If you’ve never gone into a military surplus store stop what you’re doing and find the nearest one to you. Seriously. They are so fun to spend time wandering around in. I could wander in the aisles of the one near me for hours, days even.

There’s a nice one in my town. But there’s an even larger surplus store in the next biggest town a couple hours from me. So if I’m in that larger town for any amount of time I always try to hit it up. Look around in your area because the one nearest you might not be the best.

Surplus stores get the best stuff based on the relationships they have with their suppliers, and larger stores that have been in business longer definitely have better stuff and better prices. Many of the items that you see in surplus stores are the same all over though, so here’s what I want you to look for next time you’re in one.

1. Wool Blanket

Wool never wears out. These blankets are large. The one I have is 60 inches by 80 inches. That’s 5 feet by almost 7 feet. They’re warm. In my area of the Pacific Northwest, where it rains a LOT, wool is a must for hats, gloves, jackets, socks and more. If the surplus store has wool pants or wool sweaters in your size, get those too. image from midwayusa.com

2. Fuel Can

military surplus fuel can

These military fuel cans, or jerry cans, are sturdy and metal. They can take a beating. They last longer than plastic when filled with fuel. And if you have a metal can and you want hot water, set it in the sun. Obviously, save a can that you don’t put gas in for this! These cans are not cheap. Compare prices, and make sure it’s quality material. Good cans can be $80 or more for one. image from roverparts.com

3. Duffel Bags


military surplus duffel bag

Duffel bags come in handy for numerous things and like other military gear, they are sturdy and last forever. When I was in my 20s before kids and didn’t have a car, I stuffed all of my laundry in a duffel and carried it on my back on my bike to the laundromat! I’m sure I looked a site riding down the street, but man, I wish I still had that bag. You’ll have similar memories of the duffel you get. image from sportsmansguide.com

4. Ammo Cans

military surplus ammo can

Ammo cans are great for many things besides storing ammo. They are strong, sturdy, come in different sizes from small to large and are stackable (because they’re rectangular). Use them to hold tinder to keep it dry or important documents you want to keep safe. You can fill them with sand to use as support or extra weight in your shelter. Keep your first aid items in one. Of course, they work great for holding ammo too! image from majorsurplus.com

5. Field Jacket

military surplus field jacket

Military clothes are well-made of sturdy fabric, and field jackets are warm. Surplus stores nowadays are getting a lot more imitation gear because the original, old stuff is in short supply on certain things. Just check the labels to make sure you’re getting high-quality stuff.

image from armysurplusworld.com

That’s my list. There are so many things though that you can find in a surplus store, from mess kits to tarps to boots. What is your must-buy list?