Over the last few weeks, I’ve been testing British Tactical’s 3-Row Hippo belt. I’m continually impressed at how much I can put onto the Hippo belt and Yoke Webbing system. At present, it’s about 30 pounds. When I pick it up, I think, “Damn, that’s heavy.”
Then I put it on. The Hippo belt and yoke spread the weight so well about my body that I hardly feel it. Mostly, it stays on my hips, but the yoke helps redistribute some of the burden to my shoulders, especially when I’m moving.
The purpose of LBE, whether it’s an old ALICE belt, a MOLLE vest like the LBV, or a chest rig, is to carry your equipment comfortably and make sure it’s easily accessible. It’s supposed to help you bear the load of ammunition, water, rations and utilities that you are forced (or in the case of us civies – that we force ourselves) to carry around.
The ability of this system to hold all your essentials is remarkable. I have half a dozen rifle magazines, a pistol, pistol magazines, an IFAK, poncho, rations and 2 quarts of water on mine. So what is it about the Hippo belt that makes it superior to other systems?
- Sternum Strap – British Tactical incorporates an adjustable sternum strap into their design. This is mounted on vertical webbing, which means you can move it up or down, as needed. I find that if I moved it down much, it would be a belly strap.
- You’ve got plenty of options. For starters, you can choose from three different heights; 2-Row, 3-Row or 4-Row. I discount the 2-row right away, honestly. If I’m going to run a 2-row MOLLE belt, it’ll either be a cheap Eagle Industries Operator’s belt. or a HSGI SureGrip belt. If I’m going to use a British belt, it’ll be a nice tall one. British Tactical offers 5 different colors/patterns and 5 different sizes. Mine is a small/medium, which gives me a full 20 columns to play with.
- Speaking of my SureGrip belt, one of the complaints I have about it is that the columns of PALS webbing on the ends of the pad are cut short. It’s supposed to be a 20-column belt pad, but it ends up being 19 columns with half a column on each end. Not really that helpful. The British Tactical Hippo belt does not have this problem.
- If you wanted to run this belt without a yoke (not sure why you would choose that), then you can actually tuck the D-rings down inside the PALS webbing and out of the way.
- The Webbing Yoke. More on that later.
I’ve tested quite a few battle belts; HSGI, Propper, Eagle Industries and S.O. Tech to name a few. The materials and workmanship on the British Tactical products is outstanding. Like a good chef, they pay attention to their ingredients and only use US and UK materials, bonded nylon threads, and non-Chinese buckles. There are no mismatched materials or loose threads on their products. They reinforce, use bar tack and gate stitching where needed. Though lightweight, this system is anything but flimsy.
The Yoke – So Much Better than Suspenders
Whereas in the US, we tend to go for low-profile suspenders, the Brits have a webbing yoke. I’m not knocking suspenders, but they have less area on your shoulders to bear weight and offer fewer options for attaching extra pouches. It’s practically impossible to attach a tourniquet or a radio pouch to a set of suspenders, but you can do that with ease to the British Tactical Webbing Yoke. Of course, you can also run a hydration hose or coms wire up and over either shoulder.
The back of the yoke is covered in PALS/MOLLE webbing and has a built-in drag handle. I was doubtful that it would hold up to my bulk (180 pounds) and the weight of the belt itself. As it turned out, the belt had to take all the weight, as I was on my back. TJ grabbed the drag handle with both hands and hauled me around the muddy lawn. Though the pouches left a divot in the grass, the Hippo belt did just fine.
A note on armor: you can wear the Webbing Yoke over or under your armor carrier. As long you haven’t attached any bulky pouches to your Yoke, it shouldn’t be a problem. As long as there are no bulky pouches affixed to your yoke, this shouldn’t be a problem. British Tactical has painstakingly designed the yoke to be very low-profile and they avoid anything that could become a pressure point under your heavy armor.
However, this does not mean that it will be super-comfortable. In the interest of fashion, I put on my old Spartan II armor carrier, made by the now-defunct Tactical Applications Group. The Spartan is a Coyote Brown, which goes well with the Nutria Brown of the British Tactical Hippo belt, and brings out the green in my eyes.
Gotta dress to the 9s, fellas.
Of course, wearing the armor and belt kit together made me feel about as mobile as an arthritic turtle. I do not recommend this particular armor carrier for use with a Hippo belt, especially with the neck and groin protectors I have attached to it. Instead, you might want to go with a shorter plate carrier that rides higher on your torso.
Keep on Ruckin’
Use with a backpack is tricky. Since you’ve got your belt kit on, you can’t really use a hip belt on a rucksack. Instead, the pack must sit on the top of your pouches, as it would on a small shelf. This is easily done with a British PLCE Bergen, but can be done with a modified large ALICE pack as well. I’ve even used a FILBE Rucksack, though this doesn’t do quite as well, due to its external frame.
Hippo Belt Conclusion
At first, I was hesitant to move my equipment from my SureGrip battle belt to the British Tactical Hippo. You see, I’d gotten the SureGrip just like I wanted it. I’d optimized my loadout, balanced everything, and gotten quite comfortable with it. The suspenders I’d rigged up from an old Austrian pack system weren’t the best, but I was working on them. I didn’t want to have to test the Hippo belt, just to be disappointed and go back to my old favorite.
I wasn’t disappointed. My SureGrip, rigger’s belt, holster, and dump pouch are now up for sale.
-By Allen Cosby and TJ