For more than 65 years, we have been fortunate to help with numerous military projects, and we are very proud of that fact. This past month, we wrapped up a particularly rewarding project for the United States Marine Corps. This effort required fit tests to be strategized and executed on new Marine load carrying systems (backpacks) that were designed to be integrated with body armor.
The Marine Corps has multiple pieces of protective equipment and gear in its arsenal. Because pieces of protective gear are sometimes developed in isolation, problems can arise when using two or more pieces together. One particular issue had been interference between a necessary piece of torso protection – body armor with rigid plates – and the very necessary backpack. The lack of integration caused both the backpack and the body armor to be uncomfortable, and occasionally the plates would move out of the ideal protective position.
Marine Corps engineers tackled this problem by designing an integrated backpack and body armor system. While it is integrated so the pieces mesh smoothly, each can also be worn alone. Of course, any new or potential product needs to be tested on actual users before it is finalized and issued, and that is where we came in.
How Anthrotech Helped
Anthrotech performed separate fit tests on two different versions of this product. In each case, there was significant prep work involved, including helping create a sampling plan, developing the measurement list and data collection form, determining the fit criteria and planning the logistics of the actual fit test. To create the fit data protocol, we worked closely with the Marine project officer to make sure the data we were collecting would answer the specific questions that needed answers. We then assessed the measurements and fit data, looking for ways to improve the fit and function of the backpacks.
The first fit test took place in the spring of 2016, and the second was just completed in March of this year. In total, nearly 200 Marines were measured. During both fit tests, the following measurements were taken:
- Shoulder length
- Waist height
- Front hipbone to midback
- Buttock circumference
- Chest circumference
- Waist circumference
- Waist front length, standing
- Waist back length, standing
- Suprasternal height (top of breastbone)
- Biacromial breadth (shoulder)
- Chest breadth
Two major changes were made to the backpacks resulting from our data from the fit tests. The first test included the backpack and body armor that were currently in use. One of the test questions on that test was whether the Marine preferred the existing pack/armor combination or the new integrated concept. Based on the data from the first test, we could drop the existing configuration from further testing. But, that first test also revealed some issues with the adjustment mechanism for the length of the backpack. Marine engineers made those changes before the second round of testing.
The second test showed that the new adjustment mechanism worked well, but that it did not adjust enough. The detailed body measurements we took, along with the results of the fitting trials, allowed us to recommend a specific amount to increase the adjustment so that short and tall, as well as female and male Marines, would all be accommodated. The end result is a backpack that is now:
- easily adjusted for different torso lengths to account for wear with and without the body armor.
- more ergonomically-designed in the shoulder harness to improve the range of motion for arms.
- ergonomically redesigned at the hip belt to better accommodate load transfer and wear with body armor.
- available in additional sizes of hip belts to improve fit.
Having the right fit, a high comfort level and enhanced functionality for this backpack and armor duo was incredibly important to Marine leaders. We were honored to help them achieve their goal of outfitting the Marine Corps with only the best equipment.