Back in MAKE Volume 05, Chicago Sun-Times technology columnist Andy Ihnatko offered two fun gear-related DIYs: one on how to get VIP treatment by dressing the part of a pro photographer and the other on using a gunbelt and leg holster to hold your gear. The caption that ran in the magazine under the images of Andy below was: “How flexible is a gunbelt system for carrying your stuff? Flexible enough that you’ll no longer bristle at a concert event’s ‘No Bags or Backpacks’ policy. I keep a pouch containing iPod speakers, a canister of Pringles, and a thermos of frozen dacquiris … or as I like to call it, the ‘Date-In-A-Bag.'” Andy makes me smile, and I do love repurposing. Check it out. You can also still pick up a back issue of Volume 05, the Outdoor Issue, in the Maker Shed.
By Andy Ihnatko
We geeks have a crackhead-like dependence on personal electronics, gizmos, tools, and other modern fetish objects. Things like pocket computers, smartphones, LED flashlights, USB thumbdrives, multitools, ZipLinq cables, notepads, digital cameras, spare batteries, and GPS units enhance our lives in obvious and inexplicable ways, but we can’t deny that living in the Push-Button World of Tomorrow greatly complicates the otherwise straightforward task of changing one’s pants.
Every night, you have to empty all of your pockets. Every morning, you have to fill ’em up again. And portable pockets (in the form of belt pouches) are a mere Band-Aid solution. Unless your electronics are machine-washable, you still need to unthread them from your belt and reinstall them over and over again, morning after morning. Decent men and women change their pants every day, so what else can you do?
Well, you can head off to your nearest police supply store and buy yourself a genuine, professional duty belt. With your pouches suspended off of that wide band of stiff, thick nylon or leather (structurally speaking, it acts more like a supporting frame than a belt), a simple click of the buckle leaves 6 pounds and $1,200 worth of personal electronics hanging off your bedpost until you get dressed again in the morning. And no, whistling the Clint Eastwood theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly as you put it on isn’t at all inappropriate.
My day-to-day gunbelt configuration consists of a medium-size pouch for my cellphone, iPod, and PDA, plus a holder for my Leatherman tool. But with a drawer full of pouches purchased over the years at various camping and photo stores, I can easily add capacity to suit the situation.
For the ultimate in added capacity and conven-ience, buy yourself a leg holster, which allows you to quick-draw your smartphone, even when you’re sitting down or wearing a jacket. Tactical Tailor (tacticaltailor.com) manufactures equipment for urban SWAT units and Army Rangers. They make a “Modular Leg Rig” that can be custom-configured to your specific needs, along with a wide array of pouches that can easily be perverted to nonlethal, geeky needs and will hold everything but your PowerBook.
When I attend trade shows and conferences, my usual gunbelt is supplemented by TT’s small leg rig. I’ve configured it with their adjustable Small Radio Pouch (which is perfect for a PDA or a chunky smartphone), a Small Utility Pouch for my camera, plus the real superstar of their line: the compact, compartmented Multi-Purpose Pouch, flexible enough to hold anything from a folding PDA keyboard to a palmcorder. You can even mount most third-party belt pouches to the leg rig, using Tactical Tailor’s “Malice Clip” system.
Gunbelts are a perfect answer to the blight of personal electronics. I’ve been wearing one for years, and its value has only increased with recent tightening of airport and building security. Yes, indeed: I routinely walk through airport security while wearing a police gunbelt and a SWAT tactical leg holster, and I haven’t been held in a windowless room without charge even once. To the contrary, screeners and passengers are relieved to encounter a geek who can get all of his personal gear on the conveyor and walk through the archway after just two seconds of fiddling with a buckle, instead of holding up the line for five minutes while he desperately curses and pats himself down.
Just, um, be sure to refer to your gunbelt as a “utility belt” while you’re in the facility.