Soldiering is one of those jobs out there that is a close equivalent to professional backpacker. The regular military man carries a lot of gear into combat. Depending on the weather and length of the mission, soldiers will carry weapons, rations, and of course, sleeping bags. However, comfort for soldiers wasn’t such a big thing until the past century. Before World War 2, blankets were the only protection the military gave their men against the cold. Since the greatest war ever, soldiers have been issued sleeping bags to match any weather.
The first military sleeping bags were issued to ski troops in arctic conditions. The year was 1941. The military recognized the popularity of mummy bags that were being used in mountaineering, and hence used the mummy design. These bags were very efficient and lighter than past bags, but still had to be refined and redesigned for use with all mountain troops. The M-1942 system came with a waterproof casing and was filled with down and feather for maximum warmth. Its unique stitching also made it more impervious to the cold. It came with an extra casing and an inflatable insulated sleeping pad for extreme weather. This system was only slightly modified with the arrival of the M-1949, which came in large and regular sizes. These bags were used well into the 60’s.
For warmer weather, regular infantry were issued blanket bags made of wool. These were not great for sudden weather changes. This necessitated the development of two kinds of sleeping bags in the 70’s. Depending on climate conditions, troops were given either the intermediate cold weather or extreme cold weather bags. The first bag could protect against the cold up to 15 degrees Fahrenheit, and the second was resistant to -30 degrees. Both were seven pounds in weight. These bags were used for decades and were only mildly modified in the process.
New technology allowed for a more efficient system. Carrying both the intermediate and the extreme bag would be too heavy when combined with other gear. Early in the new millennium, the modular sleep system was introduced, and it was highly successful. This 4 component system protected the soldier against any weather. The patrol bag was great at 30 to 50 degrees, and it was perfect for wet conditions. When combined with the intermediate mummy bag, a soldier can sleep comfortably at -30. He could even withstand weather down to -50 if he was wearing his military issue extreme cold weather clothes. Add a compression sack and a water proof Gore Tex bivy bag, and a soldier had a nine pound all weather sleeping bag system. This was only modified recently to introduce an extra sleeping bag into the system to increase protection.
The military always gave its troopers the best equipment. Through the years, it constantly improved the sleeping bags of its men. Now, they have the best sleeping bag system for the modern warrior. To partially fund new tech though, the military sold each generation of bags to make way for the new one. Curious how good these bags are? Almost all of these can be found in army surplus shops for cheap. The new system can even go as low as $185. The hardcore backpacker can use sleeping gear that is just as tough as the brave men and women in the military.