There’s so much to choose from when it comes to tactical gear, that things can get confusing, right?
And if you’re on a budget, it can be difficult to keep the costs down, while making sure you only purchase what you will definitely need in the field.
In this article, we take a look at the battle belt vs chest rig – two similar items of tactical gear that sometimes get confused.
What are they, what are they for, which one do you NEED?
So, don’t panic and read on – we’ve got you covered.
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- Chest Rig vs Battle Belt in a Few Words
- What is a Battle Belt?
- What is a Chest Rig?
- Comparison of Battle Belt vs Chest Rig
- Should I Choose a Battle Belt or Chest Rig?
Chest Rig vs Battle Belt in a Few Words
If you’re in a hurry, to save you reading through the whole article, we have the answer, right here:
A chest rig is an item of tactical gear designed to hold ammo magazines, as well as other items, tools, and equipment you need to keep close to your hand.
It is commonly worn like a vest, mounted on the chest, with straps that go over the shoulders.
A battle belt is similar but is worn around the waist.
The type you choose depends on your tactical requirements, not least the profile and aesthetic, and how much gear you need to carry.
Keep reading to discover the pros and cons of each, and which is the best option to choose in any given situation.
What is a Battle Belt?
Sometimes called “war belts,” battle belts are a tactical piece of equipment worn around an operator’s waist.
They provide the wearer with space to store essential items in easy reach, such as a sidearm holster, magazine pouches, tactical first aid kit, canteen/flask, and other items.
They’re made with heavy-duty materials, often reinforced with padding or stiffer, more durable fabric, in order that they can take a beating and keep their shape when a lot of weight is added.
Extra straps, webbing, and other hardware can also be included to increase storage capacity and the overall user experience.
And they commonly come with the MOLLE system included, which stands for Modular Lightweight Load-Carrying Equipment. Easily identified by those compact Velcro tabs you can attach gear to.
What is a Chest Rig?
The function of a chest rig is similar to that of a battle belt, save the fact that it can carry more gear, and is worn over the chest area, with shoulder straps instead of a waistband.
It’s worn similar to a tactical vest or plate carrier, but shouldn’t be confused with one. This article on the differences between chest rigs and plate carriers should tell you more information.
Like battle belts, chest rigs may also utilize the MOLLE system, enabling the wearer to carry more gear and equipment.
Some models may have a cummerbund-style belt for additional support, stability, and comfort at the waist.
Take a look at this review of the best tactical chest rigs on the market for further information and a more in-depth analysis of their use.
Comparison of Battle Belt vs Chest Rig
Comfort and Support
When entering any engagement, either for fun or of a more serious nature, it’s important that your clothing and gear is as comfortable as possible.
You don’t want to run the risk of it hampering your movement in the heat of the moment.
As such, both battle belts and chest rigs are practical additions to your loadout, and if fitted right, can be very comfortable to use (depending on the weight and weight distribution – more on that coming up).
For support, it all comes down to the type of terrain you’re going to be encountering. For uneven ground, it has been proven that carrying weight around the hips is more efficient and practical.
For flat ground, a weight load on the chest is preferred.
Don’t forget about bathroom breaks. While it might be a negligible point, going to the toilet with a chest rig on is going to be more comfortable than with a battle belt.
Depending on the weather and conditions, heat management is vitally important for your loadout. And this is something of a no-brainer when it comes to choosing between a battle-belt or chest rig.
As your torso radiates a lot of heat, covering it up with weighty gear is going to cause a problem, and things can get stiflingly hot in warm conditions.
In such circumstances, it would be much better to wear a battle belt than a chest rig.
Having said all that, when it comes to comfort and support, both items should feel good on the wearer. It’s just that some people will prefer carrying a load on the chest, while others will prefer it on the waist.
Both chest rigs and battle belts are capable of packing in a lot of useful gear and equipment.
With a chest rig, this is located right in front of you, with a belt, it will be distributed around your waist.
How you choose to access this gear is a matter of personal preference, and there is no evidence to say one is better than the other by any noticeable margin.
However, with the increased real estate with a chest rig, you can obviously carry much more with this kind of setup.
With a battle-belt, you might want to free up some more room by using a drop leg holster, for example. Follow that link for some great examples.
Still, maybe operators prefer using a chest rig for the extra storage space, and the fact that your gear is located right in front of you, rather than having to reach around your back, for example.
As such, I think there’s a clear frontrunner in this category.
WINNER: CHEST RIG.
When I was a kid, I was part of a first-aid organization that would attend festivals, gatherings, and other such events, just to be on hand before emergency services could arrive should an accident occur.
We carried a simple first-aid kit on our belts, and even though it was low-profile, I would snag and bash it on just about everything.
As such, battle belts tend to create the same kind of issue, and the wearer instantly has a more pronounced, wider profile, with items extending out from the hips.
Negotiating tight locations can be tricky.
Likewise, should you need to sit in a vehicle (or sit down anywhere for that matter) You’ve effectively gone up a size at the waist, and around your back, and this can make sitting extremely uncomfortable.
This is where having a load located on your chest alone is advantageous. You’ll find sitting is easier, as is negotiating terrain in general.
Having said that, if you ever need to go prone, wearing a chest rig can be a pain in the ass. And yet, for squatting and/or kneeling, a battle-belt will cause you more restrictive problems.
In the airsoft community, for example, this is the only rubric many players need. If you intend to shoot prone a lot (such as when filling the sniper role), then choose a battle belt.
For all other times, choose a chest rig.
When it comes to aiming, some operators argue that the chest rig can be a hindrance, but I’ve personally never found that to be the case. If this does concern you, a battle belt would be a better option.
You can see how difficult this decision is, right?! Still, for overall maneuverability, in most combat situations, I think there’s a clear victor here.
WINNER: CHEST RIG.
Weight Load and Distribution
It almost goes without saying that you should be striving to keep your weight load to a minimum – no matter the operation you’re involved in. Be it real steel tactical engagements, or an afternoon of MilSim airsoft.
Yet all too often we see operators loading themselves down with too much gear and equipment, (particularly when it comes to playing combat sports, as many rookies believe that more means more).
“All the gear = no idea.”
Depending on the situation, you should be looking to keep your load on or under 30-32% of your own body weight. On average, this is no more than 56 lbs for men, and 42 lbs for women.
Pay attention to the weight distribution, too. On the waist, if this is unbalanced, you might find yourself lop-sided, and pulling to the left or right. With the addition of the shoulder straps, I think a more even distribution is possible with a chest rig.
Either way, you’ll be surprised at how quickly weight can mount up, especially if you’re filling every available pouch and pocket on your battle belt and/or chest rig.
And you’re wearing a vest/plate carrier.
WINNER: CHEST RIG.
Bulletproof Vests and Plate Carriers
Where does body armor fit into all of this?
First, this article on bulletproof vests vs plate carriers should tell you all you need to know when it comes to choosing which one is right for your needs.
But as a rule of thumb, if you’re wearing a plate carrier, you might not even need a chest rig, as they tend to have extra storage as standard.
Some of these tactical plate carriers offer a good example.
As plate carriers tend to ride higher on the body, designed for protecting the vital organs, it’s common for wearers to use a battle belt for storing extra gear in the space left at the waist.
WINNER: BATTLE BELT.
Your budget will always have a part to play when it comes to choosing the right tactical gear, particularly for close-run contests like war belts vs chest rigs.
And generally speaking, you’re going to part with more money for a quality chest rig.
However, aside from chest rigs carrying more gear, and requiring more materials in their construction, you’ll also find they’re ready-to-go upon purchase.
With many battle belts, although the cost is cheaper, it appears that the attachments, mag holders, storage packs, et al. are sold separately.
So, in the end, there might not be much of a difference in this department at all.
Still, at the point of sale, battle belts are cheaper.
WINNER: BATTLE BELT (DEBATABLE).
In our not particularly official battle of the battle belt vs chest rig, I make that a 3-2 win for the chest rig (with some contentious results for both items along the way).
In truth, you’ll find that many operators and airsoft enthusiasts tend to prefer the chest rig, for any number of the reasons expressed here, and their own personal experience.
So, which is right for you?
Should I Choose a Battle Belt or Chest Rig?
I would consider the following three factors:
Based on what you think is going to provide you with the best chance of success, that is the item of tactical gear you go with.
Here are my two cents:
If it’s hot, and/or you’re going prone a lot, wear a battle belt. Also, if you’re not running a lot of gear.
For all other occasions, choose a chest rig.
Of course, the two aren’t mutually exclusive, and you can easily wear both if need be. If budget isn’t a concern, I would purchase a battle belt and chest rig, and interchange depending on the situation.
And for a day at the range, I highly recommend reading this article on what to carry in your range bag, in addition to what you wear.
Remember – the mission drives the gear. Lose sight of that at your peril.
For more information from a pro, take a look at this video, which also includes the pros and cons of plate carriers when choosing your setup.
When it comes to the debate of a battle belt vs chest rig, there is no clear winner, although, in a very close contest, I think the chest rig edges it.
In the end, they both have their uses, and the type you choose really depends on your circumstances, role, and personal preference.
Let us know in the comments which option you tend to go for and why, and/or if we’ve missed any crucial information that would help the community.
Stay safe out there!