Gear Guy

What Outdoor Gear Can I Find at the Army Surplus Store?

Outfit your base camp—for less than $160

Since outdoor brands like Gore-Tex and Polartec supply garments to soldiers, military surplus stores carry high-quality outdoor gear. (Photo: Joe Jackson )
Since outdoor brands like Gore-Tex and Polartec supply garments to soldiers, military surplus stores carry high-quality outdoor gear.

Army surplus stores have always been a good place to find camp basics like first-aid kits and water bottles. More recently, they’ve also become a great place to buy steeply discounted gear from Gore-Tex and Polartec, both of which supply apparel to troops. I recently visited my local surplus store and came away with these top eight finds. 

G.I. Silkweight Pants ($10)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

This long underwear is built from Polartec Power Dry—my favorite next-to-skin fabric, thanks to its gossamer weight and moisture-wicking abilities. Several mainstream outdoor brands use the exact same material in their baselayers, but those products cost five times as much. 

Army Combat Temperate Weather Boot ($100)

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

Sure, it's the most expensive item on the list, but that’s because this boot is built to take a beating, with a waterproof Gore-Tex liner and burly Vibram rubber soles. Comparable outdoor boots usually cost twice as much. 

Parachute Cord $5

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

P-cord is good for everything from fixing tents to hanging your food from a tree. And five dollars for 100 feet of 550-pound P-cord is a pretty good deal. Bonus: the massive color selection. 

Ammo Can $11

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

Every serious whitewater rafter (or road tripper) owns at least one ammo can. These rigid, waterproof containers will keep your valuables and first-aid kit dry and safe while paddling—even if everything else goes in the drink.

Vinyl Poncho $4

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

Vinyl ponchos are essentially over-engineered plastic bags with zero breathability. But they're 100 percent waterproof, very lightweight, and come in handy during sudden downpours at camp. Plus, it's hard to argue with a $4 insurance policy. 

G.I. Mosquito Head Net $4

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

This inexpensive net is the most important item in my pack when I'm camping in mosquito-infested areas. Sure, it looks ridiculous, but there’s no better way to protect your face and neck from blood-sucking bugs.

Travel Kit $8

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

There’s no included carrying case, but this is by far the best-stocked beginner’s first-aid kit for the price. Army surplus stores also carry more advanced kits for people with real medical training.

Proper Boonie Sun Hat $11

(Photo: Joe Jackson)

We’ve tested technical sun hats that are better at wicking moisture, but this cap has three things going for it: it's cheap, durable and provides plenty of sun protection. 

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Lead Photo: Joe Jackson
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