Fleece/Insulated Tops Page
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"
TAD Gear Ranger Hoodie v5
2/28/09 - TAD Gear's popular Ranger Hoodie is now in its fifth iteration. With the Ranger Hoodie v5, TAD Gear continues to refine one of their most popular and recognized garments. The Ranger Hoodie is still the tactical fleece jacket with the most standard features I've seen.
Before the Ranger Hoodie was available, the SPEAR and USMC fleece jackets were the popular cold-weather fleeces of the day. When TAD Gear introduced the v2 Ranger Hoodie, they set it apart by incorporating the utility of their successful Stealth Softshell's features into the Ranger Hoodie design. No other tactical fleece offered this many standard features. Features were carried over from both the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Stealth hoodies, with more added or refined with each generation. Some of the changes to the v5 are subtle: 1" longer than the v3 in overall length, and 1" shorter than the v4 in sleeve length. Also, 1" added to the bottom sweep width at the request of many customers. For all Ranger Hoodies, the general cut and size is that of the Stealth hoodie, with 1" additional length in the sleeves and 1" wider in the arm pit.
Here's a summary of the main features on the v5 Ranger Hoodie (some of which are unchanged from v3 and v4, but repeated here so you don't have to go back and re-read the previous writeup):
Sizing, additional observations - The v5 Ranger Hoodie is sized the same as the previous versions - like TAD's Stealth Softshells - form fitting, but with enough room for an additional light insulating layer underneath like the Scout Hoodie or a sweatshirt. I've worn the Predator and other hardshells over it for additional cold weather protection, which fits over it with room to spare (because of the lack of excess material and bulk). Mobility is great; and movements are unrestricted. As mentioned previously, the v5 is 1" longer than the v3, and 1" shorter in the sleeve than the v4. The elbow patches of the v4 are gone.
The only thing I'd change (and I've mentioned this on the previous Ranger Hoodies) is to have adjustments at the cuffs. Since they're longer, and wider to accomodate being worn over the hand, they're a little loose around my skinny wrists, so a draft can blow up my sleeves if it's windy. If I'm not using the thumbhole feature, I simply roll up the cuff once, which shortens it and makes it tighter around my wrist. I'd like a little elastic, or the same kind of velcro tab that's on the Stealth Hoodie cuffs.
The M.E. Green shown here is a very pleasant sage-like colour; more on the greyish green side than 'green'. Like the previous versions, the v5 Ranger Hoodie has a pretty wide usable temperature range - it's breathable so it doesn't get too stuffy, even when it's a bit warm for a fleece jacket. When it's cold and windy, it outperforms other fleeces like the SPEAR and USMC jackets as it stops the majority of the wind and retains body heat better. Even in wet weather, they're surprisingly effective. For the past few years, if the weather doesn't call for a dedicated wet-weather jacket or soft shell, the Ranger Hoodies have become some of my favourite go-to choices as a stand-alone general use jacket in cold or chilly weather because of their comfort, performance and all-round utility.
TAD Gear Pathfinder Jacket (discontinued)
6/14/08 - Triple Aught Design's (TAD Gear) Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket is part of their new Pathfinder Series of low weight and warmth to weight ratio 3+ season everyday wear. With the Pathfinder Jacket, TAD has taken the latest fabrics and technology in the outdoor clothing industry and engineered an extremely comfortable jacket. It's sort of a 'hybrid' or in-between' garment; when the Ranger Hoodie is too warm and a T-shirt is not enough. Consider it a full zip technical replacement for the sweatshirt with added utility.
Material - The Pathfinder Cardigan is made out of Malden Mills PolarTec Thermalpro fleece, which offers excellent comfort, low weight, breathability, appearance, and warmth to weight ratio. The outside of the fabric has a knit texture making it look more like a traditional wool garment. This gives it a more unique and 'classy' look, if you will. The inside face has a pebbled/shearling fleece texture. Note that this is not windbloc fleece - it is not wind resistant. This makes it extremely breathable and usable during exertion during cooler weather as a slight breeze will help speed up sweat evaporation. It it's too cold and windy, a wind shirt can be worn over the Pathfinder to take full advantage of its insulating properties. This fleece weight makes the Pathfinder ideal for everyday wear in 3+ seasons, as outerwear or for layering under TAD's soft and hardshells. The Pathfinder is available in M.E. Green (shown here), DF Grey, and ME Brown.
The Pathfinder also utilizes Bemis
Thermmoplastic construction (welded seam tape) with TAD Gear
Sharkskin softshell fabric for the upper sleeve pocket and hand
warmer pocket reinforcements.
The Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket has a full front zip and 3" stand-up collar. The fit is like the Stealth Softshells - relaxed, but with an athletic cut. The Pathfinder is something that you'd wear over a T-shirt or thin base layer; it's not really cut to fit over thick layers. The fleece material isn't bulky, so it's suitable as a mid layer under wind and waterproof shells. There's a small velcro patch near the waist with one of TAD's removable logos.
The summary of features on the Pathfinder Cardigan Jacket is as follows (size medium shown here):
The Pathfinder Jacket is probably one of the most
comfortable fleece garments I've worn - it's very soft, lightweight,
and unrestrictive. Even at home in the evening when it's cool, I
find myself reaching for it instead of a sweatshirt as it's so damn
comfy. Outside, as mentioned above, it's not really wind resistant,
so there are pros and cons to that, obviously. You're much less
likely to feel stuffy or overheat in the Pathfinder than a windblock
fleece during exertion and it's comfortable up to the mid 70's if
you're just lounging around.
TAD Gear Special Service Sweater and Praetorian Hoodie (discontinued)
12/29/08 - Two new additions to TAD Gear's (Triple Aught Design) 'Green Label" (natural fibers) Merino Wool Garment line for 2008-2009 are the Merino Praetorian Full Zip Hoodie and the Special Service Sweater. TAD Gear's ever-expanding wool garment line gives the tactical/military community designs catering to their needs, in nice, subdued colours - something that you're not likely to find at the local REI or ski shop.
The Praetorian and Special Service Sweater (SSS) are also part of TAD's A.C.E. (A.ll C.limate E.lementals) layering system, which describes their highly versatile, component apparel system. Each piece of the ACE system represents a component in an overall total system that can be worn autonomously or as part of layering combination. The ACE System offers performance and functionality from base and mid layers to outerwear. Three other items from the ACE system: the Regulator Base layers, Equilibrium Full Zip Sweater, and the Flux Pullover Hoodie were featured previously (above). These were made from New Zealand Extra Fine Merino Wool, but the Praetorian and SSS are made from Australian Merino wool instead.
Extra Fine Grade Australian Merino Wool - With the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater (along with some other items like the Brain Case Watch Cap and Proline Neck Gaiter) TAD Gear is using Australian Merino vs. the New Zealand Merino used for the earlier garments. When I asked TAD why the change, Patrick answered that this was done to make the garments easier to care for. The Australian Merino is processed and finished differently than the NZ wool to make it more pill resistant and machine washable in cold gentle cycle. For people like me, who did not grow up with wool and are used to machine washing all their clothes, this makes it more user friendly. Wool garments do pill, and the Australian Merino keeps that at bay longer.
As mentioned in previous writeups, some of the many benefits of wool is that it's naturally fire resistant, breathable, durable, used in both hot and cold climates, odour and static resistant, and will keep you warm even when wet. It will not melt or stick to when exposed to flame. The Praetorian and Special Service Sweater are available in additional colours to the ones previously available. Besides the previously available M.E. (Multi Environment) Green, they're now made in Sith Black, M.E. Brown (shown here) and U.E. Gray. Readers of my previous writeups on all wool garments might remember that I've mentioned that I have very sensiitve skin and fall in the small percentage of people that can find even Merino wool scratchy. However, all of TAD's merino products have the least amount of itch (none to almost none) that I've experienced with any merino wool product which is due to the fine micron thickness of the extra/super fine merino wool selected for these garments. I've found the Australian merino used in both these garments to be itch-free.
Weave - As seen in the photo
below, the Special Service Sweater has a high stretch index
rib knit pattern, similar to the familiar commando sweater,
but not as large of pronounced. The Praetorian Hoodie has a
smoother, non-ribbed 4-way stretch knit. The M.E. Brown is a
very nice-looking shade of medium brown which goes well with
MultiCam, other earth tones, and just about anything else. I
prefer it much more to a lighter tan colour.
Special Service Sweater - The Special Service Sweater is a medium-weight, full front zip, TAD Gear-update on the classic heavy ribbed knit pattern, snug next-to-body fit of the legendary British 'commando sweater' with a stand up zip collar instead of the crew neck of the commando sweater. The size Medium is shown here, and for reference I'm 5' 7" and 155 lbs with a 43" chest. I found the fit under the arms is a bit snug, but not enough to be restrictive. The SSS is designed more as a layering piece to be worn under a shell or over a thin base layer, not as a baggy and bulky sweater, hence the streamlined cut. Even so, it's stretchy enough that I was able to layer it over a sweatshirt without it being too tight.
The full zip front makes it easy to don and doff, or wear with the front completely open. This is useful for regulating temperature, something you can't do with a commando sweater. Zip it up when cold, then zip it open when it starts getting too warm. The collar is 5" tall and can be worn up, or folded over in half, or partially unzipped. Depends on the look you want or how chilly it is and how much of your neck you want covered. Either way, I found all ways quite comfortable. It's stretchy so it's not binding around the neck.
There's a front internal pocket over the left breast, with a vertical zipper opening. It's large; about 6" tall and 8" deep as it extends all the way to the side/sleeve seam. The pocket material itself is wool. Due to its location, flat items like a wallet instead of bulky ones work better.
The shoulders and elbows are reinforced with an additional layer of merino wool; of the same fine/smooth knit as the Praetorian Hoodie, it looks like. This is a nice touch, especially on high-wear areas like the elbows. The elbow reinforcements cover the bottom of the fore arms and extend all the way down to the ends of the cuffs. The shoulder reinforcements help protect the tops of the shoulders against backpack or shoulder bag straps.
The sleeves are "Alpine length" (long), and the cuffs are designed to be worn turned back under normal usage. If extended coverage is needed for the hands, the cuffs can be worn down. They're long enough to cover the hand when extended. I don't find the turned-back cuffs bulky, nor do they get in the way. One of the practical advantages to having a double layer cuff is that it helps keep the wrists warmer. The wrists are often exposed or neglected when it comes to insulation. Even most heavy jackets have rib/elastic cuffs that don't provide much warmth for the wrists. The arteries that carry blood to the hands are close to the surface, and keeping the wrists warmer is a factor in keeping the hands warm. The turned back double layer cuffs of the Special Service Sweater help keep the hands warmer, especially with short cuff gloves.
Made to the highest industry standards, this full zip sweater is made in a newly updated higher stretch classic heavy ribbed knit pattern which hugs the body for a streamlined fit without being restricting. This updated ribbed knit pattern is tried and trued is inspired by the legendary "commando sweaters" of the SAS and the fishermen sweaters of icy Northern Europe. For this 2008-2009 season, our newly sourced Australian Merino yarns provide unparalleled comfort, the full zip allows for easy on and off, and the modern add-on of the chest pocket gives that extra bit of storage when needed. Our Special Service Sweater is ideal worn alone or underneath one of our shells for maximum versatility as part of our A.C.E. performance layering system. The next generation of Merino apparel is here.
Zip Hoodie - The Praetorian Full ZIp Hoodie
(shown below in M.E. Brown) is a very versatile garment suitable
for layering or stand-alone wear.
I like hoodies, and the Praetorian is one of the sharpest I've seen, especially in the brown colour. It has TAD's signature Aero hood design, which folds flatter than other hoods. With the wool, however, which has some weight and no stiffness to it, the hood won't really lay flat against the back, but drape naturally. Perfectly colour-matched YKK covert zippers are used and flat cover-stitch seams in some areas for functionality and aesthetics.
There's a zippered 'Napoleon' pocket on the left breast for flat items, measuring about 6.5" tall x 5.5" wide. There are also two side-entry hand warmer pockets in the front, with reinforced openings. These are about 9" tall and 6" wide. The elbows/forearms are covered in a double layer of the same wool knit, and extend all the way to the cuffs. The cuffs are longer, and have thumbholes to keep them in place when the hoodie is worn under a shell or with gloves. The cuffs can be turned back if the thumbhole feature isn't used.
The sides of the Praetorian are scalloped at the
bottom hem, so it's easier to access pants side pockets. I've
found this feature nice to have, and it gives the Praetorian
a different look.
Impressions and notes - One of the first things I noticed with the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater when holding them is that they are actually quite substantial. While the fabric is thinner on the Praetorian, it's no lighter because the knit is denser. The ribbed knit of the Special Service Sweater has more 'loft' to it, has a more open knit and is less dense. These two garments have weight to them and practically no stiffness so they will drape instead of puff up like fleece.
Both these Merino wool garments are slightly heavier and more dense than their synthetic equivalents, but due the the breathability of the wool fibers themselves, you're less likely to get stuffy when you sweat than with a synthetic fleece top (synthetic fibers do not soak up moisture - they wick it away. Wool fibers actually absorb moisture). When soaking wet, wool garments are heavier than synthetics and take longer to dry because the wool fibers are hydrophilic and absorb moisture more readily than synthetic ones. Dunk a wool garment into water with a synthetic one, squeeze out the excess water and compare the weights and you'll see. This is less of an issue with thin base layers. The tags recommend a cold gentle cycle when machine washing, and laying them flat to dry. However, I'd found that I can machine dry these wool garments on the air only or low heat setting without them shrinking. Note that while these garments are pill-resistant, they will pill with use, like any other wool garment and get a bit fuzzier than when they were new. This does not affect performance whatsoever.
I found both the Praetorian and Special Service Sweater to be about as warm as a medium-heavy weight sweatshirt. The Praetorian has a slight edge over the Special Service Sweater when it comes to wind resistance due to the tighter knit. This is relative, as they're not designed to be wind resistant. A windbreaking shell is necessary if that's needed. Neither feel stuffy, and they layer well under TAD's hard and soft shells. I wore the Praetorian under the Raptor hardshell jacket on a recent cold, rainy day and was grateful for the additional warmth the hood provided under the Raptor's hood.
The great thing about these two garments is that I can wear them just about anywhere. Paired with 'tactical'/military clothing or worn with everyday street clothes, both will do double-duty equally well and can be dressed up or down. Around town, the Praetorian is more casual, the Special Service Sweater more 'smart casual'. Personally, I prefer the more casual look of the Praetorian than the Special Service Sweater, which can acheive a smart, preppy look with an edge depending on the pants you wear it with. I'm more of a hoodie person than a sweatshirt/sweater person, personality wise. I also like having the hand warmer pockets on the hoodie, as it's more comfortable to walk with my hands there than in my pants pockets. The way wool drapes and looks adds a touch of class to these garments, and sets them apart from the cottons and synthetics.
Worn with military or tactical clothing, they
take on a rugged, outdoor look and don't look out of place at
the range or in the field. Quite the 'multi-environment' clothing
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