Fieldcraft: Making knee pad inserts from a sleeping mat

In the days of BDUs/DCUs, crafty soldiers would sew pouches into the trousers and tops around the knees and elbows. Inside the pouches they would place cut-out pieces of foam from the Army sleeping mat. These served as good knee pads and elbow pads in place of the often constricting and uncomfortable Army issue knee and elbow pads. These worked pretty well, but were sometimes discouraged because they came about from unauthorized modifications to the Army uniform.

When the Army introduced the Army Combat Uniform (ACU), they included slots for knee pad and elbow pad inserts. Great idea! And an example of bottom-up feedback being implemented.

The problem, though, is I’ve never seen anyone issued those inserts.

There are a number of aftermarket inserts you can buy online. I’ve seen some in the gear stores locally in Columbus. The one’s I’ve seen locally are too thin to be of any use, though. Some of the aftermarket inserts look pretty good. But I can’t help but think most of them are pretty much prettier versions of the same thing soldiers have been using for decades: cut out pieces of sleeping mat.

Here’s how you can make your own inserts:

1. Get an Army sleeping mat (new costs about $15. Used would be better and cheaper).

2. Measure the knee pad insert on a pair of ACU trousers. For a Medium/Regular the dimensions were approximately 5 1/2″ x 8 1/2″.

3. Round out the edges to create an oval shape.

4. Insert into the knee pad slot.

5. Done.

They might work better doubled up. I haven’t tried it yet, so I’m not sure.


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