What is Snivel Gear?

Mary McMahon

In military parlance, snivel gear is equipment that is deemed not vitally necessary to deployment, designed to increase comfort rather than to further the mission. For people outside the military, the things included in this category might seem peculiar; for example, insulated windbreakers are dismissed, while most civilians would argue that a comfortable jacket is in fact a necessity. It is common for soldiers on active duty to come up with lists of recommended snivel gear for their companions back home so that their companions will be prepared when they deploy.

Sleeping bags, which greatly enhance comfort, can be considered snivel gear.
Sleeping bags, which greatly enhance comfort, can be considered snivel gear.

This term is a reference to the idea that this gear will stop someone from “sniveling” or whining in cold weather, high wind, or other less than pleasant conditions. Despite the disparaging associations with the term, most active duty members of the military carry this type of gear on deployment, although they may on occasion make fun of themselves for using it. Those that come in care packages are also highly prized, and items that could be considered snivel gear are often requested from friends back home.

Baby wipes, a type of snivel gear.
Baby wipes, a type of snivel gear.

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Many items relate to personal care, such as lotion, lip balm, foot powder, baby wipes, various medications, and so forth. In addition to increasing comfort, these items can also be beneficial for personal hygiene, and in areas where conditions are severe, things like lotion and lip balm can actually help someone stay healthy. Lotion, for example, can prevent dried, cracking skin that could become prone to damage and infection, while foot powder helps to prevent the myriad foot conditions that can emerge when a person's feet are encased in combat boots for 23 hours a day.

Other pieces of snivel gear include comfort items like sleeping bags, ponchos, and jackets, along with gloves, sweaters, scarves, and hats. Militaries often find themselves in remote, isolated areas where the weather may be extremely changeable, so access to an assortment of waterproofed and warm garments can be valuable. Sleeping pads, liners for jackets and ponchos, and similar miscellanies may also be included

The amount of gear that a soldier can carry is limited both by those items that must be carried, such as weapons and other military equipment, and by the location where the soldier is deployed. For example, soldiers with access to a base camp could bring more snivel gear with them on deployment, because they would have a place to store it, while others need to be more mobile, which requires them to cut down on nonessential items.

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