RATS tourniquet (also known as Gen 2 Rapid Tourniquet) is one of the few widespread, commercially available tactical devices for bleeding control. Even though it is pretty popular with survivalists and outdoorsmen, it’s still what one could call a controversial item.
Is there room for controversy and hot debates when a person’s life is at stake? Why yes or no, and does it mean that you shouldn’t consider it for your bug out bag? Read this unbiased review to find out!
Tourniquets seem to have been in use for as long as people remember wars and combat. The primitive versions caused more trouble than good, though, and people sometimes even ended up losing their limbs or even their lives to what we would today see as minor wounds.
Luckily, modern tourniquets are much more efficient, tried and tested. In Iraq and Afghanistan, they became one of those everyday carry tools that saved many soldiers’ lives.
R.A.T.S. Tourniquet or Get 2 Rapid Tourniquet Overview
Just like its full name (Rapid Application Tourniquet System) suggests, this tourniquet was designed with speed and ease of use in mind. It means the system should be easy to use with a single hand, on yourself or another person, on any limb, no matter how big or small. That means it will be adequate even for animals. So, if your dog were to suffer a trauma on a long outdoor trip, you should be able to stop the bleeding and prevent a potentially fatal outcome.
The strap is made of silicone rubber and covered in polyester that comes in direct contact with the skin. Unlike some other tourniquets, this one doesn’t rely on a windlass or pneumatics or ratchet. You just need to wrap it around the limb and apply enough pressure. Which is, as you’ll see, precisely the greatest disadvantage. Anyhow, more on that below.
How Efficient Is RATS Tourniquet (and Is It TCCC Approved)?
There’s a study (Gibson et al., 2016) that tested RATS by putting it alongside its closest competitors, the Tactical Mechanical Tourniquet (TMT) and Combat Application Tourniquet (C-A-T) for comparison. It shows that RATS was similarly efficient to its counterparts in hemorrhage control, but it underperformed in terms of speed of application.
Does it mean that Rapid Tourniquet is not so rapid after all? Note that this study was written back in 2016. From this point, we can say that there was a window for improvement. Did the company take this criticism into account when rebranding the product?
This study aside, there’s another very important consideration. As of this writing (Sept 2020), unlike many other commercial tourniquets, RATS hasn’t found a place on the list of tourniquets approved by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC).
I personally haven’t had a chance to test RATS Tourniquet. (Let’s just hope it remains that way.) However, based on what I’ve heard from tactical people, the greatest issue with this item is that you just can’t be sure how much applied tension is enough. Tighten the strap too much and you may cause more or less severe damage to your soft tissue. Which is still better than dying or losing a limb because you didn’t tighten it enough. CAT is much more dependable than RATS tourniquet in this department.
- Small and compact, perfect for EDC
- Handy for urban survivalists and construction workers
- Relatively cheap
- How tight is tight enough? There’s no way to tell.
- The strap is too narrow, so you may end up hurting yourself.
- Not approved by the Committee on Tactical Combat Casualty Care (CoTCCC).
- Not as rapid as advertised, according to Gibson et al., 2016.
Conclusion – Is RATS Tourniquet Good Enough for Survivalists?
Even though this, as well as all other tourniquets, was made with tactical, military and law enforcement people in mind, their potential buyers fall into many other categories. Thankfully, more and more civilians are growing aware that they should raise their levels of security and buy or assemble IFAK kits. A gunshot wound is not the only situation where you might need to stop hemorrhage. Even a lighter traffic accident may cause bleeding that needs to be stopped ASAP.
Considering the downside I mentioned above, I wouldn’t recommend RATS tourniquet to folks who tend to go deep into the wild, where help is either far away or completely inaccessible. The only relatively safe way of using it is if you experience an accident in the city, where you only need to use some first aid while medical help is on its way.
A tourniquet is one of those devices that mustn’t fail, not even once. If you hit an artery, your life hangs by a thread. And you only have a couple minutes to act and stop the bleeding. In such severe circumstances, there’s just no room for mistake.
That’s why I would recommend a good old CAT Tourniquet (Combat Application Tourniquet), which is proven, tried and tested, and recommended by all medical authorities in the field.
Gibson R, Housler GJ, Rush SC, Aden JK 3rd, Kragh JF Jr, Dubick MA. Preliminary Comparison of New and Established Tactical Tourniquets in a Manikin Hemorrhage Model. J Spec Oper Med. 2016;16(1):29-35.