I am often asked what is the best "gear", and what a student should get. The answer of course, depends on many things. In this instance we will discuss methods of carrying personal fighting gear in the field. Specifically that which supports your primary weapon, and immediate survival such magazines, secondary weapons, first aid, survival gear, etc. Some call this "second line" gear. "First line" gear would be what you carry in your pockets for example.
While first line gear can be a constant and is not dependant on environment, second line gear is very much situational. Consider three circumastances that while similar, have stark contrasts.
1). Operating in an urban area, mounted or on foot, in a low profile/covert manner. This is typified by the "sneaky bag" type bags and folding stocked SBRs.
2). Operating in a rural area - out of a vehicle with very limited "boots on the ground" time. This is what you see in news footage of US and NATO troops, as well as the typical American SWAT unit. Here you will see some sort of chest rig or tactical vest unit with or without armor (usually with).
3). Operating in a rural area - on foot with extended "boots on the ground" time. Images of the Rhodesian Light Infantry and US troops in Vietman come immediately to mind. Gear here is centered around an "Alice" type, or Battle Belt type of carry.
There are variations on this theme of course but we will keep the discussion to these three lest we lose track of the point of the discussion.
Equipment specially sourced for a specific one of these situations can be pressed into service in other environments, but not as well as more specialized kit. For example, a "sneaky" type bag and an SBR-SMG shine in the covert urban world, but would be unsatisfactory in an environment requiring extensive hiking or running and the need for a rifle. Similarly a chest rig may be great for riding around in a Hummer, but not feel as good when one must walk ten miles with their gear. Compromises can be made of course, but they are just that...compromises. And all compromises lead to lessened performance.
We have written extensively about the covert bags. I currently use such a bag in its "Terrorist Interdiction Bag" form. But this does not work well for field use awy from the urban world. Again, the covert bag is a compromise for covertness, and not efficiency or load carrying. At warriortalk we have also discussed the very popular chest rig. If most of the time is to be spent in a vehicle, the chest rig is great. But it will be found lacking on a several miles long march through rocks and trees.
We will discuss the "Battle Belt", or "War Belt". This has its lineage in the old G.I. LBE circa 1956. It revolves around a belt that carries most of the important gear, aided by suspenders to share the load. Any additional kit is carried in a rucksack. The main advantage of this over other forms of carry is that, sitting lower on the hips, it tends to be more balanced and the end-user can configure it to his needs easier than a chest rig.
One complaint of the Battle Belt is that it is not as comfortable in vehicle mounted operations. The counter is that a chest rig is not as comfortable in dismounted operations. In the end, each man must choose what area must take precedence over the other.
This is the rig I have been using for the past two years. I have run it in every rifle or tactics class as well as in my desert training runs. It is simple, light, and when coupled with a suitably sized ruck sack, quite balanced and functional.
It is based on the High Speed Gear Suregrip Belt coupled with a set of HSGI Suspenders, and carries three "Double Tacos" on the left side with both rifle and pistol magazines, and one "Taco" on the right side for an additional support side reload.
The belt also carries a knife. In this case the Swiss SIG Bayonet, although any knife can be used. I also use the TSD Combat Systems/Blade-Tech Holster. On the right and left kidney area I have a Blow Out Kit in a HSGI pouch, and a Field Survival Kit in a similar HSGI pouch. At the six o'clock, I have an old style HSGI Dump Pouch. They have redesigned it as the HSGI Mag Net and made it better.
If you want a short cut to a really good War Belt based LBE, this is what I would suggest.