A chest rig is a great piece of gear to have for any type of outdoors situation. It can be used for both tactical and recreational purposes.
In this blog post, we will discuss the different types of chest rigs and we will walk you through the steps necessary to set up your chest rig and create the perfect loadout for your needs.
So whether you’re a law enforcement officer, a soldier, a survivalist, or just an outdoor enthusiast, read on for the ultimate chest rig setup guide!
Table of Contents
- What is a chest rig?
- The Chest Rig Setup Basics
- How To Set Up a Chest Rig?
- Best Chest Rig Setup Ideas
- In conclusion
What is a chest rig?
A chest rig is a piece of load-bearing tactical gear that is worn over the torso. It generally consists of a series of straps, pouches, and MOLLE platforms, that are used to hold various critical items that require quick access, such as magazines and first-aid supplies.
Chest rig types
When it comes to chest rigs there are two ways you can categorize them. The first is by customizability and the second is basically by their size.
From the size point of view, chest rigs can be categorized into three main types: light, medium, and heavy chest rigs.
- Light or minimalist chest rigs – these are typically used for low-vis operations or when you need to go light and fast. Minimal chest rigs can usually be easily concealed when necessary and they don’t weigh you down with unnecessary gear.
- Medium chest rigs – these offer a happy medium between light and heavy rigs. They typically have more MOLLE real estate than light rigs, but they’re not as bulky as heavy rigs. Medium chest rigs are a good choice for those who need to carry more gear but still want to be able to move quickly and easily.
- Heavy chest rigs – these are designed for carrying large amounts of gear. Heavy chest rigs usually have plenty of MOLLE real estate and can accommodate a variety of different pouches and accessories. If you need to carry a lot of gear, a heavy rig is the way to go.
And from a customizability point of view, there are two types: clean MOLLE chest rigs and chest rigs with static pouches.
- Clean MOLLE chest rigs – as the name suggests, these rigs have a clean MOLLE platform that allows you to completely customize your loadout. You can add any pouches or accessories you want and arrange them however you like. Clean rigs give you the most flexibility when it comes to setting up your gear, but they also require a bit more time and effort to do so.
- Chest rigs with static pouches – these rigs come with pre-attached pouches that cannot be removed or rearranged. While not as flexible as clean MOLLE rigs, they’re much easier to set up and use. If you don’t need a lot of customization options, a rig with static pouches may be a good choice for you.
Chest rig benefits
Chest rigs offer quite a few benefits such as:
- They allow you to carry a lot of gear without weighing you down or feeling bulky.
- They distribute the weight of your gear evenly across your torso, which makes it more comfortable to wear for long periods of time.
- They offer quick and easy access to all of your gear, so you can grab what you need quickly and efficiently.
- They’re relatively inexpensive and there are many different types and styles available, so you can find one that meets your specific needs.
- They’re also relatively easy to set up and use, even if you’ve never used one before
- They offer quite a lot more mobility compared to other load-bearing equipment like plate carriers or tactical vests.
- Chest rigs can also be easily worn over bodyarmor
What are chest rigs good for?
Chest rigs are a great option for both when you need to carry a lot of gear without losing your mobility and when you need to carry only the bare essentials. They offer quick and easy access to all of your gear, and they’re relatively easy to set up and use.
Overall if you’re looking for a versatile piece of load-bearing equipment, a chest rig is a great choice.
The Chest Rig Setup Basics
Now that you know all about chest rigs, it’s time to take a look at some key points of setting up the chest rig correctly and as efficiently as possible. Setting up a chest rig is quite similar to setting up a plate carrier, in fact, all-in-all the basics of setting up any load-bearing tactical gear are quite similar. So let’s dive in deeper:
- The most important thing is to consider your mission! – Think about what you are going to use your chest rig setup for. Are you going to be using it in a real-life tactical scenario, airsoft, hunting, or home defense or do you just need a setup to carry your camping essentials? Figuring out your overall mission/task at hand will help you determine what kind of gear you need to carry and how to best arrange it on your rig.
- Keep your loadout to a bare minimum – You don’t want to be carrying around more gear than you need. Not only will this just add unnecessary weight, but it can also get in the way and slow you down. Only carry the essentials that you need for your specific mission. Chest rigs don’t offer much space for your gear so make every inch count!
- Everything has to be accessible – When you’re setting up your rig, make sure that everything is within reach and easy to access. You don’t want to have to fumble around trying to find something in the middle of a firefight. Also, make sure other pouches aren’t in the way of accessing your essential/ critical gear (like magazines or your IFAK).
- Distribute the weight efficiently – Try to distribute the weight of your gear as evenly as possible across your rig. This will make it more comfortable to wear and will help you maintain good balance while moving.
- There are 3 types of critical gear – The gear you use for making holes (magazines), the gear you use to patch holes up (IFAK and medical gear), and then there is mission-specific gear!
How To Set Up a Chest Rig?
Now that we’ve gone over the basics, let’s take a look at what you should include in your chest rig setup, where should you place it, and how you can best arrange your gear.
Well, first you are going to need a chest rig. As we mentioned before, there are many different types and styles available on the market, so make sure to do your research and find one that meets your specific needs.
I would recommend getting a flat panel chest rig that you could easily customize according to your personal preferences and your mission-specific needs. These types of rigs offer a lot of real estate where you can attach all sorts of pouches, holsters, and other gear.
Now the most important thing on your chest rig is going to be your magazine pouches. It’s basically the whole point of your rig (most likely, unless you are looking for a chest rig for hiking or other recreational activities).
I would recommend keeping a minimum of three mag pouches on your chest rig for your main/ primary weapon. Ideally, if you are going to be using your chest rig setup in a real combat situation you should pump up your mag count to 6 to 8. But of course, this all depends on your specific needs and what you are going to use the rig for.
If you are setting up your chest rig for airsoft or other recreational activities, you might not need that many mag pouches.
The magazine pouches should be placed in the center of the chest rig so you could access them quickly with both hands.
I would recommend keeping your sidearm magazines off the chest rig and on your belt if possible. So you wouldn’t add extra bulk to the chest rig and also because the free “real-estate” on the chest rig is very limited!
Next, the second most important piece of gear to include in your chest rig loadout is an IFAK. This is going to be your first-aid kit and it’s an essential piece of gear for any combat situation. You never know when you or someone else might get injured, so it’s essential to be prepared.
Just like your magazine pouches, your IFAK should be placed so it could be accessed quickly and ideally with both of your hands. Now the space on the chest rig is quite limited and the overall placement will depend on how many mags you use and the design of your chest rig.
I personally keep my med kit either on my right side just next to the magazine pouches or under the magazine pouches if possible.
When choosing an IFAK pouch for your chest rig setup try to get one as small as possible that could still fit all your essential medical supplies. I like to use different rip-away style pouches for my medical kit, so I could just pull the kit off my setup any time I need something from it.
Depending on your specific needs you might also want to consider:
When you have placed your magazine pouches and your IFAK on the chest rig, its time to think about other mission-critical gear you might need to incorporate into your chest rig loadout.
There are many different options here, and in the end, what you will actually need will depend on your specific task and the purpose of your chest rig setup. Just remember not to overdo it and keep it as simple, minimal, and streamlined as possible.
Here are some other pieces of gear you might want to consider:
Radio – If you are using your chest rig in a military or law enforcement setting, chances are you will need to communicate with your team. So radio is an essential piece of gear to include in your setup. You could either have a specific MOLLE radio pouch for it or even use an empty mag pouch for it.
GPS – Again, if you are using your rig for military or law enforcement purposes, chances are you will need to keep track of your location and the location of your team.
Flashlight – A flashlight is always a good idea to have on hand, no matter what you are using your chest rig for.
Grenade/flashbang pouches – If you are in a military or law enforcement setting, you might need to carry grenades or flashbangs with you. The important question here is where to place them on your chest rig setup. Well, I usually add a few grenade pouches on top of my magazine pouches ( attach them to the mag pouches).
Knife – If you have any extra room adding a knife to your setup could be a good idea. Knives are always useful, no matter what you are using your chest rig for. I usually try to keep mine somewhere under the mag pouches so I don’t waste any space on the rig.
A carabiner – This might not be an essential piece of gear for everyone, but I like to add a small carabiner to my chest rig. It’s always good to have one on hand, and it doesn’t take up too much space.
Overall the most important thing, and I can’t emphasize this enough, is to keep your setup as simple and streamlined as possible. You don’t want to overdo it and add too much gear that you might not even need. So only add the essential pieces of gear for your specific task at hand.
One last thing, don’t forget to practice with your setup! It might seem like a lot of work to get everything just right, but in the end, it will be worth it when you are in a real-life combat situation.
So take the time to set up your rig and then practice, practice, practice!
Best Chest Rig Setup Ideas
Now that we have covered pretty much everything you need to know about chest rigs and how to set up a chest rig, let’s take a look at some different chest rig setup ideas.
Here are some different ways you can set up your chest rig:
Recce chest rig setup
This type of setup is designed for reconnaissance missions. It is a very minimalist setup that only includes the essential gear you need for your mission.
The recce chest rig setup usually includes:
- Mag pouches
- IFAK pouch
- Radio pouch
- GPS/map pouch
Minimalist chest rig setup
This type of setup is similar to the recce chest rig, but it includes a few more pieces of gear. The idea behind this setup is to have as little gear as possible while still having everything you need for your mission.
The minimalist chest rig setup usually includes:
- Mag pouches
Home defense chest rig setup
This type of setup is designed for, you guessed it, home defense! This type of setup differs from the rest because it is not designed for combat situations and you might want to include non-lethal options like pepper spray or a taser.
The home defense chest rig setup usually includes:
- Mag pouches
- IFAK pouch
- Knife pouch
- Pepper spray/taser pouch
- S Handguffs/ zip ties
- Phone pouch
Survival chest rig setup
This type of setup is designed for survival situations. This setup is different because it includes a lot of gear that you might need to survive in the wilderness.
The survival chest rig setup usually includes:
- Mag pouches
- IFAK pouch
- Knife pouch
- Survival pouch ( your survival essentials)
- A dump pouch (for gathering supplies and etc)
Shotgun chest rig setup
This type of setup is designed for shotgunners, it doesn’t really differ much from all the rest of the setups. The main difference is instead of traditional mag pouches you are going to be using shotgun shell holders
- The shotgun chest rig setup usually includes:
- Shotgun shell holders / and even out-in-the-open shotgun shells
- Shotgun shell pouch ( something that you could fold up)
- IFAK pouch
Airsoft chest rig setup
With the airsoft chest rig loadout, you don’t really need to worry too much about the specifics and you have a lot of room for playing around with different pieces of gear. The only thing you really need to include in the setup is your magazine pouches, everything else is pretty much up to you.
- Magazine pouches
- Admin/utility pouch
- Dump pouch
Chest rig setup for hunting
This type of setup is designed for hunting. The main difference with this setup is that you might want to include a game bag to store your kill.
The hunting chest rig setup usually includes:
- Mag pouches
- IFAK pouch
- Knife pouch
- Dump pouch
- Game bag
- Utility pouch
As you can see, there are many different ways you can set up your chest rig. It all depends on your specific needs and the type of mission you are going on.
Just keep in mind the basics and make sure your gear is easily accessible and that you have everything you need for your mission. Other than that, have fun with it and experiment until you find a setup that works best for you!
Written by John-Caspar
John-Caspar Jaanus is an Estonian military, tactical gear, and survival expert and author. He has an extensive military background and has been involved with the Estonian defense structure for over 10 years. Read bio!