The Pros and Cons of Military Gear for Hiking
A lot of military surplus equipment that can be converted for use while hiking: boots, clothing, backpacks, rehydration systems, even food. There are several pros for using this equipment for hiking. Perhaps the biggest is that military surplus gear is often cheaper than buying the brand-name equivalent at a civilian gear store. A pair of surplus waterproof nylon rain pants will be less expensive than a similar pair made by a civilian counterpart.
Another advantage of using military surplus gear is that it can be used in situations in which the item can take a lot of wear and tear. A pair of military surplus cargo pants could probably withstand a season's use of hiking on and off trails in the backcountry, while a similar pair from a civilian company might not last as long, and might be more expensive. Also, trashing a pair of surplus pants is easier on the mind and wallet than a more costly pair.
The greatest con for military gear is that it can often be heavy and bulky. If you are planning a long-distance hike and are concerned about shaving every ounce of weight, military surplus might not be the way to go.
The Pros and Cons of Civilian Gear for Hiking
Civilian gear has a big advantage over military surplus in that it has been designed specifically for hikers in mind. This means that the equipment is made to be lightweight and functional for the needs of the hiker, backpacker or camper. For instance, a civilian-made rain jacket will be designed by the manufacturer to repel water while also allowing body moisture to pass through the material. It will also be lightweight, and have ventilation zippers. In addition, the jacket will come in a variety of colors that will be appealing to the eye both on the trail and off.
The big disadvantage of civilian gear is that it can sometimes be very expensive. Also, most high-quality gear can only be found in a specialty outdoor gear shop or online from an outdoor retailer. For those who are concerned about cost, paying a lot of money for a rain jacket might not be practical.
Using a Combination of Civilian and Military Gear for Hiking
Because there are benefits and drawbacks to both kinds of gear, blending the two together could be useful when buying necessary gear. For instance, military surplus cargo pants, rain jackets and pants can withstand a lot of use and are cheaper than their civilian counterparts. A civilian-made wide-mouth water bottle will be easier to pour drink mix into than a canteen. The military makes great insulating layers such as sweaters and other cold-weather gear. However, buying a civilian pair of hiking boots will probably fit and feel better than military surplus boots.