Thursday, July 10, 2008

Essential Tactical Gear

I don’t care if you use tactical gear for your livelihood, recreation, a hobby, or you just like having cool stuff. It’s important to know what’s out there and spend your money wisely. Obviously, if you’re in a profession that requires you to make use of tactical gear in your day-to-day life you may have more of an interest in buying quality equipment, but that’s not to say the rest of us don’t as well.

Let’s look at some of the more common (but maybe still essential) tactical gear, how it’s used, and what features to look for when purchasing.

Eye Protection

Call them goggles, sunglasses, ballistic glasses, or tactical eye devices – they all offer the same thing: eye protection. Protection from what? Well, lots of things, really. Sun, dust, debris, glare, sand, you name it. There are few things that will put you out of commission faster than an eye injury, and few things that are more dangerous than not being able to see what you’re doing. All the rest of your tactical gear and tactical equipment becomes useless if you can’t see what you’re doing. Look for lenses that meet ANSI Z87.1 Industrial Standards and minimize blur and distortion. If you wear prescription glasses, consider buying your eye protection with prescription lenses . It'll save you some organization and extra equipment to carry around.


Yes, I said footwear. Another basic item of tactical gear that we overlook far too often. If you can’t walk, run, jump, or stand, you can’t participate in whatever activity it is you’re interested in. Again, both professional and recreational enthusiasts will be sidelined without proper footwear. And by footwear I don’t just mean boots and shoes. I mean socks, foot powder, blister relief, and more boots and shoes. For your actual outer footwear, look for something that it comfortable, provides a stable platform for your feet (think balance), provides some level of waterproofing, and can take a little abuse. Many companies today are using Gortex in their construction which has the best of both worlds in weight, breathability, and water resistance.

For socks, consider a combination of Coolmax, wool, nylon, or cotton. Also look at wearing two pairs on each foot to reduce friction and maximize the wicking effect. Your bottom layer should be very light weight, preferably nylon or a very light wool.

Global Positioning System

They’re not just for the elite anymore. For a number of years now, dependable, accurate, useful, and user friendly tactical GPS units have been available to the masses. If you remember the old military PLGRS, you probably aren’t filing the memories away in the “good tactical gear” category. Fear not, things have changed drastically. Gone are the days of poor signal processing and overhead foliage ruining your reception. Gone are the days of cryptic menus and poor user interface. Today’s units are the real deal.

Look for waterproof units for maximum durability, and extras such as NOAA weather alert reception, WAAS (Wide Area Augmentation System) for greater accuracy, built-in GMRS/FRS for non-tactical communication, and the ability to use a micro-SD card to add and store information. This will definately be one of your higher-tech pieces of tactical gear.


Ah, the trusty compass. The sidekick of explorers throughout history, and probably one of the most fun things you remember playing with from your childhood (to the younger audience, we didn’t use to have Nintendo and X-Box). Who knew it was actually useful for real-world navigation? The things to look for when purchasing one are phosphorescent markings (for low-light use), operating range over temperature (-50 to +150 is good), needle lock for long term durability, damping, adjustable declination to match your locality, and a built in protractor.


How are you going to navigate with your compass unless you have a map of the area you’re operating in? There’s plenty of different sources to find military grid coordinate maps, civilian lat/long maps, topographical maps, geological maps, and any other type of map you can imagine. The important thing to remember with this tactical gear is to look at the map and know what you’re doing before you’re in a situation where it’s your last resort! Trust me – I’ve done a lot of map reading and land navigation (without GPS) in my day. There’s nothing quite like the sinking feeling in your stomach when you realize not only are you in the middle of nowhere, but you’re nowhere near where you though you were heading for the past six hours.

Cold Weather Gear

Do not – I repeat, do not – get caught in a situation where you’re not prepared for a climate extreme or a local nighttime temperature anomaly. This is a very dangerous situation to be in, and can lead to hypothermia, and well, you know the rest. I can remember one situation where I was participating in some SCUBA training where I was the only guy in a 3 mil wetsuit. Not bad in warm water, but when it’s cold and everyone else has an 11 mil wetsuit on, you’re toast. I had an 80F core temperature before the rest of the group realized they were even in cold water. While the temperature loss isn’t as extreme on land, the end state is the same. Without the proper tactical gear, you’re out of commission, done having fun, and possibly in big trouble if you’re by yourself and have no way of warming up.


One last topic for this article – blending into your environment. Are you trying to conceal yourself? From what? In what environment? This is one of the more difficult area of tactical gear because of all the trade offs. Perfect camouflage probably requires that you’re under ground or completely out of sight. That’s usually not conducive to getting anything done. The easiest way to get things done is out in the open with the minimum equipment necessary. But that’s not conducive to camouflaging yourself. The balance is finding tactical gear that can conceal you in a variety of environments while still offering ease of movement, insulation against hot and cold, protection from moisture, and generally offers some type of utility other than concealment. It’s all about trade-offs with your gear.

That’s it for this article. There’s a lot more topics to cover in the realm of tactical gear, though, so don’t worry, we’ll get there.

1 comment:

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