Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Poor Man's Sling Bag

When I first started woods-cruising, I gathered together surplus U.S. military ALICE [All-Purpose Lightweight Individual Carrying Equipment] parts, specifically, suspenders, butt pack, 2 canteen covers, a compass pouch, and 2 magazine pouches. It was a great set-up. Well designed and thought out as most military equipment is, and it had lots of room to carry all the essentials for the trail.

I used this rig for about 2 years then switched over to a COLEMAN hydration daypack. Today I still use the COLEMAN for most of my outings. But sometimes I just want to go light and carry the absolute minimal gear when a-trail, and after awhile I got the urge to own a sling bag. I saw folks at a couple of survival schools carrying these modern haversacks....MOLLE bags with velcro sections for nametapes and patches, and lots of loops and compartments for stashing bits of kit. I admired how so many essentials could be carried on one's person in a small package.

I started pricing tactical sling bags by major makers and found them too pricey for my taste [I am very cheap] and started brainstorming a solution. I like making my own improvised gear anyways, and what I came up with was to make a "saddle" to convert ALICE clip gear to shoulder carry. I went to a nearby leather shop and purchased a piece of stiff cowhide from their leather scrap bin and formed a saddle:

Saddle for ALICE clips
With a little dumpster diving I came up with some hardware from discarded luggage to make the attachments for a shoulder strap. I purchased some locking oval rings at the hardware store, along with some Olive Drab nylon web strap. What I came up with was this arrangement shown below:
Sling rig for ALICE gear, disassembled
Sling rig, assembled
I found that I could slide a small knife sheath onto the saddle behind the canteen, where it was convenient, out of the way, and protected. I used an inexpensive little knife with a ferro rod in it's sheath, so I had a firemaking tool as well. I also added a homemade pace counter, which I made from beads my wife received doing laps at a Cancer Walk:

 Homemade Ranger Beads
Presently I am working on a larger saddle pattern:

Improved saddle pattern
This new saddle is going to be a little wider and thus will accommodate a USGI magazine pouch. I plan to place a disposable poncho and a space blanket in the mag pouch. There should also be enough room to place a sheath knife on the saddle as well. The leather saddle is somewhat flexible, and so it will bend and conform to the curve of the waist when wearing the rig. I'm also thinking of streamlining the attachments and just using small carabiners and plastic sliders for the shoulder strap.
If you've got some old ALICE gear and want to put it to work, this saddle is easy to make...just some cardboard for a pattern, and a Swiss Army Knife to cut out the leather and awl to make holes for attachment hardware and you are ready for the trail. 
Safe Hiking!
Goblin Ranger


  1. Very cool idea. I did something like this out of kydex for a guy. He wanted just a single small molle pouch and slung with paracord.

    1. HHB - Sounds like a innovative trail rig. I thought about using plastics, and was wondering if Kydex would be flexible and have a little give to conform to a waist. I'm also thinking of using this platform with a roll-up recovery/dump pouch.

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  3. The one I did was flat. He had a small molle pouch and was looking for something he could carry under a light jacket while travelling. As to your statement about curvature that is easy to form the kydex over a curved mold. For your purposes I would think molding it around a 5 gallon bucket would work. I have enough Molle stuff I can probably whip you up somthing pretty easily, I just need to know the width of the dump pouch you intend on using or if you prefer you can send me what ever pouch and I can cutomize it. But now that I'm thinking about it, the idea of a universal Molle shoulder bag platform is floating around in my head. One that would allow you to customize it with any Molle pouch/pouches you wish.