We preppers love our gear. It’s an innate part of prepping, and there is a certain satisfaction to having “the right” sort of gear. Of course it is also possible to become a gear junkie, and become obsessed with chasing the trendiest survival gear on the market. While there is a time and place for that, there is also a time and a place for proven, well established gear. A smart prepper knows that the latest whiz bang gear might be great, but that something which has been in constant use for over half a century is proven to be great.
I’m of course talking about the M-1965 field jacket. Sometimes referred to as the M-65 or M65 field jacket, it is a marvel of military design that works extremely well. Created for use in the Vietnam War, the M65 field jacket served in regular use until 2009 and has become an important cultural icon in its own right.
Now what does this have to do with prepper gear? Well, you are going to need a jacket. That jacket should keep you warm, dry and be rugged enough to be used in all manner of difficult conditions. The M-1965 field jacket literally is that jacket. Here in the People’s Socialist Republic of the Puget Sound, I use mine most of the year, but let’s back up a minute and talk about the features that make this jacket so useful to the well equipped prepper.
- It is rugged. From Vietnam to the War on Terror, the M65 field jacket has proven itself to be durable, reliable, and easy wearing. There are worse things that a prepper could be wearing than an M65.
- It keeps you warm. We all know to dress in layers to deal with weather? Well, the M65 lets you do just that. From the cotton/poly blend outer shell, to the button in water resistant inner liner, and the optional button on cold weather hood, this jacket can scale up or down for anything short of arctic conditions.
- It keeps you dry. The M-1965 field jacket is naturally water resistant. The use of spray on coatings makes it even more so. The built in, fold away hood keeps your head dry too.
- Big pockets. The two generous front pockets on the M65 field jacket are big enough to put gloved hands in. Or a small to medium frame handgun. Or emergency supplies. Or whatever else you want. Two more upper chest pockets easily fit a cellphone, radio or whatever else you might want close at hand.
- Easy wearing. The M-1965 field jacket is cut long and loose to fit over other articles of clothing. That makes it extremely comfortable for folks who like loose fitting and longer cut jackets. The longer cut ensures plenty of overlap between jacket and pants, even when bending or stooping.
Any good review article should include the reviewer’s own personal experience with the product. Mine goes back many years, to the first time I was introduced to the M-65 field jacket. I was about 18 or so, which puts us back in the heady days of the late 1990’s.
As a tall guy, I was in search of a decent, fall and winter jacket that wouldn’t break the bank. Somehow or another I came across a nice olive drab M65, and was sold. I found a button on fur lined hood, scared up a liner at an Army-Navy store, and wore that jacket for two years until I outgrew it.
That left me a sad young prepper. Here was a great coat, and military surplus just didn’t run big enough for a 6’9 guy. I gave mine away to a friend, and carried on until one day I found the glorious world of civilian sized M-1965’s! And in colors other than olive drab to boot!
Now there is nothing wrong with olive drab, or camo, but I’ve always had an aversion to wearing those colors outside of the woods. Depending upon where you live, you either blend in with everyone else – or stick out like a sore thumb. I prefer a lower profile. I’m already visible because of my height, I like black jackets, and now here was one right in front of me.
Since that time, the M65 field jacket has been my choice for everyday wear, hunting, or just to grab for a quick trip to the mailbox. Taking advantage of the casual dress code of the west coast, I’ve worn an M65 to semi-formal events over a shirt and tie, and then rolled it up and tied it to my backpack the next day while out hunting.
Because the Puget Sound is blessed with a very mild climate, (or cursed – it attracts Californians and other undesirable forms of animal life) I’ve yet to use the liner for several years. It lives in my bugout bag along with a cold weather hood. I’m content if I have to bail, I’ll be able to layer up with this jacket for any weather that hits around here.
But Why Choose An M65?
There are lots of great Gore-Tex jackets on the market. They are certainly more modern, and offer advantages that the old fashioned M65 field jacket can’t offer. In fact, it is hard to argue against Gore-Tex coats at all. But the M-1965 jacket offers something no modern whiz bang coat can – simplicity.
The prepper must constantly be striving to keep things simple. Complex things break down in complex ways, and require complex methods to cope with. Simple things break in simple ways and can be handled in a simple fashion.
You can keep your M65 running with a basic sewing kit. You can keep it waterproof or water resistant with literally any common means for waterproofing fabric. You can clean it by hand with little effort,, and you can scale it up and down in warmth with a few button on accessories. In other words, you can maintain this jacket with pre industrial levels of technology. In this modern world of fancy synthetics, having a robust, durable and yes, even stylish jacket that will hold up to the needs of a prepper and require only the simplest of maintenance is invaluable.
And let us not forget the enduring legacy of the M-1965 field jacket. It is a true piece of Americana. A lot of people reading this article were issued one by the government, and a lot of people wore one because like me, they wanted a comfortable, basic jacket. Frankly, there is nothing wrong with choosing a piece of gear simply because it is time honored, traditional, and a part of history. It’s why folks buy lever action rifles and restore old cars. Sometimes, the old ways are all we need.
Choosing The Best M-1965 Field Jacket
As I mentioned, there are two ways to get an M65 field jacket. You can get a military surplus one, or you can get a new production civilian one. Now surplus ones may be worn or damaged, come in limited size and color options, and in some cases are old enough to be honest to goodness collectibles and relics. Plus, they are no longer being issued, so that supply dwindles every day.
Not all civilian M-65’s are made alike either. A great many are imported from overseas (as was the one I wear now) and the quality varies. Some simply outwardly resemble an M65 style jacket. They aren’t cut to the true M-1965 spec, and lack some of the features, like buttons for the cold weather hood. Others might not be made to the same quality as a real M-65. So how do you choose the best M65 field jacket?
Well, you could buy from an original manufacturer. Alpha Industries is a guaranteed source of high quality field jackets. It is true that Alpha is selling an imported M65, but it is made to a true mil-spec construction. Mine is an Alpha jacket, and it is robust and tough. I’d prefer a US made one, but I haven’t been able to find a civilian M65 made in the US.
You could also buy the Rothco M-65 field jacket, but to be honest, I can’t tell the difference between it and the Alpha version. I strongly suspect they both come out of the exact same factory and are simply shipped under different brands. That’s good for the consumer though, as it means if you can’t find one brand, you can just buy the other.
It also means you shouldn’t bother with other brands. Just get a Rothco or Alpha and you will be golden.
I’ve written about a couple of accessories, like the jacket liner and winter hood. Any new jacket should come with the liner, so you don’t need to shop for one. But you’ll probably want the winter hood which is an absolutely amazing bit of kit. Beyond that, there is really nothing else you need for your field jacket.
Oh, you might consider a poncho of some sort, but it isn’t a requirement. But on the other hand, a poncho is a rather nice thing to have, regardless of what kind of jacket you are wearing. You probably should grab one, and stick it in your bugout bag just to be safe.
And that’s it folks. Probably the single longest issued field jacket in Army history is also one of the ultimate prepper jackets. For a modest price you can get an incredibly durable jacket and liner, add a winter hood and a poncho, and be ready for anything outside of arctic temperatures.
The wise prepper chooses proven, simple and effective equipment. They choose clothing that will last them for years, and can be maintained with little effort, and basic tools. The M-1965 field jacket is just one such piece of equipment, and probably will still be widely worn by folks for another fifty years.