Before I get into talking about any specific gear; wether its exercise equipment, outdoor gear, tools or what ever, I need to share my mindset on this subject.
First off I am a gear hound, meaning I love great gear, stuff that you can use, that is rugged, well made and durable. My dad is a machinist and through him I developed a love, and a respect for well made things. Craftsmanship, quality materials and well thought out design is something that I learned to highly value. Add to that my love of sports and the outdoors and you have a gear hound. Plus Marines by nature love gear, as we rely and use it so much, and having good shit to use just motivates the hell out of us.
So to wrap it up; rest assured that anything that you read here about gear is from my own personal experience. I WON’T recommend anything that I don’t use myself, and be sure that if I use something, it’s been rode very hard, probably much harder than you will ever use it. I don’t baby anything I own, not from my vehicles to exercise gear. What would be the point to baby these things? If I (or you) spend hard earned money on any thing, we need to know that it will hold up to extended rough use. I won’t normally make a judgment on anything based just on price either. While sometimes great gear is inexpensive (I will point that out), in most cases good stuff cost more money than cheap crap. As they say you get what you pay for, its that simple. Its high value that I look for, that could mean a few bucks to many hundred. It’s not what you pay, its what you get, and in most cases good gear will normally last a long time. So in the end it will be relatively inexpensive. Buy cheap stuff, and expect it to break at the worst possible moment. I personally don’t have the time, nor the patience for that bullshit.
Recently I have also started adding links to other great sites
for more gear and military info, these are also listed below.
New Swiss Army Knife by Victorinox
I am, always have been and always will be a Knife Fag. I’ve got a huge box of knives of every shape and description. I don’t know why, its just something I’ve always loved about a well made and USEFUL knife. With that I have pocket knives all over my garage, truck and work place. I’ve used many different Swiss Army knives over the years. I thought some were good, but some were just silly with all the crazy gadgets they had. Recently I heard that Victorinox had come up with a new standard issue Army knife, the first change to this since 1961. So of course I ordered one on Amazon for about $30.00.
I say recently, but this was actually about 6-8 months ago, and I’m now just getting around to writing this review after putting the knife through a pretty good test over that time frame. IMO this is a great all around knife, in fact other than needing a “Fighting” knife, something to hack down tree limbs, or “piler” applications, it can do about anything you would need in the normal field ops. Its a little bigger than the old issue Swiss Army Knife, but IMO that size is an advantage as you get a bigger main blade, longer saw and a better handle to use it all.
The main blade has a locking tab and locks firmly in place when fully opened. This blade has a thumb hole in the top shaft so you can easily open it with one hand. The blade itself is mostly serrated and sharp as hell. I have cleaned fish (through heavy bones), cut all kinds of rope, strap, cardboard, cut bait, rubber hose, canvas cloth, sliced mangos, you name it and it cuts all very well. It also holds an edge and sharpens easily with a stone, even with the serrated edge. I never have tried it but I can say from experience that I would know problem dressing out large or small game with it. Not sure about skinning however, as the blade is too straight for that chore, but I’m sure I could get it to work if I had to. I wouldn’t try any hard prying with this blade either, you’d break it, its made for cutting and its to thin. Its chrome finished and have noticed no corrosion.
On the knife side is also Victorinox’s great saw, which can cut just bout anything. It has a screwdriver (which also locks in pace) , a bottle opener and a great (fast working) can opener and has a tiny screwdriver on its tip. On the other side is a Philips head screwdriver and a punch. The handle is a non slip when wet plastic.
This a great piece of gear and its my go to knife, that I keep on my daypack. No it doesn’t have pilers like a multi-tool, but as a all around camp knife its hard to beat. Well worth the price and something that will give you years of quality service. In June I took this to Sierre Leone Africa for a month long training exercise. While I can’t say that I lived 24/7 in the jungle, but our living conditions and training routine forced me to use this knife almost everyday. From fixing my piece of crap bathroom, repairing a printer, cutting up fruit and bread, to sawing through some jungle vines. It worked great in every case. I highly recommend it.
Armed Forces Tactical
Recently I was made aware of a great new place to purchase the latest and greatest in military gear and clothing. Armed Forces Tactical has a huge selection of the best “state of the art” items. They also have a great blog where they give honest gear reviews and insight into issues concerning military equipment and people. Besides all that you have good people running this outfit and that should always be a consideration where you buy your stuff, it is for me. This site should be on your favorites list and to top it off, anyone visiting and purchasing gear from the Corps Strength website will receive a 10% discount (use purchase code AFT10). Come on man you can’t do better than that. Check it out at the link below.
San Tan Gear
Hey gang here is a great new site, just out; San Tan Gear. It’s a great site for all types of military gear. Everything from Training DVD’s to weapons sights. They even have some Hi Speed coffee, and you all know that coffee is an important piece of gear. Plus the site is run by a former Marine so you know its good. Check it out at:
In my book I recommend the use of KettleBells for building strength and muscular endurance. I feel that they are unequaled for building “working fitness” I have been using them for years. Long before they became popular around the fitness world I was toting my KettleBells around the country. I used to get lots of weird looks and questions back then, but they are pretty common nowadays. They have several advantages over conventional barbells and dumbbells. All of which I explain in my book. I think that the thing I like the best is that they are about indestructable and super portable. If you look in my truck you will always see my 2-40lb, 1-62lb and my 50lb weight vest. Gym on wheels so to speak. Since my book has been out I get emails from all over the world with questions about workouts and eating. One of the most common questions I get is what brand of KettleBells I use. I have used several different brands over the years and have settled on the ones offered by KettleBell USA. They are quality made and the price is right. I like the handle size of their KettleBells. they have just the right thickness and balance, plus the people who own the business are not just selling workout gear but are fitness professionals. I highly recommend them. Click on their pic to check out their website.
ITS (Imminent Threat Solutions) Tactical is a serious professional website for all things in the tactical world.
Gear testing and reviews, operational advice, skill building and a great forum for people to share their knowledge and experience. One thing I really like about it is the wide range of topics they cover. Recently there were articles about diving, the American Revolution, Important Passport gouge and even some advice on tying knots and this was just the first page! It was all well written, interesting and useful stuff. Check it out by clicking on the pic above. A great site that I highly recommend.
Everyone who has read my book knows that I consulted with my law enforcement buddies in developing my fitness system. I have some good friends on the job so needless to say I’m a big supporter of all our police forces. That means city cops, state police, county, military police and SWAT members. Trigger Pull Tactical is a great no nonsense site for all these people, as well as all other tactical operators out there. Real time advice and discussion in “grown folks” language. I highly recommend it.
Want to read a great Tactical magazine written by no shit military and law enforcement professionals? Look no further than “Tactical MILSIM Magazine” All kinds of great info on gear, tactics, training and real time advice from people “who have been there, done that”. The magazine is run by a retired Army Ranger so you know its some good stuff. They have a great website also.
Yet another great gear website is Gear Geeks. This very extensive gear review site is run by a brother Marine named Jake. An Iraqi vet like myself Jake knows his shit when it comes to gear. You’ll find out real quick that he gives in-depth, honest, and no BS opinions about everything he reviews.
This is a huge site! Videos, pics, links, blogs, gear reviews out the ass! If you like to read about military gear, weapons and equipment this site will keep you busy for many hours. Lots of detail, and in-depth info. If you are a true gear head be advised this site may cause your head to explode. LOL. Enjoy it at the link below. Great people who run it also.
This is the place if you want to see lots of military and law enforcement equipment, weapons and all the accessories. Lots of SWAT related stuff, with plenty of high def pics and a metric F--k! ton of links to other gear sites. Also for sale some pretty cool “Mil Spec Monkey Gear” Great site.
As I have been out and about meeting people promoting my book, I’ve met a bunch of great people and have also been made aware of lots of interesting and informative sites on the web. One I recently became aware of is Strike-Hold. Run by a hard ass former 82nd Airborne Division paratrooper now located in the UK; Strike-Hold features expert-written content covering the latest and greatest gear and equipment, operations and units, global hotspots and historical features. Its dedicated to special operations forces, unconventional warfare and military-oriented action hobbies. It’s a great site with lots of connections to other military sites.
Through my association with Bates Boots I became aware of a site that is a must see for military gear hounds like myself. Its called “Soldier Systems” . Eric; the guy who runs it is a true pro with lots of experience and insight with military equipment. His daily blogs are spot on, and he always seems to have the latest and greatest gear gouge. As you all know on my website I only review gear that I personally use. Which in the end is not that much stuff. Soldiers Systems covers much more than I could ever do. All types of gear, weapons systems, just about anything military, with lots of good info on all the newest military equipment. It’s a very cool site that I find myself checking everyday. There are also links to some high speed vendor sites, for even more great gear info. I highly recommend it.
In almost every picture in my book you’ll see me wearing boots, not running shoes or cross trainers. The reason is simple; when military people, firemen, cops, construction workers, etc go to work we don’t wear sneakers, or dress shoes (I’m talking about everyday work here rock star, not a parade). We need protective footwear that will give us support, and protection. In other words we wear boots of one type of another, so to me it only makes sense that’s what you should train in. Hey, you and I aren’t training for the Olympics my friend (if you are you don’t need my advice), we’re training to prepare our bodies to handle the real world, and that means boots. You will always hear lots of crap about running in boots, trust me I’ve heard it for years. 30 plus years ago when I was running in boots, doing roadwork for boxing, I took allot of ball breaking from my friends, they all said that my knees, feet and back will soon give out. Guess what? All these years later and I’m still running in boots, and still have none of those issues. In fact I think that wearing boots all those years vs. just running shoes (which I also wear) is a big reason why my feet and knees are still in good shape. I always trust my gut, personal observation and experience over what the so called experts say (about anything, and you should too). That doesn’t mean you can throw on any cheap set of work boots and run 5 miles down the highway, that will surely lead to injury. In my book I talk about the right way to train with boots. For now I am going to just talk about the boots themselves.
From as early as I can remember I always wore boots. My dad was big on wearing quality work boots (still is). Back in the day he would about throw a rod if I asked him for $15 to buy a pair of “Converse All Stars”, but he wouldn’t blink an eye to spend twice that on some good work boots. Of course later when I joined the Marines we about lived in boots, so good footwear was/is always an issue with me. (I’m glad to say the boots Marines get today are much better than the ones we got in 1981) If you check out my closet and garage, you’ll find lots of boots, hiking, combat, cold weather, motorcycle, work, you name it. I probably have it. My wife says I have a boot “issue”, Ha-Ha.
Having said all that I could make a bunch of recommendations in that area. However here I am only going to talk about boots for PT. IMO when it comes to PT, the best boots out there are the Bates “Lites” (DuraShock)”. I have run many, many miles in them. They feel like running shoes on your feet (right out of the box), as they are light and have a great amount of cushioning. However they give you the protection and the support of boots. Yes, they are heavier than running shoes, but not by much. They are very light, amazingly light in fact. They also hold up well over time. Recently in the last few years they are available in the Marine Mohave brown color, which I like better than the black, but they both feel exactly the same when you wear them. Also I never had any foot problems from running in them. I can’t say the same thing about some of running shoes I have tried over the years. Wearing these boots will help condition your body and feet for when you are doing your job. I use and highly recommend them for PT. By the way Bates also makes great combat boots also, these are heavier (and IMO more durable) than the “Lites” but are better for humping a pack, actual work etc. You could wear them for PT also, if you don’t mind the extra weight. I have done this many times with no problem. Their website is below.
In my book I stress the importance of a strong grip. Not just pure gripping power, but in endurance. The ability to just hold on, in that case a strong grip could save your life. Ask any fireman, or a construction worker that has to work high off the group. Shit happens.
Conditioning your grip takes a different type of workout. The muscles in your hand and forearm are tough from all the daily use that they receive. You need many more repetitions to build strength and endurance. I site many good exercises to use in my book. However in addition to those, I think you should always use a gripper. Over the course of my life I have tried dozens of different grippers.
The regular spring type, the little bags full of rice, different size rubber balls, etc. They all had their good and bad points. But in my opinion by far the best gripper out there is the rubber doughnut shaped gripper made by Grip Pro Trainer. (website link below) The one big advantage that the Grip Pro Trainer has over the others is that not only can you squeeze it the regular way in about any conceivable manner, to include single pairs of fingers or any group of fingers, to include your fingertips. But you can also stick your fingers into the center hole and develop the outward pushing strength of your hands. This is important for rock climbers who need this “reverse” grip strength as they jam their fingers into holes for climbing. I don’t rock climb but
I want strong hand and finger grip from any angle. Also it may seem silly but I also like the fact that if you drop it, it doesn’t roll away like if you are squeezing a Racquetball.
I have been hooked on them ever since the first squeeze.
I have one in my truck, one at work and one for when I travel. I don’t think you can wear it out. I still have one that went to Iraq, and back with me. Its great piece of gear, and it’s available in different strengths. (The red one is the hardest) Plus it does cost squat, I highly recommend it.
The Portable Pull Up Bar
Having said all that I can highly recommend the portable, and free standing pull-up bar made by Trapezerigging.com (link below) One look at the professional welding on the high grade aluminum tubing, and you know that it’s a high quality piece of gear. It can be set up in a few minutes, and it breaks down into a half dozen small pieces for storage or travel. In my opinion It’s about as stable as you can get for such a light weight and portable piece of equipment. The attached pictures are right out of my book. It can be set up and used in just about any home or apartment. I have the canvas bag that you can get with it. It breaks down without any tools and can be taken almost anywhere. It is pretty stable on its own but you can make it even more so with a few sand bags on its legs, not really needed but it does add some stability. As it also all aluminum it won’t rust, and even looks good. I highly recommend, and use it myself.
The Weighted Vest
In my book I highly recommend the use of a weighted vest to condition your body to handle the weight of heavy protective equipment. Such as the type that the military and firemen have to wear. I am also convinced that exercising with a weighted vest (the right way) will improve you performance in just about any sport, and help you stay in top physical condition. I have tried many types of weighted vests, everything from Flak jackets to some sorry homemade attempts. During the last few years I became aware of the weighted vest made by WeightVest.com. I first tried a friends then got one for myself. They are very well made, comfortable to wear, and very durable. The weight is evenly distributed by the means of small blocks of weights, they don’t rub against your body even when doing vigorous movements. You can also easily remove these weights to adjust the weight. The padded liner doesn’t stick to your skin when your sweating, and the vest holds securely to your body with some adjustable Velcro straps. It is without a doubt the best vest I have ever used or seen used. I have put mine through some very tough workouts, and it has held up well. They come in a huge variety of colors and sizes. A great high quality piece of gear that I highly recommend.