Infantry officials at Fort Benning, Ga., have taken an interest in the Integrated Support Exospine – an innovative piece of load-bearing kit designed to lift equipment weight off the shoulders and make it more comfortable to carry. It sounds kinda gimmicky, but soldiers said it works when they tested it late last year during the Army Expeditionary Warfighting Experiment.

I posted a story about it on yesterday. The Exospine, made by Emerald Touch Inc., is another gear item Fort Benning officials are evaluating in an effort to make the infantry squad more decisive.

“It takes the load off the soldier’s shoulders and lower back and redistributes it to hips and big leg muscles,” said Col. Daniel Barnett, director of the Soldier Requirements Division at Benning’s Maneuver Center of Excellence. “The soldier feedback on that is ‘this is huge.’”

The Exospine is not ready for combat use, but infantry officials say it has the potential to reduce the injuries and fatigue that come with humping heavy gear on extended combat patrols.

 The Exospine features a carbon-fiber frame that supposedly pivots and flexes to allow soldiers to move naturally, says Dr. Michael Glenn, designer of Exospine and a doctor with 21 years in chiropractic medicine. It’s also designed to work with the Army’s IOTV.

Exospine is expensive, though. The prototypes are custom-made right now and cost about $1,200 each. But the cost will likely drop to about $700 under a large military contract, Glenn said. Still pricey, but so is a Gryphon Halfshell by Arc’teryx LEAF.




{ 22 comments… read them below or add one }

Mike April 28, 2012 at 11:25 am

Looks like it was heavily "inspired" by the Archangel system


Matt April 28, 2012 at 11:43 am

How about they just lighten the load as opposed to making gadgets that only redistribute the weight? You know, get back to that whole 'light infantry' concept? lol


Rapier975 April 28, 2012 at 11:52 am

"Get back" to the concept of light infantry? When were we ever there??


Lance April 28, 2012 at 12:39 pm

Don't know if it can make you load feel lighter but it looks nice and heavily padded.


Zach April 28, 2012 at 4:12 pm

Looks great. I don't see how they could implement it with the current Army standards requiring us to carry body armor. Going back to 'light' would be a significant change in doctrine, AGAIN, in the last decade. Besides that, I'm more of an advocate for Mystery Ranch's BASE solution for this problem of the light loads on the upper torso. Still keep the armor on but adds a comfort zone by taking the weight off and instituting a battle belt at the same time.


Neal April 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

Brain blast. ******* mortar rounds through Afghan mountain ranges? I think so.
Mule/donkey might be cheaper though…


Neal April 28, 2012 at 7:41 pm

That blanked out word *******, as in to carry a significant distance.


Neal April 28, 2012 at 7:42 pm

Whatever, I think you can figure it out.


Reacher April 29, 2012 at 5:55 am

*******…. Now what's the prize?


Reacher April 29, 2012 at 5:57 am

Alright, censorship, you win. We shall forever change the word to Frollicking.
Frollicking mortar rounds through Afghan mountains.

Neal April 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

Frollicking, indeed.

Rob April 28, 2012 at 9:53 pm

Hey looks great but think about the carbon fiber shrapnel you'll receive in a blast to your head and neck. Carbon fiber is not something you want inside you..


Levin Braveaux April 29, 2012 at 3:02 pm

Of course y'all realize that today's American soldier carries roughly the same weight as a Roman leigionnaire did at the time of Christ…Can you really justify the expense, given how much weight you carry on your LBE?


Ed Martin April 29, 2012 at 6:12 pm

The cost seems way out of line as usual, but anyone that has ever done any backpacking knows that the idea works great and is certainly not new.


Neal April 29, 2012 at 7:07 pm

I bet it's worth at least as much to the Grunts with soon-to-be compressed disks.


Larry April 30, 2012 at 6:16 am

I'm probably throwing away a million dollar idea here, but instead of the Army spending $700-$1200 per set of LBE (more ridiculous spending from our senior leaders) why not take a lesson from the folks like Kifaru and Mystery Ranch who make packs for the troops that hold large amounts of weight on a waist belt instead of just on the shoulders.

Take a battle belt and rig it with a set of stays that are part of an H-harness, or a framesheet. This pseudo-pack frame combination can hold the weight of the body armor and anything hanging off of it. It would work just like the combat packs mentioned above that have the weight of the pack held mainly by the waistbelt. It would also work for times when the body armor is not required.

And forget about using carbon fiber for whatever solution people come up with. It is too expensive, it only provides torsion rigidity which can be obtained with other methods, and the weight savings aren't worth the cost associated with it, not to mention what happens to it if it breaks or shatters in a combat situation.

Let's be practical folks, there are solutions out there that are alot cheaper and more dependable than these high-tech things that everyone seems to be coming up with.


Buzz April 30, 2012 at 7:39 am

Don't worry if it works the arm chair generals in bedroom 4 at FT Benning will come up with even more useless equipment for the soldier to carry.


straps April 30, 2012 at 9:14 am

Of course y'all realize that we have projectile weapons with a little more lethality than they had back in the days of the Legion? I've been in this game for a minute, and never have I been formed into a phalanx with pikes.

There are two kinds of groundpounder in this load transfer discussion: non-believers and folks who have tried the Crye, Archangel and Kifaru systems.


TacRecce April 30, 2012 at 12:38 pm

As a cheap and field expedient option how about removing the MOLLE large ruck from the frame and using just the frame, belt and shoulder straps as an improvised LBE system? If the frame is too rigid and you need to twist your torso more easily, you can buy the Down East Inc DEI 1606 Airborne Assault Frame for $35.91. Would the 1606 rig be perfect? I'm sure it is not. But if your unit could spring for $35.91 to buy one, you could test it out yourself and decide if it's a worthwhile improvement over your existing gear.


Larry April 30, 2012 at 1:58 pm


That is the kind of thinking I was talking about. We have kit we could repurpose to solve the problem if we just thought about body armor and everything we hang off of it as a pack and treat the LBE as the suspension for the pack.



Greg May 14, 2012 at 9:40 am

I think the compressed disk issue is largely negated with the use of such an innovation because it tries to offload the vertical load forces to the lumbar/pelvic girdle rather then the upper body.


Victor February 21, 2013 at 9:55 pm

Apparently this was first and they own the patent to it, therefore, Archangel was heavily "inspired" by them.


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