Monday, September 27, 2010

HALO - foundations

As I mentioned in my previous post, I'd be documenting the process of getting into the HALO armor, and the first step is the foundation layers.

The Body

Looking at the now-famous Master Sergeant picture, you need to have some type of skin-tight black layer that serves to cover you up and provide some contrast to the armor. The choices that we have are:
  • 0.45mm or thinner latex catsuit
  • "Classic Suit" from Slickitup*
    * This site may have content inappropriate to minors. Please view responsibly.
  • lycra one-piece dive suit
  • UnderArmour HeatGear compression shirt and leggings

Latex: HOT!

In terms of actual "look" - the latex catsuit would most be the best. It would also be the warmest, most expensive, and the worst looking if it did not fit exactly right. Not to mention the most difficult to get into and out of. A good latex catsuit would run at least $300 USD and would take at least 6 weeks to fabricate. Also, there are really no decent manufacturers in the States. The best ones are in either the UK or in Germany.

If you decide to pursue this alternative, some of the most reliable and accommodating vendors are:

Skin Tight Rubber (www.skintightrubber.com) - UK

Blackstyle (www.blackstyle.de) - Germany

Libidex (www.libidex.com) - UK

Get something between 0.45mm and 0.55mm. Anything thinner would not hold up.


It's "Slick", but ...

The SlickItUp "Classic" suit is extremely well cut and is made out of a coated lycra material that can either resemble leather or latex. Again, these are a bit on the pricey side (approximately $175) and they are really sold to be worn by themselves. Perhaps it's too well made to hide under the armor. I don't know how well the coating would stand up beneath the other base layers and rubbing against the rougher interior of the suit.



Back to Basics

The dive suit is designed to be worn in the water or underneath a wetsuit. It's meant to take a bit of a beating and is "breathable". UnderArmour HeatGear is very similar - well made, skin-tight ("compression fit") and is made to wick perspiration from your skin.

So I decided on purchasing a dive suit. The one I got was from PleasureSports. It's called a NeoSport by Henderson and was about $34. The big selling point for me was the fact that one of the options was to have a black suit with blue stripes, which would be a perfect accent for my suit. There are other ones out there with different colored stripes (or plain black) if you want to complement your armor color.



The Face

Again, we have a similar lineup of materials to choose from:

  • anatomical latex mask
  • anatomical lycra/spandex mask or dive hood
  • tactical balaclava
While we wouldn't have the same fitment issues with the latex mask as with a latex catsuit, the issue of heat buildup would still be there. I can tell you that the armor suit is a bit on the warm side, so unless you are going to be wearing this in cold weather, I'd pass on this option. Prices range from about $35-$60. One place that looked very promising was Eurocatsuits in the Czech Republic. The neck can be extended as much as needed.

I had an amazingly HARD time finding a spandex hood or even a dive hood. Everything was made of neoprene (the wetsuit material) and the few I came across had a very short neck. Or no eyes.

The important thing with the hood is to provide a seamless black transition from the body to the head. The HALO helmet does give some space between the armored shoulders and the head, so you don't want to have any skin peeking out.

That left the last option - the balaclava - and that was extremely easy to get. These are the type of hoods you see worn by SWAT or military personnel on a raid. Just do a search for "balaclava" in Google and you'll be presented with a wide range of ones to choose from. I got a UnderArmour HeatGear hood for $24.

Below is a pic with the balaclava and dive suit.




Bulking Up - MX Armor

Shawn also recommended that I use some MX armor to "bulk up" a bit beneath the HALO armor. As it happens, I have a Thor Impact Rig Special Edition. This item has poly-urethane shoulder caps with ram air vents, side-mounted zippers around the chest plate, molded foam panels, tension straps and elbow and forearm guards. It also comes with a removable kidney belt (which I did remove). Price is about $140. What's really great about this armor is its red accents on the shoulders. When I slip the HALO armor on, you see these two strips of blood red polycarbonate at the upper arm joint, which looks very, very intimidating - just the type of thing you'd expect from a super-soldier who takes every advantage he can of his enemy. Another nice feature of this suit is that the material on the shoulders of the Impact Rig act like the fuzzy side of velcro - the anchor strips for the upper arm pieces adhere very well to the Rig without any further work on my part!

What's also great about this MX armor is that it feels so good. It's snug without being tight, the shoulder, elbow and forearm protectors are well shaped and comfortable, and you look like a superhero just putting this on!


How's It Hanging? The Belt

In order to get the butt, hip and codpiece armor onto the suit, there is a velcro belt that you place the pieces onto. Be forewarned, however - this piece of material does not have the holding power to keep the thigh armor up and in place. The thigh armor has loops at the top that you slide the belt through; the armor is held in place just like a pair of fishing waders. Necessity is the mother of invention, so I grabbed a 1.5" black leather belt I got from American Eagle Outfitters and cinched it on. The belt has to go above your natural waistline, so make sure you have one that you can buckle very tightly. This isn't just holding up your pants!!

The velcro belt looks perfect going right over this.



Boots and Boot Covers

I had originally planned to use a pair of reef boots with the outfit, but when I received the boot covers from Shawn, I saw that I would have to wear either shoes or boots with laces. His covers have a metal "tongue" that slides into the lace-up area. This holds them down very tightly. A pair of black sneakers works best - for three reasons:

  • One, you have the thigh and lower leg armor on, it's a little difficult to sit and put on boots,
  • Two, you can't put the boots on earlier since you couldn't get the lower leg armor on over them, and
  • Three, the lower leg armor is so snug, you can't get boots under them!