Night vision is typically worn on the head. It allows for the most immersive experience and interaction with the world by having your night vision goggles in front of your face. Most people use a helmet, either a bump helmet or a ballistic helmet. Helmets are great but for some people, it is unnecessary for particular activities. Helmets are bulky and in some cases heavy. A skullcrusher can be small and lightweight. They allow you to use night vision goggles without needing a helmet. We will take a look at a couple options.
Surplus Mil-Spec Skullcrusher
The 1990s called and want their Mil-Spec skullcrusher back. This style of skullcrusher is what created the name. The name describes what it is like wearing this somewhat medieval torture-like device.
The mil-spec skullcrusher has two button snaps on the left side so you get out of this torture device. There are five adjustable straps to fine tune the level of pain inflicted to your head.
The mil-spec skullcrusher is a plastic frame and while my dummy head is undersized, the plastic head strap normally sits above the ears cutting into the soft flesh.
The skullcrusher has an integrated bayonet mount for use with a PVS-14 J-Arm or PVS-7 bayonet.
The only adjustment is the forward/backward movement of the bayonet mount.
There is no way to flip your night vision out of the way. You have to simply undock them from the skullcrusher. Since the majority of the skullcrusher is a giant plastic clamp it is not that small especially since the mount is integrated and sticks out a good four inches. Since the head harness is just webbing it does flat pack well but you are not going to be able to store this in a pocket.
The mil-spec skullcrusher can be purchased for $50 but in many cases, you can probably find someone who hates it and will give it to you for free. There are some companies still manufacturing these torture devices and bundle them with new night vision purchases. In some cases, it is mandated that you take them with your order. Even if you tell them you don’t want it, you don’t have a choice, you have to take it. They fit perfectly in those green 90’s era night vision pouches. Another obsolete piece of gear that no one ever uses.
Ops-Core Skull Mounting System
Ops-Core is famous for their helmets. But did you know they make a non-helmet night vision headset? To be honest, the Ops-Core skull mount is a bit silly, it reminds me of those Greco Roman wrestling headgear. It does have a wide range of features over the mil-spec skullcrusher and it is a lot more comfortable.
The most prominent feature is the large NVG shroud. That is that large block in the front that you attach your NVG mount to. I am not sure why the shroud has to be so bulky it is odd.
The back plate/pad has velcro and threaded holes for a proprietary counterweight by Ops-Core.
Rather than pull on web straps, the Ops-Core Skull Mount has three adjustment dials.
The top two dials adjust the cinching of the sides as well as front and back adjustment.
The back dial tightens and pushes up against the back of your head. The side pads have a mini version of Ops-Core’s ARC rail system.
You can try and attach ear pro to it but due to the shape of the plastic, some ear pro mounts are not compatible. Look at the photo below, the mount is being pushed out of the track.
There are a couple reasons I am not a fan of the Ops-Core Skull Mount. First of all the size. It is roughly the same size as a helmet. It does not collapse to fold into itself so there is no space saving happening with it. The dial system has a flaw and it is the material used. Ops-Core uses thin plastic belts and over time they become brittle bad crack. It is not easy to replace or repair them. Add the fact that Osp-Core charges over $400 for this headset. There is no velcro or much in the way of mounting accessories except for the short ARC rails on the side. You cannot attach a strobe or tethering system aside from tying paracord to the actual headset.
Ops-Core have since updated the Skull Mount with one of their SF Fast shrouds. Click here to check it out.
Crye Precision NightCap
This is my favorite non-helmet NVG headgear. It is small, lightweight and inexpensive. Crye Precision sells it for just $66. However, you do need to provide your own NVG shroud and install it onto the NightCap. I used a Wilcox 3-hole shroud.
The night cap is almost like a bill-less baseball cap with head straps and a reinforced front section with a forehead pad.
I have added the optional battery pouch. It attaches via velcro and has a loop for the rear strap to go through.
The right side of the NightCap has a battery pack cable routing channel for wire management. You thread the remote battery pack cable through this to keep it in place and reduce snag hazards.
The top of the NightCap skullcrusher has velcro straps to grossly adjust to your head. I have added a Wilcox lanyard to act as a tether for my night vision goggles when I use the NightCap.
While the NightCap looks sort of like a trucker cap without a bill. But simply bolting on an NVG shroud is not recommended. Crye Precision adds a thin sheet of carbon fiber for lightweight reinforcement and acts as a solid mounting platform for the shroud.
Here is the cable routing channel with the cable from my ANVIS battery pack and ANVIS ball detent mount.
The battery pack pouch is also a great way to store counterweights to offset the weight of your night vision goggles.
The best part is since the only rigid portion is the carbon fiber plate and shroud, the NightCap can fold into itself and it can fit in a cargo pocket. Of course, the other accessories like battery pack, counterweight, NVG mount and your goggles will have to be stored elsewhere but you can see how small the NightCap can be.
Other Alternative Head Gear Options
Raptor Tactical has a skullcrusher that sort of looks like an inverted Multicam diaper. Just like the NightCap, you can mount a shroud to it but it also has holes to mount Magpul MOE rails on the side to attach accessories. The Raptor Tactical Sentinel skullcrusher is $179 online. While their Gen2 version is over $200.
Litton had this version of a skull crusher with a dovetail mount built-in.
Wilcox has their own L4 NVG Skull Lock Lite Head Mount. It retails for over $500 on TNVC.
Final Thoughts On Skullcrushers
A skullcrusher like the NightCap is perfect for traveling light, especially if you are not doing any vigorous activity where you need protection for your skull. They are lightweight and breathable. Helmets, especially ballistic helmets tend to trap heat and have bad airflow. The Cyre AirFrame helmet helps with that by having overlapping layers of ballistic material but allowing air to flow through and out the helmet.
Most skullcrushers are a poor substitute for a good helmet but have their uses. For just $66 plus a shroud, you can have a night vision hat that you can keep in a cargo pocket for hiking and exploring nature at night. One of the major downsides to any style of skull crusher is that you tend to look silly in them. They are definitely not photogenic.