Start with one of the excellent UW Gear Minuteman MKII Chest Rigs, add a magazine pouch, and split the front. That is, in an over simplified way, exactly what the new Swampfox MKII Chest Rig is and that is a very, very good thing.
The Swampfox MKII is a split front chest rig that utilizes the excellent pouch and flap design for which UW Gear has become known. It has 4 integrated magazine pouches (2 on each side of the split) and a 3×3 PALS panel on each side of the rig.
The magazine pouches have the same design as those that I have already documented on the Minuteman MKII Chest Rig and the UW Gear Bandoleer. That means that the great parachute rigging inspired flap closure system, sewn in drainage holes, and tall, well fit pouch design is intact.
The “H” harness is also largely unchanged which is great because I find them to be the best executed harnesses that I have ever used. They are made of multiple layers of webbing and folded 1000D nylon to give them structure. Their width and structure make them very comfortable to wear without having to add the bulkiness of padding. UW Gear also avoids bulky hardware on the front of the harness so there is no interference with the buttstock of your carbine.
As is typical for UW Gear, the quality of this chest rig is excellent. There is a box stitch at nearly every point where webbing is joined to the body of the chest rig. Every conceivable stress point is reinforced. The stitching is straight and clean. There isn’t a cloth edge visible anywhere on the rig. You won’t even find a bare webbing end on this rig; it has all been meticulously melted, folded, and sewn down.
Observations from Use
This is the third magazine carriage rig that I have been able to review from UW Gear and I can safely say that this is my favorite so far due in no small part to my appreciation for split front chest rigs. Split front chest rigs are exceedingly easy to don and doff. They keep bulk off of your sternum for an added measure of comfort when you are prone and most breath just a bit better than a one piece chest rig thanks to the gap in the middle.
Even though the Swampfox MKII is basically a split front version of the Minuteman MKII, it feels quite different. The Minuteman MKII feels fast and light while the Swampfox MKII feels more conducive to carrying more gear. It is sort of a cross between a chest rig and a load bearing vest. That is not to say that the Swampfox MKII is a bulky or heavy chest rig. It isn’t. Split front chest rigs just seem to work better with side pouches and hydration carriers. Speaking of hydration carriers, UW Gear is working on one that will integrate with their chest rigs. I hope they complete it soon because the Swampfox MKII’s more load bearing theme would be well served with one.
The Swampfox retains one of the best and least talked about features of the Minuteman MKII – it can be adjusted to ride just as high. UW Gear’s harness design can accommodate a wide range of ride heights. UW Gear makes the best harnesses that I have used.
One thing that the Swampfox MKII lacks is any kind of admin storage or magazine retention pouch like the Minuteman MKII. These kinds of features are less common on split front chest rigs but it would be cool to see something like a Minuteman MKII magazine retention pouch on each side of the split. I suppose the pouches might not be as easy to access due to the shoulder straps and this is likely why they are not included.
The Swampfox MKII works with the same designated speed reload pouch technique that I use on the Minuteman MKII. I simply fold one of the flaps back behind the magazine in the pouch. UW Gear designed the pouches to do this and it works quite well. The main difference with using this technique with the Swampfox MKII is that with 4 magazine pouches and the split, the outer magazines end up pushed pretty far off of your center line. This means that the fastest, easiest to reach magazine pouch may not be the one closest to your support side arm.
UW Gear stuck to the formula and created a pretty darn good chest rig. Their magazine pouch and flap design isn’t broken and I certainly don’t want them to fix it. It is great to see them adapting the same design to a 4th platform (Minuteman MKII, Bandoleer, standalone magazine pouches, and now the Swampfox MKII).
If you are deciding between this and the Minuteman MKII, you have your work cut out for you. If you want a chest rig that is as trim and light as possible, go with the Minuteman MKII. If you want one that can be pretty trim and light but also scale up to carry more, check out the Swampfox MKII.
Learn more about the UW Gear Swampfox MKII on UWGearInc.com.