What to Bring to Boot Camp

Marine Corps receiving.
(U.S. Marine Corps/Godfrey Ampong)

The following lists give you a basic idea of what you should and shouldn't take to basic training. Your recruiter will modify the list based on their personal experience and changes at basic training. Recruiters from each branch of the military have provided the following lists of items they say you "HAVE to HAVE" to go to basic military training.

Remember your recruiter will tell you exactly what you need to bring!

The general consensus from all the recruiters is that less is better. Take only the minimum amount of stuff; everything else either will be issued or can be purchased.

Air Force

According to the Air Force recruiter, the only things you "HAVE TO HAVE" to go to basic training are a picture ID (driver's license if your Air Force job requires one), Social Security card or printout from the Social Security office, direct-deposit form and the clothes on your back. You can ship to basic training without shower shoes (flip flops), but you will have to shower in whatever shoes you brought, so I believe shower shoes should be on your must-have list.

The following list contains items that you will need or can have at basic training. Remember your recruiter will give you a list of required items.

Needed Items

Shampoo (1)

Deodorant (1)

Toothbrush (1)

Toothbrush tray (1)

Toothpaste (1)

Shower shoes (1 pair)

Soap (1)

Soap tray (if bar soap is used) (1)

Eyeglass strap (if you will be wearing glasses)

Male Specific:

Shaving Equipment

Shaving cream or electric pre-shave lotion


Female Specific:

Sanitary napkins/tampons (1 pkg.)

Bras/sport bras

Hair bands, bobby pins (must match color of hair)

Brush or comb





Calling card

White socks

Stationary supplies

Small amount of cash ($20-$30)


You should bring enough civilian clothes to last about 2 days. Bring glasses (if you have them) as opposed to contact lenses. The training environment is not conducive to contact wear.


*DO NOT buy new eyeglasses. You will be issued new ones at basic training.


Paperwork Checklist

To complete all of your military records, you will need to bring some items with you to basic training. Better to be safe than sorry so bring any paperwork you think may be useful during your processing. Certified copies of paperwork works well (keeps originals safe). Below is a list of the minimum documents you should bring if you have them:

  • *Driver's license or state-issued picture ID
  • *Social Security card
  • *Direct deposit form
  • Certified copy of marriage license
  • Certified copy of dependents' birth records
  • JROTC/ROTC certificates (for advanced rank only)
  • Civil Air Patrol certificates (for advanced rank only)
  • Naturalization papers
  • Alien card
  • College transcripts (for advanced rank only)
  • High school diploma (only if you joined before graduation)

* Must bring

Items you may not bring:

  • Knives, guns, brass knuckles or anything that may be used as a weapon
  • Dice, playing cards or anything that may be used to gamble
  • Magazines, books, crossword puzzles or any other media that is not of a religious nature
  • Cigarettes, dip, lighters or any other tobacco products
  • Large photo albums. A few photos are permitted, but space is limited.
  • Material that is pornographic or can be considered questionable
  • Any over-the-counter medications to include vitamins and supplements
  • Aerosol sprays of any kind (i.e. hairspray, deodorant, starch)

Army and National Guard

Here is the list of items the Army recruiter said you "HAVE to HAVE" to ship to basic military training:

  • 1 change of clothes
  • Direct deposit form
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Picture ID (i.e. driver's license)
  • 2 combination locks (Actually not required but highly recommended)

The recruiter's words were, "GO LIGHT!"

Documents to bring:

  • Certified copies of your children's birth certificates -- if applicable
  • Your Social Security card
  • *Banking account information to establish direct deposit of military pay
  • Marriage certificates -- if applicable
  • *Driver's license or picture ID

* Must bring

Items to bring:

  • Personal hygiene kit*
  • Two plain towels (optional)
  • Stationary and stamps (optional)
  • Sports bra FEMALES ONLY (optional)
  • Regular bra FEMALES ONLY (optional)
  • White calf length socks with no logos or color on them (optional)
  • Hair restraints to match hair color. FEMALES ONLY (optional)
  • Shower shoes (Plain not fancy) (optional)
  • Civilian clothes (no more than 1 set)*
  • Personal address book (optional)
  • Female hygiene items

*Must have

Items you may not bring:

  • Tobacco items
  • Knives
  • Pornographic material
  • Lighters
  • Products containing alcohol
  • Medication not prescribed by military medical personnel
  • Magazines or newspapers
  • Large bulky items
  • Jewelry other than wedding band
  • Food

Coast Guard

The Coast Guard recruiter said you "HAVE to HAVE" the following to ship to basic training.

  • Federal- or state-issued picture ID (i.e., driver's license)
  • Direct deposit form from your bank
  • The clothes on your back

He also recommended bringing running shoes if you have shoes requiring a special fit (i.e., wide width). Running shoes will be issued for all others not requiring special fit.

There are three categories of personal items:

  • Issue -- Items issued to you upon arrival at the training center
  • Permitted -- Items that can be taken into training.
  • Contraband -- Items that are strictly forbidden

Permitted Items

  • White v-neck T-shirts (3)
  • Dark blue or black long underwear (October through April)
  • Underpants (white), 6-10 pair
  • Watch
  • Wallet
  • Wedding bands
  • Cartridge-type razor only
  • Bible and/or one religious reference book
  • Religious medallion worn on a chain long enough that it cannot be seen under a v-neck T-shirt
  • Address book
  • Stationary, envelopes, stamps
  • Hand/body unscented lotion
  • Prepaid phone card
  • Toothbrush
  • Talcum powder
  • Shaving kit
  • 2 wallet-sized family photos

Note: If you do not bring any of these items, they are available for purchase upon arrival.

Additional Permitted Items For Women Only

  • Birth control pills (if already using to maintain cycle)
  • Cloth-covered elastic bands that match hair color
  • Gold/silver barrettes/bobby pins or ones that match hair color
  • Only one set of ball earrings worn in the lowest hole of ear (not larger than a quarter-inch in diameter, can be gold, silver, pearl or diamond)
  • Feminine hygiene items
  • Hair dryer
  • 1 Half slip (white/skin tone)
  • Makeup (minimal amount)
  • Pantyhose (skin tone) 1 pair
  • Sports bras (white/skin tone) 6

You are authorized to bring one small suitcase or duffle bag with your name clearly on it. The bag will be used to store the clothes you arrive in until after graduation. It is advised to arrive in comfortable weather appropriate clothes and sneaker-type shoes.


The following items are considered contraband and will be disposed of upon arrival. Possession of some of these items will result in immediate removal from training.

  • Weapons
  • Tobacco products and associated items
  • Consumables (any food or beverage)
  • Alcoholic beverages
  • Narcotics and drug paraphernalia
  • Magazines
  • Newspapers
  • Any glass containers (plastic containers are permitted)
  • All pornographic photos or materials

Issued items

These items will be issued to you, and the amount of purchase will be deducted from your pay.

  • 2 Bars soap
  • 1 soap dish
  • 1 antibacterial soap
  • 1 deodorant
  • 1 shampoo
  • 1 shower kit
  • 4 towels
  • 1 washcloth
  • 1 pair shower shoes
  • 1 lip balm
  • 1 dental floss
  • 1 toothpaste
  • 1 toothbrush/holder
  • 1 Pkg. adhesive bandages
  • 1 Nail clipper
  • 1 Pkg. razors
  • 1 Blister kit
  • 1 Pkg. cotton balls
  • 1 Pkg. cotton swabs


    Males only:


    • 2 Athletic Supporters
    • 1 Shaving Cream


  • 2 Locks
  • 3 Laundry pins
  • 3 Laundry bags
  • 10 Plastic hangers
  • 1 notebook
  • 1 Ruler
  • 12 Pens
  • 1 Highlighter
  • 1 1" stencil
  • 1 ½" stencil
  • 1 Black marker
  • 1 White marker
  • 1 Sewing Kit
  • 1 Shoe Shine kit
  • 2 Ditty bags
  • 1 Water bottle
  • 1 Penlight
  • 2 Masking tape rolls
  • 1 Pair of running shoes




Note: Insect repellent and sunscreen are issued May -- Sep.


The Navy recruiter said you "HAVE to HAVE" the following to ship to basic training:

  • Picture ID or driver's license
  • Birth certificate
  • Civilian clothes (1 day's worth)
  • Direct deposit form

Additional items you may bring to basic training:

Because storage space is extremely limited at Recruit Training Command, recruits should limit the amount of personal effects brought with them. Luggage must be kept to a maximum of one small gym/travel bag. In addition to the clothing worn on the trip, recruits also may bring:

  • One pair of prescription glasses, reading glasses or contact lens kit (if you have them)
  • Money (maximum of $25) (optional)
  • Marriage certificate (if applicable)
  • Copies of dependent's birth certificates (e.g., children, spouse, etc.)
  • Divorce decree of both husband and wife (if applicable)
  • Small Bible or other religious book
  • Current record of inoculations (shots)
  • Checkbook and ATM card
  • Sanitary items as required (females)
  • Prescription birth control (will be taken and reissued)
  • Social Security card
  • Personal hygiene kit
  • Small address book

One set of clothing and a lightweight jacket will be maintained in a sealed bag until the recruit completes training.

The above items will only be retained if adequate locker space is available.

Disposition of personal effects: During in-processing, each recruit will send their civilian clothing and personal effects home, or donate these items to charity.

Do not bring: The following items will be shipped home at your expense.

  • Radios/tape players/CD players
  • Cameras
  • Electric razors
  • Hair dryers (oversized or bulky)
  • Curling irons
  • Other electrical items deemed unnecessary

A note about prescription drugs: Recruits may bring prescription drugs with identifying prescription labels. At a designated time, they must be sent to the dispensary for medical evaluation. Recruits on birth control pills and/or contraceptives will retain their prescription and will be seen during gynecological screening.

Don't bring: The following is a list of items that are not authorized at Recruit Training Command and/or cannot be shipped via U.S. mail. The following items will be confiscated and donated to a charitable organization:

  • Large cans of shaving cream (11 ounces or larger)
  • Food items
  • Pump toothpaste
  • Scented lotions or powders
  • All aerosol containers
  • After-shave, cologne
  • Hair-care products containing grease
  • Shampoo, conditioners, scalp treatments (larger than eight ounces or containing grease)
  • Lighter fluid
  • Matches
  • Non-Navy books and magazines
  • Cards, dice, gambling paraphernalia
  • Large and bulky stationery
  • Q-tips, handi-wipes, body powder
  • Large plastic picks, rakes, etc., or any made of metal
  • Anything in glass containers, including mirrors
  • Double-edge razor blades
  • Cigarettes, cigars, pipes, tobacco, chewing tobacco
  • Large deodorants (larger than three ounces)
  • Non-prescription drugs and medications (over-the counter items)

Do not bring: The following items will be confiscated and turned over to security for disposition:

  • Firearms, ammunition
  • Fireworks
  • Clubs, batons
  • Brass knuckles
  • All straight razors; large knives are confiscated; knives with blades less than three inches in length, ice picks and scissors will be sent home
  • Narcotic drugs and any paraphernalia for drug usage, like roach clips, hash pipes, hypodermic needles
  • Sex-related materials

Marine Corps

Marine Corps recruiters are very straightforward. Here is what they say you HAVE to HAVE:

  • Driver's license or Picture ID
  • $20 (approximately)
  • The clothes on your back

The recruiter said everything else is taken care of before shipping to basic training.

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