Radio Strap: A modular system by RESPONDERS FIRST

11 mins read

There’s a guy at my station with a radio strap that I’ve asked about a handful of times.

From our comfy crew of 19, there’s a handful of radio strap setups, but my buddy’s radio strap is cool. It’s got die-stamped letters and numbers articulating his name and badge number. Functionally, it seems to keep the remote mic pretty handy for him and overall, he’s got nothing but good things to say about it. So, when I asked him where I could get one made that was similar, we immediately broke into a conversation about the differences to be had between leather and synthetic strap systems – primarily, decon.

A Callout on IG

Bouncing through Instagram one day last month, I stumbled across a post asking for product testers. I have a dotted history with writing gear reviews and am brand new in the fire service – I figured that might be an interesting angle for an aspiring gear company. At least, to try between senior firefighters and the greener members and to see how those experiences might compare.

I sent over a blind message and was pretty well immediately greeted by a human. I note that because you never really know when you’re engaging online anymore. When I send out a message – especially for a relationship like this, where one party would be expected to actually provide something – there’s always that question of personal security. We broke the ice with some conversation about my involvement in the fire service and where I’d hoped to bridge the Instagram account / brand.

Shipment Inbound!

After discussing some of the particulars, RESPONDERS FIRST sent me a complete radio strap system to experiment with and report back.

I received the parcel in the heat of the holiday season and for the life of me, couldn’t remember what I’d ordered to come from their dispatch centre. When I opened the external envelope, I was pleased to see a professionally packaged box. The QR code sticker keeping the lid secured lead back to their website and the minimal labels on the outside of the box let me know exactly what I was looking at. Inside, the components were individually packed on top of a handful of orange crinkled paper – right on brand.

As I emptied out the contents, I was drawn to how extensive the system was. I started to think about how I might use the modular elements for my own use case. Most notably, every component has two tags. One for the Cordura brand that makes up the rugged material this radio strap is built from. The other is a small orange tag with the RESPONDERS FIRST logo. I can see how some might see these tags as extra to the functionality of the radio strap itself, but I didn’t think they were large enough to smother the system with unnecessary branding.

Some of the pouches seemed immediately useful when compared to each other. There’s a component, for example, that is rigid and fitted for a multi-tool. I can see how this would be immediately useful in the career world. Where this strap rides with you through the day, I wouldn’t mind the extra ounces to keep a tool out of my pocket – especially something like a full-on multi-tool.

Modular. Actually modular.

Other components can be seated to your base radio strap to add functionality – keepers, a quick-detach anti-sway clip and, darkly, a covid-era hand-sanitizer holder. The keepers are outfitted with a square of Velcro to bite into the back of the strap – that’s a great feature. Another thing worth mentioning here is the addition of a Cobra buckle. It’s smooth, branded discreetly and looks great – I’m really glad they decided to go with this.

Specifically, I was pretty stoked to see the Velcro ID panel – that meant I could order a nameplate, and that’s exactly what I did. Multicam Black whenever I can get it.

The ID panel for this radio strap system offers a style change from most other offerings.
The ID panel for this radio strap system offers a style change from most other offerings.

I also added a subdued Canadian Flag. I can’t help it – they’re just cool.

Another element included in the box was a high-viz panel. I elected to set that up just above the ID panel. It sits over my left shoulder when in use. I used one of the keepers included to stow my remote mic on my shoulder and the other at the bottom of the radio strap to secure the cable. I’ve got a Zebra F-301 pen jammed in there too – another weight addition I’ll gladly accept to free up space in my pockets.

That’s where I think this offering really shines. The ‘system’ of it. For a radio strap, this system can be reorganized to suit many different styles and needs. That might be a deal-maker for some, especially if your needs may change over time. I’m a fan.

On the call – a performer.

I’ve had the strap through a few station practices and on a handful of calls. Mind you, everything I’ve done with this system on my shoulder have been pretty run-of-the-mill, but I can extrapolate from those experiences. Where I haven’t had this strap in any situations that would press it to failure, I can’t really imagine too many of them either. I mean, there’s the obvious craziness you could subject this radio strap to that would push it to failure. There is, however, a feature of this unit that RESPONDERS FIRST leans on in their social media presence. It appears to be made with flame-resistive materials. They’ve got multiple videos of this thing being subjected to a blow-torch without melting. Without the means to scientifically prove the claim, it at least looks to be the case.

One time, when I was removing the strap from my truck, I got one of the triangular carabiners connected to the actual radio pouch hung up on something. As a consequence, it released from the radio pouch and I had to reconnect it. If anything, I attribute this to my having it folded up on the dash – a less than ideal means to store it but a point nonetheless. If my job here was to test it, test it I will. I have since wound a short strip of hockey tape around that carabiner to prevent that in the future. Come to think of it, I also used hockey tape to take up some of the extra material on the strap to find a better fit at my hip.

This radio strap does exactly what it’s supposed to. It keeps comms handy and floats that remote mic right where I need it.

Tradition, decon and moving forward with the radio strap.

Here’s a sticking point.

I had a conversation with my buddy from the station about the idea that some of the traditions that embolden our fire family to keep watch over our community and proudly continue forward might be due for analysis. Take for example the fundamental knowledge we all share: firefighters are at a higher risk of contracting cancer than the general public.

Where there are actually things we can do to mitigate that – get into fitness, decon regularly – some of these ideas edge toward those things the fire service has become accustomed to. You know, like leather radio straps.

It may be a bold claim to assert that synthetic gear can be better decontaminated. I’ll save that suggestion for somebody who can properly research and publish those findings. I do know, however, that when my kit goes in for cleaning, I can just chuck the RESPONDERS FIRST radio strap in the bag.

I want to point out that I really do understand how this might come across to a senior firefighter. I’m in no position to hold any sort of claim when it comes to tradition in the fire service, but an easy decon process for our gear keeps us coming home, and that’s something all responders can identify with.

All told, a system worth your consideration.

A radio strap has to do one thing well – contain and keep accessible your line of communication. The Modular Radio Strap System from RESPONDERS FIRST does that well.

On top of that, it offers useful and stylized additions that mean you can adapt the system to make it really feel like yours. For carrying extra tools, and personalizing the system to best suit your operational needs, this product is worth of your consideration out of the box.

To purchase this radio strap, hit the RESPONDERS FIRST shop:

Bill Dungey is a volunteer firefighter in Ontario, Canada. He is focused on fitness, mindset development and finding training opportunities to help the fire service make things better.

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