Fleece/Insulated Tops Page 1
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.
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782 Gear Smokin' Sweater Full Zip
782 Gear is based in Fall River, MA with remote offices in WA and NOVA, and was started from the inspiration of those who put their lives on the line each day in the defense of this nation's freedom. Their products are developed for such professionals, who demand comfort and performance from their clothing and equipment. The name '782 gear' is what Marines called their individual field equipment as they had to sign for it on the standard Marine Corps Form 782, which is no longer in use. Old traditions die hard, which brings up 782 Gear's slogan: 'Tradition Meets Innovation'. 782 Gear uses the latest in materials to produce their gear, which is not surprising since 782 Gear is a division of Duro Textiles, LLC, which is one of the country's largest dyers, printers, finishers and distributors ot textile products. Duro produces all of Crye's MultiCam fabrics. Duro, in turn, is owned by Patriarch Partners LLC (Lynn Tilton's company), who is credited with turning MD Helicopters around.
Description - The Smokin' Sweater Full Zip is a jacket liner, reminiscent of the classic M-65 field jacket liner. It's not meant to be buttoned or zipped into any particular jacket; just worn underneath for added insulation. The Smokin' Sweater is not intended to be worn for extended time as a stand-alone jacket. Worn by itself, it's more for hanging out inside the wire as 'lounge' warmth, hence the 'Smokin'' name. Its intent is to fill the function of the old M-65 field jacket liner but with the added utility of the zipper and high warth-to-weight ratio insulation using both Primaloft Sport and Climashield® Neo. The Smokin' Sweater also comes in a 1/4 zip pullover version.
There's also an outerwear version designed as a stand-alone jacket, called the 'Reprieve'. This has 4oz Climashield® APEX insulation (double that of the Smokin' Sweater) and has a Schoeller Nanosphere DWR shell. There are other products in 782 Gear's Smokin' Midlayer line, like a vest, hooded poncho (Kloke) and chaps (pants).
Here's a summary of the features on the Smokin' Sweater, size medium shown:
Sizing, fit etc - I'd say that the Smokin' Sweater fits very similar to the M-65 field jacket liner; it's a relaxed fit. It also feels less bulky and somewhat lighter. As mentioned above, the sleeves are short, so when worn alone, expect the wrists to be exposed if you have longer arms. The jacket is cut short so that it does not extend below the bottom hem of an outer shell.
General notes and thoughts - The Smokin' Sweater doesn't have the distinctive quilt pattern of the M-65 liner. Instead, it has eight small X-shaped bartacks placed sewn through all layers to keep the major panels of Climashield insulation in place. Since the Climashield insulation is a continuous fliament, as opposed to , it doesn't clump, shift or migrate like other insulation fillings, hence the quilting is not needed. The Climashield pretty springy, and wants to retain its loft after being compressed. I can roll the Smokin' Sweater into a 6" diameter ball, and it's easily stuffed into the crevases in a pack.
The nylon ripstop shell fabric is very light weight and breathable, and allows air to pass through with some resistance. It's not designed as a wind-stopping jacket though; you'll want to have a wind-proof outer shell if you're going to use it in cold, blustery weather. I did my usual test of insulated jackets by using the Smokin' Sweater under a mesh motorcycle jacket on early morning commutes in chilly weather. The mesh summer jacket allows air to flow through, and I can see how well the jacket underneath blocks the wind. With the Smokin' Sweater, I could definitely feel some airflow. I switched to a leather motorcycle jacket with no vents, and the Sweater was a lot warmer, keeping all the warmth in.
The open underarms are great - I was initially skeptical of the concept, but found that the underarms really tend to be the one place that will overheat first, and that ventilation in that area is needed. I actually wouldn't mind it if they increased the size of the cutout on the arm side. With the arms at my side, I didn't find cold wind to enter in through the arm vents when I wore the Smokin' Sweater by itself. I'd use the Smokin' Sweater for casual use by itself. As I mentioned before, it's not really designed for hard use as a stand-alone jacket. Since it's a liner, it doesn't have any handwarmer pockets, but it's cut short enough so that I can stick my hands in my pants pockets.
The short sleeves end before the wrists, so I had no issues closing the velcro tabs on my external jacket. There is also no interference with gloves from added bulk. One thing I would mind having is a small pull tab inside the sleeve which I can grab while putting on a shell over the Smokin' Sweater. As it is right now, I grab the end of the sleeve so it doesn't ride up my arm when donning the outer jacket or shell. If jacket liner is what you're looking for, for use under a hard shell or other jacket, the Smokin' Sweater should work very well to provide an additional measure of warmth.
Arc'Teryx LEAF Naga Hoody
6/23/12 - One of the newest items from the LEAF (Law Enforcement and Armed Forces) division of Arc'Teryx to be offered in the Urban Wolf colour is the Naga Hoody. The Naga Hoody is a 'kit staple hoody that combines weather and abrasion-resistant sleeves and hood, with an armour-compatible breathable body.' Its unique hood configuration and snug fit sets it apart from other hoodies.
I'm making an assumption here, but based on Arc'teryx's trend of naming their LEAF products after mythical creatures (like the Sphinx and Gryphon), the Naga is most likely named after the Sanskrit word referring to the King Cobra, a hooded serpent, in Hinduism and Buddhism.
The Naga is designed as a heavyweight base layer or light weight mid layer under armour or gear; providing a warm, breathable friction-free layer. The low profile hood fits under helmets or tucks behind the neck without bulk. It's also a great mid layer under some of Arc'tyerx's shells.
Urban Wolf - Arc'teryx's new Urban Wolf series is a much anticipated shade optimized for urban and industrial environments. Traditional dark uniforms stand out against most modern surroundings like concrete, glass, asphalt and rooftops for urban operations. The medium grey tone of Urban Wolf makes one less noticeable in light or shadow, and was developed as a covert tonal shade for law enforcement and special forces, and offers an alternative to the black, green and brown shades common to tactical clothing.
Material - Like the Gryphon and Sphinx tops, the Naga has a composite construction, utilizing different materials for the main body and the shoulders/arms. Polartec® Power Stretch® fleece fabric makes up the torso and upper chest. It has a smooth outer face with a fleece inner face. It's stretchy and very comfortable.
Polartec® Power Stretch® with Hardface Technology is used for the tops of the shoulders, sleeves and hood. It's differentiated from the non hardface techonology fabric by the grid pattern on it. For that reason, it looks darker than the torso fabric. This is a body-hugging 4-way stretch fabric with two unique surfaces - a soft fleece inner layer for warmth and comfort; and a smooth outer layer that is abrasion and snag/pick resistant. It's also DWR-treated to repel water. This is the same material as used on the side panels of the Atom LT jacket. The Naga is available in Crocodile and Urban Wolf (shown here).
Here's a summary of the features on the Naga Hoody, size medium in Urban Wolf shown:
Sizing, fit etc - As I've mentioned before; I'm not skinny nor chubby - sort of in the middle/average. On my 'average medium' frame, the Naga is very form fitting. It's not 'compression tight', but there's no room left over for anything but a t-shirt underneath. Even so, I still have to pull the t-shirt sleeves back down into the sleeves of the Naga as they bunch up under my armpits when I put the Naga on. The gusseted underarms are right up in my arm pits; not flapping around or hanging lower. Snug-fitting T-shirts like Zensah are best worn under the Naga, rather than loose fit T-shirts with a lot of extra fabric to bunch up under it. The Naga is definitely not your relaxed-fit, baggy hoody. It's designed to fit close to the body to minimize bulk when worn under armour or gear, and works very well in this role. If your more muscular or heavier, or just want a looser fit, going up a size might be warranted. Bear in mind that the length of the sleeves and torso will also increase with a larger size.
General notes and observations - The Naga is probably the most 'fashionable-looking' hoodies I've seen. Unlike most hoodies, it's trim, form fitting and streamlined. Its athletic cut can make you look good, or reveal your flab - it hides little. What's probably most striking is the hood. Rather than forming the collar, as on a regular hoody, the hood is independant. This collar-inside-the-hood arrangement looks very unique and stylish. It's designed for functionality first, of course, but it also happens to look cool (to me). The hood is also quite unique, fitting closely to the head like a wetsuit hood, instead of the normal relaxed, baggy hood. It looks like something out of Tron, instead of the oversized hoods of the Jedi. My wife thinks it looks weird, but doesn't dispute that it works well.
The independant collar and hood allow a lot more versatility than the standard hoody arrangement. The problem I've found with most hoodies is that the collar lets in too much cold air. It's never snug enough. The Naga collar is close fitting and comfy around my neck, preventing cold wind from blowing down into the garment. Its double thickness also helps keep the neck warm. The hood, being close-fitting, doesn't allow cold air to blow around inside either. It doesn't have any adjustment per se, but you can pull it forward or back to adjust how it sits above your eyes. It also works great with ballcaps - I was walking around at the beach and the wind was blowing hard; and I was about to lose my cap. I pulled the Naga's hood over my cap and it retained it securely (and kept my ears warm as well).
My main complaint with other garments that have thumbhole sleeve cuffs is that the cuff is usually sized larger to fit over the hands and too loose on my wrists, letting cold air up my sleeves and sitting halfway down my hand. Not so with the Naga. The elastic cuff is sized just right so that it doesn't interfere with my hands when worn on the wrist, and not too tight when worn over the hands. Arc'teryx got this right.
When I first started using the Naga, my first impression was 'this isn't very warm for a fleece garment'. Standing sedentary in cold weather or walking around the neighbourhood at night with the wind blowing, it didn't keep me warm and cozy like more heavily insulated garments. I'd equate it to a medium-weight sweatshirt. The fleece has no wind-stopping qualities - you can blow right through the fabric with no resistance. I thought to myself "I'm going to freeze in windy weather."
But, I also noticed was that I wasn't cold either. I was on the cool side. When I started exerting a little, I began to understand how this garment works. It forgoes the wind resistance properties by making breathability the priority. This prevents overheating when exerting, and the garment from retaining too much heat when it needs to be gotten rid of. By allowing the wind to pass through it, excess heat and sweat is evaporated, but the body is still kept from getting too cold. That same day down at the beach where my cap was saved by the hood - it was extremely blustery, and a little on the chilly side. I felt the wind blowing right through the Naga, and yet I wasn't cold or uncomfortable. I started jogging slowly to work up a bit of a sweat, and warmed up, but didn't get too hot as the airflow through the garment kept cooling me down and evaporating the sweat.
Because it's so breathable, the Naga can be used for a wide range of temperatures, depending on the level of activity. It's not a cold weather piece of snivel gear that will keep you warm when sitting still, but intended for active use. As a stand alone garment, it'll work well up to temps in the low 70's (without exertion).
When worn under armour, the breathability really becomes useful to reduce stuffiness. You're still going to get warm around the torso under a plate carrier, depending on the temperature and level of exertion. The hardface-technology fabric is pill and snag resistant - desirable when worn around velcro.
Where the Naga also shines is as an insulating garment worn under a shell. If you're in chilly, windy weather and want to maximize its insulating properties, wearing a wind-resistant top like the featherweight Wraith Jacket now makes it impervious to the wind, and traps body heat under the shell. The Naga's snug fit makes it a perfect lining garment under shells like the Drac, Sphinx, Alpha, Alpha LT, Gryphon and Wraith jackets for colder, inclement weather. I've illustrated it below worn under a Drac jacket.
The Naga is not as compressible as the Atom LT jacket, but it's still not very bulky for a fleece garment. It's already proven to be a very popular garment, whether it's for tactical or casual wear with the active crowd. It certainly has given my Atom LT some competition - I treat the Atom LT as outerwear, but find myself wearing the Naga both inside and outdoors. Around town, the Naga is just the slickest-looking hoody around, due to its design and tailored fit. With it on, you just look and feel...'active'.
TAD Ranger Jacket
12/16/12 - For those that wanted a hoodless version of Triple Aught Design's popular Ranger Hoodie, your wish has been granted. TAD has released the Ranger Jacket which is still one of the most feature-laden fleece jackets available.
Hoodies: some like them, some don't. Personally, I like hoodies as the hood is always available when needed; attached to the jacket. I haven't found them to be in the way or cumbersome. But I'm coming from a civilian perspective, and what some LE and military folk pointed out to me was that a hood can adversely affect hearing, head mobility and limit peripheral vision; all of which can be priorities over warmth in particular environments. If they didn't want to use a hood, they didn't want to have it there to add bulk (which is understandable), and if warmth was needed, they'd wear a fleece cap or hat.
Another thing that TAD has done more recently is to offer versions of their jackets with and without the loop velcro fields on the shoulders/upper arms for attaching ID or patches. Some users dislike the 'tactical' look that velcro patches impart and the unwanted attention that it may attract. I'm not a fanboy nor hater of the 'tactical look' in general public, but one thing's for sure - if I see someone walking around with a jacket that has any velcro or patches on the shoulders, it immediately draws my attention, because that's what I'm normally tuned into. So, the new Ranger Jacket is also available patched, or non-patched.
The Ranger Jacket is available in Black, Loden Green (a new colour), Coyote Brown (instead of M.E. Brown), and U.E. Grey (shown here). Triple Aught Design has offered their clothing in U.E. (Urban Environment) Grey for years, and has advocated grey as a colour suitable for the urban environment. Grey is less noticeable than black at night against buildings and also in general, when black is sometimes too dark and can stand out.
In a LE context, traditional dark uniforms stand out against most modern surroundings like concrete, glass, asphalt and rooftops for urban operations. A medium grey tone makes one less noticeable in light or shadow, and offers an alternative to the black, green and brown shades common to tactical clothing. I've really come to like grey as a colour for everyday clothing as well as tactical gear, as it's not so 'military' as OD green or khaki, or as 'ninja' as black.
'Speaking of grey, there are an infinite number of grey shades, with different tints. Trying to get items to match exactly from different manufacturers is going to be quite futile, and really isn't necessary in all practicality. Even matching items from the same manufacturer is difficult if they're made of different materials. TAD's U.E. Grey is usually different for different U.E. Grey garments made of different fabrics. For the sake of comparison, I took the photo below comparing the U.E. Grey Ranger jacket, Battleship Grey NYCO ripstop Force 10 pants, EMDOM SDU Grey Cordura nylon, the Arc'teryx Naga Hoody in Urban Wolf, and Gen 2 Stealth Hoodie in U.E. Grey. Under fluorescent lighting, the fleece of the Ranger jacket takes on a slightly greenish tint when compared to the other fabrics that's not apparent under natural lighting. As you can see from the rest of the photos, it's really hard to nail down a colour in a photo on a computer screen - they all look slightly different. Wiki has a good article on the variations of grey.
Features - Here's a summary of the main features on the 2012 Ranger Jacket. Many of the features are shared with the Ranger Hoodie:
Sizing/ observations - Back at the beginning of 2011, I tried a TAD Ranger Hoodie LT (Light), but returned it because of the fit. It was too tight under the armpits and the sleeves were too long; about 2" longer than my older Ranger Hoodies. So, with the Ranger Jacket, I was a bit worried about how it'd fit. Turns out the fit is just about perfect. TAD describes the fit of the 2012 Ranger Jacket as 'active, streamlined/athletic', and I think that it's an accurate description.
Compared to my earlier versions of the TAD Ranger Hoodie (specifically the V5 from 2009), the Ranger Jacket fits slightly slimmer without being tight or form fitting. The arms are just the right length for me, and I'd estimate that they're about 0.5" smaller in diameter than the V5 Ranger Hoodie. There was a lot of room in the arms of the Hoodie, and just a bit less in the sleeves of the Jacket. I'd also estimate that the Jacket is about 1" smaller around the chest as well. This translates to a very nice fit with no excess bulk, and enough room underneath for a light insulating layer. The Ranger Jacket can be worn as an outer layer, but can also function as a mid-layer under one of TAD's hardshells. It's definitely not the body-hugging fit of the Arc'teryx Naga Hoody. For those who want a looser fit or want to conceal a pistol underneath, I'd go up a size. As is (I'm a size medium and am wearing a size medium here), mobility is great; and movements are unrestricted. The slimmer fit also helps it fit comfortably under a plate carrier as seen below, without bunching of material under the arms.
On earlier versions of the Ranger Hoodie, the wrist cuffs weren't snug enough, which is why I wished they had adjustments at the cuffs. Since they were longer and wider to accomodate being worn over the hand, they were a little loose around my skinny wrists and small hands, so a draft could blow up my sleeves if was windy. With this Ranger Jacket, not only are the sleeves not as loose, but the wrist cuffs have also been tightened up. Now, they don't slip down over my hands and when I use the thumbhole feature, they seal around the hand way better than before. Much less drafty than before. I assume that the current versions of the Ranger Hoodie are constructed the same way, so this is nice to see.
One thing I did was re-tie the zipper pulls. TAD has used thicker cord (similar to 550 cord) for zipper pulls on early jackets, then switched to sewn webbing pulls (see the photo below of the V5 Ranger Hoodie). On the Ranger Jacket, a 1/16" cord with a single knot is used. It's similar to the way Arc'teryx LEAF does they zipper pulls, except that Arc'teryx uses shrink wrap around the cord so the knot is always at the end. The current configuration of the pull on the Ranger Jacket doesn't provide a consistent grab - sometimes I ended up grabbing part of the loop, so the knot would then slide up to the top (look at the photo below on the left). Also, depending on how tightly they snug the knot at the factory, the single knot can loosen and the cord can come off (I've had this happen on similar jackets). In this case, I simply tied a second knot right at the metal pull which kept the loop from slipping and also added more security should one knot come loose. It's also easier to grab. Another common way of attaching the cord is to tie a cow hitch knot at the bar between the two holes in the metal zipper pull and use a single knot at the end.
When shooting with the Ranger Hoodies, I usually have the hood down. While the hoods fit over my hearing protection, move with my head and don't really restrict my peripheral vision, I generally prefer to wear a fleece cap or regular cap instead, just for the added awareness. When not wearing hearing protection, a hood can also affect or confuse directional hearing since it can deaden certain sounds from the sides and is open only at the front. You only need to take a walk in the forest or around nature once, to see the difference a hood can make in your hearing. The Ranger Jacket therefore fits right into that role, where the user will want his insulation for his head separate from the jacket.
Like the Hoodies, the Ranger Jacket 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. I'd love to see TAD add pit zips, for even better ventilation than the pit slits. This would allow the user to vent more heat when on the move or during strenuous activity. If you don't need a compressible jacket, and want a fleece that's durable and very wind resistant, TAD's Ranger Jacket is very effective. If the weather doesn't call for a dedicated wet-weather jacket or soft shell, the Ranger series of jackets 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.
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