A couple of subtle changes to the tried and tested chest rig harness setup and Crye’s newest chest rig – the Airlite Convertible – is a significant departure from the norm.
In fact, this is the very first Crye chest rig that I get on with. I’ve bought (and very quickly sold) both the AVS Chest Rig and the Low Profile Chest Rig; neither proving suitable for my Goldilocks chest rig setup. The Airlite Convertible falls neatly in between its precursors – third time lucky.
For frame of reference, other chest rigs I’ve reviewed which I really rate are:
- Ferro Chesty rigs (my review here)
- HSP D3CR (my review here)
- HSP D3CRM (my review here)
- Spiritus Systems Micro Fight (my review here)
Out of scope in this article
The Airlite Converible includes internal radio pockets and removable one-wrap cable/hydro routing, plus the facility to carry a hydro or backpack via optional ITW Fastex clips.
Curious readers may like to check out the item’s user manual for more information.
These features are not in scope here, as I’ve not yet used them (and have in fact removed the one wrap). To be fair, running comms I’d probably go for an external radio pouch, but the option is there.
Similarly, this chest rig can be converted (clue in the name) from a stand-alone item to a wrap-around PC placard by detaching the harness and adding hook velcro backing segments. Again, I’ve not tested this out yet, so can’t comment fully. At this point Crye’s solution seems like something of an afterthought and it will probably fall to the likes of AXL to come up with a more robust solution.
On that note, I’d like to see an adaptor for AVS placards down the line.
As usual with Crye, there are multiple ways to set up the chest rig, but the configuration you see here has a very specific use case.
Front – six PALS columns
Right side – three PALS columns
- Crye SPS 6x6x3 GP pouch (review here)
Left side – three PALS columns
- WAS dump pouch
- BFG Tenspeed M4 single
The Airlite Convertible follows the micro chest rig format of six PALS columns up front. However, it departs from this standard by extending on the left and right sides into wings of three PALS columns each.
Suffice to say it’s a slick chest rig (or ‘MOLLE only’), in that it doesn’t feature stitched-in pouches and is therefore a blank canvas. I normally avoid MOLLE only chest rigs nowadays because piling cordura upon cordura adds bulk.
The Airlite Convertible gets around this by using Crye’s ‘structural’ Airlite laminate which, while super thin and conformal, gains a bit of backbone from its flexible black plastic backing (similar to that of HSGI’s Neo chest rig – review here).
So, you get the lopro aspect of a stitched-in rig but with your choice of pouches; plus, a bit of structure which should stop sagging and definitely aids load carriage. It’s a very comfortable chest rig.
The real star for me is the harness; and the elastication of it and the waist strap.
The harness is neither X nor H pattern, but a yoke design. Again it’s composed of Crye’s structural laminate and it spreads load wonderfully. Usually I’m not a fan of padded harnesses but Crye strikes the right balance between lopro, comfort and heat management by using skeletal strips of breathable 3D mesh. This gives great stand-off but doesn’t over-insulate, as full-on mesh is prone to do.
Despite being semi rigid, the harness – and waist strap – moves with you; being elasticated. This is genius, quite frankly. I’ve used elasticated waist straps previously, but together with its ground breaking harness design the Airlite Convertible absolutely delivers something new and more comfortable; more so than any other chest rig I’ve used. Similarly, there’s no slippage in the shoulder straps as it’s a one piece unit.
Lastly, the hack
Ostensibly, the Airlite Convertible is height adjustable. However, I’ve connected the harness directly to the placard, which puts it at a good height for me.
It also means that the straps used for height adjustment can be used for a small hack:
Using metal triglides (available separately) I’ve attached a pouch dangler style as a proof of concept. This could be replaced by a utility (preferably six PALS columns wide), or other choice.
After having no luck whatsoever with previous Crye chest rigs, I’m really impressed by the Airlite Convertible.
As I mentioned in my introduction, it’s the tweaks to the tried and tested form factor which really set it apart – and that’s largely down to the way it moves with, not against the wearer. Once properly adjusted it’s like a second skin – which I find to be rare in a chest rig.
What’s more, the yoke-like harness isn’t just super comfortable but distributes weight excellently: no back ache here, which is also a rarity.