For the last couple trade shows or so, Eagle Industries has been quietly showcasing an accessory that is decidedly interesting: the Ergo Performance System. It went under our radar the first time because of its unconventional and unassuming appearance, and it was only this year that we looked into it and decided then and there that we HAD to test it.
So, we requested a sample, and Eagle also sent us an Ultra Low-Vis Lightweight Plate Carrier (ULV) with a small selection of ancillary accessories.
Ergo Performance System (EPS): an innovative, patented lightweight body armor suspension system
The Ergo Performance System is a lightweight Y-shaped contraption built using spring steel wire, various fabrics and hi-tech polymer plastics. It is meant to be installed on the plate carrier or vest, between the body and the rear panel, with the “arms” of the Y fastened to the vest’s shoulder straps. The Ergo addresses some very specific disadvantages related to the very nature of an armored vest or plate carrier; namely, weight (due both to the armor itself, soft panels and plates, and gear carried on the vest, including ammo) and heat accumulation, due to insufficient ventilation.
The way the Ergo works is similar to how a traditional external backpack frame works: it distances the rear panel of the vest (lined with soft armor and the ballistic plate) from the wearer’s back and channels the weight at the small of the back, in the lumbar area, relieving the weight off the shoulders and allowing increased ventilation in the standoff that it provides from the armor.
Additionally, the Ergo “pushes” the lumbar area forward, vastly improving posture, allowing the spine to sit straighter and balance front-heavy load bearing vests – imagine a minimum of four M4 mags, soft armor and plate, radio,…
Consequently, the manufacturer claims a 25-68% increase in thoracic range of motion, a 17% increase in lung capacity, 10-25% decrease in back muscle fatigue and an increase in airflow and ventilation of 50%. All of this has been backed by Eagle with an independent medical research, using FLIR thermal imaging, mEMG, Dynamic X-ray and Pulmonary Function Testing.
As we said, we also received a complete ULV Lightweight Plate Carrier in Multicam, which we set up with a pair of standalone Level III Plus ballistic plates, full M4 mags, some additional accessories, and an additional seven kilo weight in water, ammo and other stuff in the provided Turtle Assault Pack, mounted to the rear panel with the lateral zippers. This pack also features hidden straps that can be used to carry it as a small backpack.
Eagle Ultra Low-Vis Lightweight Plate Carrier (ULV): features
Before we delve into the Ergo review, we’d like to spend some praise to the ULV plate carrier. First off, the quality is excellent, workmanship, stitching, assembly and obviously materials are just top-notch. It uses rugged 500D cordura construction, with HANK material on the shoulder straps and cummerbund, and Tweave elastic fabric where practical, especially in the SAPI pockets inside the PC, accommodating multiple plate thicknesses.
The ULV takes Crye’s JPC concept to a new level in our opinion, improving the idea yielding a PC that is extremely light, flexible, and battlefield tough. MOLLE webbing is sparsely and strategically placed on the PC as to be most useful and less cumbersome. A drag handle is semi hidden on the rear, it does seem a bit on the thin side, however. A selection of front flaps are available, including an ‘active shooter’ flap, providing a med pouch, two pistol mags and up to four M4 mags. We used the triple M4 mag front flap for this review.
The ULV is already very comfortable, even on a full load it feels great and after a full, three day rifle class – it still felt good. Then we mounted the Ergo Performance System. Installation is the same with any vest providing MOLLE webbing, as it is needed to fasten the lumbar support of the Ergo. The padded shoulder supports are fastened using four Velcro straps, two on each “arm”.
The Ergo can be easily adjusted via two internal buckled straps, the tension of the spring steel wire providing more or less distance between the user’s back and the vest, and pressure on the lumbar area. The Ergo is built using 500D Nylon, with Dri-lex spacer mesh on shoulders and lumbar areas, and Squadron Laminate.
First impact is amazing. The donned PC seems to weight half of what it did moments before – and with the added 520 grams of the Ergo on it! And after a few minutes, the annoying heat accumulation on our back (it’s summer here, with temperatures easily reaching 34-36 Celsius), with its unavoidable huge wet sweat blotch, is simply gone.
Got to hand it to the manufacturer, their claims are confirmed, and my back does feel better at the end of the working day. I let some friends in active duty try it out for another class I attended, and they all fell in love with the thing.
Another effect that I did not really expect, is a very real improvement in breathing the Ergo gives, especially during extended physical exertion, and reduced chafing on the usual vest pressure points. This, is especially remarkable, and has to be tried to be believed.
All in all, the MRSP of 170 US $ for the Eagle Industries Ergo Performance System may seem steep, looking at the contraption itself, but I can tell you after you try it on, you will want it on any vest you own and use.