Military Surplus Weighted Conditioning Vest




About: I operate in a perpetual state of dehydration. Water is for plants.

Recently I saw a guy running along the beach with a weighted vest on and decided I needed to do the same thing. Running in a plate carrier with plates when I don't have to gives me a pretty gnarly heat rash.

Later that day while out and around I found a weighted vest and made a secondary decision that I didn't need to spend $50.00 to $120.00 that badly.

This is what I came up with instead, using a MOLLE military load bearing vest/equipment, some magazine pouches, bricks, and sand. I am active duty military and have extra gear sitting around all over the place, however, you can easily find a LBV/LBE at a local surplus store or online. Keep in mind that brand new brand name tacticool gear won't save you any money and some surplus stores attempt to rob you blind.

It took me approximately 2 hours to make and I don't have a store bought vest to compare it to. Personally I prefer the idea of being able to move the weight around on the MOLLE webbing, eliminating hot spots and carrying the weight best for your body. You can also add or take away weight as needed without having to purchase another vest in the next weight range.

Thus far it has worked well.

DISCLAIMER: Listen to your body. Carrying too much weight too quickly will do you no favors. Backs can be very prone to injury during high impact exercises without adding extra weight. I am in no way responsible for any injury/damage resulting from use of this system.

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Step 1: Supplies

You will need the following:

MOLLE/PALS Vest - Free for me, can be picked up for $10.00 used
Various MOLLE pouches (I used single and dual magazine pouches) - Free for me, can be found for a couple dollars ea. used.

- Buying either of the above brand new will not save you any money over a store purchased vest. Although you will have the satisfaction of Doing it Yourself.

Bricks - $0.48 ea at Home Depot.
Play Sand - $4.48 for 50lbs at Home Depot.
Ziploc or equivalent Sandwich Bags - $1.00 at Walmart.
100 MPH Tape aka Duct Tape - Already had it, but around $5.00 anywhere you can find it.

My total cost: $8.36

With enough Craigslist/Surplus Store luck everything can be acquired for around $35

Step 2: Weight - Bricks

First I decided on the pouches I was going to use, which for me were both dual and single mag pouches.

I took one of each to the local Home Depot hoping to find bricks to fit in each.

Unfortunately the smallest bricks I could find fit perfectly in the dual mag pouches but nothing for the singles.

This part is really easy:

The bricks can easily be left the way they are, I found they snagged when trying to get them into and out of the pouch so I wrapped them up in duct tape.

I wrapped up six. You can decide for yourself how many you are going to use/need based on your pouch placement/selection.

Step 3: Weight - Sand

As previously mentioned, I didn't find any bricks to put into the single mag pouches so while at the store I decided to adapt the "Ruck Pill" idea that is somewhat known throughout the military and demonstrated here by Imminent Threat Solutions:

With the bag of play sand I poured 2 cups into each Ziploc bag to keep them relatively uniform. I used my dogs food cup to distribute the sand, she eats enough of it playing fetch on the beach and my wife wasn't thrilled with the idea of using her kitchen measuring utensils.

Compress and lock the bags then using duct tape tightly wrap the full bags trying to keep as much of a rectangle shape as possible.

I had a M16/M4 magazine on deck to compare size and made sure the first one fit into the pouch before continuing.

The more you make the more you get the hang of it.

Step 4: Distributing Weight

Once your done wrapping up your weights place the pouches on the vest by weaving the PALS/MOLLE straps alternating through the loops on the vest and pouch itself, finally snapping it into place at the end.

It's like sewing, and is usually just as frustrating.

If the webbing/straps are really stiff like mine are a long pair of needle nose pliers helps pull each section through.

Tactical vests are already designed to evenly distribute load placement (hence the name) with properly placed pouches.

Remember you want to carry most the weight on your shoulders and hips, not with your back itself. You will want to fit the vest tight so the weights aren't bouncing off you while exercising, sometimes it helps to have someone help you adjust the vest straps while you have it on.

Since you're not buying a box at a sporting goods store you can try on the vest in between each configuration and figure out what works best for you.

Step 5: Fin

That's it, your done.

With 4 bricks and 4 "Mag Pills" my vest weighed in at 25 lbs. I have 2 additional of each on standby with more pouches to increase weight as needed.

Get creative, if I figured this out, anyone can. Grenade pouches could be used, tape up a bunch of ball bearings or washers into the size of a baseball and shove them in there. If you happen to have an excess of non-functional rifle magazines, pull the follower/spring mechanisms out and fill them with cement.

The link to ITS website in the "Weights - Sand" step has a pretty good table that suggests weekly weight progression for running.

The vest can be used for a variety of other exercises like walking, lunges, squats, push-ups, pull-ups, and really pretty much anything you can think of. You don't need a gym to get into shape.

I find it is best to eat an apex predator before working out, like shark or bear.

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    11 Discussions


    7 years ago on Introduction

    I like it. But it should perhaps come with a warning about being careful where you run in a heavy armored outfit packed with what could easilly be confused as either packs of explosive or packs of drugs. :-)

    (I also agree on the water, it is very easy to reuse a bottle and fill it at home before leaving - that goes for everyday too - you can even refill it at restrooms in shops - for free - in many places of the world)

    3 replies

    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    Without any protruding wires I think you'd be safe in the s-vest arena. If you have/found all black tactical gear it wouldn't look much different than any other weight vest. Hopefully the police would realize drug mules don't typical run around state parks or city sidewalks with their payloads.

    They have nalgene bottle specific pouches but they are expensive and large. Certain "dump" pouches would easily fit a nalgene or stainless water bottle and would probably be a good alternative, to build on caitlinsdad's idea.


    Reply 5 years ago

    I made something similar to this using a cheapo Condor Tac front zip molle vest. I had a Golds gym training vest but it wasn't adjustable enough to hold the weight to your body when you ran. The sand bags are a good idea rather than using pre made weights and then buying pouches to fit. I went with the fde color and threw some neon orange reflective tape on the velcro portions to make it look less sinister lol. Any of the hard edges that cut into the shoulder armpit area I just roughed up with sand paper to soften up.


    Reply 7 years ago on Introduction

    I did mean it as a joke (and exagerrated the image for that reason), but there is some truth to it. I didn't so much worry about the police as I did about random people calling in "armed maniac running around in park". especially these days where barely a week goes by without some major news coverage of such events. (I could bring up the Breivik case which is the hot topic here in scandinavia)


    7 years ago on Introduction

    Why not just stuff it with a case of bottled water? Live loads are always more fun and you can hydrate yourself or have them frozen for air conditioning.

    6 replies

    A standard 16 oz water bottle won't fit into a single magazine pouch. Not a bad idea for the dual mag pouches although bricks are heavier.

    I pretentiously don't purchase bottled water and usually don't drink anything unless it is a diuretic.

    Like I said in the Fin step, get creative. You could shove just about anything in various pouches to get the desired effect.

    A sealed 2"x5' - 7' PVC pipe 1/2 to 2/3 full of water is an awesome live load exerciser.

    Generated body heat and outdoor exercise probably isn't conducive to the life span of frozen water. You'd also probably get less use out of a vest you have to craft weight for every time you use it.

    mix a bag of sand mix concrete or mortar to mold in the pouches, 40 or 80 lbs is more than enough to share with the troops. Good luck.

    I'm not sure if you read the instructable, but I used packed sand and bricks, which are already molded for you concrete.

    Are you one of those always have the last word kind of guys?

    Use whatever you want. I like smarter not harder.

    I was just thinking aloud on alternatives for others to get ideas on making custom fitted weights to fit your pouches. Out.