Items Our Troops Tend To Need


From A Chopper Pilot Stationed in Iraq,
December 2003:

DIGITAL CAMERA -- Small, durable. You will surely have access to a computer and at least semi-regular email through work, but you will probably NOT have access to a large supply of film.

MP3 PLAYER -- if you like that sort of thing. They make "jukebox" mp3 players like the IPOD and the NOMAD 3 that can hold your entire collection and can also serve as an external hard drive for grabbing folks' pictures and stuff. I am a tech dork so this is the stuff that occurs to me right off the bat.

A GOOD HOLSTER -- You will probably be carrying an M9 pistol (military version of the Beretta 92) and the army holsters are pretty much c**p. Just about everyone over here uses a leather shoulder holster and some folks use hip holsters. I prefer the shoulder holsters that have the weapon on one side and a couple of magazine pouches on the other side. It'll cost about $100.


A HEADLAMP FLASHLIGHT -- I like the one made by Rayovac that can be found at Wal-Mart for about $30. It takes 3 AAA batteries and has a white LED, red LEDs, and a halogen spotlight.

2 MONTHS OF TOILETRIES -- The rest can be shipped to you as necessary or purchased at PXs. I didn't bring a lot because I like to travel light, and it costs more to buy in the states and ship over than it does to just buy at the PX.

A GOOD MULTI-TOOL AND/OR LOCKING BLADE KNIFE -- I have an old Leatherman that is still working like a champ for little screwdriver/plier jobs. As for a knife, I got a CRKT M-16, 4" with a Tanto blade. It is fantastic, sharp, indestructible, light, and only cost about $50.

AT LEAST TWO SMALL LED LIGHTS -- the kind that you push and they light up. Great for clipping onto your collar or your belt loop so you can find your way to the crapper in the dark without having to grab a flashlight.

RED "ROPE LIGHTS" -- they come in 12' lengths and use 110V power, great for the tent. Get other colors if you like but red is great for the nighttime if you don't want to wake everyone. Those cheezy battery powered "tap-lights" are good too.

FOLDING CAMP CHAIRS -- will probably be available at the PX when you get there.

FEBREEZE -- helps when laundry facilities are scarce.

550 CORD, and 100MPH TAPE -- get your own personal supply.

FLANNEL PJ BOTTOMS -- because they're comfy. -:)

FLIP-FLOPS -- because the showers get NASTY.

Packing in an action packer versus a rucksack & duffel bag- If the load plan will allow it, I recommend bringing an action packer or tuff-box. It can serve not only as a secure container for your gear, but also as a table/chair/nightstand. If lots of folks in your unit buy the same kind, they are easy to pack in a MILVAN.

There was a lot of military equipment that I shipped home as soon as I got here. Of course, the climate is different in Afghanistan, but I didn't find myself needing more than 4 uniforms, a couple pairs of boots, lots of socks (I don't use combat boot socks anymore, just white sweat socks), boxers/underwear, and a bunch of brown t-shirts. Some folks bought the Coolmax version and swear by them, I didn't find it mattered too much so I didn't drop a fortune on them. Our sleeping bags were indispensable, do NOT pack the inflatable sleeping bag pad away somewhere... it does a lot more than provide a cushion, it is also INSULATION that is very important. Get a Camelback if you don't have the new MOLLE system that comes with one. I've got one permanently affixed to my LBE, and another one that goes in my flight bag so I can throw it behind my seat when I fly.

From Parents,
Summer and Fall 2003:

INSECT REPELLANT -- The troops are really suffering with the bugs. Mosquitoes, flies, fleas are AWFUL and then factor in 120+ heat, it is a terrible situation. Some troops have even asked for MOSQUITO NETTING that they can cover themselves with when they try to sleep. DO NOT send items or repellent with DEET. Instead, send items that contain a non-harmful bug repellant such as citronella, which is easily purchased as oil, spray on, candles, etc. DEET is dangerous.

FLEA COLLARS -- Some of the troops are asking, no, pleading for these. They are NOT a good idea because they contain DEET, which is harmful (to cats and dogs as well, BTW). Our soldiers should be encouraged not to even hang these collars on their beds or around their tents. Instead, they should use a non-harmful bug repellant such as citronella, as indicated above.

ANTI-ITCH CREAM -- for those insect bites.

FUNNEL -- To use to get the crystal lite and gatorade powder in their canteen without spilling that precious flavored crystal.. Most of the water the troops are drinking now is coming from the large military water containers, affectionately called a "water buffalo", so the troops must fill their cateens from this and apparently, the water is highly chlorinated and pretty nasty tasting, so DRINK MIXES are still one of the MOST important things we can send.

HAIR GEL -- especially for the gals. Keeps the hair slicked back and off their face.

PANTY LINERS -- Not for what you are thinking.. The troops, both men and women are using these as liners in their helmets to keep the sweat from chaffing them and also keep the sweat from running in their eyes.. Necessity is the Mother of invention..

CANNED FOOD -- In the last few weeks, I have received numerous calls and e-mails from troop families and directly from troops asking if we would send more food.

Canned tuna or better yet tuna in the pouch (weighs alot less), chicken, chili, stew, cheese dip, bean dip, rice dishes and pasta dishes that are ready to eat and just need to be warmed in the microwave (no microwaves, but with the temperature over 120, they just lay them in the sun for about 30 minutes and "God's microwave " takes care of it).

Two things are happening in Iraq right now.

First, I think the troops are just very tired of eating nothing but MREs for months on end. About 80% of the troops get 2 MREs a day and some semblance of a hot meal each day.. Sometimes that "hot" meal is just another MRE that is hot, but still an MRE, so they are craving anything that might taste like real food:

Canned corned beef, sardines, salsa, smoked salmon or smoked oysters, mac and cheese, (but ONLY the one that has the canned velveta cheese), beans and franks, canned fruit and ramen noodles and cup a soup, dry cereal. They can heat the ramen, add some chicken and it's almost a real food dinner.

Second and FAR more important, about twenty percent of our troops are in difficult and outlining areas and because of all the sniping on the supply routes, are having a difficult time getting all their supplies on a regular basis. So there has been rationing of supplies. I spoke to a military liaison for one of the senators in DC and they are doing their best to rectify this issue, but the Iraqi dissidents are sure not helping us. Every day there seems to be another incident of our troops being shot at. For some strange reason, the supply lines are jammed, but many of our boxes are getting through, so PLEASE add some extra canned food items in your boxes and go easy on the toiletries for awhile..

BATTERY OPERATED PERSONAL FANS -- I was at the dollar store the other day and they had these for a dollar and they really work well.. Just be sure to include a package of batteries when you send it. The temperatures in some of the tents at night has been getting to over 130 degrees, so anything that would move the air would be wonderful.

FLY PAPER -- to hang in their tents, the tank, whatever.. the bugs are really bad.

FLY SWATTERS -- at least include one in every box.

Dental Floss

Many of our special forces troops are in places with no running water, heat or even basic facilities, so even brushing their teeth can be a problem, but flossing is the extent of their oral hygiene.

Creams and Hand Stuff

Lip balm (chap-stick, blistex, etc.) Dry skin lotion, hand creams, foot creams Aloe vera cream for sun & wind burn & cuts Sun block..30+ SBP Strong hand cream is best-the dirt is so fine that their skin from the blowing dirt is chapped and cut, especially their hands Emery boards, nail file  and nail clippers and q-tips.


Large Baby wipes (in soft packs are best) Hand sanitizers, PURELL-These become a shower many days. when on missions, this is their only way to clean themselves. The dust & dirt is overwhelming.  In many areas, even when they have a shower, it is with only cold water. One soldier wrote & said that where he was, had no running water for showers & it had been 70 days since he’d had a “real shower”... Baby wipes and Purell are one of the most essential things we can send. Also, face cleansing pads.

Non-Medicated Eye Drops

Helps soothes the eyes, especially after a”brown out “ - dust storm.. Sometimes these are so bad, you cannot see more than a few feet in front of you.


Mole skin & blister packs - the terrain is so rocky in Afghanistan  & the long missions of walking  really does their feet in, “Hot Hands” and “Hot Feet” - hand and feet warmers work for up to 6 hours to keep them warm, White tube athletic socks-Trench foot is a real problem & the troops  change socks a couple times a day to keep the bacteria & dampness in control. Sanitary conditions are not the best, so as long as they can keep their feet clean & dry, this really helps. Gold Bond Powder, Lotrimin, Athlete’s foot spray and cream, Foot powder.


Underwear, white socks, large hankerchiefs.


Vitamin E, Zinc tablets, (Cold-eezz, fights off the common cold ) Vitamin C tablets or drops (found near cough drops) Cough drops Throat lozenges. With the cold weather in Afghanistan and the conditions they live in, everyone gets sick and these would really help.


Dominoes, cribbage boards, trivial pursuit, other board games, Velcro dart game for their tents, other indoor type games for winter, crossword puzzle, word game books, nerf footballs, basketball, volley ball and net, soccer balls, whiffle ball and bat, hand pump for balls, patches for balls (very rocky terrain), electronic games, games boys, etc. video movies and video tapes of sporting events, CD’s, make a mix off of your computers.

The troops have a tent where there is a VCR and DVD player and they can go there to watch movies, but the selection is so limited, that some new ones would be a real plus for all the troops. The troops would really love some videos with taped current TV shows.  Sopranos, Simpsons, Friends, anything you think the troops would enjoy watching.


Snack and prepackaged foods of any kind ANYTHING CHOCOLATE (except in hot climates) Crystal lite, Gatorade , flavored teas (regular & herbal), Flavored instant coffee, coffee bags for single cups, Tang, instant spiced apple cider mix in individual packets, both regular and diet, instant hot cocoa mix in individual packets, regular and diet, ½ gallon size plastic containers to mix the drink mix in with water.

Some areas have bottled water and they use their water bottles to mix in, but many areas, now, have “water trucks,” so the plastic containers would help.

DORITOS, Pringles (all flavors), Tostitos, SPICY snack food and chips, potato chip sticks, pretzels, esp. flavored popped corn, fiddle faddle, cracker jacks, flavored crackers, Chex mix, cheese nips, salsa & canned dips (not refrigerated), crackers & cheese, spread in bottles and cans, cheese & crackers and peanut butter & crackers in individual plastic cups, cup of soup, cup of noodles, top ramen, any type that is instant and can be mixed with hot water foil packs of tuna or chicken or easy open, pop top cans of tuna; chicken & Vienna sausages, Beef & Turkey Jerky

(Note: No Slim Jim’s; they contain pork & pork is not allowed)

Trail mix, granola bars, Pop-Tarts, all flavors power bars, individual wrapped cookies, snack cakes, etc , fruit roll-ups, dried fruit, nuts - all kinds (pistachios in the shells; sunflower seeds in the shell; peanuts; cashews), instant oatmeal in “fun flavors”, flavored instant grits, sweetened dried cereal that can be eaten as a snack -Lucky charms, oatmeal raisin crisp, clusters, cinnamon toast crunch, in individual or in bigger boxes.

Individual servings of fruit & pudding, “Junior” size baby puddings & desserts, (Don’t laugh, they’re individual sized, need no refrigeration and are tasty & nutritious)

Hard candy, licorice (red), sweet-tarts, M&Ms, mints, jolly ranchers, gum—Lots of it (used on patrols to keep their mouths moist) star-burst candy, marshmallows, graham crackers, Hershey candy bars (sounds like the makings of s’mores), twinkies, peanut butter cups, rice crispy treats, sweetened kool-aid, oatmeal cookies, snickers, nutter butters

ANY kind of chocolate, but only for another month or so.

ANY and EVERY type of home-baked cookie you can think of except FIG BARS and POUND CAKE because those and Skittles are the desserts in MRE’s.

Many times the troops will take power bars, trail mix, tuna or chicken or jerky and pack them in their fatigue pockets instead of an MRE when they go out on patrol. E nothing but MREs gets very old fast , so nutritious food from our boxes is a welcome change.

Personal Hygiene Items: (unscented if possible)

soap, toothpaste tooth brushes and disposable razors, blades, shaving cream, toilet paper etc In many of the areas, there is a SMALL mobile exchange that carries  basic items, but from what we are hearing, right now with the large influx of troops, the demand is outweighing the supply. Some of the newer bases are still without a mobile PX, so it’s safe to say that the troops can use the basics.. Some of the newer bases have been requesting toilet paper, so if you have a little extra room in your box, include a couple rolls.


Kleenex packets that they can carry in their pockets.

Disposable camera

Flash lights

Batteries AA and AAA

Phone cards-ATT

Pens, stationary, postcards, and regular unused greeting cards, that the troops can use to send back to their families ... (no postage stamps necessary)

Freezer weight ziploc bags, all sizes, but especially the gallon size. The dust and dirt is in EVERYTHING, so the troops put everything in ziploc bags to protect their belongings air fresheners (stick-ums or the kind that hang in a car, the tents get pretty funky)

Fly swatters, Mouse Traps, Battery operated personal fans and fan misters (seasonal)

Some other suggestions are a current CD , photo holders with magnets on the back that they can put up in their tent.  Pictures of the SNOW for the troops in Kuwait, Pictures of the beach for the troops in Afghanistan, The Sunday funny papers, the sports section from the newspaper Hobby items, like a drawing tablet with a box of colored pencils or chalk.

A journal.  Disposable cameras for them to take pictures to send home to their families.

From recently returned and a recently deployed Grads:

drink mix

mesquito repelant


a flash light because the power is always out

most things you can get here

a jump rope, most places have weights but no type of cardio

there are limited places to run

very few people are living in tents anymore, most places have nice living trailers where they have heat and everything needed

bring lots of DCUs

boots, the land is nasty and everything gets ruined

a good pair of sun glasses ... maybe even goggles ... like Wiley-Xs


1)  One if not two Rayovac lanterns.  They operateon AA batteries (four).

2)  9 mm shoudler gun holster.

3)  Money in smaller denominations not above 20 but most smaller. You will be able to buy some items on economy.

4)  Bring a pillow on plane with you.  Also, light cotton blanket.

5)  It is true that wipes are very handy as handwashing is not always possible.  I use the individual wrapped wipes.

6) Sunscreen.

7)  Something for insect repellants.

8)  Roach motels that hopefully will keep the arthropod population under control.

9)  Pens and paper.

10)  Disposable cameras plus envelopes with bubbles to mail them home.

11)  Digital camera.

12)  Big fad here is DVD players.

13)  Locks for your bags with the same keys.  No combination locks.

14)  Black military footlocker is only $19.95.  Good place to lock up

15) Toiletries in ziplock bag preferably large.

16)  Some 13 gallon white trash bags.

17)  Windex wipes which must be purchased stateside.

18)  Purex laundry tablets.  Bring six in a ziploc bag.


As far as things you CANNOT send, here they are:

NO Christian books or magazines, ROSARIES, ETC
NO PORK of any kind or in any products - Read Labels
PORNOGRAPHY (Sports Illustrated swimsuit edition is a no no!)
Even paperback books with a racy cover are not good

Final Points

The ideal weight for a box is not less than 15 pounds or more than 35. Less than that, is too pricey and more than 35 pounds is too difficult to handle and you pay a premium because the box must be hand worked rather than by a machine. A good hint is to go to and you can enter your zip code and the zip code that you are sending it to and the weight, say it is military mail and send it parcel post and it will give you the approximate cost, so there are no surprises when you get to the post office.

One of our Mom’s sent a box to Afghanistan and the postal clerk charged her 48 dollars for a 10 pound box. She charged her the civilian rate, not the military rate.

Another tip is the postal service has gotten very strict when it comes to writing “Give to any American service member if undeliverable to the troop that it is addressed to.”  So, when filling out your custom slip, find another name on our address list with the SAME APO number and use that as your alternate name.  Again, it is a security issue.

One last point, some of our members have sent boxes to the same individuals sending one box priority mail and another parcel post, mailed them the same day and most of them have arrived the same time or just a day apart, so for the difference in postage, use parcel post and use that extra money to send another box.

Back to For Families and Friends of Deployed Soldiers