on your budget. A mountain bag with a cover runs about $50 and up. An intermediate sleeping bag without a cover can be had for $50, also. An extreme cold weather sleeping bag will set you back $100. The cotton covers run anywhere from $10 to $15.

Buy the cover, if you can afford it, it will help keep the outside of the sleeping bag clean.

Plus, you need to look at what temperatures you plan to be prepared for. If you plan to stay in your home and live in Florida, an extra blanket will probably be fine. In Indiana, outside in the winter, an intermediate might work. I would probably get an extreme cold sleeping bag, just in case. Montana, in the winter, you need an extreme cold weather sleeping bag, period. If you plan to move from place to place by walking, a modular sleeping system, the current US military sleeping bag is recommended.

Lastly, you have to ask yourself: do you really need a surplus military sleeping bag when there are modern civilian sleeping bags that weight less, use modern insulation, for the same temperature ranges as the military sleeping bags?


Would you and your family be better served by buying wool blankets for extra warmth for your beds during a disaster?

Entrenching Tool (E-tool)

I forgot who it was, might be S.L.A. Marshall, during World War Two complained about soldiers being issued small shovels to dig fighting positions with. He thought that soldiers should carry full-sized shovels and picks to dig their protective/fighting positions.

During World War II, the military issued a folding shovel with a metal shovel and a wooden handle. After that war, the military issued an improved entrenching tool with a pick blade. Two decades later, and two wars, the military issued a folding all metal entrenching tool.

Yes, all three could be sharpened along the blades to be used to kill people. One story, from of the Grenada invasion, told of folks running out of ammo. Two soldiers were told 'No one passes. Hold this position.' They were given three rounds each. When the leader came back, there were five dead. The two soldiers, in their dead hands, held bloodied e-tools. No shoots were fired and no one had passed.

I personally like the improved entrenching tool, with the pick. It is versatile. I use it for landscaping, digging fire pits, and other digging chores when a full-size shovel won't do. It is heavy though. The folding all metal e-tool is lighter, but it has a habit of breaking. It breaks at the handle and shovel blade connection. Supposedly, the U.S. military fixed the problem by inserting a metal bar to beef up both folding points, supposedly.

So, which one?

I had an older soldier, when he saw my 'old-school' wood and metal improved e-tool, tell me that thing will break. It's better to have the all-metal entrenching tool.

I ended up carrying that thing for the next ten years; I still have it and use it, to this day. During those ten years, I saw over ten all-metal e-tools break.

So, if you are looking for light weight and won't be do heavy digging, such as foxholes or digging up deep caches, it might work for you. If you plan to dig deep, especially in rocky soil, you might want that extra heft of an improved entrenching tool with a pick.

Plus, do you really need an e-tool if you are staying in your home during/after a disaster? Won't a full-size shovel, or a garden shovel, be better for your purposes?

You decide.


As preppers, if we start seeing a lot of this stuff, we need to leave, very quickly. Remember, we bug out during extreme emergencies. To another country if needed.

M14 rifle
M16 rifle/M4 carbine

Machine Guns
M249 light machine gun
M240 machine gun
M2 machine gun

Grenade Launcher
M203 grenade launcher

Hand Grenades

Anti-Tank Rockets

M-16 Bounding Anti-personnel
M-18 Claymore

Lastly, when all is said and done, there is much more about military equipment because I primarily focused on just some of the common equipment of the United States military. Plus, foreign militarise have some good equipment, but I have learned that the United States usually has the best.

Really lastly, this is an overview of military equipment that a prepper may want to investigate. You do not need any of this gear to survive. There are many other options for the prepper, so you have to do the research and make a choice.

Remember, watch those opinions, even mine.

And before I go, remember, the military always buys from the lowest bidder. Should you?


Protective Equipment


Wikipedia - M1 Helmet

Wikipedia - PASGT: Helmet

Wikipedia - MICH: TC-200 Combat Helemt

Wikipedia - Lightweight Helmet

Operation Helmet - Military Combat Helmets

Merriam-Webster - Shrapnel


Wikipedia - PASGT: Vest

Vietnam Gear - M69 Flak Vest w/ Stiffeners

Olive-Drab - Vietnam Flak Vest

Wikipedia - Ballistic Vest
Note: has a chart listing the threat levels

Wikipedia - Interceptor Body Armor

Time - How Safe Is the U.S. Army's Body Armor?,8599,1874956,00.html

Load Carrying Equipment

Olive-Drab - ALICE Load Carrying Equipment

Wikipedia - ALICE

Civilian Defense Force - ALICE Gear MODs 101

Wikipedia - MOLLE

Military Photos - ALICE or MOLLE?


Olive-Drab - WW II Field Packs

Olive-Drab - U.S. Army Rucksack of World War II

World War Two Gyrene - 782 Gear
Note: I added this because of the bedroll article at Survival Blog

The Backpacker -

1st Tactical Study Group (Airborne): Combat Reform Group - A Durable Rucksack for all Seasons

Olive-Drab - Modular Lightweight Load Carrying Equipment (MOLLE)


Olive-Drab - U.S. Army Tent: Shelter Half

Eureka - Military Tents

Mountain Gear Surplus Sales - Home

Night Vision

Wikipedia - Night Vision Device

What a Country- AN/PVS-2 Night Vision Scope

JRH Enterprises - US PVS 2 Night vision rifle scope

Wikipedia - AN/PVS-4

Federation of American Scientists - AN/PVS-4 Individual Weapon Night Sight

SPI Infrared - AN/PVS-4 Night Vision Weapon Sight

Global Security - AN/PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles

Night Vision Depot - AN/PVS-5C Dual Tube Night Vision Goggle

Savvy - PVS-5 Night Vision Goggles

SPI Infrared - AN/PVS-7D Night Vision Goggles

Wikipedia - AN/PVS-14

Sleeping Bags

Vietnam Gear - M1949 Mountain Sleeping Bag

Vietnam Gear - Poncho Liner

Olive Drab - Military Sleeping Bags

Total Survivalist Libertarian Rantfest - New Army Sleep System

Entrenching Tools

Wikipedia - S.L.A. Marshall


Just see Wikipedia