So Like many of my projects, alcohol was involved in this projects inception.
At several points at conferences I have expressed a desire to be "That Guy" that does an entire talk at Defcon or other hacker con while not wearing pants. Walk up on stage, stand at the podium, drop trou, start talking (remember the alcohol involved) and give the whole talk with my pants around my ankles.
While in Prague for CONfidence, and while once again loaded thanks to the orginizers hospitality, I told my assembled drinking companions about this desire to the usual looks ranging from suprise to dismay to disgust. This time however I was challenged to actually do it. One of my hosts for the conference, Anna, challenged me to not wear pants while doing a talk at the next CONfidence. In exchange she offered a personal tour of Kracow, Poland (the location of the next CONfidence). Well, I of course accepted.
Wanting to maintain some decorum as a guest in the country, add to that, the fact I could'nt find any red heart boxer shorts, I did what any good hacker would do, I looked for ways to hack the bet. I finally settled on the idea of a Kilt. It's not pants, and it meets the criteria.
Now of course that I want to get a kilt that meets my needs, style and daily lifestyle. This usually means black, rugged and able to hold lots of crap (tools, not the others kind). The problem is that Kilts, by thier very nature, do not lend themselves to cargo capacity as they do not have pockets. The typical way a Kilt wearing person carrys things like wallets and cell phones is a Sporran. A Sporran is a small pouch worn on the front of the kilt that takes the place of pockets. Most of the time these are made of leather or some other natural material (like dead animals!) which is not my personal style and not something I would want to wear. I went looking for a ballistic nylon sporran or something else similar. I found references to some tactical sporrans with concealed carry compartments for firearms, but nothing like I wanted and even then, these units all seemed to not be available anymore.
Those that know me know that my daily wear is predominantly US Army, black BDU's. They put up with everything that I've thrown at them, they look good, are functional and fairly cheap. I've recently been admiring the utility of military MOLLE webbing on tactical load carrying gear on bags and backpacks.
Wanting to get a new laptop bag with interchangeable pouches so I could quickly swap out what gear I had with me depending on the job led me to learn alot about it. I started looking for MOLLE/PALS pouches that could work as a Sporran. I eventually found reference to the Milspec Monkey Combat Admin pouch which is about 7" by 7" and looks like a Sporran when seen side by side. I figured that the Sporran, along with some other tactical pouches, I would be set for gear carrying capacity.
Now that I'd solved the cargo carrying problem, I needed a kilt to put it on. A quick google search found the camo print kilts at sportkilt.com which were immediatly appealing. They are built for sports and rough activities, so I knew that they would put up with my daily beatings. They are also a similar material to my daily wear BDU pants, so something I was more than happy to trust.
The main problem now was how to attach the Sporran and the Pouches to a kilt. The typical MOLLE/PALS webbed belt is 3" and not meant to hold up your pants, it sits on top and is there just to hold gear so it's too thick for belt loops. They are kind of impractical for daily wear. The solution I came up with was to put the PALS ladder system on the Kilt itself. The problem with this was the execution. I had neither the equipment nor the skill to stitch the nylon webbing around the circumference of the Kilt if/when I ordered it. So, I emailed the feedback address at Sportkilt. I ended up conversing with Seamus who indicated that the idea had crossed thier mind, but they had not actually tried it. After many emails back and forth I found all the specifications for the webbing, the stitching pattern, dimensions and other details. In addition I also wanted to have buckle closures on the kilt, but using the same nylon webbing and plastic buckles instead of metal buckles and leather. I settled on two rows of 1" wide webbing, stiched down flat every 1.5" (with a 1" gap between rows (the basic PALS/MOLLE spec)). This is the minimum to properly attach a small pouch since you need to weave the straps and need at least 3 rows (a row on the pouch between the two on the garment).
I ordered the Kilt in Black since it would be the most useful and color compatible, as opposed to one of the camo prints. I volunteered my order as a test for them to figure out the materials and effort involved. Seamus and Sportkilt would add the webbing as a prototype for free (Dont go expecting the same thing if you order one. Thanks Seamus!). Order submitted and time went by. Several emails back and forth indicated that the customizing shop had some difficulties wrapping thier brains around the design, but seemed to get it done after some false starts. It took a while but I was in no rush. Winter weather in northern Canada is not Kilt weather by any stretch. In the mean time I obtained the Milspec Monkey Admin pouch and obtained a couple smaller pouches for my multi-tool and other such common carried items.
I found a local retailer, Drop Zone Tactical who manufactures MOLLE pouches for the Canadian military and Law enforcement. Company President, Brian Kroon was great to deal with on selecting pouches and the finer arts of MOLLE weaving. This decidedly non-military sized hacker felt quite at home, which is a nice change from some stores who treat you like crap and dont even make an effort to earn your money. For this reason I went back when I needed pouches for my new laptop bag.
The Kilt arrived at the end of March to my delight. I immediatly dropped trou and put it on. My measurements were spot on and it fit very well. It was well built and as a kilt itself, it's well worth it anyways. Obviously I was interested in the webbing since that was the whole reason. The Sporran connected to the webbing perfectly. The dimensions were spot on for the webbing, at least for the front. The pouch worked wonderfully as a Sporran and sat nicely where it was supposed too. I immediatly focued on the back where I wanted to add at least 3 pouches (camera, flashlight, multi-tool). I threaded the straps on the pouches and was happy to once again see that the webbing was on spec and they attached nice and solid as they were supposed to and sat nicely centered on my back.
Overall, the webbing worked great. However I would have made a few changes (keep in mind, this was a prototype).
The Kilt was ordered with 3" belt loops. This was done as an afterthought in case I did need to wear a belt. The loops in a couple places partially cover the PALS loop and mean that it's tricky to thread a pouch into the loop. Moving the belt loop a few millimeters so it's directly over the stitching on the edge of the PALS loop would solve this. It's one of those lessons learned.
The webbing was also a lower weave than normally found on Mil-Spec gear (not an issue in this case). I would have liked to have used a higher (like 1000) Denier nylon strapping just to stay on spec and it has a habit of not fraying or shrinking after lots of washings and use.
If I were to do it again, I'd opt for 3 rows of PALS webbing directly adjacent instead of the 2 with the blank space in the middle. This is not to the specifications for MOLLE/PALS, but for things like the Sporran it allows you to adjust the level with more variation. It also allows for smaller items like pens or a pocket knife to be put in a multitude of places as well as smaller pouches that may only really need one loop.
The straps on the side work great to offset the velcro enclosures in keeping the Kilt closed and acting like a belt. There is some adjustment in place with the webbing looped through the buckle and attached to 'slider' buckle (I have no idea what the official name is). The adjustment at the size I ordered is almost fully expended. They could be adjusted but there's not alot of room to go any tighter. One of those things that might need to be changed is to set the adjustment for the kilt size in the middle of the adjustment, leaving some room to make it smaller and larger as nessecary (tucking in shirts, large meals, etc). The buckles were actually installed upside down! but not an issue since the only difference in the orientation is the crosspiece that provides friction if one was using the buckle side for adjustment. It was very simple for me to remove the hardware and reconfigure it to taste.
I've gotta say that this is very comfortable to wear. With the pouches and Sporran attached it's not uncomfortable in any way (except maybe drafts). There are some issues with things like driving. The Sporran is well attached and you have to fiddle to get the seatbelt underneath it when driving or else it sits on top and wont be very effective in a crash. You also very quickly learn how to get out of a vehicle without flashing your junk at everyone (If I can do it, why cant Paris Hilton!)
I plan on ordering another kilt in the future with the webbing (If they are willing to do it again), perhaps in a camo print and appropriatly colored pouches.
At the very least, it was a fun hack of clothing to make something fashionable and utilitarian and great for summer. Now I just have to remember sunscreen on my lily white legs.
Note: The Kilt pin pictured was a gift from a friend from her trip to Scotland. It's a Dirk with a celtic knot and a thistle. I think it looks pretty bad ass on there.
Also Note: The patches on the Sporran are from Milspec Monkey, Serepick, and Drop Zone Tactical. The nametape was a gift from sintax_error and I have no idea where he got it.