If you go searching the internet for what you need to bring to OCS you’ll end up finding a lot of answers varying widely in their usefulness. One guide I saw published from the Navy itself said you needed to bring seven pairs of white underwear. Another recommendation from some YouTube videos I watched said you needed to bring your own Master Locks even though they issue you two and you mostly only ever use one.
Thousands of candidates graduate every year so this is going to sound crazy but everything you need to complete OCS is either issued to you or can be easily purchased from the NEX (the on-base Target) for cheap. However, if you do want to make your experience as enjoyable as possible, I’d definitely consider what’s listed below. Disclosure: some of the links below are Amazon affiliate links. This means that, at zero cost to you, I will earn an affiliate commission if you click through the link and finalize a purchase. I will never recommend anything that wasn’t strongly recommended by readers or that I didn’t personally use.
This is the main thing I wish I did and would highly recommend, especially if you’re flying. It can now be found in the Navy’s most recent recommended packing list but it’s listed after contact lenses (which you basically never get the chance to use) and nose hair trimmer.
The reason you need extra luggage is because you get issued more gear and uniform items than you can believe and at the end of it all you need to find a way to bring it all back home. So if you show up with only the clothes on your back and a backpack, you’re likely going to have to buy a duffel or two from the NEX to get all your belongings back home. Pack the luggage inside of itself on the way to OCS and then when leaving, airlines will let you check essentially infinity bags as military.
Waterproof/resistant Running Shoes
Newport has the worst weather of any place I have ever lived so number two on my list is definitely going to be running shoes that can endure some puddles. For the first three weeks you will wear your “go-fasters” to morning PT, drill, and anywhere in between. When you march on the road there will either be massive puddles from the rain or you’ll be marching through slushy, unplowed roads on a cold winter day.
Popular shoes I was jealous of were these Nikes and these Cloud nerd-mobiles. I’ve been wearing Altras exclusively for the last few years for all my running so I wish I would have grabbed these bad boys. Since my mom is the only one that actually reads this blog, obviously I’m not sponsored by any of these brands but I guess I might as well make that clear.
Pillow and Blanket
After walking into my hatch and seeing a faded, blood-stained pillow on my bed, I immediately wished I had brought my pillow from home. The pain of packing it is massively out-weighed by the joy of sleeping on a clean pillow that doesn’t smell like it was kept in the same old dusty attic from The Goonies.
If you’re going to be in Newport during the warmer months then you’re going to be fine just using the blanket they give you but if you plan on booking your stay during the winter then I would highly suggest bringing one with you. The rooms fluctuate in temperature and it was definitely nice to have at times.
Belleville Steel Toe Boots
I’ve been debating adding this to the list and I have finally decided it makes sense to do so. Let me reiterate the above: you do not have to buy anything before OCS. BUT, looking back on it, I wish I had known to bring these boots over anything else: the Belleville Steel Toe Flight Deck Boot. Let me explain…
When you go to your first uniform fitting, among everything else you purchase, you will buy a pair of black steel toe boots approved by the Navy. If I remember correctly, you will either be fitted for the Bellevilles or the Bates. I, among many others, purchased the Bates because that is what they fitted me for and wasn’t even aware there were multiple models to choose from. It may have been that they were simply out of stock but I have my suspicions that someone is getting a big commission by pushing the Bates boots.
Fast forward three days and I’m at medical getting a running shoe chit (permission to take a break from the boots) because the Bates crippled my feet so badly I couldn’t even walk properly. I was far from the only one who experienced this issue.
Now I wear the Bellevilles (in brown) everyday and am so appreciative of how much better a boot they are. One of the priors brought the black Bellevilles with him to OCS, I assume, because he knew how superior they are.
A few points to sum this rant up:
- You do not need to buy boots before OCS
- I wish I did
- Most people had no problems at all with the Bates
- Shining boots ahead of OCS would save you a decent amount of time in Indoc
Nice To Have but not Necessary:
- “Ninja star” measuring device – helps with getting your uniforms ready
- To-go stain remover pen
- Mobility/recovery tools such as this for rolling out your feet after a day of wearing boots (foam rollers and massage sticks are available for checking out but it may be more convenient to have your own)
- Plastic clipboard – useful for making your bed (particle board ones leave debris)
- White towel – the ones they give you are horrible
- Lint rollers (especially these big types for RLP—you’ll be the envy of everyone)
- Small flashlight or headlamp – reading/studying and running the trail at night
- Yoga mat – stretching/mobility and napping in the head during the day