If you are in the military, law enforcement, or use nylon gear as an enthusiast, you may have heard of MOLLE. But, what precisely is it? This article will explain the meaning of MOLLE and how you can use it in your life.
What is MOLLE?
Above: The Qore Performance IMS uses traditional MOLLE webbing to mount to plate carriers.
MOLLE stands for Modular Lightweight Load-carrying Equipment. It’s a standardized system of attachment that allows users to securely fasten pouches, tools, and other gear onto their equipment. The grid of nylon webbing on tactical backpacks, vests, and other equipment characterizes MOLLE.
MOLLE is a system that started in 1997 but became popular after 9/11, where it was used by the U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan. Now, many countries' militaries and law enforcement agencies use MOLLE and it has also become popular amongst outdoor enthusiasts like backpackers.
The primary advantage of the MOLLE system is its modularity. Gear can be customized based on the mission or task at hand. For instance, a soldier can attach a medical kit, ammunition pouches, or even a cooling, heating and hydration system based on what their operation requires. If the mission changes, the attachments can be quickly and easily reconfigured.
The MOLLE system comprises two main parts: PALS (Pouch Attachment Ladder System) webbing and the attachments themselves (usually pouches, bags, or tools). The PALS webbing is stitched onto equipment and offers a grid of horizontal rows and vertical channels. Attachments come with straps or snaps that are woven through these channels, ensuring they remain securely in place.
Where are MOLLE Attachments used?
MOLLE attachments are ubiquitous in many professional settings and are also becoming popular in civilian applications. Here’s a brief overview:
- Military: The MOLLE system's initial purpose was to serve the military. Soldiers across the globe, especially in the U.S. and NATO forces, use MOLLE to carry their equipment. It allows for easy distribution of weight, ensuring comfort during long missions.
- Law Enforcement: Police officers, SWAT teams, and other law enforcement personnel have adopted MOLLE attachments. It provides the flexibility they need to carry a range of gear, from ammunition to medical supplies.
- Emergency Services: Firefighters and emergency medical technicians find the MOLLE system beneficial for its modular nature. They can adjust their kits based on the type of emergency they're responding to.
Outdoors and Recreation: MOLLE has gained traction among hikers, campers, and hunters. The system lets outdoor enthusiasts carry and quickly access their gear. Moreover, its durability ensures it can withstand harsh outdoor conditions.
Vehicle Mounting: For vehicular use, MOLLE panels are available to mount on surfaces both in and outside of the vehicle to stow tools, first aid, fire extinguishers and other equipment. This practice has become popular to the point Ford has incorporated MOLLE panels into the new Ford Bronco.
Above: Ford Bronco with MOLLE panel fixed to the swing gate with tools mounted. Image courtesy of Ford.com
How to use MOLLE?
If you're new to the MOLLE system, its vast array of options might seem intimidating. However, by following a few basic pointers, you can get started and enjoy its benefits.
- Orientation: Before attaching anything, familiarize yourself with the PALS webbing on your equipment. These are the horizontal rows and vertical channels that will accommodate your MOLLE attachments.
- Sewn or Laser Cut: There are two main types of PALS webbing: 'loops' that are sewn on, and laser cut slots. Both types enable the weaving of MOLLE webbing. Sewn loops are common, however, laser cut slots are becoming popular. This is because they make equipment lighter, reduce failure points, and require less stitching.
- Choose the Right Attachments: Decide on the tools or pouches you want to attach. Ensure they come with MOLLE-compatible straps or connectors.
- Weave the Attachment: Slide the attachment's straps through the PALS webbing on your equipment. Start from the top and weave downwards, then, slide the strap through the loop or channel on the back of the attachment. This process might require a bit of force, but it ensures a tight fit.
- Secure the Attachment: Once woven into place, snap or secure the attachment's bottom end. This final step ensures the pouch or tool doesn’t shift or come loose.
- Customize as Needed: One of MOLLE's major advantages is its adaptability. As your needs change, feel free to reorganize or switch out attachments. Always ensure your setup is balanced and ergonomic to avoid strain or discomfort.
- Practice and Experiment: Like any system, the more you use MOLLE, the more proficient you’ll become. Try different configurations until you find what works best for you.
MOLLE Usage Tips
Above: Note the lack of pouches on the ICEPLATE EXO® cummerbund of the shooter's right side, allowing them to draw their sidearm without obstruction.
Whether you are mounting a single water bottle pouch on your hiking pack or setting up your plate carrier prior to deployment, here are a few tips and tricks to make using MOLLE less of a pain:
- Tools: While MOLLE can be mounted entirely by hand, it is sometimes helpful to keep a multitool or pair of pliers handy for hard to pull webbing. As pouches get tightened to a MOLLE panel, getting enough purchase on the webbing or space for your fingers to pull them through may become difficult. A simple tool here could cut minutes from your installment time, and save your fingers from fatigue.
- Follow Examples: MOLLE allows the individual to solve a wide variety of load bearing issues, but chances are that the problem you are trying to solve has already been figured out and shared online for easy reference. Following the examples of other’s gear setups can save valuable time and discomfort learning your mounting isn’t optimal the hard way.
- Negative Space: For those newer to systems like MOLLE, there can be a temptation to fill every inch of space with pouches and to fill those pouches. Keep in mind that ounces equal pounds, and pounds equal pain, as the old adage goes. Whatever it is you may be mounting MOLLE on to, keeping things streamlined is a best practice to maximize ease of movement.
- Pouch Position: Be cautious about the placement of your pouches. Avoid placing large pouches on the same side as your holster, which can impede your draw. For backpackers, mounting MOLLE to carry heavy items on only one side of your pack could lead to back injuries.
In conclusion, MOLLE is a versatile and adaptable system designed to meet the demands of professionals and enthusiasts alike. Whether in combat, hiking, or in the city, MOLLE allows you to easily carry and access your necessary equipment. By learning how it works and trying different setups, you can make sure your gear always fits your needs.
Since leaving law enforcement, Justin has invented and designed multiple innovations for military and law enforcement use which carry both U.S. and international patents.