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Military surplus cold weather gear for elk hunting in the mountains?

Discussion in 'Hunting' started by Mr. Hill, Sep 22, 2017.

  1. Bones741

    Bones741 Member

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    Merino wool base layer! Wicks as good as under armor,does not hold odor,is warm feeling rather than cool like under armor is. And it's not itchy. Worth every penny ! Once you try it you'll never go back to another base layer.
     
  2. natman

    natman Member

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    Ok, what would the reason be?

    Keep in mind the OP is on a budget and has specifically asked for low cost surplus gear recommendations. Sure, he could get the latest Gore-tex and Thinsulate gear, but that stuff is expensive.
     
  3. MCgunner

    MCgunner Member

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    Actually, just speaking for myself...CHEAP is the ONLY reason I ever bought anything mil surp....including weapons. I'm always looking for that bargain....:rofl:
     
  4. FL-NC

    FL-NC Member

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    Because its essentially WW2 gear. As such, its heavy when dry and much worse when wet. If you choose to take it off when walking with a ruck, its heavy in the ruck and takes up way too much room. It gives no protection against rain. If you wear it while doing strenuous activity (like walking through the mountains with a rucksack) you will be dehydrated in no time flat, enroute to being a heat casualty, and- as previously stated- it will be wet and heavy because all of the fluids you want in your body will have soaked into the jacket. The OP would be much better off with just the nylon M65 liner (lightweight, works somewhat when wet, easy to stow) and a rain suit top (same abilities) than with a cotton M65. At least these 2 items work, are light, can be used together or seperately, and can be stowed easily in a ruck. These were the only "cold weather gear" used in places like Ranger and SF training in the pre gortex/ poly pro era. I went through SF training in the winter in NC and pre-Ranger in the winter in KY and that's all we had. 23 years in the army, and I can count the times I wore my M65 on one hand (in the army) and have fingers left over.
     
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  5. redneck

    redneck Member

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    For reasonably priced layering you might look at some of the midwayusa branded clothing. I have one of their elk fork 1/4 zip fleece shirts, I bought on sale for about $20 shipped and I am very happy with how warm it is and how it fits. It is warm enough to wear by itself if you are active but is close fitting and has thumbhole sleeves making it easy to pull another layer over top of it.
    If the other clothes in the elk fork line are as good as the 1/4 zip, they're definitely worth a look.
    https://www.midwayusa.com/product/939136506/midwayusa-mens-elk-fork-1-4-zip-long-sleeve-shirt

    I have never been out west but I work outdoors here in ohio where it is generally dreary, wet and cold, most of the winter and my activity level varies from breaking colts and throwing hay to sitting on a tractor for hours. I recommend spending most of your budget towards good quality base and mid layers as those are what you will be using all the time. A heavy outer layer just needs to be good enough to keep you dry and block the wind while you're sitting, if your primary layers are doing their job. High tech breathable stuff is nice, but isn't necessary for the coat you only wear when you are sitting still glassing or whatever.
     
  6. grampajack

    grampajack AR Junkie

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    Hopefully you have a good pair of boots already, because it doesn't sound you have time to break in a new pair. If your current boots aren't insulated, then overboots might be the way to go. I've never used them, but they can't be worse than hiking in new boots. You might also give heated socks a try. Be sure and use a proper liner sock under a heavy backpacking sock. Wool is the only way to go when it comes to socks.

    Main thing is absolutely no cotton. Wool, silk, synthetic, and down are all okay. This is most important next to your skin. You would be amazed how effective proper baselayers are. I'll often wear 4 layers of various long underwear. The poly milsurp stuff is actually pretty good.

    Now when it comes to down, there are only two situations where you want it. Either in the desert, where it's good year round, or in extreme cold where the temp isn't going to get above freezing. If there's ANY risk of high humidity or liquid precip, just don't do it. Down doesn't insulate when wet, and damp, cold weather will make down almost as miserable as cotton.

    One thing about military surplus is that the insulation is going to be pretty beat up. When you first buy an insulated jacket or sleeping bag, whether it be down or synthetic, it will generally live up to its rating. But after it gets worn, washed, and compressed enough times it starts to break down and loses its loft. So if a piece is rated to a certain temp, take that with a huge grain of salt. I once bought an ultralight bag that was rated to 32F, and with baselayers on I was able to take it down to 20F just after buying it. I tried doing that again a few years later and froze my arse off. It just doesn't have the loft that it did new. It's been the same with every piece of gear I've ever bought. So if you see a surplus jacket rated to -40, just assume it's more like 0. Also keep in mind those are survival ratings, as in the average person won't go hypothermic, not comfort ratings. So if a bag for example is rated to -40, it's comfort rating might be -10 or -20.

    Also don't forget to buy a can of spray on teflon. Spray everything with it, head to toe. And if all else fails, get some old fashioned hand warmers (the kind that take lighter fluid). Those babies are magical. I don't know if they still make it, but they used to make these little belts that would hold two handwarmers over your kidneys, and I think anyone would be hard pressed to get cold with one of those, regardless of anything else.

    Oh, and when it comes to surplus down, realize that there's down and then there's down. Most surplus "down" garments I've seen aren't actually down, but rather feathers, like you would find in a feather pillow. That's not what you want. Down is rated by its fill power, and commercial products generally go from 500 to 900, with higher being better. The military down garments and bags I've seen I'm guessing are somewhere in the 200 fill power range.
     
    Last edited: Sep 26, 2017
  7. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    I live in Minnesota and hunt in weather ranging from Sub-zero to 70's. I recommend poly or silk long underwear. If I am not constantly moving I wear a layer of fleece underwear over that. Over that I wear wind proof an waterproof jacket and pants with Goretex and Thinsulate usually. When I was younger I wore a M-65 jacket a lot. It is ok in dry conditions and a 30-40 degree range. But too heavy for warm temps and to bulky and not warm enough for cold temps and no good in wet weather. I avoid nylon as it doesn't breath and is noisy. Natural fibers like wool and cotton absorb moisture and are bulky. Plus wool get too warm if you are moving. A good hat and maybe a baklava are important . Very good boots are a must. Army boots will do with good socks, but the best you can afford is better. Chemical heaters are great. Hot hands makes good ones and they are cheap, thin,very effective, disposable, easy to use and do not smell. I put some in my pockets and if I need them I take one out of it's wrapper and shake it, instant heat. Have fun.
     
  8. ScrapMetalSlug

    ScrapMetalSlug Member

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    Get some silk weights, under armor, poly pro whatever you want to call them and use them as a good base layer.

    They can be surplus or you can find deals on the commercial stuff. I wouldn’t focus on military surplus unless you find a really good deal. Military surplus gear is often well made, but not as light as backpacking gear. The two best pieces of military clothing for cold weather are the synthetic field jacket liner, and the poncho liner. They weigh almost nothing and really keep you warm and comfortable, if you can find a good deal on these. Gore Tex jackets are too noisy, and you can’t wear that stuff while carrying a pack elk hunting, you’d have a heat stroke. Elk hunting in the mountains requires very different clothing than sitting in a deer stand all day.

    You would also be surprised to know that wearing cold weather gear while in the military is looked down upon, especially in combat arms type units. Part of the reason is so you don’t overheat while carrying a pack, and the other part is mostly tradition and foolishness. Most veterans you meet probably have stories of taking large packing lists of gear to the field and not being able to wear any of it, as silly as it sounds.

    Avoid all cotton anything at all costs. Plan to constantly be removing or adding layers or unzipping your jacket. When you are hiking you will get hot even if it is cold out, and you will get cold when you stop moving and need to bundle up. The key with adding and removing layers is you don’t want to get overheated and start sweating. The more you can limit how much you sweat, the better off you will be when you stop moving. To limit weight, I would use all of my extra layers as insulation every night making a cocoon around my sleeping bag. When I hunted first season in Colorado this year, it got in the teens at night.

    If you were really on a tight budget, you could get some cheap wool sweaters from goodwill. Not the most light weight, but will perform well in the cold and if they get wet. They may not be mossy oak or real tree, but some of those patterns on wool sweaters should break up your outline ok.

    Don’t forget some good broken in boots and wool socks. Don’t get wool socks that are too thick, and cause your feeet to sweat, but some nice medium weight wool socks.

    The main thing is get out there. You don’t need to be outfitted from head to toe in cabelas pro gear to have an enjoyable hunt. Through experience, you will find what is important to you and upgrade accordingly. Have fun.
     
  9. .455_Hunter

    .455_Hunter Member

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    +1000

    Not to derail the thread too much, but one of the key jobs I learned as a company grade Army Officer was the necessity to step in and squash some of these boneheaded attempts of "esprit de corps".
     
    Last edited: Nov 8, 2017
  10. John Joseph

    John Joseph Member

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    How does it compare with Polypropylene? I've been using merino socks for hiking but not base layer. Just curious
     
  11. Bones741

    Bones741 Member

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    Never tried polypropylene. I used to used under armor cold gear base layer and wasn't overly impressed. I like the Merino alot more. Sorry for not having a direct answer
     
  12. d2wing

    d2wing Member

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    I prefer poly over Merino wool because the poly wicks better and is not as warm. I sweat with Merino wool underwear but I do use it in socks. As another poster said, sweat is your enemy. Wool and poly are way better than cotton.
     
  13. Sav .250

    Sav .250 Member

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    A lot of military cold weather gear is way to noisy when going through brush and such.
     
  14. GAF

    GAF Member

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  15. Mr. Hill

    Mr. Hill Member

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    The level 1 thermals were great! They soaked up sweat and never let me feel wet, even after hiking hard in the timber. The other surplus stuff worked well, too. The gen 3 is surprisingly thin and quiet and kept me warm.
     
  16. Charliefrank

    Charliefrank Member

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    Do not forget to take a little extra gear. It doesn't have to be much or weight much, ie; extra tinder, fire starter, space blanket. If for some reason you have to spend the night, it could save your life. I know this from experience. I used to spend a lot of time in the mountains hunting and trapping and have gotten stuck overnight more than once.
     
  17. amd6547

    amd6547 Member

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    I’ve done a lot of cold weather backpacking and cross country skiing. Since I worked at an outdoors store, I got great gear cheap. I still have and use this stuff 20+ years later.
    Since then, I have used some surplus gear. One great buy was the German flecktarn gore Tex shell parka.
    It was very cheap, and I have gotten so much use out of it. Great top layer, and I like the camo. I still see these for sale, along with the pants dirt cheap.
    I agree with the above post. Military cold weather gear have entered the modern age. I like the M65 with liner as a general wear coat in the Northern Ohio winters, but it wouldn’t be what I would grab for an extended trip in the mountains.
    Which, by the way, should be viewed as a potential survival situation, and you should be equipped both mentally and with proper gear for same.
     
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  18. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    I like thinsulate watch caps, an unlined Gore Tex jacket and a light weight down vest. Carry most of your gear in a light pack, and add clothes when you stop for a while.
     
  19. CrustyGrunt

    CrustyGrunt Member

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    Curious how this worked out for the OP. The ECWCS and PCU system are great pieces of gear. I use them hunting here in Colorado myself.
     
  20. Mr. Hill

    Mr. Hill Member

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    It worked out just fine. The milsurp was a good value and kept me warm.
     
  21. CrustyGrunt

    CrustyGrunt Member

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    Good to hear. What levels did you use?
     
  22. Vern Humphrey

    Vern Humphrey Member

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    I have to say this -- I'm a backpacker and have hiked most of the Appalachian Trail, the Horseshoe Trail in PA, the Ozark Highlands Trail and many others.

    I started out using military gear -- as a soldier, I had access to it. Over time, I switched, dropping a piece of military gear, and adopting a "civilian" piece. Boots, socks, packs, canteens, sleeping bags, you name it. Right now the only piece of military gear I carry on the trail is a cravat bandage -- because it's bigger than the biggest bandana I can find.
     
  23. Mr. Hill

    Mr. Hill Member

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    Level 5 jacket and pants. Also thermal underwear. I’d like too add a level 3 fleece and level 7 jacket and trousers for really cold still hunting.
     
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