Tuesday, June 7, 2011

BEAT THE HEAT: Milsim Paintball Summer Loadouts, Part 2

With summer here, and temperatures sure to reach the mid-30s at some point this season (that's Celsius for you U.S. readers), knowing how to deal with and play in the heat is important for everyone heading out to play Milsim Paintball over the coming months. Grey Ops' 3-part BEAT THE HEAT series will cover some equipment and tips for proper heat management this Paintball season.

In the first installment of this series, we discussed how most of your body heat is radiated from your core, and what kind of shirt to wear to keep yourself cool during summer games. In this article, I'll present some options for carrying your equipment that allow your torso to ventilate and stay cool.

Shedding the vest

In the summer heat, as a Milsim Paintball player the very least you could possibly do for yourself is ditching the heavy padded plate carrier and switching to a vest with a mesh base. The mesh material will allow some of your body heat to pass through, and give you some relief.

But in some cases, even a mesh vest may not be a good idea. Case in point: This is my beloved MILSIG MOLLE Hydration Vest in its usual configuration...

It's a handy vest to have, with plenty of MOLLE real estate on the front mesh panels to affix pouches. The back also features plenty of spots to attach an HPA tank pouch horizontally or vertically:

Unfortunately, the back of the vest is NOT made of breathable mesh. The back features an insulated/padded compartment for a water bladder, which keeps my water cool throughout the day. This doesn't keep ME cool by any means. "Insulated" means that very little air passes through, leaving my back a sweaty mess after a few rounds of play, and leaving me feeling like I'm going to pass out from heatstroke when the afternoon sun beats down.

I realized out of necessity that a nice substitute for the hotter times is to go minimalistic on the load-bearing equipment I carry on my core. Chest rigs, battle belts, and harnesses could still give me that ability to carry pods, mags, and CO2 cartridges while keeping my back, sides, and chest nice and breezy. With that in mind, for this summer I picked up the Condor OPS Chest Rig in coyote tan:

Now obviously, with lower-profile load-bearing equipment being smaller, I'm sacrificing some load-bearing ability by downsizing from a vest to a rig. But the sacrifice doesn't have to be huge; in this case, all of the MOLLE pouches from my MILSIG vest fit on the Chest Rig:

The back of the rig remains open to allow me to cool down. In fact this is ideal, because heat rises; as I spend a lot of the day crouched forward and sneaking around, or even prone, my body heat's able to rise from my back.

Now in this specific case, I'm also missing out on 2 other things: The first is that without the hydration pouch I lose that means of carrying water with me. This can be fixed by using this setup for short games only, leaving a large water bottle in the deadbox that I can sip from between rounds. For Big Games that last all day, where I may be out in the field for a while, it may be a good idea to switch back to the Hydration Vest, or strap a separate, smaller hydration carrier to my back. Alternatively I can sacrifice some ammo load, and use a mag pouch to carry a 500ml water bottle or Gatorade (the MILSIG Solid Gear Double Dual mag pouches fit both bottle types nicely).

Another issue is that without the MOLLE on my back, I can't attach a tank pouch onto my back to use a remote line. When I play using the magazine-fed format this is a moot point, as I use the RAP4 air-in stock with my T68. And using my TM7 (my main marker for non-mag play), I can just mount my tank on the gun itself, wrapped in a nice Morning Wood Camo bandanna, or my V-TAC tank cover in V-Cam if I absolutely MUST match the rest of my MultiCam setup.

"But wait a minute Mike", you say. "That's fine for you, but MY marker's an A5 tricked out muzzle-to-stock with all-steel OPSGEAR M249 accessories". Well, if you find you can't keep your tank on your gun due to weight and/or bulk, you can always just wear a Battle Belt on your waist, and mount your tank horizontally to the MOLLE loops on the back. Of course the easier way to go about it would be to strip all that heavy shit off your marker for the summer months. Because in the end, even with that extra 20lbs of metal on it, it still just shoots paintballs at 280fps just like everyone else's (lighter) marker. The "realism" of that gun comes with a price in the summer, and that price is stewing in your own ball-gravy while you cook in the heat.

(While we're on the subject, CP Gear offers some great, simple rigs (backed by a 5-year warranty) in the $40 range. Thanks go out to our reader Green Machine for pointing those out to me).

Want to go even more minimalist than a Chest Rig? Even lighter "harnesses" are available, which are little more than suspenders and a padded Battle Belt, with the ability to attach MOLLE accessories.

Switching to one of these harnesses isn't expensive either. EB Airsoft carries them in Tan, Olive Drab, or Ranger Green for under $30 shipped. From there you just migrate your pouches and pod packs to the MOLLE on the harness. (Incidentally, the Condor OPS Chest Rig I discussed above is also inexpensive, at $29.99 plus shipping from Hero Army Surplus).

Want even more freedom, with no sweat collecting under suspender straps? When playing with full-sized pods and hoppers, you can mount a MOLLE pod pack (in this case an AGC 2+3 pod pack in OD) onto just the Battle Belt. This makes for a nice "high-speed" system for carrying spare ammo into a round, and there's even room on the side panels to attach more MOLLE carriers for Tiberius pistol magazines, dump pouches, and more.

WTFPB sells fantastic pod packs that would fit the bill, as well as light weight rigs specifically for Paintball, in a variety of camouflage patterns and colours.

If you're into the limited ammo format, this pouch from EB Airsoft fits 30-round Tac Pods (or Tiberius magazines), and mounts onto any belt (or MOLLE platform). This is a setup I can use with my TM7 with a Rip Clip and tac-cap loader, with a 13ci HPA tank mounted directly on the TM7. For Milsim play, it doesn't get much lighter than this.

In the 3rd (and final) installment of Beat The Heat, I'll go over some general tips on how to survive playing Milsim Paintball in the scorching summer months. Stay tuned!

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