REVIEW – Mystery Ranch BASE Frame
ITEM: BASE (Body Armour Support Equipment) Frame
MANUFACTURER: Mystery Ranch
An accessory for combat body armour that adds comfort and safety by converting a shoulder load into a hip load, thereby increasing comfort and safety of the wearer. REVIEW NOTES:
The BASE is kindly provided by Mystery Ranch through their Australian supplier Military Gear in Enoggera (http://www.militarygear.com.au/) for review.
I have done the review (like many with supplied equipment) with the proviso that I will be painfully honest in my assessment of this item.
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Moisture wicking mesh
Weight – 0.5kg (approx. 1.10 lb)
Essentially, the BASE is a chopped and channelled NICE frame. It’s extremely light and low profile. It turns a traditionally shoulder-loading piece of equipment a more ergonomic hip-loading set-up.
The BASE is composed of three components:
1. The hip belt
2. Back panel
3. Velcro attachment point.
Lets go into more detail about the components, and how they work.
HIP BELT –
The hip belt is lined with Mystery Ranch’s wicking mesh. This mesh is composed of two materials: a hydrophilic (water-loving) component that draws sweat and moisture from the body, and a hydrophobic (water-hating) component that allows the drawn moisture to be dispersed to the environment away from the wearer.
It is ergonomically contoured to fit around the hips. It has a quick release buckle fitted, which is also adjustable for fit.
Unlike the NICE frame, this hip belt cannot be fitted with any different padding or cushions.
The outer surface of the belt is made of 500D cordura material, and has PALS channels for attaching MOLLE compatible pouches.
There are two steel D-rings at the back of the belt.
In the small of the back is a velcro lined pocket to fix the back panel into.
This hip belt could also conceivably be used stand-alone as a war belt.
BACK PANEL –
The back panel is the major load bearing structure between the hip loading belt and the armour carrier.
It is of carbon fibre construction, covered in maerial and comes in two versions. The Mk1 version I first received was a simple, flat board. The more advanced and refined Mk2 version (and shown in the pictures for this review) I received later is ergonomically bent to better match the shape of the human spine and the armour carrier that is attached.
With the Mk2 back panel attached, it was noticeably more comfortable. The panel has some PALS rows on the external surface and velcro pile to mate with the attachment point.
ATTACHMENT POINT –
The attachment point is the interface between the back panel and the armour carrier. It can be adjusted in height to suit back-length of the wearer and for different armour carriers. It is attached to the armour carrier by standard MOLLE snaps.
It uses the standard Mystery Ranch harness adjustment that is found on all their pack harnesses.
The outer surface has PALS rows to allow normal attachment of equipment such as fighting load (pouches) and small packs (such as hydration packs and small equipment packs) to the rear of the armour carrier.
It should be remembered, that I don’t wear such things as body armour in a professional capacity. Having said that, some basic usage has been conducted. Please note, the load placed on the Voodoo Tactical plate carrier is only to test load bearing capability, not set-up for actual fighting use.
Initial fitting of the BASE has been on two plate carriers:
- an Eagle Plate Carrier, fitted with after market cummerbund
- Voodoo Tactical Plate Carrier
Like any of my reviews of body armour based equipment, I have used my simulated armour, because of the legal restrictions on such things here in Australia. This consists of two airsoft injection molded plates, filled with sand. These weigh approximately 4 kilogram’s (8.8lbs) each. Soft armour “plate backers” are suitable plush carpet cut to match the plates, which also help cushion the impact of plates on my soft carcass.
Total weight of the load carried with the BASE then, with simulated armour package and a small amount of weight to simulate operational equipment came to 14 kilograms (approx. 30.8 lbs).
Physical activities have included some basic PT work, such as push-ups, wall climbs, bouldering and burpee’s. The short version, is that if one can do those activities with armour on, one can do it with the BASE fitted.
The BASE has very little impact upon basic movements, and in some cases, can help with stability as well. Training walks of six kilometres (approximately 3.7 miles) distance have been conducted in two phases:
1. With only body armour set-up as a fighting load, with some weight added in the form of ammunition pouches, canteen pouches and accessories such as small personal role radios.
It was during the patrol order (fighting order) walks with only the CBA worn, that the BASE hip-belt would only be done up for one half of the walk and then released for the second half of the walk to check and assess the effectiveness of the hip-loading harness.
2. In conjunction with a large patrol pack (the Crossfire DG-6, link HERE) with BVS blocks fitted to the AUSNICE frame (link HERE). Weight was 25 kilograms (55lbs) in the pack, for a total combined load of 39 kilograms (86lbs).
A Mystery Ranch Cinch was also used to aid with shoulder strap management. The Cinch is an essential accessory should large packs need to be worn.
It should be noted that total distance walked in each component was over 42 kilometres (approx 26 miles), broken up as mentioned above. Total distance walked whilst wearing the BASE was over 78 kilometres (approximately 48 miles), broken up as mentioned above.
During the physical activity phase, it was found that the BASE/plate carrier combination placed no real impediment to movement, other than the usual problems associated with wearing such equipment. I could still do things such as push-ups and burpee’s – albeit much, much harder due to the increased weight and volume taken up by the plates, more due to my lack of fitness than anything else!
The BASE didn’t impede basic flexibility whilst doing anything involving twisting or flexing. It was obvious that the BASE was there, and that it was working, and it was certainly noticed that extreme flexibility of the body was impacted, but it was still not a great impediment to basic activities.
It should be noted however, that whilst the combination of BASE and armour isn’t overly constrictive, operational loads carried may have an adverse affect on the wearer. Care will still need to be taken with balancing the load on the body in the correct ergonomic manner.
The low profile design of the BASE ensured that the Mystery Ranch NICE frame harness still worked, especially with NICE frame hip belt and the BVS blocks doing their job of locking the pack frame to the armour plates.
Two things need to be noted however:
a. Marching for any great distance whilst wearing body armour and a large 85L patrol pack of more than 20kg’s weight is still considered an absolutely horrid experience, it’s significantly reduced in it’s negative impact.
b. A great deal of the discomfort of wearing body armour and large pack for long distances could have been mitigated by use of a increased size lumbar pad such as the Oneiros Valley MEAN Pad (reviewed HERE) and possibly their Load Lifter Panel (review seen HERE), which would have significantly changed the way in which the pack frame interfaced with the body armour and the wearer.
As a somewhat facetious aside, walking for any long distance with this equipment strapped to one’s broken carcass, one should be careful in the selection of training partners. I can suggest that care should be taken to avoid walking with Amazonian women with long legs who are unencumbered and self-professed power walkers! It was a rather painful experience trying to keep up!
The BASE has also been used under some shooting to test how it interacts with the body under recoil and in various shooting positions. Various positions have been tried, and once more, the BASE was found not to noticeably impede movement of the body. In some cases, the BASE can even help by taking the load that would normally increase strain. I found this really noticeable when leaning out from cover, in order to expose as little of the body as possible. As seen by the following photo’s:
Without the BASE, that leaning position would have increased strain from the weight of armour and equipment dragging down on the upper body due to gravity. With the BASE, the load was transferred to the hips, reducing the impact on the lower back that such a load will impart when suspended away from the center of balance.
I have some thought that this may increase mobility (by not having to expend as much effort and energy to move) and reaction times moving back into cover after such snap shots are taken (thereby increasing survivability).
Looking at the BASE from an operational viewpoint, it’s a fairly flexible platform. Mystery Ranch have added modularity to the hip belt so that it can be used as a war belt. Equipment and pouches can be added to the hip-belt to allow the end-user to have it set up to their desires and operational requirements.
If a large patrol pack is required, then it will fit over the BASE harness. Unfortunately, a large patrol pack’s hip belt will only be able to be used if the BASE hip belt is kept clear of equipment pouches.
From an injury prevention and management perspective, this was really incredible. As someone with a few joint injuries, especially in the lower back area, the affects of this piece of equipment on those old injuries was really noticed. Wearing any significant shoulder-loading equipment has an impact on my lower back nowadays. With the BASE frame attached, the load was much more comfortable.
Since it has now been publicly released by Mystery Ranch lately (like in the last few months), I can mention the integrated system that the BASE will be a part of. The BASE is an essential part of a fully integrated releasable plate carrier design from Mystery Ranch.
I was privileged to be able to examine some prototypes of this plate carrier in the early stages of development. It seems a really good option, and more news will be following from Mystery Ranch in the near future. Hopefully, I’ll be able to examine the complete system when it’s released for public consumption.
I consider the BASE an amazing piece of equipment, it makes a somewhat painfully uncomfortable load a great deal more bearable. It seems very easy to add to just about any armour carrying platform on the market.
The biggest problem with the BASE system, is more like the design constraints placed upon it’s host armour carrier. Since the BASE attaches to the rear portion of an armour carrier, this means the front portion of the rig may not interact with the wearer as the original design intended. This is because the front plate becomes an almost free-floating, sliding panel. See the attached diagrams.
So, because it’s an additive piece of equipment, it doesn’t offer a fully integrated solution. I can see problems with layout, especially when using the hip belt as a war belt to carry operational equipment. If he hip belt is used to carry pouches, then this will interfere with the hip-belt on a large patrol pack, should that be required. Like most things in life, there is no such thing as a free lunch. Life is full of compromises.
The BASE seems to work better with armour carriers that are shorter in length. In that, I mean that the shorter Voodoo Tactical Plate Carrier seemed to interact better. The Eagle Plate Carrier, with it’s longer length covering the torso felt less comfortable as it may interfere with the hip belt. Although this may be mitigated by correct set-up of the equipment. Since I set this rig up myself, without instruction or a partner offering an extra pair of hands and eyes, this may have some significant bearing.
If I had to set-up a fighting load that includes that essential modern PPE (Personal Protective Equipment) of CBA (Combat Body Armour), then the Mystery Ranch BASE frame would be the first priority for me to acquire. I consider it an essential body armour accessory for those who have to wear Combat Body Armour (CBA) as part of their mission requirements.
Posted in Military, Military Gear, Miscellaneous Equipment, Mystery Ranch by 22F with 2 comments.
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