As I spend more time carrying my gear in the woods, I find myself drawn to a belt-and-suspenders type of setup. There’s a place for chest rigs, but bulging pouches stuffed with magazines (and everything else under the sun) can be a drag. The weight slows you down, saps your strength and reminds you how out of shape you are. Lots of gear on your chest can also press in on your rib cage, making labored breathing on the trail more difficult.

After using Blue Force Gear’s Ten-Speed M4 Chest Rig, I went looking for a similarly lightweight belt and suspenders set. The real impetus behind my search was the urging of my brother and our mutual friend, both with considerably more hiking and outdoors experience than I have. My baby brother (who is a full head taller than I) hiked the AT as a kid and continues as an adult. It’s one of his passions.

Our friend Rufus (a nom de guerre) is a former 10th Cav vet. Both he and my brother prefer an old ALICE belt-and-suspender setup, though Rufus had a WWII-era belt until I provided him an upgrade to an  Austrian web belt. He only replaced his old M-1923 cartridge belt because the canvas thing was practically falling apart. Both he and my brother always seemed to carry less weight and be more comfortable than I on our outings. I wanted to emulate their lightweight approach and simultaneously be able to have my gears’ weight distributed to my hips rather than hanging on my shoulders.

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