It seems that people are often slow to accept lightweight gear because there is a perception that as weight decreases, durability decreases along with it. The Blue Force Gear MOLLEminus concept is challenging that preconceived notion. The chest rigs that they make, utilizing their MOLLEminus technology, the RACKminus and the new SPLITminus, show that it is possible to make gear that is lighter and stronger than most traditionally manufactured gear with modern materials and clever application of technology.
In this review, I’ll take a look at the newer of the two MOLLEminus chest rigs – the SPLITminus.
At its simplest, the SPLITminus is a MOLLE compatible, split-front chest rig. A MOLLE compatible, split-front chest rig is nothing revolutionary, but a MOLLE compatible, split-front chest rig that weighs only 250 grams is almost certainly revolutionary.
While some companies make their gear more durable by adding material, seams, and various reinforcements, the Blue Force Gear MOLLEminus concept makes gear stronger by removing material, stitches, and reducing the need for reinforcements. The main body of the SPLITminus consists of only 2 pieces of fabric – one for the left side of the split-front design and one for the right.
The body of the SPLITminus and the shoulder straps are made from a proprietary material called ULTRAcomp. It feels similar to materials you might know like Hypalon, but ULTRAcomp also has a thin layer of nylon fabric laminated to one side. This laminated layer allows BFG to produce ULTRAcomp in various colors and camo prints. This material is the key to the light weight but high durability of the MOLLEminus concept. Rather than sewing webbing to the chest rig to serve as the attachment grid, BFG laser cuts the ULTRAcomp with a series of slots and voids to create a matrix that will accept any MOLLE pouch.
The shoulder harness is in the “H” configuration. The shoulder straps are also cut from ULTRAcomp with a series of voids that allow the attachment of single column MOLLE pouches or routing of comm wires or hydration tubes. The ULTRAcomp is backed with mesh to allow the harness to breathe.
Observations from Use
As with any split-front chest rig, the SPLITminus is extremely easy to don and doff. You just pull it on and off like a vest. Some users also like to unbuckle the front of a split-front chest rig if they are going prone for extended periods.
You can’t help but be impressed with a chest rig that has a total of 12 columns and 3 rows of MOLLE real estate but only 10 bar tacks on the body of the chest rig. That is the extent of the sewing that is necessary in the construction of this rig. These stitches are all limited to where the body of the chest rig is attached to the split-front buckles or the shoulder harness. No stitches are needed to create the MOLLE grid. A similar, traditionally constructed chest rig would have at least 52 bar tacks and/or seams just to create the MOLLE fields and join the rig to its harness and buckles. That doesn’t even take into account for the fact that a similar rig would likely need other stitching to construct the backing for attaching the MOLLE fields. Amazing.
The ULTRAcomp material itself is ridiculously hard to tear and BFG is careful to use rounded cuts on all slots and voids to avoid creating a stress point. If you think of every stitch is a potential failure point, then the MOLLEminus chest rigs are potentially some of the most failure resistant gear ever made. The properties of the material coupled with the construction method should make this an extremely durable chest rig. Of course, only time (and lots of it) will be the true judge of this.
The ULTRAcomp material’s backing has a rubberized texture to it and I was concerned that it wouldn’t breathe well. However, I found that with all the voids and air space in the SPLITminus (even with pouches installed), it breathes at least as well, if not better, than a traditionally constructed chest rig.
The SPLITminus’ harness is very well executed. It is hard to appreciate until you have some weight on the rig. In fact, the SPLITminus is so lightweight that it feels strange when unloaded. The harness is comfortable and the ULTRAcomp over mesh construction allows it to breathe well and offer a lot of functionality (MOLLE compatible, tube and wire routing). It is not adjustable for width and does seem run a bit wider than some harness so those with narrow shoulders may want to try one before buying.
The comfortable harness and split-front design play a large part in how well the SPLITminus scales up or down. I tried the rig in various configurations that ranged from fairly slick to more of a heavier load-bearing type setup. I tried it first with just 2 Ten-Speed Double M4 Mag Pouches and a Ten-Speed Double Pistol Mag Pouch. This set up was nearly flat when empty and weighed only 386 grams (0.85 pounds). Then, I tried with 4 Helium Whisper Double M4 Mag Pouches and a Helium Whisper Trauma Kit NOW!. This set up allowed the SPLITminus to carry a total of 8 mags and a well-organized trauma kit and weighs only 672 grams (1.48 pounds). The SPLITminus felt fine with either set up.
I should say that the very flexible SPLITminus in combination with the very flexible MOLLE straps on the BFG pouches with the Helium Whisper backing can make attaching the pouches to the SPLITminus very tedious. It isn’t that it’s hard to do. It’s just that it seems to take forever. This is a worthwhile trade-off for the light weight of the entire system.
I can’t help but wonder what is next for BFG’s MOLLEminus concept. I would love to see something like a cummerbund for their LMAC or maybe even a somewhat universal cummerbund that could be fit to other plate carriers. Now that BFG has released the RACKminus and SPLITminus, I would love to see the MICROminus (I won’t even charge royalties for the name) – a compact chest rig with just 6 or 9 columns of MOLLE real estate and the ability to integrate into plate carriers like the RACKminus. These are just the obvious ideas. I can’t imagine all of the cool stuff that BFG will come up with.
The SPLITminus isn’t just another split-front chest rig. I think it may be a crystal ball that lets us peer into the future. Lighter gear is only better if it is also durable enough to get the job done. Blue Force Gear has managed to make their gear lighter and theoretically more durable than traditionally constructed gear.