Monday, November 9, 2009

Praxis: Dyeing MOLLE Gear?

gandalf23 has a couple of pertinent praxis questions. The first:

Any hints on where to find helmets for those prices? The local surplus store wants a lot for the PASGT helmet, and does not have any old style steel pots. Looking online they still seem to run north of $100.

Gandalf, write me an email and I'll make some suggestions. On his second question, I would like to get feedback from anyone who has experience with dyeing and/or painting MOLLE gear.

Also, got a question.

I've ended up with a lot of three color desert gear (matches the DCU): mag pouches, vests, canteen covers, grenade pouches, basically I've got enough to outfit four or five riflemen in three color desert web gear. My cousin and some of the guys in his unit gave most of them to me when they got new stuff issued to them in ACU, the rest I got cheap from the local surplus place. The problem is that although I'm in Texas, there is not a whole lot of desert around here where I am. I was thinking of dyeing the gear to something more suitable, like coyote/earth brown or gray/green that would blend in much better here in Central/East Texas.. Any thoughts on that? Has anyone out there done that? I know in FM 21-15 it says not to dye the older style web gear, but does not say why. The .pdf on Molle II gear by SDS also says not to dye the gear. I assume the thinking is that the dye somehow weakens the fabric? Or perhaps the fabric will not retain dye? Dunno. Most of the pouches, and the vests, I have are made by SDS, a few are made by Michael Bsomething, if that helps.

If dyeing does not work well, what about spray painting? I would imagine it would flake off quite a bit. I have a few old canvas mail sacks that were dyed green then spray painted camouflage and the paint flakes off all the time, which is why I have not tried that yet on the molle gear, but maybe some of y'all have done so successfully? Or maybe the molle gear fabric holds paint better?

Thanks for any assistance you can provide on this!


Axeanda45 said...

Well, you might try very light coats of spray paint and flex the fabric in-between coats (extend times btwn coats also to allow thorough drying). That should help with preventing/curtailing flaking.

Anonymous said...

I haven't tried it myself, but was told to use "plain 'ol Krylon that you get at Walmart". According to my source, that's what the troops do over in " 'stan". (But I didn't know they had a Walmart there...)

Anonymous said...

You're going to wind up paying for the equipment one way or the other. I found an old PASGT shell that is in good shape but the support system was missing. I still had to pay $45 for it but it cleaned up nice, no cracks or chips; it is quite serviceable. I ordered a pad system from Oregon Aero, now I have a practically brand-new helmet. I've done this with 3 CVC ballistic shells that have turned out well also. Look around, you'll be surprised at what you can cluge together that will give you good results.

Terrence Maddox said...

Fabric dye will not adhere to the "plastic" fibers; rattle-can has done a fine job on my kit.

Feral Underclass said...

Goto here;

Bottom left column - GI Surplus Specials - Once there click on Helmet Covers in the list of items. They've got steel pots for $29.95. I've been doing business with Ted's MS for quite some time and have always been happy. I once ordered a manual along with some other stuff. The manual was delivered slightly damaged (not from shipping) but definitely usable. I was about to call and raise hell when I looked at the invoice and saw the manual was marked "Free of Charge".


Diogenes said...

Not sure but My understanding is that the gear is IR invisible and if you dye it you lose that feature. Seeing how most of the gear is some combination of nylon and cotton I can't see how it would effect if negatively in construction otherwise.

While I was in the Corps during the early 90's we had a couple of guys that "inadvertently" bleach their BDU's. This worked great for the fall as all of the browns turned a reddish hue and the greens were more of gray . But they stuck out like glowing candles in NVG's

Anonymous said...

I have successfully painted cotton canvas and nylon canvas pouches and web-gear (to make uniform disparate color schemes and/or match local conditions) using the usual flat hunting spray-paints in olive drab, khaki and brown. Seems to be fairly durable and is easily repainted if necessary.

I have not tried to dye nylon canvas (of which the MOLLE pouches are made). I expect the painting approach would work better.

The Wretched Dog

Chris Vaughn said...


There's a good discussion on dyeing the FLC vest over at, the thread does not start out specifically about dyeing the vest, but several posters give their tips in the thread:

Hope it's alright to post the link.

And thank you for all you do.

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing the no-dye requirement is the same as the no-starch rules we had for our BDU's. We were told they lose their infra-red camouflage capability.

I'm not sure what fabric MOLLE gear is made from, but I'm certain it's man made, so it will not readily accept dyes of any kind, and will soon flake off.

pdxr13 said...

The gear emulates the near-IR performance of vegitation. Bleach it, starch it, or dye it and it will stand out well.

This is an opportunity to make high-viz-in-NV (non-blending) dummies with tin-pot helmets for fake LP/OP positions out of damaged gear.

Mark: "for training use only".

Brian K Miller said...

Genuine military surplus (as opposed to civillian market lookalikes) is colored with a variety of special chemical processes that do not equate to traditional "dye". They are designed to provide concealment in both visible and invisible spectrums (such as radar, infrared and ultraviolet). It hides body heat and helps reduce noise as well as providing visual confusion.

It might be important to remember that the purpose of "camouflage" is not concealment, per se, it is to break up solid lines so that advancing soldiers are harder to draw an accurate bead on. The additional protections (radar, etc.) actually provide a similar functionality they just do so outside the visual spectrum.

Wearing modern military gear makes you harder to aim at, and that's all. It is neither designed nor expected to make a soldier "blend in" to the surrounding countryside in the most literal sense of "blend in".

Battle dress is not hunting gear. It won't make you look like a bush. It won't even make you disappear if you hide behind a bush. The primary design purpose is to break up your silhouette when crossing a skyline or while moving through the countryside.

Will said...

I would suggest looking at automotive paints with the flexible additive used for painting rubber bumper covers and other similar body parts.

Don't know if it is still available, but there were spray paints used for changing interior colors, including the vinyl seats. That worked very well, didn't flake or rub off, hard to tell it was not the original color.

Anonymous said...

Leave it alone! Do NOT dye, paint, bleach or otherwise try to change the color of your gear.

B Woodman

Anonymous said...

Krylon.... I've used it on a lot of molle pouches.... Works and I've had no issues with flaking.

The Trainer said...

I have used Krylon on my Tactical Tailor Desert Tan vest to make it more conducive to my AO. The spray paint has worked fine!

Just use common sense on how much you use and the pattern you spray it with.

No need to get real fancy....just break up the shape and outline.

Anonymous said...

Dyeing the fabric WILL ruin the non-IR reflecting capacity. DIY Tactical has an IR test for their webbing fabric linked here: