The Best Items to Make Your Barracks Room More Comfortable, According to US Service Members and Veterans

An Army private begins unpacking his belongings in his barracks room on US Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea.
An Army private begins unpacking his belongings in his barracks room on US Army Garrison Humphreys, South Korea, on July 14, 2016. (Spc. Jeremy Reuse/U.S. Army photo)

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As most U.S. service members and veterans know, living in a military barracks is not an ideal situation.

Even after you strip away issues such as toxic mold, pest infestations and decrepit facilities, barracks life for single junior enlisted service members is spartan and austere. Too many service members find themselves in cramped shared quarters with little more than a bed, closet, desk and chair in the way of standard amenities. Sure, regular chow access and community and recreation activities are nice perks, but between the indignity of regular room checks and generally garbage living conditions, barracks life is often portrayed by those who have experienced it as one step removed from Dante’s Circles of Hell.

But living in the barracks doesn’t have to be that way. To that end, we surveyed hundreds of U.S. service members and veterans to find out what commercial, off-the-shelf items can turn the average barracks room into a more comfortable home away from home. Here’s a list of the best barracks amenities worth shelling out for, according to those who know from experience.

Mattress Topper and Pillows

A Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt Topper
A Tempur-Pedic Tempur-Adapt Topper (Tempur-Pedic)

One of the top suggestions for barracks amenities was a decent mattress topper and pillows to ensure additional comfort amid what is likely a well-worn mattress. As one reader noted, you spend a third or more of your life on a mattress, and a lack of a good night’s sleep can leave you tired and foggy during your daily duties. Indeed, supportive mattress toppers and pillows can turn any bland, uncomfortable bed into something a bit softer and more welcoming to relax on.

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Noise-Canceling Headphones

Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless noise canceling headphones
Bose QuietComfort 45 wireless noise-canceling headphones (Amazon)

If you’re hunting for peace and quiet, you’ll probably have trouble finding it in the barracks, but noise-canceling headphones are a decent alternative, especially if you have PT at 0400 and your neighbors insist on blasting loud music at all hours. Even if you don’t have noisy hallmates, noise-canceling headphones are a great way to “escape from everyone,” as one reader put it, creating an oasis of sonic bliss in the middle of a soundscape defined by rowdiness and belligerence.

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Water Filter

Brita Metro water filter pitcher
Brita Metro water filter pitcher (Amazon)

If your barracks is facing any of the major health and wellness issues detailed above, then chances are that you may want an extra layer of protection against whatever fresh hell is coursing through the plumbing. Lucky for you, water filters are well-loved, dorm-room fixtures and generally inexpensive.

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Air Purifier

The Coway Airmega AP-1512HH air purifier
The Coway Airmega AP-1512HH air purifier (Amazon)

Only God knows what’s in your barracks air; if it isn’t full of particulates, chances are, it’s musty and stale. An air purifier may seem like an unnecessary luxury, but cleaner air makes a world of difference.

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Coffee Maker

Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14-cup programmable coffee maker
The Cuisinart PerfecTemp 14-cup programmable coffee maker (Amazon)

If there’s one thing the U.S. military runs on other than Rip-Its and dip, it’s coffee. You might as well keep a stash of decent ground coffee and a decent coffee maker close by so you can have your fix at any minute.

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A Kindle Paperwhite (Amazon)
A Kindle Paperwhite (Amazon)

Curling up with a good book may not seem like the most appealing way to spend your post duty time, but an e-reader, such as a Kindle, makes a great investment for voracious readers. “Load up with e-books and audiobooks, then take it with you to the barracks or on a deployment,” one reader writes. “[It’s] a delightful downtime distraction whose batteries keep going for a week or more. It isn't a great replacement for a book, but it's about as close as you'll get to a library in your locker.”

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Toaster and Microwave

Toshiba ML2-EM25PAE microwave
The Toshiba ML2-EM25PAE microwave (Amazon)

The toaster oven and a small (less than 1000 watts) microwave oven are two appliances that are generally acceptable under current regulations, albeit falling under the nebulous mandate of a garrison commander’s discretion. For the most part, all two-slot toaster ovens are basically the same; according to Wirecutter, the vast majority of countertop microwaves are all built by the same manufacturer. Still, plenty of decent, reliable, inexpensive options are available to make barracks food prep a little more tolerable.

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Mini Fridge

Danby DAR044A4BDD-6 Mini Fridge (Amazon)
The Danby DAR044A4BDD-6 mini fridge (Amazon)

U.S. service members of legal drinking age are generally allowed to keep limited amounts of alcohol in the barracks; under Army rules, for example, soldiers are only allowed to keep a fifth of hard liquor, five “standard” bottles of wine or a 12-pack of beer in their rooms. You shouldn’t be drinking to excess between duty hours, but if you must have a cold one to kick back at the end of a long day, make sure your cold one is actually cold with a small refrigerator. And outside the obvious benefits of cold booze, there’s the upside of decent food storage as well -- especially when you’re trying to keep your leftovers out of your roommate’s grubby little paws.

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Air Fryer, Hot Plate and Instant Pot

Ninja DZ550 Foodi air fryer
The Ninja DZ550 Foodi air fryer (Amazon)

When it comes to barracks usage, air fryers, hot plates and pressure cookers such as the ubiquitous Instant Pot are a bit suspect, although they should ostensibly fall under the umbrella of appliances appropriate for “light duty cooking” in certain dorms that have kitchenettes. Of course, your commander can always authorize their usage, or you can just keep the items in your room regardless of the regs and hope that you don’t have to deal with the consequences after a random inspection, but we can’t actually recommend that. Still, many readers said that cooking accessories are critical to eating outside the nearest DFAC, which unfortunately won’t make your favorite comfort meals at 3 a.m. when you’re really craving them.

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A La-Z-Boy recliner
A La-Z-Boy recliner (La-Z-Boy)

Believe it or not, many respondents to our informal survey of U.S. service members and veterans claimed a comfortable recliner was among one of the best additions to their barracks room during their time living there. This makes sense: if your only choices are between sitting on your bed and sitting in your (likely rigid) desk chair, the enterprising junior enlisted with a bunch of disposable income might feel inclined to shell out for something for ultimate post-duty relaxation. La-Z-Boy is the name of the game when it comes to classic recliners, but plenty of great options are available to make your barracks room feel a bit more like home.

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LG CineBeam PH550 (Amazon)
A LG CineBeam PH550 (Amazon)

If you’re thinking of shelling out for a TV (which isn’t the worst idea), why settle for that when you can turn your entire wall into a screen? One reader writes: “Not having the real-estate to put a huge flat screen TV and limitations to what modifications you can make to the room, a projector to throw on the typically white brick walls makes your room a theater. Plug an Xbox in and you're good to go.” Sold! Just keep away from cheap garbage on Amazon and try to go with a reputable brand.

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Bonus: Wolf Blanket

Yes, that’s what you think it is.
Yes, that's what you think it is. (Amazon)

“He howls at the moon,” one reader wrote. “I can relate.”

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