Review: PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier

What follows is my (initial impressions) review of the PHLster Flatpack™ Tourniquet Carrier.

Background

So I blame Caleb Causey @ Lone Star Medics for all of this. 🙂 For some years now I’ve been trying to find a way to carry a tourniquet as a part of my every day carry (EDC). Alas, there’s been no good solution.

Caleb’s preferred solution is an ankle-wrap, which is a fantastic solution. But it doesn’t work for me, because I like wearing shorts. Plus, enough heat, sweat, etc. and my skin starts to get irritated. So a solution like that just is not feasible for me.

Caleb helped me look at a lot of solutions, such as various pouches, MOLLE, and various things. Alas, nothing really worked. Some time ago I found some excellent pouches from Eleven10 Gear. I do think they make some great TQ pouches, but I just did not find them workable for EDC. It’s not really the fault of the pouches, but of the TQ itself. Any good tourniquet, like a SOF-TT Wide or a C-A-T is just going to be of particular dimensions and constraints due to the windlass. If the TQ rides vertically, then it’s really tall and that windless is a stick in your back. And no one was really making horizontal solutions. For the record, I do still have my Eleven10 pouches and one rides in my range bag so I can keep one easily on-hand while working at KR Training. Again, fine products, but I just did not find them suitable for my EDC because it was either very uncomfortable, or the sheer dimensions and resulting thickness of the whole schebang was unconcealable.

Oh, and I refuse to use any other sort of TQ because well… they just haven’t demonstrated effective. I defer to the expertise of folks, like Caleb Causey, on this topic. And personally, I prefer the SOF-TT Wide.

The quest continued. I’d have a TQ somewhere, like in a bag, but those bags aren’t always in immediate proximity and that’s really what I’d like.

So when Facebook auto-stalked a comment Caleb made to the BFE Labs page, it was one time I was thankful for Facebook’s auto-stalk “feature”. I immediately expressed interest, and the folks at BFE were kind enough to post some pictures to show dimensions and size. This PHLster Flatpack seemed to be the answer to my problems!

I ordered two.

My Impressions

It’s a simple thing, as you can see in pictures and video. And it should be able to accommodate your favorite big-windlass TQ. But yes, you MUST fold it a certain way to get the TQ to pack as flat as possible.

When you do, it’s quite flat:

PHLstr Flatpack™ TQ Carrier, and a S&W M&P9 magazine.

That was the best part! On my belt, this was no thicker than anything else I already carried. Yes, it takes up more room because it runs horizontal, but it conceals just fine.

I was pretty stoked. 🙂

And once you learn how to fold the TQ that way, you almost don’t want to ever fold it any other way.

I think construction is generally good. Loops are made for 1.5″ belt and generally sturdy construction. I appreciate the use of the shock-cord and that there’s ways to adjust it because different TQ styles and fittings. BUT to me that’s also a potential downside: shock cord will wear out and eventually snap. Easy enough to fix, but having it decide to break while you’re out and about isn’t ideal. Not a knock against the design, just reality of using shock cord. I also worry that the attachments of the shock may come undone and release the TQ. So far not an issue, but I also haven’t subjected it to harsh stuff like rolling around on the ground, etc.. As well, the TQ is totally exposed — the only thing “protecting” it is your shirt. Is that going to be good? I mean, it’s a TQ… dust, dirt, etc. getting into it? other exposure. Or just simply friction wear from things rubbing against it all day? I mean, give a read to Caleb’s recent article about TQ failure. Is that going to be good or bad? vs. say a more covered “pouch” approach? But of course, the lack of pouch is what helps the slim design.

So it’s a trade-off, and a design that I reckon is still to be vetted.

Still, I appreciate these guys are trying to come up with something.

So… wearing it.

I’m wearing it at the 4-5 o’clock position — it’s the only place I have room on my belt. My wife calls it my Batman Utility Belt because yes, I wear stuff all over it. Consequently, that dictated where I wore it because that’s the only place I have left. But in a way it’s good because that position was a “hole” and this balanced things out — especially when I leaned back into a chair.

Generally I have no idea it’s there, and as I said before, it conceals quite well.

But it’s not perfect. The nature of it wobbles; just how it’s built, attached, and the fact it’s cloth just bungied to a board. So sometimes when I sit down I have to reposition myself to get it to drop or shift to a more comfortable position. It’s a little harder if I lay down, and I do have to reposition myself until I get it placed more comfortable. If it was a full kydex (or leather or whatever) covering it, fixed attachments to the belt, etc. I wonder how this might change — tho it could change for the worse too because perhaps the flexibility helps find the right position.

All in all tho I’ve been happy with the construction and approach, and it’s nice to know I’ve got something should I need it.

I did find another snag — literally. I can’t draw. 😦 Because of my body shape, clothing, position on my belt relative to everything else… I can’t draw. I go to lift my shirt and the Flatpack (well, the TQ mounted on the Flatpack) perfectly snags my shirt almost every time and makes it impossible to lift up. I can get around it if I reach REALLY far back when I lift my shirt… or if I do things like lean backwards (towards 4:30 or so) so the shirt lifts at a different angle — but these are totally not feasible workarounds. And if it was a fully covered pouch it MIGHT help because it’d be smooth with rounded corners, but there’s no guarantee it wouldn’t have the same problem. So the solution here is carrying it in a different location, but I really can’t — the things on my left-back have to be there and can’t be relocated, and I can’t wear it up front. However, up front may be my only possible, but I’m not really hot about that for some reasons as to why AIWB isn’t working for me.

So… I don’t know.

This is the closest solution I’ve found, but it’s causing some serious issues for me. I don’t think the product is bad — I think it has a place and people should consider it for sure. I think ankle rig is really good because you can carry more than just a TQ — and to me, I think you really need more than a TQ, but then you need a way to carry it which generally means some sort of bag/kit on or about you. My briefcase is pretty stocked, but I don’t carry my briefcase everywhere.

I think the Flatpack design is a worthwhile attempt. I think it’s going to need some time (read: years) to fully vet the design. People wearing it in daily carry, to more rough-and-tumble classes, and just really giving it a work-out to ensure this design is really going to work. I think there’s a lot of good things here, and frankly it may be the right solution for YOU. Consider what the product offers, what it is, what it is not, what your situation is, what freedoms and limitations you operate within. It may be right for you. If you’re not sure if it’s right, pick one up and give it a try because you really won’t know for certain until you do.

As for me, I’m not willing to give up on it entirely, but I have taken it off my belt until I can think of a way to make it work for me.

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2 thoughts on “Review: PHLster Flatpack Tourniquet Carrier

  1. I’ve been eyeing this product but haven’t decided if I “need” a TQ solution like this. You bring up some good points in regard to the TQ fouling up the draw, I assume you carry strong side then? I’m guessing that’d be no factor for appendix carry?

    Having said that, not sure what brand of short you wear, but I’ve had excellent experiences with a good portion of Kuhl brand pants and shorts. In re: to stowing a TQ, every model of Kuhl pants/shorts I own have a “cell phone” pocket on the right leg that fits a flat packed SOFTT-W like it was made for it! Otherwise, I tend to use the tacmed TQ ankle wrap or let it sit next to my wallet, it’s a bit bulky in that config but it works.

    I’ve gotten a few holsters from Jon at Phlster and if nothing else I enjoy supporting small businesses such as his. He definitely sweats the details and it shows. If nothing else I might just buy the flat pack on principle after all. Certainly I can find somewhere to run another TQ, can’t have enough I suppose!

    Appreciate honest reviews like this. It’s evident on some review sites that the reviewer just LOVES new gear (who doesn’t?) and everything is awesome and without fault!

    • Well, it could still be a factor in appendix — it’s all a matter of how things are on your belt, how you clear your cover garment, etc..

      Have not heard of Kuhl, but a quick look at their website and it sure looks promising. Next time I’m shopping for pants/shorts, I’ll give these a look. Thanx!

      As for the Flatpack, again, I think it’s a solid enough product. I know PHLster does good work, this is more a “doesn’t work for me” situation. I’m seeing more people using this solution, and I think that’s awesome — whatever gets people thinking and considering more about what’s useful for EDC and all that. It’s all good. When it comes to reviews, I’m just going to be honest, even if it doesn’t win me friends — because my goal isn’t to win friends and just be cozy with people to get freebies and such. I want people to have honest knowledge, good products, especially if it’s stuff they’re going to bet their lives upon. I get paid nothing for this, I don’t get free products, I pay for everything myself, I have no vested interest, other than my good name and reputation, y’know?

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