April 29, 2022

Chest Rig vs Battle Belt – Load Bearing Showdown

It’s time to talk load-bearing gear. Specifically, the equipment required to carry all your awesome tactical gear. You got mags, but how will you carry them into the fight? The same goes for an IFAK, your multitool, and all other goodies. How do you bring it? Well, you have options. Today, we will compare and contrast the battle belt and the chest rig to see what’s the most effective option for you.

Chesty rigs are load-bearing gear held around your body and position the load on the upward part of your torso. Battle belts are MOLLE or similar belts that keep equipment pinned to your waist. Both have been around for quite some time, and both certainly have their advantages and disadvantages. 

Space and Size 

Chest rigs and battle belts come in tons of different configurations, but one offers more space than the other. A chest rig gives you more room to mount more stuff. Carrying six mags on a belt will eat your belt room but isn’t a problem on a chest rig. A chest rig gives you a ton more space to mount your tactical goodies. 

Haley Strategic

Belts work better in a minimalist setup. A good chest rig can carry an entire combat load, but a battle belt has a much more minimalist loadout. Sure, belts can hold a good amount of gear, but I wouldn’t invade Fallujah with one. 

Access and Reloads 

When it comes time to access the gear, the benefits between a chest rig and a battle belt aren’t so clear. They each have their advantages in different situations. The belt does make reloads faster, but the limited room means storing lots of extra gear behind you, making it harder to access. 

Your gear is centrally located and easy to access with a chest rig. However, reloads are a little slower and less intuitive. A chest rig is much easier to use in a vehicle and makes accessing your gear a helluva lot easier. Good luck getting into your belt gear when seated in a vehicle. 

Wilder Tactical

One of the significant advantages Marines in Afghanistan discovered was removing their belt quickly and easily. How is this an advantage? If you need access to your IFAK, you can withdraw your belt and have it right in front of you for easy access, even with a wounded arm.  

Since belts sit lower on the body, they tend to be more exposed to the environment. You’re usually more aware of what your upper body is exposed to when moving. Also, when crossing creeks, rivers, and deep enough holes, you’ll have to remove your belt or risk soaking your gear. A chest rig keeps things higher and makes this less of a concern. 


Which is better for movement? Oh boy, that’s a can of worms. Taking the weight off your shoulders and feet and placing it on your hips will significantly improve comfort when moving over uneven ground. This transfer of weight to your hips makes it easier to move long distances and over the hills and through the woods as you go to your grandmother’s house. 

5.11 Tactical

However, when you ad pouches to belts, you increase your width, and these pouches are much more likely to snag on branches, doorways, and thickets. When you wear a chest rig, the pouches make you wider, but not in a way that makes you snag and drag on everything in the environment. 

Having the weight on the chest and shoulders can be pretty fatiguing over a long patrol. You know this pain if you’ve ever been hiking with a pack without a waist strap. With the weight higher up, your body is a little more off-balance, and this makes handling uneven terrain a bit of pain. 

The belt typically proves superior when we go from just humping to crawling. You can get lower to the ground, especially in the prone position. Although, the chest rig can provide some cushion between you and the environment. 

Belts make it tough to mount gear directly in front of your legs and limit your room for gear even further. Gear mounted in front of your legs will bounce off your body and be a huge hassle when you start moving. You have to ensure your equipment’s placed perfectly to avoid leg rub. 

Stripping Down 

When it comes time to take off or put on your gear, time can be of the essence. Both a belt and chest rig can be quick to put on. However, if I were betting on a race, I’d choose the belt. In a  pinch, you can slap it on and go. 

A chest rig will typically be a bit more complicated with various straps and buckles that need attention before the gear can be worn and used effectively. The belt’s smaller but faster and can be swung into action rapidly. 


Comfort, well, comfort is quite essential. A significant benefit of the battle belt is that it keeps you cool. A chest rig is a bit like a loaded-down sweatshirt that warms you up and keeps you sweating. In hot, humid environments, the belt is by far the superior option.  

Comfort is one of the least essential things when it comes to tactical gear. At least when the differences are minimal, like the amount of sweat you’re producing. A chest rig can be supportive, but depending on the strap design and the weight of the loadout, it can get a bit uncomfy. The straps can pull into your shoulders and cause some pain after hours of use. 

An adequately utilized belt keeps things relatively comfortable without any significant downsides. 

The Battle belt or Chest Rig 

Like most things in the tactical world, there isn’t a rock-solid answer. Each has its advantages and weaknesses. To me, they can even work well together. If I could only pick one, I’d have to ask what environment I was in and what I was doing 

If I’m doing foto patrols over jungles, mountains, and countrysides, then the belt would likely be my go-to. If I were in an urban area or doing a vehicle-borne operation, then I’d be all about the chest rig. The best answer I can offer is to have both and be ready to use both when things get rough. 


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