As most of us know by now, the American military is responsible for developing and contracting out some of the coolest gear ever made. And while you can go down to your local surplus storefront and get your hands on a good deal of it, that’s hardly the only place to find the armed forces’ innovations.
From mil-spec materials to styles of apparel to camouflage colorways, the military’s influence stretches far beyond standard issue gear. Today, the technologies and developments of the armed forces have bled into the consumer market in more ways than we can count. And that’s what this guide is all about: the gear you can get your hands upon that owes its existence chiefly to the accomplishments of the government’s soldiers, scientists, designers, and developers. The following 20 items are some of the best pieces of military-inspired gear upon which any civilian can get their hands.
We’re very much aware that there isn’t a military in the world that hands out vodka to its troops — not anymore, at least. But that’s not what Heroes Vodka is about. Rather, this veteran-owned brand was started by Travis McVey, who was looking for a way to serve his country after his stint in the military was over. Not only is this quadruple-filtered liquor a superb spirit, but each and every purchase goes toward supporting veterans and active duty soldiers, alike. We’d say that registers as military-inspired by any measure.
Armatus EDC Wallets
It’s not unusual to see brands take mil-spec materials and use them in commercial and civilian applications. But it is a little strange (and very enticing) to see one do it with sleek everyday carry gear. But that’s exactly the case with Armatus and their lineup of EDC wallets. Made from materials like Kydex and Holstex, these cash and card carriers are nearly indestructible. But they’re also sleek and minimalist for folks who are drawn to modern aesthetics.
Veteran-owned and -operated, AMABILIS has built an entire brand around military-inspired carry solutions — using ultra-tough materials like waterproof truck tarpaulin and armor-plated SuperFabric. And while their whole collection is exceedingly impressive, we’re particularly drawn to their Dave-series duffels, named for the brand owner’s best friend and fallen marine, Dave Ruiz. They’re a fittingly rugged tribute to a great man.
The North Face Military Hat
Hats are an often-forgotten piece of outdoor gear, but they definitely deserve more consideration. Not only can they help protect you from the likes of rainfall, but they can also keep your head from burning in the hot summer sun. This example from The North Face takes its inspiration directly from military caps — giving it a bit more character than your typical baseball hat.
Arktype Paracord Quick-Release Keychains
Proving once and for all that tactical, mil-spec materials can be imbued into beautiful and sleek everyday carry gear, Arktype’s collection of quick-release keychains are as handsome and useful as they are rugged. The hinge on mil-spec clips, super-useful paracord, and a neodymium magnetic quick-release so you can access your keys and keychain accessories on-the-fly.
Standard Issue 1942 WWI Class A Combs
Based on an actual war-era design, these beautiful, updated folding combs are the perfect accessory for any man who values his appearance and knows the weight it can carry. They’re made in the USA from premium leather and your choice of either stainless steel or brass. And they fold down for simple, compact carry so you can look your best no matter where you are.
ITS Tactical ETA Trauma Kit Pouch
If there is anyone who knows the importance of having quick, reliable access to medical supplies, it’s a field medic from the military. As it turns out, that same speed and accessibility is helpful even if you’re not on the battlefield, which is why ITS Tactical offers up the ETA Trauma Kit Pouch. This modular pack is the perfect size for the brand’s vacuum-sealed kits, is made from ultra-durable nylon, and it was built right here in the USA.
Defy M35 Truck Tarpaulin Bags
The M35 Truck is an ultra-reliable 6×6 transport that militaries around the world have relied upon for literal decades. And while there’s a long list of reasons it’s such a great people- and gear-hauler, defy turned to its canopy to build a series of ultra-durable, weatherproof bags. Including a dopp kit, backpack, over-the-shoulder messenger bag, and weekender duffel — every single one of these bags is a handsome, well-built, extremely reliable carry solution. If you’re looking for a hauler that will never let you down, even in the apocalypse, these are them.
Timex Field Watches
It might seem hard to believe, but Timex has actually been around since 1854. In that time, they’ve built hundreds of thousands (if not millions upon millions) of reliable timepieces. Some of those were made for the military. Today, they’ve dipped back into that military heritage for a stylish and timeless series of inexpensive quartz field watches. With a wide array of styles, you can choose the one that fits you best and know that it comes with the same pedigree as all the brand’s offerings.
Mystery Ranch Urban Assault Backpack
In case you’re not familiar, Mystery Ranch is an American brand headquartered out of Bozeman, Montana with a long history of making absolutely top-notch backpacks — meaning they’ve got experience to spare when it comes to building outdoor gear. That also means they know a good thing when they see it, which is why they chose to borrow from the military for this city-focused Urban Assault Backpack. Made with quickness and accessibility in mind, this bag has a unique triple-zipper main compartment that functions beautifully whether you’re just popping open the top for a moment or opening the whole thing for full access. As far as everyday backpacks go, this one is tough to beat.
Nike Metcon 4 XD Patch Sneakers
Nike’s Metcon training shoes are already a well-known frontrunner for the best gym footwear available, but this edition steps things in a slightly different direction for some much-needed customization. You see, this one boasts an updated 3D-printed upper with Flywire cabling for the ultimate fit no matter your workout. But the military inspiration comes in the form of a velcro-compatible heel, onto which you can attach any of the six included patches or those of your own. It’s a subtle addition, but it makes all the difference.
No Excuses Co. Rifle Surfboard Bag
As proof that militaristic styling has transcended the field of battle, the No Excuses Co. Rifle bag was inspired specifically by the haulers in which soldiers carry their long-barrel firearms. The difference? This one was made specifically to haul around surfboards. It’s crafted from actual vintage 22-ounce military tent cotton canvas sourced from military duffel bags, has vegetable-tanned leather straps, and can collapse down into a roll for easy storage when you’re not using it.
Alpha Industries M-65 Field Coat
One of the most recognizable jacket styles of all time, the M-65 field coat is a common piece of standard issue gear used around the world. But this iconic outerwear is so pervasive that it has made its way into the world of fashion time and time again — to the point at which it’s practically a style staple for men everywhere. This particular example is a superb interpretation from Alpha Industries that includes a windproof construction, a water-resistant exterior, and it comes in a trio of handsome colorways.
Clarks Originals GORE-TEX Ballistic Wallabee Boot
While a first glance might tell you that the Clarks Originals Wallabee Boot you see here was built solely with fashion in mind, a closer glance says otherwise. That’s because it takes its inspiration from tactical military footwear — especially in regards to its construction. The materials that went into this boot include ballistic nylon, GORE-TEX waterproofing, and a super-cushy Vibram outsole. Sure, they’re not combat boots, but that doesn’t mean they can’t perform just as well in the same ungodly conditions.
KOTA Military Series Longboards
Another veteran-owned brand that loves to give back to the men and women who serve, KOTA makes some absolutely gorgeous skateboards. In fact, any of their offerings can be turned into an electric self-driven board with an upcharge and the addition of an onboard motor. Our favorite of their lines, however, has to be their Military Series — which takes inspiration from military iconographies, like the bombshell pinups that were once painted on the sides of aircraft.
GORUCK GR1 Backpack
If ever there was a backpack that needs no introduction, it’s the GORUCK GR1. A legend in its own right, this military-inspired hauler is the original release from the superb American brand. It’s also made in the USA, comes with a lifetime guarantee, and has a huge number of superb features — ranging from a size of either 21 or 26 liters, a weatherproof exterior, MOLLE attachment grid, and hydration pack compatibility. The most impressive feature, however, might just be the bombproof laptop pouch. Yes, you read that right — it can survive literal explosions.
Gerber G1-002 Fixed Blade Knife
Gerber’s Mark II combat knife is a legendary fighting knife that dates back to 1966 and has been used by some of the toughest soldiers to ever enlist. Their G1-002 pays homage to that ultra-tough fixed blade but boasts some seriously upgraded premium materials. That includes an S60V steel dagger-style blade, a Zev Technologies custom-machined handle with a Cerakote coating, and a tactical Kydex sheath. It’s also made in the USA and assembled by hand. The one problem? You’ll have to find one second-hand, as only 100 were ever made.
Speedbox Endurance 40 Storage Container
Not everybody needs a storage solution that can survive a bomb blast. But the Speedbox Endurance 40 isn’t made for everyone — just those who are uncompromising in their search for the best, toughest gear around. Think of this container like the ultimate does-everything hauler. Use the handle and burly wheels to bring your picnic to the beach, drag it to the campsite to protect your food from bears, fill it with ice and stuff it full of beers. Whatever you want to use it for, it’ll pass the test with flying colors and keep coming back for more.
Virtus 3 Layer Jacket System
We’d be remiss in our duties if we didn’t point out that everything Virtus makes can be traced back to the influence of the military. That’s because the brand was founded and is owned and operated by veterans who were looking to develop ultra-tough gear for like-minded folks. Our favorite of their offerings, however, might just be the 3 Layer Jacket System. Perfect for both mild and extreme weather, this triple coat kit includes a base layer hoodie, a polyester fleece mid layer, and a 100% waterproof exterior shell. Use them together, use them alone — this set can do it all.
Bell & Ross BR 03-92 Bi-Compass Watch
The watchmaking world and the military are extremely intertwined. In fact, many of the first men’s wristwatches were worn largely by active-duty soldiers and pilots. The latter was what inspired Bell & Ross to create their BR 03-92 Bi-Compass watch. You see, this timepiece is modeled specifically after the instrumentation inside military aircraft cockpits. It’s also limited-edition, features a super-reliable automatic movement, is water-resistant to 100 meters, and has a PVD-coated steel case for plenty of durability.
The 15 Best Veteran-Owned Gear Brands You Should Know
We owe a lot to soldiers who served in the military. And some of them continue serving, albeit in different ways, once their term is up. You can support them and get some rad gear along the way by checking out the best veteran-owned gear brands.