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:
- Hit-Air LV: $419
- Hit-Air Advantage: $549
- Helite Air Vest: $590-$649
- Point Two Pro-Air: $675
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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!
Do you ride in an air vest for cross country (or anything)? What brand? What made you choose it over the other options?