The U.S. Navy Sea, Air, and Land (SEAL) Teams have experienced an extraordinary rise to fame and while the public might not know many of their individual names, their reputation as warriors precedes them around the world. Descendants of underwater demolition teams, they evolved from what the Navy once called “frogmen” into the special warfare bad asses they are today.
SEALs are almost synonymous with the Global War on Terror, they are, after all, the men who killed Osama Bin Laden the leader of Al Qaeda and one of the masterminds of the 9/11 attacks. They’ve got a lot of clout, and their seal of approval, pun intended, is valuable. Given the nature of their missions, if a SEAL is using certain tactical gear, it is definitely going to be sought after by other warriors, including the occasional geardo. Navy SEAL gear is something many are interested in.
Of course, each SEAL will have different preferences for the various types of equipment they use, including their weapons. That said, we’ve created a list of Navy SEAL gear not based on name brands, but based on what we’ve learned SEALs consider a must-have when they deploy.
Navy SEAL gear can’t be brought on deployment unless it is carried in something. Backpacks are essential Navy SEAL gear because backpacks enable a SEAL to transport gear into the area of operations.
Backpacks these days are often compartmentalized and customizable, so they can not only be used as a duffel bag, but they can be modified for operations. This is a far cry from the Alice packs that everyone knows and loves. Those are still awesome, but when the landscape requires versatility, the gear that is carried needs to be adaptable to the environment.
Ever seen pictures of SEALs during an operation? What they are wearing varies greatly depending on the mission. In some cases, they are wearing military uniforms, in other instances, they are wearing tactical clothing.
Given the physical nature of SEAL duty, comfort and ruggedness are important traits when it comes to Navy SEAL gear. Tactical clothing must be flexible, but durable, and it must have the ability to allow SEALs to stay cool or warm, depending on the climate.
Look at old SEAL pictures from the Vietnam War era and you will see SEALs sporting, what was considered then, state-of-the-art jungle boots. Regardless of its canvas-like ankle support, jungle boots weren’t ideal for the jungle and in fact many infantry soldiers experienced jungle rot and issues with their feet because the leather boots lacked breathability and would not dry quickly once wet.
In the late 1980s and heading into the 1990s, the U.S. military began experimenting with sneaker-like boots that enabled operators like the SEALs to move more quickly and comfortably during operations.
Today, the price tag on some of those tactical boots are well beyond what a name brand basketball shoe will cost you, but they are so worth it when you spend most of your day jumping, climbing, running, and moving to contact. Most of the boots on the market right now are breathable, fit properly (to avoid those blisters), have protective soles, and are durable. Taking care of your feet is critical.
Navy SEAL gear gloves
Anyone who has ever served a day in the field with a military unit knows that gloves are invaluable. Whether you are carrying or setting up equipment, using tools, or repairing something, gloves are an essential component of any kit. Gloves are also great for keeping your hands warm.
As a Navy SEAL, gloves are even more important than they are to a conventional troop. An operator’s gloves must protect the skin when a special warfare member rappels or fast ropes, but the gloves must also be agile enough to allow that same operator to use a weapon when needed. There is no time to pause, remove gloves, and then engage.
Navy SEAL gear must include gloves designed to protect the hand, but also allow for actions that require a lot of dexterity. Many of the gloves used by SEALs provide protection in case they are used in hand-to-hand combat and they have layers in the palms enabling them to grip knife blades with reduced risk of getting cut.
Speaking of cutting, what is a frogman without a knife? But gone are the days of a long knife strapped to the ankle of a diver. Today’s knives included in the Navy SEALs gear kit are multi-use and adaptable to a variety of functions.
Many of these knives enable SEALs not just to cut things, but they can saw, tighten, measure, adjust and perform a variety of functions as well. Of course, they can also be used as a weapon.
Knee and elbow pads in Navy SEAL gear
If you’ve done a hot minute in the infantry, you can appreciate that knee pads are an essential part of your kit. Rushing, assaulting, climbing all take a toll on your knees and elbows. Solid, impact-resistant, durable elbow and knee pads are essential Navy SEAL gear.
The biggest complaint from operators is that their knee pads are cumbersome and heavy. A primary complaint is that they do not stay in place, so when you are looking for pads, ensure you buy something that stays in place as you scoot and shoot.
No surprise here, but SEAL teams operate at night a lot of times so needless to say, a flashlight is a major part of any Navy SEAL gear kit. Like much of their other gear, the flashlights must be ultra-durable, lightweight, and provide a lot of illumination. They should also be attachable to vests and belts.
The old green, L-shaped flashlights of the military won’t work here, although they did back in the day. Special warfare operators need lightweight lights that are adaptable and can be used in tactical situations.
Today, there are a variety of flashlights that have adjustable illumination settings and some have varied functionality, like a strobe or signaling setting.
All that bad assery makes a SEAL thirsty. Naturally after free falling behind enemy lines and hiking several miles to conduct an op, a Navy SEAL will reach for their old school canteens (which are still awesome for camping) that are a part of their Navy SEAL gear, right? Wrong.
Not long ago, U.S. military personnel lugged canteens on their web belts, extending their body’s profile by several inches on each hip and making traversing obstacles and terrain noisy and clunky. Enter the era of the hydration system.
Modern hydration systems are stand alone meaning a SEAL can just put them on their back and carry their water with them. However, a lot of these hydration systems can now be incorporated into modular backpack systems, making them a seamless and valuable component of Navy SEAL gear.
Navy SEALs are a part of one of the most fluid and best choreographed tactical teams to ever walk the earth. They are individuals, but operate in teams as one.
At their heart, the spirit and commitment of each member of the SEAL team is critical to the overall success and survivability of the team. Because they are individuals, they will all have personal preferences and prefer varying Navy SEAL gear. Nonetheless, the diversity of the equipment Navy SEALs use does not impact their interoperability within the team and beyond.
Like any other person, SEALs will have a brand preference for whatever personal reason. However, this list we’ve compiled is more to state that the SEALs have a basic kit that they carry with them and regardless of the name brand, each of them feels these items are important if not mandatory as they prepare to deploy.
Naturally, the climate and mission will dictate much of what they pack and don’t pack. Watch caps, for example, might not be needed if they are deploying to an arid, hot, jungle climate. Similarly, cold weather clothing or jackets are not going to be needed in a hot weather environment.
This list is not all inclusive, but more of a baseline of basic Navy SEAL gear that is required for SEALs to perform their missions, regardless of where they are. Things like clothing and footwear are going to be required, but other items like pads, knives, and hydration systems are going to make rough missions, not easier, but at the very least manageable because they contribute to achieving the Navy SEAL mission no matter where they are located.