The SSO Nerpa is one of the rarest vests used by Russian troops, but there are pictures that clearly show it is in actual use among special forces.
The Nerpa belongs to the load bearing vests. The concept is not unknown by the Russian military, just think on the classic ANA Grad 2, 6sh92 etc. All of these vests are obviously very similar to the old LBV, used to be used by the US forces.
Recently, at least two pieces of Nerpa vests were visible in photos, taken in the Crimea.
The subject of this review is an SSO Nerpa from the latest production (2014).
On both sides of the chest, there are two mag pouches, for two magazines (7.62 or 5.45mm) each. There are also two pouches for flares or bayonet (one between the mag pouches and one behind them).
Additional MOLLE slots can be found behind the mag pouches and on the outer sides of them.
The mag pouches are closed by a combination of hook-and-loop and lift-the-dot fasteners. The lift-the-dot fastener can be familiar from old US equipments. According to my experience, it is easier to close and open, compared to the well known snap buttons.
There is a removable divider in each mag pouch. Same kind as in the Smersh mag pouches.
For width adjustment, there are 3 straps on the side and an oblique one above them. The ladder buckles are made of steel and look the same as the ones used in the US ALICE system. The straps are long enough to let the vest fit even over body armors. The excess of the straps can be folded and fixed with rubber bands.
The inner surface is covered with mesh for improved ventilation.
On each side of the chest, there is a compartment below the mesh. A waterproof pouch (for documents etc) can be found in the compartments, securely fixed to the vest by a piece of string.
In the middle, in front of the chest, the vest is closed with a zipper and two buckles.
The shoulder straps are wide and well padded to reduce fatigue during long term wear . There are MOLLE slots on the straps for attachment of additional pouches (radio-, medic pouch etc). Length adjustment straps attached to the shoulder straps through steel ladder buckles.
The backpanel has MOLLE slots on the outside and it is padded from inside, for more comfort. Butt packs, hydration systems or any kind of MOLLE pouches can be attached to it.
Completed with an SSO RS-31 belt, VOG pouch, KP Vector holster, a woodland Camelbak Pakteen hydration pack and a dump pouch.
Finally, the fanciest feature of the recent Nerpa, the silicone brand tag on the right shoulder strap.
In conclusion, the Nerpa is a very well made and designed load bearing vest and although the choice between a Smersh type harness or a load bearing vest is of personal preference, the quality of the used materials and the stitching won’t cause any disappointment in case of the SSO Nerpa.
As always, the coloration varies according to the production period.
The reviewed Nerpa, worn by the author: