Going to a Milsim West event? Prepare for “The Suck” with This List of Gear & Equipment

“I’ve seen more people quit MSW events because they lacked the proper jacket or sleeping bag than I have seen due to physical challenges.”

With MilSim West’s 40-hour events, you are running a marathon versus a sprint. And just like running a marathon, you need to be able to plan accordingly.

That means considering the location of the event and the weather. Oftentimes, these considerations come secondary or even tricenary to a lot of players. This naive mistake can lead to a lot of issues.

Fieldcraft isn’t about learning how to endure the suck, it’s about making the suck, suck less

In the military, there’s a piece of slang – “the suck,” which basically refers to external influences causing an individual to go internal, that mental space where there is no hope and only pain.

MilSim West will bring players to the suck, but proper planning will alleviate this easily. We’ll be talking about cold & wet weather gear, food, sleep systems, and rucks. 

milsim west preparing for the suck with gear & equipment

gear and equipment for milsim west event to prepare for cold weather

Cold & Wet Weather Gear

There’s a running gag with MSW Cadre and its players who quit because they are “pre-hypothermic.” This is a cold-weather injury in which your core body temperature has dropped dangerously low.

There is no “pre-hypothermic.”

You’re either hypothermic or you’re not. By that very definition, I’m “pre-hypothermic” as I sit in a 74-degree office with a sweater on and drinking coffee.

Now, let’s agree that being cold is subjective, as a Southern Californian native, a stiff breeze will give me the chills compared to my Northerners who appreciate anything over 60 degrees. But, also consider that it’s better to have the gear and not need it than to need it and not have it.

Being prepared and making it through your first event will be significantly better than quitting because you got “pre-hypothermic.” We’ll keep it simple and consider jackets, gore-tex, and warming layers. 

milsim west cold weather gear tent and sleeping
Credit: Milsim West – Player prepping sleep and battle positions for oncoming rain

Jackets

For the inexperienced, the simple jacket can make or break a player’s event. Even if the weather won’t be that cold it’s still a must.

The temperature will drop at night and you will be up whether that be from a late-night movement or assault or it’s your turn to stand watch.

The variety of military issues, tactical, outdoor living, and civilian jackets will easily cover you but I would suggest you invest in these options:

Personally, I’m a huge fan of anything Arc’teryx, whether it be their civilian line of products or their LEAF sets. Yes, the price is up there but so is the quality.

The Atom LT jacket will cover you at most events throughout the year. Just keep in mind, that you’ll want something insulated, wind, and water-resistant. 

Level 5 PCUs (Ofter referred to as a “softshell”)

I want to take a moment to point out a very popular type of jacket, especially among NATO. One of the most common ones you’ll see are the Level 5 PCUs by either Orc Industries or Patagonia.

You’ve seen them before, they’re the gray windbreaker jackets that everyone and their brother owns. Level 5 PCUs can be great, they’re lightweight and in the right settings provide the warmth needed.

However, there’s a common misconception that these jackets are the end-all to every situation. Though effective, at colder MSW events, you’ll need something more than the PCU.

milsim west gear guide

Credit: Milsim West – NATO Player with a Level 5 PCU

Gore-Tex

Now, let’s talk about waterproofing as rain and MilSim West go hand in hand. I highly suggest you look for additional layers of Goretex to add to your inventory to keep yourself dry.

When it comes to waterproofing I recommend these be a separate item from the cold weather gear simply because being cold and wet don’t necessarily go hand in hand.

A Goretex jacket while patrolling or rucking can be useful to keep yourself dry during patrols or rucks when your core body temperature will rise due to physical exertion.

Personally, I use military surplus for this, simply because I still need to save up for the Arc’teryx alternatives.

Bear in mind to find solutions to not only waterproof your person, but your ruck and sleep system as well. Waterproofing covers are readily available for your ruck and a tarp of some sort will be good for your sleep system. 

Warming Layers

milsim west building up layers for cold weather

No, I’m not talking jackets here. For warming layers, we want to consider things like the Level 1s and 2s of the US Military’s Extended Cold Weather Clothing System.

Things like lightweight undershirts and drawers or “long johns.” MilSim West has had events that dropped below 14 degrees Fahrenheit and to have made it through the night, warming layers were critical.

For these, again I simply suggest military issues you can find in surplus stores or online, you won’t need them at every event and the ones you do, these will be sufficient. This also applies to mid-layers like pull-overs. 

Related: Warming layers are available on Amazon.com

Food

Okay, I’ll be honest here. Food is the thing I place the least amount of importance on in this entire article. You can not physically starve to death in a 40-hour period and I can personally go with minimal food. I’d personally rather leave room in my ruck for warming layers or other personal essentials.

With that being said though, everyone’s different and each of us has our own priorities. The most common food sources are either MREs (Meal Ready to Eat) or Mountain House Meals.

Personally, if I see you with an MRE, I will mock you as I have sworn off those things since my last deployment to Afghanistan. Mountain House Meals are good but will require hot water to make so you’ll need a Jet Boil or something similar.

These two options are good in that they’ll have everything you’ll need quick and easy.

Sleep System

A good sleeping system is one of my top priorities.

I don’t tend to get a lot of sleep at MilSim West, but when I do I want to be as comfortable and as warm as possible. Previously I used the older USGI 3-piece sleep system that had a green and black bag as well as a bivy bag to keep out water.

Currently, I’ve transitioned to a smaller and lighter Jungle bag from Snugpak.

To make up for the lack of warmth I may need, I also have Level 7s from the ECWCS. Civilian sleeping bags are readily available and more common than the military-issued ones at MSW, personally, I have no experience with them and can’t provide much information.

I would however argue that the military issue stuff gets the job done rather well and is easy to get a hold of.

Milsim West isomat sleeping system
Credit: Christopher Base – Author’s isomat & sleep system

Don’t forget your sleeping mat

One of the most important things to consider for your sleep system however is an isomat. Often forgotten, this little piece of equipment can be a life saver.

An isomat is basically a foam mat that keeps you off the hard floor.

The misconception with the isomat is that it provides a layer of comfort between you and the ground. However, the real purpose of the isomat is to provide spacing so that the cold ground doesn’t suck the body heat out of you.

There are many different kinds but I use the Marine Corp issued isomat as it folds up quickly and easily and can be placed alongside my ruck to keep a smaller profile without taking up room inside.

Related: USGI sleeping mats are available on Amazon.com

Rucks

This is another piece of equipment that gets placed on the back burner while participants choose to prioritize pouches and patches.

Your ruck will be one of the most important things you’ll want as it will provide your sustainment for the next forty hours. This is another item I suggest you invest your money in.

Too many times I see participants with large civilian packs or Chinese reproductions that aren’t built to the requirements necessary. For the experienced eye, one of the most comical things to see is a player ready for combat but with a black backpack not adjusted for them, straps hanging everywhere, and a sleep system haphazardly hanging off the bottom.

It’s simply unprofessional looking and it’ll soon become a detriment when it comes to the hiking that’ll take place throughout the event.

Military Issue will work just fine but I’m not the biggest fan of those.

Old Alice packs with their aluminum frames are great but I’m personally not a fan of a ruck that only has the single lip as access. Mystery Ranch and Tactical Tailor are my two top picks and I personally use Tactical Tailor’s Extended Range Operator Pack.

You’ll want some sort of frame to help provide support, waist and sternum straps to alleviate the strain on your shoulders and put some of the weight on your hips. Again it’s expensive but this is a piece of equipment you’ll want quality with.

Milsim West airsoft ruck system
Author’s personal ruck

In Closing

More people quit due to failure in sustainment gear than anything else.

They’re not the sexiest pieces of equipment and it’s not the stuff you’ll find directly advertised on the front page of websites or shops. But these are the things that you’ll need for MilSim West. These are all redline items in the MSW TacSop that are required to have for entry.

Think of it this way, the more comfortable you are in between your patrols, security, marches, and missions, the more suited you will be for those situations. A more comfortable sleep will give you more energy for that assault later in the day.

Better preparation of sustainment gear will do far more good than expensive pouches and optics on a gun.

Christopher Bast

Christopher Bast

Chris is a veteran of the United States Marine Corps, Cadre of MilSim West, and author. Airsofting since 2010 and working as Cadre for MSW since 2014, Chris has traveled throughout the nation and spent over 1000 hours in milsim events.

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