Combat leaders and not just officers are carrying all kinds of small, non-death-dealing items to support the mission: smart cards, notebooks, maps, map pens, batteries, navigation equipment, blades, shades and more.
And that's just the line guys. If you're a medic or an engineer, or in any gear-ish MOS, you struggle to keep everything close at hand but out of the way until you need it.
To help you tame the yard sale on your chest, GearScout drafted a short list of admin pouches ranging from svelte to mega, each made in the U.S. and designed with feedback from the field.
From biggest to smallest:
ulu Nylon Mega Admin Pouch, $65
If size matters, this is the pouch for you. Just plan on surrendering the entire upper-chest PALS field of your vest. The Mega Admin will swallow a squad leader's kit and leave room for dessert.
Platoon leaders, engineers, explosive ordnance disposal techs, combat communicators and tactical air controllers can keep their entire kits in this rig and move it between vest and pack without fear of leaving something behind.
The Mega Admin works just as well on a pack or shoulder bag. Need an admin section on your RAID pack? Here you go.
Two bellowed pockets out front give you fast access to a notebook and pens on the left and a gadget on the right. That elasticized gadget pocket is great for a little Motorola radio or hand-held GPS.
The full-sized Garmin GPSMAP 62 fit easily, and the adjustable sleeve cover secured the unit in place. A loop of webbing is even sewn to the cover for dummy cord security. Also on the outside are loops for chemlites and an elastic loop on the bottom that can accommodate a tourniquet.
Inside, the drawbridge opening is secured with a single cord lock, and the back panel is sewn with three pockets, each with elastic webbing to secure the contents while a couple of plastic D-rings offer more dummy cordage.
The inside front face can take any Velcro-fastened accessory, including Zulu's own $15 add-on, a clear, letter-sized map sleeve.
The pouch holds smart cards, mapping gear, tools and spare batteries while offering a drop-down platform for writing and navigation. It's made of 1,000-denier Cordura with burly Lenzip zippers and heavy-duty elastic webbing, and weighs 11 ounces.
Size: 7.25" x 9.75" x 2"
Colors: coyote brown, OD green, black, MultiCam, Army UCP.
Original SOE Gear NSW Admin Panel, $55
Need more room but still want a low profile? The NSW Admin Panel has a drawbridge opening to keep you from dumping your gear, a Velcro field to attach your GPS for heads-up navigation, a sleeve for a Leatherman and smaller sleeves and keepers for map pens, chemlites and such.
Three flat pockets hold map tools, notebooks or smart cards. Unlike the other admin pouches covered here, the NSW was clearly meant to ride on your chest. Its wide and slim design rides out of the way until needed.
The single-zipper layout proved fast and easy to use. Inside, it accommodated lots of admin gear without ever making us hunt for an item in a crevice. The drawbridge feature kept things from falling out, but the center loop did get in the way a bit.
Instead of using flat webbing out front, SOE made the PALS rows out of sewn-over and backed Cordura. The thread lines make the fabric stiffer than webbing, so weaving PALS through it is much easier. The pouch is made of 1,000-denier Cordura.
Size: 7" x 7" x 1.5"
Colors: black, coyote, olive, foliage and khaki. Add $5 for MultiCam or Army UCP.
Milspec Monkey Stealth Admin Pouch, $36
Deceptively sized, this pouch holds a lot without overwhelming your available space. It also has a novel two-pocket setup that combines the easy access of a drop-front pouch with the security of an additional zip-top pocket.
At 10 ounces, this one's a little chunky, but then again, its body does have heavy-duty 1,000-denier Cordura construction and two separate pockets.
The interior of each main panel is lined. That might seem like an aesthetic choice at first, but it keeps things from damaging the skeletal stitching. Think of how many times your knife clip will slide against those stitches coming in and out. All the other internal pockets are 500-denier to keep the weight down.
The Stealth is set up to carry the usual assortment of 4- by-6-inch notebook-based gear; a protractor fits in any of the sleeve pockets; and four map pens ride horizontally inside the front flap.
The base of the outer pocket is lined with Velcro to secure the clear vinyl map sleeve (included). The inner zip-top pocket is set up to hold fatter gear such as lights and multitools with elastic. The zippers are offset and can be arranged so that you always open the correct pocket, even in the dark.
Outside, flat web loops on the sides reinforce the main pocket stitching and hold a pen or slim flashlight, and a drain grommet for the main pocket helps your gear dry out after a dunking.
Around back, a triple column of PALS makes it easy to attach to your vest or pack. A couple of MALICE clips are thrown in to get you going right out of the box.
Size: 6.75" x 6.25" x 2.5"
Colors: MultiCam, ACU, coyote, tan, foliage, OD green and black.
Tactical Tailor Escape and Evasion Pouch, $45
The E&E is the micro of admin pouches. It comes in horizontal and vertical configurations. Both were made to hold a schoolhouse E&E kit in as compact a format as possible signal mirror, compass, chemlites, blood chit, etc.
The interior is a set of layered sleeves that secure with Velcro. All pockets are sewn to be upright when the pouch is fully open.
Weighing about 5 ounces, these sleek little pouches won't take up much PALS real estate. The vertical stands out because it takes up only two columns of PALS, remains flat and will stay out of the way until needed. When not used in its E&E role, it can be a great small admin panel.
The only puzzler on the pouch is the use of metal zipper pulls. They're great if you want to make a little music everywhere you go. Otherwise, get a pair of diagonal cutters, snip those off, and replace them with some gutted 550 cord.
The E&E comes with two long MALICE clips to attach to modular equipment.
Size: vertical: 6.5" x 4.75" x 1.25"; horizontal: 7" x 5" x 1.25"
Colors: coyote brown, OD, ACU, black and MultiCam.