Renegade Harnesses: Finally a little support
© Ravi Chopra, 1998
Remember the old days when paint came in little 10-round tubes and CO2 came in little 12g cylinders? Those days were great, weren't they? Not because everyone used pumps and the games were long, boring, and slow, oh no, I love semis. Those days were great because it was so EASY to carry everything you needed on the field. I had a belt with a small pouch I could stuff 15 10-round tubes in. My air was in a 7 oz tank I ran back-bottle. That was it. Grab the 'gun, strap on the belt and I was good to go.
Not today. Today's demanding tournament player needs to carry much more crap on the field with him. The days when you could get away with bringing 10-round tubes on the field are long since gone. Today you load up with a stack of 100 or 140 round monster haulers. 12 g CO2 cylinders? 7 oz tanks? HA! You need enough air to shoot all that paint. Try on a remote 114 ci nitrogen tank for size.
And with the much larger and heavier gear and supplies carried on field comes bigger harnesses and packs to help you haul it around. These packs have stacks of 100 or 140 round tube pouches, and often an adjustable vertical tank pouch that can hold anything from a 20 oz CO2 tank up to a massive 114 ci nitro tank. Loaded up, these get pretty heavy. Most packs today have an adjustable strap and buckle in front to hold it around your waist.
That's an awful lot of weight hanging, often quite painfully, right on your hips. I used to run a pack with 5 140 round tubes on the left side and a nitrogen tank on the right. When I ran the tank on-gun, the weight of the filled tubes shifting around was enough to bruise. Running the tank remote was painful. With most packs, all that weight pulls down heavily on the belt and drags the harness down too low. Twice during one practice I slid into a bunker on my lower two tubes. The tubes survived but the paint broke (which I didn't discover until after I'd dumped it into my hopper). Add to this the fact that most packs won't stay in place. They shift, twist, and bounce, making it difficult or painful to run, crawl, and even just move around behind your cover.
Fortunately, it appears that I'm not the only one that noticed these problems with most current packs. Renegade has come out with a line of packs and harnesses incorporating features that address these problems I've found in other packs.
The first thing you'll notice is that they have two big velcro straps to hold them on in front. Since the straps are attached and adjusted with velcro, they won't loosen up over time like an adjustable buckle can. And since there's no buckle, you're more likely to get bounces since you don't have that extra hard-point in front. The addition of a second strap near the bottom of the pack means that the pack will be held close to your body both on top and on the bottom so it won't bounce around behind you when you run.
The second and most impressive major feature of the Renegade packs is a large elastic band that runs right through the middle of the pack where your body is normally positioned. It looks very strange at first and leaves you wondering how you're supposed to get into the crazy thing. As it turns out, you put the pack on very much like you would any other. When you first start putting it on, the elastic strap will hit your back first, leaving the rest of the pack dangling loose behind it. Continue pulling the pack forward, stretching the elastic until the whole pack is tight against your back. Once the elastic is stretched tight and the pack is snug against your back, fix it in place with the two big velcro straps in front. Granted, this is a somewhat more complex ingress maneuver than required with most packs, but you'll find that it's worth the extra trouble once you get the pack on. That big elastic strap stretched taut around your body and the two velcro straps in front hold the whole pack tightly in place wherever you situate it. Load the pack up and jog, run, jump, aerobicize, whatever; the pack won't shift, twist, or slide down no matter how violent your movements. And since most of what is wrapped around you is elastic, it stretches to fit your body however you position yourself and doesn't restrict your movement or breathing. Finally, the elastic band stretched tightly across your back acts as an all-too-welcome back support! The more weight you load the pack down with, the tighter the band pulls into your back, and the more support it gives you. These packs are so comfortable, once you get one on, you're not going to want to take it off.
Renegade packs are available in a huge variety of configurations. If you use 100-round tubes, 4, 6, and 8-pot packs are available. The 4-pot pack has the four tube pouches stacked and opening to the left with a tank pouch on the right. The 6 and 8-pot packs have have the tube pouches split and stacked evenly on both sides with a tank pouch in the middle. The 6 and 8-pot harnesses are also available as "Chieftan" packs which have tall pouches on each side which hold stacks of tubes rather than a single tube in each pouch. With the Chieftan packs, you can pull full tubes out of the bottom of the pack and stuff the empties into the top.
If you use the larger 140 round tubes, Renegade has a varitey of packs for you as well. They have 5, 6, and 7-pot vertical packs with a stack of tubes opening to the left and a tank pouch on the right. The Turtle 8-pack has 6 down-facing tubes across the back and a pair of horizontally oriented 100 round tubes stacked on top of them. Finally, they have a new Hybrid 4+2 pack which has 4 tubes opening to the left and a pair of down-facing tubes on the right and no tank pouch.
If none of their standard packs fit your needs, they can custom make a pack to your specifications. Two of my teammates had custom monster packs made which had 8 down-facing 140 round tubes spread 4 across and stacked 2 deep. One of them even had a nitrogen pouch laid horizontally across the top of the tube pouches.
As with all Renegade gear, these harnesses are available in a host of different camouflage patterns, including TimberGhost, OakLeaf Spring, Country, Foxwood, Mossy Oak, TreBark, Belgium, New Tiger, Image, and Black.
The three packs I was sent for review were a 6-pot harness, a 6-pot vertical pack, and the Hybrid 4+2. The 6-pot harness was the most comfortable of the three since it wasn't as tall, and it wrapped around a bit more tightly than the 6-pot vertical and Hybrid packs. The 6-pot vertical held some significant advantages over the standard 6-pot pack. First, since it holds six 140 round tubes, you can carry quite a bit more paint. Additionally, the configuration of tubes on one side and tank on the other makes for an extremely low-profile pack which hides the tank and tubes entirely behind your back. For someone like me who always seems to get taken by hits on exposed tube ends, this is of great benefit. On the downside, the taller vertical 6-pot didn't allow quite as much torso flexibility as the smaller 6-pot pack. Also, the 140 round tube pouches overlapped the tank (to keep everything tucked in behind you) so the tubes and tank tended to steeple out from your back, making it less comfortable to lay back behind low cover. Since I´ve gone to an on-gun nitrogen rig, I´ve come to love the Hybrid 4+2 pack. It holds as much paint as the 6-pot vertical, but since all the tubes aren´t stacked on one side the Hybrid pack isn´t as long, allowing greater torso flexibility and eliminating the chance of sitting on your bottom tubes. Like the 6-pot vertical, though, the 4 horizontal tubes do steeple out a bit over the 2 vertical tubes making it a bit less comfortable to lay back.
Whoever designed these packs deserves to be recognized in Stockholm the next time they hand out Nobel prizes ("and now, for his significant contributions to the alleviation of pain and suffering on the paintball field..."). Without a question, these are the best designed harnesses currently on the market. They offer superior comfort, better fit, and built-in back support. While they are somewhat more expensive than other packs on the market, this is definitely a situation where you get far more than your money's worth from the added expense. In addition, you can get the packs stuffed with Indian Springs´ 100 or 140 round Guppies for much less than retail price if you purchase them with the pack. Frankly, words and pictures alone do not do the Renegade packs and harnesses justice. If you're in the market for a new pack, or are tired of the poor fit of your current pack, I strongly encourage you to try on one of the new Renegade packs. I think you will find, much like I did, that they are simply beyond compare.
All material at this site is © Ravi Chopra, 1999