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The Case for Smocks

Updated: Apr 21, 2022

So I have yet to find a field clothing item that brings about gnashing teeth like smocks.

Seriously. For all the “hard charging tactical professionals” out there it seems that suggesting $200+ crye pants is acceptable, but suggesting a $50 smock is akin to saying Epstein was a good guy. So lets talk about why I think smocks are a solid option for everything from the career infantryman to (and especially) the homesteading partisan.

Before diving into the features of smocks, why I like them, and how i use them; lets talk about some of the perceived cons and get those concerns out of the way.

Many, including myself initially, write smocks off as these super hot death traps. Many look at them and swear they can feel themselves cooking in their own body oils and sweat. If its not that, its usually a comment or thought along the lines of the item being too bulky and loose. I would have to say that 90% of the time when i hear this and i ask what their experience is with smocks its either A) none, or B) back in the 80s/90s when they were issued kit. If your in camp A, i suggest you quit talking and start thinking and researching. If your in camp B) the thing to remember is that time, technology, and manufacturing have changed. Not all smocks are 100% cotton and lack ventilation. Nor are they all tightly woven windproof material. You have lots of options as an individual these days. So, go and look and see if one might fit your needs. Not all smocks are the classic heavy material DPM of the early design. Todays example is a single layer poly/cotton blend similar to many other BDU style field tops, with added ventilation that we will get into. This decreases the weight, increases its ability to deal with moisture, and increases over all air flow/ventilation. Thus making them perform quite well in hot/humid environments. Lastly, before we move on, take a look at desert nomadic people and what they wear. Typically its a loose fitting full coverage garment or clothing set. Why? The answer is no sunscreen is as good as the sun simply not reaching your skin.

Now, lets talk about the specific smock im showcasing. For the better part of a year I have been using a surplus MTP windproof smock fielded by the Brits as standard issue. They can be found on Ebay readily (just have fun navigating the NATO sizing if your an American), and the price is pretty reasonable most times. Shipping costs suck though. (If any stateside retailed wants to start carrying these and ditch shilling Blue Falcon 1 tactical gear that would be awesome.) This is far from the only or best options out there, but it fits the middle ground of need, cost, and features. If your not ballin on a budget id suggest something like the B110 combat smock from Arktis if your somewhere with varying temps/climates, and their Mountain Smock if you live in colder areas; a combination of these to adjust seasonally would work well too. If you get into the older surplus DPM type smocks which are usually cheaper, be mindful that they are typically what people refer to when talking about the above suckfests. They arent as bad as many make them out to be, but their combination of materials and features leave a lot to be desired.

Okay so before i jump into whats in the smock and how i utilize it; lets talk about size/fit and features.

Here I have laid out a standard BDU top over the smock. The BDU is my preferred size of Large Long to accommodate my shoulders/chest and seasonal layers. The smock is in my corresponding NATO size of 180/110. As you can see the smock is barely larger than the BDU top. I think when people are complaining about how long and bulky smocks are on them, they have been sized incorrectly. This sizing allows for plenty of freedom of movement or adding insulation layers under the smock if needed.

So, you may be wondering, why would i pick a smock over a standard BDU or even current field top? They seem to be the same size and fit? The answer comes down to pocket count and features. Where the BDU top has 4 total pockets, the smock has 8 in the same placement. Not only that, but the chest zip pockets double as vents as they are simply mesh backed. So not only do you have massive storage capabilities for necessary items, but when you unzip the chest and the armpit vents you get a crazy amount of air flow if your heating up. Seriously, ive been out in 90+ temps with equal percent humidity in both the smock and a 50/50 ripstop BDU. The smocks ventilation capabilities blow the BDU out of the water. I have unzipped both the chest and pits when moving and actively sweating and gotten chills from the airflow it works extremely well. The added benefit to this airflow is it will help dry out your base layer. So at the end of a movement your base layer is considerably dryer than it would have been otherwise, thus increasing comfort and decreasing hypothermia/exposure risks. One last big feature that the smock has compared to the standard field top is the stow-able hood. Its really generous (can wear it over my ballistic lid), helps keep the sun off your neck/face if needed, and helps cut wind off your exposed skin as well. While the entire garment is not waterproofed the hood still does help keep light rain off your face. The included wire at the lip of the hood is good for forming the edges and keeping it out of your face and helps break up your outline if needed.

Now lets talk about how i utilize the smock and what i keep in it.

Similar to the British line of thinking, my smock carries essential items i may need for tasks other than fighting. Think of it as a large distributed GP pouch. With the smock i can keep my LBE focused on fighting. Thus decreasing the weight of the belt line and increasing its functionality.

So what do i keep in the smock?

Crye Nightcap (optional, can go in ruck)

Bush hat


E&E/survival kit (placed in field pant if worn)

MRE main meal (survival item)

Nav/Admin book



Scrim wrap for rifle

Signal stuff (mirror, whistle, IR Strobe)

Extra cam cream



(Not pictured is my headlamp)

There is more room for more stuff if needed, but this is the “necessary” items without overloading myself. If i needed to strip my LBE to perform a close point recon or the like i could stuff a spare mag in the smock, grab my rifle, and still have all of the things necessary for the task. Subsequently if i had to ditch my ruck and LBE to escape an area, i could survive for at least 24hr out of the smock and field clothes.

Now, there is no free lunch. Especially with the surplus MTP. However the “issues” are more like nitpicks. There is too much velcro. I hate velcro for field use. The main zipper is backed up by velcro closure, the sleeves are velcro closure, and the arm pockets are velcro. Id much rather just see Canadian style buttons in place of all the velcro. However the important pockets are button or zip closure. Lastly i wish the pit zip was mesh backed like the chest pockets. This would accomplish the goal of ventilation, but also help to keep ticks and such out when un-zipped. Honestly, those are the only real “problems” i have with this smock or modern smocks in general. Ive used the MTP one in temps and conditions ranging from triple digit temps with 90+ humidity, and temps in the teens with sleet and ice. It has so far been the perfect field top for me.

This last pic, what what i will close with, is how i stage my smock and LBE. This is essentially how it sits in the war room. The benefit to the smock is its an outer layer type of garment and its jacket style. So if a situation were to arise that i needed to grab kit and book it somewhere i can throw on the smock, grab LBE and rifle, and head out the door. Having everything i need for 24-36 hours that can be thrown on over my typical working home clothes. This is important as a partisan/frontiersman because we wont (or shouldnt) be in the field fighting on the daily. You will be home tending your family, crops, and property with the ability to respond when needed. Subsequently if you need to ditch kit and blend back in you can strip your gear and smock and be in your typical home clothes.

Are smocks perfect and for everyone? No. Nothing is. However hopefully this helped shed some light on them and dispel some of the myths or grievances held by many.

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