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The No-Bull Kit List



THE NO-BULL LIST: What You Need in Iraq

There's tons of gear and technology out there, but when it comes down to it, what do you really need when you're in the field? Here's a comprehensive list of must-have items, compiled by an Army servicemember. If you or someone you know is deploying, ignore this article at your peril.

Today's Soldiers have a choice of what to carry with them to the battlefield -- it's critical to make the right decision.

By SFC Dillard J. Johnson
Soldier of Fortune Magazine

It is the second year after my unit, 3/7th CAV of the 3rd ID, fought its way from Kuwait to Baghdad during Operation Iraqi Freedom, and major fighting was declared over.

OIF may be over, but the war in Iraq has merely changed faces and is going as strong as ever. Army and Marine units who spearheaded OIF have either returned to, or have been given a heads-up for redeployment to, Iraq.

I will be heading back over to Iraq shortly. The following is a critique of what equipment worked for us there that we will be sure to take back, and what gear we could have put to good use, had it been available, that we will take with us this time, for sure. Old friends from Iraqi Freedom and I tested and talked up a lot of new items on the market for the fighting GI -- the good, the bad, the ugly. We will only mention the good stuff here -- the items that we would need to take back with us this time to help accomplish the mission and return home to our families. We salute the many fine manufacturers who serve the GI, and to them we award our No Bull War Prize.

SSG John Williams, a fellow soldier in OIF, suggested that we add items that the first-timers would need, as well. If you have a loved one heading over to Iraq for the first time, here are some bits of gear you may want to consider. If you are in the armed forces, Uncle Sam has issued almost everything that you will need, but not everything.

Be sure you check all your issued equipment. If it has the smallest damage, turn it back in to CIF. Your equipment will have to last you. You do not want to start off in the hole. There are many more things to buy on your own that will help ensure a safe return back home to your loved ones.

Must-Have Gear  

The No-Bull List: What You Will Need in Iraq

Armor: If you only buy one thing to take with you, make it body armor. It can cost up to $1,500 for the best, which is made by Point Blank, the same company that makes the Interceptor for the U.S. Army. You can also choose to buy a small, concealable vest for around $250, but remember you get what you pay for. You can get your vest online, and don't forget to tell them your chest size. You will need a good fit for your vest to work right.

Headgear: I know, the Kevlar helmet is heavy and not as comfortable as a ball cap but if you don't want to have a hole in your head the size of a golf ball, spend the money. Better to have and not need then need and not have. You can get your police or Army style Kevlar helmet on line at Tamiami Armor (see the Supply Store for the link).

Gloves: You will need a good pair of gloves. Most gloves that are military issued won't stand up to the conditions in Iraq. My issued Nomex gloves didn't make it past day three of the war. Luckily, I had packed away in my rucksack two pairs of gloves: One pair of Craftsman mechanic's gloves and one pair of Hellstorm Assault Gloves. The Craftsman gloves worked very well for the price of around $19 a pair, but after two months of everyday use they started to fail, so I pulled out my Hellstorm Assault gloves by Blackhawk. I used my Hellstorm gloves every day and they held up to everything I put them through. Then when I was Medivaced to Walter Reed, I gave them to my gunner SPC Sullivan, who gave them to his replacements in August and just like the pink bunny, the Hellstorm gloves just kept going and going. Hellstorm gloves can be ordered through the Supply Store. Your hands will thank you.

Boots: There is no substitute for a good pair of boots. Nike doesn't make boots for Iraq. Military issued, Bates and Original Duty boots are about the best you can get for Iraq. However you will want to have the soles replaced on your military issue boots with ripple soles. Ripple sole are softer on your feet and will give long life to your boots. You can buy Original Duty boots with the ripple sole already on them for around $60. They have triple layer insole for long lasting comfort, come in half and wide sizes and are $25 cheaper then military issued ones, at the Armed Forces Merchandise Outlet (AFMO). I ordered a pair of the Original Duty from AFMO to see if they would live up to their promise of quick response. My boots arrived less then 48 hours later. You can order Original Duty boots online or call 800-82-3327. A good deal anyway you look at it. If you're a civilian, you will want to get the Enforcer by Bates. They have been in the boot-making business for years and stand behind their boots. Bates are as closest you can get to running shoes and still be boots. And don't go cheap on your socks. Fox River makes probably the best socks on the market. There is extra cushion built in and they even make PT socks. For these and other footwear, see the Supply Store.

Eye protection: Don't leave home without it. Wiley X has a national stock number for the SG-1, our workhorse for the military during OIF-1. They also make the CQC tactical goggle, which has a low profile and a one-year warranty. The CQC fits under your Kevlar. They also come with a headband so you can wear them with your CVC. I'm taking them back to Iraq with me this time. Wiley X is a soldier-friendly company that takes their product's reliability seriously. I highly recommend them for any job. Eye Shield System (ESS) and Blackhawk special operation tactical goggles are all a good investment also.

Packs: On your way over to Iraq or moving around inside Iraq you will need a good backpack to carry your gear. I took with me to Iraq a three-day assault back pack that I had purchased for about $100 at Ft. Bragg N.C. years ago. The backpack was made by Blackhawk Industries. Blackhawk makes some of the best soldier gear on the market. My backpack still works like new. It will be making its second trip to Iraq with me. I checked the price of my assault pack with Blackhawk and in eight years the price has only gone up $20. You can get your Assault backpack/gear online. If you've ever had to dump your gear out to find something small, then the Spec-Ops Pack-Rat drop-in organizer is for you: It will hold all your small gear where you can get at it. Spec-Ops also makes great backpacks with their multiple platform system: You can mount anything on them. Get yours online or call 866-773-2677.

Hydration system: You will need a hydration system. There are only two on the market that I know of -- Hydrastorm and Camelbak. They cost about the same and both have Gas mask adapter kits. Hydrastorm has a larger drinking tube but harder bite-valve then Camelbak. Camelbak drinking tube is smaller but the bite valve is softer. Just make sure you have one or the other. One thing you will need to get is the hydration utility multiple platform (HUMP) by Spec-Ops Brands (above). It will fit any Hydration system and attaches to your LBV or interceptor vest -- a great idea that works. You can order all three of these at the Gear Store.

Watch: Everyone will need a good watch. Chase-Durer makes some of the toughest watch-cases in the world. 1SG Broadhead still has his hand thanks to his Chase-Durer watch. Casio G Shocks and Timex are always a good choice also. Make sure you take a back up watch.

Multi-Tools: A good Multi-tool can save your life and make the difference between a good day and a bad day. They range from $35 to $170 in price. In this case, you get more than what you paid for, as the Gerber Multi-Plier 600 costs around $35. It is an easy, one-handed-opening unit and Gerber stands behind their product. You can order these at the Gear Store. If you break it, send it back and Gerber will fix it or send you another one.

Good Gear to Have

Now that we have the what-you-need list, here is the stuff that is nice to have. First, the GPS Magellan Sportrak; not only will it let you know where you are, you can also download city maps like Baghdad or other Iraqi towns. Magellan is the best GPS on the market. I have the old 2000XL model and it still works like a new one. Don't forget to get a good case. Spec-Ops Brands makes a case to fit them all.

Flashlight: There is only one name. SureFire and the G2 model -- it only costs about $30. If you already have a loved one in Iraq, send them a SureFire light -- it will make their day. SureFire lights have even survived mortar attacks.

Knife: Gerber has teamed up with Blackhawk and together they have come out with the toughest knife/sheath combo on the market: the Silver Trident and Blackhawk's double-locking sheath, which can be positioned anywhere, thanks to their new and clever design. The Silver Trident is a knife you will love from the first time you pick it up. I don't recommend you do this, but I put my Trident through a car hood. Other than the paint being scratched, the Silver Trident still looks and works as good as new. Buck knives are still as dependable as ever. I have carried the Buck T-119 for years -- two combat tours -- and from deer hunting to self-defense, it has never let me down. Smaller knives will be needed for everyday use. You will want to get an inexpensive knife that keeps a good edge on it, like Gerber's Ridge Knife for $24 or Bucks Ecco 2.25 for $28.

Holsters, Mags, Slings: If you are a GI, there is something you will need that Uncle Sam didn't issue you: If you have an M9 9mm, you will want to get a drop-leg holster from Blackhawk. I still have the one I took to war in OIF. They are very comfortable and heavy-duty. Even though you were issued magazines, go out and find some original pre-ban mags that won't get you killed by failing to feed your ammo, like mine did. You should be able to find them at any gun show. For your M4 or M16, you will want to get a good sling and no one makes them better than Spec-Ops Brand. I have tried them all and the Mamba fits the bill. The Mamba is comfortable, quiet and allows you freedom of your hands. Spec-Ops also makes a great butt pack for your LBV. I used one during OIF and it is still working today. If you are going to be in a Forward Operations Base (FOB) or air base where you will be able to downgrade your uniform, you will want to get their buttstock magazine pouch. It fits right on your M4 or M16 stock and keeps one magazine of ammo with you at all times. Everything that Spec-Ops makes is made in the U.S.A. You can order by calling 866-773-2677 or online.

Cleaning kits: You will want to put together a good one to last you the year you will be there. Gerber and Otis have put together a good one that has an NSN so your unit can order it for you. They come from 5.56mm to 12 gauge. If you have to pay out of pocket, purchase them online. Gerber & Otis will give you a good price and a great product. Guys, clean your weapons every day. It will keep you and your buddies alive.

You will need to get a good sleeping bag; one that will compress to a very small size, is comfortable and light-weight. I recommend the Coleman Crescent Sleeping bag. It only cost $41, it is light weight, comfortable and a very good product for the price. For entertainment you will want to get a Game Boy Advance. If you have a little more money to spend, buy yourself a Lap Top computer. HP makes a good, reliable PC. SSG John Williams took one with him during OIF, and the only thing he did to protect his laptop was place it inside a pelican waterproof case --and he still uses them to this day.

If you have been reading this for ideas of what to send a loved one in a care package, you can always send pre-sweetened Kool-aid, Gummy Bears and a DVD of their favorite movie. War is hell, but you do not have to be totally miserable while you are there.

I hope that this has given you some ideas for worthwhile kit, and that you come home safe. Remember, "if you are willing to do what your enemy is not, you will be victorious!" Troops, thank you for your service to this great country.

This isn't a shot at babicma, but the list he has posted out of SOF seems to be more the "Common Sense" list than a No-Bull Kit List.  It seemed to me that many of the items on the list would be just plain silly to be without.  While I do agree that this sort of info should be passed on, this article seemed heavy on the author's personal choices rather than listing general items that may be overlooked.  Who goes to the front without things like armour and a Kevlar lid?  Or boots for that matter?  And listing things like a flashlight, knife, and a cleaning kit under "Good to Have"?!?  How about essential to have?

There had been a discussion thread some time ago that had a similar list.  I found that to be a lot more informative in the sense that it listed items that an operator or troop would not maybe take the time to think about.  Things like baby wipes for quick cleanup in the field when showers were not around, a watch compass for quick fire control, back up light sources, etc.

Again, not a shot at babicma, but the author of the list should give his head a shake.
the armour and body armour that he's taking about ain't issued. but they can't get away with that in the states.
those fox river socks are the best summer socks I've worn. get the issued gore-tex black socks, and a pair of wigwams for the winter and you're good to go. remember that insoles are just as important as boots that fit right, and socks that don't cause blisters. these are the things that'll keep your feet from losing arch support (which can cause knee and back problems easily). personally I use two types; the type you get through the MIR that help raise your arches (I forget how makes them) and the doctor scholl's (whatever it's called, mind goes blank) athletic support soles. for the ones I got at the MIR, I just cut the front part off, and left the back and support area, and my feet have felt great. same as the dr scholl's athletic ones, I haven't had problems with stress fractures in my feet since I started wearing them. as well the Sole Custom Ultra Heat Moldable Soles work great, I think you can get these now at sealsactiongear.com I don't wear them now because they won't fit in my boot and still give me room to move my foot around
I've haven't really liked the ripple sole on combat boots. I'll always swear by the sierra vibram soles for boots. bates are indeed a great pair of boots, but if you did look around you could find a boot that's cheaper and much better. all you need is a pair of jungle boots in black, sierra soles, and a chit and your feet will thank you. if you can get away with non-issued boots, and can afford it; danner's, rockie's, matterhorn's, and bates are the way to go. make sure you take a look around and see what type of vibram sole you want to use (keltercliff or whatever the issued ones are called aren't the only choice). I personally swear by my matterhorn's. probably the best pair of boots that I have worn so far.
as for the blackhawk gloves- I hate them, never felt comfortable on my hands at all. myself, and several of my friends have had those damn things fall apart on us within 3 months of buying those blackhawk gloves. I like how hatches feel and are made. I've owned a pair of hatches that are camo'ed on one side(the only place I've ever seen these things sold is at the RCR Kit shop in London, I haven't even seen them for sale on Hatche's website) and are made of neoprene. I wore those and a pair of green knits one ex I had and my hands were ten times warmer then wear those damn winter mitts that we get issued. I also own a pair of kevlar slash resistant gloves. those things are the cat's behind. they fit perfectly to my hand, they breath very well, and are a pair of gloves to use for search people without having to worry about getting poked by something that isn't good for you. the winter specalists gloves made by hatch are good as well. they as well fit to your hand, you won't sweat in them. I learnt the hard way that they're not good for anything past -15 though. but a great glove to have for those colder days.
as for eye protection; the issued glasses or goggles are great. I always wear my sun wind dust any time that I need them on my head. since I already wear glasses, the issued glasses are out of the question until I get a perscripition in them. but the goggles you won't be getting any crap in your eyes at all. I have been looking at purchasing a pair of ESS goggles with the fan built into them. these things will stop a shotgun blast, and can take a .22. So I know I'll be purchasing a pair of these before the end of the day.
and packs; if you're going over seas now. all you need is the issued day pack. it's a huge freak of nature to be carrying around. if you need something bigger then that to carry 24hrs worth of stuff, then you're more demented into kit then I am. throw a camleback 3L bladder in there, feed the tube through the zipper at the top, and you're good to go. but if for some reason you don't get issued one before you head over, all you need is a camleback bag of some kind. I use to carry around a BFM bag by camelback, and you could basically have that bag as your rucksack if you wanted it, it could toot that much stuff in it.
knives/multi-tools- I always stood behind the old issued gerber; if you have one KEEP IT. that thing is worth it's weight in gold. I am not fond of the new gerber at all. yeah it may have a much better saw, but you loose much of the versatility that the old one had. I broke my new gerber within 2 months of owning it. as for knives I use to run around with a big ol buck knife (nicknamed it the anti-tank knife, ghostwalk I'm sure you remember the knife) it was a good knife that was sharp and capable of doing the job. but I needed something for sawing as well. I tossed that knife and picked up a jump knife; it can do the same size, it's smaller, and the saw on it is alright, but I picked up a little survival saw off of sealsactiongear.com that thing can cut through just about anything no problem.
as for the flashlight- I have to agree, surefire gets the job done. I just wish I knew where I put mine. to go along with knives, replace the bayonet with an american one made by ontario knives. my room mate has one, and the thing is a trillion times better then the issued one.
watches- to me a watch is a watch, I haven't seen any use to buying something that has all these bells and whistles. so long as it has an alarm, and I can change the time easily, and isn't a cheap 20 one from zellers (don't lie, we've all bought on from there before) I'm happy. make sure to have two of them, because eventually you'll lose one.
slings-well since I'm a C9 gunner I'm always looking for a different sling. but pretty much the one I've come across that I like the most is the c6 sling. it slings, and nothing gets in the way. as for a c7, well the string and beener attached to the TV always works the best.  although those chalker type slings that we were just issued are alright, I'm sure great for the c7a2's, but not so good for the c9's. I've spent quite a while tinkering with it, and I still haven't found a way to use it, and not have the c9 touch the ground.
holsters-if you do happen to get a browning issued to you as a driver, officer, crew commander, whatever it may be. I've always heard nothing but good things from the blackhawk ones, just make sure that whatever holster you buy, it's specifically says that I can work with a browning.
vest-again if it's something you can get away with, get something other then that tac vest. canadian peacekeeper makes a MOLLE vest now. I don't know what to make out of the pouches just yet. but any kind of alice, malice, pals, molle vest is a good vest to invest in.
I picked up a couple of good things over the years...

CamelBack BFM - good kit...  works well as a "go" bag and has lots of storage for everything.  Very well organized.

Holsters were my nemesis...  I must have tried about a dozen before I found one that worked for my BHP.  I never was really found of the shoulder one issued in the CF.  I picked a cheap ($20-25) no name in in Bosnia and this is probably the best one I have gotten so far (made by Vespa???).

As for the rest, such as flashlights and knifes, there are millions of gadgets out there, just try some.  I would stick to big names though, and most of the times, I find you get what you pay for.
I don't know anything, but reading that, it sounds like he either was prepping a list for the many civilians heading to iraq, or a wishlist....  or American soldiers are regularly kitting themselves out for everything except their weapons and LBV?

Can anyone shed light?
It's quite common for soldiers to compliment (or "replace") thier issued gear with personal, after-market equipment so that they are better able to do their job. Items can range from things that the issued equivalent might be lacking in areas or are uncomfortable for the soldier (restricting movement, doesn't spread weight efficiently, not enough pocket room, things in the way) to things which are pretty much must-have, but the military cant afford to equip to everyone who needs them (camelbacks come to mind). Hell, it could be personal preference (rifle/carbine sights, eyewear, boots). This isn't just for Americans, Canadian soldiers do it as well.

I'm pretty sure that it's a foregone conclusion that anyone in this forum knows about supplementing kit with non-issue items.  That has happened since the dawn of the foot soldier.  It just seems that this "No Bull Kit List" is a no brainer.  Even if it was geared towards a civilian contractor, I would like to think that whatever civilian contractor it may be that was deploying to Iraq would have the common sense to bring items such as body armour and boots.
It just seems that this "No Bull Kit List" is a no brainer.  Even if it was geared towards a civilian contractor, I would like to think that whatever civilian contractor it may be that was deploying to Iraq would have the common sense to bring items such as body armour and boots.

Agreed. Any competant contractor on his way to Iraq should already know what works for him and what doesn't. As well, to any soldier deploying to Iraq, this list should already be considred common sense. I would pay less attention to what a magazine says about good kit, and be more concerned about what more experienced troops in my own unit would take. I'm more inclined to trust the opinions of guys I know, then the opinions of someone paid to write an article in that magazine.

This is the kind of "inside info" that appeals to armchair generals. Its the stuff that sells SOF magazine to civillians who only have a basic understanding of what works in the field and what doesn't.
That being said, maybe some of the posters in here should write articles to SOF or other magazines.   I haven't stopped being amazed at the wealth of knowledge and willingness to share it with others that this forum provides.   Keep up the good work to all of you!    :salute:
Blackhorse7 said:

I'm pretty sure that it's a foregone conclusion that anyone in this forum knows about supplementing kit with non-issue items.  That has happened since the dawn of the foot soldier.  It just seems that this "No Bull Kit List" is a no brainer.  Even if it was geared towards a civilian contractor, I would like to think that whatever civilian contractor it may be that was deploying to Iraq would have the common sense to bring items such as body armour and boots.

Actually, if you look at the post right above mine, the poster is asking if this is a common thing (well, that's the impression I get when I read it), and I was saying that it was (and a little bit of why).
I appreciated Jonesy's response.
What I mean is, Iunderstand adding "little things" to your kit (ie, using an MEC spoon instead of KFS, camelbacks, etc)... but replacing entire issued kit (ie sleeping bag, the full body armour, boots, etc)..

It just makes it sound to someone  much less experienced that basically he doesn't use any of his issued gear, and looks entirely different than anyone else in the uniform...

My bad.. apologies if you felt like I was directing negative comments to you.  I wasn't intending to.
Be your own judge.
I read the article... interesting.  Lot's of info on conditions, but lean on the personla gear info.  There was a similar thread awhile back that was a "must have kit list" for Iraq.  That one was similar to this one... seems more like a sales pitch from Blackhawk Industries than anything. 

What I would like to see is info on both current issue and non issue items that either worked or didn't work in the field, and what sort of mods or improvements people made to overcome problems.