Most recent operations have seen troops working out of FOBS or patrol bases that offer at least some level of comfort – admittedly sometimes a pretty low one – and generally centralized feeding arrangements of some sort. It might only be a boiler for heating food in the bag ration pouches, but generally there’s an endless supply of hot water for making drinks, and that’s a morale booster that civilians who work indoors don’t really appreciate. When your home for six months, or a year, is a camp cot under a poncho tied to some Hesco Bastion, there are going to be cold nights, even in Afghanistan, and few things are going to get your spirits up faster than a steaming mug of tea, coffee or even soup.
It’s easy to stay supplied with hot drinks in most bases, but if you’re out in the field doing traditional light infantry stuff it can be a lot more of a struggle. When I joined the UOTC back in 1988, I was issued a black plastic mug that fit over the top of my water bottle, and that was what I drank out of in the field. If I wanted tea, I had to boil water on a little Hexamine stove that threw out a lot of heat but even more huge flames, so obviously using it between sunset and dawn was a complete no-no. That was kind of unfortunate, because most of my early exercises were in Scotland in winter, when the sun’s on the horizon by 4:40 and won’t reappear for the next sixteen hours. It goes without saying that those hours can be cold, miserable and very, very long. The younger me spent a lot of shivering nights waiting for dawn stand-to, because when that was over I could get the stove lit and make the hot brew that would force some warmth back into my body.
The first half of my regular Army career saw a lot more of the same, although most of it was spent in England or Germany where a winter night could be as short as fourteen hours. What a luxury. Then in about 2004, I was on a NATO exercise as part of a headquarters so huge someone had set up a PRI shop. With half an hour to spare, I wandered in to see what they had and found a Lifeventure insulated mug. This was basically a small steel vacuum flask, it held about eight ounces of liquid and it would keep it drinkably hot for six hours or more. There wasn’t much else to spend money on, so I bought one – and I never regretted it.
There was a no-drinks rule in the headquarters because there’s always some Mr. Fumblefingers who’ll knock his mug over his laptop or the General’s briefing table, but it was unofficially waived for insulated mugs with a screw-on top. That was handy. Going on field exercises was the real test, though, and it passed with flying colors. It would keep my tea hot through the whole of a summer night or at least half of a winter one, so I could make a brew before dusk stand-to and enjoy it later when it was dark. Even better, the mug fit perfectly in a spare magazine pouch. The only thing wrong with it was that you had to unscrew the lid to take a drink.
I’ve now moved on to a slightly larger Primus mug; it doesn’t quite fit in an AR15 mag pouch, but there were plenty of places to put it in the 5.11 vest I had at the time. Its big advantage was a drinking hole in the lid with a push-button closure; press the button and you can drink, press it again and it’s resealed to prevent leaks and escaping heat. That mug served me well through my time in Afghanistan. I’m a writer now, but it still spends all day on my desk; because its insulation is good for up to eight hours, it means I drink three or four mugs of tea a day instead of ten.
Even when you’re working out of a FOB, an insulated mug is a great piece of equipment to have. Hot coffee is a nice thing to have with you on a long patrol or ambush, or you can fill it up before you go to bed and have it handy if you fancy a swig during the night. If you get woken up by small-hours alerts a lot, you’ll have a drink to get yourself feeling half way human again as you watch the flares from your fire position. And of course, in summer, the lid will keep flies out of your brew.
A mug like this is a simple thing, but it makes a huge difference to your comfort in the field, and that’s always important. The more comfortable you can be the better you’ll feel and the more effectively you’ll perform, and $20 or so is a small price to pay for the convenience of always having a hot drink in hand. I love my mug, and I’m pretty sure you will too.
Disclaimer: The content in this article is the opinion of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the policies or opinions of US Patriot Tactical.