"A firefighter and a soldier in full gear bear the same load as a medieval armored fighter. Which one will perform best on the run?"
This is the bet proposed by Daniel Jaquet of the Centre d'Etudes Supérieures de la Renaissance (Center for Higher Studies of the Renaissance), a young medievalist with a strong interest in history of science and material culture in the early modern period.
Well, if you bid on the modern soldier you’d lose, and if you bid on the firefighter you’d win - but by a narrow margin only.
How can we be so sure?
Because Jacquet run an obstacle course wearing a XV century armor against a firefighter with his equipment and a modern soldier in full kit. The results: the firefighter was first with 180 seconds, the “knight” second with 190 seconds, and the soldier arrived last with 218 seconds.
Still skeptical? Jaquet released a video as part of a museum exhibition:
Same burden, different distribution
“I have studied for 10 years how people in the late Middle Ages carried, fought and lived with it, from both a practical and scholarly point of view. I work with objects, documents and embodied knowledge in both academic and patrimonial institutions,” Jaquet writes on his own website.
This new study of experimental archaeology busts the myth that medieval knights couldn't move well in armor.
In reality, the burden is more or less the same of a modern infantryman, around 30 kg (or 60 lbs) – which shows how much soldiers of the XXI century are still hindered by their equipment, by the way.
The reason why a knight in full armor is in fact nimbler than a modern soldier is that while the knight’s armor is well-distributed over his body, the soldier’s burden is borne almost entirely on his back and shoulders. This is a serious drawback in terms of balance and mobility.
So, next time there’s an obstacle course and there are no firefighters around, you’d better bet on the guy in armor…