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Crye Precision Nightcap and Skullcap
Nightcap - The Nightcap is designed as a compact, head-worn night vision goggle mount that takes the place of the issue 'skull crusher' head mount, for when the user does not want to wear a helmet and doesn't want the bulk of the issue head mount. The problem with the issue head mount is that it's awkward to carry when not in use and it has limited adjustability, as far as angle or NOD height goes. The Nightcap allows the use of mounts like the Norotos or Wilcox that have all the necessary adjustments incorporated into them. No other headmount folds up flat and stuffs into a shirt or pant pocket like the Nightcap.
At first glance, Crye's Nightcap looks like someone stuck a NOD shroud on the front of a brimless mesh baseball cap, and I wondered how on earth that would support the weight of a night vision device. The Nightcap is primarily made of Omega polyester mesh. Omega is a high tear strength matrix with 2mm hole diameter that offers high breathability and camouflage.
If you look at night vision head mounts, you'll see that they mostly share common load paths obtained by the use of straps. The Nightcap does the same, but by using the mesh fabric in combination with webbing to provide the support for the NOD. The 'heart' of the Nightcap is the shroud base. The Ops-Core VAS shroud is used as the NOD mount with a three-hole pattern. At the front of the Nightcap is a cordura pocket, which houses a shaped carbon fiber insert. The mounting screws of the VAS shroud go through this insert as well as the cordura in the front and back, providing a secure mounting platform. Right behind the insert is another pocket that folds out and is held in place by a velcro strip. This pocket has a soft microfiber fabric for next-to-skin comfort, and houses a removable foam forehead pad. The combination of carbon fiber insert and pad distributes the pressure over a wider area.
A 1.5"-wide webbing headband encircles the head except for at the back, where the rear adjustment is. Circumference adjustment is made by tightening or loosening the 3/4" webbing strap at the back with ladder lock. This snugs the front pad and shroud against the fore head.
The strap system is similar to the Ops-Core Head-Loc retention system/harness. The key to the stability of the Head-Loc system is that the side straps are straight, all the way from the back of the head to the front of the chin, while the chin straps are also straight when they run from the side of the Nightcap and down under the chin. By eliminating the angle or pivot points between the chin cup and straps, the system is more stable on the head than conventional helmet or head mount harnesses. The straps are attached to metal loops, sewn to the 1.5" wide head band. Strap adjustment is accomplished by triglides. Instead of a quick-release plastic buckle for donning and doffing, a simple snap and metal D-ring arrangement reduces bulk and doesn't interfere with cheek weld when firing a rifle.
The Nightcap features two velcro adjustments on top of the head. Right above the shroud mount is a metal loop through which a velcro strap runs through and secures back on top of the Nightcap. Shortening or lengthening this loop adjust the cap from front to back. The runs over the top of the head and down to the back. Crossing this strap at the top are two velcro one-wrap tabs. These are used to bring the sides of the mesh cap closer together at the top. By using the front-back and side adjustments, the Nightcap can accommodate different size head depths/heights. Shortening the straps raises the cap higher. Lengthening them lowers the cap. The velcro straps also provide a means of routing cables and attaching IFF squares. A 3.75" x 2" loop velcro patch is sewn to the back of the cap for counterweights etc.
Nightcap with NODs - Adjustments to the height of the Nightcap using the velcro tabs and strap on the top of the cap should be done initially without NODs attached. The Nightcap is then donned, and the headband tightened via the strap at the back. The side straps are then snugged up with the triglides. As you can see in the photos below, the Wilcox mount installs directly into the VAS shroud and it's closer to the head than when mounted to helmet. The Nightcap also allows hearing protection headsets to be worn over it and seal properly over the ears - something that some other semi-rigid head mounts don't. You can see how low profile and compact the Nightcap is when worn. By the way, ignore the plastic clip hanging off the PVS-14; it's part of the Down Range Gear lanyard system (which can also be installed on the Nightcap). Chin straps can be snugged up and adjusted after the NVG is attached as there'll be some slight shifting due to the added weight.
I was surprised at how solid the Nightcap feels, once all the straps are tightened and it's adjusted properly. Like a helmet, it does require that the straps are snugged to prevent movement. With a PVS-14 installed and no counter weight, it obviously feels front-heavy. A helmet may distribute the weight better, but then you have the additional weight of a helmet on your head. Compared to the USGI night vision head mount assembly, I found the Nightcap more comfortable, mainly due to the front forehead pad spreading out the pressure better than the thin pad of the USGI head mount.
There are other NVG headmounts available on the market in addition to the USGI skull crusher, but I haven't tried any of them. While some, like the Ops Core Skull Crusher might offer more comfort for extended use, none of them will be as compact and packable as the Nightcap. I can literally fold up the Nightcap and fit it inside the shoulder pocket of a Crye Field shirt.
Skullcap - The Crye Skullcap is a low profile, fleece lined beanie with a smooth MultiCam outer shell. The MultiCam fabric is a printed fleece that is not yet available to the commercial market, but it a smooth outer face fabric laminated to a soft, low nap microfiber fleece. The Skullcap is low profile enough to be worn under a helmet, and is shaped to cover the ears without extending too low and getting in the way of the eyes. The smooth outer surface helps repel water and block wind while still remaining breathable. There are two small slits on the side as pass-through slits for eyewear temples. After using the Skullcap, I'm guessing that most folks won't utilize the slits, as they don't work with eyewear that have retaining straps, and you have to take the little extra time to insert the eyewear temples through the slits after donning the cap. Also, if you forget they're passed through and you grab the Skullcap to take it off, the eyewear comes off as well. Other than that, it's a comfortable, warm and low profile beanie.
Crye Precision Modular Riggers Belt
Description - The Crye Precision Modular Riggers Belt was designed as a low profile solution to holding up your pants and providing load-bearing capability at the same time. The MRB is made up of three main components: the LoopLock inner belt, the main belt and the outer MOLLE sleeve.
LoopLock Inner Belt - The LoopLock Inner Belt provides the main load support for the MRB on the hips. It's a very low profile, 1.75" wide, curve-shaped belt made of Cordura fabric over a stiffening insert. It's very stiff laterally and will not roll over. The outside is completely covered in loop Velcro. There's an aluminum loop on one end of the belt through which the length of 1" webbing on the other end is passed through and folded back on itself. The 1" webbing secures to the loop velcro, and itself has loop velcro on its outside. The 1.75" width ensures that it will fit through most belt loops. The LoopLock Inner Belt can be worn as a stand-alone pant belt for use under other belt systems like the Blast Belt or AVS belt.
Main Belt - The standard main belt pictured here is a 1.5" webbing belt with a dual-adjust SR buckle. There are two metal loops located a few inches back from the buckle. When the loose ends of the webbing are passed through these loops, and pulled towards the front, the belt is tightened. The loose ends are folded and tucked into the elastic loops beside the buckles. The standard main belt is intended for usage that does not require a safety rating. An optional load rated main belt is available.
MOLLE Sleeve - The outer MOLLE sleeve is made of 500D Cordura, and is about 3.5" tall, with two rows of PALS webbing. The back has hook velcro to engage the loop velcro on the outside of the LoopLock Inner belt. There are two belt loops on the back that the Inner belt can be run through. The main belt runs through the upper channel in the sleeve, and is secured at the ends by velcro. The loose ends of the main belt are tucked back inside the channel or secured with the elastic loops. There's an opening in the channel on the sides for access to the main belt, so drop-thigh panels can be mounted directly to the main belt. By itself, the MOLLE sleeve has no stiffness. The bottom row of PALS webbing is shortened in the front to allow the user to bend down or squat without restriction.
Usage - The MRB can be utilized a few different ways. The inner belt can be used as a low profile pant belt, and the MOLLE sleeve with main belt can be donned over it quickly. Another way is to use the two loops on the MOLLE sleeve to keep the sleeve and inner belt attached in the rear, then first slide the inner belt through the pant belt loops, then close the MOLLE sleeve. This way, the sleeve is always perfectly aligned with the inner belt. A third way is just to use the main belt and sleeve, without the inner belt, over some other belt. Note that the loop velcro lining the MOLLE sleeve might be abrasive on other belts or fabric.
Notes/Observations - The Crye Modular Riggers Belt addresses the issue of bulk when it comes to a combat belt on top of a pants belt by combining the two, and utilizing the pant belt to provide the stiffness and support needed for load bearing. The thickness of the sleeve, inner belt and main belt is only about .35", which is very low profile. As the MRB has no padding, I found it slightly less comfortable on the hips for a whole day of shooting than Crye's padded belts like the AVS or Blast belts - basically like an unpadded duty belt. I had the MRB loaded up with a handgun, couple of 30-round M4 mags, dump pouch, couple of pistol mags and a first aid kit. When not attached to the inner belt, the MOLLE sleeve and main belt are floppy and soft, but very solid once they're engaged with the stiff inner belt, and support the load just like any other.
Since it's anchored to the inner belt which is routed through the pant belt loops, the MRB stays put and doesn't shift around. That might be a good or bad thing, depending on your needs. Some folks who wear combat belts rotate the belts around the waist to access pouches in the back; something that's possible with a non-anchored belt.
When the inner belt is worn as a stand-alone pant belt, and the MRB is worn over it without the loops on the sleeve securing it to the inner belt, it took me a couple of times to line everything up by feel, then making sure that the main belt buckle was centered. One thing I like about the MRB is that when I took the MOLLE sleeve and main belt off, it stowed much more compactly than a stiff padded combat belt because it had no structure of its own.
The other thing to take note of is that the MRB sits right on top of the pant belt by design. The pant belt may not always be where you want the combat belt to sit, depending on the rise of your pants. Most combat belts are designed to sit on the hips, not around the waist, for comfort and load bearing. For regular BDUs with a higher rise, I find myself with the pant belt higher than the combat belt, with the combat belt centered on my iliac crests; just like a backpack hip belt sits. For this reason, I found that the MRB works best with pants that have a lower rise, which means that the pants waist is lower. The Crye Combat Pants and Field Pants have a lower than normal rise, which is why they work well with the MRB. So, before you go with the MRB system, put on your pants and combat belt, and see where you like to wear the pant belt in relation to the combat belt. If they're right on top of each other, then the MRB will work well for you.
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