Introduction & PURPOSE
In this review we will take a closer look at a really intresting piece of kit designed and manufactured by an US based company called THYRM. This particular piece of kit is called the Dark Vault and is basically a PALS compatible electronics case.
THYRM is well known for producing polymer based equipment solutions for a long time now, but they basically didnt offer anything that really caught my eye, until I discovered the Dark Vault. My interest in the Dark Vault started with an easy problem that may be familiar to you. Namely: „How do I protect my portable electronic devices in the field or on the range, while keeping them easily accessible?“ My first thought got out to the well known products from Juggernaut cases, but as a field electronic device I have to use the Samsung Xcover 4 smartphone which Juggernaut unfortunately doesnt support.
So, why do you need a portable electronic device in the field instead of using dedicated navigation equipment like the Garmin GPSMaps series you may ask. The answer is quite simple as the quality of GPS antennas and applications on smartphones basically is on par with that offered by dedicated devices nowadays and they also offer abilities like taking photos, using apps like GURU Maps or simply making a call. Abilities that dedicated navigation devices dont offer. This step in evolution is simliar to the death of compact digital camera solutions which was also in fact caused by smartphones
Now back to the Dark Vault, the Dark Vault was initially developed to offer electronic signal blocking to a certain US customer, so the baseline Dark Vault will basically block all relevant comms signals from your phone when closed. As I wanted just a physical protection the original Dark Vault wasnt an option for me. But, there is the Dark Vault Comms, which is non-blocking but offers all the features I desired to have.
The Dark Vault measures 18cm in width, 11,5cm in height and has a usable depth of roughly 3,5cm. Locking and unlocking of the Dark Vault is achieved by the use of a springloaded latch mechanism which gives you a decent accoustic confirmation by a snapping sound.
You can open the Dark Vault up to 180 degrees. The tension of the hinge which enables this movement is adjustable by a little rotating lever. Rotating the lever forward will increase the tension, rotating the the lever backward will slowly reduce the tension, to a point where the dark vault will literally drop open after lifting the locking latch. In any mode of operation, there is an automatic 90 degrees stop integrated, which is a good thing as using the Dark Vault on a platecarrier will naturally require you to use the 90 degrees opening.
Mounting the Dark Vault to PALS compatible surfaces is an easy process as it comes with a PALS compatible mounting fork, which allows to mount the Dark Vault to any PALS area with a four collumn by two rows footprint. The mounting fork is also removeable for those times where you want to place the Dark Vault just in a pocket or when you simply dont need it on your kit.
I personally use the PALS mounting fork combined with the AXL Pouch Anywhere System which allows me to securely place the Dark Vault on any loop velcro surface, like the chest area of my Velocity Systems SCARAB LT.
PERFORMANCE & OBSERVATIONS
So now lets move forward to the performance of this product. As most of you will ask for an IPX rating regarding waterresistance, I can say: There is none. THYRM seems to avoid this topic on their website, but the product features a rubber ring for sealing and I can say that it is at least rain and weatherproof but I wouldnt take it to a diving trip. To give you a small impression we did an submersion test that you can find in our video review.
Now, a thing that you should consider before buying the Dark Vault for armor borne use is acess to your magazines. As I use it in conjunction with a Velocity Systems UW Gen IV placard the mags are still acessible pretty well and I also have the option to expand the admin area of the placard pushing the mags even more forward and eliminating the blocking issue completely.
But some magpouches will conflict with the Dark Vault, especially those that feature a particulary high ride. Another option is of course to mount the Dark Vault in front of your magpouches which will result in no interferences but will also prevent you from mounting more pouches to this area.
To judge over such a specialized product like the Dark Vault is a hard one. It is big, it is clumsy, but it has to be like this and those who are in need will like it. THYRM did a great job and has a great manufacturing quality and puts out great designs. What I would wish for the future is a version which is perhaps a bit more streamlined.