In a traditional vest, each pocket is sewn in place and will only accommodate gear that would fit into EACH pocket. Even with 1000 pockets, once would never be able to fit a folding shovel (A good one at least), or a full 2 liter water bladder, or a drybag full of extra clothes.
Instead of going out and buying different vests for different trips, I wanted 1 solid platform which could handle just about any situation.
In the military, the Modular Lightweight Load-bearing Equipment (MOLLE or LBE for Load-Bearing Equipment) fighter vests are light weight and breathable, while still allowing the person to attach many different pockets and pouches. This was the basis of a great platform, but I normally carry far less administrative equipment/tools and have no need for a magazine pouch or grenade pouch.
After much research, I also found that very few of these LBE vests were made for long-term use. If I were to be active duty and only need my plate carrier to last a few missions at a time, these hook & loop designs would be perfect. However, I am a civilian, I need something that will last a few years of constant use, and velcro just doesn't do it for me.
The militarized vests also have key features that are specifically used in the field of combat, I do not foresee much combat which would require me to fend off bullets or radio in for an air strike.
I need this vest to be in a whole new league of it's own.
Modular LBE (This is a must)
Breathable (I need to be able to use it in hot/humid conditions. I live in the desert but a large portion of the U.S. also gets very humid)
Load-Bearing (I don't need multiple map pouches or anything too light. The vest is meant to take the place of a 45L+ backpack....do the math)
Tough (This thing needs to last a few years, I don't feel like having to make a new one every 6 months)
Water/Mold resistant (Yes I carry items which need to remain dry if it rains. Hopefully something that wont let my gear soak all the way through if I fall in a small puddle or if it rains for 4 days straight)
Easy Access (As I wont be carrying a 65L+ worth of gear, I'll need uber quick access to anything and everything)
Results so far:
Finished with the back piece
Need to complete:
Front of vest
Gear specific pouches/pockets/etc
The backpack portion (The last "backpack" portion I made was far too large for the vest, I am thinking something smaller is in order)
Step 1: Choose Your Template and Materials
For materials I used:
1.5 yards of Duck fabric (60D Nylon with PVC coating)
Roughly 300 inches of Nylon webbing/straps (About 25 feet)
1/3 of a cheapo camp mat (Any sealed foam should work. Open foam will absorb sweat and begin to mold/breed bacteria)
8x Male buckle (Three pronged end)
Step 2: Cut Your Template
Step 3: Mark Your Cuts and Stitches
Start at the bottom of your grid and work side to side. With a sewing machine this will "Feel" like you are working the material "Backwards" as you work to the top.
I used a heavy linen/ light curtain material to back the duck fabric, thus reinforcing the embroidery stitch.
I Anchored the middle and ends of each strap with a thicker embroidery stitch and used a thinner embroidery stitch in between. This helps add strength to the garment the same way a "Double stitch" would.
I use the embroidery stitch as it will move with the fabric. Rule of thumb, a longer or thicker stitch will take more stress before breaking. I tested this with a piece of canvas and nylon webbing using a short stitch. It took over an hour to stitch a 12" x 12" grid of nylon webbing, it took less than 2 minutes to rip all of the webbing off of the canvas fabric using moderate "tugging".
Tip: Test the strength of your projects as you do them, the earlier you catch a weakness, the less time it will take to correct the problem.
Step 4: Stitch the Webbing
Step 5: Prepare Your Connection Attachments
Step 6: Add a Hydration Pocket
Step 7: Finish Up
Next time I'll be putting together the back "Flap" and connecting the 2 "Flaps" to create 1 final vest!