Military Clothing (Non Uniform) Page
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This section features Military clothing that are not uniforms/BDUs.
As a sizing reference: I'm 5'7", 155 lbs (yeah, I'm a little guy), medium build (BDU top medium/regular, BDU pant medium/short), waist 32", chest 43". Keep this in mind when you read my comments with respect to sizing, so you have an idea of how the garments featured below will fit on you. ALL garments in these pages are size Medium, unless stated otherwise.
TO VIEW FULL SIZE IMAGES: USERNAME and PASSWORD are both "mm"
APCU Level 1 Baselayer Top
Adventure Tech's APCU (Advanced Protective Combat Uniform) mirrors the PCU (Protective Combat Uniform) system with the seven garment layers. The Adventure Tech APCU Level I - SS (Short-Sleeved) Lightweight Baselayer Top (available from USCAV) is a stretchy, Level I base layer shirt with breathable panels and X-Static silver fiber.
Material - The APCU Level 1 Light Weight shirt is made of a synthetic stretch fabric with 'activated Carbon-Tech with 5% X-Static silver lining'. The activated carbon embedded within the Carbon baselayer fiber is supposed to improve the perspiration process by pulling moisture away from the skin to bring it to the fabric surface for evaporation. The X-Static silver is anti-odour, anti-static and anti-microbial. The APCU L1 shirt also provides Ultraviolet Protection up to UPF 50+ and is designed to be the worn next-to-skin as the first layer in the system.
General Description - The APCU L1 shirt comes in Coyote, Alpha Green (shown here - it's actually grey) and Black. There are seamless, super-breathable panels woven into the center of the back and under the arms, extending down the sides. This is part of the 'body mapping' technology along with no seams on top of the shoulders to reduce hot spots. All seams are flat for comfort.
Observations - When I first got the APCU L1 shirt,
the material didn't feel as soft as I had anticipated it would.
It's not a silky soft fabric like the Zensah shirts, but textured
a bit more like the Insport base layers I have. The plus side is
that it's not as snaggy on hook velcro as the Zensah and feels more
The APCU L1 shirt is pretty long. Well, I have a short torso, actually. Even so, it extends almost all the way down to my hands - more like a 'medium long' fit than a 'medium'. I think the bottom hem can be shortened by about 2-3" with still plenty of length left to tuck it in. It doesn't need to extend to my crotch or below my buttocks. It stretches - it's not going to become untucked when you bend over. The fit on me is tight around the arms, more relaxed around the torso, and a bit loose at the collar. So, it's not really a compression shirt - only in the arms (and I don't have big arms). I'd rather it fit consistently over my whole body - either all tight or all relaxed. That's just all personal preference, though. The sleeves are also a bit longer than normal, which I like. If they're too short, they tend to ride up my arms and bunch up under the armpit. For me, the APCU shirt sleeves are the perfect length.
I used this shirt for running/jogging, which is when I sweat the
most. The way synthetic 'wicking' shirts work is to get soaked with
sweat (which means it's drawing sweat off your body), then evaporating
that sweat as it dries. While synthetic shirts may not get soaked
as quickly as natural fibers (it takes a while for the capillary
action to work), they dry much faster, and stay lighter and feeling
drier while doing so. As far as performance, the APCU shirt did
very well. I was sweating profusely and the APCU shirt was able
to soak it up, and yet remain feeling relatively dry to the touch.
To me, that means that sweat was being evaporated from it quickly.
Once I stopped running, it got soaked with my sweat more, since
I was no longer moving through the air, but still dried very quickly.
If I was wearing a cotton T-shirt, I'd be soaked in my own sweat
for a while.
In summary, the APCU shirt performs well and dries very quickly. While I would have preferred the APCU to fit more consistently overall, that's my personal preference and also dependant on body shape. It might fit someone else perfectly with a different physique. My issues with some scratchy bits (which got better after break-in) were not shared by Hawkeye, and this is probably because I'm particularly sensitive.
8/26/07 - Note that ORC Industries has ended production of the MCU items seen below and ORC has ceased to offer them. The writeup below is left as a reference.
4/19/06 - Orc Industries (see PCU review below for more info) will be ending their production run of the PCU L4 and L5 items (another company is continuing the contract), and are introducing their alternative, dubbed the Modified Combat Uniform (MCU). Orc's MCU L4 and L5 evolved from their PCU line, with a few minor changes, and will be offered to both Military personnel and civilians. PCU was not available in ACU (Universal Pattern), but MCU will be available in both Alpha Green and Universal Pattern (as an alternative to the equivalent ECWCS Gen III items).
Since the MCU items are very similar in design to the previous PCU articles, I'll focus on the differences, rather than the similarities. Please refer to the ORC PCU review section following this one for more info.
MCU Level 4 Windshirt
- The Windshirt is designed to be worn in combination
with base layer garments when wind resistance is needed to limit further
heat loss. The main change for the MCU L4 Windshirt is that it is
now has a full zip instead of half-zip, and made from different fabric.
PCU fabric was Epic Praetorian, and the new MCU is made from Ecology™
Ecology is a rip-stop nylon fabric engineered to be water resistant,
breathable, windproof and very packable. Taking a close look at the
fabric reveals the rip-stop weave. It's very light weight and more
packable than the PCU L4 Windshirt I have (compresses to the size
of a softball), and from a brief stint out in the rain, and also some
rudimentary water tests I did, has similar water-resistance characteristics.
This is NOT rain gear - water WILL eventually soak through if left
on the fabric long enough, or if pushed through with enough force
(as in a heavy rain), just like the PCU L4 windshirt. Best used in
mist or light drizzle.
4/28/06 - Shown below is the Universal
Pattern L4 Windshirt. Same features as the Alpha green one, of course.
The material is the same ripstop nylon. The ripstop L4 fabric is a
close match for the L5 fabric, as seen below. It 's also more matte
than the Alpha green. To illustrate how packable it is, I rolled it
up and stuffed it into a coffee mug.
MCU Level 5 Soft Shell
Pant and Jacket - Instead
of the Epic Nextec fabric, the MCU L5 Soft Shell Pant
and Jacket are now made of Agility™ by Brookwood. It's actually
difficult to distinguish between the two fabrics, even when looking
pretty closely. The Agility is engineered with the same properties
- breathability, water resistance and wind proof, but it is not an
encapsulated fabric process like Epic. It also includes some Spandex
to give it a bit of stretch, for greater movement and comfort. I didn't
notice any difference in water resistance during some walks in the
rain. Like the windshirt, the L5 garments are not meant as a substitute
for rain gear, but to keep the user dry from drizzle or limited exposure
to rain. When wet, they do dry more quickly than an insulated soft
shell, or BDU's, though.
(A short note on 'soft shells'. The term is used very loosely and usually describes a garment that is 'water and wind resistant, breathable, but not water-proof'. They range from lightweight single-layer fabrics (like the OrdInd MCU) to thicker, stretch fabric (like Tweave used in the Arc'teryx Bravo pants) to micro-fleece insulated garments (Bravo jacket, TADgear hoodie, SORD Hardface etc). An uninsulated shell allows you to layer it over a base or mid insulative garment and remove it or the mid layer if necessary during aerobic activity. An insulated shell combines the shell and an insulated layer, so if you get too warm on the move, you've less options. But I've found insulated soft shells to be very versatile, general use garments in cool weather. Bear this in mind when shopping for a 'soft shell' - there are many variations on the theme, and base your choices on your needs - the temperature you'll be using it in, and the level of activity.)
The MCU L5 pant retains the same pattern as the PCU L5 with the double-layer articulated knees. The waist tabs and cuffs tabs have been refined, and overall stitching/finishing has improved. The black cordura panels on the inside of the ankle (for protection when wearing crampons) have been eliminated, and so has the rear flap with suspender loops. I'm glad they got rid of it because I never used it and I ended up folding it out of the way. If I need crampons or suspenders, I'll switch back to the PCU pant. Just like the PCU pant, the fit is a bit long for me as I've shorter legs. My size medium has a 32" inseam. There are two side zippers - the upper ones for ventilation or pass-through to pockets underneath, and the lower ones for donning over boots. The black metal vents in the cargo pockets have been replaced by sewn holes. All other features are shared with the PCU L5 pant. Also shown on the right is the MCU L5 pant in Universal Pattern.
I don't have a Gen 2 PCU L5 jacket, only a Gen 1 shown in the PCU
review below, so the Orc MCU L5 Jacket might share some of the newer
features that the PCU in my review below doesn't. The hood rolls
up and stows in the collar neatly. The hood cinch cords are actually
routed internally - located on each side of the main zipper - with
the ends passing through a grommet into the side-access pockets.
To adjust the hood opening size, you access the cord ends through
the side pockets and pull. The elastic used is of a thinner variety
than the 1/8" shock cord used on the PCU items. The issue of
durability crossed my mind but they seem to work fine for now and
time will tell with extended use. The bottom drawstring adjustment
is also routed inside the side pockets. The shoulder/arm pockets
are a little easier to access now, with no elastic in the opening.
The pocket as well as the flap is covered in loop velcro. As in
the pant, the water-resistant zippers have been replaced by coil
zippers protected by flaps. They're easier to open and close and
reportedly less likely to jam.
Shown below is the L5 Softshell jacket in Universal Camo Pattern. The correct foliage green velcro is used on the sleeves.
I think the most common issue people had with the PCU items that Orc manufactured was that the stitching and finishing left something to be desired. Stitching wasn't the tightest, with a loose threads hanging off here and there, which could lead to seam failure. In order to be competitive and appeal to both civilian and military users, Orc has made an effort to improve workmanship quality and it shows in the MCU garments. While still not as neatly finished as some of the top commercial manufacturer's garments on the inside, I did notice better overall quality than the PCU garments. Another good point, though, is the pricing. It's actually been lowered. MCU is priced below the equivalent PCU items, which further improves the performance to price ratio.
Visit my Hike Photo Essay page for more pics of the MCU Level 5 jacket and PCU pants.
4/19/06 - Note that the PCU items seen below are now made by another manufacturer and ORC has ceased to offer them. The writeup below is left as a reference and comparison for the ORC MCU items reviewed above.
Orc Industries is a non-profit company committed to giving "employment opportunities to persons with disabilities and to provide quality products, delivered on time, at competitive prices. " Besides manufacturing, they offer a variety of other services. ORC Ind. manufactures SOF-PCU Levels 4, 5 and 6 for the U.S. Military. Or contact Adele Gasparro at firstname.lastname@example.org (609) 335-2028.
PCU Level 4 Windshirt
- The Level 4 Wind Shirt is made in a hooded half-zip
pullover style, made of Epic Praetorian (2.8oz weight fabric) by Nextec®,
(the same material as the Level 7 suit from SEKRI), which is 100%
nylon using Nextec's encapsulation technology to render it water resistant
and wind proof, yet breathable. The inherent water resistance/repellance
of the Praetorian fabric is good enough to repel light to moderate
rain, but can eventually damp through after prolonged exposure under
wetter conditions. It's very light weight (10.3 oz for my medium)
and a slightly darker shade of grey than the Level 5 garments. The
Shirt fits loosely, for wearing over next-to-skin insulative layers
(levels 1-3), but is light and thin enough to wear under BDU's without
adding noticeable bulk. The shoulder and elbow design also ensures
freedom of movement without binding.
PCU Level 5 Soft Shell
jacket (this was written on
1/23/04 and all information was correct at that time. The Soft Shell
jacket has been updated since, with the addition of double layers
of fabric on the elbows, a fold-up hood, and straps at the back to
connect to the Level 5 pants)
I bought this jacket after seeing GG's and also because it's not as bulky as my Goretex jackets and I wanted something water resistant without the bulk and stiffness. It's not for use in a downpour since it's not waterproof and doesn't have taped seams, but should perform well in light rain or drizzle. Water droplets just bead on the fabric and run off. I can layer it over my SPEAR fleece jacket for added wind and moisture resistance (it's snug, but not really restrictive. I didn't want to buy a loose jacket as I'd wear it more on its own than layering over the fleece. I would, however, recommend layering over a tighter insulative garment like the level 3 pullover). The EPIC fabric is very comfy (did I say that already?), and it makes a great warm weather, casual windbreaker/jacket when worn by itself. It can also be used in place of a BDU top. It's fast becoming one of my favourite articles of clothing.
Update (2/22/04): As advertised, this shell is not waterproof, but water-resistant. I wore it for about an hour in medium rain, and after that a small patch (about 1.5"x1.5") of the hood on the top of my head 'wetted out'. The rest of the jacket was dry on the inside. For what it's worth, I've had goretex parkas 'wet out' in some places after prolonged exposure in rain as well.
Another update (3/1/04): I went out in heavy rain this time. I was wearing the soft shell over my SPEAR jacket, my Brit goretex pants, Danner Blackhawk boots and Seirus All-weather gloves. I bought the Seirus All-weather gloves from REI as they were advertised as wind and water proof. THEY ARE NOT!!! After just a few minutes in the rain, they got soaked and my hands were freezing. They not only do NOT repel water, they seem to soak it up!!! Very disappointing. I'll try out the Sealskinz next. Everything else worked fine. The soft shell kept me pretty dry - its weakness is the seams, as they're not taped/sealed. I noticed a couple of slightly damp spots along the seams on the shoulder and back. But, admittedly, it was pouring rain. I stood in 4" deep puddles and the Danners kept me feet bone dry. Always happy with Danner boots. Brit goretex pants kept me dry, too. Just don't ever buy those friggin' Seirus gloves. I'd like to see double layered elbows on the PCU shell, though, as a single layer's kinda thin (Update: this has been added to the Gen II jacket).
Update 11/24/04 - After writing the above update, I returned the Seirus gloves and got another pair to give them a chance. Did a test under the faucet and my hands got soaked again. I returned them to REI and bought the Sealskinz. Did my wet test and my hands remained dry. My personal experience: Seirus All Weather gloves -my hands got wet from two pairs. Sealskinz - hands remained dry. I got an email today from someone who had a different experience with the Seirus gloves. His hands remained dry under cold and wet conditions and they worked well for him. All I can speak from is my own personal experience, so your mileage may vary.
3/20/05 - PCU Level 5
Soft Shell Trouser- Orc Industries' Soft Shell Trouser
is the matching bottom for the Level 5 Soft Shell jacket. When I received
it, I noticed that the material was slightly different from the Soft
Shell jacket that I have. The weave was very slightly more noticeable,
and the material felt a bit sturdier. I understand that all Orc Level
5 garments are now made of this material - 100% Epic Glacier (5.8oz
fabric), by Nextec®. The properties remain the same as the Jacket
- water resistant, wind proof, and lightweight.
3/23/05 - Wore the Level 5 pant on a short hike in the
evening. Temperature was 62° and went down to the mid-50's, with
a strong breeze. Pants were very comfortable, and didn't feel too
cold (kept the wind out completely) and not too hot when I had worked
up a sweat.
PCU Level 6 Wet Weather Jacket and Trouser - The PCU Level 6 Wet Weather suit is completely waterproof (and windproof, of course). The 'hard shell' jacket and trouser are made of coated nylon, called 'Travco', which is a non-breathable material. Hard shells serve a purpose for static duty in pouring rain like guardposts, checkpoints, or laying in an OP overnight. The Alpha-green colour is darker in shade than the L4 or L5 garments. The jacket is slightly oversized to fit over garments, as it's intended to be used as outerwear only, and in conjunction with BDUs etc. It shares the same shaped shoulders and elbows for freedom of movement and range of motion without binding. All seams are taped and waterproof. The full length front zipper has a chin guard at the top for comfort, and all zippers are of the sealed, water-resistant type. On each side of the chest is a vertical, 14" zippered opening for access to the undergarments or for venting. The hood has shock cord adjustment with two cord-locks at the front. Orc describes the hood as being oversized, and it fits perfectly over a hat or cap, but it'd be too tight to fit over a helmet, in my experience. The sleeves have elasticized cuffs with velcro tab adjustments, just like the L4 and L5 jackets. The bottom of the jacket can be tightened with the dual cord locks and shock cord
The Level 6 Wet Weather Trouser is of a simple, straightforward design. The elasticized waistband with snap closure has 7 belt loops on the outside and the same rear flap and front suspender loops as the Level 5 trouser shown above. The fly has a two-way zipper which can be opened from the top or bottom. The knees are articulated (pre-shaped) for freedom of movement. The legs can be opened via the 30" water-resistant side zippers, for ease of donning over combat boots. The leg bottoms are elasticized and have velcro tab adjusters.
3/22/05 - Wore the Level 6 suit out in medium rain for about half an hour and as expected, I was bone dry when I got back in. Temp was 61° I wasn't exerting myself so I didn't work up a sweat. I only wore a Level 1 pant and long sleeved T underneath and felt slightly chilly, so I was dry inside as well.
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