For years I’ve tried to go without a belt. If you just get pants that fit, it’s easier, faster, and if you’re wearing untucked shirts anyway, then nobody cares. On the downside, it’ll pop buttons right off, or damage the pant fabric from stretching it too far. And belts are easy enough anyway, so why not?
Well, because backpacks have hip belts of their own, and doubling up those layers can become downright painful (creating a pressure point right at the hip bone), especially with a heavy pack cinched down as tightly as it’ll go, to get the weight off the shoulders.
So…wouldn’t it be great if someone made a super-thin belt, preferably with some kind of durable nylon, that would never wear out, won’t get damaged if it gets wet, and fits beneath a backpack hip belt just fine?
Yes, it totally would. Which is why I’ve been on the lookout for these sorts of things since forever, and a recent newcomer known as Arcade Belts has come up with an alternative: a quick-release elastic belt, for adventures far and wide.
My cousin actually picked this up and gave it to me, and it’s working even better than I was anticipating. Here’s why.
Arcade Adventure Belts Review: The Midnighter
This particular model is known as the “Midnighter,” which is plain and simple, entirely black, and that’s it:
The belt itself is made of elastic, and feels a bit like a super-soft, thickened underwear waistband, at about 3mm thick. It comes in both 1.5″ and 1.25″ widths (and fits up to a 40″ waist), and comes in all sorts of colors, for adults and kids.
The buckle is what’s called a “quick-release,” which you’ve seen on hiking backpacks, and elsewhere:
The quickness of a quick-release makes it easier to operate, and the plastic means you can go through a metal detector without a problem. It also has no extraneous dangling end, like with a regular belt. You won’t earn any style points here (although some of the color combinations can at least look fun, if not formal), but it’s convenient, functional, and affordable, at $28. It’s even machine washable. You can throw it into a laundry machine without even removing it from the pants.
I will take a moment to complain about the fact that it has not one, not two, but three visible logos in front, and there’s even a fourth one in back. Do I really need this many? No, of course not! Luckily one of them is sewn, and the other is on the elastic band holding the loose end in place, and it can be reversed. The logo on the buckle itself is pleasant enough, but I’d axe the rest.
Admittedly, that’s a minor complaint. Which brings me to…
The one problem I was worried about
Oftentimes with elastic belts or waistbands, the elastic is simply too elastic. If you don’t get the balance just right, it’ll feel like it’s sagging down. I was a little worried to see them using a photo similar to this one in many of their press materials:
It almost looks too stretchy, doesn’t it? Would you really want it to be so stretchy that your pants feel like they’re falling off?
Well, I’m happy to say this didn’t happen, as I never felt the need to hoist my pants back up to my waist, which is something that does happen if I’m going beltless. The only difference is how it’ll expand when you sit down, or lean over, which is great for long flights, or athletic activities.
Speaking of travel, here’s what I was talking about with the belt-on-belt overlap problem:
When using a regular belt made of thick leather, the backpack hip belt can create a pressure point right at the hip bone, rather than distributing the pressure over a wide area, the way it’s supposed to. Go ahead and press whatever belt you’re wearing right into your hip bone, and you’ll see what I’m talking about. Now imagine doing that all day.
By making the belt significantly thinner or softer, you can solve this problem completely, which is why I keep looking around for things like these (not only for travel, but also when using a rock climbing harness)…but most nylon webbing belts use a buckle that isn’t a quick-release:
For whatever reason, the vast majority of nylon webbing belts work this way; the webbing passes straight through the buckle on both sides, rather than reversing and tightening the way it does on the Arcade belt (like on a backpack shoulder strap buckle). This not only means the buckle protrusion is huge, but it’s also more difficult to adjust or remove. Having the quick-clip attachment of the Arcade makes it much flatter and easier, which is why it kind of drives me crazy that nobody has figured this out before.
Another minor convenience is how the dangly end of the Arcade belt is on the inside, so it’ll never get in the way:
This makes it more difficult to adjust, but once you’ve done this, you won’t have to do it again. You could reverse it, though.
I will say that it’s not so easy to adjust; I think they wanted to make it secure enough that it wouldn’t loosen itself up, which is nice, but the initial adjustment is going to be a little tricky, especially with the belt so tightly fitted through the buckle.
Another perk is how it’s about 1/3 of the weight of a leather belt, at 2.6 oz, and because of how flexible it is, it packs down pretty small:
You’ll probably be wearing it all the time anyway, but if your trip calls for crazy mountaineering ridiculousness and a fancy business meeting the next day, taking two belts and switching between them won’t be too bad.
So, that all sounds good, doesn’t it? Well, not so fast.
Is there anything wrong with it?
Well, yes. The “male” end of the buckle is the same width as the “female” end of the buckle, meaning you have to feed them into each other precisely, with no room for error.
The most unfortunate part is that central bar, which, as you’ll see in the photo below, has to fit exactly into the slot on the opposite side, without even a millimeter of leeway:
If you’re off even slightly, it won’t work. Other buckles, with more of an arrowhead shape on the male side, can “miss” the target by a wide margin and still go in properly, which is much better, but with this one, you have to get it exactly right every time.
Here’s a trick to make it a little easier, though:
By keeping your thumb and forefinger at the edges of the buckle, instead of along the flat parts, you can feel the shape of the opposite buckle, and slide everything in nicely. It’s not exactly intuitive, but it works, and you’ll be able to clip it together in the dark, or without looking.
They could, however, just improve the design.
Which they did!
The new model you should get instead
Take a look at this new buckle, which doesn’t look anything like a quick-release:
It’s just a giant plate in front, which makes it a bit more subtle. It’s still plastic, but I think it looks nice enough for a casual, outdoorsy kind of thing, with all the functionality hidden in back.
And look…just look…at how beautifully aerodynamic it is!
Over in back, you can see just how much room you’ve got on either side to “miss,” and the buckle will still go in quite nicely:
Whether you’re in some outhouse without a flashlight, or just absurdly intoxicated, this is a million times easier.
I’d like to see them modify the original buckle to make the “male” end pointier, for those who need something super-thin, but in the meantime, this is only slightly thicker, and far more convenient. Forget the original. This is better.
Conclusions on the Arcade Adventure Belt
I like this a lot. And it wasn’t even the elastic that was the biggest factor for me, as non-stretchy belts usually work well enough anyway. It was the low-profile band and buckle, which allow it to slip beneath a backpack hip belt without creating the hip-bone pressure point that a hefty leather belt does. It does the job without a problem, and that’s what I needed. The fact that it’s stretchy without being too stretchy was merely an extra (though certainly welcome) perk for me.
As mentioned above, the buckle could be improved, by making it pointier on the “male” side, so that it feeds into the “female” side more easily. Luckily the upgraded buckle featuring that big oval-ish plate in front has this exact improvement, and that’s definitely the one I’d recommend over the original. Go straight here if you want that one, pictured in the photos above. They use that buckle with a few different models, though.
Minor complaints were the number of logos in front, and the slight difficulty in getting the adjustment just right. The 1.5″ version is also a little tricky to feed through smaller belt loops, as you have to feed the belt and buckle through them, which can be a little tricky with certain pants, such as the one pictured above. The 1.25″ model also uses the original buckle rather than the improved one, so I’d like to see newer models combine those two features at some point.
You can check out the entire lineup at Arcade Belts, where they have quite a few variations and color combinations available. The ones pictured above are both in the “Adventure Belts” category, and the “Futureweave” is functionally quite similar as well.