Routine Helo Training, Summer of 2016. Training new SAR folks on Helo operations, specifically ingress / egress skid operations. I’d be dropped on edge of cliff about 1.5 Miles out, and control the area / students as they got familiar with dynamic entries in and out of a hovering bird. Wasn’t too hot of a day and since I was only looking at quick evolution, one water bottle should do.
Was also in the process of trying out a new vest setup. Per our SOPs, Technical Rescue operations require us to wear a class III rescue harness, aka a “Horse Collar.” Goes up and around the shoulders and has a belay strap that comes down the middle to your crotch. Because of the nature of hanging and gravity, this strap needs to not be buried under other gear. As such, a split harness is your answer. In this setup, my split harness had Medical, Radio + sustainment gear on the left side of the harness, and two mag pouches designated for hydration on the right side of the harness. (Nothing else on right side as it can get caught up in Rappel operations etc.) Tossed the water bottle in one of the mag pouches, clipped it closed, cinched the lid and waited for my Helo Uber.
Pro tip – make sure you clip your split harness BEHIND the Harness strap – otherwise the Rescue harness will end up blowing out the clips leaving you with a Tank top that’s been split down the middle. Same goes for wearing the harness with a PFD.
I was already kneeling down when the Helo arrived, waited for signal from Pilot indicating a “Good Hover,” and gracefully boarded my ride.
We get to my location, I get out of helo, take my position on edge of cliff to await students. In the lull, thought I would grab a quick sip of water before students start arriving. Reached down to my right side mag pouch, which was still clipped and cinched and found it empty. WHAT!? Panic and anxiety hit as I feared I had lost it during flight. There’s no way. Was it still in the Helo? Frig! What was it?!?
Looking closer at the pouch I instantly realized what had happened. When I knelt at the LZ, the kneck of the bottle was narrow and long enough that it pushed it’s way under the lid of the mag pouch. As I shifted weight from my knee and leaned forward to enter the helo, that must have been enough to allow the bottle to tip out of the pouch. SHAME!!!
Sure as sh*t, as the evolution was over and I returned to the LZ, buried in the dirt right where I was kneeling was my water bottle. Ugh. Dumb@ss. This could not happen again. Bad Dana. I had to find a way to ensure whatever was in those pouches would not creep their way out.
I really didn’t want to have to go buy more pouches etc. Looking at available bottle holders online, I noticed most of them had some sort of neck retention for the top of the bottle, and some sort of seat that the bottom of the bottles would sit in. VOILA!! That was it!! I just needed a BOTTLE NOOSE!!
I dug into my tactical arts and craft skills and fastened up a solution.
While I would have preferred using Shock Cord and cordlocks, in my haste to get this resolved I opted for some Paracord. I looped it through the back of the Mag Holster / MOLLE, and tied a quick and dirty friction hitch that would secure the neck of whatever I had in the pouch without letting it get loose and fall out. When time came, I could easily loosen the hitch, take a drink and place / secure the bottle back into the pouch. While the lid of the Mag Pouch doesn’t do much, it does cover the hitch to ensure it doesn’t find a way to get caught on something. Not bad. Works with all the plastic Gatorade / water bottles I tried, including aluminum can style beverages shown in pic. As long as it fits in the pouch and there seems to be some ‘lip’ you can cinch the BOTTLE NOOSE under, you should be g2g. (Good to Go.)
Happy to say my solution has been working since, and I have yet to go thirsty on a mountain. Your Mileage May Vary. 😉