Does Military Surplus Work Well for Camping?

Ammo Cans WideWe’ve been providing Northwest Arkansas with outdoor gear and military surplus for more than 30 years. While it sometimes throws people off that we carry high-end camping equipment on one side of the store, and musky bins bulging with military surplus on another, there’s a very good reason why we sell surplus and camping supplies side-by-side.

Military surplus can be repurposed as camping equipment.

Over the past few years, surplus has become increasingly popular with survivalists, preppers, and even casual campers. But if everyone were trading in their backpacking tents for military bivys and jumping off a bridge, would you do it too?

What people really want to know is whether or not military surplus is good for camping. Can a dingy drab tarp really be used as an adequate shelter? Can a ripstop nylon poncho replace the need for a rain jacket?

The short answer is yes. Military gear can be used as a good replacement for camping gear. There are, however, both advantages and disadvantages to using surplus for camping.

Military equipment is designed for heavy use in rough conditions. In other words, it’s built to last. You can drag it, drop it, and chuck it, and it will last for years and years. This durability comes at a cost, however.

In order to be as burly as possible, military surplus tends to be made from materials that are heavy and bulky. As you know, size and weight are two of the biggest concerns for backpacking gear. For backpacking, you need equipment that is as light and compact as possible, meaning that military surplus comes up short. Military surplus is, however, great for car camping. It’s tough and cheap, and it will get the job done.

Repurposing military surplus can also save you money on your camping setup. Name brand outdoor equipment can get expensive. Surplus is a great way to get reliable camping equipment at an affordable price. It might not look as nice, be as light, or pack as small, but you can save hundreds of dollars by purchasing surplus instead of gear made by outdoor companies.

To break it down…

Outdoor gear is going to be lighter, more compact, more comfortable, and it will have better aesthetics, but it’s also going to be much more expensive. Military surplus gear will get the job done, hold up for a long time, and is going to be much cheaper than equipment designed by outdoor companies.

For simple car camping, military surplus is a great alternative. When it comes to something like mountaineering or backpacking, you need equipment that is more specific to those activities. Outdoor companies design gear specifically for outdoor recreation. That’s not to say that car campers won’t want fancy gear, and that mountaineers can’t use surplus.

Ultimately it boils down to how you camp, and what your preferences are. If you want to spend lots of money on super nice gear, go for it. You will be more comfortable, and your gear will look really nice. If you are more stoic, and you just want some cheap and reliable equipment so you can go outside, opt for military surplus.

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