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Military surplus: Favorite online sources and items

Question for the group:

While I recognize that there are limitations to military surplus items (tend to be heavier, can attract unwanted attention, govt purchases from the lowest bidder, etc.), I’ve been considering them for longer-term preparedness. In other words, I have my premium/lightweight items for bugging out and my heavier more durable items for bugging-in/homestead cache, etc.. Military surplus seems to be a good mix of durable, inexpensive, and quality enough for the military to use them. 

Any particular favorite online surplus stores and/or items that you all have added to your stash (or milsurp items that you AVOID)? 

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  • Comments (8)

    • 3

      Yup  British DPM combat smocks and high quality US M65 Jackets

      Milspec tactical gloves, belts and boots.

    • 2

      If you’re in the UK then there is this site which has a ton of stuff military related and it’s quite affordable too. For me, it’s the range of decent camouflaged items on there which is just more authentic than other places you can buy it – talking about tarps, tents, a range of ghillie suits. I think other stores try to ‘do’ camouflaged items, but these guys just get the colour codes developed by specialists and is not just the run of the milll camouflage. 

    • 2

      I spent several years in the military (infantry, then medic). Granted I got out 20 years ago, but the stuff I used is frequently seen in surplus stores. The only pieces of actual military basic issue/surplus-type gear I use are: 550 (parachute) cord, the long underwear, poncho liners (I love military poncho liners, I have like 10), and the wool blankets. I still have a lot of extra kit that I accumulated packed away in a couple duffle bags, but I don’t use it (I only save it because I have plenty of room). 

    • 1

      Weren’t military surplus stores created after the world wars as a way to sell off the surplus military gear? In 2022 I can go and still find many old gear that looks like WW2 or even Vietnam era gear but obviously has been made more recently. The impression I’ve gotten is that they are more of military LARPing stores with modern Chinese knock-offs. 

      Correct me if I’m wrong, but is there really any REAL military surplus still for sale at these stores? 

      • 2

        If you want a true military surplus store, go to one near a military base they stock all of the current issue stuff. Frequently military members lose stuff (or something) and need to replace it and will buy there. It can be anything from uniforms to boots to any field gear. I live near Ft. Lewis and they’re pretty common around here. 

    • 3

      I don’t personally buy much merchandise from online retailers, but that’s because–unless I know EXACTLY what I’m ordering–I generally prefer to inspect merchandise in-person before buying. 

      I have, however, been an on-again, off-again customer at my local Army Navy Surplus store since I was in junior high school, so close to forty years now.  And, more recently, have branched out to other Army Navy stores within a 60-90 minute drive of my home which offer a better selection of merchandise.  Very little of what I buy is actual bona-fide military surplus.  The stores in my area tend to carry a lot of brands in addition to the actual military stuff (and, I suppose, Chinese knockoffs), many of which are just good rugged, heavy duty, inexpensive products.  If you’re looking for expensive, ultralight gear, Army Surplus is not the place BUT if you don’t mind carrying a few extra ounces or are in a situation (like bugging-in) where extra weight and bulk don’t matter, you can certainly find some good deals.  My informal assessment is that the surplus stores in my area generally cater to hunters, construction workers, and others who spend a lot of time outside but aren’t inclined to carry $3000 worth of lightweight gear for an overnight camping trip.

      Depending on what type of gear I’m looking for, other brick and mortar stores that regularly have good deals include Walmart, Target, Costco, Ross, Murdoch’s, and BassPro.

      • 1

        Good to hear that my assumptions were accurate that much of the surplus store is not actual surplus. 

        I still would take a lot of the Chinese knock-off surplus over ultralight gear that is three times as expensive and not as durable.

      • 4

        In the backpacking community, there’s a saying that if you’re looking for equipment that’s lightweight, durable, and inexpensive, the best you can do is two out of three.  For example, durable and inexpensive = heavy; durable and lightweight = ultra expensive; lightweight and inexpensive = delicate and fragile.

        Here’s a link to a backpacking blogger who does a good job of distinguishing between “budget” gear (a good deal) vs. “cheap” gear (c*** not worth buying) and has reviewed a lot of inexpensive but durable gear, including a number of Army Surplus items.  Plus, he generally doesn’t review anything until he’s used it for at least a year or more, so you can be pretty confident that if says something is durable that it’s actually durable.