Is Military Clothing Really as Good as You Think?
Slap the word “military” onto almost anything, especially clothing and there will be people lining up to buy it. The term makes people think of rugged durability and long-term use, which would be great features to have in a disaster situation. However, the military specifications can cause screwups just like civilian demand can, and the old problem of “made by the lowest bidder” can leave some long-term issues as well. Civilian clothing may not be made to a military standard, but that may well mean that it is made to a practical standard demanded by hard-working civilian contractors or workers in rough-and-tumble fields like lumberjacking that may better fit a prepper’s needs. Let’s see which is superior and deserves space with the rest of your supplies in your survival closet!
BDU’s and ACU’s: Looking at the Pro’s and Con’s of Military Design.
BDU’s (Battle Dress Uniforms) are the old-style military uniform that was used prior to the introduction of the ACU (Army Combat Uniform) around 2005. Both have their own advantages and disadvantages relative to each other, but let’s focus on the pro’s and con’s relative to civilian clothing:
Often cheap for what you get. BDU’s in particular have been found in quantity for less than $25 from surplus stores and sites depending on the demand at the time. For the prepper on a budget, these may be more practical to buy as opposed to a pair of expensive Carhartts or Dickies.
- Decent fabric blends when compared to other durable brands. Generally speaking unless you live in a dry, warm climate clothing that is high in cotton could prove deadly since cotton fares poorly when wet or in extreme cold. Although some jungle designs used high-cotton content in the past, most military blends include some nylon and other materials that help minimize the effects of cotton. These blends also add somewhat to durability since sweat is wicked away instead of sitting and rotting out around the groin, armpits etc.
- Looser fit for most, and increased comfort. One point seen again and again both from civilians and former military who use them is that both the BDU and ACU are quite comfortable and looser fitting than civilian clothes of the same size. This is considered a major benefit for both practical comfort (reducing blisters/chafing) and for durability, since pants and the armpit areas are less likely to bind up and tear when you stretch or bend.
- Camouflage designs for many environments. Generally speaking the ACU pattern is considered to be superior to the BDU one, but both are quite functional in providing camouflage in many different environments ranging from desert to forest to urban. If you need to hide while travelling or while on sentry duty, a decent camo pattern combined with the other benefits of the military uniform can be very useful.
- Fairly durable even in extreme situations, but not very long-lived. The ACU’s in particular typically lasted less than a year of regular hard use, with BDU’s usually not exceeding two years. Although this isn’t terrible (see how long your average pair of jeans will last by comparison!) it is outperformed by some durable civilian brands.
- Quality varies by year and maker without an easy way to tell the difference. Without a good deal of research to “sniff out” the bad years or low quality runs, you will have a hard time finding the decent pairs of ACU or BDU. The newest is not always the best!
- You won’t always want camo designs. Camouflage is great in some places and situations, but in many cases (particularly during emergencies) when people will associate camo with military or militia types who may not be well thought of. A pair of Carharts are durable without screaming “paramilitary” to everyone you see.
- Velcro on some models unsuitable to dirty environments. Some designs that use buttons work just fine with a little dirt, but those with Velcro tend to be iffy once gunk gets into the material.
So, Is Military-Style Clothing Better or Worse Than Civilian Stuff?
As with many things it depends on your needs, but overall I would say that it is better in the sense that it is of a reasonable quality without being excessively expensive. For the same money that you would spend to buy a full set of nice Carharts or Dickies you could probably buy several sets of military stuff which helps to offset the shorter lifespan. If you had to rely on just a single set for an extended period of time though, you would be better off spending the money for something of a higher quality than what the ACU or BDU will provide. In short, it’s a good middle-of-the-road option and much more useful in quantity than it is singly.