Whenever it comes time for troops to head out to the field, their leaders should always issue a mandated packing list. These lists cover the necessities, like three sets of uniforms, sleeping gear, personal hygiene kits, an e-tool, and a poncho. Occasionally, it includes weather gear, despite the fact that it's the off-season (think winter thermals in July), or a gas mask so the lieutenant can say they did "familiarization training."
Most younger troops will just follow that list to a T — exactly what the packing list requires and not a single ounce more. So, you want to earn the bragging rights of "enduring the field like a grunt?" If so, snivel gear and junk food are nice — but not useful.
These items, however, aren't on the list, and you're going to get laughed at for not having them.
6. Extra under-layer clothing
Three days in the field? One pair of socks per day sounds logical — and then you step in a puddle and have to wear tomorrow's socks. Suddenly, you're out of socks for the last day.
If the list says bring three, bring five. If it says bring ten, bring fifteen.
Learn the art of rolling clothes to save space. (U.S. Army Photo by Staff Sgt. Jennifer Spradlin, 19th Public Affairs Detachment)
5. Sewing kit
If you split open the crotch on your uniform, you'll need to toss them — unless you have a sewing kit and know how to use it.
Rips don't even need to be fixed perfectly — just enough to get you through the field.
It's really not that hard to learn and it'll save you a ton of money. (U.S. Air National Guard photo by Tech Sgt. Vicky Spesard)
4. Some way to mark your stuff
One downside of issuing a standard uniform to an entire unit is that, if you lose track of your green duffle bag, you'll need to open each one to find yours. When you're hiking through the backwoods of your installation, remembering which bag in a sea of green duffle bags is yours is non-trivial.
Make it easier for yourself and mark your stuff. You don't need to make it fancy or elaborate. Many units spray paint the bottoms of their bags with troop's information on it. Even a simple piece of cloth tied to a handle will make your stuff stand out.
Quick: Which one is yours? (Image via Flickr)
3. Your own toilet paper
There's an old joke in the Army about military-issued toilet paper. We call it, "Sergeant Major's toilet paper." It's rough as hell and takes sh*t from no man.
If you're in the forests of Fort Benning, fine — pretend like you're a badass and use some leaves. If you're in the deserts of Fort Irwin, well — you'll need it.
Not all of us get porta-johns for a field op. (Courtesy photo)
2. A watch
It might seem like a no-brainer, but you'll still need to be able to tell time in the field. Unless you're in a super POG unit that has power outlets available in-tent, your cell phone won't have enough charge to constantly tell you the time.
Grab a cheapo watch before you head out — nothing fancy, nothing special, and preferably with a cloth wristband.
A good wristwatch can last forever. Good doesn't mean expensive. (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Sgt. Matthew Callahan)
1. Waterproofing bags
It doesn't matter what time of the year you go to Fort Irwin's NTC. Whenever you get there, it'll pour the entirity of its five inches of yearly average rain the moment you arrive.
Grab a few plastic storage bags for socks and toilet paper and maybe a trash bag to cover your uniforms. If you need it, awesome. If it doesn't rain, it's not like the weight of a trash bag is going to burden you.
Alternatively, you can also use the trash bag as, you know... a trash bag. (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Kayla Newman)
*Bonus* If you smoke, extra cigarettes
If you are a smoker, you should know how many you go through in an average day. Multiply that by how many days you'll be in the field — then double it.
Don't be that guy who bugs the same person for a cigarette time and time again. You only get like two or three tops before you owe that dude another pack when you're out of the field. If you're the only one to remember this rule, everyone will owe you big time.