Gear First Spear Viking Patrol Harness and Q&A First Spear’s Jon Laplume Rob Curtis January 19, 2016 Join the Conversation When First Spear opened its shop five years ago, it pioneered the use of laser-cut PALS fields and laminated fabrics to reduce the weight of configurable body armor systems. It called the innovation 6/12 technology and hasn’t slowed down since. New for 2016 is the Viking Patrol Harness, above. It’s a chest rig tailored specifically for working in the arctic environment. The first thing you'll notice is ATACS’s brand new ATX camouflage pattern. This is the first time we've seen the pattern outside of a cartoon rendering shown in Europe earlier in 2015. To accommodate bulkier winter clothing, First Spear added longer adjustments in the shoulders and the back strap and minimized the bulky areas to reduce moisture absorption. The VPH has three double rifle magazine pouches and a sewn-in MBITR radio pouch with a 6/12 field on either side for attachment of modular pouches and accessories. Developing this new piece of gear required some old school thinking when it came to dealing with mag pouches and snow. “We found full flaps worked much better,” says First Spear’s Jon Laplume, “not just to aid in concealment, but also in terms of protecting HK416 magazines from being crammed with snow.” “We learned some interesting things about Velcro, too,” said Laplume. During field trials, the company found lower nap Velcro stayed closed and captured less snow than high nap Velcro. It worked better than custom molded closures, which often became snow clogged and frozen, he said. The VPH will be available in ATACS ATX for $369. Also new for 2016 is First Spear’s Strandhögg MBAV Plate Carrier in ATACS’s ATX camouflage pattern, below. The company tells us the arctic version of the plate carrier is proving very popular with its Scandinavian SOF customers. The ATX Strandhögg will be available initially as a special makeup with an estimated price of $500. The high estimated cost is due to the limited availability of materials in ATACS ATX pattern. The price will drop as more raw materials in ATACS ATX become available, First Spear tells us. Q&A with First Spear’s V.P. of Product Line Development & Strategy, Jon Laplume. RECOIL: How is the Strandhögg and the Viking Patrol Harness different from existing cold weather solutions either from First Spear or its competitors? Jon Laplume: The first fundamental difference is the ATACS ATX Arctic Pattern utilized in the laminated First Spear 6/12 fabric configuration. We worked very closely with our Scandinavian SOF end users to get the appropriate pattern selected before entering into discussions with ATACS. This ensured the base fabric was manufactured with the required treatments and finishes, not just for visual spectrum accuracy and environmental performance but also for quality assurance within the 6/12 fabrication process. RECOIL: Strandhögg has been out for a while, but not in this new camouflage pattern. Can you tell us why FS is making an arctic/alpine version? JL: First Spear is working very closely with select professional users that operate consistently in extreme cold weather environments. Both the Strandhögg Plate Carrier, MBAV cut, and the Assaulters Armor Carrier (AAC), SAPI cut, are currently being assessed for best extreme cold weather performance as a plate carrier configuration. Currently the Strandhögg MBAV is outperforming the AAC in all categories. RECOIL: Keeping this gear white seems like it’ll be key to its performance. Is it going to be a pain in the ass to clean? Any suggestions on cleaning web gear in general without hurting it? JL: This is a good question, and fortunately we have a decent answer. In comparison you will find that the surface of the ATX patterned First Spear product has a slightly different and more crisp hand than that of our other solid or patterned face fabrics. This durable water repellent (DWR) finish will resist permanent stains and wash/wipe far better than previous generations of DWR finishes. First Spear recommends that you spot clean stubborn stains with a standard stiffness toothbrush, warm water and powdered laundry soap. Just rinse it thoroughly with warm water and let it dry in room temperature. When and where possible, avoid prolonged exposure to direct UV light as over time it will degrade signature management and environmental resistance properties of the kit. RECOIL: What niche does the new Viking Patrol Harness fill? JL: The Viking Patrol Harness was tailored specifically for mobility operations in the arctic environment. Foot movement, skiing and alpine climbing were a few of the dismounted activities assessed, for motorized assessment the VPH was trialed on quads, snow machines and Move Over Snow Terrain (MOST) vehicles. Due to the nature of all these operations in extreme cold weather clothing we added a longer range of adjustment in the shoulders and the back strap. We had to minimize the bulky and absorbent areas to keep moisture absorption down to a minimum. In the course of evaluating magazine pouches, we had to go a little old school. We found full flaps worked much better, not just to aid in concealment, but also in terms of protecting HK416 magazines from being crammed with snow. Additional tabs are provided on the mag pouches and there’s an MBITR pocket to aid in the attachment of tourniquets, aid dressing, etc… This maximization of available space augments the two modular 6/12 panels on each wing of the harness. For retention we used elastic webbing. You will notice that we varied widths to accommodate additional external attachment points and make them user friendly. Also worth noting, we were driven to a more polyester composition for the white elastic webbing to help in water absorption and to maintain performance at low temperatures. We learned some interesting things about Velcro, too. Originally in testing we had some of the M4 mag pockets secure using molded closures and others using two different types of Velcro. Stress courses and other field shooting trials showed the lower nap Velcro stayed closed, captured way less snow and overall it exhibited better function than high nap Velcro and even the molded closures, which often became snow clogged and frozen. RECOIL: Can you talk about the materials you selected for these projects? JL: Essentially First Spear arrived at the pattern most desired by the user then worked with the appropriate folks in the raw material and fabrics industry to get those materials within the performance scope required. As with everything First Spear does, the users showed us the way and we defined the performance parameters to our suppliers. We elected to use gray toned hardware on the Viking Patrol Harness instead of trying to make white work. The primary reason for this decision was for Near Infrared Reflectance (NIR) performance. The white reflected far more than any other tones. I don’t have a real answer for this yet other than that it may be due to the white material being in the raw versus the toned material undergoing additional chemical and mechanical treatment. This also assures that all molded product on the Viking Patrol Harness exceeds Mil-Spec and is a repeatable result across the board with the standards we keep for other First Spear products. The grey tones in the ATX pattern work well with the grey hardware and compliment the patterns visual signature reduction. RECOIL: How did 6/12 technology get its name? JL: Sorry, that is only deliverable with beer in hand. RECOIL: Did you encounter any challenges designing the Viking Patrol Harness and how did you overcome them? JL: With a multitude of tier one users from different services, it was a tiny bit more difficult than getting a straight answer out of Hillary. In reality First Spear has established a great report with the users involved in this project. After we got the pattern and fabrics dialed in, we finalized the design in a parallel effort. This sped up the process, so we are now just driving on to get the whole fielding completed before winter sees most of northern Europe buried in snow… or Putin elects to further expand the Russian empire and the Viking Patrol Harness is needed for more than training. RECOIL: How will these pieces be available for purchase? JL: First Spear will be adding the Viking Patrol Harness and its subcomponents in the ATACS ATX pattern to our limited availability product line in time for SHOT 2016. As the program expands, we will have more items, as well as apparel in this pattern. MSRP for Viking Patrol Harness with two modular pockets is $368.84. There are two configurations; one fits an artic canteen, the other is a GP medium pocket with two external full-flap pistol mag pouches on the outside face. As far as the plate carrier, until we have a firm azimuth from the current plate carrier evaluation, that item is going to remain in a project development status. But, it can be obtained as either Strandhögg MBAV or AAC (SAPI or swimmer cut) as a special order. The quantity ordered will drive that priority, so if you have friends that want ATX pattern Strandhöggs, get on the same page for a combined order and we work to move it through. 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