Behind the Scenes: Adding A Vertical Capability To The CRO Medical System
Designing a new vertical capability
Almost everyone needs a vertical capability at some point in their career. The most common load-bearing feature is a hard-point tether attachment from a gun belt. This is fine for tying into helos or elevated positions but generally not suitable for repelling, belaying, hoisting, or climbing, something you inevitably find yourself doing on occasion, regardless of the job.
We surveyed the market about a year ago to see what commercial options were available for hard point tethers in gun belts and climbing harnesses for tactical and civilian use. It became clear that there was a significant gap in capability for an all-in-one riggers belt, gun belt, and climbing harness.
We embarked on a year-long process researching and building countless prototypes, testing, and validating the design. This is what we discovered:
For flight missions that focus on hoisting, the Misty Mountain ISH harness or Edelrid tactical harness were common choices when surveying the community. The primary features that were most desirable for flight missions included:
- Comfortable leg loops must be worn all day and hoisted for extended periods.
- Working loop to secure the carabiner for ease of clipping in.
- Load-rated friction buckle, commonly found in climbing harnesses, due to some flight crews not allowing cobra buckles
- Lightweight and easy to integrate into existing gunbelt setups
The ground assault mission has several different requirements. We had to strike a balance between a harness always worn for climbing or flight operations and an "in extremis" vertical capability when lowering, hauling, or hoisting for HAF, climbing, and VBSS assault missions.
For the ground force, the most desired features were the following:
- Gun belt suitable for all existing tools and solid shooting platform
- Rated climbing harness integration
- Compact leg loops for "in extremis" use
- Not dropping the gun belt to don the harness
Eventually during the process we had a "light bulb" moment and decided that the inner belt should be the load-bearing component of the system. The inner belt would also replace the riggers belt and be worn all the time. The outer belt would provide a stable shooting platform, and the leg loops would need to detach to prevent dropping the belt when stepping into the harness. Never a good idea to drop your pistol, especially in a hasty hoist situation.
Here's the full breakdown:
The Inner Belt replaces the riggers belt for everyday wear with combat pants, a key design feature of this product. The inner belt has a load-rated friction buckle and a belay loop/ working loop fixed, so no matter what, you always have a load-bearing capability whether you are using your gun belt or not. This also makes for an ultra-lightweight climbing harness. Feedback from the pararescue crowd confirmed working on the tower all day without the outer gunbelt, but still having the harness available was a nice feature.
Belay Loop/ Working Loop
The load-bearing aspect of the product required us to certify both EN 12277 and EN 358 safety standards. This is the Type C fall arrest standard, including the belay loop being rated to 15 kN.
We had to lean into our material selection to meet the 15 kN safety rating while still being small and low profile. We settled on Sterling climbing webbing, which is both load rated and has a reliable supply chain.
Engineering an anodized aluminum friction buckle
Creating custom hardware for this project proved to be more complicated than we initially anticipated. Luckily, we have engineers on staff at CRO. We ended up with a custom friction buckle that works well with our webbing selection and has excellent retention while still allowing the user to tighten and loosen easily, which is required to route the inner belt through your belt loops.
The Outer Belt needed to be familiar and functional for mounting a pistol, mags, dump pouch, tools, etc., but also needed to integrate with the inner belt. It's bad practice to load metal on top of metal, so we offset the inner belt friction buckle to the side in the appendix area and centered the working loop/ belay loop. When loading the outer belt, the Cobra buckle routes through the belay loop, and both are centered. A perfect setup and the belay loop has a retention strap when not used. This makes a very clean, stable shooting platform with a ton of working space to mount tools.
Designing the Leg Loops
Retention was a key design metric during the process. The problem with most leg loops is they don't stay in place when you put them on. They tend to sag and fall down the back of your legs. We found the ideal balance of retention, functionality, and comfort through trial and error.
These turned out really well, and they pack down nicely. They're not too bulky like the ISH harness leg loops (although not quite as streamlined as the Arc'teryx Leaf leg loops), but they provide a REAL hoisting capability and are actually comfortable to use. Removing the tightening buckle hardware also allowed us to slim it down.
The result of this project is a riggers belt, gunbelt, and assault climbing harness all-in-one. So far, the feedback has been tremendous, and we look forward to getting this out to anyone needing a gunbelt and a vertical capability.
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