One of life’s little problems is how to carry the things we need. A lot of junk can go into pockets, but what about all the stuff that can’t, particularly in a self-defense scenario? We may have to hide our defensive equipment, but in some scenarios we don’t. That’s where gear like belts, chest rigs, and plate carriers can come in handy, especially if they have the Pouch Attachment Ladder System (PALS) found on most western military Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment (MOLLE) these days.
PALS is a system of webbing that allow you to mesh one piece of gear to another with a strap or plastic strip run through the webbing on each piece to lock them together. The straps are one inch wide and run horizontally across pouches and carriers. There are usually several rows, and they are stitched down vertically every 1.5 inches along the webbing. By alternately weaving a strap or strip through a section of web on the pouch and then through a section on the carrier, you can solidly attach your gear to a carrier and later move it to a different spot as needed. While it is a bit of a pain to use, it works extremely well and allows one to tailor their equipment to their needs.
PALS is widely used by militaries in the western bloc of nations as well as neutrals. I am pretty sure I have also seen it, or something similar, in news photos of soldiers from the “former” communist bloc. It is showing up in gear that hunters might use and is certainly widely available to the prepper world. There are probably hundreds of companies making the stuff today, and one that caught my eye is Emdom– a New York City-based firm that makes gear used around the world, including in the U.S. special operations community. I will admit that New York is a location I find odd for this sort of product, but they offer some very smart gear despite apparently being yankees.
As to be expected with tactical gear, you get choices for colors that include MultiCam, sewer green, coyote, black, and SDU Grey. Colors get confusing, and they vary a bit from maker to maker. While the government does have official specs for colors, it is hard to find a sheet with chips on it to judge them the way you can paint at the home store. Emdom does show all of the colors for one of their magazine pouches to help you pick, but they don’t show all of the colors with all of their products. I thought I would go over the choices as I have had lot of trouble picking what is best for me. I hope this will be helpful for others.
I’m not sure what SDU stands for, but the color is a darkish grey. I haven’t seen it in person, but greys have started winning popularity, particularly for urban and maritime use. Some versions seem to have a touch of green or brown to them, which helps in areas with less concrete and more foliage. It reminds me of the field grey (feldgrau) effectively worn by the German army in the two world wars. Grey has the advantage of fading into shadows and picking up some of the reflected colors of the surroundings and is a good choice for many uses. The Germans certainly made it work well across most of Europe.
MultiCam is the scheme developed by Crye Precision that won its spurs with U.S. forces in Afghanistan. It originally lost the Army contract to replace the older Woodland and Desert patterns to the Universal Camouflage Pattern (UCP), but UCP turned out to be more like a Universally Visible Pattern, particularly in the Mideast. Our special operations troops quickly adopted MultiCam when deploying to those regions. It worked so well for them that the big Army also adopted it for Afghanistan. In fact, everyone except the Marines, who had come up with their own Marine Pattern (MARPAT) camouflage that worked quite well, adopted MultiCam for that part of the world. The Army is now in the process of adopting the Operational Camouflage Pattern (OCP) for general issue, and it looks a whole lot like MultiCam.
MultiCam and OCP have a lot of brown and tan in them along with greens and are designed to work well over a large range of environments. This sort of pattern is sometimes called a transitional one to cover areas that aren’t woodland or desert. They were also designed to be less visible to night vision users, particularly those using illumination. Don’t, however, wash this stuff with normal detergent, as the brighteners make things glow in a night vision device. Find a detergent for hunting clothes that promises no brighteners or scents.
The basic problem with camouflage, of course, is that what works great in one spot is often rotten someplace else. While MultiCam is supposed to work pretty well almost anywhere, it is significant to me that Crye has come out with additional variants for desert and jungle use. The Army also recognized this and plans to resume having desert and woodland uniforms available to soldiers deployed to those environments. I was initially hopeful that MultiCam would do the trick for me but realize now that my part of the country is too green most of the year for it to work as well as I would like. I would be better off with the Tropic version, but it is not very available.
Black is a popular color, but the only time it works well is at night or in deep shadows. There aren’t that many black things in the wild, so black usually stands out. Police often wear black for intimidation purposes, but I think for our purposes we are better of blending in.
Coyote is a dark tan or brownish color that often seems to have a bit of green in it. It works pretty well in many arid locations, like the American southwest. It can also work well in the fall in other areas.
Sewer green is the Emdom color that I think works best for my location. It is a darkish green with perhaps a hint of olive to it but not much. It fades fairly well against much of the foliage around me. It is a bit too dark for most of the grasses but is not glaringly out of place.
Emdom also offers an assortment of custom colors, but they tell you to call before ordering.
Another way to get a custom color is with spray paint. Aervoe offers a wide assortment of standard military specification colors, and you can happily hose down your gear to make it blend to your environment. They have color chips on their website too. If you don’t want it in case lots, Brownells sells it by the can. Krylon also offers some suitable colors, though nowhere near the range of Aervoe. I’ve found it in the home stores and some versions are supposed to do well on plastics.
One nice thing about paint is that you can keep adapting as seasons or conditions change. You can also blend colors and soften out straight lines that can be giveaways. It will be hard the first time you squirt paint on expensive gear, but the results can be worth it. I have picked up some gear in UCP at very good prices since it is being dumped by the Army (look on eBay) and have cheerfully sprayed it into more useful colors.
If you get interested in camouflage, I found the articles on HyperStealth’s site on the selection of the Army’s camouflage programs to be fascinating.
The most important Emdom item I bought was their $52 MM/CM Belt. This was to solve a problem I wrote about when I reviewed G-Code holsters last year. The basic idea was for a bump in the night kit that could carry a holster for a pistol, spare ammo for the pistol as well as for both a carbine and shotgun, depending on which I thought appropriate for the scenario, a flashlight, a first aid kit with tourniquet and Israeli bandage, and a dump pouch.
Before arriving at this, I had an over-the-shoulder bag similar to what I used as a photographer. I figured all that practice with cameras would transfer, but working with it in a carbine class convinced me otherwise as I descended into a nightmare of tangled slings and straps. Cameras and guns are different, and I should have realized that.
The fact that I have body armor also influenced me. There are a lot of good chest rigs that can carry my gear, but if I am really pressed for time, I might not be able to get it all on. The belt goes on really fast, and then if there is time body armor can join it. The belt places the gear mounted on it low enough and far enough out from the body that the armor does not interfere with accessing it. My concealment holsters did not work well with armor, and it dawned on me that if I was wearing armor, especially the hard stuff, there was little call to conceal my handgun. I thought about mounting it all on my plate carrier, but it takes time to get into it and I might not have the time. It also made the carrier so heavy that it was hard to get on.
The Emdom belt has a quick release buckle with a strap that further secures it with a snap. You pull the strap to get it off. There is one row of PALS webbing on the inside to firmly locate pouches in place, and the webbing has Velcro on it so you can use it with a liner belt to further secure everything in place, though I haven’t found this necessary. I bought mine in sewer green. It is two inches wide and works well with the G-Code holster I mounted on it. Range tests have shown it to work well for me.
After the holsters, the next item I added was the Emdom PM4 Double Magazine Pouch. As the name implies, it holds two polymer magazines for the AR platform. I use an assortment of magazines, however. So far it has worked with all of them– metal and plastic, so the name could be a bit more inclusive.
There is elastic around the pouch to help hold the magazines in, but it isn’t tight enough to secure a single one after withdrawing the first. Thankfully, they give you a flap that is secured by both Velcro and a snap. The flap can be adjusted so the pouch will work with both 20- and 30-round magazines, but it is best suited for the larger capacity ones. There is a bit of Velcro on the back of the pocket that holds the magazines; this Velcro allows you to secure the flap out of the way if you wish. You can also remove it altogether, but I wouldn’t do that, as the pouch really can’t retain a single magazine after you use the first one. There is enough adjustment so the flap can accommodate the extra length of Magpuls if you use them.
It will also hold one 7.62x51mm NATO magazine as well as one AK magazine. While the flap can be adjusted to do an acceptable job of retaining the 7.62×51 magazine, the curvature of the AK one does not work well with the flap. It isn’t marketed for that either, but I did want to point out that in a pinch it could carry them.
There is PALS webbing around the front ¾ of the pouch, so you can hang more stuff on it, like pouches for pistol magazines or flashlights.
After that, came the Emdom MM Dump Pouch. Dump pouches are primarily used to stow things in a hurry, particularly used magazines. You don’t want to leave magazines behind if at all possible, but you don’t want to put them back in a ready pouch where you keep your full ones. Dump pouches are also great places to store odds and ends, likes gloves and spares for your flashlight. I have a Surefire Spares Carrier in mine that holds a bulb and six batteries.
One might think that a dump pouch could just be a simple bag hanging on a belt, and truthfully that’s all many of them are. That can work, but Emdom added smart features to theirs. First, they have a one-inch-wide strip around the mouth of the bag to keep it open so you can easily put stuff in it or get it out. It doesn’t bulge the bag out excessively, but it is completely accessible. I suspect it is made of some space age polymer, as it does not attract a magnet nor bend like aluminum. Next, they have a cover over half the mouth of the bag that can be removed if desired, but it serves the purpose of keeping things in the pouch without hindering getting them into it. Finally, there is a snap to thoroughly close it should the need arise. I’ve seen some dump pouches that will roll up to minimize space, but this one has a stiffener in the back to make it work better as a dump pouch, and that means more to me than rolling it up. I really like this one, and it works well for me in practice.
It is rated to hold seven AR-15 magazines, but that’s if you are neat and organized. In real life, I can get about five in it.
The Emdom/MM NVG Case has not found its way onto my belt, but I have been very happy to have it. It was designed to carry the PVS-14 monocular or PVS-15 binocular or similar night vision devices with accessories. My Armasight Spark Core fits into it nicely with the attached weapons mount and supplementary infrared flashlight.
The case is padded to protect the contents and has PALS webbing around it, allowing you to attach it to a carrier as well as to attach other items to it. There is a row of elastic webbing between the two rows on the front that can hold things like a pen, flashlight, or light stick. I think, however, that I would have preferred having the PALS webbing on the front a bit lower, as things hung there can interfere with working the zipper if they go too high. There are even straps on the lid, which is zippered at the top for opening and has a pocket on the inside for small items, like spare batteries and a lens cloth. There is a divider, in case you wish to carry components separated and protected from one another. Emdom also provides a card with four elastic pockets for other small items.
The corners of the pouch are rounded so it is less likely to get caught on things, and there are rings so you can use a shoulder strap rather than attaching it to a belt or carrier with the PALS webbing. I wish they included a shoulder strap, but I scrounged one from one of my piles of debris. While I suspect I will most likely carry it over my shoulder, I put a carabiner on one of the strap rings so I can also hook it on something securely if I need to.
The 6×6.5×3 inch pouch can also hold things like binoculars. It costs from $81 to $85, depending on your choice of color.
The $31 Emdom Universal Rifle Magazine Pouch, as the name implies, is designed to hold most any rifle magazine from 5.56 to 7.62 NATO. It is an open top design for rapid access and yet is promised to provide retention for your magazines. It can hold two 5.56 magazines or one 7.62x39mm or 7.62 NATO magazine. It has two rows of PALS on the front, should you wish to hang something else on it.
I found it does an excellent job with one magazine, but it can get iffy with two for the 5.56. You can adjust the tension the pouch places on the magazine, but I found it hard to get it so it worked with all varieties of AR magazines. Polymer magazines with protruding ridges are troublesome. Adding the Magpul straps compounded the issue, as they make the magazines wider. The problem is that if you get the pouch tight enough to retain the magazine left behind after pulling out the first one, it is really hard to get the first one out. Additionally, if the ridges hung up on one another, I sometimes wound up pulling out both magazines. GI aluminum or the British or H&K steel magazines worked much better as their reinforcing ridges are indented, so they can’t catch on each other.
The pouch worked great with both AK and 7.62 NATO-sized magazines, however, as it didn’t have to achieve the difficult task of retaining either one or two magazines.
I really like this pouch for single magazines, as there is no flap to worry about, and were I to decide a situation called for a 7.62 all I have to do is swap magazines instead of also changing out the pouch. I am looking for a space for it on my belt or plate carrier.
Emdom provides MALICE Clips from Tactical Tailor to attach their gear to PALS webbing. One of the frustrations with PALS is threading the straps through all of the webbing to connect the gear. MALICE Clips are one of several available products that have the aim of making it easier putting it on and taking it off. The idea is that a plastic strip can be pushed through more easily than a fabric strap. I certainly like MALICE Clips better than straps, but I’m not sure which of these products is best. Which one you like best might depend on what part of the process frustrates you the most.
One slick trick Emdom does is to narrow the webbing on the pouches by 1/8 inch. This makes it easier to thread the straps or clips through the webbing without compromising how well the pouch is held to the carrier.
Overall, I have been very impressed with the design, workmanship, and quality of Emdom gear, and I have no regrets about buying any of it. There are a large number of quality companies making this sort of gear, but Emdom bears a good look if you need some of it.
– SurvivalBlog Field Gear Editor, Scot Frank Eire