Why I Choose the SOFTT-W Tourniquet over the CAT

A few weeks ago, we posted an article about the hazards of buying fake tourniquets from places like Amazon. In the article, I mentioned that I often carry the SOFTT-W tourniquet instead of the more commonly encountered CAT tourniquet. I also promised I’d explain why in a future article. Well, here we are.

The Combat Application Tourniquet (CAT) Gen 7

The Combat Application Tourniquet, more frequently called the CAT, is the grizzled veteran of the tourniquet world. When the US military started making tourniquets part of their standard issue for soldiers, the CAT was one of the first. Currently in its 7th generation, the CAT is still the most frequently encountered tourniquet in the civilian, law enforcement, EMS and military sectors.

It is, by all objective standards, a good piece of gear. It has a proven track record, and both the 6th and 7th generations are on the Tactical Combat Casualty Care (TCCC) list of recommended tourniquets. Normally, it is the first tourniquet I will introduce a student to because it’s the most likely one they will end up using.

SOF Tactical Tourniquet – Wide (SOFTT-W)

The SOFTT-W tourniquet is also a TCCC recommended tourniquet. That means it has passed all of their testing criteria and it has been tested in the real world. The US military (and others) have fielded these for several years. Made by Tac Med Solutions, the wide version is the latest version, having a wider strap than its predecessor. The current version is the 5th generation. The wider strap is thought to be more effective at stopping blood loss while not damaging the tissue as easily.

Why I Choose the SOFTT-W

Both tourniquets operate essentially the same. If you can use one, you can use the other. Both are very effective. There are, however, some differences that make me prefer the SOFTT-W over the CAT.

  • Folds smaller: This is possibly the biggest reason I started to switch to the SOFTT-W tourniquet. I often carry a tourniquet in an ankle medical kit. Having one on your ankle does take some getting used to. The CAT does not fold as compactly as the SOFTT-W because the CAT has a plastic backer that makes it a little easier to self-apply (more on that later). The pictures show the size difference. When it comes to putting them in a pocket or rubbing along your leg, the smaller size becomes appreciated. (You can tell from the cat hair on the top photo that I really do use them)
  • Detachable buckle: The SOFTT-W has a detachable buckle. This comes in handy when you are putting it on someone and either can’t or don’t want to move the injured limb. While you can still apply the CAT, it involves threading it through the buckle, under stress and probably in a bit of chaos. To me, simpler is better.
  • Aluminum windlass: The windlass is the rod that is turned to tighten the tourniquet. The windlass on the CAT is made of high-strength plastic. I personally have never seen one fail, but there are anecdotal accounts of them bending or breaking, especially with older generations. The windlass on the SOFTT-W tourniquet is made of aircraft aluminum. You will not bend it.
  • Longer strap: The strap on the SOFTT-W is not just wider, but longer. That means it can fit around some pretty big thighs. And if we’re being honest, our society is getting bigger every year, isn’t it?

It’s Not Perfect

While I do prefer the SOFTT-W, it’s not perfect. There are a few things that aren’t ideal. The plastic backer that was mentioned earlier does make the CAT a little easier to self-apply one-handed. The Velcro is a love/hate thing. The Velcro on the CAT does help the tourniquet fold neatly and stay folded, while the lack of Velcro on the SOFTT-W makes keeping it properly staged a challenge. On the other side of the coin, the long tail of the strap isn’t getting stuck on Velcro in weird places and you don’t have to worry about getting sand/hair/lint in the Velcro on the SOFTT-W. Lastly, the CAT is easier to self-apply one-handed on an injured arm.

The Overall

So overall, I carry the SOFTT-W tourniquet more often than the CAT. The biggest reason is the ability to stow it more compactly. The aluminum windlass is also a plus. My favorite TQ, the SAM XT also has an aluminum windlass.

As I said earlier, both are very effective pieces of gear. Both are tested and proven. You won’t go wrong choosing either one. My choice is based on comfort and personal preferences.

Regardless of which tourniquet you choose, carry it! Having it in your glove compartment on the other side of the mall isn’t going to help someone who has 3 minutes left to live. And get training. Stop the Bleed training is a short 2-hour class that will show you how to effectively address the most common cause of preventable deaths in the US. Contact us. We would love to tell you how you can learn these skills.

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