While I was in the Marines, I served as a combat correspondent, deploying twice to Afghanistan with 1st Battalion, 6th Marine Regiment. While I had a fair amount of training on how to do my job, it never included instruction on how to set up my kit so I could work comfortably and effectively.

A photo of how the author set up a modular tactical vest, or MTV, with his camera.

Fortunately, trial and error teaches you a lot and very quickly. Like, never bring a flash on a foot patrol, it snaps off in seconds. Or don’t take more than one camera lens per camera body. You don’t want to be swapping lenses on a dusty road or in a muddy field. If you need a wide angle and a zoom, bring two cameras, or just man up and move closer to your subject.

I’ve set up a Marine Corps MTV, short for modular tactical vest, the way I wore my flak while deployed. I used a canteen pouch as a holster for my camera and lens, so it wouldn’t swing around while on the move. The canteen pouch also has small pockets on the side where you can store batteries and extra CF cards. I would secure my camera on the top left MOLLE strap on the front of the flak and not through the shoulder strap. The reason being, I had my rifle sling through the right shoulder strap and if I ran the camera strap through the opposite side, I wouldn’t be able to get my jacket off in a hurry, or more importantly, a corpsman wouldn’t be able to.

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Some items have been omitted, like a CamelBak, tactical belt, and the always uncomfortable combat diaper. Though new body armor and gear is likely to change in the next few years, the layout of your kit probably won’t.

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Here’s how I set up my flak whenever I went out on patrol.

While everybody has their personal preference, this is what worked best for me. If you’ve set yours up differently or know a better way to do it, drop your suggestions in the comments section.