The Supair STRIKE is an ultralight pod harness based on the one designed for the 2015 Red Bull X-Alps race. Hike-and-fly racing is surely a niche activity, but many pilots appreciate the lightweight revolution which is transforming our gear and allowing us to explore more freely. When a harness is designed with these pilots in mind, we get something exceptional: a fully competitive ultralight that anyone can access. Is the STRIKE suitable for more leisurely adventures, or even normal XC flying? We investigate.
The Strike has a removable mini seatboard that offers direct control for ‘seat of the pants’ flying. For a softer ride and slightly less weight, remove the seatboard. The certified backprotector covers a good area from front to back. Being filled with foam that is easily compressed it offers little protection for a point impact, but for the certification tests and impacts on flat surfaces, the mousse-bag squishes with a reassuring woosh. For dropping from a standing position I found it adequate and similar to competitors’ protectors in this segment, but this is one of the areas where you might consider a heavier harness to gain more robust protection, especially when you consider that the protector is covered only in ripstop.
It has a warm pod skirt made of a stretchy fabric with slippery rubberised interior. This pulls into a beautifully streamlined shape when the footplate is pushed out, and did not catch on my heels. It’s quite tight on the knees so restricts stepping on speed a little.
It has buckles in all the places you’d expect on a mainstream harness, with the exception of a single step-through loop which prevents the pilot from forgetting at least one legstrap connection. This is probably a good thing for fatigued pilots in ‘the race’, but I’d hazard a guess that racers will step through all straps, saving the time of setting up the many buckles. For general pilots, it’s the easiest ‘step through’ you can get: it’s a second step-through that causes all the difficulty, wisely avoided on the Strike with a standard push-through buckle.
These small buckles will be a challenge with cold fingers, and certainly won’t be opened quickly while flying unless you’ve already mastered the one-handed brassiere surprise, but with all the alarm recently about overzealous quick-release buckles, it’s reassuring to have an infallible rectangle of metal.
Coming in at around 2kg (M size, without the optional seatplate) the Strike is light, but it isn’t the lightest. Yes things could be made more minimalist, easy-adjust buckles could have been omitted, fabrics could have been lightened, reinforcing left out, comfort reduced … and you’d be left with something you’d rather not fly outside of a race environment. Instead, the Supair designer has made something that is really comfortable, allowing a good launch stance, the ability to dangle in the legstraps for safe ‘PLF position’ landing approaches, good in-air adjustment and support, and a nice semi-reclined pod position that feels reassuring and is more upright than most.
To keep the weight down, ripstop fabric is used on the rear half of the harness, which is not durable in rocky environments. Take care! (and take some glider repair tape with you).
The rear pocket is easily accessed with a large zip-around opening, and an internal drinking pouch pocket and hole for its tube. There’s more storage space under the seat, large enough for a 4L ballast bag. On the left side of the pod there’s a deep zipped side-pocket. I really liked the featherlight removable chest-strap pocket for snacks and cameras, which fits neatly into the corner beneath the riser. Overall, there’s more than enough accessible storage for me, and a welcome range of spaces for bivi flying.
One of the best features is the front mounted reserve (safest position, always visible allowing for regular checks and fast deployment) with a zipped gusset leading to shoulder attachment points. So if you have a mechanical failure on your main suspension points (unlikely, I know, but think about it) your reserve isn’t attached to the same place. It also means you’ll be dangled into the Parachute Landing Fall position once you have disabled the main wing.
I don’t like the hook and loop fastener closures at the end of the gusset which leaves some male hook and loop fastener exposed and seems a bit unfinished in an otherwise superb product, but it is effective. The pins on the reserve handle are too short so like to emerge from their narrow sleeves, but it doesn’t affect the integrity of the pouch as there’s a long way to go before the loops are released.
The instrument panel is in a great position and nicely angled. Although small, it has enough space for a landscape position Oudie 4 or a phone and Flymaster side-by-side.
As far as sizing goes, they are fairly large: I’m 1.74m and was at the lower limit for torso size on the Medium, with most of the straps pulled tight. The S size only reduces the pod length, so it’s not for really small pilots.
Who’s it for?
It’s ideal for adventure pilots, those who regularly walk up peaks or hike out of the wilderness. If this is your first foray into lightweight gear, you’ll be grinning from ear to ear when you pick this up. The detailing is surprisingly functional, without the compromises usually seen in light gear. It would be appropriate for regular XC flying, although it will have a shorter lifespan than standard harnesses. Depending on the rules for your hike-and-fly race, you might be able to take the optional lighter back foam, but for most flying I wouldn’t want to reduce the protection. It’s slightly heavier than some competitors in the ‘ultralight race’ category, but it offers a safer flying position, better reserve solution, more versatility and better comfort.
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