The Whats and Hows of Army Chest Rigs

Let’s not pull any punches here: if you’re engaged in an occupation or profession that’s tactical in nature, and where wearable provisioned-carrying or protective gear are paramount, then your understanding of how crucial it is to have the right gear for the job should be crystal clear. The same applies if you’re responsible for procuring the wearables that are relied upon for provision-carrying or protection.

If you’re having doubts, then let’s cut through any ambiguities by establishing that there are not only differences between provision-carrying and protective gear, but also between having the right gear and the “right-looking” gear. In short, these aren’t distinctions you want to get wrong and this article is intended to focus on what qualifies as being the right gear for the job and what it inevitably means to the wearer


Proper tactical gear

More than any item over the last 20 years, the tactical army chest rig has established itself as a piece of wearable gear that’s as utilitarian as it is unmistakable. In less than the span of a generation, an item that would have barely been seen outside of the military, has been adapted by law enforcement agencies, defence contractors, security personnel and even game hunters as the ideal platforms for carrying essential provisions in a manner that’s both practical and convenient.

By shifting the burden of load carriage from the hips and back to the torso, these simple carriage devices allow the wearer a degree of rapid mobility that isn’t possible with other load bearing methods. And of course, the quicker the wearer can deploy, the quicker the job gets done.


Take the advantage

So, what is it that makes these carriers such irreplaceable pieces of equipment? Make no mistake, the functionality of a well-designed and superiorly constructed chest platform is unavoidable; and their availability in either multicam or coyote brown camouflage patterns makes them suitable for a range of scenarios. Ultimately though, it’s their no-nonsense appearance that leaves no question as to the tasks they’re intended to perform, or the advantages they have over other types of rigs.

  • Easy load carrying and increased manoeuvrability

Where provisional loads have been traditionally carried on the waist, raising the carrying level to the chest improves both the wearer’s mobility as well as their ability to stabilize their kit. When properly set up, they also don’t limit the wearer’s ability to sit, kneel, crouch, or stand for extended lengths of time, and can be donned or doffed when necessary with minimal effort.

  • Easy load access

The practical army chest rig can be rapidly loaded and reloaded, and place the wearer’s kit in front and at chest level where they’ve got eyes on it all times and can access it quickly. That a chest rig can be fitted with a trauma plate, or worn over other plate carriers, body armour or wet suits is an added benefit.

  • High Modularity

A wearer can expect a multitude of zippered pockets and fastening straps and loops to be sewn onto most rigs, but a virtually limitless assortment of pouches and cases can be conveniently attached depending on the requirement. That doesn’t mean chest rigs can (or should) be overloaded. They shouldn’t because overloading the platform defeats the purpose of mobility, however, when added capacity is necessary, rigs can also be worn along with additional belts, packs and bags.

In short, chest rigs are best suited for inherently dynamic environments that require a wearer to be sufficiently provisioned with what they need (without overloading themselves) while remaining highly mobile. These are attributes that would be no less advantageous to a recreational wearer who’s on a hunting expedition than they would be to a professional wearer who’s frequently mounting or dismounting vehicles. An army chest rig is a wearable tool that allows individuals to bring an even wider range of tools to bear on the job at hand.


Exercising prudence

In spite of the tactical advantages a properly set-up chest rig can have over other forms of load bearing equipment, there are conditions that wearers need to be mindful of that demand prudence. Hauling around a ton of chest-mounted gear may convey the “right look” to the unknowing, but exercising prudence is absolutely paramount with regard to the complications that can be created by improperly worn and overloaded chest rigs.

  • Overheating and physical exertion

When overloaded, a chest rig will rapidly restrict the body’s ability to dispel heat. This applies to any environment but is especially true in hot weather. Once overloaded, and without counterbalance, their inherent front-heaviness can feel and behave like a weight tied around a wearer’s neck. This emphasizes the importance of minimally provisioning the platform and having other means available like bags or packs for provisions that don’t need to be worn.

  • Increased visibility

Because of how they’re worn, chest rigs not only increase the wearer’s silhouette in the prone position, but also limit their ability to conceal should they need to rapidly duck and cover. Again, it underlines the detriment of overloading a chest rig, and the urgency for wearers to only carry a kit that’s necessary.

  • Increased bulkiness

Increased volume of equipment at chest level will invariably limit a wearer’s natural range of arm movement – an effect that’s compounded if the platform isn’t being properly worn in the first place. And, depending on the situation, having an excess of chest-mounted gear can also leave the wearer’s head and face needlessly compromised. Carrying less means the wearer’s actually more likely to finish the job.

Most critically, however, is to note how chest rigs are all too often equated with personal protective gear like ballistic plate carriers or other types of hard or soft body armour that can either be worn under them or integrated into them. It’s vitally important for procurement individuals in particular to be aware of that difference. A chest rig, no matter how tough and tactical it looks, provides absolutely no measure of armoured protection on its own, whatsoever. It’s incumbent upon all parties to ensure that if that level of protection is required, that the appropriate level of equipment is acquired.


The conclusion

Conventional load bearing equipment is designed to allow the wearer to carry their kit, whatever that kit is, on their person over an indefinite period of time and distance. No other carriage platform emphasizes pure “mobility” the way army chest rigs do and quite possibly that’s only the result of changing perspectives about the objectives and reasons for needing carriage.

At the end of the day however, objectives can’t be satisfied simply by the gear, they’re satisfied by tactics and mindsets, but having the proper gear creates an environment where the chances of success become far more likely. If you or your organization are in need of proper carriage platforms, make sure you’re getting the right gear for the job.