Now this is a pretty specialized piece of equipment. However, some of you may be in the market for a quality vest for use as a BOB or for SAR work. I have been looking for one for a few years now and finally found one! SoTech SAR Vest
I have tried a number of vests to use for SAR work… specifically I wanted a vest that I could carry everything I needed for 24 hours in the field as well as some medical gear. Most of these vests we’re failures, some worse than others. I thought I’d never find the answer, unless I had one custom made… Until I found the SoTech SAR vest, not perfect but very close!
My initial impression of the vest was that it was extremely well made, quality material and stitching. All the plastic fittings are USA made. The vest is completely adjustable for fit, and a large pocket on the back expands to hold a camelbak and then some! Two large utility pockets, secured by Velcro and plastic buckles, are big enough for a liter nalgene bottle and then some. A large radio pocket on the upper, right strap was big enough to hold a Bendex King GPH5102 radio yet adjusted down to hold a JT1000 easily! The two zippered pockets held more that I though they would. The “GPS/Note” pocket is an odd size for this purpose, but it held my signal gear (SDU 5/E strobe, pen flare kit and signal mirror) well. I added an Eagle holster for a 5.11 vest to the large utility pocket and my SIG P220 fit well, with two magazines fitting into the one of magazine/tool pouch. The flashlight pouch sewn to the right sided large utility pouch held a Surefire 9P sized light with room to spare. A small orange panel is hidden inside a back pocket to be pulled out when needed; I’d make this feature bigger.
An oddity I have yet to figure out its intended use is a map pocket on the very back of the vest. Although its contents are retrievable, items are not easily placed into the pocket while wearing the vest. So, I decided this was good place for some TP and larger scale (1:100,000+) maps rather than the maps I’d be using frequently.
When my vest arrived I transferred over the contents of my Eagle Medic Vest
and found that I had room to spare! So, out came my BOB bag… and I was able to fit everything I wanted to carry with me for 24-48 hours in it! (photos to follow)
Next I needed to test it. All loaded out (including 4L of water) my vest weight in at just under 48lbs, I wore my kit all day during a recent training exercise (same one I tested the Thermo-Bivy on), 15km+ of cross country hiking and scrambling. I was very happy, the vest distributed the load well and I was able to move fast without the load unbalancing me. All pockets on the front and side of the vest were easily accessed and I was able to draw my SIG quickly after a little practice.
It rode well, but needed some adjustment and I rearranged where I carried what and I added a pouch to the abdomen straps for my GPS. Then I headed north. I headed out on another hike, this time 20km across country at 5800 to 7500 feet. Again I scrambled and climbed, pushed through thickets and brambles, even slid down a 20 foot cliff (not intentionally)… This time I was even more impressed with the vest! After the adjustments, it rode even better! The pockets stayed secure even in the brambles and the vest suffered no damage… not no serious damage, no damage period! I was even able to run with it for a little while.
Now, like I said before, this isn’t a vest for everyone but I love it. I would add a strobe/GPS pocket that opens to the bottom (secured with Velcro and buckle) high on the opposite side of the radio pocket, I’d also add plastic buckles to double secure the back pouch and make the orange signal panel bigger or better yet… make the whole vest in yellow! But, olive is okay for now!