The military is a broad term, and you won’t know how comprehensive it is until you are a member of one service. The cultures and missions between each service are vastly different, and there are few universal truths between each branch. However, I have five pieces of gear that are a must have regardless of which branch or mission you are tasked with undertaking.
A good multitool will take you far in any industry. The military specifically loves Joe to be armed with a multitool. They are incredibly handy in both the field and garrison. The tools they provide allow servicemen and women to navigate a wide variety of tasks that include everything from weapon maintenance to digging fighting holes. Multitools are the number one must have piece of gear for a reason.
Leatherman, Gerber, and SOG lead the way with high quality, but affordable multitool designs. When choosing one, you want to target a model with the most common tools you’re likely to call upon. This means a pair of pliers, a knife blade, a pair of scissors, a few different screwdrivers, wire cutters, and a can opener in case you ever get foreign MREs that require you to open a can. That’s just the basics, and many tools include much more than that. Find one targeted at the outdoors, one for hunters, fishermen, and campers. These models are typically made tough and will last through the rigors of deployments.
A flashlight is a must have because we can’t see in the dark, but we will be working in it. While any fun and exciting stuff will be done under the haze of green night vision, everything else will be bathed in white or red light. The classic boot camp flashlight will get you through fire watch, but not through much else. A modern flashlight will be brighter, smaller, and more durable for long term use. A good modern light provides a must have an unbeatable source of light for nontactical navigation, vehicle and weapon maintenance, and even tactical site exploitation.
A good flashlight needs to be made to last, preferably water and shockproof with an aluminum body and should take a standard battery type. Companies like ASP, Streamlight, and Surefire all produce very capable and modernized flashlights. Looks for one with moderate lumen count and preferably a low power mode to preserve battery use.
A Durable Notebook
You are entering into a career field that when someone says, “Write that down,” You better write it down. To write it down, you are going to need a good pen, and even more importantly, a good notebook. A waterproof notebook is a must have for work in the field. It allows you to write down everything from the right radio freqs to the important parts of a movement plan, patrol, or mission. Notebooks help you record the valuable wisdom of a hip pocket class.
A durable must have notebook, should be waterproof, have a tough cover, and tough design. Notebooks from Moleskin, Rite in the Rain, and Field Notes are all made to last in austere conditions. Rite in the Rain is my first choice, followed by Moleskin. These heavy-duty notebooks are well made and made to last through the world’s worst field conditions.
A Good Knife
Like a multitool, a good knife is a must have. While most multitools offer a knife blade, they are often extremely small and thin. These knives are not necessarily a replacement for a good dependable folding knife for everyday carry. A good knife is quicker to deploy, easier to handle, and the more robust blade will have more versatility to it. A knife allows you to cut through thick straps, ropes, and strong materials that might challenge a multitool’s knife.
There are tons of good knife companies out there at all price points. You should find one with a good cutting steel, one that’s easy to sharpen, and one with a solid lock that won’t let you down. You also want a knife that’s dependable and reliable, so do a little research before you buy it.
A Dependable Watch
Our last must have piece of gear is a watch. A watch is a mere fashion object in a day and age where cell phones are located in every pocket. However, like many things, the military is different. Phones aren’t welcome everywhere, but watches are from security concerns to environments where a smart will last about ten seconds before being destroyed.
A good watch will be water and shockproof and able to withstand most abuse. You typically want a watch with glowing numbers or an activated green light for night time use. I also suggest a nylon-based band or a NATO band to withstand the shock and awe of military life. Smartwatches need not apply unless they are of the Garmin variety. Those are the only ones I know that will last battery wise for more than a week.
Must Have Gear
The military is pretty good about getting you the gear you need for your mission set. However, there are some personal pieces of gear that are a must have. The gear listed above will make your life a lot less challenging and reduce some serious headaches as your time in the service moves on.