Blue Force Gear has been garnering a lot of attention in the last couple of years (rightfully), mainly for their significant advancements in the design of load bearing equipment. Their use of proprietary materials in their ULTRAcomp fabric, as well as their Helium Whisper attachment system and MOLLEminus designs, have generated a new standard for lightweight, durable gear.
For as obviously suited as this gear is to warfighters, hunters and competitive shooters, I’ve taken some time to arrange an alternative setup for guides, pilots, hikers or anyone else who might find themselves needing an incredibly light, spacious and durable method of carrying some gear.
Being a rated commercial helicopter pilot and instructor (CFII), I often considered my EDC and how I would need to use it in the event of a crash in a remote area. Although I stopped flying a few years back, I still mull over options for pilots to have a weight conscious bundle of life-saving gear handy. Below I’m going to cover the RACKminus setup I’m using and what kind of equipment I’ve got in there. First, let’s define our terms.
As per Blue Force Gear’s website, “Blue Force Gear’s proprietary high-performance laminate, ULTRAcomp®, far exceeds the military standard air textured nylon in tear and abrasion resistance. Its hydrophobic features allow products to stay dry and light, whereas air textured nylon retains water and gets even heavier when wet.”
In layman’s terms, this is an awesome, lightweight and heavy-duty fabric that won’t get soggy.
An alternative method of attaching modular pouches to a Molle system, the Helium Whisper attachment methods feature fewer parts, simpler construction and up to a 60% weight savings without sacrificing strength.
Instead of rows of fabric being sewn onto the backing material as used in traditional Molle webbing, MOLLEminus uses laser cut voids and slots to create the same effect while reducing weight considerably. All this while remaining 100% Molle compatible.
So the setup I’ve got here is the RACKminus, with a water bottle pouch, a single pistol mag pouch, a medium vertical utility pouch and a medium horizontal utility pouch. With just three full-sized pouches and a single pistol mag pouch, what can I fit inside to help a theoretical downed pilot or lost hiker extend their survivability?
Much of the below is being taken from the Solkoa S3 Survival kit. Rather than stuff the whole thing into the RACKminus, I picked and chose what I felt were the most important pieces.
- 1 quart canteen
- 2 quart water bag
- Aquarmira water purification tabs
- Frontier Pro water filter
- Nebo AA battery LED light
- Petzl micro headlamp
- Can of Jerky chew
- boullion cubes
- glucose powder
- 2 course MRE from Meal Kit Supply
- Magnesium striker
- Soaked cotton accelerant
- Rubber accelerant tabs
- Storm matches
- Paper map
- small wrist compass (for general orientation)
- Suunto compass
- Protractor and pencil
- Ranger beads (for pace count)
- Signal mirror
- Emergency storm whistle
- Kershaw Westin (a nice, light pocket folder)
- 10 feet of 550 cord
- USGI trip wire roll
- Small first aid kit with OTC medicine, gauze and bandages.
So you can see there is a general theme of redundancy here. Two water carriers, two methods of purification and two ways to light the two different types of firestarters. Not everything gets the doubled up treatment, in part because I wanted to keep weight down and in part, because I need to plus up on some supplies (first aid, I’m looking at you).
What would you think the weight of all this would come out to? Chest rig, pouches, canteens, MRE and gear….7lbs? Nope. Try 4.5lbs! That is, without water. I’ll add some quikclot, spare battery for the light and still be well under 5 lbs.
The lightweight of the Blue Force Gear kit is astonishing. The comfort level is achieved not only by the reduced weight but also by virtue of their excellent designs. With the RACKminus having 3 rows by 12 columns, there is plenty of space to hang some kit. The shoulder straps are wide enough, soft enough and have enough give to them to keep the load comfortably slung. The entire setup is nice and breathable, which is a plus when undergoing heavy exertion.
As someone who had the pleasure of going from ALICE belts and K-pots to RACK’s and MICH helmets, I can say this is gear that’s another couple of generations ahead of what I carried all over the sandbox. “Necessity is the mother of invention,” said Plato, and this long war we’ve been in has seen massive improvements in the gear available to American warfighters, patriots and sportsmen. Blue Force Gear is certainly at the cutting edge of those improvements. The RACKminus with pouches as pictured runs around $271. There are cheaper options on the market, but I don’t know that there are many options that push the boundary of how we should expect our gear to perform quite like Blue Force Gear’s ULTRAcomp as shown in the RACKminus.