As far as gear goes, I’m rarely an early adopter. I don’t run an impression, so it’s not like I’m constantly scanning In The Wild pics to identify gear trends in my favourite unit. Luckily I know a lot of people who do this and who spend a small fortune on it; so I have good advisors.
I’ve always been more Greenside than Blackside – I play woodland, mainly – so plate carriers aren’t for me. And, for some years, chest rigs haven’t been for me either. I’ve been quite happy wearing a belt – and not even a high-end one. Add a few mag pouches, a dumper and a utility pouch and that has done me good service.
Recently though, I’ve been looking around. As low profile as a belt sounds, mine actually isn’t. It sticks out a mile on the back and sides. So, I started looking at rigs again: LBT, Mayflower etc. But what really caught my eye was Blue Force Gear’s offer. Comprising of paradigm shifting ideas and design, I felt it was significantly different to tempt me back to chest rigs.
However, I’m not leaving the belt behind – far from it. But I want to see whether I can now get on with a rig and whether I can either alternate my loadout between rig and belt, or whether a rig is the go to option when I need to carry more than just a belt’s worth of kit.
To start the pathfinding journey, I ordered BFG’s Rack Minus. I went with Tactical-Kit, whose customer service I’ve always been impressed with. Sure enough, the rig was despatched on the day and arrived the next. They were even flexible enough to add another small item to my order, when I phoned them in the afternoon prior to shipping. Full marks.
The general layout:
I have to admit, when I unpacked and unfolded (yes, unfolded) the rig, I was amazed at what looked like a child’s tactical apron (should such a thing exist, this was it). However, as an apron it would be a bit shit, because it’s full of holes. I remarked to my friend Mark that it feels very much like paying for thin air.
Speaking of thinness, the body of the rig is ridiculously thin. BFG refers to it as being thinner than a dime and I believe them. It’s made of a material which is proprietary to BFG, called ULTRAcomp. This has been laser cut, filling it with voids. You can read about ULTRAcomp lower down the page, but suffice to say it’s strong, durable and hydrophobic. Because of the latter it’s resistant to mould and mildew, does not absorb load increasing water or sweat and dries fast. The voids do, of course, make the body more breathable.
It’s also light. Lighter than air doesn’t really do it. How about lighter than photons? Well, maybe not – but it is bloody light.
The shoulder straps are also constructed of ULTRAcomp and, again, are full of voids. Only this time they are lightly padded with a breathable looking spacer mesh. This looks positively plush compared to the body, which has no padding at all.
Despite the lack of padding, the rig is extremely comfortable. It conforms to your body and can be worn quite tightly, without feeling restricted. It may be a different story when pouches are attached, but at the moment my gut reaction is that this rig is a real game changer.
I’ve had a look over the rig and the construction quality is excellent. It all looks surgically precise. Not just the laser cut voids, but the stitching too:
And, of course, the Multicam fabric is of the official Crye variety.
It packs up really small. This isn’t even compressed:
Here are the technologies involved in the rig, from BFG’s website:
Blue Force Gear’s proprietary high performance laminate, ULTRAcomp, far exceeds the military standard air textured nylon in tear and abrasion resistance. Its hydrophobic features allow products to stay dry and light, whereas air textured nylon retains water and gets even heavier when wet.
Blue Force Gear introduces MOLLEminus: MOLLE minus the weight, MOLLE minus the bulk, MOLLE minus the complexity. MOLLEminus is the thinnest, strongest, lightest modular load carriage standard on the market: half the thickness of a dime, over 4 times as abrasion resistant as air textured nylon and formed from only a single piece of composite. Fully backward compatible with legacy MOLLE, MOLLEminus supports existing MOLLE and PALS compatible pouches including Blue Force Gear’s revolutionary Helium Whisper™ Attachment System. MOLLEminus plus Helium Whisper provides the versatility of modular load carriage with less weight and bulk than sewn options.
Helium Whisper™ is a revolutionary design aspect – combining a single piece back panel with an ultra-light, extremely durable high performance laminate – drastically reducing the number of parts currently used on outdated MOLLE attachment backing. The Natick Snap system, the most common MOLLE attachment backing found on issue pouches, consists of 27 parts at roughly 84 grams or 3 ounces. Helium Whisper™ reduces just the backing down to 6 parts at almost half the weight of roughly 44 grams ( on a double M4 pouch).
The design of the stiffened straps is also inherently weak as the straps that hold the pouch on to a vest are separate pieces sewn on the pouch backing. It’s not common practice to drag a downed buddy or carry gear by the pouch but sometimes, it may be all that is available. The integrity of the pouch and possibly life itself is being held to the vest or pack is only as strong as the thread and inch of stitching. With Helium Whisper™ the attachment straps are integral to the pouch and not sewn on, eliminating the possibility of stitching failure.
The metal snaps on the traditional pouches can break or bend – a damage that is not easily repaired in the field. Metal is also hot, cold, sharp, and hard. Metal parts on gear or equipment pose a secondary fragmentation threat to the wearer or bystanders. With our Helium Whisper™ backing snaps are replaced by tucked under hook and loop – a tried and true method brought on by our Ten-Speed® line.
So, next on the list are the pouches. More, soon.