I have been using the SAS type smock for a couple decades, and although I haven’t changed much in the way it is stocked, there have been changes over the years. What is in the smock can change for the season or area, but what that gear is supposed to do does not. A piece of clothing such as a smock will carry A LOT of gear, and the key is to have enough to survive, but don’t load it down.
The Combat/Survival Smock is an idea that’s been around for a long time. It’s not just an article of clothing, it’s a 1st line equipment conveyance. As such, if you use one, serious consideration should go into the gear you carry in it.
Unfortunately, the two Begadi smocks I use (pictured above), are no longer available, because it is no longer manufactured. Another smock I have is a modified British version. This model pictured below has had two pockets added to the back to give it more storage space.
The last smock model I’ve been using is not only cheaper that the Begadi’s original $150 (about $70 before shipping from Germany), It has some features that I like better. It is made by Ml-Tec and sold by ASMC.
The ASMC smock is made out of 65/35 Poly/cotton ripstop, which means it dries pretty fast, but does not have some of the drawbacks of all nylon clothing (human torch anyone). The shoulders and elbows have a heavier, cordura like, water repellent fabric covering them, and the elbows come with removable elbow pads.
The Mil-Tec hood has an adjustment feature which I really like. One is the adjustment in the back which will keep the front of the hood from obstructing your peripheral vision. The second is the wire that can be shaped to keep the sides back, also helping with your peripheral vision, and the hood doesn’t hanging down in your face. The British version has the same adjustment wire in it.
If you buy one of these smocks, be careful what size you get. If you are getting it as an everyday coat, do as the company suggests, and get a size smaller than you normally would. If you are getting it as a field smock, with the possibility of wearing insulating layers under it, get the size you normally would.
The liner fabric in the smock (where there is one), is not the heavy liner you would expect and nothing like a US Army field jacket has. The smock is lightweight enough to be worn in warmer weather, and has large “Pit zips” to help vent, as well as only buttoning the front (instead of zipping it up) of the smock helps with the airflow issues you might have. The “Canadian style” buttons are great when you are trying to button or unbutton with gloves on.
One of the only things I do not like on the Mil-Tec smock is the right sleeve pocket. I believe it is designed for some type of first aid dressing, but is ridiculously large, and I’ve dealt with it in two ways. On my OD smock, I removed it and covered the area with a velcro panel. On my flectarn and black smocks (Flectarn is my regular hunting jacket), I sewed the sides of the pocket down. This allows me to still used the pocket, but it has less volume, and sticks out a lot less.
Cuff adjustments are velcro, waist adjustments are of the string type (ala army field jacket), and it also has a skirt tie for when the wind is really bad. These features are on all three “Brands” of Smock. You’ll notice in some of the pics that their are fabric tabs all over the smock on the Mil-Tec version. This is a way to secure camouflage (natural or man made) to the smock for obvious reasons.
OK, so earlier we discussed the smock (Mil-Tec) that I recommend, and why I recommend it. Now we’ll cover what survival items I carry in it, the “why” and the “how” of it. My smock carries items that are geared towards survival if I have lost all my gear. They cover these basic categories: Shelter, Water procurement and purification, food in a basic short term sustainment pack, tools for shelter building and food procurement, and fire making.
In the “Shelter” section I have one main item, which is supported by the length of 550 cord which will be shown in an inner pocket. I use a military “casualty” blanket. This is another way of saying heavy duty space blanket. This is a heavy duty tart that is 5’x7′, with grommet holes on the sides and corners. One side is OD green, and one side is silver. These make excellent lean to shelters, and can also be rolled up inside to keep ones body heat in as much as possible. I carry the Space blanket in the large back pocket on the Mil-Tec smock, and the left rear pocket on the Brit and Begadi versions..
This looks like it would be bulky, but it is far from it. It lies flat and if any gear sits on top of the pocket, it does not dig into your back or your ass. Next, since we already started with the back pocket, we will just go through the pockets and see what they hold.
Up front you have six pockets, two bottom cargo pockets, two top cargo pockets, and two zip up napoleon pockets behind the top cargo pockets. On the side you have two lower cargo pockets, and one sleeve pocket on the left sleeve(The Begadi has one on each sleeve). As I said earlier, I removed the right sleeve pocket that the ASMC smock comes with.
First we’ll start with the left sleeve pocket. Three items are in this pocket. First is a small fixed blade knife. I use the CRKT Ritter RSK MK5 because it is small, sturdy, and can be used for a spear point if needed. Next is a military type magnesium fire starter block, as a last ditch fire starting implement. Third is a old style military field dressing for serious bleeder/wound issues.
Next up we’ll go to the top left side pocket. I carry a Minimag LED with lithium batteries. Why a minimag? Because they’ve been around a long time, and they work. Why LED? Because it doesn’t have the bulb breakage problems that the standard does, it’s brighter, and lasts longer. Why lithium batteries. They last longer in storage and don’t leak. There is plenty of room in that pocket for other things that might need carried (you can’t fill up every space, first it would be too bulky, second it’s a back up, not your primary gear conveyance, right?).
Napoleon pocket, top left. I carry a neck gaiter for cold, and a pair of aviator flight gloves. The gloves are good for cold down to about 20 degrees if you’re moving around, about 30 degrees if you’re stationary. The neck gaiter is one of the best cold weather items you can have, and makes a huge difference in your heat retention. ‘Nough said.
Top right cargo pocket. This is the LandNav pocket. Their is a good baseplate compass, with a magnifying lens on it (back up fire starter also). There is also a small button compass inside the top flap of the pocket as a back up. Once again, extra room is there for other items later.
Top right napoleon pocket. The only thing in this pocket is a Stormsafe notebook, a pen and a mechanical pencil. They are stored in a heavy duty waterproof bag that can be used to carry other items of water if needed.
The bottom left cargo pocket contains three items. First is a pair of cold weather aviator gloves (both types of aviator gloves are fire resistant). These are for cold down to about 5 degrees (what I’ve used them too, but I run “Hot” so YMMV). The other items are a roll of black electrical tape and a bic lighter that is in a metal case with scissors and a small blade (never have enough blades, right?).
Bottom right cargo pocket contains three items. An old German army pocket knife which has a knife blade, saw, screwdriver, corkscrew and awl. There is two types of headwear in this pocket. One is the old standby OD green wool watchcap, the other is a coyote brown goretex boonie hat ( Note: in the Brit and Begadi Smock, the boonie goes in the right rear pocket). This covers shelter building, and repair, keeping the head and shoulders dry, and along with the cold weather gloves, and neck gaiter, staying somewhat warm.
The left side cargo pocket contains a a collapsible water bottle, and that is it. The left side is where I wear a holster, so this side needs to remain relatively flat. It can be used with the water purification tablets I will mention later.
Right side cargo pocket. In this pocket is a Spec ops Cargo pocket organizer that holds a number of survival items. The items are as follows: Bic Lighter, Bottle of ibuprofen and antacids, bottle of water purification tablets, a piece of contractor grad aluminum foil 3’x12″ (used for heating up the water for the ramen seasoning packets), MRE Chocolate milkshake packet, ziplock bag of ramen flavor packets (like boullion cubes but flat), three Datrex bars (600 calories), and one small sealable waterproof bag.
Note: All six cargo pockets have D-rings inside the pocket, and all items are “Dummy corded” when possible to reduce loss. Also, everything is “Jump” tested to make sure they make no noise when moving.
Inside left contains 50 feet of 550 cord for shelter building and other tasks, and another bic lighter wrapped with 2 feet of 100mph tape (repairs and fire tinder). Below is a Buddy of mine, Bergmann in Alaska, with his idea of some additions to a survival smock. We have talked about this a good bit, and as you can see, some of the ideas we both had, and some I poached.
Finally, some might ask about water repellency. First, I wash all my smocks in Nikwax. Second, I apply “Camp Dry” spray to the hood and shoulders of the smocks to help with the water repellency. Third, I carry a lightweight rain suit from Cabelas, called “Paclite”. This suit is very thin and fits perfectly under the smock if the precipitation is so bad that you need a waterproof layer.
"Parata Vivere"- Live Prepared.