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Thread: Chest Rig 101- Introduction to the Art of the Chest Rig

  1. #1
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    Chest Rig 101- Introduction to the Art of the Chest Rig

    There have been a few questions about different chest rigs…..just a few.

    I am going to break it down as much as I can, with examples and some picture, by the different parts of the chest rig. Remember that I do not make any money from any of these places and I am basing all of this on my own experiences with every item mentioned in the last 13 plus years and not on what I have heard or read about. If I know of an item that I feel that needs to be mentioned and have not used it I will state that I have not used it. Otherwise I have owned every item mentioned and worked with it. I have been involved in some design ideas and some R&D with several of the manufactures yet I do not make any money from any of these places. I mention this because too many people on the Web who are supposed to be SME’s tell people about the superior products that company X makes and then get some kind of money, products, support, or whatever from them. Meaning that it may be a good product but the bias makes them overinflate their opinion and sometimes make them not talk about a better product. I am not naming anyone in specific but over the years I have seen this done by a lot of people. Just think about that next time you post that So-in-So SME says that this is the best Widget out there and he is blasted all over their website, posters and what-not……Do you think that they did that for free? Food for thought. I am not going to do that.

    *NOTE: Most Pictures are just pulled from Google because I no longer own them and wanted to give examples.

    Now on to the chest rigs…


    Shoulder Straps:


    This is one of the most important parts to me. If they are too big then it will not work in a low vis situation. If they are too thin then they can’t support a large load. There are about as many different types of straps as there are chest rig types.

    1. Basic X Straps- This is your basic straps that just cross in the back. Nothing fancy just there to hold up the rig. These are good for a light rig and a low viz rig that you do not want bulky stuff in the way. If worn with armor they do have a tendency to ride up in the back and bother your neck.

    a. Example 1: OSOE PALS Micro Rig



    b. Example 2: Tactical Tailor Mini MAV


    2. Modified X Strap – This is just simple modification of the basic X Strap by adding a “keeper” of some type to the back of the straps to keep them in place. These work great to hold them in place and it prevents the pinching of on the back of the neck when wearing armor. Down side is that it usually plastic and they can break and can rub.
    a. Example: Tactical Tailor MAV


    b. HSGI Modified Straps for the Denali (uses slots to keep in place)

    3. H Harness – These seem to be very popular now days. It is a spin-off of the old LBE H Harness. These work well with armor, prevent all riding up on the neck, neck and support a load well. Down side is that they can rub the back of your arms and arm pits on some rigs.
    a. Example 1: Mayflower UW Chest rig


    b. Example 2: Blue Force Gear (BFG) 10 Speed


    4. Combination H and X Harness: A few Chest rigs give you parts that allow you to run it as an X harness or add in a strap to make it an H Harness. This system gives you the versatility to have both.
    a. Example 1: Eagle Industries Rhodesian Rig


    b. Example 2: Tactical Assault Gear (TAG) Intrepid Chest Rig


    5. Padded H Harness - This is just as it sounds. Same H Harness but it is padded to support extra weight. These cane support and distribute weight really well. Down side is that they can be bulky and make adding a pack or ruck kind of a pain.
    a. Example 1: ATS Modular Padded H Harness


    b. Example 2: EssTac Padded Harness for the Boar Series Chest Rig


    6. Padded X Harness: This is the solid back strap that is shaped like the X Straps. Using the same principle as the X Harness this method prevents all riding up the neck when used over armor and with the lower angle on the arm straps also prevents rubbing in the armpits. Some are heavily padded to support large loads and some are thin to allow comfortable use with packs and armor. Unfortunately there are not many options out there for these. I prefer this method over the others.
    a. Example 1: Tactical Tailor (TT) MAV X Harness (the Gold Standard in my opinion)


    b. Example 2: Beez Combat Systems (BCS) Padded Harness


    c. Example 3: Universal X Harness - My design and made by a friend ( I will go into this at a later part of the lesson)



    7. Items not included: There are a few features that are not included but that I think are important. One is that I feel that Quick Release (QR) buckles are a must for easy off and on. I also like the ability to do minor adjustments while wearing the rig. The only one that I have found that you can do that is the Beez Combat Systems “Pull-Forward” design. It allows you to tighten the rear straps by pulling the loose ends to your front on each side. I added some bungee cord loops to mine and it is a great way to be able to adjust your rig from no armor to armor without taking a bunch of tape or elastic keepers off.


    8. Waist Straps: Not going into this too much so I thought I would put it under the shoulder straps section. Not too many different types out there. Some are sewn on one side and some have QR buckles on both sides. One feature that I like is that some are putting elastic or a bungee section on one side to give it some give when moving around. I only can think of one rig that has it as an option and it is the BCS Chest Rigs.
    In no way do I make any money from anyone related to the firarms industry.


    "I have never heard anyone say after a firefight that I wish that I had not taken so much ammo.", ME

    "Texas can make it without the United States, but the United States can't make it without Texas !", General Sam Houston

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    The Body

    For this section I am going to break it down into three sections; PALS, Dedicated, and Hybrid. Within these three categories I am going to discuss the different types, advantages and disadvantages of each.

    PALS Chest Rig:

    The PALS Chest rig is just the basic chest rig that is compatible with all of the different types of MOLLE Compatible Pouches. Before I get too far into it I want to explain the difference between MOLLE and PALS:

    MOLLE – (Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment) this is the entire system that all of the products belong to.

    PALS – (Pouch Attachment System) this is the webbing on the chest rig that is set up on a row and column design. When talking about the size of a chest rig we usually talk about the size in rows and columns. As an example the OSOE Micro Rig is 8 x 3 (8 columns by 3 rows), they make different sizes now for it but you get the point.


    There are many sizes of PALS Chest Rigs out there. I think that the smallest is the TT Mini MAV (6 x3 ish it has a few extra incomplete rows on the end) to the big boys like the Tactical OSOE Modular FROG (18 x5) and the EssTac Boar (20x3). The size of the rig just depends on what you what to use it for and how much you want to carry.


    One of the greatest advantages of the PALS Rig is that you can change up your gear and move it around until you find how you want it set up. You can also add items and remover them based on t emission or just from lessons learned. I know a lot of people that started with their radio in the back to make room for ammo up front, I too was like that. I then moved it up so that I could get to it to make adjustments. Later on I added a second radio to the other side. The PALS Rig will be the most versatile in that you can change it up without having to get a new rig. There is a down side in that it will weigh more than a dedicated rig and it will be a little more bulky. Adding in all of the extra fabric and the attachment system adds the extra bulk and weight. For me the bulk is the only real draw drawback in that sometimes you need to have a very small rig to sit and drive or get into small areas (gunners hatch and so forth) but in this new world ounces are the new pounds when people are looking at gear so I will mention it.


    Some of the PALS Chest rigs have built in mag pouches like the EssTac Boar Series and SOTech Hell Cat and also have complete PALS on the front. These are good if you want to have all of you Rifle mags in a single pouch type system and pouches in front of them. The drawback is that it can get bulky with all of the added material used to make the pouches. Some systems use less material when making them, like the BCS Chest rigs or the Diamondback Tactical (DBT) PALS Low Viz rig. There are advantages to the EssTac system. A person can change out the type of rifle mages (AR to AK to .308 to Shotgun) they carry without changing the rest of their kit set up.




    This is very beneficial because I believe that your “Kit” is your combat life line. It has everything you need to survive on it and you need to be able to know where everything is in the dark. As someone who has lived in a kit for many months I can tell you that to do anything other than that a class you will have “stuff” besides mags and an IFAK. That “stuff” is what you are going to be using all of the time, maps, compass, GPS, como equipment, pens, markers, chem-lights, batteries, marking device, IR strobe, gun lube, snacks, ear pro, and so on. These are just examples of some of the stuff that I carry most of the time. Not everyone needs all of these items, but you may want to think about some of it. I know a lot of people that say that all of that should be in an assault pack or something. I agree with that except that I carry the same stuff in my pack, just in larger quantities. Without getting too far into the Fighting Load Lines (1st, 2nd, and 3rd) I like to have some items on my chest rig.


    Some of these rigs have a bib or have the ability to add one. The TT MAV and the EssTac Boar Series have bibs that you can attach. SKD also makes one for their PIG series that can be removed. Bibs just add a bit more “real estate” to your rig to add more pouches and such. Bibs are great areas to add an Administration pouch, small items like leatherman pouches, or Push–to-Talk buttons. Most of them have built in map pouches and sometimes Chem-light loops. They do require you to lower your gear a little to be able to add them on. If you are not wearing a battle belt than a bib will not be a problem. If you are and are not 6’6” than it may ride a little low on you but it depends on the rig and how tall you are.

    Dedicated Chest Rigs:

    These are your chest rigs that have a dedicated layout. It may not be a dedicated to a particular weapon system but the pouches are all set up in a very specific way. There are more types of dedicated chest rigs than I can think about. They range from the small like the new Haley Strategic (one that I have not used) to the High Speed Gear Inc (HSGI) Denali and the OSOE Mookie War Rig (MWR) that are huge. The benefit of these rigs is that they are a little more streamlined because of the lack of extra material and no attachment system. For a light rig this can be the way to go. The Mayflower R&D UW series is a great example of this. It is set up with 4 mags and a place for a radio and IFAK on each side with a few GP pouches to carry all of the stuff you may need. DBT and Blackhawk Industries (BHI) also make a variant similar that carries 4 mags and has some GP pouches on it. London Bridge Trading Company and Eagle Industries also make a very high quality dedicated M4 rig that are a little bigger than the Mayflower one in that they carry more mag and Frags and such. There are also some simple dedicated like the Eagle and Blackhawk chest rigs that hold 4 or 8 mags.






    The true greatness of these dedicated rigs is that you can set them up and nothing changes. Like I said before knowing where everything is can be very important. I like the dedicated rig for a light go-to type rig. My wife and I each have one as a part of our SHTF set up. I like the smaller dedicated rig for driving and working in compact areas. They are also great for when you are carrying a large heavy ruck long range. They do not get in the way when moving around. I carried one as a “Patrol Rig” for setting up quick ambushes and stuff where I had to move fast yet still carry some gear.

    One of my favorite dedicated rigs of all time is the DBT AK rig. I like it because I can carry 6 PMags with ranger plates, a radio, IFAK, 2 frags, and some GP pouches in a very compact kit that I can wear while driving. I also use the dedicated rigs when working in a Low Viz situation as that may are light weight and compact.





    These seem to have become more popular now days than in the past. Maybe because we got a little MOLLE crazy and everyone has calmed down a bit or it could be that people just want a simpler rig. Who knows?


    The Hybrid Chest Rig

    These are chest rigs that are a combination of dedicated and PALS sections on a chest rig. Many companies have started to do these as an interim between the lower profiled dedicated rigs and the adaptability of the PALS rigs. A great example and one of the first that I remember is the ATS Low Profile Chest rig. It has 3 built in M4 Mag pouches with PALSD on them and 2 Small GP pouches on each side that also has PALS on them. This gives you the benefits of the PALS system and the benefits of having some modular ability. Another one is the SKD Eagle Industries (now renamed the PIG UCR) Chest rig. It has M4 and pistol. Mag pouched that are dedicated up front and PALS on the back flanks. This way you can add a radio to either side and/or IFAK or just add more mags or GP pouches. This set up also can have a bib added to have area for an Admin pouch and such. Several other companies also make them for different setups and weapons types.
    BFGs 10 Speed Chest rig is now a Hybrid in that it now has 4 elastic mag pouches and PALS on each side to add other items. It is a great low vis option for those that want the ability to add items if necessary. They make it for several different weapons now also, M4, .308, and sub-guns.





    I prefer the old model with the 6 mag pouches but that is personal preference. I also bought 5 of the old model when they came out with the new ones from people that had old stock so I could have my own stash.


    Custom Chest Rigs

    Sometimes there is just not the option that you want out there and you are just destined to settle. Hell no, spend some money and have it made to order. I have had several custom chest rigs made for me. There are several smaller makers out there that do great things and will work with you. I have had completely custom rigs made from EssTac and HSGI (a very long time ago before they both got huge). EGL makes a great product and Summit Tactical Systems (STS) made a great deal of gear for me when he was in the business. Look around and there are people that will not only build stuff for you but they will also modify products that you already have.





    I like the X Harness system the best of all of the suspension systems. I also could not find very many rigs with it. I made a design and had it made. This way I can take any chest rig with regular straps and run them into my Universal X Harness. I have also used with rigs like the Mayflower ones by cutting the cross strap off and making it into an X strap. Problem solved.



    I hope I answered some questions and got you thinking about different things when it comes to chest rigs. This is a lot of information and I know that it can get be a little overwhelming trying to figure out where to start. Look at what you want to use it for and then look at you options.
    I did not go into pouches or colors because that is way too deep and this was also getting a bit long winded.


    Feel free to ask questions or ask for more information.
    In no way do I make any money from anyone related to the firarms industry.


    "I have never heard anyone say after a firefight that I wish that I had not taken so much ammo.", ME

    "Texas can make it without the United States, but the United States can't make it without Texas !", General Sam Houston

  3. #3
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    Great write up! Really liked how much you stressed importance of knowing where gear is located on Rig by blind reach.
    Last edited by lunchbox; 07-15-14 at 22:20.
    ^^ Read with southern accent !^^ and blame all grammatical errors on Alabama's public school system.
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    Wow! I'll be soaking up this comprehensive, beautifully illustrated primer for a while. Thanks much.
    “Madness is rare in individuals – but in groups, parties, nations, and ages it is the rule.” – Friedrich Nietzsche

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    Awesome read! I was anxious to see this hit the forum. Stand by for any follow on questions lol

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    good thread - i'm going to make it a sticky.

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    This is just going to be part one in a series of posts. I have been asked a great deal of questions over the years and I now have time to sit down and put it all on paper, so to speak.

    Thanks MM for putting it someplace I can find it......
    In no way do I make any money from anyone related to the firarms industry.


    "I have never heard anyone say after a firefight that I wish that I had not taken so much ammo.", ME

    "Texas can make it without the United States, but the United States can't make it without Texas !", General Sam Houston

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    How snug do you recommend one adjust the rig to their body? Pretty snug or some play to it?

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    Docsherm, Do you ever use vests for LBE? My stuff is all on a vest, but it seems like I have a lot of PALs on the back that is not used so I have been thinking of switching to a chest rig.

    Has that been your experience? Do you think vests are basically overkill? Is there any circumstances where you prefer a vest over a chest rig?

    Great write up! When I want to try out a chest rig this will really help steer me in the correct direction.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by trackmagic View Post
    Docsherm, Do you ever use vests for LBE? My stuff is all on a vest, but it seems like I have a lot of PALs on the back that is not used so I have been thinking of switching to a chest rig.

    Has that been your experience? Do you think vests are basically overkill? Is there any circumstances where you prefer a vest over a chest rig?

    Great write up! When I want to try out a chest rig this will really help steer me in the correct direction.
    I'm not doc but I don't think vests are overkill. It's what some have and can afford. The military body armor has excess PALS but you never need it until that time you need it.

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