Army Navy Surplus Clothing – Lots of Crapola?

Here’s a post that might stir a little debate (or not). How many of you think the clothing sold at Army Navy surplus stores is overpriced junk? Before you jump down my SHTF throat for even suggesting such a thing, know that I don’t think everything at surplus stores is TEOTWAWKI crap – just some of it, and (depending on the store) sometimes all of it.

In many cases, the older U.S. military surplus clothing is . . kinda junky . . at least when compared to other products on the market. For examply, I really like the look of the M65 field jacket. It screams “wicked cool, ayuh”. But I only wear mine in the spring or fall, because it really doesn’t keep me warm. It’s poorly designed. The waist cinch is way too high and it doesn’t prevent cold air from getting underneath. The material does not fair well in wet weather, and wind cuts right through it. Cool looking? Yes. Practical? Not so much.

Superior in design are hiking and hunting apparel. Products in these areas are better designed for inclement weather and incorporate the latest technological clothing advances. They contain wind-block features, Gore-tex, high quality wool, etc. The science behind the products is simply more advanced. I’ve never understood why the military always seems behind the times in this area. I thought they were finally beginning to catch on when, after the war in Afghanistan began and troops were in cold mountain terrain, they made a mad run on fleece hats, scarfs, and such. Hello! About time! At the beginning it was troops making personal purchases for the clothes available on the civilian market. The military finally began to catch on. Now they have what they call “Generation III Extended Cold Weather System” clothing. They developed this simply by taking lessons from hikers and mountaineers. These guys and gals already had the system figured out.


Features of the new clothing line include:

• Two lightweight, long-sleeve undershirts with long-legged drawers that are constructed with silk–weight, moisture-wicking polyester. The fabric aids in the movement of moisture from the skin to the outer layers of clothing, whether the wearer is moving or stationary.

• A mid-weight outer shirt with drawers built of polyester, grid-patterned fleece. It provides light insulation for use in mild cold and serves as a layer for more frigid temperatures.

• A zippered fleece jacket, with a fabric mimicking animal fur, acts as the primary insulation layer that provides an increased warmth-to-weight ratio and reduced volume when packed.

• A lightweight, waterproof windbreaker, which acts as a low-volume shell layer for use in mild or transitional environments, such as desert days or evenings.

• A water-resistant, wind-proof soft-shell jacket with trousers that increase moisture vapor permeability. This set is lighter, less bulky and quieter when the wearer moves than its predecessors.

• A waterproof extreme cold and wet-weather jacket with trousers for use in prolonged or hard rain.

• A water-resistant and windproof extreme cold-weather parka with trousers to provide warmth, and low weight and volume.

Source of information and pic is here. This is precisely the type of clothing Ranger Man wears when he goes winter hiking, and it’s awesome! This “system” allows you to regulate your body temperature to prevent building up sweat inside your clothes, which is critical in cold weather environments.

– Ranger Man

9 comments… add one
  • oldman in the boonies March 8, 2008, 8:59 am

    There are no Army navy surplus stores anywhere around here in the boonies of the great white frozen north that I have seen for years. Majors and a couple of other internet stores seem to be it.

  • DAL357 March 8, 2008, 11:18 am

    Yep, the ol’ field jacket is, at best, a garment for moderately cold weather IF it has the optional liner in it. When I was in the army, I bought a liner because my field jacket just didn’t cut it in cold weather. Hey, how could it? It’s made out of cotton, and the old saying is that cotton kills, at least when depended upon for warmth.

    One other complaint about military apparal is those two-piece gloves they issue; they suck. They LOOK like they’d be warm, but they are too lightweight to really insulate the wearer against weather any more cold than the field jacket can.

  • Extremely Bespoke March 8, 2008, 12:16 pm

    First, army surplus stores aren’t what they used to be. Perhaps our armed services release less of it; perhaps faster product development cycles and just-in-time inventories have lowered the amount in the system. I don’t know.

    Second, the bleeding edge of clothing tech is absolutely the sporting markets. I have an O’Neil wetsuit, a hooded “5/4/3”. (That’s a 5mm breastplate, 4mm body, and 3mm arms.} The fit and finish is phenomenal — curved seams you wouldn’t believe — and it is warm enough for January surf on the Northeast coast.

    When you marry a few high-tech fabrics with anatomically-correct 3D designs/patterns you get great garments. I have a pricey Marmot soft shell that is literally called the “Super Hero Jacket”: It is built like that wetsuit, using at least three high-tech fabrics, it is lightweight, and it makes you feel superpowered when you don it!

    Too, I own and use all the GenII ECWCS (including the awesome Modular Sleep System) Generally, the current gear is very good, rugged, and versatile — it is not, however, as quiet, compact, or light as the best high-end outdoor gear of today. The proposed, new gear will be marginally better on these grounds.

    Remember, our armed services face a few challenges that niche sporting markets don’t: How do you reliably equip our warriors around the globe with as few, versatile garments as possible? What is the visible light, infrared, and thermal signature of the garments and associated web gear?! Pray we get this last one right …new camo patterns, anyone?

  • Harmony Hermit March 8, 2008, 12:42 pm

    Best clothes in my day were the OG uniforms they issued us in cold climates. Wore them under the field pants and fatigue shirt. . They were wool and kept you warm. The field jackets sucked then as they do now.

    Of course this was the era of starched fatigues, yech!

  • Iridium March 8, 2008, 2:13 pm

    I wish I could go winter hiking.. out here in the desert there is not much “Winter” heh.. we get cold and all and some snow but not enough to hike in.

    You are right about most of the stuff in Milsurp stores around here.. its either junk or made in china knockoffs overpriced and junky.

  • ryan March 8, 2008, 2:40 pm

    The new gear is a lot better then the old stuff thought i’ve never gotten cold in a field jacket.The fleece jacket is wicked warm, ditto for the polartech long undies we get now. Those tops crush up about half the size of a beer can and are super warm. The fleece watchcaps are a huge improvement over the old ones, warmer and a lot more compact.

    I do not get much at those stores. Got an extendable batton a long time ago and a few ammo cans last month. U can get along just fine with green, brown and khaki colored cotton and wool clothes for constant wear (with gunfights/ battle fire seems to appear all the time and u don’t wanna get shrink wrapped with sinthetics) and whatever for keeping warm in the off time.

    For folks w/o PX privledges and a closet full of gear just be sure to be a well informed consumer. Make sure that the stuff is in servicable condition and that the prices are better then mail order companies. Do the comparing first to avoid foolish impulse purchases. I got the ammo cans at a surplus store because the mail orders charged a pound of flesh for shipping them. Also I got to see the cans I was getting before the purchase.

  • KC March 8, 2008, 4:46 pm

    Ranger Man,

    While I agree that the recent introductions of the ECWSS Modular System is superior to the older gear, however the new gear has it’s litimations that must be addressed. Being a student of history and it’s related conflicts (especially guerrilla warfare) I’ve found that sythetic fabric use, especially in Northern Ireland can be fatal when used around a hostile fire environment. The point being, that when TSHF and around large numbers of violent human beings, despite the low temperatures, these violent actors will resort to using weapons of every description (I’m thinking flame weapons ala Molotov Cocktails) when the weapons are used in conjunction with the opponent wearing sythetic fabrics these flame weapons will in fact ‘stick’ to the wearer and cause fatal burns, that if the opponent was wearing natural fibers, the weapons could be overcome. Just ask the British Parachute Regiment why they were using cotton DPM uniforms instead more modern sythetic ones. Something to think about in any case.

  • March 8, 2008, 8:06 pm

    I agree about the waist cinch – why is it so high? In very cold weather I can feel the draft coming right up from my waist.

    I had an air force winter parker where I had to cut out the cinch and lower it – but the zipper still started too high on the coat and left too much of my torso exposed to the cold. Just very poorly designed.

    If they want to design real cold weather gear they should consult with real cold weather experienced people. It is obvious this did not happen or else these design flaws would have been obvious to those who wear this clothing in truely cold climates.

  • 3rd man April 14, 2008, 12:42 pm

    Love my Blackhawk gear. I have and urban assault vest, great piece of gear. Have alot of other gear to numerous to list. I bought most on ebay, save 50% off the new price.


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