As usual I am catching up with reviews, but as a plus to that is has given me more time to beat up on this here fine StrandhÃ¶gg Plate Carrier. Even though First Spear has moved more towards their modular AAC system I think the StrandhÃ¶gg is still definitely worth talking about. For starters, if one is unfamiliar with First Spear, this vest is a great example of their 6/12 design tech and The Tubes hardware.
Instead of traditional PALS webbing to attach pouches, First Spear uses a special mix of 500D cordura sealed onto loop velour with laser cut slots. This effectively makes the main carrier compartment itself the attachment system rather than having to add on extra webbing, thus cutting down on a good chunk of weight and bulk. As a critical feature in my book, this setup allows mounting of both classic PALS compatible pouches and First Spear's own pouches using the 6/12 attachment method. This way one doesn't have to worry about being forced to be stuck with only one pouch brand, but can get the 6/12 specific pouches as desired to cut down on weight. The 6/12 specific pouches use one-wrap (one side is hook, one side is loop material) flaps shaped like trapezoids. These must be folded to fit through the slots so have a natural snag built in, but the main hold strength comes from velcro being very strong with just the little bit of constant pressure that comes naturally by wearing the carrier. The end result is a secure connection with no special hardware which then can come in to around a 40% weight reduction compared to traditional pouches.
Even with weight reduction being a big priority, I was happy the StrandhÃ¶gg still has good padding on the interior and shoulder pads. I think some designs are getting a little out of hand where sure I could duct tape plates to my body to save weight, but that doesn't make it a good idea. The StrandhÃ¶gg appropriately uses a combination of air-mesh material and padding to give good standoff allowing for some actual airflow and comfort. For those curious, if one really wanted to, the shoulder pads are removable.
While velcro has been commonly used for the main carrier cummerbund closures and tends to work good enough, First Spear continued to push the tech with the Tubes hardware. The general concept is a polymer tube which then slides over a pole and then locks with simple material spring tension in the middle. To release, the pull cord is pulled away to release the lock and then the tube can be pulled away up or down. The fact that the Tubes can connect and release from both directions is a big plus as it can be easy to find one's self in unexpected positions in combat. Currently produced in 2 sizes, the larger tubes can be seen on the cummerbund and the smaller ones are used on the shoulder straps. Since so easy and quick to use, no additional fancy quick release system is needed. Although there are many pluses, the cummerbund mount Tubes do have the down side of taking up some space that would have been used for pouch mounting. This pushes pouches further away from the frontal easier to grab sweet spots; generally the further the pouches are to the back, the harder they are to access. Being a collaboration with ITW, you can count on the Tubes being combat durable taking all kinds of abuse including being stomped on and hit with a hammer on purpose.