Useful Kit

Snows

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Occurred to me as part of the Fieldcraft thread. I'm not aiming for a gucci kit thread - but there is a whole load of small, often cheap and unsexy items or issued kit replacements which make life in the field better. The purpose is to share info about which of those work best, or where to obtain them. I've started off with some examples below. Frankly, this can be useful to serving guys too (particularly 4 PARA who don't live in the same block) - there are always new bits of kit that come on the market, and preferable to have it referred by others who have tried it in the field.

NOTE: This is not a "buy this before going to regular depot" list. In fact, let me explicitly say do not buy this stuff before going to regular depot. Training establishments often enforce using issued kit only, particularly at the start. Wait to get the gen from your DS about what, when or whether they will allow you to use non-issued kit.

Please feel free for anyone, particularly serving guys, to add suggestions. If you can do it in the following format, that would be ideal:

WHAT - What it is for, replacing, etc.
WHY - Good specific product, does something different, good value, hard wearing.
WHERE - Where you can get it from.
 

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German Army sleeping mat
https://ukmcpro.co.uk/products/german-bw-military-field-mattress

WHAT - Replaces standard roll mat.
WHY - Folds like a sniper mat, but better - fits perfectly under the top lid of a bergan, which is a massive space saver in exactly the right place.
WHERE - Link above although sold out - if you search for the term in the title, it gets sold in a lot of places. You want the German Army issued one as they are super cheap and the best design.
 

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Stride Out foot oil
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Stride-Out-Foot-Oil/dp/B00J5IQD8Q/

WHAT - Substitute for foot powder.
WHY - Got put onto this for the jungle - basically it takes the opposite approach to drying your feet out, which is to enhance the natural protection of oils in the skin. Worked great to prevent foot rot in wet conditions in both hot and cold climates.
WHERE - Has been on Amazon for years, although increasingly buried in search results as aromatherapy bollocks sells more, I guess. Link above.
 

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Climb On hand moisturizing bar

WHAT
- Hand moisturizer, prevents skin cracking and getting infected.
WHY - Prevents skin cracking and infections; it's designed for climbers so pretty hardcore (their hands get screwed up and very dry from the chalk); it comes in bar form in a small tin, so it's easy access but won't burst and leak in your kit.
WHERE - It's all over the place on the internet, but there are lots of different versions. Go for the hard bar style not the cream, for field use. Also, obviously, climbing gyms.
 

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Hennessy Hammock
https://hennessyhammock.com/

WHAT
- Hammock - military use primarily for jungle or mobility ops
WHY - Bit more advanced this one. It basically combines a hammock, bivvy and basha in one; mine hasn't broken in 8 years; it is very fast to put up and take down; and packs up into a small roll automatically (you need to get the Snakeskins addition for this). If you either need a hammock for the jungle, or I've also seen it used for mobility leaguers (string it between the rollbars), you aren't going to do much better than this. I've also used it abroad anywhere I was living from an offroad vehicle: you can almost always find a tree or similar for the other anchor of the hammock. Super comfortable sleep, and getting yourself off the ground is a major bonus in some environments (no insects, rocks, snakes, etc).
WHERE - Direct from their site - this is one where the design is specific to Hennessy, and their prices are pretty reasonable for what it is.
 

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Lifesaver bottle

WHAT
- Water purifier & water bottle
WHY - Used to be issued section kit in Afghanistan. A bit heavy, but bombproof (dropped it 50m onto rock, only superficial damage) also carries 800ml of water when full. More importantly, you'll always have safe water if there is a non-seawater source. Puritabs provided in ration packs do this, and are very small and light, BUT (and I've been on an op where we ran out of supplied water), the process is not that simple. To do the same as a lifesaver, you have to strain, boil and puritab. Very time consuming, cannot be done on patrol, and we ran out of puritabs (6 per ratpack = 6L per day, not quite enough for desert). Lifesavers much, much quicker, and do more liters. But you need more than one per section, possibly one per man / two men. Still part of my daysack kit wherever I go, importance of clean water can't be overstated.
WHERE - Lots of places, site here: https://iconlifesaver.com/product/lifesaver-bottle-4000uf/
 

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Exped Drybags

WHAT
- Drybags, to organise your bergan and kept your kit dry
WHY - You'll need drybags for your kit pretty much from day one, as well as a canoe bag (big hardwearing one) as bergan liner. A lot of guys go for black or olive drybags. Result: they all look the same at night, you need a headtorch on, you label them in sniper tape, which comes off. These never leave your bergan while tactical, so they don't need to be cammed. The bright colours and varying size allow you to distinguish which one is which in the dark. e.g. mine were always Blue: spare clothes. Red: wet/used kit. Yellow: fresh socks/underwear. No light, more tactical, good drills. They are also decent value and lightweight, although (fair warning) they are not always totally waterproof if fully submerged. But for your bergan bags, that's rarely an issue as they are already in the canoe bag. Best all round compromise of weight, size, durability, waterproofing. Don't go for ultralight - they are crap, leak and there isn't enough weight difference.
WHERE - Amazon for the Exped brand. Others are a lot of heavy duty (like canoe bags) versions, which are good but too heavy, and super cheap Chinese copies, which I would avoid. Also avoid the cam pattern 'tactical' stuff, that's clickbait for cadets.
 

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Fishing reel

WHAT
- Basic reel wheel from a fishing rod. Used to deploy / rewind comms cord in harbour areas. Add tiny lightweight carabiner to the end of the line. You want about 20m of line.
WHY - Will save you lots of time and frustration trying to wind string around a stick. Simply clip carabiner onto something (or wind cord around anchor and clip carabiner onto cord, then reel out the wire. When taking down, reverse. Example included is just for the picture, find a cheap lightweight version with a reel knob, with 20m of fishing line, then cut off the groove where it attaches to a fishing pole.
WHERE - Link is for one on Amazon, but search around.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Weiyiroty-Fishing-Wheels-Changed-Accessory/dp/B08M5J7KXF/
 

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Auto-retract cord

WHAT
- Way to tie kit (flashlight, notebook, etc) to you without it getting tangled.
WHY - You are going to be taught to tie off every item in your combat jacket pockets to prevent losing it. The problem is that all the string gets knotted up, falls outside the pocket in the dark, you can't get out individual items, it gets snagged. Using a retractable cord wheel prevents that. BUT. There are downsides. It's light, but much heavier than string. There is always tension on the cord (annoying for, eg, a pen). It's worth having a few of these, but you only need one per pocket at most, and only for particular items you get out regularly (I used one on my pinhole torch, for example). Far from a necessity, but can be situationally useful.
WHERE - Again example only from Amazon so you can see what I'm talking about. You can usually get 3 for under £10, lots of different makes. Ensure you get one with long enough cord.
https://www.amazon.co.uk/Booms-Fishing-RG1-Zinger-Retractor/dp/B07CGC2H1X/
 

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Woobie

WHAT
- Lightweight warm-when-wet blanket
WHY - There isn't a UK equivalent that I'm aware of. The woobie is a US issued poncho liner / blanket, and it's a great bit of kit. Lightweight, warm when wet, and has about a hundred uses (pillow, warm kit, ground insulator, wall / top cover insulator, etc). A versatile replacement for heavier and bulkier warm kit or sleeping bags in non-freezing environments (desert, jungle, Africa), which weighs much less and can be used for more. It packs down quite small, about the space of a gortex jacket, but is not super compressible like down jackets. Worth considering for patrols type roles, or environments above freezing. Not a replacement if it gets really cold. If you find options, get the largest size and tailor zips on the sides to create a lightweight sleeping bag.
WHERE - More difficult, I got mine from a US marine. There are a lot of listings on ebay, etc, but be aware (if you've never imported something from the US) that US imported items often have huge import cost markups of ~£100 or more. Only worth getting the US issued version, there are lots of copies which are probably not as good, so make sure you do a bit of research and check that it's genuine if buying online.
 
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