Camping with the Defence Forces

Share on Facebook Share on Facebook

Laid-back camping and hiking is fine and a globally well understood thing. Among other things Finns sometimes do differently than others is military excercise and reservist training as a replacement for "civilian-style" outdoor pastimes. Making this choice means you voluntarily restrict your freedom (only for the duration of the excercise of course), but in turn you get to do interesting stuff in varying environments. Here are a few tips how to make most of military training trips.

If you never served in the Finnish Defence Forces, actually joining these courses is unlikely something you could do, but this article offers a point-of-view to the life of active Finnish reservists, which should be interesting and provide some tidbits of information to any outdoor enthousiast.

Set your attitude

Whether you're training with your Territorial Forces, signed up for an extra Refresher Training or gor a binding letter to join, or signed up at the National Defence Training Association (MPK), the single biggest factor in making it time well spent is in your head. Sometimes donning combat fatiques regresses guys back to a Beetle Bailey -level of lazyness, which is strange considering that joining the excercise was your own choice. Be active and open to everything you come across!

Participating in courses and excercises is a brilliant way to learn new skills, learn about yourself and get to know other people and things. I have personally learned something new everytime and met people I wouldn't have come across on a regular hiking trail.

A sniper lying down in the woods with camouflage gear can hardly be spotted from the surroundings. A soldier wearing camouflage clothing in the woods.

This sniper has a civilian life and day-job. Not all outdoor people wear bright hiking clothes!

Gear, program and food on the house

If you want to go into the woods with a low budget, military style might be the way to go: participants receive basically everything they need from the organizer. Simple and affordable!

Even if you stick mostly to government issue kit, consider using some items of your own. Things like your own underwear and socks make sense to have with you. Merino wool is the best stuff you can wear next to your skin. Depending on the time of year Särmä TST L1 boxers, T-shirt, Long sleeve shirt and Long johns are good choices. Also a neck tube or balaclava are good choices to control heat loss from the neck.

Knee pads offer a great amount of comfort and actual protection. For just a few bucks you can get a pair of inserts to slip into dedicated pockets on combat trousers.

Carry enough socks so you'll be wearing at least one pair and have another just in case. It's very likely that your feet get wet and having dry socks really boosts morale. Double socks are a good call if you move a lot on your feet, it helps against blisters. Two pairs of Särmä Merino Socks or Merino Socks and Boot Socks are good combinations, depending on your boots and time of year. Pro tip: if you use issue boots, at least bring your own insoles. They improve the comfort of issue combat boots or rubber boots tremendously.

Other things to complement your issued kit are a flashlight or headlamp with a red light option, knife or multi-tool, gloves or mitts according to time of year, at least a half-litre canteen, First Aid kit, firestarter and a Boresnake. A morale-boosting snack is also nice to have, and of course Scho-Ka-Kola.

Five soldiers all geared up on stairs outside next to some brick buildings. An army style green backpack and combat vest with pouches.

Finnish Coastal Jaegers beret march with issue kit, excluding clothes and boots. Also a rough example of issued backpack and combat vest.

Lift your spirit with proper gear

If you get bitten by the bug and want to improve your performance, you may want to invest in more personal gear. Should you choose to do so, you must understand the mission of the troops, your role as part of the team and the requirements outlined by these. You shouldn't carry unnecessary things and at the same time make sure you do have pieces of equipment that help you and your team to succeed.

Gear set on a surface. A soldier geared up in the woods.

An example of a kit assembled for a recon excercise in October. Case by case having your own gear might help you a lot.

When it comes to clothes, you naturally choose Särmä TST M05 RES or the improved Särmä TST L4 Field Uniform. Other layers are chosen according to layered clothing principles from the Särmä TST clothing system. One mandatory thing to have is protection from rain, a rain cape or shell clothes. Even the most advanced rain dance doesn't hold a candle to forgetting your rain apparel, when it comes to having rainfall. For the weekend you don't need many pieces of clothing: something warm, spare socks, turtleneck and long johns suffice most often.

Your own footwear with proper insoles and double socks keep your feet happy. If it's a march, bring more socks to ensure that you can air your feet and put fresh socks on during every break.

When it comes to backpacks or rucksacks, the mission defines what you need. For recon a rucksack and daypack are a fairly obvious choice. For mechanized troops a medium to large backpack and a small daypack will most likely work well. Take into account any squad-specific equipment you might be tasked to carry: leave space in your kit after you have all personal gear packed.

Load-bearing equipment are also dependent on the mission of your troops and your own task within the group: how many mags you are likely to need, do you have a radio, optics, ballistic protection etc.? If you are fairly sure of what you're up against, you can base your combat vest on a Finnish M05 vest or Särmä TST ULW Chest Rig. If you're really sure of what you're doing and know you need it, a Sioen Tacticum (M13) or Särmä TST PC18 plate carrier might come into question, especially for door-kicking and other really fun stuff.

A green chestrig. A chestrig on forrest floor.

A couple of Chest Rig examples.

Other useful accessories are a simple flashlight with a red light option, knife, hydration, some kind of "Combat Office" and a good compass. A field stove and folding cup might serve a purpose, but again this depends on the excercise and your own preference.

How you sleep is also mission-specific. A good sleeping mat and a Carinthia M05 gets you a long way. In milder seasons a lighter bag and bivy-sack works better. If you're expecting to spend the night in the bushes without a tent, a rain cape or small tarp is good to have.

A common mistake in gear-whoring is gear-hoarding: trying to be prepared for everything under the sun and ending up carrying too much. I can't throw the first stone when it comes to this sin, but I've learned and want to spread the good word: keep it simple and light.

A camo backpack with a chestrig.

A light Jääkäri S pack for a weekend's recon gig.

How to get involved

If your country has an equivalent for The National Defence Training Association of Finland, chances are you can participate in voluntary training. Or simply join the army and see the world, right?

Related products

Finnish Canteen, 1 l
Finnish Canteen, 1 l
8.99 USD
Finnish Army current model canteen. A very practical water bottle with a large opening and a metal hook for carrying without a pouch. You know this piece of kit is pretty good because the soldiers don't complain about it.
Finnish M05 liner socks
Finnish M05 liner socks
7.99 USD
The new basic sock of the Finnish Defence Force. These socks work well with any lined boot and together with a thicker pair of socks they make any non-lined leather boot much more comfortable.
Scho-Ka-Kola, 100 g tin can, dark, RED
Scho-Ka-Kola, 100 g tin can, dark, RED
3.99 USD
This stuff in identically-shaped tins has kept the Germans awake since the '30s. Scho-Ka-Kola is chocolate with lots of caffeine, essentially a mild combat drug!
Finnish FDF Sleeping Pad
Finnish FDF Sleeping Pad
62.99 USD
Now, if there's something the Finnish army can do right, it's the sleeping-related gear. Our kip mat is the best one we've ever seen, to be honest. These are made by the official army contractor, Savotta. You can see from the price you've got quality coming.
Särmä Merino Socks
Särmä Merino Socks
11.99 USD
If you still use cotton socks, dump them now and get these instead. These are superb for outdoor use, but work just as well as formal wear too! These aren't thick, so they can be used around the year. Made with our own specs in Finland.
Carinthia Defence 1 sleeping bag
Carinthia Defence 1 sleeping bag
136.99 USD
The most lightweight bag in the Defence family, the Defence 1 is intended for summer and early autumn/spring. Very lightweight and packs into a super tight bundle!
Särmä Neck Tube, Merino Wool
Särmä Neck Tube, Merino Wool
20.99 USD
Headover, or a toque, is one of those things that you can't live without once you have it. Our own model is better than the rest - it's made of Merino wool!
Carinthia Finnish M05 sleeping bag
Carinthia Finnish M05 sleeping bag
251.99 USD
When you're looking for a year-round sleeping bag, you know you can't go wrong with current issue Finnish army gear. These are made by Carinthia, the model is in use by our armed forces. Included is a liner and a compression sack.
Särmä Merino Gloves, Yellow Särmä Merino Gloves, Orange Särmä Merino Gloves, Dark Gray Särmä Merino Gloves, Black Särmä Merino Gloves, Olive Drab Särmä Merino Gloves, Camouflage
Särmä Merino Gloves
Särmä Merino Gloves
10.99 USD
Good quality made-in-Finland knit gloves from super-duper material. Good as they are for a bit chilly conditions, for serious cold these do well as an insulating layer for hard shell gloves. How can they make these so cheap in Finland?
Särmä Merino Fingerless Gloves, Black Särmä Merino Fingerless Gloves, Dark Gray
Särmä Merino Fingerless Gloves
Särmä Merino Fingerless Gloves
10.99 USD
A pair of fingerless gloves. In addition to the timeless hobo impression, fingerless gloves leave your fingertips free for all kinds of fiddling and work pretty well as glove liners. These are better than most, being made of Merino wool in a strange place called Tampere just north of here.
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool, Green Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool, Black
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool
Särmä TST L1 Boxers, Merino Wool
20.99 - 31.99 USD 31.99 USD
Designed with pure function in mind for demanding active use. The long, tight legs and high waist stay snugly and securely in place. The merino wool blend wicks moisture away and feels comfortable against the skin even in prolonged wear and varying conditions.
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Khaki Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Orange Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Green Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie, Black
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie
Särmä TST L1 Merino Wool Beanie
15.99 USD
Sometimes it´s the little things that make all the difference, this thin, lightweight merino cap is a fantastic piece of merino woolly coziness in a very handy little package. Fits right in your pocket and is lightweight enough for high activity wear. Fits perfectly under helmets and other headwear too!
Särmä TST L4 Combat shirt, M05 woodland camo Särmä TST L4 Combat shirt, M04 Desert Camo Särmä TST L4 Combat shirt, green
Särmä TST L4 Combat shirt
Särmä TST L4 Combat shirt
104.99 USD
A lightweight and breathable combat shirt keeps you as cool as possible under all that body armor and load-bearing gear. The stand-up collar and sleeves offer protection and pockets for essential gear, the wear prone elbows are protected by Cordura reinforced elbow pad pockets.
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket, M05 woodland camo Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket, M04 Desert Camo
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket
Särmä TST L4 Field Jacket
157.99 USD
The L4 Field Jacket was designed for pure functionality. Smart materials and a purpose-built design guarantee the best possible comfort regardless of what type of fighting and/or sustainment load you´re carrying. This is a great alternative for the Finnish military-issue jacket, which suffers from a load of compromises due to the fact that it was designed to double up as parade wear.
Hempsnacks
Hempsnacks
5.99 USD
In Finland we have this thing called Hemp snacks. It's like traditional potato crisps, but different and a tad less unhealthy. We sell these in the bar to go with beer. Made in Finland! Not shipped anywhere, available only in our walk-in store & bar!
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants. M05 woodland camo Särmä TST L4 Field Pants. M04 Desert Camo
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants
Särmä TST L4 Field Pants
136.99 USD
The L4 Field Pants were designed for pure functionality. Smart materials, a relaxed fit, and clever details make them what a pair of field pants should be, comfortable and utilitarian. These are a great alternative for the Finnish military-issue pants, which suffer from a load of compromises due to the fact that they were designed to double up as parade wear.
Alpina Tundra
Alpina Tundra
115.99 USD
If you want a pair of good hiking boots, these are the way to go. High-quality materials and workmanship make these punch way above their price point. Suitable for all seasons.
Särmä TST waterproof notebook
Särmä TST waterproof notebook
8.99 - 10.99 USD
The ability to take notes is something you should never be without, this waterproof and strong notebook has been designed especially for military use. A notebook is a notebook, but with high quality materials and some clever functional details we´ve turned this into something a bit more!
Särmä TST Tarp, M05 woodland camo
Särmä TST Tarp, M05 woodland camo
104.99 - 136.99 USD
Tarps are great, easy to use, easy to carry, and very versatile. The Särmä TST Tarp follows the basic tarp design rules but is made to meet Finnish military end-user requirements, including NIR-compliant M05 camouflage print. Available in two sizes, larger for 2-3 persons and smaller for 1-2 persons.
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier
220.99 - 241.99 USD
The PC18 was designed to meet the need for a simple yet extensively scalable plate carrier for Finnish end users, including meeting Finnish military specifications in regards to materials and construction. Compatibility with ready available industry-standard accessories was also a key design point.
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M
220.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL
220.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M
241.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, Green Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL
241.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, L/XL
220.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and Elastic Cummerbund, S/M
220.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, L/XL
241.99 USD
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M
Särmä TST PC18 Plate Carrier Kit, M05 Plate Bags and PALS Cummerbund, S/M
241.99 USD
Loading...