Comparing Air Vests

Ever since my first CT back in May, I’ve been contemplating an air vest. One of my team members took a nasty fall and ended up with broken bones in her spine, ribs, wrist/hands, shoulderblade and collarbone. She was not wearing her air vest. She was running Beginner Novice. It was just a freak thing. But it convinced me (and my fiancé) that I should probably get one.

So I’ve been doing research for the last month or so. My first cross country schooling outing reminded me that I should get on it and order one before I enter actual horse trials later in the summer. So: Point Two? Hit-Air? Helite?

We saw a demo of the Helite vest at Rolex. Seemed pretty good, but it’s not widely available in the U.S. (at least according to their site).

Here’s the problem, though. I’ve found some reviews and comparisons, but most of them are done by one of the manufacturers. I just don’t feel like a comparison video made by Point Two is going to tell me much unbiased information. Same for Hit-Air.

So here’s my own comparison list:

COST

  • Hit-Air LV: $419
  • Hit-Air Advantage: $549
  • Helite Air Vest: $590-$649
  • Point Two Pro-Air: $675

PROTECTION

  • Hit-Air LV: Airbags for the neck, chest, back, sides and hips. Larger neck and lower back/hip airbags than other models. Air expands outward from the body. Inflates in 0.18 seconds.
  • Hit-Air Advantage: Neck, back, chest and hip/waist airbags. Inflates in 0.09 seconds.
  • Helite: Back, pelvis, chest and neck protection. Inflates in less than 0.1 seconds. According to the website, when worn over a body protector, it can increase spine protection by up to 69%, and improves lower spine protection by 45% over a body protector alone. With or without a body protector, the vest reduces the risk of rib fractures and organ damage by as much as 20%. They also state that they have four full-time engineers on staff working to keep improving the system.
  • Point Two: Neck, back and chest airbags. Inflates in 0.09 seconds.

DRAWBACKS

  • Hit-Air LV: Slightly slower inflation speed. Does not have padding/airbag between the cartridge and the rider. However, it seems that wouldn’t be a huge issue since I would have my Charles Owen vest on underneath.
  • Hit-Air Advantage: The hip/waist ones seem odd because there are two – one on each side. It seems like that could leave your tailbone exposed. There’s also space between the two back airbags. Again, seems like that leaves your spine somewhat more exposed.
  • Helite: Pretty expensive but other than that, I can’t really find any.
  • Point Two: So expensive, and I’m unclear on what makes it $125-$256 better than the other models.

ENDORSEMENTS
Not that this will totally sway my decision if I think one is better than another. But knowing what upper level riders use is helpful to know as I try to decide between vests that seem pretty similar.

  • Hit-Air: Doug Payne, Tamra Smith
  • Helite: Elisa Wallace, Gemma Tattersall, Emily Beshear, Bettina Hoy, and lots more
  • Point Two: Like, everyone. Boyd Martin, Karen O’Connor, William Fox-Pitt, etc.

What I’ve noticed, though, is that Point Two seems to be way ahead of the Hit-Air in terms of marketing and promotion. Helite seems pretty good with their promotion outside the U.S. and they’re just arriving here. I’m not sure if these riders are choosing their vests because they truly believe in them, or because they were given to them.

TEAMMATE’S VESTS

All my teammates so far have Point Two vests. Reasoning included a range from “it shipped faster and I thought it looked better” to some points about the Point Two inflating inward and outward, rather than just outward.

MY THOUGHTS

I honestly cannot figure out if there is a true difference between the different choices. It seems like a preference. I like that the Hit-Air LV is more of a harness that expands a whole lot, versus the Point Two that looks more like a vest. The harness type seems lighter and less bulky. I also like the cost of the Hit-Air LV. For those reasons, I am leaning toward the Hit-Air LV. But, if I were presented evidence that convinced me that the Point Two was $256 safer, I would do go for the safer option. I like that Helite is so transparent about their safety and testing. It was the easiest to find easy-to-understand information about their vests. Point Two has great service and warranty information; the other two, not so much. It is just so unclear!

YOUR THOUGHTS?

Do you ride in an air vest for cross country (or anything)? What brand? What made you choose it over the other options?

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4 thoughts on “Comparing Air Vests

  1. Thanks for posting this. I’ve looked at a few and I am debating about getting one. My hubby would really like to see me in one, but I want to do my homework.

    I tried the Point 2 vest at Rolex and got fitted by the rep. I’m leaning towards that one.

    Just a FYI-they go on sale every so often for 50% off-around black Friday and if you get the USEA e-news they sometimes have a code.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I’ve not yet incorporated an air vest into my arsenal. I don’t really have the money, and honestly feel that if I fell wearing one I would NEVER get my horse back (the bang of the canister would certainly have him in the next county).

    That said, I’ve worn both on other people’s horses. You are right, the point two is bulkier and you have to wear it quite loose. I felt like it was a bit flappy when I had it on. The hit air felt lower profile and closer to my body. I feel like hit air is gaining popularity in California, as it used to be almost all point two until recently. People who have fallen, in either vest (though nobody I know has fallen in both), have never commented about any part of themselves feeling unprotected.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’d be more interested in knowing what kind of vest the person in question was wearing when she fell. Was it a segmented style or a solid shell? Did it have a BETA rating? Was it less than 5 years old?

    My problem with air vests is that there is zero data out there to back them up. I have no doubt that in some circumstances they can help, but I’ve seen them hinder (or even worse – CAUSE an accident) enough times that I approach them with a very healthy dose of skepticism. Also many years back Point Two said they were conducting a study yet we never heard a PEEP about any of those results. Kind of strange. All they’ve really done is taken technology from another industry and blindly applied it to ours, without really knowing how it works, if it works, or what the potential pitfalls are. I’ll happily don an air vest the day they show me some real data, but until then, I’m not buying.

    I do VERY strongly believe in the importance of a good, Beta 3 approved vest though. Not the segmented Tipperaries that so many people use that aren’t good for much more than cardboard, but a real, legit, approved protective vest. Also a lot of people don’t realize that the material in vests is just like the material in helmets – it breaks down over time, especially when exposed to extreme heat or cold. They should never be left in trailers or cars (something I see ALL THE TIME) and should be replaced every 5 years at minimum.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Great points. I believe it was a Tipperary vest. Our trainer immediately replaced her Tipperary and doesn’t want any of her clients to ride in them anymore (which we do not. All are in solid shells.) I will say – I talked on the phone with Point Two and learned a lot about their testing and how they achieved their results – keep an eye out for a new post about all of that soon. I agree with you about needing real data. It’s almost impossible to find, and it’s truly needed. At this point, I’m holding off on purchasing a vest myself (though I may end up borrowing one from a teammate), in favor of doing a LandSafe clinic early in the fall. Should be interesting!

      Like

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