High Performance/Tactical Clothing - Page 1 Page
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This section features High-Performance Wear that is not specifically targeted for overt military use, but could be used anywhere.
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.
Many of the professionals (and civvies) I know are avid outdoors enthusiasts, and are not always looking for military-styled clothing when they're out backpacking or around town. While they will work just as well for Military or Law Enforcement use, the garments listed on these pages will definitely be of interest to anyone just looking for high-performance outdoor clothing.
TO VIEW FULL SIZE IMAGES: USERNAME and PASSWORD are both "mm"
TAD Gear Force 10 "Legionnaire" Classic Cargo Pants
2/27/07 - TAD Gear's Force 10 "Legionnnaire" Classic Cargo pants (discontinued) are TAD's "classic" rendition of their Force 10 cargo pants. Inspired by the bomber combat cargoes worn by the Foreign Legion during the 1950's, TAD kept the overall traditional military look with some subtle modern features designed in. No offense to TAD, but the main photo on their web page for these pants don't do it justice. These are NICE. They're made of 100% cotton gabardine7.5 oz twill in classic OD green, and made on the West coast in the U.S.A. This material is slightly heavier than the 7.0 oz heavyweight twill used on the Crye field pants and conveys a sense of comfort, yet toughness. The OD used is a dark, slightly greyish-green colour under some lighting conditions, and a very good-looking colour.
The Classics come in even waist sizes from 30" to 44" , all with a 34" inseam, which means you have to take them to a tailor to get them shortened if needed. It cost me about $6 and a couple of days at the cleaners/tailor to get them altered. Fit is relaxed, but not overly baggy, with a straighter leg. The seat and knees have double layers of fabric for reinforcement and durability. The knees have tailored articulated darts to better follow the shape of the legs. The four-button fly utilizes custom OD green TAD Gear bartacked Canadian-style slotted buttons - no velcro is used anywhere in these pants.
There are seven bartacked belt loops on the waist that will accomodate 2"-wide belts. It's shown here with an Original SOE Cobra riggers belt. The front two belt loops have ITW Nexus D-ring keepers under them. Small items can be tethered and kept inside the front welt/besom pockets. The front welt pockets are 6" deep and 4.5" wide, and are perfect for cell phones, sunglass cases, or pistol mags. They're deep enough to feel pretty secure, even though there is no closure. There are also two side hand pockets, each with the diamond-shaped TAD knife clip reinforcement to reduce wear on the entrance to the pocket from pocket knives. All my Levi's have the pockets chewed up in that area.
Each rear pocket measures 6" x 6" and has
a flap with the Canadian slotted buttons. The corners of the flaps
are angled off, for a more modern look. The side cargo pockets are
as spacious as you'd need, measure 9" tall x 8" wide, and
are bellows style. They have flaps closed with the same Canadian slotted
buttons, and the flaps have angled-off corners. The bellows-style
offers a cleaner look than the BDU pleated style pockets. There are
no internal dividers or compartments inside the pockets.
I was impressed by the overall quality and attention to detail put into these pants - standard BDUs and 5.11s don't compare. There are reinforcing bartacks everywhere, at all stress points. All the internal seams and pockets are finished off neatly. After the initial couple of weeks wear and a few washes, I can see that these 100% cotton pants will break in nicely like a favourite pair of jeans. Whether it be around town, on travel, or at the range, these are a refreshing alternative to 5.11 or BDU pants. They look smarter than BDUs and I find the pockets more practical than 5.11-style pants. These are already becoming one of my most frequently worn pants for daily wear.
TAD Gear Force 10 Spartan Pants
12/5/08 - TAD Gear's Force 10 Spartan pants are designed for the user who prefers a more discrete or streamlined look than those offered by cargo pants with side pockets. While cargo-style pants are quite the norm aound town, and frankly, don't really attract much attention, there are places where you might need to present a 'dressier' or more 'professional' appearance, and these are where the Spartans come in. While they're not a pair of pressed slacks, they'll pass for smart casual under most circumstances and yet be ready for some rough and tumble if need be. They're also less common than 5.11 types, which attract attention from those who are tuned into those kind of things. Depending on your top, you can dress these up or down as you please.
The Spartan pant is sort of a cross between the Legionnaire
Classic Cargo Pants shown above and the Force
10 Cargo Utilities, combining elements of both, along with some
of its own unique features. The Spartans are available in pre-shrunk,
premier grade 100% cotton fabrics: Classic OD Green Gabardine Twill,
or Khaki Brushed Twill (shown here). The twill is a heavier fabric
than the ripstop or amphibious cloth used on the Force 10 cargos,
which gives you a little more protection from scrapes when it comes
to rocky environments, or a bit more warmth in the winter. The fabric
softens slowly over time like a pair of Levi's - I've had my Legionnaires
going on two years now and they're one of my most comfortable pair
of pants. They're more wear resistant and durable than Levi's though,
I've found, and I expect no less from the Spartans.
Features - Here a summary of the features on the Khaki Twill Spartan Pants show here (waist 32"). Note that the inseam is left unfinished at a length of 37" for hemming at your local tailor or dry cleaners:
Like all of TAD's other pants, the Spartans are very well made with attention to detail. I like the fit of TAD's pants better than most others - they're not too baggy or tight, and have the right amount of rise for me; not too high or low. Of course, everyone's different so that's just my own experience. The Spartans feel very much like my Legionnaire Classics, as they're both made of similar materials. Slightly heavier and thicker than the ripstop cotton Force 10s, they're well suited to cooler weather. Since the hot summer days have left to make way for the winter, I've been wearing the Legionnaires and Spartans when I ride my motorcycle to work for the little more warmth and wind protection they provide. I get to work before 6am so it can be a bit nippy.
While theoretically not as secure as flap-closed rear pockets, I like the lower profile of the Spartan's single-button closure with no flaps that stick out when unbuttoned. You just have to make sure that the item you're putting inside is larger than the buttoned opening.
The interior hidaway pocket isn't meant for frequently accessed items, like your wallet. I should have known better, but I stuck my wallet in the hideaway pocket anyway when I dressed for work one day and promptly forgot about it. When lunch time came around, and I was standing in line to pay for my meal, I reached for my wallet in my back pocket and immediately realized where it was, or where it wasn't. I had to suck in my gut (to loosen up the waist without undoing my belt) and stick my hand down my butt (that's what it looked like) to retrieve my wallet, much to the amusement of my co-worker. 'It's a secret pocket', I explained. 'What's that for?' he asked. 'Prevent pickpockets?'. 'Sure, you could use it for that, or other valuable stuff,' I said. He just smiled and said 'Okay, Papillon.' (those of you who've seen the movie will understand the reference). My point is, the hideaway pocket is pretty secure. It'd actually be a good place to keep a wallet safe from pickpockets when on travel.
So, in summary, the TAD Gear Spartan is a streamlined pant that doesn't look overtly 'tactical', having elements of their Force 10 Cargos and Legionnaire Classics as well as its own unique features. Depending on what it's paired with, it can be dresssed up or down, and is suited to both the office or outdoor environments. Either way, it has the same comfortable fit and quality construction that we've come to expect from TAD.
6/07/05 - RailRiders is a small company based in Massachusetts, that has made a name for itself in the adventure-racing community and events like the Eco-Challenge. They offer a wide range of clothing for the active individual - Adventure Racer, traveler, backpacker, hiker, or anyone looking for durable, lightweight and quick drying clothes. When I first heard about RailRiders from my friend Mel (from Kifaru), I thought to myself 'What's a rail rider?', conjuring up images of people riding on trains. Turns out it's not trains, but yacht-racing, where the term comes from. All RailRiders garments are engineered for light weight and comfort without sacrificing durability. The quick-drying fabrics are suited to wet/dry environments.
T is made of a nylon polyester waffle-weave wicking 'Hydroweave'
fabric (say that 10 times fast), with full length Hydrovent max mesh
panels on the sides for ventilation. The fabric is fast-drying and
odor-resistant. It's shown here in 'Stone', which is a very light
tan. Overall fit of the shirt around the torso is on the relaxed/loose
side, probably to encourage movement of the fabric and airflow through
the mesh. (I'm still debating whether a loose fit vs. compression
fit is better for keeping you drier. I've found that for a fabric
to wick moisture from the skin, it obviously has to be in contact
with the skin. A looser fit will allow air flow, but I don't think
the rate of evaporation from the skin is as fast as the wicking speed.
Without proper ventilation, you can have a 'microclimate' between
your skin and the fabric, which can prevent efficient evaporation
of sweat. The mesh panels on the Eco-Speed address that issue by ensuring
that outside air flows through the garment to speed up evaporation,
and combine it with the wicking properties of the fabric). It's light
weight at 4.5oz.
- At the request of an extreme endurance/adventure racer, looking
for ONE shirt that would be light weight, provide protection from
the sun but have maximum ventilation for hot, arid conditions; quick
drying, odor-resistant, durable and chafe-proof, RailRiders designed
Shirt, shown here in 'Birch'. Made from a light, tight-weave material
that feels more like cotton than nylon. That accounts for the shirt's
5 oz fly-weight. It's not water-resistant, but it dries amazingly
fast, based on a few experiments I tried. I soaked it in water, squeezed
out the excess, and put it on. I was indoors in the evening and the
temp was about 70° (humidty was pretty low), and the shirt was
completely dry in about 35 mins. It'd dry faster outside when worn
in the sun. The material is so light that it doesn't hold any water
for long. The shirt sleeves have elastic cuffs. Overall fit is roomy
(without being overly baggy), which is necessary for range of motion
as the fabric is non-stretch. The collar is a simple low-profile Mandarin
style with a 4.5" opening. A single velcro-secured tab closes
the collar, or folds inside if the collar is to be left open. A mesh-lined
left chest pocket has a 6" vertical opening with a velcro tab
closure and is 4" deep.
- RailRiders offers a variety of pants, ranging from more basic/classic
designs to others loaded with more features. At 11oz, the Weather
Pants are very lightweight (but aren't the lightest weight pants
that RailRiders makes), and they're designed for the times when (like
the Eco-Mesh shirt) it's too hot for heavier pants but you still need
an extra level of protection against abrasion or brush might be too
tough on a non-reinforced pair of pants. The Weather Pants are made
of 2ply 3oz DWR-treated nylon (Khaki shown here), rated to provide
at least UPF 30 protection - very soft to the touch, but durable and
abrasion-resistant. The waist has a metal rivet closure and zipper
fly, and elastic sides for a comfort fit.
9/12/05 - Eco-Mesh Pants and Sawtooth Hiking Shorts- I've been using RailRider's Eco-Mesh pants and Sawtooth Hiking shorts for most of the summer, and decided to use them for a few months before writing a review.
The Eco-Mesh pants are constructed
of the same lightweight nylon as the Weather pants (above), but without
the extra layer on the knees and seat. Additionally, there is a full
length two-way zipper on each side of the legs, which opens up to
reveal mesh-lined vents for ventilation. They're even lighter than
the Weather pants, and a great pant for hot weather. The RailRiders
website shows velcro straps at the sides, but the newer model has
no velcro tabs and the zipper ends a couple of inches above the hemmable
hem. The pants have slash pockets on the sides and one zippered pocket
in the rear.
I wore the Sawtooth Hiking shorts on
the two previous hikes, when the weather was much hotter. I wanted
a pair of nylon shorts (I've been using cotton hiking shorts forever)
as they dry faster and are lighter, but I didn't want those with built-in
mesh underwear. I also wanted something that was tougher than the
thin nylon shorts I saw at REI. The entire seat of the Sawtooth shorts
are reinforced with the same cordura-like material as on the Weather
Pants. No worries about getting rips or snags from wood splinters
or sharp rocks. There's a zippered pocket on the right rear and velcro
closed pocket on the left. Deep slash pockets on the sides/front.
RailRiders VersaTac Pants
5/30/07 - It's been a year and a half since I sent John d'Arbeloff (president and founder of Rail Riders) my 'wish list' of features I wanted to see in a tactical pant if RailRiders ever made one, so I've been anticipating the release of Rail Rider's new VersaTac Pants for quite a while. After Mel from Kifaru introduced me to RailRiders products, and I used their Weatherpants and Eco-mesh pants reviewed above, Mel and I always speculated about how cool it'd be if RailRiders made a nylon tactical pant. It wouldn't fade like 5.11 pants, be lighter weight, dry faster and be more durable. John was very open to the idea of RailRiders entering the tactical market, and started gathering input and ideas for the RailRiders tactical pant. Helmie from i-SHOT inc, was also interested in this project, and offered up suggestions from the competition shooting community. John also consulted with the tactical/military community including Natick, and the VersaTacs are the result of all that combined input.
Lite and Mid VersaTacs - The VersaTacs are available two versions; the Lite and the Mid. The only difference between the two are the fabrics used in construction of the pants. All features are identical. The Lite utilizes the same material as the popular Weatherpants - 3 oz Duralite for the shell (main body), and Rail-Tex for the patching fabric and reinforcements. Rail-Tex is a very tough, lightweight, abrasion-resistant 5.2 oz nylon, equivalent to 280D cordura. Rail-Tex fabric is used on the Lite in the following areas:
The Mid is constructed entirely of a 6.6 oz canvas-weave nylon named 'Yukon Canvas', for both the shell and all patches/reinforcements. Where Rail-Tex is used on the Lite, Yukon Canvas is used on the Mid. Even though it's heavier by weight, it has a looser weave and is very soft, breathable and comfortable. Both Lite and Mid VersaTacs are only available in Khaki at this time. The Lite is more of a flat dark earth - darker than the Mid. Both are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) finish that provides some stain resistance and water resistance.
The VersaTacs currently come in one inseam length for each size right now - no short or longs (30" inseams will be available in both pants for Fall '07). Inseam was 32.5" for the size medium. I had both VersaTacs shortened about 3" for my short legs. The cuff is reinforced at the bottom, in the back by an extra layer of material (Rail-Tex in the Lite). This is to add durability and abrasion resistance from rock and rough surfaces or when driving a vehicle. It also adds some structure and weight to the bottom of the pant in the back and 'drapes' better over the shoe. I had the tailor remove the reinforcement, then re-sew it back on, instead of chopping them off completely and losing them.
The seven heavily bartacked belt loops on the waist will accomodate 2"-wide belts (including riggers belts). You can skip the side one when wearing a holster on the belt. The waistband on the Lite is Rail-Tex fabric. There is 5" of elastic on the sides of the waistband to accomodate about 3" in waist size variance for each size. Front closure utilizes a slotted button and zipper opening. The crotch is gusseted. The entire seat and knees are reinforced with two layers of fabric. The knees are articulated for easier bending. The deep front pockets have reinforced openings and a knife clip guard. The rear pocket flap have both velcro and slotted button closures. It's a double flap, with the inner one having the button holes and the outer one protecting the buttons. The idea is to use the buttons when extra security is needed. I found it more convenient just to use the velcro and leave the buttons undone, but I'm glad they're there if I need them for less frequently accessed stuff. A minor inconvenience I found was that when using the velcro-only closure, I'd tend to grab only the outer flap when opening the pocket. I suggested stitching the flaps together in the middle with a vertical stitch to make it easier to open, and this will be implemented.
I actually prefer the zipper opening rear pockets on the Weatherpants (or the welted X-treme Adventure pants) to flaps on the rear pockets - the zipper design is lower profile, and has worked well under harsh conditions ever since the Weatherpants came out 17 years ago. The flap/button combo is probably something the military guys are used to on their BDUs. RailRiders is looking into this and feedback from users who have used BOTH closure systems is welcomed.
The side cargo pockets are built on an extra piece of fabric - a platform - not just sewn directly to the pant shell. This adds structure to the pocket and also helps reduce swaying of the contents when on the move. It also adds an extra layer of abrasion resistance between your thigh and the pockets' contents. They have the same type of flap as the rear pockets with both slotted button and velcro closure. The pocket is bellowed for bulkier items, but bartacked at the front bottom corner for a lower profile. The best feature of the side cargo pockets is the front/side zipper, located at the front of the pocket. This allows quick access when seated, kneeling or driving a vehicle. I've often left my cell phone in one of my pant pockets only to squirm around trying to get it out when driving a vehicle (I should just leave it out somewhere, but I forget). By putting my cell in one of the cargo pockets, it's easily accessible when seated. In fact, I just leave it open sometimes when driving, to dump my sunglass case, wallet or phone into. Inside the cargo pocket is a small pocket sized for a single pistol magazine or folding knife.
One feature I'd like to see are small besom/welt pockets in front (like my Crye and TAD pants). I've become so accustomed to having them (I use them more than side pockets for phone, pager, keys, sunglass case etc) that I really miss not having any. Properly located, front welt pockets don't restrict movement and offer quick access for smaller items or retaining a partially empty pistol mag. RailRiders is open to user input, so do contact them and tell them what features you'd like to see on future versions.
The slotted buttons used are slightly pliable which should prevent cracking or breaking in the field. However, I found that the pliable material and shape of the buttons made them more difficult to get through the button holes than hard buttons as they have more resistance and also. While I can undo the buttons one-handed without problem, I can't do them back up very easily. It's impossible (for me) with gloves. I recommended a change to a slightly larger size button of harder material, and RailRiders is looking into it (RailRiders is changing this to a 30 ligne more rigid button for Fall '07).
Construction and workmanship on the VersaTacs are excellent. All points of stress are bartacked. Fit and cut is just right for me - not too baggy nor tight, with enough room to bend and squat without restriction.
Now, the problem is - which one to choose (if you aren't
going to get both)? When I first got them, I thought - this should
be easy - Lite for hot weather, Mid for colder weather. But it wasn't
as simple as that. I found it difficult to discern much difference
in warm weather between the two. Like my Weatherpants, I found the
warmest part of the Lite to be the Rail-Tex covered knees. The Mid
fabric, though heavier, ends up feeling the same on the knees because
of the looser (and I feel more breathable) weave. However, in cooler
weather, the Mid has the advantage because the thicker fabric provides
a bit more insulation. It's only within the past couple of days have
I felt that the Mids are slightly warmer overall in hot weather.
Here's how I'd decide between the two.
RailRiders VersaTac Shorts
4/2/10 - It was only a matter of time before RailRiders introduced their short version of their popular Versatac pants. Due to the overwhelming success of the Versatac pants, RR expanded the line to include shorts. Like the pants, the Versatac shorts are available in both Light and Mid weight versions. While the shorts share many of the same features as the pants, they aren't simply the pant version chopped off at the knee - there are some differences between them.
Note that I'm comparing the shorts to the original VersaTac Pants reviewed above. Some changes might have been implemented since then.
Lite and Mid VersaTac shorts - The Versatac shorts are available two versions; the Lite and the Mid. The only difference between the two are the fabrics used, which are the same as the Lite and Mid Versatac pants. The Lite utilizes 3 oz Duralite for the shell (main body), and Rail-Tex for the patching fabric and reinforcements. Rail-Tex is a very tough, lightweight, abrasion-resistant 5.2 oz nylon, equivalent to 280D cordura. The Lite short is available in Khaki and Light Tan.
The Mid (featured here) is constructed entirely of a 6.6 oz canvas-weave nylon named 'Yukon Canvas', for both the shell and all patches/reinforcements. Even though it's heavier by weight, it has a looser weave and is very soft, breathable and comfortable. The Mid Short is available in Stone (pictured here) and Natural. The Stone is more of a medium tan and the Natural is light greyish tan. Both are treated with a DWR (Durable Water Repellant) finish that provides some stain resistance and water resistance.
Features - The main features of the Versatac Mid shorts are:
Notes/Obervations - Construction and workmanship on the VersaTacs are excellent. All points of stress are bartacked. Like the pant, fit and cut is not too baggy nor tight, and very comfortable for everyday or active wear. The short ends right above my knee (I have short legs, though).
While not as secure as flapped pockets, I do like the convenience of the open-top rear pockets. I did jump up and down with my wallet inside and couldn't make it fall out. However, just to be on the safe side, when I insert my wallet, I orient it with the long edge horizontal instead of vertical, so that it's too wide to slip out between the velcro patch and the side. As mentioned above, the side entry pockets are very deep. In fact, my fingertips don't touch the bottom when my hands are in there. I'm more used to having my hands supported in my pockets and the contents a bit higher up, so it takes a bit of getting used to.
If you plan on carrying a lot of stuff in the pockets, I'd pick the Mid over the Lite as the heavier material carries items better. With thinner shorts, stuff in the pockets tend to sway a lot more. However, if I was around water or anticipated getting wet, I'd pick the Lite as the material dries faster and won't be as heavy when soaked. I'd also pick the Lite for humid environments. I've found that in high humidity, thicker garments just get heavy with sweat, no matter how breathable.
Mid or Lite, the Versatac shorts share the same comfort and functionality as the Versatac pants that preceeded them.
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