The load bearing belt concept behind BELTminus is not new but the execution certainly is. It is the latest iteration of Blue Force Gear’s MOLLEminus technology which seems to have near endless potential for application to tactical gear.
BELTminus harkens back to the belt and suspenders style load bearing equipment (LBE) that has been worn by warfighters for nearly as long as warfighters have had the need to carry gear to support their mission. In recent years, chest rigs have surpassed the LBEs in use but they have never completely replaced them because of the inherent advantages of the LBE in certain roles and environments. For instance, chest rigs cover the wearer’s chest which makes shedding excess body heat difficult while an LBE keeps the chest clear. Chest rigs also place the weight of their load on the shoulders while an effective LBE puts the majority of the weight on the hips which are far more efficient for bearing weight.
BELTminus was designed to be a simple, compact, lightweight load bearing rig. If you are familiar with LBEs, the BELTminus will feel like an old friend because it is true to the concept while still being thoroughly modernized.
If you have never used an LBE before, you can think of BELTminus as a sort of hybrid between a chest rig and a “battle belt.” It is like a chest rig in that it carries your second line gear like magazines, first aid, and similar items. It is also a bit like a battle belt in that it is worn low on the waist (I wear mine just above my pants belt) and it has storage capacity around nearly its entire circumference. It differs from a battle belt in that you probably will not mount your handgun on it and it is designed to be worn with the included suspenders.
BELTminus consists of 2 main components: the shoulder harness which is available in 2 versions (padded and low-profile) and the “belt.” Both components are mainly constructed of the laser cut ULTRAcomp laminate material that constitutes Blue Force Gear’s MOLLEminus technology.
Both shoulder harness options are made in the “H” pattern. I have been using the low profile harness which is similar to the one used on the RACKminus and SPLITminus chest rigs. It is constructed from ULTRAcomp with a mesh backing. The ULTRAcomp is laser cut with large voids to allow it to accept MOLLE compatible pouches or to be used for routing cables and hydration tubes. The harness is attached to the belt at 4 locations and can be adjusted for height at all four attachment points.
The belt component of BELTminus is laser cut from a single piece of ULTRAcomp. It is laser cut with the series of slots and voids that is typical of MOLLEminus gear. These slots and voids completely replace the need for a sewn on PALS webbing matrix. The result is a piece of gear that is much lighter than a traditionally constructed piece of gear can be and one that is more durable due to its near complete lack of seams/stitching. The amount of MOLLE real estate varies based on the size of BELTminus that the user chooses, but each size consists of a 2 row tall section on each side and a 3 row tall section on the back. The belt is closed with a side release buckle in the front and offers about 10” of adjustment range.
BELTminus is available in 5 sizes that cover waist sizes from 31” to 53”. Those numbers are actual measurements, not pants size. BFG obviously chose their sizing to make me feel good about myself because the size small fits me with plenty of room to grow and I could easily get into an extra small.
Observations from Use
It took me a while to get BELTminus adjusted to my liking. It really helps to load your belt with all the gear that you will typically carry. It is so lightweight on its own that you will not get a realistic idea of how it will fit when it is loaded down. For instance, when I tried adjusting it while empty, I found that when I loaded my magazines on the range the cross brace part of the “H” harness was riding on the back of my neck instead of between my shoulder blades like it should. You will really need some weight on the belt to strike the right balance between bearing the weight on the hips and the shoulders. I found that I can tighten or loosen the waist belt to transfer weight on or off the shoulders much like you would with a backpack. Transferring the weight periodically in this way may keep your more comfortable over longer periods.
There is plenty of adjustment available for height. I am about 6’ 2” with a long torso and, with the BELTminus adjusted to ride on my waist, I still have enough webbing left to just about double the length of the straps on the shoulder harness. Thankfully, Blue Force Gear (BFG) thoughtfully provides a slim metal tri-glide on each shoulder harness strap that can be used to secure the loose ends of webbing. I suspect that most users will be able to trim a substantial amount of strap off the harness if they wish.
You will want to work out early on in your time with BELTminus how you will carry a sidearm. BELTminus is not an ideal place to mount something like a handgun. It lacks the structure necessary for gun bearing duty. I left the right side of mine fairly open so as not to impede my draw stroke and used a dropped holster like a Safariland 6280 or 6004 attached to my pants belt or an overbelt worn below BELTminus. This set up worked without drama.
BELTminus is really designed to be worn on its own, not when you are wearing a chest rig or plate carrier. I tried it anyway and Blue Force Gear is right, it isn’t ideal. You end up with a mess of straps across your shoulders and chest. If you want a place to keep gear on your belt line while you wear a chest rig or plate carrier, get something without suspenders like a SOC-C Modular Padded Belt.
If you are used to using a battle belt, reloading from BELTminus will feel natural to you. If you aren’t used to going to the belt area for your reloads, you are in for a treat. The belt area is much faster and more natural to reload from than a chest rig.
If you choose your pouches carefully, BELTminus can be covert. I discovered this by accident during testing. I was on the range, packing up for the day and I threw my jacket on over my gear. It wasn’t long before I noticed that BELTminus completely disappeared under the jacket. This was due to a combination of factors. BELTminus is very, very thin on its own (about half the thickness of a dime). BFG’s Ten-Speed pouches are also extremely thin and they hold the magazines very close to the body. Additionally, the belt line is a very advantageous place to conceal bulky items thanks to the way clothes hang off our shoulders. BELTminus’ ability to be used as a concealment rig is phenomenal, especially in conjunction with Ten-Speed pouches. It is even more impressive when you realize that BELTminus is just as much at home carrying a heavy load in an overt manner than it is carrying a lighter load covertly. That is some serious versatility.
I experimented with several different configurations and basically found that as long as I put pouches where I was generally used to them being on my battle belt, I was happy. I eventually arrived at two favorite configurations. The first was to use BELTminus is more of a heavy load bearing role. This meant that I had as many as 4 Helium Whisper Double M4 Mag Pouches toward the front of the rig, a Ten-Speed Dump Pouch toward on the rear pushed slightly to my weak side, and a Trauma Kit NOW! on the rear pushed slightly to my strong side.
The second configuration that I liked was more of a light and slick set up. I placed a Ten-Speed Double Pistol Mag Pouch as far forward as possible on my weak side, a Ten-Speed Double M4 Mag Pouch just behind that, a Ten-Speed Dump Pouch mounted on the rear toward my weak side, and a Boo Boo Pouch or Small Utility Pouch on my strong side toward the front. This set up concealed well and was so light that I could wear it indefinitely.
BELTminus’ military application seem evident to this non-military user. It allows high mobility and reduced stress from heat while still offering impressive load bearing capability. Its application to regular guys like me was less evident until I tried one. Its ability to be very covert really carves out a niche for BELTminus in the gray man’s gear bag. BELTminus is my favorite application of MOLLEminus yet.
Check out BELTminus on BlueForceGear.com.