Survival Clothing

by Evan on May 17, 2010

Heya Preppers,

One thing people sometimes forget about is the need for proper clothing for survival situations. Further complicating the issue is the convenience of heated vehicles and homes, rendering clothing capable of sustaining our temperatures for more than the trip from the toasty house to the toasty car unnecessary. People tend to think as they always have, tending to be resistant to changing mental gears, until it’s too late. Don’t be one of those people. The fact that you are reading this tends to indicate that you are not only capable of responding to changing situations, but also capable of forecasting potential difficulties in the future and preparing for them.

I try to dress for the weather conditions outside, keeping in mind that heated vehicles get stuck, break down, and have accidents and I might be out in the cold for a while while I deal with the situation. It’s a good practice to keep in, and if there is a problem, you needn’t work to hard to shift mental gears to be comfortable. It’s easy enough to turn the heat DOWN in a car that does run, but turning the heat UP in a car that doesn’t…..well now, THAT I would like to see.

One thing I try to do is use the same clothing I’d wear in a survival situation in my everyday life. Two reasons for this are to keep familiar with the placement of pockets, usage, characteristics, and to make sure they are comfortable for everyday sustained use. Another reason is strictly budgetary. If you buy one set of clothing for your bug out bag and another for your everyday use, you have spent twice as much money on clothing as necessary. As things wear out, you can buy more or rotate new out of your bug out bag into usage. Paying a bit more for something that lasts twice as long isn’t really spendy, it’s thrifty.

I prefer long wearing, eminently practical clothing as a rule and got a taste of some of the most durable clothing made while I was in the US Army. I had t-shirts that lasted my entire enlistment, and though my BDU’s didn’t long outlast my enlistment, they were getting more than the usual workout crawling around on tanks and whatnot, so I wasn’t expecting too much of them. The wool socks last a very long time, and are still warm even when wet, furthermore they are easily repaired when they do start to fail.

For slacks I wear 5-11 tactical gear from LA Police Gear, which are basically improved BDU style pants, cargo pocketed, with additions like Velcro, cell phone pockets, and some other features that make them desirable. They far outlast normal denim jeans and other types of slacks. The polyester blend ones tend to be the most durable and longest lasting, in addition to being cooler than the more cotton heavy blends. I wear them in basic black…sans pearls. (Yes I stole that line from Richard Marcinko’s novels). Camouflage clothing tends to bring out the reactionary in people, especially in the current militia wary environment. Black looks more civilian than ACU and dressier than the other colors. I’ve never been under-dressed using those slacks with a shirt that’s appropriate to the environment. I also keep a set of BDU’s in ACU for situations where camouflage is necessary. I will expand on the number of sets as finances allow. A good boonie hat will keep the sun off your face and shade your eyes far longer than sunscreen, which may become unavailable at some point.

I tend to wear t-shirts year around, with a long sleeved shirt only when a sweatshirt over the T would be too warm. Layers are a big key, using the same items for many types of situations means less need for redundant clothing. Less clothing in your bug-out pack with more versatility is a good thing. Having thermals is a nice thing, but sweat pants and long sleeved t-shirts can do the same jobs and more. I use sweat pants in place of thermal pants and wear my loose fitting 5-11 tacticals over those for more warmth and I still have all my same pockets etc available. A sweatshirt or sweater over a long sleeved T can be warmer than a t-shirt and a jacket, and helps you keep warm in more situations. If you get too hot, you can take off the T, the sweater, or your jacket or any combination thereof for more versatility.

In extreme winter weather I layer up even further by adding a USGI insulated winter coverall on top of all that, with my parka and parka liner on top of that. I purchased that from Ebay for a mere twenty dollars. (one of those deals you have to jump on fast to get in on) If camouflage is a necessity, I can use my ACU pants over the coverall instead of the black tacticals under. My parka is also ACU and came from A parka is a good thing, but without a liner is not terribly warm. I would shy away from simple field jackets and tend toward the parkas with liners. Parkas cover your body lower down than a simple field jacket, going down to the knees or thereabouts. They usually have a drawstring waist to prevent cold air coming up from below. A hood is also essential, keeping you MUCH warmer than the same coat with the hood down or detached. When I am equipped as outlined in this paragraph I can spend hours at the shooting range, sitting still most of the time at a shooting bench, without getting cold. In addition to the aforementioned layers I use the USGI Mickey boots to top it off. These boots are rated to -20 degrees, whatever that means. All I can say is I can stand in a puddle full of ice or slush and not get cold feet for as long as I’d care to with them on. They look HUGE on your feet, and aren’t very stylish….but they are WARM. Sportsmansguide currently has them for around 40 dollars, which is a steal. In training they told us not to wear them above freezing temperatures as they were thought to cause your feet to sweat at warmer temperatures, but due to a little mishap jumping down from the tank one day I broke a water insole in my combat boot and had to wear these, my only other boots downrange, till my boots dried out. I had no discomfort whatsoever in 40-60 degree temperatures, though they were a bit more unwieldy than my usual combat boots. I use thinsulate gloves when temperatures are below freezing, and isotoners when they will do the job, keeping both in the voluminous pockets of my parka for easy access to whichever is needed.

Military surplus items are some of the best built and most desirable items to use, and are exceedingly inexpensive if you buy items that are previous generation. I was able to find a large alice pack for my bug out bag online in ACU, mil spec with a new paint job basically, for forty dollars. A MOLLE II pack would have cost me near a hundred and been smaller besides. I found a USGI sleeping pad for eight dollars on Ebay. Many items can be had for next to nothing if you look around and find the best price. One reason I feel confident purchasing mil spec items for such low prices is that I know from personal experience how effective they are and the quality they represent. Sometimes a price that’s “too good to be true” really isn’t. I can believe that the US Government seeing some of the prices I’ve paid for some of it’s best hardware, and knowing what they paid for the same items new, is having fits.

I recently placed an order with Sportsmansguide for mil spec sand colored T’s and OD green long sleeved East German shirts for ridiculously low prices. You have to catch these items when they are in stock, but I got the T’s for twenty four dollars for twelve T’s and the long sleeved shirts for fourteen dollars for ten of them. I have to admit, I’ve been ordering a lot of items from them lately so I finally caved and got a membership. I know I will be buying more from them as stuff I can’t pass up on comes in. I missed out on some spectacular boots recently. I bought size 9’s of the Austrian ranger boots and they were too tight. Unfortunately by the time I sent them back and requested 10’s they were out of them. This brings me to the most important of all items you can have in your kit. BOOTS. Good boots last years and having two pairs that are broken in and ready for use is essential. (You too could have a mishap and wind up with soggy boots) You may have to walk miles, even hundreds of miles in a survival situation. Boots can’t be easily replaced without our current infrastructure being intact. If things go south you aren’t going to be able to replace your worn out boots with new ones for some time, so you’d better have enough to last you a while to give things time to settle down and sort themselves out. I normally wear GBX boots, which are very long wearing boots, but a tad low (ankle height) for true rough terrain hiking. Dr Scholls work gel insoles go a long way toward making boots more liveable long term..

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