Survival Kit for Military Boarding School

Matriculation at Marine Military Academy

Whether you are a Frog, New Cadet, Plebe, RAT, ROC, Rook, Scrub, Trainee or a returning cadet, welcome to military school! This list will help you make the best of your passage to live on a military school campus and should help your parents to send more care packages (lifelines).

If you have ideas for things we should have put on this list, please comment below!

valley forge military academy watch

1. Watch

"Alumni Tip: Waterproof and programmable to military time."
Marine Military Academy stem

Your new daily schedule will be very precise and regulated. You will need to know the time all the time, and will be doing a lot more timing and planning.

I know you think you won't need a watch if you have a cell phone, but what if you don't have it with you? Some schools have rules about when you can carry your phone, and outside playing sports,running, and being active.


2. Water Bottle

Say it with me: "Always be Hydrating." You can go for style with this as long as the bottle is durable and has an attach point for securing it to your gear.

"Alumni Tip: Just put water in it. Any additives will make it moldy. Your barracks room does not have a dishwasher."

Water Bladders are great for ruck marches and long runs, but having a convenient water source with you is always welcome.

Having a reusable bottle will also cut down on waste and help the planet.

Marine Military Academy cadet

3. Real Alarm Clock

Your watch and phone can also pull this duty, but a trusty alarm clock will help ensure you are up and ready for the challenges of day.

"Alumni Tip: Backup batteries inside the clock."

Unlike your cell phone, you do not have to charge it or remember to turn up the volume. Sometimes you have to wake up before reveille but more often you will need a little extra noise to wake up from a day nap.

4. Newspapers (Gasp)

In your busy military school life, you will get lost in the lifestyle and forget about the outside world.

Even with constant internet connectivity you will not have time to keep up with current events. Using social media as a news source is a horrible idea, as it creates a filter bubble around you.

"Alumni Tip: Hometown newspapers are a great link when you are away."

Having a real newspaper (Wall Street Journal, USA Today, etc) will provide you a more balanced source than your friends will and make you a smarter, more interesting person. Weekly news magazines are great too. An online subscription is not the same.

5. E-Reader

Admiral Farragut Academy stem

E-readers give you a world class library from your barracks room. My favorite feature is the built-in dictionary that quickly enables you to look up unfamiliar words.

Along with keeping up with current events, reading helps make you smart and more interesting.

You can sometimes find textbooks on your e-reader. This did not fit into my study workflow - but for others it is wonderful.

6. Laptop stand, keyboard, monitor

WARNING: Once you try this you may not want to go back to a normal laptop.

For many cadets, a laptop will become your most important tool, not only for school work but for communicating and collaborating with others.

Laptops are made for portability, not ergonomics. Cramping up your hands and neck may have long term health effects.

"Alumni Tip: Bring an external hard drive. Just like in the real military, sneakernet is alive and well on campus."
St Catherines Academy laptop

Using a full sized keyboard with a real mouse (they both just plug into your laptop) is a great start for your barracks desk. Putting your laptop on a stand (now that you don't have to use the built-in keyboard) is even better.

The "Piece De Resistance," though, is a second monitor, attached via an HDMI cable. This will allow you to have two windows open in full-screen mode at the same time. Switching between them is as simple as moving the mouse pointer.

This will transform your laptop into a more usable and comfortable workstation. To take your laptop with you, just unplug the HDMI cable and the two USB's.

valley forge military academy room

7. Socks and Extra Clothes

There is no such thing as too many socks and white t-shirts. With the active campus lifestyle and focus on appearance, laundry day never comes soon enough. Even though socks are the worst birthday present ever, they are great in a care package (along with #10 on this list).

"Alumni Tip: Hide unopened socks packages in your dirty laundry bag for inspections."

Having some warm thermals makes formations a lot more bearable on cold mornings. As a southern boy in a midwest military school, my entire lockbox was filled with insulated clothing.

valley forge military academy room

8. Sewing Kit and Supplies

St Catherines Academy cadet

Along with having the right clothes, being able to repair and maintain your uniforms is very important.

The shirt that lost a button will always be the last clean one you have. Rank always starts to fall off before a formal photo, and your dress coat will lose a button right before a dress parade.

Part of going to military school is the ability to develop your problem solving skills. Imagine being the squad leader who pulls out their sewing kit and solves a problem for one of their cadets.

"Alumni Tip: Cheap kits are gimmicky. You need black/grey/white upholstery thread, needles, buttons for every uniform type, and safety pins."

You do not need to know much sewing. Watch some Youtube videos on how to put on a button, fixing a simple tear, and putting a patch on a piece of clothing. I still have a sewing kit and still use it to fix my buttons.

Two other important parts of the kit are a laundry marker (which looks like regular sharpie but is better than a sharpie for your clothes) and a bleach pen (or wipes). Uniforms all look the same, so you will need to put your name or laundry number on everything you own. It is also cool to hand down your uniforms and know who had your uniform shirt before you.

"Alumni Tip: Your peers are not going to judge your stitches. You just want to sew enough to proficiently stick things back together. Use a tailor for major problems."

White shirts and pants show dirt and grass quickly. Having a bleach pen is invaluable to keeping a sharp appearance.

9. Edge Dressing

Shining your shoes is an art and you really only need an old t-shirt, an old toothbrush, and a can of Kiwi. No tricks or shortcuts can beat an old fashioned spit shine.

Please do not bring polishing sponges or wipes, as they put a film on your shoes.

"Alumni Tip: Be careful; edge dressing stains everything it touches a dark black. Check with your TAC/RFO before opening."

If you want to be high speed and add that extra touch, a little edge dressing on the edge of your shoes sole looks like a million bucks. In company and squad competitions, edge dressing can provide that extra edge.

10. Snacks and Care Packages

Admiral Farragut Academy leadership

The reward for getting through this list is the most important survival item.

PARENTS: Mail your cadets more snacks than you think they need. Snacks will be shared in the barracks.

"Alumni Tip: LED bulbs will not cook ramen noodles, but your radiator will!"

Snacks make everyone happy. Having their name on the package list makes all cadets smile, especially if they are receiving an unexpected one.

PARENTS: When you pick up your cadet, please take them immediately out to eat and to the grocery store before you get back to campus.

All snacks are great and will be eaten, but please try to provide individually wrapped items. Bulk food can attract ants, which will be points off during a room inspection.


This was a fun article, and some of these are more essential than others for military school survival. Just like when camping, the more stuff you have, the more stuff you have to care for.

Please comment to recommend other essential items.

Additional List - Retro gaming controls for emulating on computers, extra chargers, quarters for vending machines, motivational items, iTunes gift cards, and fans!


  • John
    2017-10-06 18:26:40

    Andrew, That was certainly a great list. Good to see you are still giving vital advice to the new generations.

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