This is a post I wrote in March of 2014. I have pretty much stuck with the same system which is my two tiered H-Harness with vest for dismounted ops, or belt and drop holster with vest/body armor for vehicle/Static defense ops. I’ve been using this system for 9 years now and have found no reason to change.
Optimizing the carrying systems for fighting gear has been a science many have failed to master through the ages. It obviously didn’t start with the invention of the firearm, but one of the primary features of fighting gear for firearms, is the initial load-out, and the fact that you will expend some of the fighting load you carry with each engagement. This is the reason for carrying as much as you possibly can of those fighting expendables (unless you have a resupply operation going on as well. Yeah, sure you do…….), while still remaining light enough to be mobile, and not tiring yourself unnecessarily.
I have used multiple load bearing systems throughout the last 34 years, and of that 34 years, 29 were in a professional context, and the items I am about to recommend are largely (but not exclusively) based upon my years of training and fighting as a grunt in mounted and dismounted operations. It’s also based on the experience I’ve had as a tactical/survival trainer, and being able to figure out the gear situation, without the Company, Battalion, or Brigade Powers That Be, dictating their dress right dress edicts from on high, but not taking into account that everyone is different, and only a few things should be standardized.
A Layered Approach
Layering makes sense, whether it’s your clothing for cold weather, or your fighting/survival load for the battlefield. The levels have been talk about enough, so we won’t go into detail, but the basics are these. Level 1 is your on person every day carry (EDC) items that are in your pockets for the most part. Level 2 is your fighting/survival load-out, consisting of an load bearing harness of some sort, Level 3 is your ruck. On the level 2 gear, first up is the Battle Belt setup, which, I use as a survival load (Survival gear, handgun, and a knife). Next up is the combat vest, which gives the user a higher more centralized center of gravity, and has the option of being opened in the front, if you happen to be needing to get just a little lower. Examples of this are the FLC like a number of us used in the military in various configurations, and it is a good economical way to go. This is the standard molle tactical vest, pictured here over an H harness rig. (this one is a Tactical Tailor vest), and there is a lot of space to put whatever you need on it, with the caveat of , don’t overload it.
Last but not least is the chest rig. Chest rigs are wonderful for vehicle patrols, but not as much so if your trying to dig in to avoid incoming rounds in the prone. I used a modified chest rig in Iraq, and can tell you it works well for vehicle ops, but unless you go with a modified version (not as common), using it on foot patrol based field operation are not optimal because of the aforementioned avoidance of incoming fire issues. The modified version I used was a Tactical Tailor MAV 2 piece version with the cover adapter to make it function as a one piece. This modification allows the user to put it on like a tac vest, not over your head ( pain in the ass if you have a helmet on), and also allows you to put you navel in the dirt if your being shot at, and the only available cover is a downed 10 inch diameter tree.
As you can see, it’s easy to take off, which as anyone knows with a one piece chest rig, that isn’t generally the case, unless you undo an emergency release buckle. You can raise or lower the harness to suite your preferences.
The modular system I use for dismounted operations is as follows I use a LCE H harness and belt (with pad) with basic survival supplies in it as the base layer. This harness contains survival gear in the buttpack (poncho, rain suit, casualty blanket, fist aid supplies, weather dependent warmth supplies, battery charger, etc.). It has a pistol in a Bianchi flap holster (yes a damn flap holster, but before you tacticool asshats get your thong knotted, I can slide the flap on the inside of the belt, and I have a thumb break release) with two extra magazines, a fixed blade knife (leatherman, and nav gear is on the pants belt or in pockets), two one quart canteens with two cups, one stove, and a thermal imager (day or night capability).
Over this I wear a Molle Tac Vest that contains a rifle mag capacity of 8/M1A, 8/AKM, or 12/AR, with supplementary stripper clips in the bottom of each flapped pouch when the shorter AR, or M14 mags are used. It also contains a IR strobe, GI Lensatic compass, tac light, extra multi tool (what can I say, I like redundancy), two pistol mags, and a monocular, another fixed blade knife, an IFAK/BOK (different color so it stands out), radio pouch, and an admin/water bottle pouch (water bottle if the vest is worn for urban/vehicle ops). A minimag AA LED light (cuz 123 batts fail quickly) Last but not least is a roll up dump pouch behind the admin/bottle pouch (keep in mind, I’m a lefty, so everything is ass backwards from you “normal” people, except for the IFAK, this should be in the same place for every member of your group).
If I will be conducting vehicle operations, I use a pistol belt with a drop leg (OH GOD NO!) holster and knife rig both up high (for a drop rig) on my strong side It also has two pistol mags, my thermal would go on the weak side like the H-Harness, a roll up dump pouch, and a tac light pouch (pretty damn Spartan ain’t it?). This is attached to my pants belt with standard belt keepers.
One of the nice things about a drop rig, is its ability to clear the bottom of a coat or gear while being attached to the pants belt.
When it comes to body armor, if I use it (urban or fixed position defensive ops, and vehicle ops only) , I go with a slick Interceptor Body Armor (IBA) vest, with level 3+ ceramic plates, or a plate carrier (slick or with gear) with level 3 line-X coated steel plates (these 6.5lb plates are no longer available, but they make a lot of sense for the Survivalist. No matter what the “Know It Alls” and “experts” say about steel plates causing issues with your compass, I have tested that theory, and have found that it causes no more issues with a compass than wearing a vest or chest rig full of ammo, a knife, a pistol, and support gear would). With this set up, I can wear it under the tac vest, or MAV (as I did in Iraq), and there is nothing to get in the way.
So how does it all go together: Level 2A is as follows:
H-Harness first with your survival supplies (buckle extender is for cold weather clothing), or you can use the pistol belt/drop leg rig for vehicle ops.
Level 2B would be your Tac vest, with the majority of your fighting supplies (keep the back clear for a ruck), which if need be, you can ditch to run, and still have survival supplies on you (H harness)
Wearing this rig with a ruck is fine, as long as it’s not an extended (lower/bottom end) ruck like the mil issue Molle 2, CFP-90, or ILBE. I’ve used it with the US Large ALICE (Tac Tailor MALICE 2) and a Bergan and have had no issues.
I have received a number of pieces of gear from John Ammons at UW Gear. I mentioned above the mag pouches on my Tac Tailor vest, but I have a few more I want to show you. First up is the bandoleers that I received last year. I have spoken about them in my “Lightweight, Modular ‘Basic Load’ Options” post , and don’t have anything but good things to say about them. They are well put together and make a great addition to your gear if you want an easy way to carry three extra mags, whether on your person, or on your ruck.
Next up is UW Gear’s “Swamp Fox rigs. I’ve tried out two of his rigs, one for AR’s that carry 6 mags, and one that will carry 4 mags for my FAL or M1A. If you want a good, lightweight rig for wearing by itself, or over a plate carrier, this is the one.
The individual 2 mag pouches made by UW Gear are pretty squared away. The two mag pouches (this includes the two mag pouches on the “Swamp Fox” rig) are designed to retain the two mags with tension using the “Tuck Tab” closure (all UWG mag pouches have this), and it does not need velcro, a snap, or a fastex buckle to stay closed and secure with two mags in it. Unlike the other securing systems I mentioned, this system will not wear out and/or break like they can (can you say “durable item”?). When only one mag is in the pouch and it doesn’t have tension due to the fit of only one mag, there is a piece of velcro that will keep the flap secured.
Please keep something in mind, This is my way of doing it. I’ve been using load bearing gear for a little while now (over three decades), and have found something that works for me, and have been using this specific system (variations of this for decades) for nine years now. These are just some thoughts I had on load bearing equipment, from a users perspective, not a Modern Warfare 3 tacticool theorist.
I don’t claim to know it all, but what I do know is what I am planning for and have been for about 36 years. My experience is not only from many years in different types of infantry units (higher and lower tier), but being able to apply those lessons to things I have done during my lifetime (farming being one of them). There are many people out there giving advice without any experience other than being prior service, and while that is helpful, it is not very practical from a Survivalist stand point. Ask yourself, are you an infantryman, or are you a Survivalist. The difference is drastic in some instances.
I have my gear set up to use for four basic scenarios. 1) I have to leave my residence on foot with only the supplies on my back with no guarantee of a place to go. It’s a heavy load and a collapsible game cart might be used as well. 2) I have to leave my residence in a vehicle, but due to the threat I will need to be moderately armed and ready for hostilities. 3) I have to operate out of a retreat, and will be on a moderate or heightened state of alert when outside the retreat performing tasks (imagine farming tasks and what you could wear while doing them). 4) I am operating as a member of a Neighborhood Protection Team and need to be able to perform as a guard post sentry and “Presence Patrol” member.
Keep in mind that if someone is telling you your gear (mil issue gear that was used by soldiers of the past) is useless, you need to question their motivations. The biggest problem with ALICE gear these days is finding it at a good price. There’s not much you can’t do with some good old issued ALICE and mil issue MOLLE gear. You don’t need fancy, expensive not issue gear to get by, but if you do, I recommend you contact John Ammons at UW Gear to get some (BTW, he is also a Tactical Tailor dealer). Enjoy (any questions, comment here, or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org ).