The cornerstone of a modern man’s wardrobe is the belt. Despite what certain fashion trends say otherwise, one’s pants or shorts should not be sagging down past the ass. A good belt keeps your clothes in the right spot, and also provides a stable platform for all of the gadgets and doo-dads one may hang from the belt.
Keeping a device closer to your body protects it from leaning away from you and extending beyond your mental model for how “big” you are. This puts high-dollar items such as a smartphone at risk for damage. Tools, such as a utility knife, multi-tool, etc may be sturdy enough to withstand a bonk, but may risk injury to yourself or whatever you hit.
Those who practice on-body concealed carry need a great belt. A great belt supports their pistols and related equipment, but also to keep these items close enough to the body as to aid in concealment and retention.
One problem with “fashion” quality belts is that they are made out of flimsy leather or nylon. The belt may be fine for the first few months of use, but over time mobile phones, flashlights, multi-tools, and other things will start to fatigue the material. The belts may sag at the anchor points, or it may stretch to the point where the objects are hanging away from your belt.
For some items (again with the smartphone example) this is just annoying or a chance to damage an expensive device. A handgun that sags away from the body is more likely to press against the shirt. It is also less likely to stay in place, which causes a problem should you engage in day-to-day activities like bending down to retrieve something. The worst case scenario is that you may need your pistol and it is moving around too much for you to get a quick grip.
There are specialty-made heavy duty “gun” or “duty” belts made for strength and durability. Here are my thoughts on the Frequent Flyer belt by Wilderness Tactical, and the thought process that led me to purchase it.
There are many belts built specifically for heavy duty use. Some are made out of very stiff leather. They have a very nice, fashionable appearance and will last a long time. However, these belts may be uncomfortable at first due to the thickness and stiffness of the leather, and over time the top of the belt may “roll” or mushroom out as your gear and/or body pushes against it. Furthermore, they can be expensive — ranging from $100 on up.
Some leather belts have a strip of kydex built in. Kydex is a stiff but flexible polymer that is used for many purposes, including molded holsters. This further adds to the stiffness of the belt, but again at a cost to comfort. Some leather belts can be made out of thinner leather thanks to a kydex insert, but again these belts are pretty pricey.
On the other end of the spectrum you have textile belts. You may have worn a primitive version of these if you were alive during the 70s or 80s or if you participated in scouts. Textile belts tend to be more comfortable out of the box, are less expensive, and stand up better to wet/sweaty conditions. Modern textile belts are built out of rugged ballistic nylon or similar blended materials.
The downside to textile belts is that they look, well, a little too casual. This may not concern you if you leave your shirts untucked. If you are going out for the evening, work in an environment that requires a tucked-in shirt, or just prefer to tuck your shirts in, then the textile belts may not be right for you.
Since I wear my shirts untucked when I am at home, the idea of wearing a big swath of nylon around my waist didn’t bother me. I bought the Frequent Flyer belt by Wilderness Tactical for $27 before shipping from MidwayUSA. I figured I could deal with the looks for 20% of the cost of a leather heavy duty belt.
Sizing and construction
The Frequent Flyer belt by Wilderness Tactical can be purchased in a three widths: 1.25″, 1.5″, and 1.75.” I chose a 1.5″ wide belt, since that fits the belt loops of most casual wear clothes like jeans or cargo shorts. I wanted to get the widest belt I could, but the next model up — 1.75″ — would be too wide for my loops.
The Frequent Flyer belt gets its name because the two loops that form the buckle are made out of Delrin, a plastic known for its light weight, durability, and resistance to corrosion due to moisture or exposure to some types of gas. The reason the Frequent Flyer belt uses the Delrin buckles is because it is strong enough to hold the belt (and goodies hanging thereupon) together but still allow you to pass through metal detectors without the need to remove the belt. Tools and whatnot get checked into security, you walk through, you pick up your stuff on the other side.
I bought the belt because it was the only one that Midway USA had in stock in my size. The Instructor belt features a very sturdy buckle that can be used for emergency rappelling and other things, but it was on a three week backorder. Wilderness Tactical has quite a reputation.
The belt itself is made out of nylon. The base model is a made up of three stitches’ worth of material. I bought the five stitch, which means it can carry heavier weight on it without folding the top of the belt over. There is also a Combat Shooters Model (CSM) that is even thicker, but I passed. The downside to the thicker stitch weights is that the belt becomes less flexible, and therefore less comfortable.
The belt is held fast by looping the “free” end through both rings and then cinching it down through the end ring. The end of the belt is anchored by hook-and-loop closures. The fuzzy end of the hook-and-loop is on the part of the belt that goes through your belt loops. The “toothy” end is on the underside of the free end. This can be a problem if you get a belt that is slightly too long, as I will get to in a moment.
Observations on daily wear
I wear this belt whenever I am not at work. This also means that the belt is responsible for securing a Glock 19, a Glock 27, and a spare magazine. It is very important for the belt to be strong enough to hold these tools close to my body. It is also important that the belt not be so strong that it causes discomfort from routine wear for long periods of time.
At first I was used to wearing “fashion” belts, and as such has to really tighten them down to secure my handgun. I ratcheted the Frequent Flyer down the same amount, and my hips were chafed and sore by the end of the day. It took me a while to figure out that the Frequent Flyer was strong enough that I could loosen the belt a little bit — and the belt could still hold my gear in place. Having a stronger, more rigid belt actually made carrying more comfortable. I now wear the belt all day without discomfort.
I find the belt to be a little too long for me. The sizing has to be pretty precise due to the free end of the belt and the hook-and-loop system used to hold it down. I feel like the 32″ belt would be too short, but the 34″ belt I have is too long. The free end of the belt is just too long to easily tuck underneath the belt loop on my jeans and shorts. This means that I can either leave the last 1/4″ or so of the free end unsecured, or I can further loosen my belt so that the entire free end is seated in the hook-and-loop.
I don’t like loosening the belt, as this makes all of my tools drift away from my body. I don’t like leaving the last 1/4″ unsecured, as it tends to snag on things and make that signature ripping sound as it detaches. It is an annoyance, but not nearly as bad as the design of the buckles.
The buckle rings are pretty thick. The rings stack on top of each other in a slightly offset pattern. The width of the joined buckle rings is actually thicker than two buckles because of this design, and causes quite a “print” on the front of my shirts. I don’t think anyone would notice unless I pointed it out, but if I had to buy the belt over again I would advise against the ring design. This is less of an issue if you carry behind the hips or small of the back. I don’t do that, so this is a big concern of mine.
Taken from the Wilderness Tactical Web site. This isn’t me.
Note how thick the ring buckles are once the belt is fastened. Also note the left side of the belt, and how it is too long and has to be fastened over the belt loop. Mine isn’t that bad, but it’s a drag.
So far I’ve owned the Frequent Flyer belt for a little more than three months. The belt still looks brand new, is still very supportive, and has proven to be quite comfortable. My only real regret are the ring buckles. I should have waited for the standard Instructor belt with its metal, flatter-fitting buckles. I don’t have any practical use for the detector-friendly Delrin buckles, and I travel so infrequently these days that I don’t really mind taking my belt off.
All of that being said, for about $35 shipped the Wilderness Tactical Frequent Flyer belt is a very good deal. If you are new to concealed carry and need to stretch your gear budget, or if you are just budget-conscious, this may be the belt for you.
If you are a proponent of appendix carry, you may want to buy the Instructor belt with its flat buckles instead. It may be worth the wait.