Monday, April 11, 2016

Amateur Radio Tactical Vest

For years I have used different methods of carrying the necessities that I feel I cannot leave home without while being involved in amateur radio on the day.
Now this almost always includes one or two HT's as well, and for some time I've used a radio chest harness in several different versions that allowed me to carry several HT's, but did not readily allow for carrying much of anything else.

Always looking for another method of carrying the various items of importance to me throughout the course of the day, I continued off and on to look at the various types of vests available, and for the most part these vests were of the military type of vest that allows for customization related to the users needs.
Although at first glance they appeared to be the answer to my needs, upon closer examination I realized they were great if you were in the military or part of a police force, but were not really suited to amateur radio use.

Then I remembered the fact that photographers have been wearing fly-fishing vests for years, allowing them to stash filters, lens caps, lens cleaning cloths, spare batteries, pens, note books, sun glasses, etc., and everything else that they might need while out on a shoot.
I still go there myself, as I have a vest that I use on occasion depending on the circumstances while out working as a photographer.

Now many of you know, or may not know that I have been a avid fly-fisherman for the past 40 years and continue to be so.
Living in Alberta where some of the best fly-fishing on the planet exists, plays a big part as to the reason why.
Back about 20 years ago, I decided to move away from wearing a fly-fishing vest, and transitioned to a fly-fishing chest-pack as a lot of other fly-fisherman have done.
The reason that fly-fisherman wore fly-fishing vests for years I suspect was or still is steeped in tradition in the art of casting a fly over the chalk streams of the UK and many European countries where fly-fishing originated from.
But when it comes to wading and fishing the streams that lie along the eastern slope of the Rockies in southern Alberta, where men are men, and while fishing the wilderness areas we find ourselves in, fly-fishing takes on a different meaning.
 So we reinvented ourselves in regards to what we wanted to carry on our persons, or allowing one to be more agile while wearing gear more oriented to fighting the current of a raging mountain stream, or the necessities required to be carried possibly related to fending off a bear, or the.....well you get the picture.

So we come full circle back to where I started looking for a more effective way of carrying the personal items on my person while out and about playing radio, or photographer, or just plain knocking about on any given day.
I had a eureka moment while looking through my vast collection of fly-fishing stuff, and coming across my old fly-fishing vest long retired, I realized upon closer examination it had potential to be repurposed as a amateur radio tactical vest that would suit my needs.
For those of you not familiar with a fly-fishing vest, they have various bits and pieces sewed in place not related to being what is required for our purpose, or at least my purpose as to what I wanted it to be.
So I set about to reinvent or actually to re-purpose this vest, by first, removing the sheep-skin-patch sewn on the front pocket for storing and drying fly-patterns that are being used while on the stream.
The next step was to remove all the loops related to attaching a landing net, and the loop that is positioned to hold your fly-rod while you used your fingers to tie on a new fly pattern or a new leader, or possibly a tippet, or any of the other reasons you need your hands free while standing in the middle of a trout stream, and you wouldn't dream of allowing your favorite fly rod to come in contact with the water, or possibly with the rocks on the bottom of the stream your standing in.

Once these modifications were made, and a trial run was made with various items and an HT placed in the pockets, I still wasn't happy, as there was something about my new tactical vest that just wasn't right.
Then it hit me, the color was wrong, as typical of a lot of fly-fishing apparel, this vest was sewed together from your basic tan color material, and it just didn't cut it now that it was repurposed as my new ham radio tactical vest.

I then did the next sensible thing that came to me, and that was to visit my local sewing outlet where I picked up a package of dye in the green color seen in the photos of the vest.
Several hours later after working though the steps required to dye my vest green, and then allowing it to dry, I was happy with the new appearance of my new ham radio tactical vest repurposed from my retired fly-fishing vest.
Just so you know, not all fly-fishing vests are created equal, and although they may look similar in appearance, they can have differences. I made sure before I altered this vest, that I liked the way the radios carried, how my sun glasses stored, my favorite flashlight stored, where my Bluetooth earbud went, how my smartphone carried, and how all my other daily carries fit in their respective pockets. Not seen in the photo are the additional internal pockets that exist, including the slant pocket on the inside that allows my second HT to be carried when required with the antenna poking out of the center at a nice angle not allowing the antenna to interfere with the carry.
The main HT pocket can be seen in the two lead photos of the vest, where the antenna attached to my Kenwood D72 is sticking out of the pocket, and is pulled over on itself and fastened down with the hook and loop patch that initially was used to hold a fly rod stationary while tying on a new fly pattern.
This has worked out perfectly for me, and my D72 is easily removed when I wish to use it. The pocket next to my HT pocket houses my high-output flashlight, used for those times the light positioned on the front of my cap doesn't cut it.
The back of the vest also has a large zippered pocket, that will allow me to carry my take-down-yagi as pictured in the photo of my fly-fishing chest-pack, or possibly a jacket depending on the day.
Since the re-purposing and the completion of my new tactical ham radio vest as pictured here, and after wearing and using it for a month, I am very pleased with how it performs under actual usage in the field.
NOTE.....all photos expand.
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