One of the biggest surprises you will face at TBS is the ridiculous amount of money you will spend on uniforms, gear, and ops funds. Unfortunately, there’s nothing that can be done about required uniforms and monthly ops funds (~$50). However, I can help when it comes to buying non-essential, but highly desired gear. Lieutenants in the hills of Quantico will do anything they can to make things easier, or more comfortable. Purchasing random gear at the MCX and Stafford Uniform (tactical gear store outside the gate) becomes commonplace. At the end of TBS you will be left with a bunch of stuff you didn’t really need. I would say that most people spend between $500-$1000 depending on how many “extra” pairs of boots you decide are needed. Here’s my two-cents on what you may need.
The links don’t necessarily offer the best prices for these items. Consider shopping around and you may save a few bucks.
Finding Great Gloves is HARD
I ended buying 3 pairs of gloves and spent well over $100. The best tactical gloves with durability, dexterity, and grip are not the best at keeping your hands warm during the winter. The only option is to buy some warmer winter gloves which is unfortunate because quality gloves are expensive. Every company at TBS will catch part of the winter. You will learn that the cold is ferocious and investing in proper gloves is essential. Here are some recommendations based on my experience and what others have told me.
Wiley X Tactical Gloves – A bit pricey for my wallet, but I’ve heard others swear by these goatskin and kevlar infused gloves. These will do just about everything you need them to except keep your hands warm.
Seirus All Weather Gloves – I picked up some of these at REI the day before a FEX hoping they would keep my fingers from freezing over. Overall, they held up well despite being thinner than some other winter gloves. The thicker ones will obviously keep your hands warmer, but then you lose dexterity and can’t do much with your hands.
The green issued gloves work, but they aren’t waterproof. The black leather ones are warm and waterproof, but you can barely move your fingers in them. Nonetheless, if your on a tight budget they will do.
The Multi-Tool Dilemma
I was too cheap to get a Leatherman or Gerber at TBS, but then I found myself constantly borrowing one. Both companies make high quality multi-tools. Seriously consider investing in a good tool that will last years. The Leatherman linked to is awesome. The flathead on the Leatherman was the only thing that would get the rusted screws loose on my kevler.
For some reason everyone lost their mind when we started doing night operations. The platoon ended up with about 100 glow sticks, 50 IR chem lights, 10 useless cans of glow in the dark spray paint, and a stupid amount of glint tape. The platoon can get away with:
10-20 IR Chem Lights – Good for each FEX and The War. These worked best when marking the PLD and the route.
1 Roll of Glint Tape – Should last the POI. The tape is great for marking key leaders (1 strip for squad leaders, 2 strips for the Plt Sgt, and 3 for the Plt Cdr).
Digging Doesn’t Get Easier
The platoon went crazy for FEX II and we ended up bringing like 10 extra shovels and pickaxes. Having more gear to dig with was definitely nice, but it wasn’t worth the money or effort to carry it around for a week. Not a single person brought their shovel/pickaxe during FEX III. Most people ended up giving, or throwing, away the $20-$30 shovel/pickaxe they bought. If you can get some extra stuff for free then I would take it out for FEX II. Mainly because it’s going to be your first time digging a skirmishers trench and there’s some peace of mind knowing that you have something other than an E-tool. By the time you get to FEX III you will be an E-tool expert. Plus, no one wants to carry more crap on top of the M240B.
I do have to admit that it’s sweet having a hatchet to chop away roots. Get one if you have some extra cash to burn, else you will survive just fine without it. Chopping down trees is not allowed so don’t expect to be out there acting like a lumberjack.
I would suggest putting all the cleaning gear you are issued by the armory in a drawer somewhere so you don’t lose anything while in the field. You can get away with these three items and an old shirt.
Extra AP Brush – Keep the one from the armory tucked away.
Mini-Clp – You can refill it at the armory.
Bore Snake – Some people got a 7.62 and 9mm snake as well, but it’s not necessary. Get the 5.56 snake.
Cold Weather Gear
Gloves were discussed earlier, but there’s other gear you might want to consider picking up.
Wool Socks – Hands down the best type of sock to keep your feet warm.
Cold Weather Boots – If you went to OCS you should have some CW boots already. Everyone else, except aviators, should consider investing some money in boots.
Long Sleeve Green Undershirt – The MCX sells two brands of this: Underarmour and Dri-Duke. Unsurprisingly, the Underarmour stuff is four times more expensive. The Dri-Duke gear was more than adequate. You can also grab some leggings, but you probably won’t wear them much. It’s too difficult to shed layers on your legs.
Face Mask – The neck gator issued is great. A face mask is a nice alternative if you find the gator feels awkward when worn.
Random Stuff You Just Need
Red Lens – You will hardly ever use this, but you still have to have one.
Cat Eyes – These will be SPC dependent, but most likely you will have to get these in desert and woodland.
MCMAP Belts – Hopefully you will get to green belt at TBS. At the least you will need a tan belt.
Camo Paint – You may have to try a few brands out to see which one destroys your skin the least.
Carabiner – The best way to attach a kevlar helmet to the flak jacket.
550 Cord – Color doesn’t matter. I bought 550 in desert and green, but it’s not necessary.
Rite in the Rain – The last thing you want to worry about is your order getting destroyed from the rain.
Rank Insignia / Subdued Rank Insignia – They will get scratched up, lost, and turn colors. I ended up with about four pairs. Not to mention the pair you will give your pistol/rifle coach when you get expert!
Gear You Can Live Without
Most of this stuff is either a waste of your money, or something you should consider twice before buying.
Knee Pads – Nice to have during MOUT when kneeling in the concrete buildings, but unnecessary otherwise. Their likely going to cause chaffing and aggravate you after 3 days in the field anyways. If you can split a pair with someone then it could be worth getting.
Bates Lites – These are awesome boots that are great for just about anything. If you got a pair for ROTC/OCS definitely wear them at TBS. Don’t go out and spend $100+ for Bates Lites just to take a few minutes off of your Endurance Course time. I know a handful of lieutenants who did this and it really doesn’t make sense. The Marine Corps is shifting towards RAT boots and Bates Lites probably won’t be authorized much longer anyways.
Anti-fog – Why would I need anti-fog you ask? Your going to go blind during night land navigation. A tree is going to poke an eye out if you don’t wear eye pro and the lenses will fog over if you do. There is no winning with night land nav and anti-fog isn’t going to help.
Hydration System – If your Camelbak bladder bursts or leaks, go to supply and get a new one. Don’t waste money on a “better” one.
Elixir Tablets / Gu – Nice to have, but not necessary. The salt packets in your MREs will accomplish the same thing.
Laminated Patrol Overlay /Range Cards/Etc – You will learn what these are. Save the $5 bucks, you will hardly ever use these.