MOLLE Vest Setup Guide

MOLLE Vest Setup Guide

The MOLLE system was a revolution in personal gear setups. Rather than having sewn-on pouches like most vests, or using old, rusty, metal ALICE clips, MOLLE brought a modular system with both easy adjustments and secure attachments. Though it has been around for a couple decades, MOLLE gear is still as relevant as ever, and not only for military personnel. Vests, belts, backpacks, and more feature MOLLE attachments to provide modularity and the ability to customize. 

Using the versatility of MOLLE correctly is paramount to a proper MOLLE vest setup. MOLLE gives you the tools to work with, but you still have to set up your vest based on your mission profile, your specific duties, and the tools needed to carry out those duties. Properly setting up a MOLLE vest is an art form that provides immediate access to life-saving tools, holds other mission-essential gear handy, and keeps body armor in the proper position to provide maximum protection. A proper MOLLE vest setup is important for law enforcement, military personnel, special forces, and anyone else depending on a vest to do their job.

What is MOLLE?

MOLLE is a somewhat clunky, military backronym for MOdular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It came along in the late 90s (1997, to be exact), and by the early 2000s, it had largely replaced the aging ALICE system with the US military. MOLLE vests and panels are characterized by uniformly spaced webbing. The webbing is sewn to the panel and allows the attachment of MOLLE-compatible pouches, pockets, sheaths, etc. 

Closeup of MOLLE vest webbing.

The Versatility of MOLLE

MOLLE pouches and pockets have straps that weave through the MOLLE webbing. Some pouches – like simple, single magazine pouches for a pistol, only take up one row of MOLLE webbing. Others, like a triple M4 magazine pouch, take up six or more. The versatility and modularity of MOLLE, along with the wide availability of pouches, allows you to set the vest exactly how you need it for the mission at hand.

MOLLE Tactical Vests

There is a vast array of MOLLE accessories out there. For the purpose of this article, we will start with the MOLLE tactical vest, the basic platform, and the plate carrier. The MOLLE vest accomplishes two basic tasks: first, it holds body armor, correctly positioning to protect vital organs. Second, it holds a mission-essential kit, keeping it accessible, yet simultaneously out of the way. 

MOLLE Mag Pouches

Then there are the pouches. For every need, it seems, there is a MOLLE pouch, and magazine pouches merit their own segment. There are three mag “shingles” that place three STANAG M4/AR magazines side-by-side-by-side. There are mag pouches optimized for quick access and mag pouches with Velcro (or even Fastex) flaps designed with security in mind. There are magazine pouches for pistol mags, SMG mags, and rifle mags in every caliber including 5.56, 7.62x39, and 7.62x51.

Other MOLLE Attachments

But that’s not all, there are also MOLLE holsters and sheaths. You can find MOLLE pouches for frag grenades,  smoke grenades, breaching charges, and flashbangs. Not to mention, radios, GPS units, IR strobes, flashlights, and more. Individual first aid kits (IFAK), hydration packs, dump pouches, admin pouches, assault packs, sustainment pouches, leg panels, chest rigs, battle belts, and pretty much everything else you can imagine are MOLLE-compatible as well. As you can see, MOLLE gear comes in all shapes and sizes. 

MOLLE Vest Setup: Positioning Key Components

Once you’ve chosen your vest, it’s time to set it up. For our purposes here we will assume a general-duty, law-enforcement, or military application and build a MOLLE vest setup accordingly. Obviously, if you have specific duties (i.e. team breacher or medic), or have a special mission set, you should adapt your vest as needed. Regardless of your job, you should pay attention to the placement of life-saving items. They should be immediately accessible, while other gear is further back.

Infographic breaks down MOLLE vest key components.

Magazine Pouches

Live-saving equipment includes magazines and medical gear. The best medicine on the battlefield is superior firepower, and that means keeping your primary weapon system in the fight. Magazine pouches should be kept primarily to the front, and perhaps biased to the non-dominant side where the support hand can access them. Whether you carry a few pistol mags on your vest is a matter of personal preference, and if you will also be wearing a sub-load or duty belt. If so, you can probably skip a pistol mag on the vest unless it is your primary weapon.

Medical Gear

Next up is your med kit. Medical gear is essential to any law enforcement or military personnel…or anyone planning on going into harm’s way. This should be in the front, so if you’re wounded and unresponsive another member of your team can access it. It should also be accessible to either of your hands in case one hand or arm is injured.

Non-Essential Items

Just about everything else can be pushed a little further back. Non-essential items, like admin or utility pouches, can line the sides of the vest. The same goes for the radio unless you need to be constantly changing channels. Your best bet is to put it on the back armor plate and forget it’s there. And, of course, there are all the other factors that we can’t get into in a general overview. Things like your specific job, as we touched on earlier, will impact what you need to carry and where you need to carry it. Your body type may also play a role. A police officer will have different needs than a special forces soldier.

Preparing Your MOLLE Vest for Action

Setting up the tactical vest begins with the vest. First and foremost, you should choose the best possible option out there. The vest is the platform for all other accessories and the chassis of the entire tac vest system. As such, it should be strong, durable, and well-designed. When your life depends on the performance of your gear, the foundational component is not where you should save money.

Alternatives from Qore Performance

Or you could go for an alternative system entirely. ICEPLATE EXO® differs in a major way from legacy MOLLE systems but is compatible with the raft of MOLLE accessories out there. Benefitting from reductive manufacturing, it is far lighter, stronger, and more streamlined than the older attachment system. Instead of MOLLE webbing that is added to the vest post-manufacturing, slots accommodating MOLLE straps (and compatible attachment systems) are laser-cut directly into the vest itself. This provides the user with the ability to attach accessories directly to the chassis. It also makes the vest thinner and lighter. ICEPLATE EXO® is superior to any MOLLE vest on the market. Period.

Infographic displays product information of the ICEPLATE EXO® from Qore Performance.

The Benefits of Ballistic Plates

Additionally, unlike soft MOLLE vests, ICEPLATE EXO® also holds ballistic plates, like our DFNDR Level III Standalone Plates. These plates are positioned over your vitals, making it a bullet-resistant vest. Correct positioning means that the top of the front plate is positioned directly below your suprasternal notch (that’s the big divot right above your sternum). This positions the plate high where it can provide maximum protection to the heart, great vessels (aorta and vena cava), lungs, liver, spleen, and other critically vascular structures. The back plate should likewise be high, with the top between the upper shoulder blades. The vest should then be tight enough to hold the plates in this position, yet still allow the wearer to move around as needed, such as to raise a rifle or climb a wall.

Enhanced Comfort With ICEVENTS®

ICEPLATE EXO® is also directly responsible for user comfort. Cheap plate carriers and MOLLE vests don’t have much in the way of comfort. ICEPLATE EXO® is compatible with a number of comfort features to keep the wearer focused on staying safe and doing the job. First, and despite being heavy-duty, ICEPLATE EXO® is incredibly lightweight – one of the lightest plate carriers on the market weighing as little as 12.6 ounces. Second, ICEVENTS® padding allows airflow through the shoulder straps and other critical locations.

Revolutionary Cooling, Heating, & Hydration

Finally, the ICEPLATE EXO® is also compatible with our ICEPLATE® Curve – a revolutionary, plate-shaped, rigid water container that can be worn instead of a backplate for MOLLE-vest style applications. ICEPLATE® CURVE can be worn inside of the plate carrier to harness the thermal mass of water – hot or cold – used to warm or cool the operator. Not only that, but it also provides a slight upgrade in ballistic protection when worn behind hard or soft armor and a ready source of drinking water.

Versatility of the ICEPLATE EXO®

Aside from the front plate pocket, back plate pocket, and shoulder straps, ICEPLATE EXO® also requires either a cummerbund or a side strap. This secures the bottom portions of the plates around the torso. ICEPLATE EXO® is available with either. The side strap is the lighter, minimalist option, and the cummerbund offers additional attachment points for MOLLE accessories.

Picture shows ICEPLATE EXO® in action.

Conclusion & How Qore Performance Can Help

The plate carrier is the chassis from which LEOs, military personnel, and special operators work. It supports the ballistic plates, keeping the vital organs protected. It also keeps your mission essential gear – magazines, med kit, breaching tools, etc. – on hand for easy access. The most important factor is to choose a high-quality vest to support all this gear. Always put life-saving stuff in the front, and move everything else toward the back on a case-by-case basis. Tighten it all up, and you’re ready to go.

Again, above all, choose the best possible vest in your price range. Your vest may save your life one day. Qore Performance's IceAge Ecosystem offers advancements never before imagined by a MOLLE vest. ICEPLATE EXO® is the premier plate carrier/tactical vest on the market. The ICEVENTS® system makes it more comfortable, by far than anything else available on the market, and the ICEPLATE® system is absolutely revolutionary. 

Your MOLLE vest starts with a strong base. Start with the best one money can buy when you choose ICEPLATE EXO®.

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