The Personal Gear Evolution series of posts was more or less meant to gather data. This data would ideally cover gear and the methodology behind it. Essentially helping people make educated decisions about gear. After all, gear is expensive and constantly evolving.
The plan to gather this data was to interview a series of people and get their opinions and methodologies behind gear. The more points of view, the more you see ideas converge, diverge, or do completely unexpected things. I wanted to approach this project with a plan and I’ll admit, this is really the first time I’ve ever set out to interview people. That said, my approach still needs to be dialed in. I came into this with a plan and well… we’ll get to that.
The first person I managed to interview was Ivan from KitBadger.com. I’ve followed his Youtube channel for quite awhile now. Hes incredibly active with his viewers and that is, in a round about way, how I ended up meeting him. I couldn’t think of a better person to kick off this series with. He is incredibly well versed in many things such as dropping truth bombs. Something I knew, but what I did not foresee is how it would change the direction of our conversation.
Ivan runs KitBadger. If you aren’t familiar with KitBadger, then get familiar with it. He does some of the best gear reviews on YouTube. He covers everything from Outdoors gear to Tactical gear and then some. That said, hes got a knack for providing you with all the important information in a very digestible manner.
Ivan is not just a gear reviewer though. Hes a man that has seen the world, been there and done that. When I asked him what experience he had, I was absolutely floored. With 4 years in the Marines, 4 years in the Air Force, time in Law Enforcement, and 6 years contracting, he definitely qualifies as highly experienced. It doesn’t end there though. Ivan strives to be the best he can be and has trained with many of the top trainers out there such as Kyle Lamb, Bill Blowers, Bill Rapier, and Ian Strimbeck. Perhaps it is safe to say Ivan is a life long student.
The experience doesn’t stop there though. Hes also a competitor. Most notably he has been competing in the Tactical Games. If you don’t know what that is, think Cross Fit meets shooting. Its a series of grueling physical activities, rope climbs, runs, and then after you’re completely gassed, courses of fire. Needless to say, its not something that is easy and Ivan has done very well in the Tactical Games even when he’s ran some pretty unorthodox gear. (See Red Track Suit, fanny pack, and an AK…)
On top of all of this, Ivan is also a bad ass mountain man. I don’t think there is a better way to put it. If you check out his YouTube Channel you’ll quickly discover that he spends a good amount of time in the wilderness. He reviews a lot of crucial outdoor gear as well as talks about skills that could really come in handy should you find yourself out in the woods.
This is where the truth bombs started dropping. In all honesty, I had a plan, but also wanted organic conversation. Organic conversation is exactly what I got. The concepts and things discussed were not overly complex, but we covered a lot very quickly.
When I asked Ivan about his methodology behind gear I didn’t expect the answer I got. It seems rather obvious when you hear it, but this concept can escape even the best of us some times. “Your situation dictates what you need,” he exclaimed to me. So with that said, context matters. What is it that you plan on doing? What kind of weather will you encounter? How confined is your environment? What lighting conditions might you encounter? There are many things to consider.
Ivan was very adamant that you should do what you enjoy. If you enjoy a certain aspects of shooting or certain shooting sports hold your attention, then keep at them. It doesn’t matter if its competition, tactical larping, self defense training, ect. If you enjoy it, then do it. He put it best, “You do you.”
With that said, Ivan also put an emphasis on being realistic. If you’re goal is to develop self defense skills, then that will dictate your choice of gear. At least it will dictate the gear you use for that particular task. Plate carriers, rifles, battle belts, and a lot of Gucci tactical gear just isn’t practical for that application. Even in the worst situations where society is breaking down, tactical kit probably shouldn’t be your go to gear. Granted that is an extreme case and probably isn’t something that will happen. Either way, you need to pick gear that is practical for the task at hand.
Ivan pointed out that most violence will happen when you least expect it, probably in low light, and at arms length. This can be quite the scary thought. It limits options and the reality of it is that all that sexy tactical gear isn’t going to help you, but skills will. He highly recommended getting training, specifically force on force training. Ivan specifically recommended Bill Rapier for this sort of training.
A major reoccurring theme that Ivan touched on was confidence and competence. Do you know how to use what you carry? If you carry something in a defensive manner, then you had better be competent in its use and confident in your ability to use it. If you see value in using certain gear, it is important to also know how to use it.
The topic of medical gear came up and this is another area where competence came up. In order for this kind of gear to save a life, you need to be trained in how to use it. If you don’t have the training, then it could be useless or you could do more harm than good.
In the end, training is the most important thing. As Ivan put it, “Its the Indian, not the arrow.” Having the training to use the gear you have is something that shouldn’t be over looked.
Pretty early on I got a distinct feeling that Ivan was pretty heavy on his emphasis of training and competence over actual gear selection. I cant say that I disagree at all, especially after our conversation. One thing that stood out to me was when he mentioned that you need to be comfortable with what you carried. If you aren’t comfortable carrying a gun, then don’t. I know some people might disagree with that, but I agree 100%. It is important, yet again, to be confident and competent with the stuff you carry.
Thus, we touched very little on specific gear. Honestly this was kind of refreshing. I almost felt bad asking him what 3 pieces of gear he recommended as I knew there was no straight answer. The right answer was what ever items you are confident and competent with that was also appropriate for the situation. Whether it be a High Point or something more extravagant, if you were both those things the the gear is appropriate, then its all good.
With that said, Ivan did say that he does carry a Sig P365XL in a BlackPoint holster, AMTAC Blades Northman knife, and a Surefire Stiletto light as part of his EDC gear. As far as tactical gear goes, hes a gear reviewer. He runs a lot of gear and his reviews speak for themselves, but he did emphasize that he was very fond of the Snake Eater Tactical belt system and pouches. Their belt system is a 3 part system consisting of an inner belt, a pad, and then a load bearing duty belt. Their magazine pouches are an elastic pouch that stays open, yet still lays relatively flat. They do not snag like rigid kydex pouches might and they are also very versatile. They can hold a lot of different stuff, not just your magazines.
I really hated asking questions in regards to recommending or not recommending certain gear. Ivan had made it pretty clear what his philosophy was. That said, I did it any way and the answer resonated with my own personal experience. At least partly any way. He said that he would recommend carrying some sort of light. This is both an absolute life saver and a life changer. The other thing he recommended is a tool to start a fire, whether it be a lighter or some other means. I see where he’s coming from on this. Any other gear you have the training/competence and confidence to run is good to go. As far as gear he wouldn’t recommend, well, I bet you can guess what he said. Anything you aren’t confident and competent with.
It was an honor to be able to interview Ivan. Hes hands down one of the coolest most down to Earth people you’ll ever meet. Hes very professional and one hell of a shooter as well. Ivan’s insights into his philosophies behind gear are incredibly valuable. Hopefully they inspire people interested in getting into shooting to get out and enjoy it. Even more so, I hope that it also encourages people to pursue training and proficiency.
I know Ivan is a very busy man and I want to thank him for giving me some of his time to do this interview. I greatly appreciate it. I’d also encourage all of you to check out Ivan’s work over on YouTube and his website KitBadger.com.
Good blog you’ve got here.. It’s hard to find high quality writing like yours nowadays. I seriously appreciate people like you! Take care!!