There is a lot of talk about bug out bags in the prepper community, and for good reason. If you’re leaving one place, probably in a hurry and never to return, it’s a good idea to have a pre-packed bag full of items that will help get you out of Dodge as efficiently as possible. Bug out bags make sense when you’re on the run. But if you’re likely to end up in a security situation or gun fight while you’re bugging out, adding a tactical vest to your bug out gear makes a lot of sense as well. Tactical vests are light, convenient and multi-functional. And they offer the advantage of quick access to weapons and supplies so you don’t have to waste time digging through your bug out bag when response time is critical.
When I was in the Army I was issued what they called Alice Combat Webbing, which was basically a heavy belt, suspenders, and two magazine holders. It was not at all convenient and not at all stealthy. If you had to put it on in the dark, you often had to struggle to get them untangled first. Adding a canteen to the belt meant putting it on the back of the belt so that it didn’t become unbalanced, which meant that it was difficult to get to. Often one of your buddies had to pull the canteen out of the holder and hand it to you. I really hated using it. But there just wasn’t anything else available.
But soon after 911 the United States military and the British military switched to a new military tactical vest system for their troops in Afghanistan and Iran.
The modern soldier uses a newer system called MOLLE (Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment). Pronounced like the name Molly. The new system’s modularity is derived from the use of PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing as rows of heavy-duty nylon stitched onto the vest that allows a variety of MOLLE compatible pouches and accessories.
Accessories include magazine pouches, bladder packs, pistol holsters, radio holsters and much more. It’s comfortable, versatile and quiet. Additionally since the PALS webbing covers everything, you can set up the vest different for each type of mission. The whole vest is held on with easy-to-clip straps or Velcro making it easy to put on (even in the dark) and less likely to be unbalanced.
Before you decide on what is the best tactical vest for you, think about your options.
Basic MOLLE Tactical Vest
These are typically nothing more than a standard vest with MOLLE on front and back. Simple and allow you to customize them how you want.
Minimal Tactical Vest – Better Known as a Chest Rig
These are similar to my old Alice Combat Webbing, just more modern. A chest rig is half of a standard vest. The front (chest) is the same as the above basic vest. The back of a chest rig is just adjustable straps to hold it in place. It makes it light and easy to wear a backpack with one.
Preconfigured Tactical Vest
If you don’t want to buy a vest and all of the accessories, you can buy a vest that is set up with a standard tactical vest setup. They are typically less expensive in the long run. But they’re not customizable. They are not clip on accessories. These are permanently attached.
Plate Carrier Tactical Vest
If you are interested in ballistic body armor, you might want to go with a plate carrier. These have special pockets under the MOLLE system that hold a shooter cut plate. These 10″ x 12″ inserts vary in protection level. You can get Kevlar soft plates that are light and at Level IIIA are rated to stop heavy pistol rounds like .44 magnum and 10mm Auto. Or go for the heavier plates made of ceramic and at Level III can stop up to a .308 / NATO 7.62 X 51mm round. You buy these separately and you need one for the front and back for best protection.
The Banshee plate carrier is a very popular product. But Amazon doesn’t carry them yet.
Unexpected Tactical Vests
When I first did a search on Amazon for Tactical vests, I was surprised how many Nerf tactical vest products popped up. Apparently more people buy these for their kids than buy serious ones for adults.
Also in my search results page was a dog tactical vest. Which I had never thought of. But I guess you could attach a few lighter weight accessories on your k9.