Military Surplus vs. New Equipment

Discussion in 'Homesteading Questions' started by BCR, Jul 18, 2005.

  1. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    I am considering buying a new serious pack--but for short trip useage (no longer than 3-5 days). But I am torn between the hardy military surplus stuff that can be had for $60 at Cheaperthandirt.com and other such places, and the $90 and up stuff that are available from SierraTradingPost.com, etc. made of new colorful material that is supposedly light, strong and wonderful.

    What is with this ultralight fetish now? Is everyone wimping out? I have carried a weighed down Alice Pack in my younger years in the service, so know them well.

    What do you use or would you choose?
     
  2. WanderingOak

    WanderingOak Well-Known Member

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    As somebody who has used both military and civilian gear, I can tell you that the military gear might be more rugged, but it will weigh a ton (even empty)and not be designed for comfort.

    Civilian camping gear, on the other hand, is designed to be lightweight (some extreme hikers weigh their gear to a fraction of an ounce), and comfortable (imagine hiking from Georgia to Maine). Different brands of camping gear are sized for different people. For example, Kelty has been described as being 'sized for bears', so if you have a small frame, you probably don't want to buy that brand.

    What I would do is go to the nearest outfitter and find a pack there that fits you comfortably. Once you know what you want, then go ahead and order it online. Then again, if you establish a rapport with the outfitter, you might be able to find what you need on sale at the end of the season when the next year's line of gear comes out.
     

  3. Gary in ohio

    Gary in ohio Well-Known Member Supporter

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    MIlitary gear is designed for men in the early 20 who are in top notch shape and have no say so as to what gets put on there back.

    Military gear is HEAVY, The commerical backpacking packs are much better packs unless your going into a war zone.
     
  4. mikell

    mikell Well-Known Member

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    For hunting where I might pack 80 lbs of meat out I use and military pack for hitting the woods for travel and comfort is ?????? forgot what brand but bigger and lighter.


    mikell
     
  5. doc623

    doc623 Well-Known Member

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    Having used both in and out of the service;I still like a medium alice pack with frame and since you are very familiar with this and are not going to lot.
     
  6. BCR

    BCR Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the advice. I think I'll take WanderingOak's advice to at least check them outin person. I am often intimidated by the gearheads at the outdoor stores, but I will tough it out!

    Thanks.
     
  7. Ed in S. AL

    Ed in S. AL Well-Known Member

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    If you are looking for a pack like an Alice pack. Then check out ebay. I got a large alice pack for $16, and that included the shipping. It was in perfect shape.
     
  8. Jenn

    Jenn Well-Known Member Supporter

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    If a store nearby helps you out- to decide the Northwoods whatever daytripper backpack is just what you want, but then you buy it on line for $20 or $80 less, you are cheating the store whose time you wasted shopping around with no intent to buy unless it was cheaper'n dirt for some reason. At least shop online first and then try it on before checking the price, then you can tell them you'd buy it but for the cost? Or be able to know right off without a second trip into the store if soemthing is as cheap as internet + postage?
     
  9. copperhead51

    copperhead51 Well-Known Member

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    If you look.... Cheaper than Dirt; Sportsmansguide; etc.... you can get the Swiss military waterproof packs for $6-$9. I have several.
     
  10. Jen H

    Jen H Well-Known Member

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    Personally, I'm happy the ultra light stuff is coming out. As someone who likes to solo for upwards of a week, my knees can only take so much weight before plain old giving out on me.

    I'm not ultra light by any means, but you can bet that when something needs to be replaced I'm going for the lightest version I can find that will still do the job (I LOVE my 4.5 oz isobutane stove!).
     
  11. almostthere

    almostthere Well-Known Member

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    Don't forget those bright colors can be seen from a great distance if you end up in a position where you need help, or can usually be seen in the dark so you won't trip over them.
     
  12. oz in SC

    oz in SC Well-Known Member

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    There is a world(LOL) of military surplus out there....some MUCH better than others.


    I have a pack from South Africa that is quite good-no metal frame and quite large also in a 'non-military' color-a tannish color called nutria brown.

    Same thing with boots-there are some great boots available mil-surp...
     
  13. Quint

    Quint Well-Known Member

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    Difficult question. I've used lots of military gear when I started out backpacking, hunting and camping simply because it was cheaper. Once I got to be a teenager and had a bit more money I started buying the fancy backpacker stuff. Some of that fancy stuff was certifiable junk. (I'm looking you North Face) I can't tell you how many times I came home with something broken or wrecked after one outing. Some stuff was superior to the military surplus stuff however. I found military sleeping bags, even the latest issue ones, to be really lacking. I think the commercial gear has a much better handle on sleeping bags. I bought a fancy pack from the campmor catalog that busted seams and bent the frame after one minor little drop. I probably had 100 yards of fishing line holding that overpriced granola hauler together by the time I got it home. It might have been fine if you gently hoisted it on your back and walked around the mall and then gently put it back in the trunk of your car and drove it back home but it didn't cut it for me. I paid over 100 bucks for that piece of junk. I can't even begin to tell you how many tents I have gone through.

    I've got a set of ALICE gear I have used for years and years and it has proven to be incredibly durable but it had some drawbacks too. I have the "fighting load" and the "existence load". I found myself using the "fighting load" with the belt, suspenders and assorted pouches, canteens and bags all the time. When used with one of the nice and roomy butt packs I found it more than adequate for quick overnighters or two or three days of hunting. The "existence load" which included the pack frame and packs I found to be uncomfortable for me. Being a big and tall guy with very wide shoulders I just could never get it to fit right. I altered a couple of the medium ALICE packs and got them to work pretty well but it was a lot of trial and error. I've done that with a lot of gear. All of the ALICE stuff was incredibly durable and took whatever I threw at it.

    I would try the cheap mil-surplus stuff from CTD and Sportsman's Guide and also check out Brigade Quartermaster and US Cavalry though they tend to be a bit higher. If that doesn't meet your needs then give the fancy backpacking gear a try. I tried on a Kelty internal frame pack a year or so ago and it was the most comfortable and well balanced pack I have ever put on. I don't know how well it would hold up but man it felt like I could have carried 150 pounds of granite around in it all day in with total comfort.

    BTW Some my friends in the military who are using the newer MOLLE gear in Afghanistan and Iraq say the stuff is certifiable junk. It sucks. Hard. When some of my Marine friends were back they liberated a bunch of my ALICE gear (and other assorted gear) to take back with them.
     
  14. j.r. guerra in s. tx.

    j.r. guerra in s. tx. Well-Known Member

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    If you are talking about light loads of equal and less than 25 pounds, then one of those $10 and up surplus Swiss Rucksacks (NOT daypack - these are okay for day hikes though) sold at Cheaper Than Dirt / The Sportsmans's Guide for me is a good investment.

    Heavy grade canvas, leather bottom and metal frame. Weighs about 8 pounds empty. But it is extremely tough, and shows absolutely zero wear - none. Thats saying something, because our terrain down here is very hard on fabrics - lots of thorny growth that reaches out and grabs. I expect this pack to last long enough to hand down to grand children - that Swiss stuff is great, imo.

    Again, we are talking light loads, these rucksacks are a bargain.

    Hope you find your perfect pack.
     
  15. Cygnet

    Cygnet Well-Known Member Supporter

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    I've done a LOT of backpacking through very rough country.

    If you're hiking down a groomed trail in summer with no more than a few hours between water, and with food available at the campsite (i.e., something like the grand canyon's more civilized trails) the ultralight, ultraexpensive packs will work.

    If you're bushwacking over mountains, dragging your pack up a cliff behind you on a rope, hauling 40lbs of food and 40 lbs of water because you're going out for two weeks with days between springs, and swimming through plunge pools and it's hailing inches of hail and you're covered in mud ... all on the same trip ... likely the ultralight stuff won't work for you. (Though some people will disagree.)

    Quite frankly, I'm fond of the older 1980's "hip hugger" external frame packs, with aluminum frames and sturdy nylon bags with multiple compartments and D's to to lash things on the top and bottom of the bag. I've hauled 70 pounds in one of those on one trip, and while my arches killed me, my back survived, and so did the pack -- I paid $7 for it in 1988 or 1989 at a yard sale and I still use it. It weighs 7 lbs empty and has survived all of the above pack-damaging adventures without anything other than a patched holes chewed by mice. I see these old packs fairly frequently at thrift stores and yard sales -- we outfitted an entire scout troop with backpacks by yardsaling when I was a teenager,.

    However, I'm now going to goats. :) I'll let the goats carry the 70 pounds and just carry a sleeping bag and a bivvy sack and a water bottle on my back in a day pack in case I lose my pack string somehow.

    A note on color: "day glo" orange DOES NOT show up very well in desert areas.

    Leva
     
  16. Dave

    Dave Well-Known Member

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    I mostly use an external frame REI pack like what Cygnet described. It's held up extremely well. But if you're doing lots of climbing, external frames don't cut it.

    I have and use all kinds of mil-surplus but a pack isn't one of them.