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Military Camping Gear You Don't Want to Leave Behind


Enjoying the great outdoors is one of the best things about being an American. There are so many city, county, state and national parks to explore and each of them has different amenities to offer campers.

For veterans and current military members, a lot of old military gear makes great military camping gear. The camping conditions (location, weather, season) and the campground (backcountry, primitive, walk in, drive in), can help a camper decide what military camping gear to pack.

The veteran employees of USAMM put their heads together and created this list of must have items to include in any list of military camping gear.

This military camping gear item is a must no matter what type of camping trip is tackled. Camping trips to a drive-in campground allows the camper the opportunity to get a “taj-ma-tent” that can sleep about eight people. Obviously, a tent of this size isn’t needed for a couple, but a family should consider a large tent to make sleeping easier. The bigger the tent, the more room for creature comforts like cots.

Smaller four-, two- or one-person tents will also do the job. Remember, hiking to a remote location can be tiring, so packing a lightweight, portable tent is critical when considering assembling military camping gear.

The local post MWR recreational office is also a good source to rent military camping gear that is in good shape. MWR rates are more than reasonable and the best part is that once done using them, just return it. No need to store it and most of all, no need to buy it.

Sleeping Bag
What kind of sleeping bag to purchase is dependent on the type of camping being done. Campers in the southern U.S. don’t need thermal sleeping bags or blankets with temperature ratings of -25 degrees. Similarly, campers who unload an SUV and camp right next to their vehicle, might not need the $500 ultralightweight sleeping bag that weighs 12 ounces and can protect campers in frigid temps.

The key is to determine what kind of camping is planned routinely, and then purchase military camping gear accordingly that will help campers sleep comfortably at night.

Campers who are car camping, or driving up to their site and unloading, should seriously consider investing in a sleeping cot or air mattress. Avoiding the back pain is worth the little extra money and these items are also a must on the military camping gear list. Just remember, if you opt for an air mattress, bring an air pump. Some camping gear companies make pumps that can be plugged into a car’s power supply to make deployment of those mattresses easier.

For those venturing out into the backcountry, consider a lightweight sleeping mat. Available on today’s military camping gear market are self-inflating mattresses that can be inflated by the camper.

Backpack/Storage Bin
A backpack is unnecessary if camping in a drive-up campsite. A storage bin with a top will help keep clothes and personal affects dry and clean. Storage bins can hold everything from clothing to cooking supplies and miscellaneous camping gear. However, campers who are hiking several miles to get to their campground will need a backpack. Remember to get something that will carry everything you need for the duration of the camping trip. A small overnight pack might be affordable, but it is no good on a backcountry camping trip that is four days long.

Backpacks are one of the most overlooked pieces of military camping gear because most people do not do backcountry camping, so when packs are purchased, they do not have internal frames and proper weight distribution systems, which can lead to back pain and discomfort. Research any military camping gear planned for purchase.

Folding chairs and stools are required on any military camping gear list, regardless of campground site. For backcountry camping, there are small, collapsible/folding stools that can be easily tucked away with any military camping gear.

Lightweight, but durable folding chairs are great for drive-in camp sites and most of them have carrying cases with straps, so they are portable and can be moved around the camp site.

Cooking Kits
Not sure what it is, but everything tastes better when camping (especially bacon). A storage bin that includes a camp stove, cooking and eating utensils, a mess kit, coffeemaker, and pots and pans is a necessary part of any military camping gear and it will help campers cook up some great bacon and eggs, breakfast tacos or even pancakes and sausage.

For backcountry campers, the only military camping gear they need is a mess kit which can be a small kit used to heat water for dehydrated foods and quick energy meals like oatmeal.

Back in the day, a pocketknife was used for everything. One blade got the job done. Whittling? The pocketknife took care of it? Tightening a random screw? The knife’s blade could be used for flathead and Phillips head screws. But as camping has evolved, so has the pocket arsenal available to campers.

All military camping gear lists require a multi-tool or knife. These pocket wonders come with saws, can and bottle openers, multiple blades, and even pliers. There is no problem that will arise that won’t be able to get tackled with multi-tools around. Military camping gear is incomplete without them.

Regardless of the type of camping being done, nocturnal illumination is necessary. Backcountry campers will find headlamps or small flashlights perfect for their military camping gear lists, while drive-in campers would likely prefer propane or 12-volt powered lanterns. Campers looking to avoid light pollution can use chem lights in their military camping gear lists.

Miscellaneous Stuff
Anyone who has spent time in the field in the U.S. armed forces knows that two military camping gear items that must be packed are paracord/rope and duct tape. Paracord has a variety of uses in the field, and in camping it can be used to create a clothes line or to better secure a tent in windy conditions.

Duct tape can temporarily patch a tent and hastily hold things together. It is pretty much a general-purpose military camping gear tool.

Waterproof matches or lighters are great for starting fires. Military camping gear like this is important to have because fires can not only keep campers warm, but it can keep insects and animals away and also help cook meals.

Hammocks are also useful military camping gear. They can not only be used as a primary sleeping device, but they can be used just to relax in the shade. If going camping in the backcountry beware. Hammocks require trees in order to work and bringing one is good but only if there are trees to tie them to.

Some avid outdoorsperson might argue otherwise, but having a phone loaded with helpful outdoor apps is a great way for technology to intersect with the outdoors.

There are tons of apps that can provide GPS mapping and also enhance trail trekking and hiking. There are maps that can be used to help stargaze, tie knots, start fires, tell ghost stories and even geocache.

Technology shouldn’t really be a part of a military camping gear list, but if it enhances the outdoor experience, why not?

It’s important to remember that a military camping gear list is really whatever the individual camper wants it to be. A lot of obsolete military gear makes great military camping gear. The key is finding what is needed at the right price.

There are ample online sources and local shops to help prepare campers for the great outdoors. With a little planning and organization, anytime of year and provide great opportunities to see the outdoor spaces of the United States.

One last word of advice, test runs are a great way to test equipment before heading out into the wilderness. Backyard camping is a low-risk test platform that can not only allow a camper to test equipment for functionality, but it can help a camper determine if the item they’ve purchased will actually be of use to them.

And MWR on many military installations will rent affordable camping gear to anyone who is a defense department identification card holder.

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