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Man wearing a tactical vest

Tactical Vest Setup: How-To Guide & Loadout Ideas

A tactical vest setup is important for anyone who wants to be prepared for any tactical or combat situation. It’s an essential part of any tactical kit for the military, law enforcement, airsoft, and many more.

There are many different ways to set up a tactical vest, and the best way depends on your individual needs and preferences.

In this guide, we will go over the basics of what to put on a tactical vest, as well as some loadout ideas for different scenarios. Knowing how to set up your tactical vest will help you be better equipped for whatever comes your way!

Table of Contents

What is a tactical vest and what is its purpose?

A tactical vest is a load-bearing vest designed to provide the wearer with various storage options, as well as the ability to carry a weapon in a more comfortable and secure manner.

The purpose of a tactical vest is to allow the individual to have quick and easy access to the things they need, while also being able to keep their hands free.

Tactical vests are most commonly used by the military, police, and other law enforcement personnel, but they are also popular among airsoft and paintball players as well as hunters.

Tactical vests typically have a MOLLE webbing system on the exterior, which allows for the attachment of various pouches and other gear. Depending on the type of vest they might also have a variety of internal pockets and compartments. Some tactical vests also come with built-in hydration pack storage and other various features.

The material of a tactical vest is also usually very tough and durable, in order to withstand harsh conditions and rough wear.

Tactical Vest Setup

How to set up a tactical vest?

Setting up a tactical vest properly is essential for anyone who wants to use one, whether they are in the military or law enforcement, or if they just want to have one for recreational use.

The exact setup of a tac vest depends on the intended use. For example, a special forces operative might have a different tactical vest loadout than a police officer. 

However, there are some key elements that should be kept in mind and general tips that can be followed when setting up a tactical vest. 

What do you intend to use the tactical vest for?

This is the first and most important question to ask when setting up a tactical vest.

Are you using it for military operations? Tactical training? Airsoft? Paintball? Hunting? The answer to this question will determine what kind of gear you need to put on your tac vest.

For example, if you are using it for military operations, you will need to make sure that your vest can accommodate all of the required gear, such as magazines, grenades, a map, and a radio.

On the other hand, if you are using it for airsoft or paintball, you might not need to carry as much gear and can focus more on comfort and mobility.

Don’t overdo it!

One mistake that people often make when setting up their tactical vest (the same goes for other load-bearing equipment like plate carriers) is overloading it with all kinds of pouches and other tactical equipment you most likely won’t even need.

Having too many pieces of gear on your tactical vest will make it unnecessarily bulky and heavy, and will also limit your mobility. Not to mention, it will also make it more difficult to access the gear you actually need.

When setting up a tactical vest it’s important to remember that less is often more and that the space on the molle vest is limited. Only carry the essentials and mission-critical gear that you know you will actually need.

Balance the load out!

Another important thing to keep in mind when setting up a tactical vest is to make sure that the gear is properly balanced. You don’t want all of your gear to be on one side or the other, as this will throw off your balance and make it more difficult to move and maneuver.

The best way to achieve a balanced loadout is to split up your gear between the front and back of the vest, as well as the left and right side. This will help to evenly distribute the weight and make it easier for you to move around.

Keep your shoulders clear!

One final tip to keep in mind when setting up your tactical vest is to make sure that your shoulders are clear and free from any gear. Gear on the shoulder areas can start to interfere with your shooting and make it difficult to aim properly.

If you have gear that absolutely needs to be on your shoulders, like a radio or hydration pack, then try to keep it as low as possible so that it doesn’t get in the way.

What to put on a tactical vest?

When deciding what to put on a tactical vest, it’s important to think about what you’ll need in a combat situation. A properly set up tactical vest should include everything you need to survive, fight and complete your mission, without being so overloaded that it becomes a hindrance.

The exact contents of your combat vest will depend on your specific loadout, but there are a few essential items that every vest should include.

Magazine pouches and mags

Mag pouches and the actual mags are probably the most important part of any tactical kit. In a combat situation, you will need to be able to quickly and easily access your magazines so that you can reload your weapon.

The number of mag pouches and the type of mags you carry will depend on the weapon you are using and the specific mission you are going on. A good rule of thumb is to carry at least three extra mags for your primary weapon. Depending on your needs you might want to up it to 6 or even 8.

I personally would recommend keeping your sidearm magazine primarily on your belt, if necessary you can also put a mag pouch for it on your vest.

But if you are using only a pistol then the same rule as with rifle mags applies.

You should place the mag pouches in a way that allows you to quickly and easily access them, while also keeping them properly balanced on the vest. It’s best to keep them in the center of the vest. When using a tactical vest I usually keep 2 mag pouches on the left of the zipper and one on the right.

Medical kit/ IFAK

In a combat, situation, there is always the possibility of sustaining injuries.

A properly stocked individual first aid kit (IFAK) should be able to treat a wide range of injuries, from minor cuts and scrapes to more serious gunshot wounds.

And the ability to quickly and easily treat injuries can mean the difference between life and death. That’s why it’s essential to have a good medical kit on your tactical vest.

The IFAK on your tactical vest should be placed in an easily accessible location, preferably somewhere where you can access it with both of your hands. This will allow you to quickly grab it and treat any injuries sustained.

Admin/ utility pouch

An admin or utility pouch is a great way to keep all of your small items organized and within easy reach.

This can include items such as maps, compasses, pens, notebooks, etc. Basically anything you might need quick access to in a combat situation.

I like to keep my admin pouch on the left side of my vest, just below the shoulder. This allows me to quickly grab it with my left hand if I need to.

And when I’m using a larger utility pouch (that I still need easy access to) I’ll keep it on the left side of the vest next to the mag pouches.

Other mission-critical and task-oriented gear

Now depending on what you are using your tactical vest for, there might be other items that you need to include.

If you work in law enforcement and are a police officer or swat member, you might need to include items such as handcuffs, pepper spray, and a baton.

If you are in the military or going on a long-term mission, you might need to include items such as food, water, night vision goggles, and a radio.

The best way to figure out what else you might need is to think about the specific mission you are going on, and what items would be most useful in that situation, and what you will actually need to complete the mission.

Some other tactical vest accessories and pouches to think about:

  • Carabiner: A carabiner can be a great way to quickly and easily attach and detach items from your tactical vest.
  • Dump pouch: A dump pouch is a great way to store empty magazines or other items that you need to get rid of quickly.
  • Multi-tool: A multi-tool can be a great way to have quick access to a variety of tools that you might need in any situation.
  • GPS pouch: A GPS pouch can be a great way to keep your GPS unit safe and within easy reach.
  • Flashlight: A flashlight can be a great way to illuminate dark areas and help you see in low-light conditions.
  • Knife: A knife can be a great way to have a weapon for self-defense or to use for other purposes.
  • Hydration pack: It’s always important to stay hydrated. A hydration pack can be a great way to make sure you have enough water on hand.
  • Chem sticks: Chem sticks can be a great way to provide light in dark areas or to signal for help.
  • Extra tourniquet: It’s always a good idea to have an extra tourniquet on hand, just in case.

What not to include in your tactical vest loadout?

Now that we’ve gone over some of the essential items to include in your tactical vest loadout, there are a few things that you should avoid putting in your vest.

As I have mentioned in this post, avoid putting anything in your vest that is not absolutely essential for the mission. You want to keep your loadout as light and streamlined as possible.

Also, I would avoid placing a holster on your tactical vest for your sidearm. This can be a bit uncomfortable and can get in the way. It’s better to just keep your sidearm on your belt.

Best tactical vest setup ideas

Now that we’ve gone over what to include in your tactical vest, and what not to include, let’s take a look at some different ideas and ways you can set up your tactical vest.

Military tactical vest setup

One popular way to set up a tactical vest is the military style. This usually includes pouches for magazines, grenades, a radio, and other mission-critical items.

This setup is designed for combat situations and long-term missions where you might need to be carrying a lot of gear.

Gear to include:

  • 6 rifle magazine pouches
  • IFAK pouch
  • Small map or GPS pouch
  • Utility pouch
  • Dump pouch at the back of the vest
  • Hydration pack
  • Radio/coms pouch
  • A carabiner
  • Knife
  • Grenade pouch(necessary for your mission)

Airsoft tactical vest setup

Another popular way to set up a tactical vest is the airsoft style. This is usually a bit lighter and more streamlined than the military style.

The airsoft tactical vest setup is designed for airsoft games and other similar situations such as paintball where you don’t need to carry as much gear.

Gear to include:

  • Rifle magazine pouches
  • Admin/ utility pouch
  • Water bottle/ hydration system
  • Dump pouch
  • Carabiner

Police tactical vest setup

The police tactical vest setup is designed for police and law enforcement officers who need to be able to quickly and easily access their gear.

This setup usually includes pouches for magazines, a radio, handcuffs, and other items that police officers might need.

Gear to include:

  • Magazine pouches
  • Radio/ coms pouch
  • Admin/ utility pouch
  • Flashlight pouch
  • Multitool
  • Other “police” specific gear (taser/ pepper spray and etc.)

Swat tactical vest setup

The SWAT tactical vest setup is very similar to the police setup, but it also includes a few additional items that might be necessary for SWAT missions.

Gear to include:

  • Magazine pouches
  • Radio/ coms pouch
  • Admin/ utility pouch
  • Carabiner
  • Dump pouch
  • Flashlight pouch
  • Multitool
  • Taser/ pepper spray and etc.

Test your setup out!

Once you’ve got your tactical vest all set up, it’s important to test it out and make sure everything is comfortable and within easy reach.

The last thing you want is to be in the middle of a mission and realize that you can’t reach something that you need.

So, get out there and put your tactical vest to the test! And whenever you feel like something isn’t working for you, don’t be afraid to change it up and try something new. There is no one perfect way to set up a tactical vest, so find what works best for you and go with it.

Tactical Vest Setup

In conclusion

A tactical vest is a versatile piece of gear that can be used in a variety of settings. When setting up a tac vest, it is important to consider the specific use for the vest and tailor the setup accordingly.

By having a well-organized and thought-out tac vest, individuals can have quick and easy access to mission-critical gear.

Tactical vest setups can be customized to the user’s needs, so it is important to experiment with different setups to find what works best.

And finally, always test out your tac vest setup before heading into a real-world situation. Thanks for reading! I hope this article was helpful.

John-Caspar Jaanus

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!

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