Four new service members do push-ups in front of a line of their peers.

What to Pack for Basic Training

You'll need to take only a few basic things when you head off to basic training - everything else will be provided for you. Your recruiter will give you a list of what you must take and what you definitely shouldn't pack. Basic training is your first chance to follow orders, so read your recruit packet carefully and pack only what's listed.

Checklist of items for basic training

While each service may have different requirements for what to bring with you when you start basic training, all generally include:

  • Clothing. You’ll need casual, comfortable clothing. Also bring white underwear, calf-length athletic socks (also white), a pair of comfortable shoes or running shoes and your eyeglasses. Besides these items, women recruits also need sports bras, regular bras, hair elastics that match your hair color, and feminine hygiene items.
  • Combination lock or padlock. One lock is required, either a combination lock or a padlock with two keys. You can buy more locks at the exchange if you need them later.
  • Toiletries. Required toiletries include a toothbrush with a case, hairbrush or comb, one washcloth and towel, antiperspirant, shower shoes (flip-flops), toothpaste, dental floss, shampoo, soap and a soap case, a disposable razor or safety razor with blades, and shaving cream (optional for women). If you’re flying to your training location, liquid toiletries must be 3.4 ounces or less per container to comply with Transportation Security Administration regulations.
  • Money. You can bring a small sum of money — cash, traveler's checks or money orders — depending on your branch of service. Your service may also have a maximum amount that you can bring.
  • Required documents. You must to bring your Social Security card; a valid driver's license or current state ID card; a direct deposit form for your checking account; immunization records; high school diploma or GED and original college transcripts; proof of citizenship if you weren’t born in the United States; original or certified copies of your marriage certificate, divorce decree or separation order; original or certified copies of your children’s birth certificates if they’re under 18; copies of your family’s lease or rental agreement; copies of prescriptions for any medications; and original or certified ROTC documentation (if applicable).
  • Your orders. You must bring all copies of the orders and documents issued to you by your recruiter and/or the Military Entrance Processing Station. Carry these documents by hand to your basic training site, and keep them secure while traveling, since they contain your personal information.

Prohibited items for basic training

  • Weapons of any type. Pocketknives, firearms, ammunition, fireworks, clubs, batons, brass knuckles, straight razors, ice picks, and so on are not allowed.
  • Tobacco products and lighters. Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, tobacco, chewing tobacco, disposable lighters and lighter fluid will be confiscated when you arrive at basic training. If you have a non-disposable lighter, the fluid cartridge will be confiscated.
  • Alcohol-based products. This includes alcohol-based health products and alcoholic beverages.
  • Obscene or pornographic materials. These are prohibited.
  • Nonprescription drugs. Generally, medications not prescribed to you by the military are not allowed while in basic training. This may include (but is not limited to) foot powders, rubbing alcohol, motion sickness medication, commercial sleeping aides, decongestants, acne medications, antihistamines, analgesics, sex-related materials (diaphragms, condoms, and so on) and vitamins.
  • Narcotics/illegal drugs or any paraphernalia. All of these are prohibited from basic training — and military service in general.
  • Expensive personal items. Don’t bring items that are hard to safeguard during training, such as cameras; portable electronics like tablets or hand-held video games; jewelry and costly watches. You can bring your wedding ring. You’re also allowed to bring your cell phone to use while traveling, but it may be locked away for safekeeping after you arrive.
  • Gambling items and external reading materials. Dice, playing cards, dominoes, magazines, newspapers and books will be confiscated.
  • Food items. Gum, candy and chips are not allowed in basic training (but don’t worry, you won’t go hungry).

Ask your recruiter if you have specific concerns about medications or toiletry products, and double-check your documents to be sure you’re bringing all items that apply to you. If you decide to pack anything that’s not on the checklist (like cologne, snacks or stuffed animals), it may be taken away on your arrival. Learn to pack lightly.