The load carriage solutions for hauling this needed gear are typically split between the pockets built into someone’s clothing, and a piece of carried luggage, most typically in the form of a bug-out bag or go-bag. Both are well understood and beloved concepts in prepping.
But what if I told you that you might be skipping a step in terms of carrying your gear, and keeping it ready to don quickly when seconds count and potentially lives are on the line?
What if there was a way to have all of your most important gear positioned where you can access it in a flash while still carrying more gear than just your pockets alone and potentially being just as quick to put on as a backpack? Do you think that would be an improvement in organization and capability? I think so!
What is this wondrous piece of load-carrying gear? It is the humble belt, of course.
Be it a sturdy and rugged pistol or rigger type belt, or a larger and more capable gear belt, or battle belt, either serves as an essential piece of survival gear, and unimportant halfway point for storing and accessing the equipment you need that is between your pants pockets and the mass storage of your backpack.
In the article below I will tell you everything you need to know about choosing and incorporating various types of belts into your survival loadout.
What’s the Big Idea on Belts?
The idea of hanging and attaching pouches and other needed gear directly to the belt is nothing new. In fact it is ancient, as humans long ago figured out accessing any tool, pocket, pouch or other accoutrement located around the waistline is a pretty simple affair and is ergonomically correct as far as how our bodies are configured.
The vast majority of people can easily locate and grab anything stored on their waistline from the midline on the front of their body back to just behind the hips easily, and quite a few people can reach back farther than that, offering nearly 360 degrees of accessible storage space.
This makes the beltline prime real estate for storing tools that you will need to use and put away over and over again while still saving time and effort.
This reasoning is why police officers wear their gear belts the way they do, and the reason construction workers tool belts and the war belts that are worn by an increasing amount of soldiers and other warfighters wear belts as well.
All of the things that might need to be used quickly accessed in an instant go on the belt; the less important items in any of these roles can be stored elsewhere.
Just as importantly as accessing the gear, you need is potentially stowing it just as quickly. You can always drop something or set it down, but that is a good way to lose it or just lose access to it.
Having the capability to freely put things away securely in a dedicated location is priceless in high-stress situations. It would not do to set down some vital piece of equipment when you need to free up your hands at a moment’s notice only to get distracted, move on and leave it behind.
All of these perks that work for various professionals will still definitely work for you as a prepper. Your needs might be different but the advantages offered by a correctly set up gear belt system are exactly the same.
Underreacting is Bad, but so is Overreacting
It seems counterintuitive to some people, but hauling out and hauling with you too much gear in response to a situation that does not warrant it will only make you inefficient at best or just wear you out at worst.
True, “it is better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it” but speed and endurance are important factors for your consideration when dealing with any crisis situation.
We can borrow a concept from the military when it comes to organizing our carried gear. Troopers usually have their gear organized in “lines” split between what is called the first line, second line and third line.
Among first line gear you have the absolute essentials that are the closest to their body, in pockets and on the belt.
With the second line, being their plate carrier or other load-bearing equipment, carried are items needed to process the mission and finally their third line gear being heavier sustainment systems and provisions carried in a backpack.
In this way, the most vital pieces of survival and self-preservation gear are carried closest to the body with less reliance on external luggage to tote them.
For us, the first line is the equivalent of a prepper’s EDC gear; the things they always put in their pockets before they head out the door, the items they are just not comfortable leaving home without.
The second line gear could be contingency and emergency items, again the prepper equivalent being anything carried in a messenger bag, go bag, or potentially even in their vehicle. Stuff you might not need that you had better have in the vast majority of crisis situations.
Lastly, the third line sustainment gear would be anything carried in a BOB or INCH bag, all the items you will need for the long haul or specialized survival situations.
It makes perfect sense to me to have a utility belt of sorts as that “second line” since it has my pistol, a little spare ammunition, flashlight, compass, marker light, med kit, and a water bottle or canteen on it.
As my default level of gear beyond what I have in my pockets I can put it on in a flash with little in the way of notice. I maintain nearly full and unencumbered mobility, especially getting in and out of a vehicle.
Anything I add or carry after that is just gravy. These belts have a lot to commend them!
Belt Selection, Attachment Systems and Other Considerations
You can get any kind of belt imaginable and just about any kind of material and permutation these days, but for our purposes belts come in one of two major varieties that you can further adapt and customize based on what kind of attachment system you want to use for your gear.
The two major types of belt you should choose from for your survival belt are the pistol or rigger type belt and the larger, bulkier MOLLE or “war” belt. Both are entirely valid choices, and you might very well end up with both of them depending on your objective.
Pistol and rigger type belts have much in common with the everyday belt you probably wear to hold your pants up, are capable of being threaded through belt loops, and might be strong enough to be used as the basis of a climbing or rappelling system if you need that kind of capability.
Any attachments put on these belts will need to be threaded on when the belt is put on or else the pouches must have snaps, straps, velcro or some other on-off capability.
MOLLE belts on the other hand are larger, wider belts with channels of PALS webbing or slots cut into them that will allow you to attach a variety of hangers, holders, pouches and other accoutrement used to hold mission-specific gear like magazines, tools and various other kinds of equipment.
These belts are usually a sort of outer sleeve that will typically rely on a smaller inner belt to give them a little structure and an attachment point so you can put them on, while others depend on a mating velcro belt, or some other keeper system that lets them attach over an existing belt.
The one that you choose is probably dependent on how much gear you envision carrying on your belt, the type of pouches you plan on using, how quickly you want to be able to don the belt, or a combination of these factors.
Obviously, having to take off a belt that you have slid through your belt loops in order to start attaching pouches in a case of a pistol belt or rigger belt is not ideal but is an option. A better option in that case for speed is pouches that can quickly attach or detach.
A large MOLLE belt that is ready to click on with all of your gear or pouches pre-attached is larger and bulkier but the increase in capacity and speed might make it worth it.
There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer here: you might find yourself making use of a few specialty patches to attach to any given belt you are wearing as your EDC option, but have a fully kitted out MOLLE warbelt ready to go in case you need it. Just a few things to keep in mind when reviewing a list of belts below!
The Best Survival Belts
Below are my favorite survival belts, separated into two categories: the first is rigger and pistol belts, ones that are suitable for everyday wear (in a certain kind of dress code!) and the second is MOLLE or war belts, ones suitable for carrying a bunch of gear as an external load.
Keep in mind neither I nor this website makes any claims or guarantees about the suitability of a belt for specific purposes like climbing or rappelling!
Make sure you know what you are doing and know what you need before embarking on any dangerous and high-risk pursuit like that. If you are in doubt, always contact the manufacturer or a qualified professional for advice.
Best Pistol and Rigger Belts
Mean Gene Leather Barbarian Belt
Mean Gene Leather makes some of the best traditionally styled leather pistol belts in the business today, and only they spice them up a little bit with the best in modern hardware to match their old world dedication to craftsmanship and attention to detail.
Their Barbarian belt is described on their website as the belt where “old meets new”, combining a state-of-the-art and heavy duty Cobra buckle typically seen on high-speed low-drag tactical belts with a handsome and hard-wearing leather pistol belt.
The result is a belt that definitely looks at home in the apocalypse, and is still practical to boot. made from two layers of top grain leather for excellent strength and an equally excellent finish, the belt is sewn together with 277-Bonded thread, and an internal core of one inch webbing throughout that increases rigidity and reduces stretching.
You can get this beautiful and hardcore belt in a variety of finishes but know that the nylon webbing “tail” for the buckle will always be black. A d-ring is optional.
For the pistol-carrying prepper who doesn’t care about today’s fashion trends but appreciates the best of old school craftsmanship and new school technology the Barbarian by Mean Gene Leather is unbeatable.
✅ Extraordinary strength and quality for a leather pistol belt. Mean Gene makes top quality leather goods.
✅ One of the very few leather pistol belts that has a tactical style quick-on, quick-off buckle.
✅ This belt is strong and rigid enough to carry a large pistol and several magazines OWB.
❌ The leather is oh-so-nice but it is still prone to all of leather’s problems, and requires more upkeep than synthetic materials.
❌ This is one expensive belt at around $150.
You can get the Barbarian belt from their official website.
Blackhawk CQB Rigger’s Belt
Blackhawk is one of the most well-known names in tactical gear and clothing today, and hands-down their best selling belt (and one of their flagship products) is their CQB rigger’s belt, a no-frills belt with tough, high-strength hardware that can give you assurance should you need to tie off or attach yourself to something.
The design of this belt is common enough, and will be instantly familiar to anyone who has used them before.
1 ¾” wide and made from nylon webbing with a 7,000 pound tensile strength, this belt uses the conventional buckle attachment system typical of rigger belts, and secures the running end with velcro to prevent it from loosening or getting tangled up.
All of the buckles, adapters and other hardware meet PIA-H-7195 standards for confidence in use.
This belt can be had in a variety of low observable colors and multicam, but you should know that the multicam variation only has a 5,000 lb rated tensile strength. That should normally be enough for almost any purpose but make sure you know what you are getting into before you go with the fashionable option!
✅ Durable fabric and hardware means you can rely on this belt to hold up when failure might lead to a bad outcome.
✅ Comfort and ruggedness at a reasonable price.
✅ Widely available; it is the rare tactical gear store or military outfitter that does not carry Blackhawk and this is one of their flagship products.
❌ Not quite rigid enough to be used as a proper pistol belt.
❌ This is a classic design, and no one can argue you should not mess with success but I would prefer to see more refinement.
You can get the Blackhawk CQB Rigger’s Belt from Amazon.
HSGI Cobra Rigger’s Belt
High-Seed Gear Inc.’s rightly famed Rigger belt is made even better with the addition of the incredibly strong and fast release Cobra buckle.
Consider this an obvious upgrade to the standard rigger belt if you need quick-on and quick-off capability or just want a velcro lined interior for additional stability when mated to its matching belt worn through your trousers’ belt loops.
The HSGI Cobra Rigger is made of two separate layers of 1 ¾” webbing that is again good for an astonishing 7,000lbs. of tensile strength (Note: the buckle is good for 4,000 lbs.).
Five beefy rows of Bonded-138 nylon thread are more than ample to keep everything together but for extra insurance both layers are laminated with a super tough adhesive to provide even more strength and rigidity.
As an everyday carry belt, basis for a rappelling harness or just a seriously hard-core inner belt for a larger battle belt system, the HSGI Cobra Rigger is an excellent choice!
✅ The Cobra buckle is a quickly detachable, high-strength upgrade to the classic rigger belt design.
✅ This is a no-brainer choice in its category for those who want the capability to tie off or to integrate with a climbing harness.
❌ Like the vast majority of belts in this category, this is not the best pistol belt in the world, especially when carrying outside the waistband.
❌ HSGI makes great gear, but this is a little spendy for a classic rigger with a better buckle, even one so nice as the Cobra.
Get the HSGI Cobra Rigger’s Belt from Amazon.
5.11 Apex Gunner’s Duty Belt
This belt is an ideal belt for casual wear by tactical personalities or as a clean-looking, sharp and presentable pistol belt.
Made from a rubbery biothane-like material, this 1 ½” belt sports a nicely sculpted hard anodized aluminum buckle, twin retention prongs and is ergonomically pre-curved for maximum comfort and enhanced load-bearing capability. This is not a belt you’re going to be repelling or climbing with, but it isn’t meant for that anyway.
Nonetheless, the belt still has 1,500lbs of tensile strength meaning it can hold up more than adequately should it become snagged or hung up on anything.
This is among the most comfortable of belts on this list and ideal for people who want a belt that they can wear every single day, and then simply load it up for crisis duty by adding pouches and other gear.
Available in black or brown each with a handsome brushed silver buckle. Do note that the buckle is more of the traditional attachment system, and relies only on threading a hook through a corresponding hole in the belt for security.
More than tough enough for everyday wear and even the odd dust-up, but I would not rely on it for any sort of climbing or rappelling duty.
✅ This belt is comfortable enough for all-day wear even when carrying gear, and is ideal for inside the waistband carry of a pistol.
✅ Stylish enough to look at home with many casual outfits. This belt will not immediately skyline you as a mall ninja if you are spotted wearing it.
❌ The traditional hook-and-hole type buckle is entirely adequate for basic use and concealed carry, but is in no way or form acceptable for serious load-bearing.
❌ The rubberized synthetic coating is tough and easy to clean, but if it does get gouged or cracked it will degrade quickly.
You can get the 5.11 Apex Gunner’s Duty Belt on Amazon.
Kore Essentials X1 Gunbelt
Without question the most innovative of the belts on our list, Kore’s X1 series belts utilize an innovative hidden ratcheting track system for adjustment, security and sizing.
The belt works by threading through a buckle that has spring loaded latching teeth that interface with corresponding recessed notches along the backside of the belt. This provides a strong and consistent lock up, and also allows you to fine-tune the size of your belt ¼” at a time.
This is ideal for finally adjusting the belt after adding pouches, or just giving yourself a little bit of slack after a big meal! 10” of adjustment potential in quarter-inch increments means you have a lot of wiggle room.
Ideal for concealed carry, these belts, nonetheless, have the chops to hold up to an externally carried pistol along with plenty of extra magazines and other gear.
Completely secure, durable and comfortable it is hard to go back to basic buckles after using a Kore belt. Available in 1 ½” or 1 ¾” in widths with corresponding buckles all of these belts are a trim 5mm in thickness.
More than most, Kore has nailed the right combination of strength, rigidity and flexibility, making these another superb all-around choice it still has the chops to load up when it is time to go heavy.
The ingenious adjustment mechanism and buckle is just icing on the cake, and all this is made better by a very competitive price.
✅ Ratcheting buckle system is very quick and easy to put on and take off.
✅ Adjustment range is virtually infinite along the length of the track, making fine-tuning of fitment with or without pouches peerless in its class.
✅ Hits the sweet spot on comfort, rigidity and strength.
❌ I have concerns about how well the latching system will hold up if exposed to dirt, mud and dust.
❌ This belt is excellent for EDC carry of a pistol and other gear, but is not truly up to the task of bearing a serious load, a fact which the manufacturer discloses.
You can get the Kore Essentials X1 Gunbelt from Amazon.
Best MOLLE Survival Belts
VTAC Battle Belt
Designed to fit the majority of holsters and other MOLLE compatible gear and pouches on the market, Viking Tactic’s battle belt is exactly what it says on the package: a belt that is at home on the battlefield as it is on the range.
Constructed with a comfy and breathable 3D mesh, this is a heavy duty belt that still tips the scales at only 8 oz.
The entirety of the belt is encircled by a rigid plastic insert that will give you a hand with heavier loads over a longer time. Slots for the innerbelt are spaced every three inches, and tridglides are provided for incorporation with a suspender system.
With durability and plenty of room for gear, all you need to do is add the innerbelt of your choice and you are ready to roll with an excellent second line system.
This is a classic and high-quality take on the time-tested battle belt system and a great starting point for any prepper.
✅ One of the best classic battle belts in the business. Made of high-quality materials by a company founded by former Tier 1 operator.
✅ Excellent capacity: plenty of room for all your gear.
❌ A little pricey for a basic battle belt made from 500d nylon.
❌ The insert intended to help increase rigidity is not much force.
You can get the VTAC Battle Belt on Amazon.
Tactical Tailor Fight Light Battle Belt
Lightweight and fire resistance are both the standout features of the Tactical Tailor Fight Light Battle Belt, being an improvement in almost every way over their classic and greatly loved standard Battle Belt.
Made from 500d Cordura, it represents a significant weight savings over their original 1000d Cordura Battle Belt while giving up a very little in the way of strength. The padded mesh suspension ensures comfort over those long hikes or range sessions and the entirety of the liner is flame-resistant.
This is a battle belt that relies upon an inner channel that completely encircles the main belt and is ready to accept whatever innerbelt works for you. That might be an already heavy-duty gear or patrol belt, or it might be your favorite rigger or pistol belt.
Both will work, with the caveat that larger belts might need to remove a buckle to thread them through.
Specialty slots built-in at the appropriate locations allow compatibility with thigh platforms for subloads or thigh rig holsters and this is accomplished by attaching them directly to the innerbelt versus hanging them from the webbing; a big improvement in comfort and wear characteristics.
Like most battle belts, this one supports suspenders by way of four strategically-placed triglides.
✅ Fire resistant materials is an intelligent and welcome to upgrade on a battle belt.
✅ Highly adaptable for use with various types of innerbelt.
✅ Made with Tactical Tailor’s famous attention to detail right here in the USA.
❌ 500d nylon means this belt is not quite as rugged as you might be expecting compared to the rest of Tactical Tailor’s lineup; they make most of their stuff from 1000d.
You can get the Tactical Tailor Fight Light Battle Belt on Amazon.
HSGI SlimGrip Belt
As you have probably guessed by now (assuming you’re not already familiar with battle belts) they can be large, chunky pieces of equipment. Among such belts, HSGI’s SureGrip belt is one of the best, and is rightly famed for its fly paper-like grip that keeps it from skidding and shifting while worn.
HSGI capitalized on the success of that belt and heeded the calls of people who wanted something a little bit leaner by releasing the SlimGrip belt, a battle belt with all the salient features of the SureGrip only now in a thinner, leaner and lighter package.
Measuring at barely ¾” thick and a hair over 3” tall, the grippy neoprene padding is joyously comfortable and it does indeed stick in place like no other.
While it does give up a channel of webbing in its quest to be lower profile and lighter, you still have plenty of room for much-needed equipment, and an access port at 3- and 9 o’clock on either side that will allow you to attach a thigh rig holster directly to the interior belt.
The channel for the interior belt is also velcro lined if you want to add a mating velcro belt for the ultimate in “one-piece” stability and furnished too with this belt is a polymer stiffener that can also be used as a shim to accomplish this, saving you much wailing and gnashing of teeth.
For preppers who like to stay light, slick and lean this is the best battle belt in the business.
✅ This is everything you love about HSGI’s SureGrip belt, just in a shorter and lighter package.
✅ Perfect for people who want a just-in-case kit in a very small profile without the bulk of traditional battle belts.
❌ Non-skid texture on back side of belt is notorious for becoming clammy against wet clothing.
❌ Fully lined velcro channel provides excellent stability with mating innerbelt but installation can be tricky without shims.
You can get the HSGI SlimGrip Belt on Amazon.
Raptor Tactical ODIN Mark III
Raptor Tactical’s ODIN Mark III battle belt is a highly refined iteration that represents their take on the classic bit of “battle rattle”. This is a two-part system: the outer belt is stiff, rigid and comes with a Cobra buckle to fasten the whole thing together.
The innerbelt is a comfortable and flexible velcro belt that mates the outer belt to your body. Traditional MOLLE compatibility is present as expected, but instead of bulky sewn on loops of thick nylon we have instead laser cut slots instead.
This increasingly popular method is executed superbly here, reducing both weight and bulk and keeping everything nicely tidy and low profile.
It is difficult to overstate just how nice and how slim the ODIN belt is. You can tell this belt has been crafted with immense care, and although it does not have the cargo capability of some of the larger classically styled battle belts this is definitely the belt to get if you can spring for it.
Keep in mind this is a complete system and includes the innerbelt whereas most battle belts do not.
Scarcely larger than the innerbelt that secures it, this is truly the ideal solution for a prepper who wants the lowest possible profile on a proper battle belt while sacrificing none of the strength or agility.
✅ One of the most refined modern war belts. Every detail is executed perfectly.
✅ This belt system is a complete package ready to mount pouches to and where exactly as it comes from the factory.
❌ While it is very nice and you get what you pay for, this is an expensive belt.
❌ Significantly less real estate on the exterior compared to old fashioned battle belts.
You can get the Raptor Tactical ODIN Mark III on Amazon.
A classic take on the big body battle belt, the ATS Warbelt has all of the features you want in such a system and none that you don’t.
Sporting three rows of MOLLE webbing around its entire circumference, the ATS Warbelt has an entirely velcro lined inner channel for use with any rigger belt or a specialty mating velcro belt.
Unique to this belt is that the entirety of the bottom edge is open, allowing you to access the innerbelt at any point for hanging subloads or thigh rigs from it.
Also featured are four contact points for integrating suspenders and dense, comfy quarter-inch closed cell foam padding and a non-slip textured backside that will help keep the belt in place no matter how you choose to wear it.
This is among the most cost-effective MOLLE belts on this list, and is made entirely in the United States from high-quality materials.
This is not a belt packed with cutting-edge tech or fabrics, but it is proven, affordable, and most of all durable. If you want no-frills performance and plenty of room for all your gear, consider the ATS Warbelt. Just don’t forget to grab an inner belt!
✅ Traditional profile and very durable for an attractive price.
❌ Open bottom edge is easy to access, but a filth magnet.
Get the ATS Warbelt on Amazon.
Beware “Weird” Belts!
Before we wrap things up, I wanted to give you one warning to keep in mind when you go shopping:
Beware any belt that has some strange gadgetry as a selling point!
What do I mean by gadgetry? I specifically mean a belt with integrated tools, weapons or some other such nonsense.
There’s lots of stuff out there being made by a lot of questionable companies (and even a few reputable ones) that is the very definition of putting the wagon ahead of the horse.
I have seen it all: belts with transforming buckles that turn into multi-tools or are actually small fixed blade daggers; large and ostentatious cowboy/western buckles that actually hold a small revolver hidden in plain sight as a decoration; I have even seen some belts with built-in, hidden garrote wires!
Folks, this stuff is a bad, bad idea in general since the belts that host these gadgets are invariably of poor quality, and barely capable of even holding your pants up most of the time.
Additionally, many of the tools or weapons concealed by these belts have resulted from a visit by the Good Idea Fairy and not any serious R&D or engineering.
There is value in concealed weapons and tools, but you are far better off engineering such devices yourself by learning the appropriate skill sets then you are relying on some off-the-shelf item marketed to gunshow jabronies.
If you need a good belt, buy a high quality one that is good at being a belt.
There are all kinds of ways to hide small tools on and about your person for various contingencies that do not depend in the least on a specialized compartment or attachment system in a specialized belt. You have been warned!
What About Paracord Belts, Tom?
Considering all preppers abiding love and admiration of paracord in all shapes, colors, forms and guises, what I’m about to say is liable to get to me put against the wall and shot.
I know everybody likes to carry paracord however they can; on bracelets, on key fobs, on zipper pulls, as rifle slings, wrapped around knife handles and, yes, as belts.
I have seen plenty of homemade and commercially available paracord belts over the years, and though I understand the appeal I would not recommend you buy or even make one. Here’s why:
They suck! You heard me, they flat-out suck. They lack adjustability, they lack rigidity, and they’re often times too thick to weave through the loops, snaps and straps of various pouches. It is simply a more complicated and less efficient way to carry any given quantity of paracord.
I get it, they do look cool and it is even cooler if you made it yourself, but if a thing cannot do what it was made to do, well, there is no use in having it.
I am all for keeping an emergency stash wrapped around a knife handle or as a compact fob or lanyard on a key ring or similar tool, but the belts made from our beloved carry just plain suck.
Bottom line: Skip paracord belts entirely, and just carry a hank of paracord instead.
A good belt you can count on to go through the apocalypse with you (or just a minor crisis) while keeping all of your most needed gear close at hand is invaluable for preppers, and readily bridges the laid carriage gap between pants pockets and your BOB or INCH bag.
There are almost as many ways to tackle survival belt setup as there are ways to approach prepping itself. Review the options on this list, and see if you don’t spot one that will work for you.
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