Battle belts are a great tool that offer a ton of versatility. They can serve as a place to stuff a couple extra mags at the range, a platform to fight/train from, or a good grab and go piece of kit for home defense. There are a ton of belt options out there. Like every other piece of equipment, it’s something that must be tailored to your needs. With all that said, I’m going to share with you my battle belt experiences and methodology. Take from it what you will.
I’m not going to lie. In the beginning I got a battle belt because it seemed like the cool thing to do. Collecting kit with no real aim or goal. It seems as though looking cool is what drives a lot of peoples early purchases. This is perhaps the quickest way to throw money straight out the window. To avoid this it is best to approach your belt with its intended use in mind.
With all this said, this post is for us non-professional types. You professionals know what you need.
There is a lot to consider when thinking about building a belt. What you use it for will determine a lot of what is on your belt. There might be a lot of overlap in setups, but you’ll find every ones setup is a bit different. Your belt for home defense might contain much less than some one who needs to rely on their equipment for longer periods of time.
In the end, I cant tell you what you need, but you can figure this out for yourself. A word of warning, it is easy to run out of real estate on a belt and they can also get heavy really fast. When loading anything out the very first question I ask myself is, “what am I using this for?” Your answer might be multi-faceted. My answer was. I intended to use my belt for home defense, a platform to train with, and place to stuff my Skittles for long days in the back country…
The next question was, “what might I encounter doing those things?” After that, “what do I need on my belt to support myself while dealing with those things?” This kind of questioning leads you down a rabbit hole of possibilities. Normally I am not a huge fan of war gaming. It does, however, have a place.
The Possibilities Are Endless.
After asking myself a myriad of questions usually its time to start narrowing stuff down. Like, if I’m using this belt I’m on the range shooting or something bad has happened and the likelihood of needing to use some measure of force might be high. If this is the case, then bullets are a good thing to have and I error on the side of having more rather than less. I also find that I like to index magazines to my belt line. It’s easier to draw a magazine for a reload from there than from most other places.
If you’re using your belt to potentially poke holes, then it should also be considered that you might need to stop leaks. If you’re using it for home defense, then its quite likely that some one is going to get hurt and medical equipment and the knowledge of how to use it is crucial. I’d say medical equipment is still a good thing to have on it even for a range belt or training. You never know when an accident might happen.
Storage is something to consider. There isn’t a ton of real estate so you have to make the most out of what you have. What do you need and what do you plan on storing on your belt? You could strap any number of gaudy pouches all over your belt, but just because you can doesn’t mean you should.
A Place For Everything.
I’ve owned a million pouches. Most of which were simply meh. I find that the old saying “buy once cry once” is fitting, but that you end up crying a lot. At least your wallet does. So in order to keep weight down and keep spending to a minimum, it takes some brain power. You might think that ordering that big Condor pouch is a great idea, but often it isn’t. Hell, you might think a fancy set of high speed high end pouches will solve all the worlds problems only to find that they don’t work for you.
Since you’ve determined you need bullets, magazine pouches are a no brainer. Which ones though? I cant tell you, but what I will say is that make sure that they do what you need them to. If you like to reindex magazines, then make sure that the pouches allow you to do that one handed. If its not a big deal, then don’t worry about that. I’ll talk more about this later though. There are a lot of mag pouches out there and a lot to consider.
If you’ve got mags, then will you be littering the earth with your empties? Its something to consider. A dump pouch seems standard, but isn’t necessary by any means. If you’re in your home and or training, then you might not need one. They do take up space, but with that said there are a wide variety of designs out there.
Where do the band aides and Skittles go?
How you carry your medical equipment also matters. If you choose to carry it, then you might want to make sure it is easily accessible. Its much like everything else, personal preference and it needs to be easy for you to access. There are numerous options and designs out there. IFAK pouches are usually kind of spendy, but this is an important part of your kit. Don’t skimp here.
It is also worth mentioning that those extra tourniquets you see people rocking aren’t just to look cool. Finding a way to carry them and keep them accessible is also a good idea. Again, depending on what your doing they might not be necessary, but it is always a good idea in my opinion.
Since you’ve determined what other gear is critical to your tasks, you now need spaces for it too. If its going on your belt, then it needs a home too. I often find it best to keep the pouches small and to a minimum. I personally don’t like a ton of weight, although my current belt is on the heavy side. That said, make sure that your pouch selection allows you to organize things in a way that makes sense. It does you no good if you have to stop and empty the entire contents of your pouch out to find something.
The Belt Itself…
So you may have noticed that every company out there has their own belt. That can get confusing fast. What is it that you really need? Are there certain things that are nice to have? As with all the other stuff I’ve talked about, its all up to what you need and your personal preferences. There are some common features though, so lets talk belts.
Let me start by saying that this is another area that you get what you pay for. This is load bearing equipment and how well it carries a load will be determined by design and quality.
Multi-piece belts seem to be all the rage these days and its for good reason. They have the potential to offer numerous advantages over a single piece design. I started off my gear collecting with a surplus USMC issue Eagle Industries belt. I got it cheap off Ebay. Yup, you heard that right. It was a single piece construction. The belt and pad are all one unit with a big plastic buckle. It had plenty of padding, but nothing to keep it rigid. It also has no form of keeper belt or tabs to help hold it in place.
This resulted in a belt that would move all over the place when kneeling, running, and moving. Some times when I went to reach for a magazine, the belt had rotated and I was not grabbing what I expected. It also was not rigid at all. There were no previsions for a holster unless the holster attached via molle or you wore a drop leg attached to another belt. This lack of versatility is frustrating.
All The Pieces.
One of the first features I look at when selecting a battle belt is some form of keeper. There are a few methods I’ve seen companies using as keepers, but my favorite thus far and what seems to be most popular is second belt covered in Velcro. You loop the keeper belt through the belt loops on your pants and then battle belt itself is lined with the corresponding Velcro and attaches to the keeper belt. If your pants are staying put, then so is your belt. This also means your gear is where you expect it to be 100% of the time.
Most multi piece belts often comprise of a sleeve and inner belt. The sleeve is where all your molle is and what you attach all your pouches to. If there is a keeper belt, then the sleeve has the corresponding Velcro on the back of it to attach to the keeper. The inner belt is run through the sleeve. Often time you will just buy a sleeve and/or keeper and the inner belt is up to you to source. This sounds dumb, but its not. It lets you pick the belt that best fits your needs. I prefer a rigid gun belt as an inner belt. In fact, I am currently running an SOE belt with a cobra buckle in my sleeve. Not providing a belt allows you to use what you like best.
Sleeves are awesome and can also provide you with some padding. Some sleeves are also lined with material to make them more rigid. I’m using a Vtac Skirmish belt, which is a very rigid sleeve. My belt over all is actually very sturdy, however, there are multi piece belts that don’t use sleeves. There are some like the Ronin Tactics belts that are much more low profile and just use an narrower outer belt covered in molle that attaches to a keeper belt. I’ve been wanting to try this style belt for awhile, but haven’t had the chance yet.
Putting It Altogether.
So there are different style belts, a million things to put on your belt, a million ways to hold your gear, and its all up to you to figure out what is going to work for you. Sound daunting? Its not really, but a lack of fore thought could cost you a bit more money than you want to spend. I’m not immune to this either.
This article was primarily written for the people looking to get into their first belt, not for the professionals. People who run and gun for a living learn really quickly about what works and what does not. The cool thing is that you can learn by emulation. Use some common sense and do some research to choose a belt system that works for you. From there buy peripheral equipment and test it. You’ll see what works and what doesn’t. Its a matter using fore thought and common sense and then making adjustments after that.
Remember when I mentioned indexing magazines to my belt? Well, I run Blue Force Gear 10 Speed magazine pouches. They’re awesome… for other applications. The pouches lay flat and the mouth of the pouches closes up, making it really hard to reindex magazines with one hand. I’ll be switching to Esstac Kywi’s or something similar sooner rather than later although I like a pouch that lays more flat when empty.
Storage space is limited and I’m a liter bug… On the range I tend to just throw my empties where ever and I use my dump pouch to carry things other than empty magazines, although I do occasionally throw them in there depending on what I’m doing. I also run a smaller low profile Blue Force Gear dump pouch to save space when I’m not carrying a bunch of junk.
I carry my medical gear in a Blue Force Gear Micro Trauma Now pouch because its just big enough to carry what I need. It can be accessed out either its left or right side easily when carried in the middle of my back, so I can always get to it if I need it. Its probably one of my biggest expenses on my belt as well. Stuffed full of medical gear it cost more than the belt, but its a necessary expense for me.
Remember when I said you need to figure out what you’re using your belt for and plan your belt around that? Well, if I’m out in the back country or a more remote spot to go shooting, then I want to make sure that I always have what I need to keep my rifles running on my belt. I might have a pack and other gear, but if I have to ditch that stuff, then I want the essentials on my belt. A good AR oriented multi-tool, small parts, and some lube are a must for me.
Those Skittles also need a home. I put a Blue Force Gear Boobo pouch on my belt to hold a small light, a snack, knife, minor comfort stuff, and any small survival items that fit. Its not much space, but everything I put in it serves a purpose. The concept of everything serving a purpose is important in keeping weight down and keeping space free.
Another important lesson is to make sure your belt plays well with your holster selection. My first belt didn’t. My Vtac belt allows me to weave my inner belt on the outside of the molle on portions of my belt. This gives me a lot of flexibility as far as holster choice.
Last but not least is comfort. Make sure that your gear rides comfortably. You need to get out and use it. Shoot out of position, from a barricade, on the ground, ect. You’d be amazed that what you thought would be comfortable really isn’t. I ran a knife on my belt in front of my pistol. Not only did the latching mechanism suck and the sheath want to come off the belt, but half way through a class I had a nice bruise from my knife jabbing into my side. It came off quick and I realized it was excess gear that I didn’t want on my belt any way.
End the rambling please!
As I mentioned numerous times, this is for guys wanting to get into a battle belt for the first time. There’s a lot more to them and a lot of stuff that you’ll learn only after you put one on and run around in it for awhile. I do hope that this gets people thinking though. Ultimately in the end a little fore thought, some common sense, and some planning can save you a lot of money.
Lets face it, these things aren’t cheap. You run yourself almost $200 just for the belt itself. At the time of writing this the Vtac Skirmish belt is $165 by itself without an inner belt. An inner belt could cost you as much as $75-100 depending on what you want. If you go the buy once cry once method of setting up a belt, then its not hard to wrap up a grand into a whole setup by the time you stuff all your pouches full of gear and get a holster on your belt. Even so you may find that there are parts that don’t work for you. Granted I am talking about professional quality kit here.
That is actually what prompted me to write this in the first place. I’ve spent a ton of money on gear that I didn’t need to. Hopefully this is thought provoking and helps people avoid the pitfalls of diving into a belt setup blind. Yes it can be done cheaply, but if your belt is for something like home defense, SHTF, or use in any sort of situation where your life might depend on it, then you want to be able to depend on your gear. At the end of the day the last thing you want is to be is up a creek without a paddle.