Insulated Soft Shells Page 1 2 3 4

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.


SORD Australia Hardface Jacket

1/30/06 - From down under comes the SORD Australia Hardface Jacket. SORD (Special Operations Research and Design) Australia manufactures their own products, as well as carrying a wide variety of military and tactical clothing and equipment. Ever since I got the Arc'teryx Bravo jacket early last year, I've been a big fan of the soft shell jacket concept. As light as a sweatshirt, yet water and wind resistant and quick drying, soft shells have become some of my most-used garments because of their versatility and usability over a wide range of conditions.
The SORD Hardface is constructed of durable-feeling Polartec Windbloc - a stretch fabric that blocks 100% of the wind and is highly water resistant with its DWR (Durable Water Repellant finish). It combines a breathable polyurethane membrane shell with the thermal advantages of a fleece on the inside. The Hardface is available in tan and black. The tan (shown here) is more of a khaki than a tan and matches Eagle's MJK very well. The fit of the jacket is athletic, with the forearms being quite form fitting. This is to eliminate excess sleeve material getting in the way when manipulating weapons and equipment. Fellas with large forearms will generally get a bigger jacket. If you've got large forearms, you might want to shoot SORD an email and inquire about the fit. It's a streamlined garment, best worn over a thin base layer or t-shirt. It'll fit snugly over a uniform, but that would be a bit bulky. Seen here is the size Medium - see the top of this page for my sizing as a reference.

Collar open, zipped up

Side and rear views

The stand-up collar has a soft fleece lining. One feature I'd like (and this goes for the Arc'teryx Bravo jacket as well) would be the addition of a cinch cord at the collar which would reduce heat loss through the collar or cold wind blowing down my neck. The main zipper has a very cool little plastic pull, which is contoured and micro-checkered for a positive, non-slip grip under any conditions. The main zipper wind flap is lined with cordura, which eliminates the chance of the zipper snagging on thinner fabric. Note that all zippers used on this jacket are water-resistant 'Dry zips', which prevent water from getting through. The bottom of the jacket has one-handed elastic shock cord adjustment to cinch it up. The Dry zips are a bit stiff to open/close with more resistance than a normal zipper and require slightly more effort or a helping finger to use them.
Two-way pit zips under the arms allow for ventilation/termperature management, which I find useful. The underside of the elbows and forearms are reinforced with a patch of 1000D cordura, which attests to the military focus of this jacket. The cuffs have velcro adjustment, and utilize a semi-rigid tab which has a bit of texturing at the end to aid in grip. It works well and I prefer it to sewn fabric-type tabs.
The right shoulder has a 3.5" diameter round patch of OD green loop velcro and the left shoulder has a 3" x 2" patch for velcro flags/patches etc.
The side-entry handwarmer pockets are very roomy - they extend up to the middle of the chest. In the 'Interior' photo below which shows the jacket worn inside-out, they take up the black areas on the front of the jacket. There's a smaller chest pocket on the right chest, which will fit passports, wallets etc. On the left shoulder is an expandable pocket, accessed through the vertical zipper on the front. It's about 7" x 6" in size. It's pleated/bellowed at the rear, which allows it to expand. Located on the right forearm is another pocket, which actually wraps around the forearm, so it's more roomy than one might think.

Pit zip and close up of right shoulder pocket


Right forearm pocket and cuff adjustment

Cool main zipper pull, water-resistant zipper

Elsewhere in the site I review SORD's MFF rig, pictured with this jacket. The elbow reinforcement made a big difference in elbow comfort when shooting from prone. We were doing some bipod testing that day and I spent a lot of it on my belly, so I was glad for that feature.

Jacket with Crye belt and HSGI suspenders

Elbow protection a definite plus

With SORD MFF rig

I found the overall fit of the jacket to be very comfortable and non-restrictive, due to the stretch properties of the fabric. The fabric is slightly heavier than the Bravo (or TAD Stealth, below) jacket, so it's a bit warmer and can be used in lower temperatures (I'd estimate about 10° cooler). Quality/workmanship are excellent. Even with shipping from Australia, it's definitely worth considering as it's very reasonably priced (with the AUS-US$ exchange rate).

This writeup will be updated as I use this jacket more under different conditions.

2/27/06 - Went out in the rain with the TAD Stealth (below) then again with the Hardface. Had to wear a boonie to keep the rain from going down the collar as the Hardface doesn't have a hood. The rain had gotten heavier, and eventually became a downpour. Initially, water drops beaded up and rolled off, but after a few minutes in really heavy rain (large drops), the fabric started getting wet. I kept walking and waiting for the eventual cold, seeping dampness to be felt as water would start to soak through, but much to my surprise, it never came. By the end of a half hour or so, the fabric felt quite saturated on my sleeves and shoulders. However, I was completely dry underneath. I wore the jacket for a while after that, checking to see if the water would soak through, but it didn't. The only drawback to the fabric is that since it's a bit thicker, it takes longer to dry completely (about 24 hrs for the soaked-through parts). I'm very impressed with the ability of this jacket to keep the wearer dry, even if the fabric does get wet. Now if SORD can add a hood to it...

3/11/06 - Went up into the mountains for a short hike - it had snowed the weekend before and was starting to snow again. Temp was around 35°F; not too cold. Wore my Zensah tights and turtleneck as base layers and was very comfortable on the move and stopped for a short time. For lower temps, I'd use heavier insulation - probably a PCU Level 2 or 3 under the jacket. I'm wearing the PCU Level 5 pants in the photos.

Taken at start of walk

In about 35°F temps


TAD Gear Gen 1 Stealth Softshell Hoodie (this version discontinued)

1/30/06 - When I received the Stealth Softshell Hoodie jacket from Triple Aught Design (TAD Gear) and took it out of the packaging, my wife remarked 'Wow, that's a nice jacket!' And right she was. The Stealth shown here is the unique custom colour "M.E. Green" (Multi-Environment Green). It's difficult to describe it, and it photographs differently under various lighting conditions (as you can see below). Under overcast skies it looks a bit grey, while under bright sunlight more of the green shade comes out. The closest cordura nylon shade to it would be the Kifaru green, which is slightly darker. Suffice it to say, it's a very attractive colour.
The green Stealth fabric is from Schoeller of Switzerland, and the black is Polartec. I'm not sure which exact fabric it is, but looks to be close to WB-400 (one of their soft shell fabrics). The material is of a typical DWR-treated soft-shell type - stretchy, water and wind resistant, breathable, with soft fleece next to the skin for moisture transfer and dryness. The weight of the fabric is almost identical to the Polartec in my Arc'teryx Bravo jacket. The cut is fitted, but just generous enough to wear a sweatshirt under it without a problem. I'm wearing a size Medium, refer to the top of this page for my sizing info as a reference.
The jacket length is medium - cut a bit longer in the back to the bottom of the buttocks. Wind/water-resistant YKK zippers with cord pulls are used throughout, and each opening has a 'zipper garage' at the top to protect the zipper pull. The bottom has elastic shock cord one-handed adjustment with cord locks. There is no storm flap behind the main zipper, but up at the neck/collar area is a soft neck-protecting flap for comfort when it's zipped up all the way. Besides the unique colour, probably the next thing about the jacket one might notice is the hood. It's of an unusual design, which TAD calls their 'Aero Hood'. When not in use and the collar open, it lays down neatly against the upper back, almost completely flat, instead of the shapeless poof that most other hoods end up as. When the collar is zipped up all the way, it draws the hood up so that it 'stands up' against the back of the head/neck, forming a 'collar' and nice seal around the neck. It's very comfortable and unrestrictive in this position, and adds to the unique look of the Stealth.
When the hood is up, peripheral vision is pretty decent. It helps that the hood is less baggy than other designs and tends to move with my head better than looser hoods made out of non-stretch material. The size of the face opening isn't adjustable, so a face mask or beanie might be useful if it's really chilly or windy. The top/brim of the hood doesn't extend far forward, so if you want to keep rain off your face, I'd recommend wearing a cap with brim underneath. The hood is definitely one of my favourite features of the Stealth.

Front view, zipped part way and all the way

Hood down and up

Hood down

Hood up

The sleeve cuffs have holes through which you can put your thumbs to warm your hand to a certain degree and prevent the cuff from slipping up. This is one feature I'd swap for a tighter cuff (it's cut a bit looser to give it room to go over the hand), or a simple velcro tab adjustment - just personal preference.
Pockets - the Stealth as lots of them. Starting with the main side-entry handwarmer pockets, these are located high for access while wearing a pack waist belt or belt kit. It's not as natural a position for the arms as pockets located lower, but I got used to it from wearing the Bravo, which has it's side pockets up high as well. The handwarmer pockets themselves are made of mesh instead of solid fabric. The negative is that they can let in cold air if the pocket zippers are open, but on the positive side, they can also be used for ventilating the upper body in lieu of pit zips. Inside each handwarmer pocket is a slim 'stash pocket', which will fit a pen, small knife or slim LED light (fits my Inova X5). A plastic D-ring is also included for dummy-cording items inside the pocket. A 'media pass-through' slot for wires/cables allows wires to be routed inside the jacket from items in the pockets. You can keep your radio, iPod, cell phone etc in the pocket with the ear phones routed up through the collar. A small loop of webbing inside on the left trapezius also helps keep a wire in place.
Each shoulder features a mesh pocket, approximately 6.5" x 6.5" in size, also with internal D-rings and pass-through slots. The right pocket has a Fisher space pen slot. I'd prefer a more universally sized pocket to fit any pen (Fisher Space pens are short), but this just gives me an excuse to buy a Space pen.
A small, 5.5" x 3.5" 'Quik-access key/ID' pocket is conveniently located on the left forearm, just for small or flat items. A 3" x 2" patch of black loop velcro is located on each shoulder for placement of similarly sized patches. It's a bit small and I'd like a bigger one.

Sleeve configuration

Interior showing pockets and slots

Handwarmer chest pocket details

Shoulder and forearm pockets

Like the other softshells featured on this site, the Stealth Hoodie is very comfortable and unrestrictive, thanks to the stretch fabric. It also works well with gear, as it doesn't have any more bulk than a close-fitting sweatshirt. When I brought it to the range along with the SORD Hardface jacket, I put it on when the temperature got warmer, as the Hardface is of slightly heavier material. In the photos below I'm got the Stealth under an Eagle Universal Chest rig and Crye belt kit. I didn't take any pics of it without the chest rig on, but when wearing the belt kit, I was still able to access the high-rise handwarmer pockets.

With Eagle chest rig

and Crye belt

TAD Gear is known for coming up with some slick items, and the Stealth Softshell Hoodie is one of them. Good-looking enough to turn heads around town yet functional and tough enough for outdoor adventurers, it's a very nice, well-made and designed jacket loaded with thoughtful features. To be updated when I get a chance to use this in wet weather.

2/27/06 - Ok, wet weather is here. Went out for a 45 min walk in the rain. I'd call it 'medium' rain (more suitable for Gore-tex or a hard shell). About half an hour later, I noticed a slight feeling of dampness - on the shoulders/top back and a wee bit on the upper arms where the rain kept pelting. The fabric repells water quite well, and only in the places where the water had a chance to sit and get pelted did any start slowly penetrating. The fabric didn't get very saturated, but only let a bit of water soak in here and there. Since the fabric is relatively lighter and doesn't hold much water, it also dried a bit faster than the Hardface - a little over 18 hours.

.3/11/06 - Went up into the mountains for a short hike (with the Sord Hardface as well) - it had snowed the weekend before and was starting to snow again. Temp was around 35°F; not too cold. Wore my Zensah tights and turtleneck as base layers and was very comfortable, both moving and stopping. For lower temps, I'd definintely use heavier insulation - probably a PCU Level 2 or 3 under the jacket.

In the rain

Chilly weather

.4/25/06 - Snow hike (read about it here). Temps below freezing with a LOT of wind.


TAD Gear Gen 2 Stealth Softshell Hoodie (this version is discontinued)

10/10/06 Initial writeup - Triple Aught Design's (TAD Gear) Gen 2 Stealth Softshell Hoodie is the much anticipated evolution of their Gen 1 Softshell featured above. So much so that the ME Green in L and XL were sold out 3 hours after delivery and TAD hopes to do another run of ME Green sometime in the near future. Please read the Gen 1 review first as I'll be referring to the Gen 1 in comparison as many of the main features are retained.

The first, and probably the most immediately noticeable difference when handling the Gen 1 and Gen 2 Softshells is the new material used, which TAD Gear calls their 'Rhino-Hide Softshell" textile. The material is DWR (Durable Water Repellent) coated and texturized (visible in the left photo below) with a pique weave, instead of the smooth weave of the Gen 1. By virtue of this pique weave/texture, the DWR is able to 'bite down' and adhere into the valleys of the weave and will physically abrade off less than the peaks or high points This gives it better, longer-lasting water repellancy than the flat weave of the Schoeller and Malden materials. It's also more abrasion resistant than the Gen 1 fabric and drapes like 'light canvas'.
The Rhino-Hide material is of a 3-layer construction. First, the pique weave outer shell, then a porous/breathable laminate under it, followed by a soft, low nap fleece lining. It's a less lofted fleece than the Gen 1, and overall the material feels lighter. I haven't noticed a difference in warmth yet, as TAD says that the new bonded fabric is slightly less breathable (but still much more so than a hard shell) than the Gen 1 and traps more warm air, so it feels essentially the same with less weight. It's also highly wind-resistant. The DWR is renewed/revived like any other DWR-coated garment, like GoreTex.

The new fabric is available in the same M.E. (Multi Environment) Green as the Gen 1 (see above review), and two new colours - U.E. (Urban Environment) Gray and A.D. (A.II Desert) Tan, both featured here. As of this writing, black is not available.
The U.E. Gray is a very sharp-looking medium-dark gray, which is a very neutral colour in an urban environment. I also found that it is less noticeable than black at night against buildings and in general, when black is sometimes too dark and can stand out. The U.E. gray is dark enough that it doesn't reflect light and stand out against a dark background or shadows as much as a light gray does.
TAD added A.D. Tan, to address the needs of those operating in desert/arid environments, which can also get cold and windy. The A.D Tan reminds me of a warm sandstone which should work well in a variety of arid/desert regions. It's a more saturated colour than just plain tan, with no green in it like khaki.
Note that it's difficult to represent the true colours as seen by the naked eye on a computer screen due to differences in lighting etc. The U.E. gray in some of the photos of me wearing it seems to have a bluish cast, but that's because of light from the bright, blue sky. There is no blue in the U.E. gray. The A.D. Tan in the photos of me wearing it are a better representation of the colour, than the slightly yellowish tinge seen in the closeup photos under studio lights.

Gen 1 (green) and Gen 2 fabric

Internal fleece lining

The Gen 2 fits just like the Gen 1 - size 'medium' shown here. I'd recommend people purchase the same size as they wear a BDU top. The Gen 2 retains the same features that worked well for the Gen 1. The tail is cut slightly longer in the back (I didn't show that well in the Gen 1 review) with dual one-hand waist cords at the bottom to keep the wind out. The side/front access high rise handwarmer chest pockets have the same YKK zippers and zipper garage at the top. Again, the chest pockets are cut high so that they can be accessed when wearing a pack with waist belt - something I found very useful on hikes. When the collar is open, the TAD-exclusive 'Aero hood' sits relatively flat against the top of the back.

A.D. Tan and U.E. Gray

Highrise chest pockets

Hood down, collar open

Hood down, collar open

The Gen 2 Aero hood now has a low profile rain bill added. This was one of the deficiencies of the Gen 1 hood that I mentioned above. Looking at the side profile, you can see that the rain bill now shelters the face from rain, eliminating the need for a brimmed cap. When the front of the high-rise collar is zipped up and the hood worn down, you can see how the rain bill is 'sucked up' against the back of the head higher than the Gen 1 to block the wind and keep the back of the neck/head warm. Mobility is the same.

Collar up

Collar up

Hood up

Pocket configuration for the Gen 2 is mostly unchanged. The highrise handwarmer chest pockets are the same size, and each have the dummy-cord D-ring, hideaway pen/slim flashlight pocket, and media pass through slot. A new feature is the addition of a smaller mesh pocket for internal organization sewn to the main mesh material. This separates the contents from the main compartment so not everything is sitting together at the bottom of the pocket. It's illustrated below with the i-Pod. Perfect for a phone, sunglass case or wallet.

The two shoulder/sleeve pockets with internal D-rings and pass-through slots remain unchanged. The former Fisher space pen slot, originally sized to fit the Bullet pen, is now longer and fits regular-sized pens. I didn't have a bullet pen and never made use of that slot, but now I will. It also has a reinforcement at the entrance to the pen slot both to reduce wear, and provide more purchase for a pen clip. The quick-access ID/key pocket on the lower left sleeve is unchanged.

The velcro patch panels on each shoulder have been increased in size to 4" x 3" from 3" x 2" for additional space. They can now accmodate larger patches or a standard sized patch and blood/IR square.

Another feature on the Gen 1 that I didn't use much was the thumb-hole on the cuffs, as the lack of cuff adjustment left them too loose around my girly wrists and I rarely needed the thumb hole. If it's cold, I'd rather be able to tighten the cuffs around my wrists and seal out the cold air and wind. If it's cold enough, I'll throw on a pair of gloves. The Gen 2 cuffs now have die-cut velcro tabs which enable the cuffs to be loosened or snugged around the wrists. Just what I wanted!

Chest pocket

Chest pocket

Velcro tab on cuff

Velcro shoulder patch

It's obvious that TAD Gear listens to their customers and feedback. They kept what people liked about the Gen 1 Stealth Hoodie and changed what they didn't. I'm pretty amazed - the Gen 2 not only addressed every single issue or small gripe I had with the Gen 1 (the brim on the hood, the adjustable cuff design, longer pen sleeve pocket) but also improved on others. I'm very pleased with what TAD has done with the Gen 2.

Update 12/10/06 - Last night we had our first heavy rain of the season so I took the opportunity to go out in my Gen 2 Stealth hoodie. I spent about half an hour walking around in pretty heavy rain, and wind. The new brim on the hood really makes a difference, and shielded my face from the rain. After the walk, I carefully examined the jacket, and did not feel any soak-through whatesoever. The water beaded on the fabric and was shaken off easily. There were a couple of small spots on top of the head and shoulders where the heavy rain pelting down had started to get the material wet, but no moisture made it through. In my experience, all soft shells will eventually 'wet out' in areas where the rain is pelting down with a lot of force, and if water is allowed to stay on the fabric long enough. So far, the Gen 2 Stealth is very promising - showing improved water resistance over the Gen 1 and some other shells.

Shootin' the MK46 Mod 0








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