After my review of the Multi-Purpose MOLLE Panel, I’ve been coveting a Hippo belt. The fine folks at British Tactical sent me one of their Three-Row Hippo MOLLE Belts and a matching yoke. The Hippo belt is the similar to the battle belt concept, but there are significant differences. This product combination is what put British Tactical on the map with soldiers of Her Majesty’s Armed Forces. As covered in the previous article, the Brits have long carried their kit about their waists, usually in their PLCE webbing. The PALS-covered Hippo belt is the latest evolution of this concept.
Shades of Brown
They sent me a Hippo belt in nutria brown. This is the color that the old South African Defense Force used, and blends well into an autumn background here in Pennsylvania. Though slightly off from Coyote Brown, the two colors go well together. I’ve never been a purist about all my colors matching, as evidenced by the fact that I had over 5 different camo patterns on my old SureGrip battle belt. Camoflague is usually about breaking up solid colors, so this is really a non-issue.
There are several options for belt closure. The most common is a simple plastic quick-release buckle. While this has the advantages of being easy to use (especially in the dark), I find myself a bit wary of plastic components. It is possible to crack a plastic buckle when climbing over an obstacle, such as a wall, or when climbing into a structure through a window. Worse yet is putting your battle belt in the trunk and accidentally closing it on your buckle. Little pieces of plastic everywhere.
The more advanced (and much more expensive) option is the Cobra quick-release buckle, made by AustriAlpin. This metal buckle is the standard for many who use a riggers belt. I run one on my HSGI SureGrip belt, as a matter of fact. It’s incredibly strong and will not release when the belt is under tension. While it’s great to be able to just snap your belt closed, the flip side is that adjusting the belt length becomes a hassle. Also, opening it with gloved hands can be a difficult, as I discovered on a recent hike.
The third option is a roll-pin. While many of you may have used a roll-pin design on a riggers belt, such as a BLACKHAWK! CQB belt, the Brits have a slightly different take on it. The British style of roll pin belt incorporates a metal extension on the side with a small nylon tab. This tab is what allows the belt to be adjusted so quickly. Simply pull the tab away from your body and either loosen or tighten as needed. This is accentuated by the fact that the British belt is thin, really just a 2 inch (50mm) strip of webbing.
The roll pin buckle is on the left side, and should be kept tightened as close to the hippo belt as possible. You do not want the roll pin to centered, for several reasons. The first is that it can become twisted, especially if you’re low-crawling. Secondly, the British Tactical webbing is slick, allowing it to slide rapidly through the roll pin buckle when tension is removed. If there is significant outward tension on the webbing and buckle (from your body when the belt is cinched tight), then pulling the release tab outward will result in the webbing flying through the buckle. This makes it, in effect, a quick-release system.
A Few Points About Support
American battle belts traditionally have either three or four-point harnesses. The old ALICE suspenders had four points, regardless of whether they were Y or H-harnesses. The Y-harness split into two attachment points at the bottom. The newer Marine Sub Belt has a simple 3-point harness, as covered in a previous article. This is the exception to the rule, however. We generally have two points of attachment in the front and two in the back, better to support a fully-loaded battle belt.
Again, the British do it differently. Their Hippo belts use a six-point attachment. The front of the yoke has two straps which attach to D-rings on the right and left of the belt buckle. The rear has two traditional straps that attach at the rear, by the small of the back. In addition, there are two straps which come off the rear corners of the yoke at 45 degree angle and wrap around to attach to D-rings on the sides of the hippo belt.
Combined with the broad, padded yoke, this leads to a more stable and robust system. It allows the user to carry more weight and yet keep it sturdily mounted on the hips without fear of shifting or undue shoulder fatigue. This is a major consideration when you are going to use the Hippo belt as your main load-carrying equipment. The hippo belt is able to carry your basic load-out, including:
- 6 AR magazines
- 2 pistol magazines
- USMC Individual First Aid Kit – H-bandages, gauze, tourniquet, ace bandage, naseophalangial airway, Bolin chest seal, shears, medical tape, pill pack, band-aids, space blanket, foot cream, foot tape, chapstick
- British Tactical Hoplite Large Utility Pouch holding a 2-quart canteen
- British Tactical Vertical Utility Pouch with canteen cup, peanut butter, small bag of rice, chocolate bar, small tin of sweetened condensed milk, coffee in tea-bags
- USMC IFAK pouch with canteen cup, canteen stove, poncho stuffed into it, flashlight, bundle of 550 paracord and 5 small tent stakes
- Handgun – a SIG P226
In addition, I’ll find a way to route a drinking hose from the up over the shoulder. An extra tourniquet and a radio microphone will go on the left shoulder of the yoke. These broad shoulder pads have a tendency to pull out to the sides, and could slip off the shoulders. British Tactical solved this potential problem by adding an adjustable sternum strap. The strap leads to increased comfort and wearability.
Impressions of the Hippo
The Hippo belt is very well made. The Bar tack stitching is neat, straight, and there are no loose threads. The inside is made of covered closed-cell foam, and provides a good cushion for even heavy loads. Surprisingly, the whole ensemble is rather light. That is, except for the roll pin buckle. You could use that bit to bludgeon a bear to death.
Speaking of bears, in the next article, we’ll take the Hippo belt and yoke out to the range and the trail. Let’s just hope we don’t actually run into any angry black bears.
-By Allen Cosby