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I have lately received the same question about belt ratings so I wanted to cover this again. The big companies with their colorful catalog pages and fancy websites, like to post big numbers for ratings, you will commonly see 6500 lbs, and 7000 lbs in these sales ads.

But here is the truth behind that, companies will list the individual weight/rating of the single strongest component so they can do a modern day bait and switch with strength ratings which is a dangerous game with what can be perceived as life safety gear.

The common rigger belts are made of a variety of 1.75 wide webbing, this webbing is same used in the parachute/skydiving industry, these types of webbing hold a rating of usually 6500 lbs and 7000 lbs, but the buckles used on the standard classic riggers belts and the cobra buckles are rated at 2500 lbs. Call me a bit crazy but a belt made from webbing rated at 7000 lbs that is secured with a buckle that is rated at 2500 lbs, and the buckle is obviously the piece of hardware that secures and closes the belt around, then the rating of the belt is 2500 lbs. But for a company that wants to sell “hard man” gear to everyone needs to pump up those numbers to make sales.

Next topic – riggers belts aren’t designed for life safety, they aren’t designed for rappelling, they originally sewn by parachute riggers for guys wanting a back up belts for tying swiss seat harness, they were back up belts. But like any tactical gear they become a fashion statements, and the rating these companies are pimping creates the idea they are some form of life safety rescue gear.

Some agencies (state, federal or local government) can write their own safety standards, and that opens them up to legal litigation, in my opinion. Example if an accident occurs. “X” named SWAT team/agency says to wear “Y”brand belt as safety gear, and then an officer is killed due to some kind of failure of that piece of gear, any good lawyer will build a case to hold the department responsible. If you are using gear in a professional role of your job and unless you are military , you should be using federal or state safety guidelines, not a catalog sales pitch or a salesman word at a tactical shop.

I recently received an email from someone asking about the strength rating of retention leashes, and he did ask and educated answer asking about the kN rating (which is a measure of force instead of pounds).  If you have questions about aerial operations then you should consult the
Magpul Dynamics Aerial Platform Operations DVD.

A few things about retention leashes is they to serve as a travel restraint, you can’t fall out of vehicle or aircraft if you physically can’t reach the door. Or retention leashes are commonly used for air assault style operations where someone needs to make a quick exit from a helicopter when the helicopter makes a quick touchdown to drop off people for an assault. Example of the series of actions describing this use. A Trooper is loaded into an aircraft, and sits in seat until close to the objective, then before releasing the seat belt, they clip their retention leash into a fixed part of the aircraft, and then they make the transition from seat to being seated on the floor, when the aircraft makes it quick landing the trooper can un-clip and step from the aircraft to move to whatever objective. What I describe here is an ideal circumstance for safety and we all know ideal can’t happen all the time. But only a moron takes unnecessary risk for macho style points. The bungee aspect of retention gear is to make the leash compact when not in use not to create some kind of bungee fall shock absorber, you take a hard fall onto a production retention leash and one you are looking at possibly serious back injury, blown apart stitching and possible hardware failure.

Next topic – what does the strength rating mean? Strength rating on items such as sewn goods, and hard goods, like carabiners, is a static load that is gradually applied until it fails. If you doubt me, look on youtube for UIAA mountain strength testing. Companies don’t base strength rating on dynamic drop test because from what I was told by a leading expert in testing gear, is that too many variables exist in dynamic drop test to create scientific data.

If you are interested in looking up the information, look at the rating of the parachute hardware. Don’t use a catalogs fancy sales pitch as a definition of safety ratings, do the time and research UIAA, NIOSH, OSHA,  and NFPA rating systems.

Generally safety ratings should be 10x or 15x (different safety agencies differ in opinion) the weight of the person using it, meaning, if the person weighs 200lbs with gear and hardware, the safety gear must be 15x stronger than weight of the user (again weight is you plus your gear), so for the 200lb person their gear needs to have a capacity of rating of 3000 lbs. And that rating is based on the weakest point of gear (back to the first example of the belt). That 15x safety margin is to cover the amount of force in a dynamic event.

Belts are for holding up your pants, and harnesses are for fall protection, climbing and rappelling. That said, I use the strongest best quality webbing , the strongest thread in my rigger belts (average belts are built with 8 lb thread and mine are built with 24 lb thread), strength in sewing comes from a few variables strength of the thread, the number of stitches per inch, and number of inches of stitching. So I make my belts as strong as possible but again a belt is only as strong as the buckle that secures it around you. Austrialpin has released a new 1.75 buckle to be compliant with new NFPA standards, and that buckle is rated at 4500 lbs. but the normal cobra buckles are rated at 2500 lbs.

This isn’t about me selling something but me using my combined experience as a rockclimber, firefighter, professional rescue technician for the National Park Service, technical rescue instructor and sewing guru to help you guys make strong decisions when purchasing gear


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