Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

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Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:23 pm

Last night me and Mrs. 74 or more were talking about how we would love to go back packing through Europe. At some point when life settles down we're going to make it happen. Now this trip isn't going to happen anytime soon nor is it the focus of my question but it got me thinking about which one of my packs I would bring. The only pack I have that I would think about taking on a trip like this is my multicam Kifaru ZXR. I thought I read somewhere on ZS (although I couldn't find the thread) that it's not a good idea to travel over seas with military clothing or gear.

So what do you guys think? Is it better to have a North Face, Osprey, or something that isn't camo or covered in MOLLE? Is it really dangerous/unsafe to have a military style pack over seas?


ETA: This isn't intended to be a grey man thread
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Calzonewdippingsauce » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:32 pm

I took a ton of my gear both to Mexico and the Dominican on vacation because I did a lot of excursions and such. Military style packs, clothing, boots, Camelbak, etc. I never had any issues with TSA, customs, foreign authorities, or anyone. There was a HUGE presence of both Mexican Military and Policia Federal when I was in Cancun because I was there during the G8 summit. No issues, no funny looks.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by claverhouse » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:36 pm

There is somewhat of a difference between backpacking in Europe and travelling through Somalia, Pakistan or Iran! There are plenty of backpackers, climbers and bushcrafters wandering around most parts of Europe in varying attire from one or two odd pieces of milsurp to full head to toe camo. If anything , it might make you more likely to blend in, rather than be the "immediately identifiable from 100 metres as Yank tourist" type ;)
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Boondock » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:37 pm

I vacationed in England and France with a brown Spec-Ops pack and had no worries.

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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Tue Feb 12, 2013 2:41 pm

Thanks for the quick responses guys. Everything you've said is pretty much what I figured to be honest. Maybe the quote I remembered reading was in reference to the middle east or somewhere such as, like claverhouse stated.


claverhouse wrote:rather than be the "immediately identifiable from 100 metres as Yank tourist" type ;)
:lol:
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Aikibiker » Tue Feb 12, 2013 5:21 pm

I wouldn't worry to much in Europe. Only place I have seen traveling with military gear or tactical apparel bite someone in the ass was coming into the civilian side of Baghdad international. The customs officers let me right through with my business casual attire and rolling carry on, but held everyone in my group wearing 5.11s and carrying various and sundry tactical packs for about an hour just to fuck with them.

I have heard of people having issues in some of the Gulf countries too, but I went in and out of Kuwait several times with a Camelback Motherload with pouches and carabiners and shit hanging off it with no troubles several times from 2007-2009. I would dress casual if transiting through the UAE since they prohibit any and all weapons parts or military paraphenalia (body armor, mag pouches, holsters, pocket knives, handcuffs, etc.) even in checked luggage that is transiting through the country and will not only seize it, but imprison you for having it in your luggage.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Honeypot » Wed Feb 13, 2013 12:07 am

The main issue is that members of the American military are de facto targets, anywhere (yes, even in the USA there have been targeted killings). :(

Our eldest son did some backpacking with buddies in Europe, during their terms of service, and his CO let them all grow their hair out "a bit" before hand (scruffy Army grunts, not leet Marines ;) ). I just punched up pics from their trip, and all but one of them did have mil packs, and all but (different) one added "kollege kidz" patches to their bags. They all look like clean cut, fit, college kids.

In your case, are you military slim, or 'Merican football fan stocky? ;)
Normally, is your hair obviously non-military?

Plan to let it grow into a blatantly obviously non-military style, practice slouching, and start collecting some fun, non-alarming, "I'm (mostly) harmless" themed bag patches.

If you haven't seen it, I highly recommend watching the PBS documentary on the Mumbai attack.
Chilling, insightful, and detailed, it should give you a better understanding of a real worst case scenario.


I hope that doesn't come off as too grim.
As others have stated, Americans abroad are generally very safe, particularly if you're not going into hot spots, and not being an idiot.
Just continue to do what you've already started doing... think it thru & plan in advance! :)
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Kutter_0311 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 1:28 am

Honeypot wrote:The main issue is that members of the American military are de facto targets, anywhere (yes, even in the USA there have been targeted killings). :(

Our eldest son did some backpacking with buddies in Europe, during their terms of service, and his CO let them all grow their hair out "a bit" before hand (scruffy Army grunts, not leet Marines ;) ). I just punched up pics from their trip, and all but one of them did have mil packs, and all but (different) one added "kollege kidz" patches to their bags. They all look like clean cut, fit, college kids.

In your case, are you military slim, or 'Merican football fan stocky? ;)
Normally, is your hair obviously non-military?

Plan to let it grow into a blatantly obviously non-military style, practice slouching, and start collecting some fun, non-alarming, "I'm (mostly) harmless" themed bag patches.
My CO in Kilo Co told us all to stop shaving on leave, and that was in '02. He was well ahead of his peers, but that's why he went to Recon after he left our line company.

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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Wed Feb 13, 2013 7:42 am

Honeypot wrote:In your case, are you military slim, or 'Merican football fan stocky? ;) Normally, is your hair obviously non-military?
There is no mistaking me for military personnel :lol: . I'm short, kind of fat, and have a full beard. An most of the time I'm wearing torn jeans with a worn out band t-shirt.

Depending on where you're going, blend in. Study up. Try not to look like you just came from a line company...
So you think I should not carry my multicam pack? Or just don't over do it?
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:24 am

All depends on where you're going and what you're doing.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by the_alias » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:36 am

I think Uou're more likely to be pegged as American based on your shoes (stop wearing trainers now) and dress sense.

We have some very well travelled members here.

Honestly Euro-railing around Europe is fine. If 1000s of California girls can do it just fine ...well yeah.

Oh and you'll be glad to hear the travelling Australians are the new "Americans" (aka obnoxious and loud) abroad - this was the opinion of more than one Australian I met on holiday.

And before anyone gets their granny knickers in a twist , I'm English. Everyone hates us on holiday :lol:


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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Gingerbread Man » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:56 am

the_alias wrote:I think Uou're more likely to be pegged as American based on your shoes (stop wearing trainers now) and dress sense.
Absolutely true. When I arrived in Italy, I wore my cross trainers. American!

I switched it up and wore dress shoes. Then I took it a step further, I worn a shirt and tie.

I was constantly taken for an Italian. No one spoke to me in English. My Italian speaking was on point and I was never taken for American. Even in Spain, Germany, Austia, Slovania, Hungary, France, always assumed I was an Italian. :rofl:

If you want to go grey man Euro style, shut up. Drink coffee/beer and make your first stop a Euro clothing store. Buy 3 pairs of pants, 3 shirts and a couple ties. And good Euro brand shoes. ASK THE SHOP OWNER FOR HELP. They'll be more than pleased to help you out of your American clothes and into their stuff, AND MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD DOING IT. :lol:
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Wed Feb 13, 2013 8:57 am

the_alias wrote:I think Uou're more likely to be pegged as American based on your shoes (stop wearing trainers now) and dress sense.
I don't really care if people know I'm American or not. I was just curious as to whether the "camo pack over seas" thing really held water or not. Seems like the general consensus is no. Which is good because the thought have having to buy another expensive pack to use maybe once is obnoxious. I love my Kifaru. I also never wear trainers :D .

the_alias wrote:And before anyone gets their granny knickers in a twist , I'm English. Everyone hates us on holiday :lol:
haha I've hung out with a few English on vacation here in the US and never had a problem with any of them
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:01 am

"Camo overseas" is a really broad, vague, general term. Would I bring my Eberlestock to backpack through eastern Europe? No. Would I feel safe using it to travel in Western Europe staying in hotels, or generally in the parts of town that are safe and well lit? Yes. Would I carry around a camo backpack? No, but that's for style reasons, not because I'm worried about getting yoked up.

Do the same stuff you do in the US. Be polite, stay out of bad areas, and don't be dumb.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by mr_slappy75 » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:20 am

Regular Guy wrote:
the_alias wrote:I think Uou're more likely to be pegged as American based on your shoes (stop wearing trainers now) and dress sense.
Absolutely true. When I arrived in Italy, I wore my cross trainers. American!

I switched it up and wore dress shoes. Then I took it a step further, I worn a shirt and tie.

I was constantly taken for an Italian. No one spoke to me in English. My Italian speaking was on point and I was never taken for American. Even in Spain, Germany, Austia, Slovania, Hungary, France, always assumed I was an Italian. :rofl:

If you want to go grey man Euro style, shut up. Drink coffee/beer and make your first stop a Euro clothing store. Buy 3 pairs of pants, 3 shirts and a couple ties. And good Euro brand shoes. ASK THE SHOP OWNER FOR HELP. They'll be more than pleased to help you out of your American clothes and into their stuff, AND MAKE YOU LOOK GOOD DOING IT. :lol:
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:21 am

Doctorr Fabulous wrote:Would I bring my Eberlestock to backpack through eastern Europe? No.
This is what peaks my curiosity. I just find it interesting that the kind of pack you carry can be an issue. To be honest, if I'm taking a quick glance at a map the furthest east I would be interested in going it probably Czech Rep or Austria. But when you say eastern Europe you probably mean a lot farther east than that, right?
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by the_alias » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:24 am

I've been further east than that and really a backpack is not the reason someone is going to fuck with you.

They are going to fuck with because you're not from around there.

They're going to fuck with you because you might have money and desirable objects.

But backpack choice? Can't see it happening.


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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Doctorr Fabulous » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:30 am

Not just the place, the activity. How I would behave in Prague or Kiev is different from how I'd behave in the areas that have steel-core doors and double deadbolts.

If you're talking about what you're going to carry around while doing touristy things, then I suggest a more stylish shoulder bag or something instead of a tacitcool backpack, but mainly for style reasons. Mostly I'd echo what the_alias said. This more or less -is- a gray man thread, because you're wondering if a piece of gear (note, one single item, the backpack) is going to make or break you. It won't. Your dress, your confused look as you page through a mini-map, the way you interact with your wife, and that godawful American accent will give you away. predators will start with "who's here" and keep filtering until they find the best target that has the lowest risk. It's not as though most of Europe (especially the parts you're looking at) is a seedy 3rd world country. Treat it the way you would treat a trip to a similarly populous US area, and add the fun of being an asshole (not just because you're an American, but also because you're a tourist) to the mix.

TL:DR if you're gonna be a target, it won't just be the backpack.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Gingerbread Man » Wed Feb 13, 2013 9:44 am

the_alias wrote:I've been further east than that and really a backpack is not the reason someone is going to fuck with you.
They are going to fuck with because you're not from around there.
They're going to fuck with you because you might have money and desirable objects.
But backpack choice? Can't see it happening.
This is true. I was in Ex-Eastern block; Poland, Yugolandia, Slovania, Czech Rep., Hungary, etc and that's when they mess with you, you're flashing expensive gear and if you've drank too much. Do not get drunk. Don't get even close unless you're in your hotel with the door locked and barred. Thieves and criminals in Europe generally work in quite sophisticated groups. Look outs, blockers, charmers, etc and they're way better than you at it, it's their career. In America you can set your bag down in a bar and have a very reasonable expectation that it's going to be there when you get back. Europe, forget it. Don't carry a wallet, get the band or the belt. If you get on a bus you better be on 110% alert. Those three doods that just bumped into you went through all your pockets. And don't take a nap in public, not only is it considered bad manners, your stuff is going to be gone.
This isn't isolated to eastern Europe, this is common is in France, Spain, etc.
Don't get me wrong, Europe is awesome and 99% of them are great folks but you can't look at the sites and your stuff, you have to keep the important stuff on body or you're giving it away.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by 74 or more » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:07 am

Doctorr Fabulous wrote:If you're talking about what you're going to carry around while doing touristy things, then I suggest a more stylish shoulder bag or something instead of a tacitcool backpack, but mainly for style reasons. Mostly I'd echo what the_alias said. This more or less -is- a gray man thread, because you're wondering if a piece of gear (note, one single item, the backpack) is going to make or break you. It won't. Your dress, your confused look as you page through a mini-map, the way you interact with your wife, and that godawful American accent will give you away. predators will start with "who's here" and keep filtering until they find the best target that has the lowest risk. It's not as though most of Europe (especially the parts you're looking at) is a seedy 3rd world country. Treat it the way you would treat a trip to a similarly populous US area, and add the fun of being an asshole (not just because you're an American, but also because you're a tourist) to the mix.

TL:DR if you're gonna be a target, it won't just be the backpack.
I hear what your saying. I don't think I'm going to be able to completely hid the fact that I'm a tourist nor am I trying to. I'm mainly talking about my big pack that I would be living out of. I'd probably stuff a small sling bag down in the pack or attach my E&E to the front for doing touristy things during the day.

I'm not completely ignorant in regards to how I'm supposed to handle myself in Europe (although it might seem so based on this thread). I've never been to the main land. The closest I've ever been was Ireland and we had to look out for most of the same stuff. Don't let your bag down, keep tabs on everything in your pocket, stay out of bad areas, etc.

Thank you all for the advice. I really appreciate it. I felt kind of stupid asking in the first place.
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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by the_alias » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:51 am

74ormore: No stupid questions on ZS! This one has generated some decent travel discussion :)

Stupid answers a plenty though :lol:


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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Jamie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:53 am

In general, I eschew military gear (or gear that looks military) when possible...if you're not in a sea of other guys with similar gear, it draws attention, which is never a desired outcome for me.


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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by the_alias » Wed Feb 13, 2013 10:59 am

Again keep it realistic folks. You're backpacking right - so you're only carrying that gear from Hotel - train or plane or bus to next city - Hotel.

In summer backpackers getting to their hotels hostels in major EU cities are very numerous. Most don't get a second glance !




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Re: Carrying Military Backpacks Over Seas - yes/no

Post by Jamie » Wed Feb 13, 2013 11:17 am

My answer was both realistic and appropriate to the topic... :roll:

The OP asked if readers thought that a non-military pack was better for touristy use than a military backpack, and I answered that I did, even offering a reason.

I don't think that using a military backpack puts you in danger when backpacking through Europe, nor did I say or imply that in my post...

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