Dudek released this “all-new” version of their Soul pod harness in 2021. Aimed at XC pilots looking for a comfortable harness with less weight, on paper it looks an interesting proposition. In size M the published weight is just 3.5kg, putting it in the same sector as the Supair Delight 3 (3.7kg) and even the Woody Valley GTO Light 2 (3.4kg).
Out of the box I was impressed with the quality of finish; it looks sleek and well made. Unlike some super-lightweight pods the Soul doesn’t feel delicate, and it looks like it should stand up to everyday use. Of course, there are some compromises to keep the weight down, such as lighter fabric on the pod. But you will also find a (light but expensive) carbon seatboard and footboard.
Yes, this is a seatboard harness rather than hammock style. The seatboard is large, well-shaped and comfortable. Underneath is a 15cm certified airfoam protector. Certification says this gives 46G in the drop test, which is pretty high; 50G is the limit for certification and for comparison the GTO Light 2 scores 38G. There is another small airfoam protector that goes between the reserve compartment and your back to give additional protection. Above this the back is well stiffened with a ventilation channel giving a nice supportive feel.
Like any pod it is worth taking time to sort the set-up before you fly. Shoulder straps and chest strap are both adjustable in the air. In addition there are side straps and a seat inclination strap. The leg-strap lengths can also be adjusted but don’t affect in-flight position.
There is also a lumbar tension-adjustment, to improve the support in your lower back. Like the pod length adjusters this adjusts using a plastic ball sliding on a cord. You should certainly be able to get the harness to fit you well.
This is as simple as it gets. The chest strap is integrated into the leg straps so there are just two quick-release buckles used to secure the harness. One side of the pod is closed by putting a plastic ball through a loop that comes from the chest strap as a reminder to do this up. The other side uses a plastic clip.
Almost every other pod I have flown closes left side first, but this one is right hand first. Getting into the pod is easy, and I was always able to get in by hooking my heel in after take-off. Although lighter than some heavier pods the material does a good job at keeping the air out, keeping you warm. Unlike some there is no magnetic closure, but in practice I didn’t find it flapped around.
The reserve is behind the lower back. There is no dedicated inner reserve bag – it uses the one supplied with your reserve. A filler is included for those with smaller reserves. Bridles run to the shoulder through zipped channels as we see on most harnesses these days.
The container is secured with two plastic wire pins running through eyelets attached to a large and very visible reserve handle that sits on your hip. It’s great to see an easy-to-grab handle compared to some of the more flush-fitting ones out there. There is no option for a second reserve.
Storage and fairing
The main back pocket will fit standard flying kit easily and has a hanger for a drinks bladder, with a tube routing to the shoulder strap. This pocket forms the rear fairing so needs to be closed securely. The fairing itself is short and stubby, not like the longer ones on the Gin Genie Lite or Woody Valley GTO 2 Light. On the sides are two fairly small elasticated and zipped pockets. In front of the airfoam protector is a small mesh ballast pocket closed by a ball and loop.
The instrument panel is removable and big enough for a couple of instruments and a phone. They sit at a nice angle so are easy to see. There is also an easily accessible hook-knife in a small pocket. The harness is supplied with a windshield, attached with poppers. It is relatively small but seems to deflect the airflow up and over, although being tall I find none of these deflect the air completely over my head.
In the air
I found the harness very comfortable in the air with good support and no pinch points. It did feel quite snug on the thigh area, so if you have been working out you may want to check this out. Otherwise, there were no pressure points and it was still comfortable after a couple of hours. As it was winter I didn’t get the chance for longer flights.
I flew the harness mainly with Gin’s Explorer 2 (EN B). This has quite a high aspect-ratio for the class but I felt immediately at home, with a nice carving feel in turns. The seatboard gives good authority without feeling wobbly. It doesn’t have the same yaw stability as harnesses with long fairings, but it wasn’t a problem as the whole system is stable. This stability wasn’t at the expense of feel, and I was able to make use of the information on stable days to climb out when others were struggling. A bit more roll can be dialled in by releasing the chest strap.
With good quality Ronstan pulleys fitted the speed system was easy to use. Many current harnesses are fitted with three-step speedbars but the two-step bar fitted works well.
I was impressed by the Soul 2021, it’s an easy harness to live with. The lower weight makes it less cumbersome on the ground while in the air it feels comfortable, stable and with good authority. In the past we’ve suggested the Supair Delight 3 as a good first pod; the Dudek Soul 2021 should also be on that list. Combining low weight with everyday comfort and usability it’s a great choice for leisure pilots.
Dudek say: “Light pod harness for XC pilots looking for comfort coupled with low weight”
Pilot level: From intermediates switching to a pod to all cross-country pilots
Sizes: S, M, L, XL
Pilot height (cm): 157-170, 165-182, 178-190, 185-200
Weight: 3.5kg for M
Published in issue 228 (April 2022)