A question I always get on my YouTube channel is “What do I bring to Army Basic Training?” In order to answer that question and hopefully help any other future soldiers that might be googling this topic, I thought I would create a blog post highlighting what you should bring if you are heading to Army Basic Training.
There are plenty of Army Basic Training packing lists available online and through recruiters, but honestly, I think many are pretty outdated and unnecessary.
First tip: DONT BE THE LOSER THAT BRINGS A ROLLING DUFFEL BAG SUITCASE TO BASIC TRAINING! A) You don’t need that much stuff, and B) you will have to schlep it everywhere and will be regretting bringing it within 5 minutes when you see everyone else with backpacks.
I packed my items in a camo print backpack I received from my recruiter. If your recruiter does not provide you with one, than I recommend using a black or neutral colored bag. No pink or bright colors! It will draw attention and cause the drill sergeants to pick on you.
Plan to wear something comfortable when you leave for Army Basic Training! I wore jeans, sneakers, and a tank top with a shirt over it. You will change into your Army uniform a few hours after you arrive in Basic Training Reception, and the outfit you were wearing will be put into your personal bag to be retrieved once you graduate.
I recommend packing an additional change of clothes, especially if you do not plan on having family/friends attend your graduation. I had my parents bring me a bag to my graduation—I’ll talk more about that later.
Additional items to pack:
- Several (5-6) pairs of underwear- for females, get white or beige colored granny panties! I got some cute-ish beige boy short ones and they did not get confiscated by the drill sergeants. Males should bring a few pairs of whitey-tightys.
- Several (5-6) pairs of white athletic socks. You can buy them at the PX when you arrive at Basic Training Reception, but I bought more cushiony ones beforehand. Make sure they cover your ankles or you won’t be able to wear them! No logos or colored bands are allowed on the socks. Plain white.
- For females: 2-3 sports bras, white, black or beige in color. Get comfy, good quality ones! You will be wearing them alot! Definitely get ones with a bit of padding so you don’t show anything while wearing a t-shirt during PT in the chilly mornings. I also recommend bringing one regular bra (not a pushup bra, but some padding is ok), preferably beige or skin colored. I wore mine on days we didn’t have PT (like on Sundays to church) and to BCT graduation. Sometimes it felt good giving my boobs a break from being squished in a sports bra!
- Black flip-flops. I got mine at Old Navy I think. They sell them at the PX during Basic Training Reception, but they are crappy quality and EVERYONE will have those. Mine didn’t look exactly like the others, so they were easy to identify. You will need them! The showers are kinda gross.
One last note about clothing- I had my mom sew my last name into all of the underwear, bras and socks I brought (she used mending tape and a fabric marker), and I’m glad she did! You’d be surprised how often clothes go missing, whether through laundry mishaps or by theft amongst the females in your bay! Another option is to mark everything with a regular sharpie, but after several washes the name starts to look like an unreadable blob.
My advice for toiletries is to pack kind-of light. Get travel sizes in all the items you bring, because if you are flying to your Army Basic Training location, you most likely won’t be able to check a bag. The PX has a great selection of deodorants, shampoo/conditioner, and other toiletries.
- Shower Gel- nothing extra fruity or girly! I brought a travel sized lemon scented shower gel from Bath and Body Works. I bought a full sized bottle of body wash once I arrived, but would revert back to the one I brought when I was feeling homesick.
- Shampoo/Conditioner- you won’t need anything fancy, if you are a female your hair will be up in a bun all day anyways.
- For females- hair gel, hair spray, bobby pins that match your haircolor, brush, comb and any other products you’ll need to keep your hair secured in a bun. Watch my sock bun tutorial if you need ideas for how to secure your hair. No ponytails are allowed! You can get more of these items at the PX.
- Razor(s)- for males, this is especially necessary, since NO facial hair is allowed! Most males carry around a razor in their pockets just in case they get stubble, so they don’t get yelled at by the drill sergeants! As for females, I was allowed to shave my legs/armpits in Basic Training, but I’ve heard stories of other platoons that had their razors confiscated. Bring one just in case!
- Toothbrush and travel toothpaste
- Deodorant (I used men’s deodorant, I think it works better than women’s. You could always bring the clinical strength kind that many brands sell if you tend to sweat a lot.)
- Chapstick- I brought Carmex with me, but had my mom send me various flavored chapsticks throughout Basic Training- they were great for trading/currency amongst my fellow soldiers for favors (like getting into the shower first while the water’s still warm!)
- Facial moisturizer (optional)- I have dry skin and went to Basic Training in the winter, so this was a necessity for me. One with sunscreen would be ideal to protect against skin damage!
- A travel sized pack of baby wipes or facial cloths. You may not always get time to shower, so these will come in handy!
- 2 brown washcloths and 1-2 brown towels. They MIGHT get confiscated, but it’s worth taking a chance. The towels they sell at the PX are AWFUL! Super thin and small. I brought my own brown towels and they didn’t get taken away during the “shakedown”.
- Pads/Tampons- I had my doctor write me a prescription to bring birth control to BCT to skip my periods, but if you choose not to, pack a few pads/tampons. You can buy more later at the PX.
I kept all of my toiletries in gallon sized ziplock bags when I brought them, then I purchased a camo toiletry bag at the PX in Reception.
Oh yeah…we weren’t allowed any tweezers when I went to Basic Training! It sucked! Maybe they have changed this rule since I went. Contact lenses are prohibited as well- if you need them, you will have to wear “birth control goggles” aka BCG’s, which are Army issued eyeglasses (ugly ones, hence the name, since no one would want to hook up with you if you had them on).
Ignore any lists that tell you to bring a phone card. You will be allowed your cell phone during the few phone calls you are allowed during Army Basic Training. Don’t forget your charger! Drop your plan down to the lowest amount of minutes for the duration of Basic Training, or opt for a prepaid phone if you’d prefer to cancel your contract. You actually can provide your Basic Training Orders issued by the military (ask your recruiter) to your cellular phone company in order to get out of your contract early or change your plan type.
Other personal items to pack:
- At least 3 locks with keys. They sell combo locks at the PX, but key locks save so much time! I kept my keys attached to my dog tag chain.
- Stamps! These will be like gold! If you are anything like me, you will write tons of letters home in your free time, especially at the beginning.
- Paper/envelopes/stationary- you can sometimes buy super hooah cool army stationary at the PX once you get into your Basic Training unit, but bring some for beforehand.
- Pens/Pencils/Sharpie- You will need to take LOTS of notes throughout your training! Always keep at least one writing utensil in your uniform sleeve!
- Tiny notepad- You’ll keep it in your uniform shoulder pocket to take notes (i.e. chain of command, words to the Army song, etc).
- Debit/Credit Card- You will use it at the PX for items you run out of during BCT. We had weekly trips to a shoppette, where the males got haircuts and we were all allowed to buy more toiletries, etc. Cash could get stolen, so opt for a card.
- Bible or other religious book- You aren’t allowed to bring other reading materials, so if you are religious, you may want to bring your bible/quran/etc.
- Pictures!! I hung up pictures of my family in my locker. I loved seeing the pictures every morning while I was changing into my uniform at the crack of dawn.
- Watch- I brought a cheap waterproof black watch, and it worked great! In fact, I still use it when I go to drill! Mine has a nightlight and an alarm.
- Moleskin for your boots. This will help protect you against blisters! Tip: Pre-cut it, since you won’t have access to scissors!
- 1-2 packets of laundry detergent, In case you need to do laundry before you are allowed a trip to the PX, it’s good to have a packet or 2 on hand!
Things NOT to bring:
- Food items
- Anything related to gambling (like dice or cards)
- Anything that could be considered a weapon (knives, blades, etc)
- Nailpolish (make sure your polish is removed before you come!)
Other things to note:
-You can receive packages at Army Basic Training! I received chapsticks, little toiletries, Icy Hot, cough drops, and other little necessities. I also loved getting little things included with the letters I received, like a printed out calendar with the days until I graduated highlighted on it, and a cool star map printout showing all of the constellations that I brought in my pocket while we were on a field training exercise overnight. Make sure to tell you family not to send any snacks or prohibited items in your packages! (Well, unless they are super sneaky and can conceal it inside of another item.)
-You are allowed some forms of medication/first aid stuff, but that can be purchased at the PX. Don’t bring them with you from the get-go. You will have access to Midol for cramps, Icy Hot for sore muscles, and a few other things.
-If you plan on having friends or family attend your Basic Training graduation, have them bring you a bag with more personal items to bring to AIT! You will have more freedom in AIT (depending on your MOS), and will want more civilian clothes, makeup (for females), and electronics like a laptop or ipod. I was SO happy to have my laptop right away when I got to AIT!