Insulated Soft Shells Page 1
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As a sizing reference: I'm 5'7", 155 lbs (yeah, I'm a little guy), medium build (BDU top medium/regular, BDU pant medium/short), waist 32", chest 43". Keep this in mind when you read my comments with respect to sizing, so you have an idea of how the garments featured below will fit on you. ALL garments in these pages are size Medium, unless stated otherwise.
TO VIEW FULL SIZE IMAGES: USERNAME and PASSWORD are both "mm"
- 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
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.
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.
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.
TAD Gear Gen 1 Stealth Softshell Hoodie (this version discontinued)
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 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.
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.
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.
.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 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 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.
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.
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!
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.
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