With the start of the new year, I was running through some of the projects I’d like to get done this year. One somewhere midway down my list was a low profile chest rig. Something that could fit into a pack without too much bulk, if needs be, or could be worn relatively inconspicuously – maybe under a light jacket.
Of course, putting more thought towards that particular problem led me back to my Hill People Gear Kit Bag, which essentially does the job described above. Plans for epic back country time this past year have been relatively dashed by a long move, busy job and new baby on the way, so the Kit Bag hasn’t gotten a ton of use lately. But, it’s time to revisit it and give it a bit of attention.
If you didn’t catch my original review of the kit bag, check it out right here. I pretty much still agree with my initial review, and just wanted to provide a few additional notes.
Due to its ability to conceal a full-sized handgun and other support gear, the Kit Bag makes an excellent starting point for an escape & evade, get home or bug out kit. It’s going to allow for more mobility and a lot more security for your handgun than most any concealed carry method I’ve seen – it’s not going to limit your ability to bend over, sit, squat, kneel, climb or what have you like an IWB holster might. And, if you slip, fall, slide, trip, whatever, your handgun is going to stay right there, zipped up safely. You can move quickly with one of these on, without trouble, which may be a life saver.
Since most of us our are planning our initial bug out via vehicle, the Kit Bag is especially attractive here. All of the contents can be accessed easily and quickly while seated and belted in a vehicle. And, if you need to boogie on out of the vehicle, it’s not going to get left behind.
Now, typically when we think of a chest rig, we’re thinking of it as something to carry ammunition for a rifle. So, how does the Kit Bag fare in that department? It’s not ideal, but it works all right.
AR/M4 30 round magazines fit vertically in the main compartment, and 20s will fit vertically in both main compartment and smaller front compartment, even with a Magpul on the base. If you’re in the go-big-or-go-home camp, a Surefire 60 rounder will fit horizontally in the main compartment, vertically if you don’t care about concealment. You can jam two 30 round magazines into each of main compartment’s pockets – for a total of four magazines – but it doesn’t work particularly well.
A single rifle magazine, though, does work pretty well. My current favorite place to stash one is in the front most compartment – a 30 rounder fits there, horizontally, pretty well, and the zipper placement works well for retrieving with the left hand during a reload. Not really any slower than a velco-top magazine pouch.
10/22 magazines fit, too. I don’t have any other variety of rifle magazines to test fit, though I would guess AK magazines are too big to fit vertically in the pockets and would need to be stashed horizontally. Stripper clips, smaller magazines or boxes of ammo to feed other rifles would be no problem.
For pistol caliber magazines, a Glock 33 round magazine fits horizontally in the main compartment, and you even get a bit of weight savings over two Glock 17 magazines–an ounce or two, if I remember right. Similar sized stick magazines should fit without troubles.
If a shotgun is your long gun of choice, 12-gauge shotgun cards like those available from Esstac should fit in the main compartment. Add some velcro and you’d be good to go. I haven’t tried this personally, but the measurements suggest it should fit.
The Kit Bag’s lack of retention is certainly an issue–if you’re carrying multiple magazines, reload with one and leave it partially unzipped and then dive into a prone position, you can kiss your magazines (and most of the rest of the contents) goodbye. The need to wrangle zippers is another downside over a dedicated magazine pouch like a Esstac Kywi. On the other hand, the Kit Bag’s large pockets make it easy to dump an expended magazine inside for later use.
If you’re looking for a dedicated “go-to-war” rifle rig, then I’d go with something designed to that end. But, the kit bag can be pressed into service to carry a spare mag or two, and provide concealment for said magazines, along with a full sized handgun. For carrying a single backup rifle magazine while working the homestead, hunting, scouting or during a localized disaster–when a low profile may be important or a combat load of magazines overkill, the kit bag can work well.
If you’re leaning more towards the tactical end of the spectrum, the Recon Kit bag, which features MOLLE webbing on the front, may be worth a look. You can attach mag pouches to the exterior without problem.
A version of the Kit Bag with a MOLLE-lined interior compartment would be an excellent addition to the line.
The kit bag also makes a handy place to carry a fixed blade knife close at hand and concealed. Dummy cord the sheath and it can even make for a fairly fast draw.
If you’re going to be stashing a smart phone, GPS or other electronic device in the kit bag during your adventures, I’d recommend adding some kind of waterproof casing for it, just in case. I have a Sealine I-series case for my iPhone, and it has worked flawlessly in protecting the phone from the elements.
Of course, while the Kit Bag will conceal your handgun and magazines, context is going to be important in determining how much attention you draw. I would not walk around my local shopping center or into a bank with one on and not expect to turn some heads. But hiking, jogging or yes, bailing out of a disaster zone, I think they will generally blend in with various other outdoorsy packs-type.
If needed and the Kit Bag is not too stuffed to the gills, it can be worn underneath a baggy sweatshirt or jacket. Up close, it looks mildly awkward, but from a distance, you mostly just look 20 pounds fatter. The newer, smaller Snubby kit bag would work better if this level concealment was important to you.
Mine is coyote brown, and in retrospect, I wish I would have gone with Ranger Green – a bit less military looking, in my opinion. I may experiment with some RIT dye and get it an even more boring/subdued color – black. It’s not an inexpensive pack though at just over $100, so I’m a bit hesitant to dye it at this point. If anyone has one in RG they’d like to swap, drop me a line.