The Gear Shed - Molle Pouches
This is one piece of gear I get a lot of questions about and raised eyebrows. The most common question I get is: “Why are you bringing grenades on the river?” Clearly hostile land owners and unpleasant kayakers top the list, as do bears, or Reavers (for you 2000’s SciFi fans). To set the record straight I don’t advocate using grenades on bears, but all joking aside I have been using a grenade pouch for years. Recently I have moved to a Molle II flashbang pouch because I just love everything you can store in these. When I stared expedition boating and running a ton of commercial trips I started to realize that PFDs just don’t have the real estate for storing all of the gear boaters need.
Some PFDs like the Astral Green Jacket or the Hiko Guardian do a good job of incorporating lots of pockets, but what happens when you need quick access to a lot of hardware and you need it close at hand? One of my complaints with many PFDs is they drop pockets on the side panels. If you are a paddle boater and you have good form these pockets are 100% in the way and make advanced paddle strokes difficult especially when you are slapping hard metal hardware. The other complaint I have is extra gear can take away from your buoyancy, although the buoyancy issue is not that bad for most folks the added weight can slow me down in a critical swim. I also was not a huge fan of mounting carabiners on the lapels of my PFD due to snag and dental hazards.
With all of the downsides of loading up a PFD in mind I decided to move some of my equipment to another location, the waist belt of my throw bag. This are offered up some prime real estate for my gear and allows you to have a little more flexibility on your gear load out. I have tried several types of pouch including fragmentation grenade, magazine, medic, and flash grenade. Of all the Molle pouches I have found, the Flash Grenade pouches are the best for my utility belt. Check out this article for more on what I carry.
I typically have 3 pouches and the flash grenade pouch will easily hold 2 medium size carabiners, 1 flip line, or a variety of smaller hardware. The pouches also allow for their shape to alter just enough to fit objects of varying sizes.
How is it in the water?
One of the best parts about setting up the pouches on your waist best is that you have everything you need close at hand. If you are holding a line or a wrapped boat you can access your gear quickly and with 1 hand. One of the best parts about this set up is that most waist bags have a quick release so if a pouch or piece of hardware becomes entangled a quick pop of the buckle and you are free. Depending upon your dominant hand it can also be easily set up for any paddler.
How tough is it?
Well the military uses it so if you are a mil spec fan then you are sure to be happy with this. They are tough enough for military use so they are a more than enough for us boaters. Flash grenade pouches typically come with a pinch buckle so you can hear and feel that it is secure. In the past I have had Velcro or older Vietnam era snap button grenade pouches that were just not very solid. The Molle backing is multi layered and super strong and the buckle is solid for tons of abuse.
Depending upon your waist belt there is likely a good chance the pouches will slip off of your belt. Many belts include a carabiner loop and threading the first pouch into one of those will keep the pouch locked in. Most bags have enough space between their carabiner loop and the throw bag itself to fit 2-3 pouches. As long as the first pouch is secured the other 2 will easily stay in place. If you do not secure your pouches you run the risk of them falling off when you remove your belt.
Depending on how you boat and your dominant hand, you will need to decide which side to place your bags. Also how you draw your bag can effect which side you mount your bags on.
You will get a lot of questions about your bags. Some people will sling a lot of jokes your way. Other people may have some comments about your fashion choices (since most come in camo). Others still I have spoken to have been opposed to donning “military equipment”.
Having multiple smaller pouches gives you the opportunity to organize your gear into what you use the most, and other less often used items.
Is it worth the cost?
Considering you can pick up a 3 pack for $7 it is well worth the low cost for several pouches. If you are looking for an alternative to your PFD for organizing your gear, this is basically an auto include. If you don’t like how they feel or their accessibility then you are basically out practically nothing since they cost about the same as 1 smoothie. Mine have lasted through nearly 300 days on the water.