Surplus Staples

It might feel like you’re experiencing an apocalypse scenario right now. But hopefully here’s some gear for re-grounding and re-calibrating for the potentially normal world of the future.


Bulgarian Military Surplus Wool-blend Officer’s Blanket, Used

An extra blanket is always a good thing to have on hand.

Unexpected guests at your house might need one. And if you find yourself crashing on a couch far from your own home the sky is the limit on possible temperature scenarios.

Fun Fact: The original “Swiss Army blanket” was manufactured in 1907 and the design remained for the most part unchanged until the 1960’s.

These blankets were manufactured as part of the military re-organization the Swiss government undertook in the shadow of World War II, and they were made in vast quantities. For any future conflict, they were stowed inside natural cave formations in the Swiss Alps. This was both the origin of the Swiss Army Blanket and, decades later, the first widespread introduction to the classic military surplus “smell”.

Sleeping Bags

When it comes to Sleeping Bags, there’s a few considerations: is it warm? Does it fit? Does the zipper work? If you want a Bag that takes the hat trick on all 3 of these factors, a military sleeping bag is for you.

U.S. Military Surplus 3-Layer ECWS Sleeping Bag System, Used

Fun Fact: Get a cheap bag in a retail store, and the biggest problem is going to be the zipper. Both ones that get caught halfway up, and other ones that split apart in the middle of the night and refuse any attempt to rectify the situation.

Many U.S. Military Sleeping Bags are designed with “pull apart” zippers that can be quickly ripped apart in the event of a late-night or early-morning attack on your camp. These zippers are also self-healing so you can easily get them back together again.


There are many kinds of backpacks in this world. There is a typical consumer backpack you might buy for your kid to haul their school gear around in. There are multi-hundred dollar hiking backpacks the well-to-do might invest in for scaling the local indomitable mountain range in their area.

U.S. Military Surplus ACU Pack with Frame, Used

But somewhere in the middle are Military Backpacks. Designed with 2 considerations, usually, first to stay comfortable under heavy loads and during long periods in the field, and second to be cost-effective for the military organizations purchasing them.

Fun Fact: The first standard issue backpack in the U.S. Military was probably the Civil War-era M1853. This design proved to be so agony-inducing that the common practice became to immediately throw it away and instead wrap all your belongings in a blanket, creating the classic horseshoe roll used by many Civil War re-enactors today.

It would take until World War II for the U.S. Government to develop a backpack that was superior to simply wrapping your gear in a blanket.

Early 1900’s U.S. military blanket roll technique

The first really awesome U.S. Military Backpack finally came out in time for the Vietnam War, the legendary ALICE Pack.

With lots of pockets to keep things organized, the ALICE Pack actually took into account the full collection of issued gear a service member had to deal with during their daily operations. But more importantly, it had a lightweight metal frame on the exterior of the pack to keep that gear from digging into the vulnerable backs of long-suffering soldiers in the field.

ALICE Pack with metal frame

Reproductions and replacement parts for the ALICE Pack are still in wide circulation and in fact we just received a new Pack that looks very similar to the ALICE pack of the Vietnam era, only made in the late 2010’s and in modern digital camo.

Modern military ALICE design, originally manufactured for the Albanian Armed Forces

Ammo Cans

One of the many innovations of the Cold War was the improvement and development of long-term storage options.

The typical modern Ammo Can is a rugged, nigh-indestructible shell of welded seams, rubber gasket and lock-tight spring latch.

U.S. Military Surplus Waterproof M2A1 .50 Caliber Ammo Can, Used

Fun Fact: These cans are used to store ammo. But that’s just the very beginning of the story. Eventually someone decides they don’t need to hold ammo any more. The original descriptive marks on the can get spray-painted over. Per military regulation, the sword “EMPTY” is scrawled on the side using indelible crayon. And then, much like the phoenix, a whole new world of storage possibilities springs into existence.

Stacks of military ammo cans
The Wide World Of Ammo Cans

Documents, hunting supplies, emergency gear, coins, collections and more can get thrown in these metal cans for dependable long-term storage barring meteor strike or solar expansion.

You can even use them to store ammo.

From Adventure to Staying Home

While lots of businesses might be closed and general gatherings of people are being discouraged, access to Great Outdoors remains decidedly unchanged and widely available.

Military Surplus gear can make it easier to escape the main concentrations of human civilization, or make it a bit more comfortable when hunkering down in your favorite in-town redoubt.

Good luck everyone reading this. Let us all change what we can, accept what we cannot change, and carry the knowledge to know the difference.

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