When you’re looking for tough, ruggedized gear to take on virtually any task, there are few genres that can stand toe to toe with mil-spec. The issue, however, is that military-approved, standard-issue gear is often difficult for the average consumer to acquire, making it a distant pipe-dream for those who don’t have a branch-specific ID, veteran status, or any other notable signifier.
Luckily, there are a handful of companies out there who create gear for both the military and civilian sectors, meaning that you’ll find close to the same build quality, construction, and innovations that you would have been privy to, had you been a member of the armed forces. Below, you’ll find a handful of offerings that can act in parallel with a number of the military’s standard-issue offerings, boasting the same — and at times, heightened — build quality, standardization, and functionality that you’ve come to expect by the tactical gear used by operators; albeit, with a more civilian appeal.
Whether you’re planning to take on the urban environment, or head off-grid for a week-long ruck, the kind of footwear you bring along matters. Here are a few of our favorite mil-spec boots.
Rothco AR 670-1 Coyote Brown
Military boots are the foundation of every great-moving team, and even when you’re running solo at the range, or in the backcountry, they have a large role to play when it comes to comfort and endurance. While a number of military examples are often drab, the Rothco AR 670-1 in Coyote Brown elaborates, albeit subtly, on the simplistic design you’ll find in other issued offerings, thanks to an eight-inch height, a Nubuck leather and nylon upper, and a “Cambrelle” synthetic lining to improve airflow when you’re putting in those long miles. Breathability is enhanced further by the boot’s dual side vent system, working alongside a padded collar, plain toe, and ultra-durable rubber outsole to create a unique model that meets AR 670-1 (DA PAM 670-1, Section 20-3) standards.
Bates GX-8 Composite
If there’s a trusted company that many military and civilian contractors turn to on a regular basis, it’s Bates. While the company has a number of models that are widely accepted and used for various purposes, the GX-8 Composite toe is one that’s undeniably astute, pairing a scotch guard-protected Wolverine Warrior leather upper that’s resistant to kerosene, oil, dirt, and other hazardous materials to keep it capable over the life of wear, with a handful of other performance-oriented traits. The boot’s unique textiles and fabrics allow it to be far more durable than traditional cowhide leather, while also promoting easy cleaning and enhanced breathability — especially when coupled with an internal mesh lining, YKK nylon side zipper, and a cushioned, removable insert for easy aeration. Better yet, each example is outfitted with a non-metallic, ASTM F2413-05-rated composite safety toe, slip-resistant rubber outsole, and athletic cement construction to give it unparalleled responsiveness.
Belleville 340DES ST Steel Toe Flight
Belleville’s standard-issue boots are a favorite within the service, giving them a leg up on the competition when it comes to footwear that can also be used in the civilian sector. The 340DES ST Steel Toe Flight, for example, adheres to the U.S. Navy flight, and U.S. Marine Corps flight standard, while keeping intuitive wear in mind. Each AR 670-1 standard-meeting boot boasts a fire-retardant upper crafted from full-grain cowhide leather and Nomex, a Vanguard sole that’s been outfitted with a cushioned polyurethane midsole, and premium rubber, and an antibacterial lining to ensure adequate foot health when you’re on the trail for extended periods of time. Beneath its handsome facade, the 340DES ST features a cushioned polyurethane insole that can be removed for cleaning or replacement, complementing its ASTM F2412-11- and F2413-11-certified steel toe.
Jackets & Fleece
If you’re looking to keep warm, display your nameplates/unit signifiers, or find a viable mid-layer for use during inclement weather, there are few things as indomitable as mil-spec outerwear. Here are a handful of our favorite items to keep warm while in the field.
Propper Gen III ECWCS Polartec Fleece
Military jackets aren’t always the most attractive things to wear, but they get the job done when it comes to a wide range of weather types. The Polartec Fleece is a staple within the ranks as one of the most comfortable, and capable pieces that you can be issued, and with a company like Propper at the helm, this Gen III ECWCS edition is nothing short of extraordinary. Each jacket/jacket liner can be worn without its top layer, thanks to the inclusion of Velcro patch locations on the chest and shoulders, but if you’re looking to utilize it as a civilian, you’ll be happy to hear that it’s just as capable without. In fact, it’s 30-times sturdier than comparable jackets/liners crafted from traditional fleece, thanks to Polartec’s proprietary wrinkle- and shrink-resistant material. Raglan sleeves round out the mil-approved piece, offering enhanced comfort and breathability year around.
5.11 Tactical Fleece
If you’re looking for a fleece top that will keep you as warm as possible, while also boasting a more refined silhouette, the 5.11 Tactical Fleece might be the perfect garment for you. This sleek top/mid-layer was built with high-performance in mind and comes complete with an all-weather material for unparalleled warmth, a back-up belt system, hidden chest pockets, and versatile zippers/snaps to improve breathability when needed. There are even hand-warmer pockets that you can retreat within if you need extra defrost capabilities, working alongside Prym snaps, YKK zipper hardware, and reinforced stress points to help you adapt to any situation in style.
Massif Elements NAVAIR Jacket
The Massif Elements NAVAIR Jacket is a high-neck example that looks tactical, but well-informed. It doesn’t skimp on technical traits and materials, either, calling upon a suite of fabrics that exceed flame and heat resistance requirements under NFPA 1977-2005, feature a breathable waterproof membrane that improves moisture management while under strain, and boast a four-way stretch for improved mobility and range of motion. An array of flaps and pockets allow for various peripherals to be used alongside the jacket, including IR markers, name, rank, flag, and unit patches, and alternative gear that you’ll need access to on a whim. The NAVAIR also provides wearers with enhanced protection against water and wind thanks to its softshell construction, making it a great choice for over, or under-armor use.
It might not seem that way now, but a pair of durable, long-lasting pants can make a world of difference when you’re on a long-winded mission. The same can be said for use within the civilian realm, where a set of rugged peripherals can make a day at the range a more immersive experience. Check out a few of our favorites below.
5.11 Tactical TDU
Whether you’re a fan of Multicam or solid colors, 5.11 Tactical’s operator-approved TDU pants have you covered on every front. Each pair is crafted from a durable seven-ounce cotton/poly ripstop fabric and features additional reinforcement thanks to triple-stitched construction principles, a double-thick seat, and Prym snaps for enhanced resilience against wear and tear. Each of the pant’s stress points includes extra bar tacking to give it even more gumption when faced with strain, working alongside various blousing straps and a self-adjusting tunnel waistband to adapt to a number of different movements.
Vertx Recon Pants
Vertx’s Recon Pants were built with maximum mobility and functionality in mind, while also providing wearers with additional options for on-the-fly storage. Each pair features a relaxed waistband for inherent comfort purposes, YKK zippers, and Vertx button closures for dependable security when you’re looking to keep your vital accessories protected. Elastic bands inside of the Recon’s pockets keep contents from sliding back and forth while moving from position to position, complementing its inverted, easy-access thigh pockets, Velcro closures, and gusseted crotch, which is a godsend for those who think that discomfort is more detrimental than any other issue they might encounter.
Crye Precision G3 Combat
Crye Precision’s G3 Combat pant is the most tactical legwear offering on our list, and for good reason. Each mil-spec compliant pair calls upon a 50/50 NYCO (nylon/cotton blend) to keep things aerated and breathable while providing adequate resistance against scrapes, abrasions, and cuts as a result of rapid movement. To achieve this in the best way possible, they’ve also been imbued with four-way stretch fabrics in high-wear areas, allowing mobility and range of motion to become an afterthought. These characteristics are complemented by the pant’s low-profile, adjustable waist, stretch panels, and built-in knee pads, making them an attractive proposition for operators who would rather focus on the mission, instead of clothing management.
Bolstered Base Layer
If you’re going to don some tactical garb, you’ll need an adequate base layer to keep you comfortable, while also building a firm foundation for the rest of your wardrobe. Below, you’ll be able to peruse a selection of our favorite mil-spec pieces.
Under Armour CGI Mock Crew
Many might not realize the importance of a solid undershirt, acting as a comfortable barrier between your skin and any utilitarian gear you decide to adorn. Luckily, Under Armour’s CGI Mock Crew is here to provide you with an unassuming garment that’s inundated with efficient attributes, including ColdGear tech, which traps body heat to promote adequate core temperatures, a thermo-conductive inner layer, and a moisture-wicking/moisture-transport system that transfers the body’s perspiration away. A durable polyester and elastane construction pairs with the shirt’s dependable flatlock seam construction and four-way stretch system to create a great-looking base layer that’s also purposefully-minded, making it perfect for a day on the trail or a day at the range.
Blackhawk Lightweight Long Sleeve
Blackhawk’s Long Sleeve shirt is a roomy formal example that’s also tactical, and lightweight. Thanks to enhanced ventilation and moisture protection, this durable polyester/cotton ripstop garment is a go-to garment for outdoor, under-gear use, calling upon attributes like a DuPont Teflon DWR treatment, concealed collar-stay buttons, and anti-roll collar inserts to keep the shirt looking great, despite its use for tactical and utilitarian purposes. An integrated mesh panel and pocket bags allow for increased airflow throughout the garment, working alongside gusseted chest pockets and sewn eyelets to keep you cool while in the field, or on-duty.
Tru-Spec Quarter-Zip Tactical
Tru-Spec’s Quarter-Zip Tactical shirt was made with rapid response in mind, calling upon an adjustable hook and loop cuff, reinforced shoulder pockets, and zig-zag stitching to keep it in-line with the genre’s most durable offerings. This quarter-zip is crafted with a hearty mixture of cotton and nylon to keep it kicking after long-winded use in the field, pairing with an easy-to-don persona that makes getting in, and out of the shirt a breeze. Better yet, it’s priced at a portion of the cost of other comparable models, meaning that you’ll get all of the positives of more expensive models, without sacrificing your ability to invest in other pieces of gear.
Carry & Collect
Finding the perfect companion to carry your gear and keep things organized can be a bit overwhelming. Luckily, there are a handful of trusted offerings that can enhance your ruck or help you to take your trail-faring to the next level. Check out a few of our favorites.
Condor Convoy Outdoor Pack
Condor’s Convoy Outdoor Pack is a camo-covered carrier that’s been built to haul all of your essential items with ease. This tactically-inclined variant boasts a 14” x 18” x 9” orientation and durable construction to make disorganized days in the field a thing of the past, thanks to grommeted compartments, compression straps, and a mesh back that’s been implemented to improve airflow, and comfort, as you clock in the miles. Five compartments and heavyweight webbing join forces to provide adequate storage/modularity for virtually every mission, whether it be tactical, or a day hike off-grid.
Camelbak New BFM 100 Antidote
Camelbak’s revered backpacks are an essential part of any outdoor or utilitarian outfit, and the company’s New BFM 100 Antidote pack is a more refined version for the modern operator. This 100-ounce mil-spec reservoir provides users with a hydro lock Bite valve adapter for expedient refills and shut-off, a lightweight, low-profile design, and a secure seal that won’t become overtightened like many of the Antidote’s competitors. And for the true operators out there, the pack even features a full clamshell opening for easy access to gear, various radio attachment points, and even an NVG/goggle pocket, making the 500-denier Corduroy peripherals something of a ruggedized offering from Camelbak’s trusted designers.
Eberlestock Battleship Pack Ruck V90
Eberlestock’s Battleship Pack Ruck V90 is a monstrous bag that can prolong your outings and rucks for more than a day or two. Boasting a durable 1000D Cordura Nylon construction and various PALS and MOLLE attachments throughout, this quintessential pack was built to withstand the wear and tear you’ll put it through while in the backcountry, allowing you to keep essential items safe, organized, and protected from inclement weather. It even features a removable top compartment that’s waterproof, adaptable, and versatile enough to be used as a fanny pack, making it even more attractive for those who are looking for a pack that can evolve based on the needs of the mission/outing. If that’s not good enough, the Battleship also comes with a waterproof rain cover to keep the entire bag safe from that impending downpour.
Whether you’re looking to protect yourself from the sun’s harmful rays or shield your eyes from the detrimental aspects of ballistic use, a great pair of eyewear is always warranted. Here are a handful of items that can take on anything you’ll throw at them.
Wiley X Valor APEL Sunglasses
Anyone who’s been issued gear while in the military will recognize the Wiley X name, thanks to its widespread acceptance within the world of the armed forces. The brand’s Valor APEL sunglasses, for example, are a fan favorite that serves to promote adequate readiness while in the field, thanks to a tactically-oriented anti-fog coating, interchangeable lenses, and 100% protection from UVA/UVB/UVC rays, allowing you to focus on the task at hand. Each example has been approved for use by the Authorized Protective Eyewear List and features a double injected temple, nose bridge, and anti-scratch hard-coat to ensure prolonged life when pitted against the harsh realities of in-field use.
5.11 Tactical Burner Half-Frame Ballistic
5.11’s Burner Half-Frame Ballistic glasses were built for the everyday wearer who wants to take their wardrobe in a more utilitarian direction. Whether you’re an avid marksman, a civilian contractor, or someone who enjoys the look of militaristic eyewear, you’ll find that these bold, aggressive offerings are the perfect middle-ground for use alongside everyday tasks, thanks to a suite of interchangeable lenses that allow you to adapt to any situation. If you’re looking for sun protection, you can rely on the Burner’s smoked, 100% UVA/UVB light-protective lenses. If you’re transitioning to the range, you’ll want to slap on the clear variants, which offer maximum ballistic protection. But the lenses aren’t the only things that make these peripheral’s interesting. A durable T-shell coating helps to resist scratches and cracks from repeated in-field use, while a Grilamid TR-90 nylon frame has been contracted to stand up to virtually any type of damage you can throw at 5.11’s protective accessory.
Oakley Flak Jacket XLJ Sunglasses
Oakley’s Flak Jacket XLJ sunglasses are a must-have piece of eyewear for any athlete or outdoorsman. Thanks to the company’s respected history in the world of outdoor and hiking use, these unique variants have been gifted with cutting-edge construction materials to keep them at the top of their game, including Unobtainium nose pads, a removed lower rim to enhance your expanded field of vision, and Plutonite lens technology to keep harmful UV rays at bay while you’re trying to achieve your tasks. For those who care more about comfort than capability, you’ll be glad to hear that the Flak Jacket’s three-point fit is here to ensure optimal alignment throughout the day, meaning that you’ll spend less time readjusting and reapplying, and more time focused on the mission.
Now that you’ve got an entire arsenal built out and ready to go, you’ll need some accessories to give you an edge while in the field. Below, we’ve listed three of our favorite items to round out your tactical outfit.
Pelican 2370 Three-Color LED Flashlight
Whether you’re a seasoned veteran or an avid traveler, there’s always a reason to carry a reliable flashlight for use at night. Pelican’s 2370 Three-Color LED is the quintessential offering for anyone who’s looking to illuminate their nocturnal endeavor, thanks to high-performance anodized aluminum construction, lightweight characteristics, and a magnetic dial that allows you to swap between red, white, or green light on a whim. This way, you won’t have to switch your device for use alongside modern night vision systems, making your loadout more optimal, and cutting back on the amount of gear you’ll have to carry on your next excursion.
Leatherman MUT Multi-Tool
There are few things that are more important to an operator than his toolset — something that should always include the likes of Leatherman. The company’s MUT Multi-Tool is a robust offering that contracts a set of versatile needlenose/regular pliers, 153CM wire cutters, electrical crimpers, a sharp combo knife, saw, cutting hook, and hammer, placing them all within arm’s reach while you’re in the middle of an operation. There’s even a bolt override tool to help you clear firearm jams, and a replaceable bronze carbon scraper to help you keep your weapon in optimal performing conditions. Needless to say, Leatherman’s MUT has your back when you’re looking for an adaptable multi-tool for your off-grid excursions.
Garmin Tactix Charlie GPS Watch
For the more modern operator or civilian enthusiast, Garmin’s Tactix Charlie GPS watch is a must-have wrist accessory. Calling upon a 1.2-inch, high-resolution display, and a glare-reducing domed sapphire lens, this specialized smartwatch will allow you to access preloaded TOPO mapping, routable map navigation, and cardinal directions at the touch of a bezel, working alongside ruggedized construction materials like a black diamond-esque carbon-coated titanium frame, black titanium rear cover, and stainless-steel buttons for protection against wear and tear. For the tactically-minded, the inclusion of a Jumpmaster system, waypoint projection, dual-position GPS, and preloaded tactical activity can make a night and day difference; but for those of us who want a great-looking, well-performing GPS watch, the Tactix’s GLONASS, three-axis compass, barometer, altimeter, and gyroscope will work just fine.
The Ultimate Guide To Mil-Spec Outdoor Gear
Unsurprisingly, many of the technologies, materials, and features we enjoy in our hiking and camping gear actually originated in the field of military gear. To learn all about it, we’ve put together a handy and comprehensive guide to mil-spec outdoor gear.