High Performance/Tactical Clothing - 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"
VERTX Tactical Pant Preview
3/21/09 - This is a preview of a new Pant from VERTX due out in July '09. The premise behind the VERTX pant is that it is a covert pant for 'any time, any place, any mission' with its best features unnoticed by anyone but the operator wearing them.
The VERTX brand is owned by Fechheimer, which has been manufacturing uniforms and and public safety apparel since 1842. For the VERTX pant, they enlisted the design services of Arc'Teryx who took direct input from operators to come up with this pant. Feccheimer had previously collaborated with Arc'teryx on their Flying Cross brand Justice Jacket for LE use.
Description - In a market flooded with tactical pants that in some places might attract unwanted attention or notice with overtly 'tactical' or military-looking external features, the VERTX Pant is designed to as a covert, comfortable walk-around pant that doesn't stand out, yet has features that provide the wearer with cargo-carrying capacity and full freedom of movement and mobility when he has to burst into action without warning.
If you're familiar with Arc'Teryx, and have owned or seen the LEAF line garments featured elsewhere on this site, you'll know that Arc'Teryx designs are very streamlined with simple lines, vs. more complicated or 'loaded' designs on the market. Arc'Teryx clothing are somehow able to strike the balance between function and aesthetics. This design philosophy is apparent in the VERTX pant. The design of the VERTX pant took over a year with six pattern iterations.
Features - Here are the key features on the VERTX Tactical pant (32" waist, 30" inseam shown):
Notes and observations - The pair shown here is a pre-production pant, but it shows no signs of being anything but a production model. It's very well put together, and as I mentioned before, evokes the typical Arc'Teryx-designed functionality and subtlety.
As far as sizing goes, the VERTX pants fit 'true to size'. A size 32 fits a 32 waist. But, if I'm a little over 32, it's going to be on the snugger side. Some pant manufacturers add a bit more to the waist, but VERTX measurement doesn't add any extra. So, some people might be used to the looser fits, and wonder why the VERTX fits a bit snugger. I'd recommend measuring your true waist size. If you buy that size, it'll fit. If you want a bit more of a looser fit, or plan on carrying a pistol IWB, then go a size up.
I use the term 'comfortable' a lot in my writeups - so much that I wonder if I overuse it. I mean, can all the pants I review be 'comfortable'? I thought about it carefully, and decided that no, I don't think it's inaccurate to use it. If I find a pair of pants comfortable, it means that I can't find anything outstanding that causes discomfort, like it being too tight in one area, or a scratchy seam somewhere etc. Comfort is relative, and it depends on the conditions the garment is used in (weather, temperature, humidity etc). Anyway, while I have found most of the pants I've featured on my site to be 'comfortable', I think the VERTX pant is the most non-restrictive feeling pair. Other pants don't really restrict movement - by that I mean that my legs aren't going to be prevented from going where they need to because of a pair of pants. But what I mean is that when assuming different leg positions, like when kneeling or squatting, the pant can tighten up in certain areas as the dimensions change, and won't feel as 'comfortable' as when standing up straight. With the VERTX pants, on the other hand, I felt less binding and tension in the fabric. Part of this is attributed to the design/cut, the other is the spandex in the fabric. The cut feels more like a Karate Gi pant or climbing pant than a regular 'tactical' pant.
The stretch properties of the fabric are immediately apparent the moment I took a knee or squatted. There's extra room at the front of the knees and the knees are already pre-shaped with a bend in them. Squatting doesn't feel one bit restrictive, nor do the bottoms ride up a lot. The rear of the pant waist pretty much stays put, instead of being pulled down when the thighs come up. These pants have more mobility built in than my old legs do.
One thing I noticed when I first started wearing the pants was that they seemed to show dirt easily. For some reason, dust and dirt wouldn't brush off like on other pants and I'd find a bit of lint here and there stuck to the pant. For example, if I brushed up against a dirty car, the dirt wouldn't dust off with my hand easily. I contacted VERTX and they said that they'd noticed that as well, and it would resolve itself after the first couple of washes. Sure enough, it did. By the third wash, I didn't notice the VERTX pant attract lint or dirt any more than my other pants. Dust/dirt brushes off with my hand same as any other cotton pant. I guess the fabric needs some sort of 'break-in' period by going through the wash a few times.
I'd consider the VERTX pant a lightweight/midweight pant, suitable for a wide temperature range. I'll wear it in the summer and see how that goes when it gets hot. Another thing I liked about the VERTX pant is that the utility notch on the side slash pockets makes it easier to access items in the pocket when seated, like in a vehicle. The side cargo pockets with their overlapping flap and no velcro or buttons are quick to access and seems secure enough. One addition I'd like to see is a small velcro patch closure to provide additional security for the back patch pockets, when an item is too short to be captured by the credential trap.
All in all, a very promising pant for those who need or want tactical features in a less tactical-looking package. Even if that's not needed, most people will appreciate the low profile nature of the design, and most importantly, the comfort and mobility without restriction that these pants provide. I can see these worn for travel, hiking, shooting, climbing, or just every day around-town wear.
VERTX Tactical Pant now available
- The VERTX Tactical Pant is now in production and available here
(or by clicking on the banner above); and I'm pleasantly surprised
to see it offered at a very competitive price. The final production
version, shown here in OD Green, is the same as the Khaki pre-production
one shown above, except for two improvements:
The OD Green production pant has the same cut and is just as comfortable and non-restrictive as the khaki one. A new colour has just been introduced - Crye MultiCam. This is the only one in 50% nylon/50% cotton ripstop instead of the stretch cotton/lycra, as the material is from Crye. Also shown below is the Desert Tan pant vs. the Khaki one.
VERTX Action Polo with coldblack®
9/4/09 - The Action Polo from VERTX is a polo shirt designed for the professional that sets itself apart from the rest by utilizing coldblack® technology that reflects up to 80% of the sun's rays making dark colours feel like light ones. As a result, you stay cooler in hot, sunny conditions with protection from harmful UV rays with a minimum of UPF 30.
The VERTX Action Polo debuted along with their Tactical Pant featured in the above writeup. The VERTX brand is owned by Fechheimer, which has been manufacturing uniforms and and public safety apparel since 1842.
A few years ago, I was driving over to pick up a friend who is an 'industry professional' at his hotel, to go to a law enforcement conference/trade show. He told me on the phone "it's pretty crowded downstairs; I'm wearing a black polo and khaki pants." When I pulled up to the hotel, I got the joke, as at least a dozen guys in black polos and khaki pants were standing at the curb, each with their company logos embroidered on the polos.
The polo shirt is the go-to urban garment of the tactical professional crowd, having a smarter and more presentable appearance than a t-shirt, while providing more comfort in hot weather than a button-down or long-sleeved shirt.
As with tactical pants, the tactical market abounds with polos, most offering variations on the same design. VERTX set themselves apart by utilizing a new garment technology called coldblack.
coldblack - coldblack is a new textile technology which was launched in summer 2008 by Schoeller Technologies AG and Clariant International AG. Schoeller, the Swiss company, should be a familiar name to anyone who's owned soft shell jackets. Clariant is a global leader in the field of specialty chemicals. Schoeller is responsible for the sales, marketing, branding and patenting of coldblack; while Clariant is responsible for the sale of chemicals, technical support and quality control for the coldblack finish.
coldblack is a proprietary chemical finish for textiles that are exposed to direct sunlight over a long period of time. It is fully wash resistant and will not wash out. coldblack prevents textiles from heating up as much and offers protection against UV rays. In other words, coldblack is a sun reflector+ UV protector. In general, dark coloured textiles absorb both visible and UV rays of sunlight, heating up more than light coloured textiles, that reflect both light and heat. coldblack reduces absorption of heat rays, particularly in darker colours, and in all treated textiles, resulting in better heat management.
Black textiles can absorb up to 90% of the heat rays when exposed to direct sinlight, and heat up accordingly. When treated with coldblack, textiles reflect up to 80% of the heat rays and stay noticeably cooler. Test performed in the lab showed that a black coldblack shirt stayed approximately 9° F cooler than a non-treated shirt when exposed to simulated sunlight. Tests also showed that users sweated half as much when wearing a black shirt with coldblack technology vs. a conventional black shirt during activity. Besides garments, coldblack technology has been applied to automotive seat covers, sun shade/awnings, and tents, keeping those items cooler when exposed to direct sunlight. As you can imagine, this technology can have a lot of applications.
Features - Here are the key features on the VERTX Action Polo (size Medium shown):
Notes and observations - The Action Polo is a smart-looking shirt that's well designed and fits well, without being too loose at the bottom. The fabric has a smooth texture inside and a fine pique knit on the outside. The collar and sleeve cuffs are the same texture as the rest of the shirt - they are not ribbed. I found that the non-ribbed collar with stays doesn't roll and get wavy like the ribbed collars. I also like the raglan sleeves, with no seam on top of the shoulder.
Of course, the feature that I was most interested in was the coldblack technology. Without multiple shirts of the exactly the same fabric, both treated and untreated with coldblack in different colours, I had no way of making apples-apples comparisons. All I could do was select black and white shirts of similar fabrics and weights, and do a subjective 'walk around in the hot sun' test. I did have a white cotton polo and a synthetic black t-shirt of similar weight. Since it's the middle of summer, hot days were in plentiful supply, with the sun beating down from a cloudless sky. I wore the white polo to establish the baseline, trying to get a feel for hot warm it felt while wearing it under direct sunlight. I tried to have my back face the sun as I found it to be a bit more sensitive to temperature differences. It was a hot day, and no matter what I wore, I was hot. I took off the white polo then put on the Action coldblack polo and went out again into the sun, letting myself heat up. I could not feel an appreciable difference between the two. I did notice that the polyester fabric didn't get bogged down with sweat like the cotton polo. I then switched to the black t-shirt and let it heat up. I did feel a difference between it and the white polo/Action polo. It felt warmer underneath it, warmer to the touch and it warmed up faster as well. As far as quantifying exactly what the temperature difference was, I can't.
I spent the next few weeks wearing the VERTX Action Polo in the sun during the day, and other black garments as well. Granted they were on different days with minor temperature variations, but the temperature was pretty consistently hot in mid July through the month of August. It's been both hot and humid for the past week or so here. My perception is that the coldblack-treated polo does feel cooler than a non-treated black shirt. It can also have something to do with the material, but I can't say. Bear in mind that if it's hot outside, you're going to feel hot no matter what. The coldblack isn't going to make you feel 'cool', but it's my perception that I don't heat up as fast or as much when wearing it vs. other black garments - that I stay more comfortable. Based on what I've seen, I'd like to see coldblack applied to other fabrics and articles of clothing, like dark hats or BDUs, to see how it works out there. So far, it's promising.
Arborwear Tech Pants
5/13/09 - Arborwear isn't a widely known name in the tactical pant arena, which isn't a surprise since they don't make tactical pants. However, they do make durable and comfortable pants that are well suited to 'tactical' or outdoor use, as well as what they were originally design for - tree climbing. I think I first heard about them from my friend, GG, a few years ago. I didn't really think much about them until I ran across them recently on the AFMO website. I picked the Arborwear Tech Pants, as they were made of nylon instead of cotton.
Arborists are folk that take care of trees. Two options were available at that time - canvas work pants, which were too stiff and restrictive for climbing, and technical rock climbing pants, which provided the mobility, but not the durability needed for tree work. So, Arborwear was started to design a pant that combined the durability of a work pant and mobility of a rock climbing pant. The pants were a success, and fit the needs of arborists, but Arborwear also found that a lot of other people liked them too.
Description - Most of Arborwear's pants are made from cotton of various weights; 12.5 oz canvas, 9 oz twill, etc. The Tech Pant is Arborwear's 7 oz. nylon version of their canvas pants. The nylon used is not a thin, flyweight nylon, but a soft but durable-feeling midweight material that looks and feels like cotton instead of nylon. If I didn't know better, I wouldn't have believed it was nylon.
Features - Here are the key features on the Arborwear Tech Pants (32" waist, 30" inseam shown):
Notes and observations - I'd have to admit that I wasn't sure what to expect, but the Tech pants were nicer than I expected. They're just a good-looking pair of pants, in my opinon. The first thing that caught my attention was the material. It has a very nice hand to it - feels like worn-in cotton, rather than nylon. It does not have the customary nylon 'swish' sound or synthetic feel. They're actually light-midweights, if you consider a pair of Levi's jeans midweight. More like a pair of BDUs, which are to me, in between midweight and lightweight.
The other thing I liked was the fit. For me, they're a close to perfect fit; I lucked out. Not too baggy but roomy enough to be non-restrictive with a comfortable rise that's not too high nor low. I like the slightly tapered legs and narrower cuff, but that's just personal preference for my build as I don't have big calves. The pockets are all easily accessible and secured with one hand. I found the side cargo pockets to be of a very a practical size; I do wish that they included the inner pocket on the left instead of only the right.
The 'Driftwood' colour shown here is a dark khaki that's actually very close to SOCOM Flat Dark Earth. I've shown it in comparison to a Pmag and ARC mag in the photo above, both FDE. Construction and build quality is good overall, except that I noticed a small knot/loop in one of the pocket stitches. A lighter took care of it.
The Tech pants are suitable for cool to hot weather. We had a couple of unusually warm spring days recently (in the 90's) and while I was hot all over, the Tech pants didn't feel stuffy nor did they stick to me. They felt more breathable than some other lighter weight or thinner materials, which was surprising. They dry quickly and don't get heavy like cotton does when you sweat. They're built like work pants but look and function well enough to serve in just about any activity - indoor or out. As summer approaches, I find myself reaching for the Tech pants more often.
TAD Gear Force 10 Softshell Utility Cargos (2010)
3/5/10 - One of TAD Gear's latest releases is a softshell version of their popular Force 10 Cargo Utilities; the Force 10 Softshell Utility Cargos. Following a similar format to their Force 10's, the Softshell offers the same utility in a more streamlined package; taking advantage of the stretch material properties, while offering near water-proof protection against the wet.
I've been bugging Patrick at TAD for a few years to offer a softshell trouser to compliment their softshell jacket line, so I'm glad to see these finally come out. All I was asking for was a pair of Force 10s in softshell material, as I appreciate the utility of the Force 10 pocket layout for every day wear. I have other softshell pants, and for some reason, some are over simplified and lacking the storage that I'm used to in regular pants. One of the hold ups was finding a suitable material for the pants, as the heavier softshell material used for jackets proved to be too warm or stuffy for the legs.
Material/Sizing - The F10 Softshell's are made from all-weather, 2-layer Sharkskin softshell material. Upon initial examination, I thought that it was the same 3-layer Sharkskin material as used on the SS v3.0 Stealth Hoodie/Jacket. It is very similar in hand/feel, and has a similar black inner lining fabric. The facing material is 100% poly jersey blend, instead of the didicated Coolmax layer in the 3-layer Sharkskin. Upon closer examination, the Softshell pant material almost imperceptibly thicker/beefier than the jacket Sharkskin fabric, which makes sense since it's a pant and will see more wear and tear. The 2-layer Softshell material was chosen for a couple of reasons. Since these were designed to be an active pant, breathability was a leading requirement. When trying out different fabrics, Patrick found that a 2-layer fabric was more suited to pant construction than the 3-layer, even though the 3-layer was plenty breathable for jacket construction. The 2-layer fabric has a higher moisture vapour transmission rate and is less likely to feel clammy or uncomfortable during strenuous activity. For a soft shell pant, it strikes a good balance between comfort and protection from the elements.
The 2-layer Sharkskin fabric is a smooth-faced, relatively quiet, active-stretch outer shell with a smooth inner face. The M.E. Green is shown here. It has a Durable Water Repellant finish that shed water, and is thin enough to dry quickly. As I always do, I performed my rudimentary 'sink test', where I placed the pant leg in a dry sink, then proceeded to fill it up with as much water as possible without crossing a seam. I left it in the sink for about 6 hours, checking it periodically and making sure that I rubbed the submerged fabric to try to force some water into it. I was surprised to find that it performed like the 3-layer Sharkskin - it is essentially waterproof. The face fabric took on a little water, as expected, but the inside was completely dry. None made it through. Since the material is relatively thin, the water on the outside dried quickly. To date, this is the most water-resistant soft shell pant I've encountered.
The F10 SS is available in M.E. Green and U.E. Gray, in even waist sizes 28" through 42". The inseam is 37" and left unfinished. Take it to a tailor/dry cleaners to get them hemmed to the correct length. Shown above is the F10 Softshell with the M.E. Green Ranger Hoodie and F10 Ripstop pants for colour reference. It's a grey-green, almost identical to the the ripstop Force 10s.
Features - Here are the features of the Force 10 Softshell Utility Cargos. (32" waist shown, inseam shortened to 30" by tailor):
Construction and workmanship are excellent, with all points of stress bartacked.
Observations/Notes - The F10 SS pocket design is a departure from the F10's we're used to, with a more streamlined profile from the lack of flaps or bellows cargo pockets. With softshell pants, I usually have two main things I'm interested in: how water resistant they are, and are they stuffy. The first question was answered with my sink test where the F10 SS material proved itself to be practically water proof. This was later supported when we had a few weeks of very wet weather, with a lot of heavy rain. I wore the pants daily, and they kept me dry. The seams aren't sealed, so there's always the possibility of water making its way through the seams, but I didn't observe any rain getting through. I think that the side cargo pocket zipper could have benefited from an outer storm welt over it, as the zipper fabric can get wet, absorb water and transfer that to the contents inside (it'd be minimal, though). Or, use a water proof zipper as used on TAD's hard shells.
I was very impressed with the lack of stuffiness when wearing these pants. I wore them in wet and dry weather, cold and warm. I wore them in temps in the high 70's and they didn't feel any different from non-soft shell pants of similar weight. I'd say that they feel lighter and cooler than a pair of jeans in warm weather, and no more stuffy - they seem to allow sweat to escape very well. The 2-layer Sharkskin fabric is lined with the poly face fabric, but I wouldn't consider it 'insulated' as it's relatively thin. It's there more as a comfort layer (wick away sweat so the inside of the pant doesn't feel clammy) than an insulative one. It's also very comfortable on the skin. If more warmth is needed, as thin base layer tight can be worn underneath the pants.
The F10 SS pants have a straight cut leg, without any taper. I think that the unfinished hem necessitates this to some extent, so when I had mine shortened to fit me, the cuff is a bit wider (9.75") than the F10 ripstops (9") that I have. I'd prefer a narrower cuff personally, as far as looks go, but it's no big deal here, especially since it covers the shoes a bit more when it's raining. The F10 SoftShell pants are versatile enough that they don't have to be wet weather-only pants; I use them as regular pants even when it's dry.
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