Disclaimer: This is NOT meant as a tacticool fanboi hardware post. This is rather about a meta theme that I've touched on repeatedly already; modesty and self-discipline. This is also a re-write of a too short six year old blog post.
From the late blackpowder era to the early Cold War the infantryman's load was primarily on his waist and in his hands during combat, with additional rucksack (or other container) on the shoulders at times (not during all marching).
The waist position makes a lot of sense for placing loads. Unlike extremities, the waist doesn't move forward and backward much, so you do not need to accelerate it with its mass so much. Sports sciences have found that very good marathon runners tend to have very small and light calves. This is energy efficient.
Kalenjin have particularly thin ankles and calves, a body build common to Nilotic tribes who grow up near the equator. Epstein says this is particularly important in running because your leg is like a pendulum. The more weight you have farther away from your center of gravity, the more difficult it is to swing.If you take a runner and put 8 pounds of weight around his waist, he can still run reasonably well. But if you put those same 8 pounds in the form of two 4-pound weights around his ankles, that will take much more energy and slow him down considerably.
More importantly, nothing that's being carried by the waist is a burden to the back torso muscles or even neck or arm muscles. This greatly improves energy efficiency.
Photographic evidence of WW2 shows that infantrymen rarely had much load in the front position on the waist. There was an occasional egg hand grenade on or in chest pockets and sometimes a bandoleer for cross-loading ammunition, but very rarely anything big in the belly position. Big pouches in the left front and right front are seen often, but those pouches gave way for the body when the soldier went prone to minimise his silhouette as a target.
I once read that some snipers - notably Simo Häyhä - preferred iron sights for sniping at short ranges because this allowed them to minimise their silhouette as a target*. This is a very distant idea for today's infantrymen with their straight buttstock** + raised optics rifles, particularly with stacked optics as on the G36.
So why would anyone intentionally add about 10 cm to his silhouette height by adding chest pouches to the belly position? This maybe even in addition to 2-3 cm thickness of hard body armour inserts. That may make sense in urban combat, and nowhere else.
All those belly position pouches are near-suicidal in my opinion. They do not only increase the height in prone position, but also discourage going into the prone position (or to crawl) in the first place.***
But "modern" chest rigs do not stop at this. It's standard behaviour to burden the soldier to his limit, not to some optimum level, after all. This does not only apply to mass. It's also about surfaces and volumes. There is a chest area? Let's cover it with big pouches!
The result is not only a large silhouette, but this also burdens the torso muscles. A chest rig may do so as well to some degree or completely (resting on suspenders).
The result is that you can actually carry LESS because you tire out more quickly per kg carried.
WW2 infantry was able to sprint from cover to cover, and still had a remaining life expectation that makes one wonder why they didn't surrender or desert right away. To stay in front line infantry service was either suicide or self-mutilation. Most likely it was delusional.
Yet those infantrymen were able to sprint from cover to cover. Today's infantrymen cannot do so with their full combat equipment. The WW2 infantrymen were also able to use the smallest depressions of the terrain as cover - today's infantrymen couldn't. Their smallest silhouette is comparable to the silhouette of those extremely short-lived WW2 infantrymen who were careless enough to always keep their head up when prone.
As hinted before (twice), this is not about some fancy gear. This is about modesty and self-discipline. I think modern armies lack the respect for old lessons learned, modesty and self-discipline to get this right. It doesn't take a genius to discover this; troops in laser-based or other exercises recognise this every day. Yet somehow the bureaucracies cannot resist the temptation to burden the infantryman to the limit not only in regard to mass, but also area and volume. In fact, I think they went past the limit of practicality, but didn't get the bloody nose to recognise this yet.
Similar patterns are to be expected in other areas of armed bureaucracies.
earlier article: 2010-09 Chest rigs
*: Maybe you remember how in basic training the trainers stepped on your heels (and later you did to others) of recruits in prone position to ingrain that heels need be down to minimise silhouettes in prone position?
**: This allows the recoil impulse to go straight into the shoulder without major muzzle climb tendency. The drawback is that the sights need to be raised far above the barrel for ergonomic reasons. This makes sense mostly for fully automatic fire at 50-150 m. I knew the 7.62x51 mm G3 rifle and considered its climb tendency on full auto as unproblematic at 30 m (I was no big guy at all at the time). You simply had to aim low, then you would place 3-4 hits on a torso-sized target. I cannot quite understand the modern preference for the straight buttstock rifle designs.
***: I sure remember that my pants' belt knuckle behind the load-bearing belt buckle was a painful-enough combo to often inhibit me in this regard.
P.S.: Now my recommendations, just in case anyone is interested: A wide, padded belt with a fragmentation protection insert in the front area with some fixed (saving fabric weight) and a few modular pouches + a light fragmentation protection vest (STANAG 2920 F2, pretty much a shortened version of the flak vest that I had in the 90's but without any integral pouches and with even better ballistic textile layers to cut down its 2.5-3.2 kg weight even more). Add a non-combat rucksack of medium volume. A chest rig with grenade and magazine pouches on the chest is acceptable only as an option for urban combat..