The Ultimate Chest Rig Set Up: An Operator’s Guide For 2023

From the heart of modern warfare to survivalists, the humble chest rig has saved lives worldwide. So opinions are divided regarding the ultimate chest rig set up.

As somebody who’s operated in some of the world’s most high-risk destinations, I’ve learned what makes a perfect chest rig set up through trial and error.

Today, I will share my chest rig set up secrets with you and provide the knowledge needed to build the perfect loadout that is well-suited to your needs.

Whether you’re a serving soldier or operator seeking tactical insights or a survivalist or outdoors person looking for advice, this is the article for you.

Firstly, What is a Chest Rig & What Does It Do?

Firstly, for those unaware, a chest rig is a piece of equipment that is designed to be worn over the shoulders and around the torso.

Best defined as a highly versatile form of load-bearing tactical gear, they are usually made up of various consists straps and MOLLE platforms.

A good chest rig will allow the wearer to customize it to carry vital tools, equipment and accessories that they will likely need access to at a moment’s notice.

You’ll often find staple items inside chest rigs: weapon magazines, first-aid equipment, knives, handcuffs, etc.

Chest rigs are a lifesaver for those who need to carry a lot of equipment in a way that they can access it rapidly whilst remaining highly mobile.

What Are The Benefits of Using Chest Rigs?

There’s a reason that chest rigs are widely used amongst military, tactical and survival groups worldwide. They come with numerous benefits, such as:

  • They allow the wearer to carry a huge range of crucial gear for long periods without feeling bulky or weighed down, as they’re effective in spreading out the weight of your equipment evenly across your torso.
  • Their efficient and fast-access design lets you grab what you need when you need it.
  • Whether you’re a seasoned warfighter or a budding survivalist, chest rigs are incredibly easy to set up and use.
  • For what they offer, chest rigs aren’t expensive. For example, there’s a wide range available at ….. with prices starting at…

What Kinds of Chest Rigs Are There?

Put simply; there are two main types of chest rigs based on their customizability.

  • First is MOLLE chest rigs. These come with an empty MOLLE system plate that lets the wearer create a custom loadout that’s suited to their needs. This is ideal for those seeking full flexibility and the ability to add, remove and adjust pouches, accessories or equipment as and when its needed. Naturally, this type needs more time and effort put into the setup.
  • And then there are static pouch chest rigs. Where the MOLLE form gives variety, these give convenience and come with the pouches already set up and permanently attached. This is a good option for those who don’t need a lot of flexibility or want to put in the time and effort to set up a custom chest rig.

As well as the customization options, you can also define chest rigs according to their size, such as light, medium and heavy.

  • Light chest rigs carry the bare essentials and are ideal for those who need to keep a low profile. Easy to conceal, lightweight, and highly mobile, they’re often used by the likes of undercover police and special forces.
  • By foregoing the low visibility feature, Medium chest rigs allow the wearer to carry more gear but maintain decent mobility and flexibility.
  • If you carry a big loadout, a heavy chest rig is the way to go. Although they’re bulkier and heaviest of all rigs, they’re ideal for long operations and large gear.

The Foundations of a War-Ready Chest Rig Set Up

So, you now know all about the chest rig family and what each one is used for. It’s time to get into the foundations of a chest rig set-up that will have you war-ready in no time.

What Will You Use It For?

The first step to a chest rig set up is to figure out your purpose for using it. For example, will you use it during active operations in a conflict zone or for home defense?

When you’re sure about how you’ll use your tactical load bearing gear, you’ll know what kind of pouches you need to carry which kit and the best way to arrange them.

Keep It Simple, Be a Minimalist!

One of the biggest mistake many chest rig rookies make is by overloading themselves with kit they don’t need. Keep it minimal and only carry the bare essentials that you need.

Not only is space limited on chest rigs, but you’ll only add unessacary weight by overloading yourself, thus making the whole purpose of the gear useless.

Remember, there’s three categories of kit that usually goes on a chest rig: The stuff you use for unleashing damage (ammunition), the stuff you use to repeat damage (first aid kit) and, finally, specific gear for your operation.

Make Sure Your Kit Is Within Reach

Organize and prioritize the gear on your rig. Expecting a firefight? Make sure your mags and first aid kits are within reach and there’s no other overlapping pouches or gear that can get in your way.

Weight Distribution

To ensure your chest rig is as comfortable as possible and allows you to maintain balance and mobility whilst moving, ensure you distribute the weight of your kit as evenly as you can.

Always ensure your chest rig set up is uncomplicated and streamlined. Don’t overload with gear you’ll never use, only take the vital necesseties.

And, of course, practise with your chest rig set up before taking it out in the field. It might look great, but it’s best to identify potential issues at home rather than when you’re in the thick of things.

The Three Main Vitals of a Chest Rig

So, that’s everything you need to know about the basic types of chest rigs. Now, let’s dive into the vitals of a tactical load bearing rig that no operator goes without.

The Chest Rig Itself

Of course, the foundation of your tactical load bearing gear begins with the chest rig itself. As we’ve already covered in thhis guide, there’s a few variants available for different needs.

Always do your research before buying and go through a reputable company with a wide range for sale, such as ……. Don’t opt for cheap rip offs from China, you’ll regret it.

If you’re new to chest rigs and looking for a lot of customization options, I’d recommend a flat panel MOLLE variant.

These are the best option for customizing your gear to your specific needs and allow you a lot of space to attach various equipment, holsters, pouches, etc.

Magazine Pouches

Unless you’re seeking a chest rig for survivalist or outdoor activities, then magazine pouches will be some of the most important peices of kit on your rig.

As an operator, I would suggest adding a minimum of three magazine pouches for your primary weapon.

However, if you’re in a high-intensity area and expecting heavy combat, you can up this number to however you see fit.

Always keep your mag pouches positioned in the dead centre of the rig to allow you to flawlessly access them with either of your hands.

When it comes to magazines for your sidearms and secondary weapons, I’d suggest keeping them off the rig and on your belt so as not to add additional weight to the rig.

Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)

An IFAK is a critical peice of equipment to go on a chest rig. Whether you’re in a conflict zone, hunting, or playing airsoft, you should always be prepared for potential injuries.

Like the mag pouches for your primary weapon, keep your IFAK where you can access it at a moment’s notice with either hand.

It’s personal preference, but I always keep my IFAK positioned underneath my magazine pouches and use different pouches that let me to tear it off the chest rig in an emergency.

Other Equipment To Consider For a Chest Rig

After your mag pouches and IFAK, you’ll still have a lot of space left on your rig to customize. Now it’s time to add gear that is vital to your specific mission.

Next, we’ll look at some common peices of equipment I often see fitted on a chest rig set up.


In a conflict zone or law enforcement environment, you will undoubtedly be using a comms system to keep in touch with your colleagues. A chest rig is an ideal place for your radio or sattelite phone.

Personally, I use a custom MOLLE pouch specifically designed for a radio but I’ve seen many people simply use an emply magazine pouch which gets the job done.

GPS System or a Map

When operating in remote environments or even foreign cities, you’ll undoubedtly need to stay orientated with a reliable GPS device.

Similiar to your comms equipment, you can use a specific pouch and throw it in an empty magazine pouch.

A Powerful Flashlight

Whatever role your chest rig is assisting you in, a flashlight is always a crucial thing to have and a chest rig is the perfect place to keep it where you can get to it fast.


Like flashlights, a knife can be a lifesaver. They don’t take up much space on the rig either, so I’d suggest adding one.

A Carabiner

It takes up next to no space but can be immensely handy. I always add a carabiner or two to my chest rig to attach additional equipment at a moment’s notice when needed.

Examples of Chest Rig Set Ups That Have Stood The Test of Time

The final part of this guide to the ultimate chest rig set up is a collection of chest rig ideas I’ve seen throughout my career.

These will provide you with some great inspiration for your first chest rig set up!

The Reconnaisance Chest Rig

An inherently minimalist chest rig set up designed for recon operations, it features the bare essentials and is great for beginners.

  • Magazine pouches
  • Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
  • Communications pouch
  • A pouch for GPS equipment or a map

The Home Defense Chest Rig

The annaul number of burglaries in the United States has hit 2.5 million. Home defense is becoming a pressing issue, and chest rigs are an increasingly popular tool amongst Americans seeking to protect their home.

A typical home defense chest rig set up is unique as, alongside firearm accessories, it includes non-lethal options such as a taser. Here’s what I’d include in my home defense rig.

  • Magazine pouches
  • Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
  • A pouch for a taser
  • Handcuffs or zip ties to detain a home invader
  • A pouch for a mobile phone to call the authorities

The Survivalist Chest Rig

In an increasingly plagued by war, pandemics, and environmental catastrophes, the number of survivalists is growing.

It’s said that 15% of all Americans identify themselves as survivalists. If you’re one of them, then this chest rig set up is for you and is tailor-made to survive in the wild.

  • Magazine pouches
  • Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
  • A reliable survival knife and sharpener
  • A survival pouch packed with your vital survival kit
  • Compass and map/GPS system
  • A sturdy rope
  • A dump pouch that you can use for foreaging and gathering supplies

The Hunter’s Chest Rig

A hunting chest rig is slightly similiar to a survivalist chest rig, but you might want to attach a large bag to store your kills. Personally, my hunting rig includes things like:

  • Magazine or shotgun shell pouches
  • Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK)
  • A hunting knife and sharpener
  • A lined game bag for storing kills
  • A dump pouch for spent ammo and collecting supplies

The Airsoft Chest Rig

Airsoft is a popular hobby amongst those passionate about weapons, war simulation, military and history. The chest rig also plays a big role amongst airsofters.

As this isn’t a live combat situation, you can be pretty fluid with what you include on an airsoft chest rig.

  • Magazine pouches for your airsoft weapon
  • A utility pouch for accessories
  • A dump pouch for spent magazines
  • A small Individual First Aid Kit (IFAK) in case of injuries

In Summary, The Ultimate Chest Rig Set Up Depends On Your Needs

And so, as we reach the end of this ultimate guide to a chest rig set up, it’s clear that there’s a huge range of chest rigs and customization options to fit any requirements.

Whether you’re operating on the frontline or going hunting with your friends, the chest rig set up that you opt for should be relative to the purpose you want to use it for.

Whatever set up you go for, always remember the basic foundations of a chest rig and ensure that you have the essentials for your task and can access them easily and you aren’t loaded down with unnecasary kit.

But overall, be creative and experiement with a set up scheme that you like best!

RavenCrest Tactical


From Eastern Ukraine to the mountains of Chechnya, Jay has spent the better part of a decade working on the ground as a security consultant in some of the world's most high-risk areas. His work can range from unrivalled insights into breakaway states to covering the latest tech on the defense market and everything in between!


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