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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
I've been kicking around the idea of trying to migrate away from Surplus equipment for weight reduction reasons. I've been haunting a couple of big box type outdoor stores and sheesh the modern equipment is a lot lighter. This isn't an easy concept for me to wrap my head around being a career military kind of guy and appreciating having to place the ultimate trust in your gear.

Aside from weight, the idea of blending in comes to mind. I do live in the burbs, but I am on the very edge of them and rural land is all around me. I can start walking in one of several general directions and know the largest communities I will encounter for days on end, if I have to go through them, is a couple thousand people. Sporting a totally surplus kit seems to communicate something other than, "I grabbed my camping gear and hauled ass". Weight is also a concern for my wife and adult daughter, who will be concentrating on an 18 month old while me and the two strapping 20 something guys are scouting and looking out for the group.

Of course, anyone beyond a casual observer will likely recognize the small unit tactics rather than 5 people and a baby just rambling through the surroundings. Ideally, we won't be on foot, but.... ya never know.

How many of you, like me, have full confidence in their surplus gear and how many tend to go with a more modern civilian approach, even if it is along the tacticool persuasion? Also, what are some of the non surplus brands you trust?

I'll also admit the older I get the less comfy that damned Alice Pack gets:lol:
 

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I never buy surplus stuff, mainly for the weight concerns. I've done a lot of hiking and I know some people who have done extensive long trips. When you're out for weeks or even months at a time you have to trust your gear. That being said, I really like Patagonia clothing, it's super light and warm. Columbia and Marmot are good too and if you don't mind spending an arm and a leg (and want something that I think is worth it) check out Outdoor Research, the stuff is super light but rather expensive. On the other hand, you get what you pay for.
 

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I remember reading about our special forces buying camping gear for use in Afganistan because of the weight reduction. Many soldiers buy camelback gear and camelback donated a lot of gear at the beginning of the war.
 

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Discussion Starter · #4 ·
Ya, in my previous life we at times worked with some of lowest drag high speed dudes on the planet, and NONE of their gear was issue. It didn't have anything to do with weight considerations or longevity as much as it did that it was up to the task for an intended period of time and it WAS NOT manufactured in the US.
 

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I use my motorhome a lot, and I see way too many tents in the trash pile, because they couldn't cut it in the real world. I find it hard to believe they would cut in a SHTF event. Everything else I can think of would probably be ok.
 

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I gotta agree that I tend to stay away from the surplus stuff. Especially working for the government it is the common joke about the, "Lowest bidder."
Please elaborate. (I am not trying to start an argument. I am honestly interested to hear your reasons as they may dictate a change to how I have been doing some of my preps.) I have been buying a lot of "overruns" for military items. Not so much camping and hiking stuff, but stuff like .50 cal ammo cans and paracord. If there are better options, please let me know.

Funny story, for the last several years I have been buying 550 and 750 "mil-spec" paracord on Amazon. I have probably a couple thousand yards of each. (I got a thing for ropes of all kinds.) About six months ago, I was reading on some blog site that the paracord they sell on Amazon is not true "mil-spec" because the 550 only has 7 strands inside the casing, while the true "mil-spec" has 8 - the 8th being a color coded strand to note the manufacturer. I got all paranoid thinking that I had a bunch of substandard paracord. So I found a place that does sell the 8 strand version (and the 12 strand version of the 750) but it is about twice as expensive. (I did pick up 500 feet each of the "true" mil-spec stuff just to hedge my bets, but I have since decided that I am "paracord rich" and what I have should be fine.) :p

Note: I am kind of funny about my preps. I do not worry so much about quantity as I do about quality. If this is the last [insert widget here] that I am ever going to be able to buy, I want it to last. And being a classic Minnesota red-neck weight equals quality right? <sarcasm>
 

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Please elaborate. (I am not trying to start an argument. I am honestly interested to hear your reasons as they may dictate a change to how I have been doing some of my preps.) I have been buying a lot of "overruns" for military items. Not so much camping and hiking stuff, but stuff like .50 cal ammo cans and paracord. If there are better options, please let me know.

Funny story, for the last several years I have been buying 550 and 750 "mil-spec" paracord on Amazon. I have probably a couple thousand yards of each. (I got a thing for ropes of all kinds.) About six months ago, I was reading on some blog site that the paracord they sell on Amazon is not true "mil-spec" because the 550 only has 7 strands inside the casing, while the true "mil-spec" has 8 - the 8th being a color coded strand to note the manufacturer. I got all paranoid thinking that I had a bunch of substandard paracord. So I found a place that does sell the 8 strand version (and the 12 strand version of the 750) but it is about twice as expensive. (I did pick up 500 feet each of the "true" mil-spec stuff just to hedge my bets, but I have since decided that I am "paracord rich" and what I have should be fine.) :p

Note: I am kind of funny about my preps. I do not worry so much about quantity as I do about quality. If this is the last [insert widget here] that I am ever going to be able to buy, I want it to last. And being a classic Minnesota red-neck weight equals quality right? <sarcasm>
Basically the government goes for the lowest bidder and the winning bidder cuts corners to make as much on the contract as possible. Many items that I have been issued in the government have been sub par in quality and the attitude is, "just go grab another one when it breaks." Look into the story of the M-16 and the problems they had with it in the jungles of Vietnam. My own experience is with the issued weapons I have had in federal service. The Beretta 96D is a perfect example. The issued weapon did not have the fit and finish of the civilian copy, "The Border Marshall" and and was a .40 caliber built on the 9mm Beretta 92 frame. Beretta did not have a .40 caliber to enter into the bid so they built a .40 around the Beretta 92 frame. In the time I was carrying the 96D as my issued sidearm, I went through three of them. THey would develop stress cracks from the force created by the 155 grain federal ammo we were using and would come apart. They were rough with tooling marks still visible and would rust almost immediately, no matter how much gun oil was used. The springs were sub par and could not be trusted. It is the same story with every firearm I have been issued, lowest bidder and cut corners to save a buck.
 

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Now I am not a big fan of Army surplus but they don't just go for the lowest bidder. Almost everything the army buys has to meat their specifications. The problem with the M-16 in Vietnam was government changed the ammo's original specifications, and didn't chrome Line the barrel. Whoever makes the M-16 for the military it will have to be made to their specs and parts will interchange with any other M-16 and will be made of identical steel and heat treatment.
 

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Now I am not a big fan of Army surplus but they don't just go for the lowest bidder. Almost everything the army buys has to meat their specifications. The problem with the M-16 in Vietnam was government changed the ammo's original specifications, and didn't chrome Line the barrel. Whoever makes the M-16 for the military it will have to be made to their specs and parts will interchange with any other M-16 and will be made of identical steel and heat treatment.
That was only part of the problem with the M16. As for meeting the specs, those can be manipulated by both parties.
 

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Basically the government goes for the lowest bidder and the winning bidder cuts corners to make as much on the contract as possible. Many items that I have been issued in the government have been sub par in quality and the attitude is, "just go grab another one when it breaks." Look into the story of the M-16 and the problems they had with it in the jungles of Vietnam. My own experience is with the issued weapons I have had in federal service. The Beretta 96D is a perfect example. The issued weapon did not have the fit and finish of the civilian copy, "The Border Marshall" and and was a .40 caliber built on the 9mm Beretta 92 frame. Beretta did not have a .40 caliber to enter into the bid so they built a .40 around the Beretta 92 frame. In the time I was carrying the 96D as my issued sidearm, I went through three of them. THey would develop stress cracks from the force created by the 155 grain federal ammo we were using and would come apart. They were rough with tooling marks still visible and would rust almost immediately, no matter how much gun oil was used. The springs were sub par and could not be trusted. It is the same story with every firearm I have been issued, lowest bidder and cut corners to save a buck.
Do you think that is true with things outside of weapons? My question is, most weapons are designed specifically for the military, then later adapted for civilian market. Even the simplest handgun is still a very precise instrument. So, I expect there to be some bugs to work out in version 1.0 of any gun. Since the government are the ones financing most of the 1.0 versions of guns, it makes sense there would be some technical issues that might not show for a year or better into their use. But do you think that same thing applies when they are buying things like wool hiking socks and backpacks?

The reason I ask is because a couple years ago my wife and I were looking to get two small daypack sized backpacks that we could use for first aid kits/12 hour survival packs for our trucks. We ended up at Gander Mountain and found packs that suited our purpose for around $80 each, but then spent the next hour sifting through the shelves looking for ones that did not have defects in the stitching etc. The one thing I assume (as a civilian) is that the government insists on uniformity so we would not have that issue had we gone to the surplus store. Please advise.

I guess in the end, it all just boils down to "buyer beware" regardless of why the product was manufactured.
 
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Do you think that is true with things outside of weapons? My question is, most weapons are designed specifically for the military, then later adapted for civilian market. Even the simplest handgun is still a very precise instrument. So, I expect there to be some bugs to work out in version 1.0 of any gun. Since the government are the ones financing most of the 1.0 versions of guns, it makes sense there would be some technical issues that might not show for a year or better into their use. But do you think that same thing applies when they are buying things like wool hiking socks and backpacks?

The reason I ask is because a couple years ago my wife and I were looking to get two small daypack sized backpacks that we could use for first aid kits/12 hour survival packs for our trucks. We ended up at Gander Mountain and found packs that suited our purpose for around $80 each, but then spent the next hour sifting through the shelves looking for ones that did not have defects in the stitching etc. The one thing I assume (as a civilian) is that the government insists on uniformity so we would not have that issue had we gone to the surplus store. Please advise.

I guess in the end, it all just boils down to "buyer beware" regardless of why the product was manufactured.
I do believe it is outside of weapons as well and I used the weapons as an example, it maybe because of the sheer number of items that are purchased by the government as well. Something I noticed when I was a vehicle control officer that vehicles purchased by the government would have sequential serial numbers and like clockwork almost to the mile, they would have the same problems. If the bearings went out in one at 20,000 miles, the others would soon follow. The other problems is who is manufacturing the products, for example my body armor was made by prisoners in federal prison. Kinda gives you the warm fuzzies ;)
 

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I do believe it is outside of weapons as well and I used the weapons as an example, it maybe because of the sheer number of items that are purchased by the government as well. Something I noticed when I was a vehicle control officer that vehicles purchased by the government would have sequential serial numbers and like clockwork almost to the mile, they would have the same problems. If the bearings went out in one at 20,000 miles, the others would soon follow. The other problems is who is manufacturing the products, for example my body armor was made by prisoners in federal prison. Kinda gives you the warm fuzzies ;)
Fair enough and thanks for the good info. It will be put to good use.
 
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I tend to stay away from military surplus items, with the only exception being the purchase of M1 Garands.

If you look back at what was supplied as "Government Issue" a lot of it was designed to be disposable - to be left on the battlefield. M16 mags are an example; canvas web gear is another. You can compare a lot of what was issued to what is available commercially and see a quality difference immediately. An example is the Vietnam era combat boots - originally these were the standard leather boots issued in WWII and Korea - in Vietnam, these boots were substandard because when they got wet, they stayed wet, and soldiers ended up with al kinds of foot maladies. So the boots were eventually switched over to ballistic nylon and leather reinforcements to improve drying time and reduce wet weight.

When it comes to personal equipment, modern backpack design is a huge improvement over G.I. back packs. I prefer Blackhawk gear or 5.11 Tactical gear over anything I have seen that is standard issue. I shop where a lot of our troops shop, and where a lot of law enforcement folks shop, and they universally say they wish they could get better equipment - the troops are often "stuck" with what they are "authorized" to use (I assume this is because of wanting to maintain unit cohesion) and law enforcement departments lack the budgets to obtain commercial gear that is higher quality (although they can spend their own money if they can afford to). It is a shame things are this way; but it is the way things operate when taxpayer money is involved.

For back packs, pouches, bags, gloves, boots, and edged weapons, I think Blackhawk and 5.11 Tactical offer some of the best gear available within a reasonable price point, and their gear is still pretty expensive. You can buy on sale and on clearance to save some money. In my experience, though, the extra money spent is well worth the advantage having higher quality gear provides - it will last longer, fit better, withstand wear and tear more durably, and will last for years if you take care of it. Buying gear is like buying tools - you can get the cheap stuff and end up breaking it and then buying what you should have bought to begin with, or you can just pony up the money the first time and have stuff worth owning and keeping.

To me, if I am in a situation where the outcome depends on my gear, I want the best I can afford. Your life may depend on it, and the lives of others may as well. So buy the best you can.
 

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Military suplus has it's place, for the preper on a budget (Most of us are) its a great thing to have. The whole lowest bidder thing from the government is a load of crap. I have sold to the Governement for YEARS in my work. They have specs that have to be met, and the quality has to be there that they request. Ya alot of it is designed for use and forget but Alot of it is just plan and simple designed to last forever. Ya it's a little heaver than your consumer level stuff but most of that is not just going to last as long as most Military surplus is. The average Joe cannot afford to go spend 400 or 500 dollars on a bag when they can get the same qualiaty gear for 1/4 of the price and its 2 pounds heaver. Just my little rant and 2 cents.
 

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I mix n match with the surplus gear...People wearing surplus clothing and such is fairly common in my area so it probably wouldn't raise an eyebrow. I believe there are other factors that will get you noticed quicker than they type of pack you happen to be carrying. Like the fact you are carrying a pack...especially if nobody else is...

What you are doing and when you do it....will get you noticed quicker than what you are wearing or carrying.
 

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Discussion Starter · #19 ·
So it looks like I'll probably replace our BOB's one at a time along with sleeping bags. Other than that I think I'll stick to a hybrid mix of surplus/commercial gear. The various pouches and bags that are available in Surplus are useful, and things like mess kits and canteens are a push in my opinion. It's not an inexpensive endeavor to replace backpacks and sleep systems, but at least with some creative thought some of the old BOB gear can replace some of the GHB stuff, and maybe get used for day hikes as well.

It was time for a new tent anyway. Whoop
 

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Just because it works for the Army don't make it right for everyone. A lot of current Army gear is a lot different than the surplus stuff. The new sleep system is outstanding.
 
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